We’re nearly a week into the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Others have likely covered most topics already, from gold medal winners to women competitors to Mr. Phelps’ game face. But, as I watched the games and listened to the announcers, two thoughts have lodged themselves in my head: cross-cultural sportsmanship and the power of the human body.

As a teen watching the Olympics, I marveled at how these young people my age managed to accomplish so much.Now, as athlete after athlete defeat record after record, I marvel at the human body. It truly is amazing to watch the dedication and heart of these athletes.

They spent years crafting these skills and in moments, the competition of their life is over.Sometimes that moment ends in smashing triumph. Other times in crushing defeat. They might even show just how much they enjoy the sport they’ve given their life to thus far. It is in these moments that I have noted the sportsmanship of many of these athletes.

How often do these athletes come from countries whose policies are opposed to one another? Or whose governments have issued sanctions or waged wars? Yet, at the Games, the athletes compete against individuals, teams, and themselves. Politics aside. But the sportsmanship doesn’t end there.

I have been impressed at the amount of respectful acknowledgement these competitive men and women have given one another, even when the competition comes from a teammate. Phelps and Lochte talk about how they push each other. The U.S. female gymnasts battling for just two open spots on the all-around still hugging each other when a teammate does well, even if it means knocking them out of the competition.

But perhaps one of the most poignant was the interaction between the gold and silver medalists of the men’s gymnastic all-around. A battle to the end (and to prevent spoilers, I’ll refrain from naming their respective countries), one of the men had to win gold and the other silver. But once the scores came in, the gold-medalist approached the silver-medalists. From two different countries, I wondered if they shared a few words in a common language or whether nonverbal cues were enough. Then they posed for a picture, their respective flags draped over their shoulders. The gold-medalist grinned and pointed at the silver-medalist as if saying, he’s a winner, too.

Congratulations to the Olympians! Thank you for showing us such outstanding sportsmanship.

 

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Picture taken from Britannica.com (https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-the-Olympic-Games/images-videos/The-flag-of-the-Olympic-Games/19276), Aug 11, 2016

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