Ladies Doing Work: The Olympics Edition

Admittedly, these Olympics, for reasons I have yet to completely nail down, have kept my attention more than any Olympic season ever. They’ve got me staying up well past my 8:00 bedtime, thus making my morning struggle even more of a struggle than it already is. On top of that, the usual events (basketball, namely) have barely made a blip on my radar. In their place, there’s been beach volleyball, gymnastics, swimming and track (well, I’m always going to watch track). Something else that has changed is the scope of the participants.

Jennifer Floyd-Engel made extremely valid points in her Fox Sports post recently when she wrote about the women athletes of these Olympic Games. Women participation in the Olympics being at an all-time high, succeeding in their events, and capturing (and keeping) the imagination and attention of the viewing public aren’t enough. Women having success in the London Olympics does not erase the years of disrespect, degradation, humiliation, objectification, and any other negative and questionable treatment women endure every day, and that cannot, for any reason, be understated or swept under the rug. Doing so reeks of irresponsibility and a lack of proper perspective.

However, there is something about staying in the moment, especially this moment in the realm of sports, that makes what the public is seeing such a beautiful thing.

When Alex Morgan made a game-clinching goal against Canada with 30 seconds remaining in stoppage time, the folks in the athletics department at my job went crazy. Hell, the whole game was crazy, but I can’t comment on a majority of it, because I missed it being occupied at the job and not being able to get near a Hoshitoshi (I was able to catch the last 30 minutes, though).

It was the thrill of victory at its finest. The women’s soccer team is one that, if you’re (at least) a casual fan, you have a clue of what this collection of soccer players has accomplished in recent times. That’s why it was so great seeing them find a way to prevail again. Yes, blowouts are always fun, but nail-biters are more than likely to be remembered — and Morgan’s goal, with arms extended in pure joy afterwards, will be one of the many lasting images these Olympics have provided.

Two days later, the women’s soccer team went on to defeat Japan to win the gold, culminating an exciting, memorable and one-of-a-kind run that has captured the minds and attention of fans who, previously, may not have had a rooting interest in the sport.

Wednesday night, the women’s 200 meter final was absolutely loaded. When someone can look at the field and see that half of the participants have a legitimate chance to win an event, the potential for something special occurring is in place. For Allyson Felix, who took the silver in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), the motivation to finally get the gold was beyond evident, so when she won the final and draped herself with the flag, it was a moment that anyone who has dared to dream can be proud of. Whether it’s with school, the job, in one’s personal life and even when it seems like all that has been done to prepare still isn’t enough, Felix showed that if you continue to work at your craft, stay encouraged and push for your goals, they can come to fruition. Her accomplishment was worth way more than gold, but don’t get it twisted; that medal draped across her neck is pretty damn dope, too.

Similar things can be said for Sanya Richards-Ross and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. For the former, she’s collected numerous medals in Olympics past, but until these Games, she never captured an individual gold. She was well on her way in Beijing, but she ran out of gas down the stretch and didn’t win the race. Imagine that haunting you for four years, seeing what you’ve been working for all those years and when it’s right there, close enough to touch, feel, smell and taste … it’s gone. To watch her come back this year and win was to see those nightmares laid to rest. These Games aren’t solely about all the training, preparation and the execution. It’s also about the emotions released from these athletes through the thrill of victory.

Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, the winner of the 100 in Beijing, defended her title and did so in pretty dominating fashion. Before the 100 final, there was a relaxation and confidence coming out of her that one is allowed to show when she feels that she is the best at what she does. There are other people who may want to portray that image when they feel they are the best at what they do but, for whatever reason, keep from showing it. While some can interpret exhibiting such behavior as a negative, there’s a redeeming quality in a person knowing that he or she has done everything possible to prepare and take victory and then go do it. That’s been Fraser-Pryce in London these entire Games.

Similar things can be said for the host country’s own Jessica Ennis, as she was being serenaded by her people as she chased down her gold in dominant fashion in the heptathlon.  Winning a gold medal is one thing, but it’s totally different to watch an athlete do it in front of her people and watch her get the royal treatment that she deserves.

Serena Williams is an athlete whose praises have been sung on our TSFJ affiliate in the past. The one thing she lacked back then was a gold medal, and she used the Wimbledon stage in these Games as her backdrop to demolish everyone in her path and win the gold. Seeing her so excited to win was amazing in itself. Here is someone who has accomplished so much in the game of tennis, but when she won a gold medal, she celebrated like it was her first victory in any setting. It was amazing to witness and merely another example of her dominance of the sport, as well as a show of pure, authentic and unbridled joy.

These Olympic Games have treated the public to excitement, suspense and the culmination of hard work, dedication and sacrifice not only by the women mentioned in this story, but for all who have competed. And even if fans of sports haven’t paid attention to what these women have accomplished in London, they certainly know the traits described above, because they resonate in all aspects of life. For that, the women of the London Games should be saluted.

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