Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympic emotions

Emotional highs and lows are a part of every romance novel. We go on an emotional roller coaster ride each time we read of a hero and heroine's journey toward their happily ever after. I love the stories of triumph over whatever odds and conflicts stand in their way. Maybe that's the same reason I love the Olympics and have really enjoyed the past two weeks.

Okay, so I'm already a sports fan, but there are a lot of sporting events on every day that I don't watch. It's the unique venue of the Olympics, how athletes from all over the globe train for years, sacrificing a great deal along the way for their shot at that gold medal and the opportunity to represent their country. The tales of personal triumph have made me smile, jump up and down, pump my fist while yelling, "Yes!", and they've made me cry. Some of the memories I've taken away from these Olympics:

1. The incredible run of Michael Phelps to become the greatest Olympian ever. I found myself getting more and more nervous with every race he swam. When Jason Lezak outswam France's Alain Bernard in the anchor leg of the first relay, I literally couldn't stay in my seat. My phone rang during that last leg, and there was no way I was answering it. I still have no idea who called. And when that final relay team ensured Michael's place in Olympic history...just wow.

2. Usain Bolt might have been the story of the track, but it was David Neville's dive for the finish line to get third in the 400m that is more memorable to me. That's what you call sacrificing yourself for your dream, risking injury to get not the gold but the bronze.

3. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh's amazing beach volleyball play and how incredibly happy they were to win. And all the while, they seemed like really nice, humble gals.

4. The opening ceremonies. They are often grand, but this year's took grand to an entirely different level. Sure, China has the people to do it -- about 1/5 of the world's population -- but they were still a feast for the eyes.

5. How Australia's Matthew Mitcham withstood the pressure and knowledge that China had won every single diving event at the Games and did one fantastic dive after another to win gold in the men's platform, the last diving event of the Games. It was the only diving event China didn't win. And he was so emotional when he won. I felt how much it meant to him.

6. Of course I was thrilled when Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and other U.S. gymnasts won medals, but it was the story of Oksana Chusovitina of Germany (originally from Uzbekistan) that really hit me. The reason she's competing for Germany is because her young son had cancer and there were no facilities to treat him in Uzbekistan. She called a friend, a gymnastics coach in Germany, for help. Now she competes for that coach and Germany, and at 33 years of age at the Beijing Games, she was more than twice the age of many of her competitors. Still, she won the silver medal on vault.

7. Speaking of older athletes, I was also enthralled by Dara Torres and her fantastic physical condition and speed at age 41. She not only was fast but a wonderful role model for younger swimmers and a triple silver medalist.

8. Perhaps my biggest teary moment was just a short clip they ran of Germany's Matthias Steiner, the weightlifter who won the gold medal in the heaviest division, as he was on the medal stand. He held up not only his medal but also a photo of his wife, Susann, who died in a car accident last year. He said, “I thought of her before the competition. I won this for her, for friends and family. But mostly for her.” Tears are pooling in my eyes as I write about this days later. That's the kind of love we write about, only we have the luxury of giving our characters happy endings.

There are other stories, of course, ones of courage and happiness and firsts -- all filled with emotions we as writers can tap into when we create our stories. The types of emotions readers expect when they pick up one of our books.

What were some of your favorite moments of the Beijing Games? Any stories that touched your heart or made you jump up and cheer?


Joan said...

Waving from the Lair, Trish!

Yes, I'm going through Olympic DT's.

I was glued...GLUED I tell ya, to the whole two weeks of competition, the thrills of victory, the agonies of defeat...

Um, sorry :-)

I agree totally about Michael Phelps being phenomenal but Jason Lizak shouldn't be overshadowed. The man was AMAZING as he beat out the boastful French swimmer. Go USA!

I didn't see the weightlifter's story but I think there were a lot of moments similar. I watched an interview with the coach of the men's volleyball (who won gold, btw) and the emotion was beyond heart clenching. (His father in law was the one murdered on the first day).

And I have to give it to China. They did a awesome job not only of pagentry with the opening and closing ceremonies but in presenting themselves as a people.

Esri Rose said...

I don't get TV where I am, so it's wonderful to get this synopsis. The stories about Oksana and Matthias are really wonderful, and you told them wondefully. (Of course!)

Tawny said...

I actually only watched the gymnasts segment of the Olympics and am always blown away by the strength, passion and discipline of those athletes. Like you, Trish, Oksana's story brought tears to my eyes and definitely made me yell a little harder for her.

Nancy said...

Hi, Trish--I love the pageantry of the games. Of course, I love any pageantry. I like the weird sports like archery and fencing, and I didn't see much of those.

Trish Milburn said...

Thanks, Joan, Esri, Tawny and Nancy. I'm already looking forward to the Winter Games in Vancouver.

Anna Sugden said...

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to watch much of the Olympics as it was during The Big Move.

But, I can totally relate to the stories that came out of it (warning - yes, I'm going to talk hockey *g*) - the sacrifices, the glory, the triumph and the despair. You only have to watch an NHL team on its journey through the season and the Play-Offs to win the Stanley Cup.

Tough? You'd better believe it. These guys play through incredible injuries and devastating personal circumstances. By the final game, they are drawing on the fumes of the reserve tank. And oft-times the difference between those hoisting the Cup and those crying on the ice is tiny.

You rarely hear the uplifting, heart-warming, awe-inspiring and tear-inducing tales until well after the celebrations are over. But, I can guarantee that when you do, you can't fail to be moved - even if the guys play for your deadly rivals.

Roll on October. And yes - can't wait for Vancouver in 2010!

Trish Milburn said...

Anna, I'm shocked you're talking hockey. Shocked, I tell you! :) So, will you get to see the NHL games now that you're back in England?

Theresa Ragan said...

Trish, I enjoyed many of the same stories you talked about. I've never watched beach volleyball before, but I was hooked this year! I thought the opening and closing ceremonies were spectacular and I'm so glad I had the chance to watch them. Thanks for the great recap!

Christie Kelley said...

I have to admit, this is one time I saw very little of the Olympics. Between our trip to Disney and then coming home to copyedits, I saw maybe two hours total of the games. But I did get to see Michael Phelps win two medals, which was very exciting. I was thrilled to see him win so many medals.

Trish Milburn said...

Theresa, you could probably see some live beach volleyball out your way. I've got to think it's really hard considering how hard it is to just walk on the non-packed-sand parts of the beach.

Christie, sorry you didn't get to see more, but I'm a bit envious of the Disney trip. I'm a big Disney World fan.

Anna Sugden said...

Only a few, Trish :(. Even though they show them on the internet, the time difference is the biggest drawback. There is a channel that shows some games here - so fingers crossed!

But, I am going to squeeze in a game when I make it back for the NJ conference. ;)

Norah Wilson said...

Trish, that was a great recap! I didn't see as much of the Olympics as I would have liked, but I was glued to Michael Phelps' quest. I personally can't even imagine the kind of physical, mental and spiritual strength it would take to train to the level these athletes achieve. And you're so right--if we can reproduce the kind of emotion these events trigger in us in our writing, we'll have very happy readers.

Diane Gaston said...

Hi, Trish!
I'm a lone voice of saying I didn't watch the Olympics and that was unusual for me, because I always watch them. I love the stories of courage and determination. Back in the olden days, I knew a couple of Olympic athletes, so I understand the incredible honor it is to compete there.

But I didn't watch because they were in China and it seemed as if every day there was something that annoyed me about China. All the news about the preparation and how the ordinary people were made to suffer so China could provide a healthy enough environment for the athletes. The digitally enhanced opening ceremonies. A man being knifed to death by a crazed Chinese man. Having a little girl lip sync because the real singer wasn't pretty enough. Thing like that.
Silly. Has nothing to do with the athletes but it was enough to turn me off.

Beth said...

Hey, Trish. I don't usually watch the Olympics but I did read about Dara Torres and found her very inspirational. So inspirational that I've started a running plan *g*

I did catch a few moments of the games - the volleyball game you mentioned (thought I'd better get used to the game since next year my daughter will be playing volleyball *g*) and I saw Bolt run one time (Wow!)

Even though I don't watch them compete, I really do admire all the athletes' dedication to their chosen sports!

Trish Milburn said...

Hey, Norah. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

Diane, I understand what you mean. I'm fascinated by China and its history, but its current state of affairs are awful as far as personal freedoms go. And I got the sense there was so much pressure on the Chinese athletes to be perfect. I kept wondering about the diver in the last competition who took the silver, if he would be seen as a failure by his government, coaches, etc.

Trish Milburn said...

Beth, a running plan? Wow, I'm impressed. I ran track (very poorly) for two years. I wanted to be a hurdler, but those spots were already filled up so I got stuck running the 800m. God, it was awful! I quit after my freshman year. Now, I don't mind going walking or hiking, but I'm not running unless some dude is chasing me with a chainsaw or a very big knife. :)

Merrillee said...

I loved your run down of the many events that I also watched. I did find myself watching these Olympics less than in the past. I had some of the same feelings Diane did, but I still watched some of them but not the opening or closing ceremonies (probably for that reason). I watched very little of it when it was actually being shown on TV. I recorded it and then watched when I had time. And I could fast forward through the parts I didn't want to watch or just get to the end to see the results.

One of my favorite moments was the women's 4 X 400 relay where the USA's anchor closed the gap on the Russian woman to win gold--a fabulous finish--her eye on the goal the entire time. That's a lesson for life--keep your eye on the goal.

Trish Milburn said...

Merrillee, I was happy for Sanya Richards and the rest of the relay team too, especially since Sanya had missed out on her gold medal earlier in the week and the relay teams as a whole had such bad showings with all the bad baton passes. I did a little bit of relay running when I was on the track team, and passing that baton is harder than it looks.

Estella said...

Michael Phelps--WOW!

Trish Milburn said...

Estella, that's a pretty good, concise says-it-all comment. :)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Trish! Another Bandita popping over to wave the Olympic flag. Loved watching the Olympics these past couple of weeks. Dara Torres. Wow. The men gymnasts on the still rings. OMGosh the control, the strength and power of those manuvers still leaves me breathless.

Have to say I was bothered by some of the things Diane mentioned - the smog issue and closing factories so the air would be clearer, the whole lip sync thing. Oh and the incredibly youthful "17" year old gymnasts for China. Hmmmmmm.

However, the power of the Flame still burns. Wish we could have seen more of the equestrian, fencing and shooting in "real time" though. I lurve the horse events and saw NONE of them. Sigh.

Trish Milburn said...

I wonder if they showed some of those events during non-primetime here, Jeanne. I didn't watch any of the daytime or late-night coverage. Four hours of primetime was about my max.

Mo H said...

The two moments that really touched me were with the 33 year old gymnast Oksana and the gold medal weight lifter crying and showing the picture of his wife. I enjoyed the other moments you mentioned too as well as the men's beach and team volleyball gold medal matches.