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Reflecting on real meaning of Olympics

By KEN LARSON
Sun Advocate publisher

As the torch inches its way into Utah this week and the final stages are set for the 2002 Winter Games, it is a great opportunity for all of us to reflect the real meaning of the Olympics.

Whether we are athletes and whether we have ever seen or read about an Olympic event or Olympic athlete, there is still a greater meaning that we can reflect during the games.

For the first time ever, the world class event is in our own back yard. Youth from throughout the world are making their final plans to diverge upon our beautiful country and compete for the honor of international champion.

As an athlete myself - although an aging one - and the father of two former high school basketball players, I know what it feels like during the big game or the big event.

I have seen victory slip away at the last second of a major long distance race, where I just didn't have the strength or energy to follow through for the win.

And I remember well back in 1992, when my oldest son was playing in the state high school basketball championship game and it was his three-point ball from 20 feet out that cinched the victory with five seconds left.

I will never forget the moment, and at that second, I was prouder of my boy than I can ever remember. The look on his face as he held up the trophy was priceless.

And I want to always remember that my son wasn't even a starter on the basketball team. He wasn't the best forward or shooter, but he worked hard and practiced for hours and his determination paid off in the end.

In Olympic competition where 1/1000th of a second can make a difference, it's the determination, the personal goals and the constant practice that makes a difference.

I have never attended an Olympic event before, but I have been a big fan over the years. Besides the thrill of watching the event or the game, another highlight has always been the stories behind the athletes. The young people from countries I have never heard of, coming forward with heartwarming stories of determination that they too, can be world champions.

Many of the young athletes' stories from past games are etched in my memory and now, in 2002, we are getting to read about more athletes and the obstacles they have overcome in order to get to Utah.

It's that determination that excites me, thrills me and gives me hope and inspiration, not to be a better athlete necessarily, but to be a better person, a better publisher, a better parent or a better son.

The Olympics and the young athletes are only the examples - and wonderful examples - of what can happen if we set our minds and hearts to strive for victory or success.

As the theme of Olympics suggests, "Lighting the Fire Within" is truly the message for me during this festive celebration.

If we can be the champions of our own lives, if we can, like the Olympians, practice just 15 minutes more each day to improve the game of life, then we, too, can enjoy the Gold.

And these feelings are contagious.

When I see others around me struggling despite all odds and pulling themselves up and succeeding, it gives me hope that I can go the extra mile, I can work harder and I, too, can achieve the impossible.

So as Utah opens its doors and welcomes the world, let us remember the true Olympic message is not the commercialism or the craziness that sometimes makes the news, it's the inner fire that has been lit and continues to burn in each of us.

We can either compete and strive for a better world or better self or we can sit back and criticize and watch others ski to the finish line.




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