The Meaning of the Olympics

At my age, people always ask, “What do you want to do after college?” or some variation of that question. It has been happening for years, and until senior year of high school, I had no idea. I wanted to be a lawyer until I realized that I didn’t have it in me. I wasn’t ruthless enough. I wanted to be a vet until I job shadowed a vet who had to put a dog down while I was there.

After the vet fiasco, I finally put two and two together and figured out what I wanted to do. I had always wanted to go to the Olympics, but I was never good enough at any sports. Instead, I realized I could go a different way. I still remember the conversation with my older sister about it and how happy and relieved she felt (because she knew I would have been a bad and unhappy lawyer), and also how happy and relieved I felt. Not only would I have an answer to the common, cliché question, but I would also finally have a purpose.

Whenever people ask the question, I answer “I want to work for the Olympics,” and the most frequent response is “Why?”  The Olympic Movement is inspiring. It is a force that unites people across cultures and countries and inspires people to be better than they ever thought they could be. Why wouldn’t people want to work for something that does that?

My favorite Olympic memory is of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I was watching them with my sister late at night, and we were watching the ice skating. Joannie Rochette, a Canadian athlete whose mother had died the Sunday before she was due to compete, began her routine, and I was mesmerized. Nobody would have blamed her if she had left the competition, but instead she dedicated her performance to her mother’s memory. Her strength and determination traveled the 3,000 miles from Vancouver to PA and made me cry. It was so important for her to win for her mother, and her flawless and emotional performance was winning enough. It didn’t help that she won bronze as well.

Stories like Joannie Rochette’s push me to achieve my dream. From May 2014 to May 2015, I worked at YAI Network, a nonprofit that helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Interning was mostly fun, but as with any internship, there was a lot stuffing envelopes. I powered through the monotony by watching inspirational Olympic videos. From Jesse Owens in 1936 to Derek Redmond in 1992 to Kerri Strug in 1996 and to Joannie Rochette in 2010, athletes have overcome intense discrimination, disability, death, and injuries to compete. By beating the odds, they kept me struggling to achieve my dream. By working for the Olympic Movement, I will continue on the tradition set forth by its inspiring athletes.

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