Compass: Olympians don't whine

By ROSEY FLETCHER-GRUNWALDTFebruary 17, 2014 

I love watching the Olympics - always have. My earliest memory of the Olympic Games was in 1984, mesmerized by the graceful and delicate gymnasts. In a remarkable fashion (an early season injury all but sidelined her), Mary Lou Retton scored a perfect 10 in the floor and vault, solidifying the gold in the overall. My heart racing, my young mind whirling. Giving every girl across the country hope that they too could grace the cover of the Wheaties box proudly sporting red, white, and blue.

Now, 8 years retired from my last Olympic competition, I still pour over the start times of my favorite sports, eagerly anticipating the athletes to test their strength and will.

Sadly, I have observed more than the usual amount of criticism at these Olympic Games. At a press conference one athlete complained about his room in the village not having a door handle. Another was disappointed in the food at the Games, siting they preferred "In and Out Burger," over McDonalds. Course conditions have also been a sore point for some. The snow is too soft, too hard... not perfect. As a competitor in a sport that is controlled by Mother Nature, I welcomed the adversity! I wanted to test my abilities in the toughest of circumstances.

The media sensationalizes "the nightmare Sochi Olympics," the stray dogs, a scary mascot, and again, missing door handles. Truly disappointing as hours away, villagers struggle to find safe drinking water.

Somewhere in the spins, flips, press conferences, and signature clothing lines at Target, the Olympic spirit is dimming.

Perhaps at the pre-Olympic briefing, we need to remind athletes of the countless Olympic Games that were marred with politics, discrimination, world wars and massacre? Would the athletes that trained their lives to fulfill the dream of competing in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow -- only to be denied the opportunity -- be concerned with something as trivial as a missing door handle?

Imagine the ancient Greeks, in all their glory (and nudity!) protesting the food that was being served.

It wouldn't happen, because the Olympics were, and are, bigger than that.

Fortunately (and proudly), the athletes representing Alaska in Sochi embody what I call "old school Olympics." They are spirited, excited, humble, tough as nails, and hard working. They love what they do and it is contagious to everyone around them.

Whether you follow the athletes on Twitter, Facebook, or news outlets, the message is consistent. We are proud and honored to be here. Not one negative word, complaint, or attitude; pure Olympianism regardless of victory or defeat

A friend of mine recently said that the Olympics are brilliant, beautiful and brutal. In my career I had glimpses of the brilliant, the brutal, and the beautiful within those five rings. Each experience remains within, having molded me into the person I am today. Would I change the brutal? The brutal of all brutals? Having my fear of failure override my desire to succeed? That's easy -- no way.

In these Games, we have witnessed brilliance, beauty, and the brutal as we cheered on our favorite Alaskan athletes. One could say winning a medal is brilliant and beautiful... and we all know the brutal. However, when it comes down to it, does anyone recall who won the men's downhill in 2010? Or who won the silver medal in the women's halfpipe in 1998? I don't.

What we do remember and hold close to our hearts is the grace and professionalism of Kikkan Randall after crossing the finish line of the 2014 sprint. Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, after narrowly missing what would have been her second Olympics, bravely (and publicly) denounced human rights issues that plague Russia. These are beautiful and brilliant legacies that we will remember long after the skis and snowboards are hung up -- the legacies of a true heroes.

There is so much to be thankful for and so many athletes to celebrate. Let's focus on the horizon -- and not on the missing door handle.

Rosey Fletcher-Grunwaldt is a lifelong Alaskan and three-time Olympian in snowboarding. She won a bronze medal in the 2006 Games.

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