First, a disclaimer. Despite being rubbish at every sport I’ve ever tried, I love the Olympics. Once every four years, I become an expert in everything from modern pentathlon to kayaking, taking in synchronised swimming and handball on the way. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that I think the Olympics are not simply entertainment; I think the games are important in other ways too. Rio 2016 has taught me some valuable lessons (and not just about how to add up the scores in the diving…).
1. There are some really good role models out there.
I read all the celeb magazines every week (it’s for work, honest). Afterwards I always feel a bit depressed at the line-up of reality TV stars who are being lauded for doing…well, absolutely nothing. But in the last three weeks, new role models have been created. My swimming-loving son now has pictures of Adam Peaty next to his bed and I’ve got a whole new method of bribery (“You know who always tidies his room when his mum tells him to? Tom Daley…”)
2. Every individual is part of a team.
When Laura Trott won her second gold medal in the track cycling (her fourth gold over all), she reeled off a list of people who had helped her to success. Nicola Adams, who successfully defended her gold medal in the boxing, said it took a lot of people to win. Every single Olympian is supported by their families, their coaches, nutritionists, psychologists, physiotherapists…and by all the people watching at home. It’s amazing what teamwork can achieve.
3. Inspiration can come from unlikely places.
For every child who’s watched Jason Kenney ride to glory in the velodrome, or the women’s hockey team win their nail-biting penalty shoot-out, and thought, “I could do that…” there are others who are watching, thinking, “but I’m hopeless at throwing stuff, and running, and catching things, and I don’t like getting wet…” But even those of us who aren’t sporty can be inspired by the Olympic athletes. Theirs is a simple lesson of working hard and reaping the rewards. And if that’s not enough, then take heart from my son who’s not a sports fan but who is planning to dance in the opening ceremony when his brother wins gold in the swimming.
4. It’s okay to fail.
Not everyone can win. Among the tales of successes and medals are the stories of heartbreaking failures. Tom Daley crashing out of the semi-final of the 10m platform diving, Lutalo Muhammad losing the taekwondo final in the last second, or Adam Gemili coming fourth in the 200m by a cruel 0.003 seconds. But failing is just as important as winning. When Andy Murray won Wimbledon this year he said he was glad he’d lost the Grand Slam finals he had because it taught him so many lessons about resilience and learning from mistakes. Tom, Lutalo and Adam Gemili will be back, faster, higher, stronger than ever.
5. But you should celebrate your successes.
You know that thing that gold medallists do? When they wrap themselves in the flag and do a lap of honour of the velodrome or the stadium? Or when they dance like the women’s hockey team. Or do the Mo-Bot. Or the lightning Bolt…? We should all do that, metaphorically speaking. Every time we do something good we should channel our inner Usain and celebrate that bad boy. Because we deserve it.
Kerry is an author and journalist with a passion for storytelling.