Posts Tagged ‘ Olympics 2012 ’

Seeking and Finding the Olympic Spirit in London

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

London OlympicsLondon is bustling for sure, but aside from the Olympics-only traffic lanes and occasional five-ring flag, you wouldn’t necessarily know from wandering around that the Summer Games are in town. There are, of course, reminders such as the display of flags in the shadow of Big Ben (pictured to the right). But overall, London and its tourists are going about business as usual, it seems. Even the taxi drivers are saying that the expected traffic nightmares have not materialized.

Find yourself in any Olympics-related place, and the story, of course, is entirely different. For me, I’ve experienced it up close at the P&G Family Home, where athletes and their families gather to relax and socialize. Many former Olympians are around, still connected to their former teammates and to the Games as a whole (and, truth be told, paid to be there as spokespeople). The Olympic spirit, a sheer enthusiasm for all things Games related, pervades the place. And I’ve been privileged to spend time here, thanks to Procter & Gamble, which is funding my trip.

The athletes and their families may come to the Home to escape the intensity of the Games, but they still gather at the omnipresent TV sets to watch, clap, and cheer for their fellow athletes at their events. No one’s gawking at the many celebrities around, but no one’s oblivious to it all, either. There’s Gabby Douglas’s mom! Shawn Johnson just walked by! Did you hear that Michael (that would be Michael Phelps to the rest of us) broke the record? And is that girl who just passed by wearing a silver medal?!

I’ve had my share of these moments—that was a silver medal around that unidentified girl’s neck—and it’s impossible not to be swept up by it. I rode the van back to my hotel with the mom of weightlifter Sarah Robles, and we chatted about her daughter’s accomplishments and what it feels like to be at the Olympics. Though at home I am glued to the TV for any Olympics, I am not by nature a fanatical Olympics fan. Here there are only fans, and happily so.

Tonight I got to see the actual Olympics. You know, the sporting events that take place between the pomp and ceremony and festivities. It was awe-inspiring to walk through Olympic Park, the site of many of the Games’ biggest events, on my way to the Aquatic Center to attend an evening of swimming. There was a different race every few minutes, plus a couple of medal ceremonies thrown in.

I got to see familiar names win their semifinal (Lochte, Phelps), and someone new to me, Nathan Adrian, take home gold for the U.S. (pictured at right). Hearing our national anthem playing and seeing our flag rising to the ceiling gave me goose bumps. I loved seeing fans from around the globe waving their own flags in the audience and hearing small pockets of cheers when an athlete from, say, Hungary or Columbia was introduced.

We hear so often that the Olympics bring the world together, and that phrase can lose its meaning from the repetition. Being here, though, I feel its meaning deeply. And for me, I’ve come to understand what it means that the Olympics is something larger than a series of athletic competitions.

 And, just for fun, a few more pictures from today:

Olympics Rings

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Talking With Gymnast Shawn Johnson at the London Olympics

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Shawn JohnsonI finished up my first of three days in London at the Olympics, exhausted but energized. I spent time at the Procter & Gamble Family Home — a huge space that is part oasis, part Oz — where athletes and their families can chill out, grab a meal or drink, relax, and watch the Games on TV. (Full disclosure: P&G’s Thank You Mom campaign is funding my trip and connecting me with the athletes and moms I’ll be interviewing.)

It’s a place where athletes walk around nonchalantly with medals, and everyone looks sort of familiar, since you’ve probably seen them on TV. Last night, I caught up briefly with Shawn Johnson, just a few hours after the U.S. women took the gold in team gymnastics. Johnson is a gymnastics pro and Olympic gold medalist, having competed valiantly for team USA in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. She recently announced her retirement from the sport and is joining P&G in London as an Olympics correspondent.

How have you been dealing with the unexpected news of the past few months and having to drop out of Olympic competition?
I’ve been dealing with it pretty well. It was something that I couldn’t really change. I couldn’t push my knee any further than it could go. Physically and mentally I wasn’t ready, and I had to accept that. Since then, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to do wonderful things, like coming to the Olympics and being a part of the whole Olympic movement. It’s been an easier transition than I thought it would be. I’m doing pretty good.

Our readers generally have kids who are pretty young, who may be in their first gymnastics class. What would you tell those moms and kids, looking ahead at their own Olympic dreams?
Just not to force anything. Kids should be kids and they should have fun. They should try things and not take things too seriously. Success comes on its own, and if you just encourage them and support them, they’ll work hard enough for it.

How did you know when this was something real, as opposed to just having fun in the gym?
I didn’t. I had a dream and I wanted to be an Olympian, just like every other kid. I just loved gymnastics, but I never thought it was possible. I just kept practicing and continuing and pushing myself. I probably was 13 or 14 years old before I said this might be a possibility.

Did your lifestyle change at that point?
It was more gradual. I never did anything drastic. My parents and my coach were really big on me keeping a balanced life and still going to school and not dedicating every ounce of it toward gymnastics, because they didn’t want me to get burned out.

What advice would you give kids on handling disappointment and setbacks?
It’s a part of life. It’s going to happen. You’re going to come in last, you’re going to fall, you’re going to make mistakes. But you have to learn from them. It makes you stronger when you overcome it instead of letting it defeat you. My coach always said you have to fall a hundred times to make one perfect, and I believe that.

What’s next for you?
I will be heading to L.A. for Dancing With the Stars, and then heading off to college.

Any other advice for parents out there who want to raise the next great Olympian?
If you have the mentality that you’re raising the next Olympian, you may be doing it a little wrong. Just let your kid be normal and things will come on their own. Have fun.

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Maybe the Olympics Aren’t Going to Stress Me Out

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

First of all, I’m laughing that my post yesterday, about how it’s going to be nervewracking to watch the Olympics with my almost-7-year-old daughter, comes right before a post by a mom who shares what it’s like to watch the Olympics when your daughter is actually in the Olympics.

But I figured I’d update you on how it went last night when we watched the rest of Sunday’s gymnastics competition with Julia. Short answer: totally fine! I’d drilled it in to her that one person was going to be eliminated, and as soon as Jordyn Wieber teetered on the beam, Julia declared, “I think she’s going to get cut.” Soon after that, she announced that Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman were her favorites. So when Jordyn was indeed cut from the all-around finals, Julia wasn’t so fazed. And there you have it. On to today’s team competition…

Photo: Keep Calm and Carry On Against the British Flag via Shutterstock.

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The Emotions of Watching Your Child Compete in The Olympics

Monday, July 30th, 2012

This post was written by Jennifer Kierstead, the mother of Olympic gold medalist Eleanor (Ellie) Logan who is going for her second gold medal in London with the US Olympic Rowing Women’s 8+boat. Based in Maine, Jennifer is a freelance writer and President of Jennifer Kierstead Consulting. She helps nonprofits and technical small businesses prepare grant proposals to support their work.

Not only was rain predicted for this day of heats at the rowing racecourse west of London, but hail!

The sun is bright but we wear many layers and bring umbrellas for the trek to Eton Dorney, near Windsor. We walk over a mile from the entry to the stands while the skies glower and it keeps getting darker.

The races proceed nonstop from 9:30 a.m., one heat after another: the men’s double sculls, the men’s light 4’s, the men’s single sculls, the women’s single sculls, the women’s lightweight double sculls, and the men’s lightweight double sculls.  It rains, briefly, then the dark clouds split and skirt the course. At 11:50, the women’s eight heats begin (see picture).

We aren’t seated in the family and friends section across the water, rather, we’re sitting in the stands opposite with our friends from Wisconsin, Nick and Diane Somers, and a crowd of 20,000-some people from all over Great Britain and the world. Rowing is one of the most popular sports at the Olympics, to match the sport’s long history and popularity in England. The Englishwoman seated behind me, learning of my daughter’s presence on the W-8, hands me a biscuit, quietly leans over and says, “Because your daughter is on the 8, I’m rooting for her.”

We talk about the “spirit of the games”—“Isn’t this the way it should be?” I say, and then, suddenly, out of nowhere just tear up, thinking of the devastating battles in Syria, and how frightening that must be for the children, women and men in those areas.  Wars and crimes against humanity don’t cease with the Games.

Just three years after WWII, London hosted the Olympics, as it was itself recovering from the devastation of war.  My thoughts return to the race before me at the venerable Eton College.

My daughter Eleanor (“Ellie”) Logan is with her teammates in the first of two heats. They dominate their race from the start, well ahead of Great Britain, Germany, and Australia. This is my first glimpse of Ellie, who is kept apart from family, friends and media prior to their final. In Beijing, we were able to see her after her heat—not this time. I magnify the image I take of her and her teammates on the eight, their muscles rippling.

They are rowing smoothly and powerfully. The British commentator refers to them as “the American machine.”  “Several gold medalists are on this boat,” he says, and I know one of them is my daughter.

It’s an astounding feeling. I’m her mother, yes, but Ellie’s phenomenal athletic ability, discipline, and drive is all coming from her.  She inherited my long arms and her father’s height, but that doesn’t explain what really propels her. Ellie was looking for a sport in which to excel from a very young age.  She tried and excelled in swimming and basketball, from age eight on, before being introduced to rowing in high school. Rowing is where it all came together for her, in an extraordinary way.

The first heat concludes and boats in the second heat start down the course, visible only via the Jumbotron screens until they come within range of the stands. Canada wins the second heat and proceeds directly to the final with the U.S.  All the other teams will race again on July 31 for a place in the final on August 2.

I won’t see Ellie before then. I’m thinking of her, though, as I watch the streams of people walk by me. They were all here today because they love the sport of rowing, or, in some cases, the rowers themselves.    Countless others watched this heat around the world. In the end, only one of these people can say she is Ellie’s mother. I’m her mom and I’m proud of her.

I pick up my raincoat, join my husband and friends, and begin the long walk back to the shuttle. Within an hour, the skies open and it pours.

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The Olympics Are Going to Stress Me Out

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Balance BeamI’ve been excited to get my almost-7-year-old, Julia, into following the games. We got off to a rocky start Friday night, when I let her and her younger sister stay up later than usual to watch the opening ceremonies. Very quickly this “privilege” felt like more of a punishment. The girls were beyond confused by what they were watching; it was a downright brutal thing to view with inquisitive children. “What’s the Industrial Revolution?” “Why do they wear those clothes?” “Why is that lady jumping out of that plane?” “What do you mean, she’s not really jumping out? What is she doing? Who is jumping out, then?” and so on. I asked Julia to stop asking so many questions, but as she fairly pointed out, “Mommy, I like to understand what’s going on!” Finally I had to turn it off and call it a night.

Last night we let her watch some of the women’s gymnastics, and she was glued to the screen. She immediately picked a favorite (McKayla Maroney); announced to me and my husband that she’s going to be in the Olympics, too (we let it go); and tried to predict who was going to get the best score and why. Around 9:30 p.m., when NBC switched back to swimming, it was bedtime. She hopped into bed, bringing her dad’s Sports Illustrated featuring the Fab Five on the cover. I taped the rest and promised we’ll watch it tonight, and then I went to sleep, too.

Now I know that Jordyn Wieber had her shocking loss, and I’m dreading watching it with Julia. My little girl feels things tres deeply, and gets emotionally invested in pretty much everything we watch together. In fact, we couldn’t even continue with “American Idol” this season because she would dissolve into hysterics at every elimination, and talk about the fallen competitor for days and weeks afterward. (Not long ago she named a goldfish Shannon after Shannon Magrane, who was one of the first to be kicked off, back in March.) How did I not think of this when I suggested it’d be a fun thing to watch together?

Yeah, yeah–I know the Olympics give me the chance to reinforce the lessons that someone always has to lose, that life isn’t always fair, and so on, but the fact remains that it’s going to be a loooong two weeks in our home. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes tonight.

Image: Professional gymnastic balance beam in sport palace via Shutterstock

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Olympian’s Mom Shares Excitement for the London Games

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

This post was written by Jennifer Kierstead,  the mother of Olympic gold medalist Eleanor (Ellie) Logan who is going for her second gold medal in London with the US Olympic Rowing Women’s 8+boat. Based in Maine, Jennifer is a freelance writer and President of Jennifer Kierstead Consulting. She helps nonprofits and technical small businesses prepare grant proposals to support their work.

Hopefully, she’s sleeping now—it’s 12 :43 a.m. in London, her time, and 7:43 p.m. my time, as the jet I’m in heads north and east over Maine, Quebec, and the North Atlantic. Our time zones will converge in about seven hours, but this isn’t going to be a time to enjoy the company of my younger daughter.
As Ellie put it before she left, “Mom, I’m not going to London to see my family!” But, after months of preparation, 20 of her friends and family members are crossing the ocean, including her mother, father and our respective “steps,” to watch her row. We could stay at home and have front row seats courtesy of NBC, but not this time.

Four years ago, I thought traveling to the Olympics would be a once in a lifetime event. Ellie’s step-father Mark and I flew over the Arctic Ocean to Beijing. I stayed up most of that night, looking at the patchwork of ice and water miles below. Tonight we’ll head due east, passing south of Greenland, perhaps flying over an iceberg or two that we’ll never see.

In 2008, Ellie was the “baby” on the U.S. Women’s 8+ boat, all of 20 years old, and her personal cheering section consisted of her father Bill Logan, step-mother Jaimie, Mark, and me. We saw Ellie briefly after her first heat. Later, in the final, she and her teammates pulled out front early, rowed beautifully, and just stayed there, ending triumphantly, earning gold medals.

Not that I saw most of that race—for two reasons. First, it’s impossible as a spectator to have a great, firsthand view of the entire 2000-meter race, from start to finish. When they take off, the boats are barely visible from the stands, which cluster near the finish line. At the Olympics, Jumbotron screens offer televised snippets of each boat, but even those screens are hard to see with the crush of people in the stands. The second reason I didn’t see much of the race in Beijing is simpler: I was so anxious that I closed my eyes, and wept. Mark told me when the boats approached, and I watched the final 750 meters of Ellie’s final through a blur of tears. It wasn’t until days later, when I saw the entire race on NBC, that I could fully appreciate the stunning grace, beauty, and synchrony of that race when viewed in its entirety.

Since Beijing, Ellie has rowed in Bled, Slovenia; Hamilton, New Zealand; Poznan, Poland; Lucerne, Switzerland; Belgrade, Serbia; and numerous college competitions throughout the U.S., while she completed her undergraduate degree at Stanford.

In just a few days it all starts again. I think of pivot points in Ellie’s life that brought her here, and of the crowd who supported her along the way: her grandparents Ann and Bud Logan in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and Walter and Rosemary Wilder in Edina, Minnesota—all of whom died before Ellie’s first Olympics. I think of her older and only sister Jessamine Logan, a staunch supporter from day one, her aunts and uncles in Maine, Minnesota, and Washington State, her friends from all over the U.S. and beyond, her house parents from Princeton, New Jersey and Vermont, her history teacher’s wife at Brooks School in Andover, Massachusetts, who suggested she try rowing; her coaches who first taught her how to row and coached her through USRowing, and her close friends who have maintained their loving support and friendship with Ellie over thousands of miles and the near-constant intensity of high-level competition. Her “social network” is a vast, powerful, loving force.

I remember when Ellie, age eight, asked me if she could be an Olympic athlete. Like countless mothers I replied, “Yes, it’s possible.” She seemed up for the challenge. Every Olympic athlete starts somewhere. And every athlete gets help along the way.

I believe that an event like the Olympics brings us together, the crowd of witnesses for each exceptional athlete.

Fasten your seatbelts, world, some of the fastest and most powerful women on Earth are at it again.

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Michelle Obama Declares July 28 as Let’s Move! Olympics Fun Day

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

In just a few days, Michelle Obama will be traveling to London with the Presidential Delegation to attend the Opening Ceremony of this year’s Olympics.  As the leader of the delegation, which includes former Olympians (such as gymnast Dominque Dawes and soccer player Brandi Chastain), the First Lady will visit the U.S. Olympic Training Facility this Friday.  In addition, SpongeBob and other celebrities will help host a Let’s Move! event for 1,000 children of U.S. ambassadors. Healthy foods such as nuts, granola bars, and water will be served.

Back in the U.S., the White House (with the help of MeetUp.com) will be hosting a Let’s Move! Olympics Fun Day on Saturday.  The goal of Fun Day is to cheer on Team USA and also “turn the Olympic spirit into action” by having different events across the nation.  As part of the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) initiative, the White House is committed to get 1.7 million kids moving and to ”inspire a new generation to strive for excellence,” said Michelle Obama.  Growing up with fond memories of watching the Olympics, the First Lady believes that “winning isn’t the goal” of the games; instead, it’s being able to “push and believe in yourself” and to refuse to give up despite obstacles.

Visit www.letsmove.gov/meetup or www.meetup.com/lets-move to find events near you.  Watch a video of Michelle Obama talk about Olympics Fun Day.

Read more Olympics features on Parents.com

 

This post was updated on July 25 with an extra link and a video.

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Olympic Dreams: Parents in London

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

How do you know if you are raising a future Olympic athlete? What if her love of somersaults and flips could make her the next Shawn Johnson? What if she really is the fastest runner or highest jumper or most synchronized swimmer on the planet?

I’m not asking because I think my couch-potato self actually produced an athlete who’ll compete in the 2024 Summer Games. But it’s not just about athletics: How do you know if your kid’s sweet singing voice is Broadway material, or if her drum-banging signals the perfect ear for music and not just a love of noise?

To put it another way, what really nags at me is: When should we push our children to develop and deepen their interests and talents, and when should we step back and follow their often-apathetic lead? When should we stand our ground and insist they stay in that swimming class or keep practicing that piano teacher, even when their inclination is to want to quit?

I am posing these questions not just to muse–welcome to my Inner Father Insecurity #437–but because I am going in search of answers. Yes, I am heading to London for the Olympics, with many, many thanks to Proctor & Gamble, which is funding the trip as part of its ”Thank You, Mom” campaign.

It’s a tough assignment, but I am doing my journalistic duty and will report back on what I find out.  While I am there I will be interviewing as many athletes–and their moms or dads–as I can. In addition to asking them how it feels to, you know, compete in the Summer Olympics, I will also be interrogating them on when they started focusing on their sport (“Did those diapers slow you down, Mr. Phelps?”), and how they knew.

As children, how did they realize that this sport is their passion, that they’d rather be in the pool or gym than doing whatever it is their peers were doing all those years? As parents, how did they decide to allow their children at such young ages to focus their lives so intently and uncompromisingly on this passion?

I, will, of course, let you know what I find out. Check back here on Goodyblog for my posts from London, and follow us on Twitter–we’re @ParentsMagazine–to experience it with me. I will also be shooting as many pictures as I can and posting them to our Instagram account, which is also @ParentsMagazine. And don’t miss the rest of our Olympics coverage, including craft and party ideas!

But before I go, I want to ask: What would you like me to ask the Olympic athletes and their parents? Post your questions in the comments section below or on our Facebook page, and I will try to ask as many as possible.

Image courtesy London 2012.

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