When I was 11, all I wanted to be was Mary Lou Retton

Rachel Flanagan Uncategorized

PictureYou better believe I was doing this move along with her in 1984, right in front of the TV. She was my idol.

I have always loved the Olympics. Other than a few high school sports, you will not find athletes with such a genuine love of the game matched with a crazy amount of talent.

They have the hearts of champions, even if they never make it to the podium. What they all have in common is motivation. Drive. Determination. Strength. Agility. Endurance.

And this year is super special as I now have TWO of my favorite sports to watch: gymnastics AND rugby!! These two sports made up a large percentage of my team sport years. I was a gymnast all through elementary school and middle school, and then played rugby in college and after college. Watching these sports on TV makes me want to run outside and play, and then go lift.

When I was 11, Mary Lou Retton was in the 1984 Olympics. I looked up to her something fierce. She is little like me, but her talent and absolute joy of the sport was what mesmerized me. She was killing it in each event, and having a blast in the process. I remember watching her on the TV in our basement, and trying to copy her floor moves on the carpet in front of the TV. She was my idol.

I want to be strong like them. Be as fast, agile, and strong. I challenge you to find an athlete with such full body strength as a gymnast. Think kipping at Crossfit is hard? That’s just the ticket to entry in gymnastics.

And RUGBY IN THE OLYMPICS! Watching the women get international coverage on TV is going to be a thrill. Rugby players are all heart, grit, and fierce strength. But it’s the team element to it that I really loved. Please promise me you’ll try to watch the USA women’s’ rugby team play in Rio. It’s going to be fantastic.

But the best part about the Olympics to me is watching the athletes’ reactions when they win. Their genuine and authentic joy gets me every time, and I often choke up when they’re on the medals podium. All of that hard work through their young years, in the gym, pool, or on the field, honing their skills for that 1, 5, or 80 minutes of work on the international stage. Then when the TV pans into the crowd and they show the athletes’ families biting their nails and cheering, I get choked up again. They want it as bad as the athletes.

And do know what you don’t see much of? Grandstanding. Throwing equipment down. Storming away. These are athletes that I’m happy to watch with my kids, and then smile when they say they want to be like them some day. I’ll take that over the NFL or NBA any day.

So when you’re in the gym or out running on the road this week, think of yourself as an Olympian. They put in their training hours just like you do, and keep their eyes on the prize. Even if your prize is stronger glutes and shoulders instead of a gold medal, you can still follow their example. Always have a goal. Work hard in training but enjoy it. Find camaraderie where you can, whether it’s in Crossfit, boot camp, your fellow gym regulars, a running group, or your spouse in your garage gym. Push each other. And hey, if you want to stand up on the weight bench and wave to the people on the treadmills like you’re standing on the podium, I say go for it. If you have the heart of a champion, you can let your freak fly a little.

GO TEAM USA! And please watch women’s rugby!

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