Here & there: Olympic best

The oldest Dayton boy with the Olympic rings outside the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado | Photo courtesy of Kat Dayton, St. George News

FEATURE — Back in the summer of 1984 Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps didn’t dominate the pool, Simone Biles hadn’t been born yet, Zika wasn’t a factor and, as far as I know, no American athletes were accused of faking a robbery to hide their vandalism of a gas station bathroom.

Back in 1984, Los Angeles, not Rio, had the Olympics – and the Olympics had Greg Louganis, Mary Lou Retton and Carl Lewis.

Young Kat in her Olympic viewing leotard. Santa Barbara, California, Circa 1984 | Photo courtesy of Kat Dayton, St. George News
Young Kat Dayton in her Olympic viewing leotard. Santa Barbara, California, circa 1984 | Photo courtesy of Kat Dayton, St. George News

Those Olympics were every bit as magical as they have been this summer. Only without the Russian doping accusations and, again, without that really weird robbery storyline starring Ryan Lochte.

And, of course, there was Mary Lou Retton’s perfect 10.

As a young gymnast I watched those summer games in Los Angeles with awe. We all did.  Except most everyone else wasn’t sporting a leotard and a wedgie like me.

My parents certainly weren’t when they attended Olympic track and field at the Coliseum. But they were almost late. Thanks to my brother, who went missing that Olympic morning.

Had my mom not insisted on making rounds to kiss each of us sleeping children before she and my dad departed for L.A. at 4 a.m., who knows when they would have discovered my 5-year-old brother’s absence.  This was before cell phones, you know.

When they couldn’t find him in his room, my parents promptly woke up my older sister, who had been babysitting the previous night, to see if there had been some conflict that could explain my brother’s whereabouts. There was none. She promised.

They were baffled – and increasingly frantic – as they unsuccessfully searched the house room by room.  Had an observer been outside that night, I suspect they could have felt the tension rise as the house became illuminated one light at a time.

As the story goes, they were just about to call the police when my dad went to retrieve something from the backseat of his car and found my brother curled up and asleep behind the driver’s seat.

 Kat, age 8, with 1984 Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Peter Vidmar. Santa Barbara, California. 1985 | Photo courtesy of Kat Dayton, St. George News
Kat Dayton at age 8, with 1984 Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Peter Vidmar. Santa Barbara, California, 1985 | Photo courtesy of Kat Dayton, St. George News

When they woke him for an explanation, it was simple: My brother didn’t want them to go to the Olympics without him.

Who can blame the boy? The Olympics represent the best of us. Or they should. They represent hard work, dedication, perseverance and fair play.

They show grit. They show grace. They show humanity.

Russian diver Ilya Zakharovwill, gold medalist in London, belly flopped on his third dive in the 3-meter springboard semifinals in Rio. He didn’t medal. But he kept diving.

Favored Australian swimmer Cam McEvoy finished a disappointing seventh in the 100-meter freestyle in Rio. His teammate, Kyle Chalmers, won the race. Instead of wallowing in his loss, McEvoy immediately celebrated his teammate’s victory.

These stories from Rio are not unique.  We see them in every Olympic Games: the Jamaican bobsled team competing against all odds in Calgary in 1988; North and South Korea marching in together at the 2000 Sydney games;  and Canadian rower Lawrence Lemieux giving up a silver medal in Seoul to rescue two Singaporean sailors who went overboard in another race.

In a world where George W. Bush pointedly observed, “too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions,” it is nice to have a venue where we are forced to see the best in others.

When the final curtain closes on Rio tonight, maybe we will have finally started seeing everyone else’s best intentions again – along with our own.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • .... August 22, 2016 at 4:05 am

    Maybe the IOC will add getting drunk and destroying service station restrooms as an Olympic event

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