Olympic Stories Inspire the World

Stories eclipse the shine of medals

The stories that emerge from the Olympics, no matter which year or what season, outshine the glint we see on those three medals: Bronze, Silver, Gold. The stories that athletes share catch our attention as they encourage us to dream, cheer, and often come to tears. Their stories inspire.

Here are two examples:

Allyson Felix shares her story

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Li Cohen and Christopher Brito, writing for CBS News, tell us that, “Allyson Felix wins 11th medal, more than any other U.S. Athlete in Olympic track history.” They report:

Allyson Felix … won her 11th medal on Saturday, just one day after becoming the most-decorated woman in Olympic track history when she won bronze in the 400. Carl Lewis had previously held the title as most decorated U.S. track athlete, since 1996. Of Felix’s 11 medals, seven are gold and three are silver. … [She] has stood on the winners’ podium at least one time in the past five Olympics.

But that’s not the only challenge she faced. The article continues:

While Felix was pregnant with her daughter, she was also in contract renegotiations with her sponsor, Nike. When the company found out about her pregnancy, it was prepared to cut the terms of her endorsement by as much as 70%.

Felix wrote a New York Times op-ed, “Allyson Felix: My Own Nike Pregnancy Story.” She said:

What I’m not willing to accept is the enduring status quo around maternity. I asked Nike to contractually agree that I wouldn’t be punished if I didn’t perform at my best in the months surrounding childbirth. I wanted to set a new standard. If I, one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes, couldn’t secure these protections, who could?

My disappointment is not just with Nike, but with how the sports apparel industry at large treats female athletes. Athletes are told to shut up and play. We are told that no one cares about our politics. We are told that we’re just entertainers, so run fast, jump high, and throw far. And don’t mess up. But pregnancy is not messing up.

Following the report, The New York Times updated the status:

After broad public outcry and a congressional inquiry, Nike announced a new maternity policy for all sponsored athletes on Aug. 12. The new contract guarantees an athlete’s pay and bonuses for 18 months around pregnancy. Three other athletic apparel companies added maternity protections for sponsored athletes.

Simone Biles shares her story

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Another test of the Olympic spirit was on full world display with Simone Biles, the most decorated American gymnast of all time. She removed herself from competition because of a mental disorientation, called “the twisties”, that can put a gymnast at a high risk.

As if that weren’t enough, Ms. Biles had an added stress. Sophie Lewis, also reporting for CBS News, told us, “Simone Biles reveals her aunt died unexpectedly during Tokyo Olympics.” She writes:

At the end of the day, people don’t understand what we are going through. Two days ago, I woke up and my aunt unexpectedly passed, and it wasn’t any easier being here at the Olympic Games. … People have to realize that, at the end of the day, we’re humans, we’re not just entertainment. There are things going on behind the scenes that people have no idea about.

These stories can get lost among the thousands of others at the Olympics. So many stories tell of sacrifice and discipline and pure grit as the athletes push to do their best – for themselves, their families, and home communities.

As they wrap themselves in their national flags and brush back tears, we often can only guess at what triumphs they are experiencing. We are witnessing pride of accomplishment, for certain, but also taking in hints of so much more. There are stories to tell – and many will be told – to inspire the next cohort of aspirants.

Still, their voting voice may be silenced

Each athlete matters. Their stories matter. The spirit and opinions and voices that each share with the world matter.

So, ask yourself, “Which of these many prestigious American athletes are you willing to have their presidential ballots cast be disenfranchised in the next election?” As important and as inspirational as these athletes are, along with their stories and full display of accomplishment, only about half of those who vote will matter. Their opinion will not matter. Their ballots will be cast aside and not be relevant, not be represented in the Electoral College.

Who is willing to listen to these champions?

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team