The Olympic Spirit in Sport and Religon

This was my first experience watching weightlifting live.  Walking into the Excel Arena, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as a spectator, however, I did acknowledge that each and every competitor was achieving a huge milestone in their life, competing in the Olympics!  Luckily, I attended with a good friend and experienced lifter who was able to give lots of insight into how incredibly technical this sport is.  I, like so many, always assumed that weightlifting was about who was the strongest.  I was wrong.  This sport is about technical precision, strength and mental performance.  I would highly recommend watching this sport for several reasons:

1)   Fun!  Weightlifting was really fun to watch!  The crowd was VERY involved in every lift and cheering seemed to make a big difference.  There was dramatic music that played while the athlete approached and completed the lift.  Successful lifts were followed with a burst of upbeat dance music!  This was not passive spectatorship.

2)   Mental Skills.  Weightlifters do an EXCELLENT job of going through their pre-lift mental routines.  Prior to each lift the athletes used their own unique combination of imagery, breathing, progressive relaxation and intensity building.  These are the skills I teach day in and day out.  I am always encouraging my athletes to look for these very specific behaviors in other athletes on TV or anytime they are observing sporting events.  Weightlifting will now be on my ‘recommended list’ of must see TV.

3)   Athleticism.  Chances are you’ve done a few squats in your life.  Chances are you have not completed a full (butt to the floor) squat with an overhead lift, AKA, a Snatch.  So much blood is required in the legs, one the competitors stumbled off the stage twice feeling light-headed…not enough blood to go around!

One of the lifters really stood out to me.  Not only was she a great lifter, (she was sitting second after today’s preliminary) but she was a Muslim woman, Ghada Hassine of Tunsia.  The Olympic rules had very recently been amended to allow her to wear a full body suit, so she and other Muslim women could maintain their religious beliefs and still compete.  This is a great example of the Olympic spirit at work and is a big reason why I love the Olympics so much!!  So many questions went through my head.  How did she get started in weightlifting?  Did she have family and community support for her sport participation?  Had she experienced “push back” from her community while pursuing her sport?   Just this spring I was asking myself the same questions, only this time I was surfing in Orange County. There in the surf zone was another Muslim girl, again, completely covered from head to toe teaching herself to surf!  I was so impressed!  And to add to the scene, standing there on beach cheering her on was her father and brothers!  She was very determined to “pop up” and she did just that…a few times!!  Keeping with the culture of women who surf, I cheered her on.   I do love to see women who are determined to go after what they want, despite any obstacles (real or perceived) whether it’s trying to stand up on a wave or win an Olympic gold medal!