The Cost of Glory

7046282179_622499c0c6_zHere I sit, watching the Olympics again; it hooks me every time. I always say I like the winter ones better because there aren’t so many sports to keep track of, but when I start watching the summer ones, they suck me in too. In the winter, the downhill racing and the extreme sports I can’t remember the name of (what do you call the thing where they fly down a slope and do flips in the air?) grab my attention.

In the summer, I like the swimming and the diving and the track and the gymnastics and the volleyball and pretty much whatever else is on at any given time. The other day I watched something that involved a net and a ball but was like nothing else that I’ve even seen.

I would never watch some of these sports outside of this context, but every couple of years, I do. [Read more…]

Poetry as Balance Beam

Because I don’t currently have a television, I wasn’t able to catch much of this summer’s Olympic games. But I did see just enough to remind me that once upon a time—in the summer of 1992, to be exact—I harbored my own dreams of Olympic glory.

I was ten, and a year or so earlier had happened to catch the women’s gymnastics World Championships on television. Immediately I fell in love with everything about the sport and its athletes, the serious young girls who approached their work with exactitude and fearlessness.

Flat-chested and well-muscled, with hair pulled back into strict ponytails or buns, the gymnasts looked at once prepubescent and adult. Their girlish features rarely portrayed any emotion—only fierce concentration. [Read more…]