Before I begin my third post about some amazing veteran Olympic athletes and how their story will help diabetics, I want to say that the 2008 Olympics closing ceremonies are now just a memory in Beijing and what a mixed-bag this Olympic Games has been, for although we try to regard the Olympics as a positive societal endeavor, there always are elements of human and governmental behavior which demean or negate the positivity; this time, the most outstanding of those are the human rights abuses and lack of free speech at the Olympics in China, even though that was one of the criteria accepted by China in being awarded the Games.
The most in depth study of China’s real behavior that I have seen in the 16 days of the Games, so far, came last Friday night on Bill Moyers Journal, a Public Broadcasting program in the USA. Please read and watch renowned Washington Post bureau chief and journalist Philip Pan’s report at: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08222008/profile2.html
Now, in the rest of this post, I will try to highlight as many of the remaining Olympic veteran athletes from my list in Part 1as I have time and space for. If I don’t finish, then look for a new post (or maybe 2, if I have time) early in the week, even though the Olympics will be over by then. I believe these stories should be told. I never forsaw a role as a sports reporter! These people and their stories are SO compelling and have lessons for every one – healthy or not.
Be sure to also read Part 1 of this series at:
and Part 2 at:
Oksana, a gold medalist in Olympic gymnastics in 1992, on the Soviet team, is now 33 years old - an unheard of feat, as most gymnasts stop in their early 20’s, if they last that long! But, in addition to winning medals in 8 out of the last 10 World Championships, Oksana has competed in 5 Olympic Games, a record for any gymnast.
In addition to the Unified Team in Barcelona, after the Soviet Union was dismantled, she competed 3 times for Uzbekistan, where she was born and now, this year, for her new country, Germany.
Why she now competes as a German citizen is a serious and compelling story, and it has a happy ending on all levels. Oksana just won the silver medal for Germany in Beijing, and it’s her first individual Olympic medal, ever. With an excellent vault, she was barely edged-out of the gold medal by a lousy (but more complex) vault from the North Korean competitor, Hong Un Jong. None of her competitors had even been born when Oksana started competing in her first Olympics! Just to be there in Beijing was a triumph, but to win this individual medal was even better.
Five years ago, destitute and desperate in Uzbekistan, Oksana needed medical treatment for her son, Alisher, who was suffering from acute lymphotic leukemia, a rare form. Germany came to her rescue. The doctors at the University of Cologne saved his life, and now at nine years old, he is a healthy child and a budding gymnast.
In gratitude, Oksana became a German citizen and competed with all her heart, even though her 33 year old body knows it is competing with others half her age, usually 14 – 16 year olds! She still is the major bread-winner in her new country, and hopefully, with her silver medal, that will lead to coaching opportunities in the future. She is already a role-model and mentor to young gymnasts all over the globe during her competitions.
Her German coach, Ursula Koch, and her team-mates constantly marvel at Oksana, especially how she runs over everything so well in her mind, that she needs to expend far less energy and has less chance for injury, because after envisioning it perfectly, she does what she is asked physically, correctly, usually the first time. Her team-mate says that Oksana knows “how to focus her power”. Oksana will not say how she “focuses”; she says that’s her secret, but as she comes from the Steppes, it would not surprise me that she has learned some important energy-healing techniques from Siberian shamans, who are in deed very powerful beings, as George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, Russian seer learned from them.
Valeri Luikin, father and coach of American gold-medalist Nastia Luikin, was a member of the same Soviet team, and says Oksana has always had an incredible work-ethic and has never shied away from anything because it was too difficult; her routines were ‘even harder than the men’s were’! She is also incredibly precise in her preparation, he says.
In World Championships, Indianapolis 1991, her debut, she also added three new moves to the Code of Points: the hop full and full-out on uneven bars and a layout full-out on floor exercise. She still competes all three elements today.
So, some of the lessons for us, as diabetics, are:
___ be aware that you are capable of massive change and sacrifice, and sometimes a complete reversal of all you know is the only way to success
___ learn everything that you need to know to succeed and be savvy about your actions and use of energy and resources
___ find Passion and Love in your Life, so when all the struggle Life always has coming-at-you arrives, you will KNOW that Life is “worth it”
Brava, Oksana! And, she says she may still compete in London 2010, if she can stay injury-free. She says “I still love gymnastics, and I still have fun everyday.” and “I don’t feel 33. I feel 18.” We wish you and your family all the best in your new life!
IAN MILLAR, HIROSHI HOKETSU AND LAURIE LEVER – EQUESTRIANS
Veteran 9 time Olympian, Canadian rider, Ian Millar, aged 61, and 6 foot 1 inch, 167 pounds (185cm, 76 kg) along with his horse, In Style, helped to lead the Canadians to the Silver medal in the Equestrian Team Competition at the 2008 Olympics. The American team won the Gold Medal and Norway was third. Ian was not in the final roster for the Individual Medal. Other veteran riders in the Team quest included Nick Skelton, aged 50, on the British Team which came in 7th and Laurie Lever, aged 60, on the Australian team which came in 9th.
After competing in nine Olympic Games, it is Ian’s first Olympic medal, ever! He dedicated it to his wife, Lynne, who died last year, and who had been his coach throughout their 39 year marriage.
Millar will be in London 2010, on a horse he has already chosen named Redefin, when he will surpass Austrian sailor Hubert Rauschdal, with whom he is now tied for 9 Olympic games’ particpation, the most of any athlete, ever. He would have already achieved that 10th, as he made the 1980 Moscow Games team, but Canada honored the boycott, so he did not get the chance to compete; however, this year, he still equaled Rauschdal’s record.
Ian says the sport has changed greatly since he started and that it is far more complex and sophisticated now, but that it is one that is solidly a mental-game, where experience really counts. So, this time he rode the anchor leg, and led Canada to the medal.
He’s still at it, and intends to own the 10 Olympics honor all on his own, next time. Bravo! His children, Amy and Jonathan, have already qualified at this level, so one or both may join him on the Canadian Equestrian Team in London. Bravo! yet again.
Veteran Japanese dressage rider, Hoketsu Hiroshi, aged 67 is the oldest Olympic competitor on any team in the 2008 Olympics, and is the oldest athlete ever to compete for Japan. At 5 foot 6 inches, 137 pounds (168cm, 62kg) it is marvelous that he can control the raw power of such a huge, 1600 pound animal. Hiroshi is a retired top-level Johnson & Johnson executive who used to continue to ride each morning before he donned his corporate suit and went to work; that meant rising at 5 AM everyday. It was his labor of love. Hiroshi still does 50 sit-ups before breakfast!
Hiroshi is riding his 3rd horse, an 11 year old mare named Whisper, and finally, she seems to have the temperament and rapport to make a great pairing. Originally, Hiroshi competed for Japan in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, as a show-jumper, but he competed admirably, in Dressage this time. Dressage is a perfectionist, detailed pursuit which fascinates him.
He now resides in Aachen, Germany and his German coach says Hiroshi is very talented, and both hope to return again for the 2010 Games. Hiroshi also qualified as an alternate in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and for the Team in 1988 Olympics in Seoul, but his horse suffered a respiratory problem, so Hiroshi could not ride in Seoul.
He has been riding since he was 12, and says his passion for riding has only increased over the decades. In Beijing, the strong German Team won the Gold Medal; the Japanese Team came in 10th. Individually, Hiroshi beat his finish in the 1964 Olympics, when he came in 40th. This time, hounded by the Japanese Press, in a new sport on a new horse, he was 35th. Bravo!
The oldest member of the entire Australia contingent in 2008, Laurie was born in Manchester, England 60 years ago, and has been riding since age 10, in order to ‘keep him occupied’ after school. Laurie is 5 foot 5 inches, 159 pounds (165cm, 72kg) and he has lived in Australia for a long time, but now he is the newest member on the Australian Equestrian Team and is riding Drossel Dan.
He helped the Australian Team achieve 9th place. As an individual rider, he came in 23rd in Show Jumping. His four sons are all championship athletes, 3 of whom also ride. Laurie also sustained 2 broken legs in 2002 (with multiple compound fractures!) and a broken left leg in 1998, but Laurie never lost his dream. He says he trains 7 days a week.
Lessons to be learned:
___ it is never too late — to start something new that is very challenging; to find a way to become very disciplined; to strive daily and then see results over time
___ it is important to become part of a team – you learn from each other and grow in ways you cannot fortell, but produce results greater than you probably would have done on your own
___ find the passion that drives you, then harness it to be able to tackle all challenges
___ when you fall off, get back up!
JOHN DANE III, IAIN MURRAY – STAR CLASS KEELBOAT SAILING
JOHN DANE III
At 58 years old, John Dane III is the oldest member of the Olympic team from the United States of America, and he sails with his son-in-law, Austin Sperry.
The Star Class is the oldest in Olympic sailing, starting in 1932, and now about 2,000 of these boats sail in competition globally. The results of the 2008 Olympic Star Class Sailing was: GOLD: Switzerland Flavio Marazzi, Enrico De Maria SILVER: France Xavier Rohart, Pascal Rambeau BRONZE: Brazil Robert Scheidt, Bruno Prada. John and Austin were 4th. Bravo!
Australia’s Iain Murray and Andrew Palfrey were 8th, from a final field of 16. The circuit was called “The Torture Track” at Qingdao, China, and it was anything but smooth sailing. The final was in a tempest. The Star Class boats were built to sail in any conditions, so they were dependent on the skills of their masters and luck.
In the preliminary race, it went back and forth, as the breeze was inconsistent and troublesome, and many boats were becalmed, including the Australians. Many felt the race should have been called off, and they protested but were over-ruled.
At Qingdao, the wind always comes in start-up and drop-off mode, with pockets all over the course. Maybe it should not have been the venue at all. Each tactical decision for 2 men to control these 1,500 pound boats, is therefore relegated to a roll of the dice at Qingdao, instead of just real knowledge and skill.
Lessons for diabetics:
___ you never have control of everything. It’s a useless pursuit, but getting knowledge and experience will aid you toward success
___ understand the risks, and chart your best course, especially if you do not have everything in your favor. Try, no matter what!
___ Life does not have to “be fair” at all.
JUJIE LUAN – FENCER and DAVID ZHUANG – TABLE TENNIS
I have anglecized these two Olympians’ names as both are immigrants from China to the West. Four-time Olympian, Jujie, now aged 50, won China’s only fencing medal; that was in 1984, but afterwards in 1989, she emigrated to Canada, and is competing for the 3rd time as a Canadian. David Zhuang is a 44 year old table-tennis player who lives in New Jersey, and is America’s brightest hope in a sport which Asians have long dominated.
Jujie was buoyed that the Chinese did indeed remember her and welcomed her; she was relieved at that. A large segment of the 4,000 people in the Fencing Arena began chanting her name in Chinese, offering her support. Other fencers, from many nations, bowed to her in respect, as one of fencing’s legends, and were amazed that she was still able to come in at 50 to Olympic matches.
Her goal was to win at least one bout, and she won her first, against a 19 year old Tunisian 12-5 but was defeated in her second round by a 32 year old Hungarian fencer, who had won 4th place at the Athens 2004 Olympics. Score 15 – 7. So Jujie walked away satisfied because she set her goals decently and attained them. Just to compete at this level, at 50 years old, in a sport requiring such swiftness and accuracy is amazing. Brava!
Jujie is a mother of three and her husband of 24 years, Daijin Gu, took on all the house-hold and child-rearing aspects for the 15 months after Jujie decided to come out of retirement and try to get on the team for 2008, in order to give Jujie this chance.
The whole family made sacrifices, and her community in Edmonton helped her raise the massive amounts of money needed to train, travel and compete in order to qualify. Now, Jujie says “Jyah-ho! Let’s go!“. On to a next chapter of excellence.
Jujie ranks 52nd in the world now, and says she will help Chinese fencers, as a coach. She will divide her time half-and-half with Canada, where she will also coach. It is her way to say “Thank you” to the two countries she loves, and who have enabled her to have such a wonderful life. Within two weeks, she was off to compete in the Canadian Master’s Championships.
At 5 foot 11 inches tall and 165 pounds, David Zhuang entered into Olympic table-tennis in a sport that the Asians have made fiercely competitive. Born in China, but a resident of New Jersey for 17 years, Zhuang is America’s best hope in table-tennis for a long time.
However, it was not to be, and David did not advance to the final. He lost the best years of his career, as Chinese officials would not field him, even when he was the best, as he had applied for a visa to emigrate to America, at age 17. The visa took 10 years to materialize. He sacrificed much for this sport he loves.
In America, it is still very hard to get support for this sport which is wildly popular elsewhere, and well financed elsewhere, with phenomenal facilities and coaching. It is a lonely struggle in America, but he is excellent at it, and wants to represent his new country, as well as coach the next generation of players.
This Olympics was a real David-and-Goliath scenario awaiting him. David was the only man to represent America in table tennis. But he’s a real winner just for trying to compete under these daily difficulties. So, thanks for all your hard work, David!
Lessons to be learned:
___ you have to decide what you value, and tailor your life to accomplish that
___ it is important to have support – whether family, friends, community, or if you are lucky, all 3
___ your journey may be incredibly difficult and lonely, at least in the beginning, but it is important and possible to persist and triumph
___ set reasonable, attainable goals and be happy when you reach them
___ “pay it forward”! Help someone else with all the knowledge and comapssion you have.
OK this is the longest post, and I’m not done with the list! Maybe I never will be, but I’ll try one more post next week. I hope all these stories inspire you, and help you to action!
Best to all — Em
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(c)2008 Em http://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
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If you want official results: http://results.beijing2008.cn
1) New York Times
2) Adam Pretty, Getty Images – Traditional Drummers Heralding, Opening Ceremonies 2008 Olymics
3) Doug Mills, New York Times – New World of Possibilities, Opening Cermeony 2008 Olympics
4) a New Year blessing www.wealthmountains.com – China, it’s time to turn over a “new” leaf!
5) Offical Olympic Roster site
6) possibly The Star Ledger
7) AP, Kin Cheung
9) lost the reference, sorry
10) AP, Kin Cheung
11) US Sailing Team – official photo – Walter Cooper
12) official Olympic portrait – http://results.beijing2008.cn