Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pearl 22: Passion is the Silver Bullet

Like 100 million other people on the planet, Vicki and I watched the pomp and circumstance of the closing ceremonies of the XXX Olympic Games held in London, England for the past 15 days.  My goodness do those Brits know how to throw a party.  From everything I saw after what seemed like a thousand hours of coverage on NBC, Great Britain was an ideal host and the games had some very special moments.  Who could not be thrilled at the shear speed of Jamaican Usain Bolt or American Allyson Felix?  Who wasn't awed by the beauty, grace and athleticism of the U.S. female gymnastics team and Gabby Douglas?  And, seriously, three gold metals in a row over three Olympics for the undefeated in match play woman's beach volleyball team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings.  WOW!  The list of accomplishments was staggering.

All who compete in the Olympics are talented athletes.  From every nation, every ethnic background, every religious affiliation these heroes of sport come to compete every four years and give us a glimpse of what hard work and dedication can accomplish.  One man's performance stood out this year above most....Michael Phelps.  Breaking a decades old record, this swimmer, this freak of physical nature, Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 overall medals and 18 (EIGHTEEN!) Gold Medals for his career.  It is a feat which will not soon, if ever, be broken.

Four years ago in Beijing, Michael Phelps won 8 Gold Medals, the most of any Olympian in a single game.  I was so impressed by this feat I wrote a "Pearl" about it for my grandchildren, making the point about passion.  When all other things are equal, passion makes the did in 2008 and again in 2012.  I have included it below and I hope you enjoy it. 

Dearest Eliana and Gehrig,                                                                            8/16/08

Good morning, my sweethearts.  Oh, I know, I just wrote you a few days ago but the events of the past few days have me inspired to write again.  In just your second year of life, the 2008 Beijing Olympics have captured the imagination of the world once again as it does every four years.  The drama and excitement of the games is always high but this year there is the opportunity for one participant to do something no one in the history of the games has ever accomplished.  Namely, to win eight Gold Medals in one Olympics.

 Michael Phelps is an impressive physical specimen in his own right but as a swimmer he is darn near perfect.  Michael is 6’4” tall.  Normally, a person’s “wing-span” or distance between the tips of his fingers measured across outstretched arms is roughly equivalent to his height.  Michael’s wing-span is 6’7”, three inches longer.  Combine those long arms with huge hands that measure 11” across from his pinkie to his thumb and you have an exceptional swimming stroke.  Then consider that Michael has the legs, measured from his hips to his toes, of a man only six feet tall, but a torso or ‘trunk” of a man that is 6’ 7”.  This gives him an incredible kick off the wall on his turns with those compact, powerful legs, but also the long-muscled upper body every swimmer needs to excel.  Michael is double-jointed in both his shoulders and knees and, finally, consider Michael’s size 14 feet, wide at the toes and narrow at the heel, all of which gives him almost Dolphin-like swimming power. 

Built for power and speed in the water, Michael Phelps has few, if any, equals in the sport.  But last night, when he won his seventh Gold Medal in a final 15 meter, come-from-behind charge that saw him touch the wall just 1/100th of a second ahead of Serbia’s Milorad Cavic, there was more than just physical prowess involved.  This brings me to my next Pearl.

 Twenty-Second Pearl:  Passion is the Silver Bullet

In any competition between two or more equally matched opponents, passion is the difference.  You can see it on the faces of the winners. In these games, you could see it on the face of Nastia Liukin, the 18 year-old from Parker, Texas, who took the individual all-around gymnastics Gold Medal with a flawless floor exercise.  You see it on the faces of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh as they methodically and passionately dispatch team after team in beach volleyball.  Passion is an unmistakable intensity, a driving force and consuming love for what they are doing.  Add passion to the mix of talent, preparation and opportunity and you have an unbeatable mixture. 

Passion makes the difference not only between winning and losing in sport but in life as well.  The people who are the most successful in business, in their careers, whatever they may be, in entertainment, in politics, in the practice of their faith and even in love are passionate in their quests.  So whatever you do in your lives, little ones, do it with passion.  You may not always win, but I promise you will be happier for it.  I am confident we will see passion, once again, on the face of Michael Phelps as he strives for his 8th medal tonight in the 4X100 meter relay.  I am also confident his passion will be the silver bullet that gets him the GOLD!

I love you, bunches and bunches.              
Grandpa Jud

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