The Olympics have come and gone. I must say, aside from Ryan Lochte’s full-on frat bro display of stupidity and utter disrespect, I enjoyed what I saw. I was unquestionably entertained and inspired. I actually think that it’s the inspiration piece that really makes the Olympics so great. Not only are athletes providing entertainment and bragging rights, but they’re using their lives’ work to inspire and teach millions of people. That’s why we wait in anticipation and watch without flinching every four years; we want to be inspired and be taught to be better than we were yesterday. Through the Olympics we learn about true perseverance, love, dedication and talent. We learn just how much each athlete has to give up for the opportunity to represent their country, and we’re inspired to give a little more of ourselves.
As I reflected on the Olympic inspiration and lessons, I realized that in a very big way, women were responsible for much of the inspiring and teaching that took place this year. In fact, American women took home 61 medals, 27 of those gold, ranking them third in the overall medal count if they were their own country. While the moving stories are too many to recount here, I was able extract some general and powerful lessons that GladiatHers® taught the world from the tracks, arenas, pools and stadiums of Rio. Many of us already knew these things to be true, but unfortunately, many more didn’t. So today we’re bringing some attention to the lessons that the GladiatHers® of Rio brought the world.
Women Can Literally Do It All
In Rio we witnessed women break records and win medals, but that’s kind of expected for the Olympics. What GladiatHers® also showed us was that they can literally be the best athletes in the world and juggle so much else. Women like Kim Rhode, Nia Ali, Dana Vollmer, Gwen Berry, Kelly Griffin, and Brittany Reese showed us that women can tackle motherhood while tackling hours of training and competition. Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Lily King and 22 other American Olympians showed us exactly what it means to be a student-athlete. Each of these women miraculously found time to simultaneously be world competitors and college students of some of the most prestigious institutes in the country. And GladiatHers® like Aly Raisman, Venus and Serena Williams and Angel McCoughtry showed us that being a world-class athlete probably just makes them better, more successful entrepreneurs than if they hadn’t given their all in sports in the first place.
Women Understand That Some Things Are Bigger Than Sports
While each and every athlete was in Rio to compete for their nations and themselves, GladiatHers® reminded us that some things transcend sports and that sports can be a great platform for change and awareness in this world. For instance, in an international climate of demonizing those of the Islamic faith, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad bore her faith proudly as she took on her opponents and the media wearing a hijab. While their countries have been separated by war for decades, two tiny gymnasts, Hong Un Jong and Lee Eun Ju, stood for peace and harmony with a selfie that crossed national boundaries. And many women like Brianna Rollins and Missy Franklin, when asked about their accomplishments and inspiration, acknowledged their higher power over themselves.
Women Can Support One Another, Even When The World Doesn’t
For the second straight Olympics the world got to bask in the athletic talents of Gabby Douglas. In 2012, despite Black America’s ridiculous obsession with her hair, Douglas became a bit of a national hero after becoming the first African-American woman in Olympic history win gold in the individual all-around event, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. Her quest for gold in 2016 pitted her against the world’s best gymnast, Simone Biles. While America decided that only one black girl could shine, tearing Douglas to pieces for inconsequential things like her hair, facial expressions and stance during the National Anthem; Biles and Douglas unequivocally supported one another as teammates and friends. Douglas was the ever-present cheerleader as Biles flipped her way to four gold and one bronze medal.
Women Age More Gracefully Than The World Would Like Us To Think
While society might have us believe that once we hit 40 our ovaries and lives dry up, Olympians like Kerri Walsh Jennings, 38; Kristin Armstrong, 43; and Mary Hanna, 59; prove that age really is just a number. They pushed through nature and outside expectations to become champions and to represent the best their countries have to offer. These women, who are also mothers, gave the young gals quite the run for their money as they showed that their bodies still operated like well oiled machines.
To all the women who inspired us in the 2016 Olympics, thank you and keep up the inspirational work. To all who had no clue just how much these women taught us, now you know.