JULY 15, 2011

When was the last time you went to Magic Mountain?  No- I mean literally. When was the last time you experienced the magic of Disneyland. When you were too young to know that the big Mickey and Minnie characters running around weren’t real?  Well, let me tell you where I was recently- Disneyland, Disney World, and Epcot rolled into one for an Olympian - Olympia, Greece, birthplace of the Olympic Games and holder of the most amazing ancient Olympic history the world has ever seen. 

It’s was so awesome that the majority of the time I was there I felt like I was on a candy apple and cotton candy sugar high that wouldn’t quit (though it didn’t cause me to double over in stomach pain like that stuff does now)!  It was hard to grasp that everything we saw was real and countless Olympians of ancient Greece lined up to compete during the Olympic Truce that would be declared across the empire.

I recently returned home from a week at the International Olympic Academy (IOA) in Olympia, where I was our country’s representative at the IOA’s 3rd Olympic Medalist Summit. British, Australian and Kiwi (nickname for people from New Zealand) rowers would wax the Olympism philosophical alongside a Ukrainian high jumper, Russian pistoler and Korean short track speed skater and over 20 more Olympic Medalists from almost any sport you can imagine.

I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not sure which I was more floored by- to be our country’s lone representative amongst the worlds best or to walk side by side with tourists from all over the world onto the ancient Olympic track less than a 10 minute walk from my dorm room at the Academy, which I shared with a Romanian swimmer named Razvan. 

The walk into the ancient stadium was probably the highlight, as I’ve been waiting to be there since I was 10 years old.  I walked out of the tunnel onto the track like I had done three times before in my life behind the red, white and blue.  But this time I was following the footsteps of the original Olympians that first entered this very stadium thousands of years ago.  There is something very powerful and humbling about realizing that what you have accomplished is part of a history that reaches into one of the most powerful dynasties the Earth has ever seen.  That is the power of the history of the Olympic Games.

That is what Olympia is.  It is a window into the history of the ideals we all cherish so much.  It is a glimpse at the true Olympic Ideals and why those 5 rings were brought back to the world by Pierre de Coubertin in 1896 to inspire the world to reach for greater feats. Thank you, United States Olympic Committee, and thank you, International Olympic Academy, and thank you to the fans of Team USA for supporting me to rep the stars and stripes in a true Land of Oz for Olympians!