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Watching the Olympics with a Goal

By Jason Pedersen | Aug. 01, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

jasonThank goodness the Olympic Games are finally here. If you are anything like me, you recall moments in your life relative to the quadrennial event. I was born a year before Seoul; I began running a year after Barcelona; I began competing in the 1500m as a Bantam Boy during Atlanta. By Sydney I was running the 1500 in under 4:45. My high school cross country team won its first of two state titles the same year as Athens. During Beijing I was training in Mammoth Lakes (and I specifically remember sitting on a pull-out bed when Jason Lezak came from behind to beat the French in the 4x100 free relay and, after throwing my arms up in victory, the bed folding back into the couch with me in it!).

In college, my teammates and I would pass the time on runs by seeing how far back we could remember the host cities that correlated with each year (i.e. ’84 LA, ’80 Moscow, ’76 Montreal, ’72 Munich, etc.). We would usually get near World War II before we started to second-guess ourselves. Needless to say, the Olympics can never come soon enough.

Any free time I usually have between training is now all booked up thanks to the thousands of hours of Olympic coverage broadcast on television or streamed live online by NBC. Why do I love the Olympics so much?

First, I love watching people compete at nearly anything. Competition, and in this case sport, brings out the best, and occasionally the worst, in people. You get to see their true colors. At the Olympics the competition is a step above with the very best in the world in each respective sport. There is no better drama than the most talented, hardest working athletes going head to head.

jasonSecond, every athlete at the Olympics had a journey to get there. We are familiar with the amazing stories of the USA Triathlon Olympians – from Manny Huerta escaping Cuba and Gwen Jorgensen’s amazing rise in the sport to Hunter Kemper’s recovery from a broken elbow about six months before the San Diego qualifying event and Laura Bennett’s return to improve on her 4th place in 2008 – and the most popular Olympians like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, but it amazes me that every athlete across all 26 sports likely had to make just as many sacrifices and overcome just as many hurdles, and despite it all they are representing their countries as Olympians.

The London Olympics has a slightly different feel to it for me. For the first time, I am watching the Games with a goal, not just a dream, that in four years time, I will be there with my own story filled with sacrifices and hurdles overcome. And for better or worse, my family won’t let me forget it. After openly declaring you are training for the next Olympics, some people want to already congratulate you, saying, “I’m going to book my tickets to Rio now!” Of course, nothing is ever that easy, especially becoming an Olympian.

Here’s to the amazing athletes competing in London, and to those at home waiting four more years for their opportunity.