Exactly four years ago, I arrived in London with eyes bigger than the Olympic rings that were mounted on the London Tower Bridge. I was a 12-year old age grouper who was passing through London on my way to Sweden to visit my uncle, and with a major stroke of luck I arrived in London just in time for the Olympics to begin.
I will never forget the feeling of walking around the Olympic Park (probably while wearing a tie-dye swim meet t-shirt). The best way to describe the feeling is to say that you get the chills, but they never go away. It is the most energizing thing. I didn’t catch the Zika virus in London, but I definitely caught Olympic fever.
I couldn’t sleep at night because I could hear all of the hustle and bustle of the city right outside of my window; the noise indicating that the city had also caught Olympic fever. I remember sitting in my hotel room at 1 am with a view of the London Eye, watching a documentary about Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake (Jamaican track and field stars). I had never heard of either of them before, but after 120 minutes of NBC coverage, I was an expert.
Inside every sports fan and athlete there is a passion for the glory, triumph, and struggle that comes with any sport and the Olympics have a way of awakening that burning passion in every one of its watchers. After just a day in London, I was completely caught up in the Olympic hype.
In a crazy turn of events, the next day we ended up with tickets (and yes, we bought them 100% legally) to see the 100 Meter dash with both Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, which again, is one of the luckiest and craziest thing to happen to me. There is a video that my family likes to tease me about that I took while Usain Bolt was doing his victory lap after he had won the 100m dash. They tease me every time I play it because I can be heard screaming my head off in the background in the highest possible pitch. It is hilarious, but it also perfectly captures how excited I was.
The emotions in that stadium were incredible. The national pride that I felt when the United States of America won, the heartache I felt for those athletes who didn’t, and the joy that I shared with the Brits sitting on my right and the Chinese sitting on my left for simply spectating at the Olympic games, were overwhelming.
I was unbelievably lucky to be a part of a worldwide event that only happens every four years. The rarity of the event isn’t what makes it special, though. I mean come on; I don’t see anyone celebrating like this on Leap Day! It’s the excitement of having the best in the world all in one place and having the Mecca of elite sports broadcasted worldwide.
This year, I will be watching my favorite competitors again, probably cheering just as loud and high pitched as I did when I was 12.
The energy and excitement from 2012 has had a profound effect on me. It has made me a more devoted and intense swimming fan, as well as making me a fan of soccer, tennis, water polo, diving, and volleyball; sports that I would not have otherwise been super excited about. Thank you, London, for opening my eyes.
Even though I will be watching the 2016 Olympics on American soil, I plan on getting just as much out of them as I did 4 years ago in London. After closing ceremonies, the games aren’t going to be here for another 1,433 days, so below you will find your guide to getting the most out of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
1. Watch the games.
Watch your favorite sport and cheer for your favorite Olympians, but don’t be afraid to branch out! If you’re looking to try something new, I recommend watching speed walking (I’m not kidding), Ping-Pong, water polo, equestrian, or beach volleyball.
Whether you host a viewing party for the games or watch by yourself while eating take-out on your couch, watch as much of the games as you can. During the London games, NBC always had a recap at night and it highlighted some of the best moments of the day. If you watch this you can get all of the best parts of the day shown to you in a shorter amount of time (they usually also have past Olympians come on to talk, and they always have an interesting perspective).
2. Let yourself be inspired.
A quick Google search of “Olympic inspiration” will turn up hundreds of results. If you watch a few youtube videos of inspirational stories or highlights from past Olympics you’ll soon be simultaneously crying and ready to take on the world. If the last few Olympics are any indication, swimming is bound to have some very inspirational stories and races (Jason Lezak and Katie Ledecky are my personal favorites from 2008 and 2012, respectively). If you have been waiting for motivation to hit the gym or the pool, this can be your source of motivation. When you watch Katie kill it in the 800m, commit to swimming just half of that at the local YMCA tomorrow.
3. Try a new sport
If you think that the beach volleyball looks fun, try it out! Pick up a ball and call your friends over to pass the volleyball, play some Ping-Pong, or hit the tennis ball. The Olympics does a great job of shining the spotlight on sports that don’t normally get a lot of attention, this is your chance to try something new! One of my best friends (keep in mind, she is not a swimmer) was determined to do a flip turn after watching Missy Franklin swim in London. She went to our neighborhood pool and tried to do a flip turn and later texted me saying that she didn’t know exactly what had happened, but felt that it was the closest that she has ever come to drowning. Even though her swimming career didn’t get very far, she is a devoted swimming fan now and even has MeetMobile and DeckPass on her phone (what a good friend, am I right??!). So even if you don’t end up picking up the sport, maybe you will become a fan!
I hope you will find the motivation, inspiration, and excitement that Rio promises to give. As for me, my attention and my DVR recordings are #RIOBOUND.
This article (and photo) is courtesy of and written by Sydney King:
My name is Sydney King and I live in Haymarket, Virginia. I am 15 years old and I am a junior at Battlefield High School. I started swimming on my local summer team (the Bridlewood BWaves) when I was 7, and have continued there for the last 8 years! I recently began swimming for the Nation’s Capital Swim Club (NCAP) for the 2015-2016 season, and I had an absolute blast.