I have been so inspired by the athletes competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Here are a few of my favorites:
• Colby Stevenson, the silver medalist in the men's big air competition, who almost died in a 2016 car accident that left him with a broken skull in 30 places. He had been driving from Oregon to Utah to see a friend who broke his leg when Stevenson fell asleep at the wheel and rolled his car six times.
Doctors weren't sure he'd walk again - or even live - but eight months later he won his first World Cup in Italy.
"Instead of being there to win, I was there to ski, for the love of the sport," he said in an interview on NBC.
His said he has a newfound appreciation for skiing and treats every day like it's a gift.
• speed skater Brittany Bowe, who gave up her spot in the 500-meter race to teammate Erin Jackson. Jackson had slipped in the trials and placed third. On Olympic ice, she came in first and earned a gold medal.
The interview with the two about Bowe's decision was so heartwarming. Jackson talked about the many years Bowe has been her mentor and friend.
"I've always known what an incredible person she is and now it's really showing," Jackson said.
"It's my honor to give her that opportunity," Bowe said.
• Lindsey Jacobellis, who spent 16 years trying to win a gold medal at the Olympics. She was one jump away from a gold medal in snowboard cross in Torino in 2006 when she fell and instead earned a silver. She didn't medal at the next three Olympics in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Three days later she won her second gold medal with teammate Nick Baumgartner in the Olympic debut of mixed snowboard cross. It was the first gold medal for the 40-year-old, the country's oldest Olympian in Beijing.
"It all came because we didn't give up when times were tough, when things didn't go our way," Baumgartner said. "We're tasting the sweet taste of victory."
• Elana Meyers Taylor, who won the silver in the women's monobob, who is traveling with her son, Nico.
She told a reporter she wants to set an example for other female athletes so they know it's possible to be a mom and still compete with the best in the world.
I learned in a later interview that she has another reason for continuing to compete. She wants to inspire her son, who has been diagnosed with Down's syndrome.
"I wanted to prove to him that just because you have stuff to overcome, it doesn't mean you have to stop going after your dreams," she said.
• U.S. freeskier Alex Hall, who took gold in the ski slopestyle competition earlier this week. He had nothing but praise for his teammate, Nick Goepper, who took silver.
"It's an honor to be up there with him," Hall said.
I could go on, talking about Ryan Cochran-Siegle earning a silver in the super-G a year after breaking his neck in a serious crash or Mikaela Shiffrin finishing ninth in the super-G after being unable to finish her first two races or Shaun White's gracious farewell to his Olympic career. I imagine he would have given the same speech if he had won gold instead of coming in fourth.
Time after time, I've watched an athlete hug and high-five and show such respect for another athlete who just stripped away their dream of winning a gold medal. Bower described her own selfless act as the "spirit of the Olympics."
I sure hope Team USA will bring some of it home to share with the rest of us.
- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].