Olympic Dreams

Olympic-RingsI might be a little late to the party on this one, but I still have an opinion on the matter. Recently, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) voted to remove wrestling from the Olympics. Yes. Wrestling. The World’s Oldest Sport. When I first heard about this I thought it was a joke. I laughed it off with the standard, “good one.” Then, I realized it wasn’t a joke at all. I saw the flood of status updates on Facebook. There were videos from Olympians with their opinion on the matter as well as what they think should be done to reverse the decision.

I also saw some posts comparing wrestling to other sports saying “look at this joke of a sport.” I don’t agree with this at all. I know we’re mad about what happened, but we don’t need to take it out on anyone but the IOC.  Attacking another sport by belittling it (where other athletes also have the same hopes and dreams of representing their country to win an Olympic medal) is not what we should be doing. Instead, we need to come together as a community (which we have certainly done within the past week) to stand united.  Also, by attacking those sports you’ve just lost their support. The people who played those sports may have been rooting for wrestling to get voted back in, but quickly sided with the IOC when people started saying, “you’re a joke, you suck!” It’s like being in a debate and responding with, “well you’re stupid.” That’s missing the point. For me, I was always the small guy, got picked on, and never really found my place (in the world) until I found wrestling. It absolutely changed my life in every way imaginable.  Looking back, I remember just how important the Olympics were to me as a wrestler and as an athlete. If I didn’t have the Olympics to look forward to, I’m not sure how my career and life would have panned out.

When I was in high school, one of my dreams was to be an Olympic champion. As lame as it sounds, I used to write my goals out and even draw them from time to time. For example, I had a poster I drew when I was a sophomore in high school (2004) that said ‘2008 Olympic Gold Medalist.’ It had the Olympic rings on it as well as a gold medal draped around them. I woke up and looked at that poster every single day. I wanted to be the best wrestler in the world. I went to every single tournament (both local and national) over the summer that I could in the hopes of one day being a state, national, and Olympic champion. I idolized those who competed in the Olympics. Just the thought of one day wrestling there motivated me to work as hard as I possibly could. I truly believe that this is what helped me excel as quickly as I did in the sport of wrestling.  It drove me to reach for the stars and to push myself. It also made me into the person I am today. It helped me to develop a work ethic and to do my best at anything I attempt no matter what it is. There is no ‘half-ass’ in my mind. If your’e going to do something, give it everything you’ve got. Otherwise, what’s the point? Mental Toughness. I wouldn’t have this mentality if it weren’t for wrestling. It taught me discipline and paved the way for self-confidence. It also taught me the difference between confidence and cockiness. The moment I started getting cocky was the moment I lost. Another memorable event for me that all relates to the Olympics was in my junior year of high school. I won the Sectional finals, which bought me a trip downstate. For the award ceremony, they brought out a rickety set of boxes for us to stand on in a dimly lit, hot-box gymnasium. I can close my eyes and still hear it now. “At 103 pounds, your 2005 Sectional Champion and still undefeated, Ryan Nallen!” My family cheered and took pictures. The National Anthem played in the background during the announcement while I stood on the top of the podium with my eyes closed visualizing I was in the Olympics. It was a moment that I will never forget and is still inspiring to me to this day.

Now, the IOC wants to remove wrestling. A decision that I cannot even begin to fathom. This is a nightmare. By removing wrestling from the Olympics, you’ve just taken that dream away from people. You’ve also taken away part of the spirit of the Olympics. I don’t wrestle anymore, but I feel like I’ve lost something. A part of me that helped me become who I am. The Olympic logo above is how I feel. Something is missing. I know people who are training for the Olympics and I know people who’ve competed in the Olympics. They are my friends and we share the same feeling. A lost dream.

I still have that poster. I never crumbled it up and I never threw it away. It’s still something I think about. It’s the ultimate accomplishment. While I may never wrestle again, that’s not the point. It was the dream. It was a goal. It was everything to me and it drove me to be the person I am today. If I had one thing to say to the IOC, it would simply be:

Don’t take away someone’s dream. 

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