Everyone’s an Olympian

After 7 years of waiting, the London 2012 Olympic Games are finally here! Off we go again for another breathtaking 16 days of sport, success and sorrow! I’ve ice cream in the freezer, my couch blanket and caffeine ready to make the most of the coming days. London 2012 was always going to be special to me because I’ve never lived so close to the Games as this year. This may sound funny to you but as a sports fan; I have been looking forward to having the Games to close to my native country as well as my adopted one.

Every 4 years the Olympics take over 16 days of my summer calendar and this year it will be a blast. Not only because of the proximity of the games, but also because my dear family will be visiting me in Ireland and I’m quite sure they’ll add fun morning and evenings in front of the TV cheering for our favourite teams and sportsmen and women.

The 30th Olympiad will no doubt see the creation of beauty no matter what field of sport people are competing in; it’s something I start loving more and more the longer MS is present in my body. The longer it is, the more I realize the potential people can aspire to and achieve if they work hard on making their dreams come true.

As a child, I loved dancing and started ballet classes but I gave up too early. Perhaps my future looked me in the eyes at a tender age and told me that other, possibly brighter things would be on my horizon instead of dancing. If I’d have known then what I know now though, I might have stuck with it for a while longer, but on the other hand, it would have been absolutely heartbreaking if my ballet would have had to end because of my multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

Even today, I sometimes cry during dance films or competitions because its beauty would truly captivate yet hurt at the same time. I moved on with the times and now utterly enjoy hip hoppers doing their thing, and then I always think of what the human body is capable of. That means that Olympic Games especially overwhelm me in a good way because athletes make the most of their bodies to get a gold medal and I almost feel the buzz athletes get from performing at such a high standard.

Other than dancing I used to love swimming, I even won a medal myself in a backstroke competition when I was about 12 years old. Mind you, the medal was easily won because I had to compete against myself meaning that I was the only one in that heat of the competition, the fun side of it still remains utterly ridiculous but hey… I won a medal and moreover, I participated in a competition, and this is what Baron de Coubertin said when the Olympic Games were coming back from Antiquity in 1896:

“The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

Tennis I tried, but woe the people I was playing against. My sense of direction wasn’t always right on target you see, and often I’d just smack the tennis ball right at my opponent or into some other dangerous direction. Mini golf… the same. Pitch and put… the same… Thank god I was spared in P.E. classes in high school and I didn’t stand out at all, since I had this bizarre skin problem where I’d end up getting a severe allergic reaction to sweat and I’d get red bubbles all over my body which itched so bad… urgh I still remember my tomato-look on my body, or could it have been a strawberry-look? I am cured of all this for well over 20 years now but I never made it back into a sports routine.

The only thing I was rather good at was cycling, more than likely because I was born in Belgium, which means that everyone there is born with a bicycle between their legs (we had world famous sportsmen who cycled… hence everyone is used to cycling everywhere in Belgium). One move abroad, a damaged immune system and bad bump over a traffic ramp later and my coccyx (tailbone) ended up in pieces. I’ve not been on a bicycle since because breaking that tiny little bone in your bum can cause awful pain sitting down, lying down and standing up and I’m afraid of it being broken again (yep, I now rattle like a 200 year old soup cart instead of a 39 year old!).

Anyway, when I started losing my balance when MS took over my physical being I knew it would mean that I would not be able to dance properly anymore, unless you like interpretive dancing and you can find meaning in my stumbling over myself. Once, a friend of a friend said I was a terrible dancer on a night out but little did he know that my balance was at fault, and therefore my MS. I’ve avoided dancing in public since then and only have my mirror image as audience when I try to sway a little in my bedroom. Hearing that hurt so much because dancing was one of the biggest loves of my life, and hearing that… painful!

I probably don’t have to convince you anymore why I am in such awe of people who can twist, turn and make their bodies do insanely difficult tasks I can only dream off. That awe will never leave my mind, it’s become more than just watch sportsmen and women perform at the highest standard. Right now it’s an inspiration and admiration to aspire to be more and better if only we fight, work hard and try to get over one self’s thoughts of not being able to do something.

This year I’ve seen the Olympic Torch being held by people in wheelchairs, with leg prostheses and by people you would never think of when thinking of Olympic Torch relays. Amazing how people stepped up despite not being an Olympic champion or world record holder, but who cares if they’re not? I certainly don’t care as long as people, and myself, try to get better at what we’re and I’m doing.

So at the end of the day, everyone is a little bit of an Olympic Champion; everyone can do more if they work hard at what they love doing. So go on, just admire, aspire and seek out your potential, whatever your level of fitness and/or disabilities may be.

Everyone is able, even if you’re disabled. It’s not something only given to fit, lean and mean sportsmen but it’s given to those that will try, little by little… higher, faster and stronger!

© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2012. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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