By Kelli Warner,
KMTR-TV Morning News anchor, Springfield
I love the Olympics. I always have. And every two years when the world’s top athletes gather to compete for the gold, I can’t help but think how many children around the world will sit in front of their televisions and dream of one day doing the same thing. I know I did. But I took things one step farther.
It all started about the time I was eight. During the Summer Olympics, I would dream that one day, I could be a world class gymnast. And I wasn’t deterred by the fact that I’d never taken gymnastics classes. Oh no. Those details rarely mean anything to an 8-year-old whose dreams have no requirements. Instead, I would take a big strip of masking tape and meticulously place it in what was inevitably a slightly crooked line across my bedroom floor. For two weeks, while the Olympic athletes competed somewhere in the world, I’d be winning imaginary gold medals on my pretend balance beam in my bedroom. It was amazing how I always seemed to ‘wow’ the judges and the best part was, it didn’t hurt when I fell off.
In the winter, I traded my gymnastics aspirations for the dream of ice skating. Forget the fact that I had only been ice skating once when I was five and I literally had to crawl off the ice. For two weeks during the Winter Olympics, none of that trivial stuff mattered. I’d lace up my skates—only these skates were white roller skates with hot pink laces. I’d ask my dad to back his truck out into the driveway and I used the smooth surface of the garage floor as my imaginary ice rink. I’d maneuver grand sweeps around its outer edges, and attempt mini jumps that, in my head, were off the charts amazing. And if I happened to take a fall—which believe me, I did—I’d just call it quits and go inside. The dream would be back tomorrow.
As a journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with kids who not only have the aspiration of becoming elite athletes, but also, unlike me, actually have the skills and talent to have a good shot at it. I’m talking about an 11-year old gymnast, who struggled endlessly to master her routine on the uneven bars. I was fortunate to be there at her gym the day she finally nailed a flip and the landing that had given her endless blisters and bruises. I’ll never forget it. At the split second she realized she had done it, pure joy radiated off her little face like it was one of the sun’s own rays. Very cool.
A few years back, I also spent some time with a high school senior who had been doing gymnastics since he was a preschooler and had a focused eye on the 2012 summer games in London. That meant being in the gym for hours on end with his coaches while his high school buddies were off doing all the things we expect teenagers to do. Did he miss being able to drop everything and go with them when they called? Yes, but he had a dream, and a goal, and a very real expectation of what it would take to achieve both. Dedication like that is not always rewarded with a coveted spot on the Olympic roster. In fact, odds are in most cases, athletes won’t ever reach that elite level. But, despite the actual odds—there’s always that dream. Maybe it starts in their family garage, like mine did. Maybe it will only ever be a childhood fantasy. But then again, just maybe it will be the seed that spawns great aspirations and realities. No matter how big or how small, never count out a dream.
So good luck Team USA. I’ll be rooting for you.