At the end of every championship there is a celebration. Some sports have unique traditions when it comes to celebrating. In college basketball the national champion cuts down the nets, at the end of a NASCAR race the winner does donuts, and of course in the major sports there is the trophy presentation. All of those are great moments, but none truly compare to the Olympic medal ceremony.
I was watching a medal ceremony for Women’s Alpine Skiing where American Lindsey Vonn won the gold. Watching her receive her medal and then hearing the Star Spangled Banner play as the American Flag was raised sent chills down my spine.
Vonn was overcome with emotion, her lips quivering as she sang the words while holding back tears. At that moment, I really began to understand what an Olympic medal means. It means you are better, not for just that year, or for that moment, but that you are the best in the world until the next Olympic Games.
But what is it that makes this moment any more significant than the others?
Every sport has a champion, but most of the time that team only holds that title for a year. That is also what makes this different. An Olympic Champion holds that title for at least four years due to the way nature of the Olympics.
Something else that makes this bigger is the fact that it is largely an individual competition. So it really showcases the individual talents of so many and those who walk away with medals know they earned them. So much of American sports is based on the team aspect and sometimes individual sports get overshadowed as a result. So the Olympics give those who are spectacular individual sport athletes a chance to shine.
But the stage is what really makes this moment so special. Think about it, you are representing your country competing against the greatest athletes in the world. You make a statement by winning the gold. A statement that sets you apart. When you step on that podium with your nation’s colors on your back and take the medal you have fought so hard to earn and your national anthem begins to play, that moment is something that no one can take away.