American Olympic Pride
By: Theresa Oliver
Watching this year’s summer Olympics now underway in London, England, naturally brings back memories of past Olympic Games and the super athletes from every country around the world. Names such as Nadia Comaneci, Jenny Thompson, Michael Phelps, Muhammed Ali, Bjorn Daehlei, Carl Lewis, and Mark Spitz all come to mind. However, for me, the most memorable Olympic Games of all were in the summer of 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. It was an Olympics which I have never felt prouder to be an American. No, I wasn’t there, even though I live here in America. But it was during these summer Olympics that my husband, Tommy, and I were in Russia adopting our eldest son. And it was also one of the most memorable Olympics of all time in its own right, and I never felt more pride as an American, witnessing the wonders of these games on Russian soil.
Prior to leaving the US for Russia, we were aware that the Olympics were happening, but were oblivious for obvious reasons. But while we were in Russia, the people began talking about the US Olympic team. I’ll never forget walking in Red Square and visiting St Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, and many other historic sites one weekend. We walked by a Newspaper stand and there was a USA Today newspaper with a picture of the US women’s Olympic gymnastics team. Never before had a US gymnastics team all taken the gold, whether male or female. For this was the Olympics featuring, among other athletes, Kerri Strugs, who made her gold medal winning vault, despite having seriously injured her ankle on the prior run. Ignoring the pain she must have felt, she soldiered on and won the gold, despite having to be carried off the mat.
My husband and I were also amazed, feeling pride as Americans, being represented by such outstanding athletes. Not only were we amazed, but the Russian people were talking about it, as well. During those Olympic Games, the US dominated in medals in all events, taking home 44 gold, 32 silver and 25 bronze for a grand total of 101 medals.
During every leg of our journey home from Russia, everyone in every country was talking about the US Olympic team. As parents, we have taught our son to be proud of his heritage and also to be proud to be an American. Two years after we came home, he became a US citizen on my husband’s birthday. Travis raised his little hand when he was sworn in and was given an American flag. We went on vacation shortly afterward and everywhere we went, Travis spotted all the American flags. He took his flag with him on our vacation and it was one of his prized possessions for years to come.
This was another time that I felt extremely proud to be an American.
As I watch this year’s summer Olympic Games, I’ll root for my countryman and all the athletes. It takes skill, persistence and determination to get there, which I will always admire. And they will inspire the world — maybe more then they know — and will invoke pride within their countrymen who are supporting and watching.
There have also been many other times when I have felt extreme pride to be an American, but I’ll never forget the time when I experienced pride for my countrymen while visiting another country, and the 1996 Summer Olympics was the reason. And having the opportunity to experience it on foreign soil … was priceless.