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Becky Thomas: Take a cue from Apolo Anton Ohno — keep going for the gold

Becky Thomas
Becky Thomas

Yay! It's time for the Winter Olympics. Oh, what memories: Eight years ago, I was a tour guide for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. I was able to attend each of the events that my guests had signed up for. I loved the women's figure skating, the ski jumping, the downhill and many other events, but there is one that will forever be in my memory: the short-track speedskating.

It was fascinating to watch the skaters go around and around in circles as fast as they could, appearing to be parallel with the ground, usually within about an inch of each other.

Apolo Anton Ohno was the chosen favorite; he was expected to go home with five gold medals that year. I was there the night that he was competing for his first gold medal.

Along with everyone else, I was screaming and hollering as Apolo took the lead; now he was just seconds away from earning his first gold medal! Then, out of the blue, one of the skaters fell, taking the first four skaters out of the race, including Apolo, leaving the last skater, Australia's Steven Bradbury to effortlessly cross the finish line and pick up a gold medal.

I did not know the rules of the sport, but one thing I did know was that it was not fair! The way I saw it, Bradbury did not deserve that gold medal — he had been in last place, he was not the fastest skater, and besides, it wasn't Apolo's fault that he fell. I think most of the spectators felt as I did; it seemed that everyone was fired up over the "injustice."

Surprisingly, Apolo got up on his feet and calmly skated off the rink. I couldn't believe how composed he was; he deserved to win that race — he had spent many years preparing for that moment, and he was robbed. The gold medal should have been his!

Apolo obviously was no stranger to the sport and the mishaps — or "injustices" — that can happen from time to time. They were just a part of the package of short-track speedskating.

Needless to say, I have thought of that race many times since then and have come to the conclusion that short-track speedskating is a metaphor for my life.

I have been in the dating rink for more than 20 years, literally going in circles, looking for my husband. I was expecting to bring home a gold medal a long time ago. And right when I think I am going to get one, and feel most "deserving," a friend of mine, or now one of my friends' kids, will effortlessly skate on by and pick up a husband.

When I was a senior at BYU, I remember thinking, "OK, I have served a mission, I am graduating from BYU, I am so ready to get married." Then I would see these little freshmen, they had just pulled on their skates, they had just stepped in to the rink (aka BYU campus), and their first time around, they pushed me out of the game and picked up a husband.

Sometimes life just doesn't seem fair, does it?

Having lived a bit, I have come to understand and learn more about this package that we call "life."

I have realized that the perceived "injustices" are crucial in developing character. They help create the fiber woven within us and make us stronger. When we understand this, it is easier to remain calm when we do fall, or someone trips us, realizing it is a part of our earthly experience and for our benefit.

There will be times in our lives when we really do "deserve" to "win" a husband, an obedient child, a good job, a faithful spouse, a loyal friend, good health, etc., and it may not seem fair when we do not receive what we so desperately want or feel we "deserve."

We will surely see Olympians this year in Canada who deserve the gold. There will be those who worked their whole life; they have been preparing longer and harder than anyone else, and yet because of an injury, or something as seemingly insignificant as a cold to drain their energy, they will lose their dream of a gold medal. Regardless whether they win the gold or not, they will hopefully react with wisdom and experience that will serve them the rest of their lives. We should do the same.

I will look forward to watching Apolo go for the gold again. I know the rules now; I understand the game of short-track speedskating — and the game of life.

In the meantime, I will keep skating in hopes of taking home my own gold medal.

Best wishes to Apolo and me!

Becky Thomas has a swim school in her hometown of Clovis, Calif., where she spends her summers, then rushes back to Draper, Utah, where she also lives, and teaches swimming in the winter. Her column, "The Unexpected Life," runs Sundays on


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