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I love the Olympics. I look forward to the Games, summer or winter, every four years. Being able to see the passion, talent and dedication of the athletes is inspiring and at times, overwhelming. What they are able to accomplish seems nonhuman, and then you hear their story. You learn the difficulty of their path and, for some, the tremendous sorrow that has been a part of their journey. No matter how invincible they may seem in competition, these Olympians are confronted by the pain of grief just like you and me. Today, I want to share just a few of their stories in hopes that they help some of you (or someone you know) in your grief journey.
DAN JANSEN competed in four Olympics and won the gold medal for speed skating in the 1994 Winter Games. In the 1988 Olympics, Dan took the ice just hours after learning his sister, Jane, died from leukemia. Dan promised his sister a gold medal before her death and he delivered on his promise six year later.
CULLEN JONES is a member of the US Olympic swim team and a gold medalist. Cullen learned to swim after he nearly drowned at the age of 5. He was lucky to be rescued by his dad and a lifeguard at the water park that day. Eleven years later, Cullen’s dad lost his battle with lung cancer just after he heard that his son made the junior Olympic team. Dominique Dawes, a fellow Olympian, interviewed Cullen where he talked about his dad, how he remembers him and giving back.
JOANNIE ROCHETTE won a figure skating bronze medal for Canada in the 2010 Vancouver games. She stepped onto the ice just two days after her mother died of a massive heart attack. After winning the bronze, she spoke to the press about the strength her mother gave her to compete.
Tom Daley and his dad at the 2010 Commonwealth Games
TOM DALEY is a diver and one of the most popular members of Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic team. Tom’s dad was one of his biggest fans and huge supporter of his diving career. His father died in May of 2011 after a long battle with brain cancer. Tom and his dad were each other’s inspiration. Tom’s success in the pool has not spared him from the bullying that many other kids who lose parents experience. When Daley failed to medal last week, he was bullied by someone, who will not be named in this post, that tweeted he [Tom] had disappointed his dead father. His mother responded about the pain of that moment and Tom’s unwillingness to let the bully win. In the time leading up to his father’s death, the BBC produced a documentary about Tom, his dad and diving. The documentary can be viewed online here.
Regardless if you are an Olympian or Olympic fan, life and death remain the great equalizers reminding us that at the end of the day, medal or not, we are all human.
Author’s note: This past weekend, 130 Kate’s Club kids, buddies and staff attended Camp Good Mourning and participated in an Olympic competition of their own. Check back on Wednesday for our first post on camp and OUR Olympics.