When I volunteered on Saturday at the Special Olympics, I sat in a room off the cafeteria at the ski resort. I, along with other volunteers, wrote each athlete's combined times on the finals sheets. There were downhill, slalom and giant slalom events, with novice, intermediate and advanced categories. Some of the 60 athletes competed in all three events.
"I'm usually out with the team," said Rose. She sat beside me with a calculator adding up the times. "My son is a skier."
"Last year he didn't do so well," she said. "Last year, he tried the advanced level and he lost all of the events. We really had to talk a lot with him then, he was so upset. It was hard for him to face defeat like that. He had to decide if he wanted to continue. And he did, but he moved back to intermediate because he wasn't ready for advanced."
That night, I was reminded of the conversation with Rose as I watched the Vancouver Olympics. There was a special segment about the American speed skater Apolo Ohno and his dad, Yuki. When Apolo was young, his dad explained, Apolo competed in a race and lost, and it was obvious that he had given up. Afterwards, Yuki took him to a remote cabin and told Apolo to decide what he wanted to do.
Apolo made his choice. As of this post, he has won seven Olympic medals.
Just like Apolo, Rose's son was defeated and had given up. While he doesn't have the same level of skill as Apolo, he was faced with a similar choice and he decided to keep going, try harder and do his best.
This Special Olympics athlete made his choice. On Saturday, he won three golds.