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Opinion

Olympics help restore personal pride in America

Lauren A. Simenson

February 14, 2018

I have always been an enthusiastic and very dedicated Olympic fan, avidly watching anything from curling in the winter to badminton during the summer Olympics. The pure athletic excellence that is on prominent display every four years makes me feel equal parts wholly inadequate and incredibly inspired. This year, the Olympic games mean something even more to me than they have in the past.

It has been difficult to feel proud or patriotic about the United States this past year. For obvious reasons. Often it was just plain … embarrassing to be an American.

This was a common opinion held by many in the States this past year as similarly disgusted people expressed a serious interest in getting out of the U.S. and heading for Canada. While it sounded like a great idea, CNN reported on the reality of this phenomenon in June of 2017 by pointing out that the amount of Americans applying for residency in Canada in 2017 was only 66 more people than the previous year. I won’t lie – moving to Canada or literally anywhere else crossed my mind as well, and I have not ruled it out yet.

As 2017 came to a close and 2018 loomed, looking just as depressing and as vile as the year
preceding it, I could not shake the feeling of being so unhappy about a country I had, up until recently, always been so proud of.

Then I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The entire ceremony was memorable due to the seamless unison and captivating visuals that highlighted Korean culture. However, seeing all of the countries and athletes participating in the Olympics is what caught my eye the most.

The Parade of Nations, where over 200 diverse athletes marched behind the American flag, was the best feature of the ceremony. I felt incredibly proud to have these athletes representing the U.S. and representing me in spite of who is currently representing the U.S. in our government.

The surge of patriotism that washed over me as the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics got underway was immense, and I watched as American excellence was on full display during Adam Rippon’s figure skating program and during the women’s snowboarding halfpipe, to just name two examples.

There is an indescribable feeling that comes from watching such brilliance and realizing they are on “your” team – Team USA. From my couch at home, I groan and cover my eyes when athletes attempt a risky move or when someone wipes out. The Olympics have the effect of being the perfect unifier; you only have to look at what the Olympics did for the relationship between North and South Korea to be shown the awesome power the Olympics have.

The culmination of my almost overwhelming amount of Olympic emotions and pride came during what I am already going to call the best moment of the Olympics: Shaun White winning gold in the men’s halfpipe.

When White, with his wild red hair, won his first gold medal 12 years ago, I (and I’m pretty sure the rest of the United States) was obsessed with him and his insane abilities. This past week, when I watched his most recent victory with that last insane run, seeing his final score was so triumphant. As I watched his face turn as red as his hair as he sobbed and hugged his family after winning gold, he wasn’t the only one that was crying.

To all of the members of Team U.S.A. and the Olympics in general: you have wiped away the horrible memories of 2017 and have saved 2018 for me. Thank you!

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.

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