The Olympic Games typically dominate the news and conversations every 4th year, but throughout the summer 2016 media/public discussions seemed to be equally split between sports and the presidential election campaign. Part of the reason is that one of the candidates (guess who) is so bold and that inevitably all eyes were on him.
When watching the Games, the vigor and beauty of the sportsmen who push the limits of human ability, I often think of these young people's future. Is there life after sport? Alternatively, I cannot but think of the post-election lives of the candidates who lose. Will they sink into oblivion? Both questions are thought-provoking. Let's address the first one first.
Diversity the Beautiful
Team USA has always been diverse, for our own good, and in Brazil it included more first-generation immigrants than ever before: 48 of them, or 8.5 percent came from 30 different counties on six different continents.
Multiple media articles made confident comments on this dynamics in diversity in sports -- forgetting that immigrants were actually underrepresented, because today they make up 13.3 percent of the U.S. population -- so we have miles to go! Winning more medals is wonderful for national prestige, so the Olympic Games are a wonderful example of immigration as a win-win. This brings to mind the sports' motto: "The most important thing is not to win but to take part!" - proposed by Pierre de Coubertin on the creation of the International Olympic Committee in 1894. It still defines the Games today: all participants are winners at large. This helps to keep Olympics beautifully diverse and inclusive of the adopted talent.
My personal admiration goes to those great athletes who can apply their heroic accumulated ability 'to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield' to their lives after sport. Why? They understand the meaning/mission of their lives in broader terms than winning on the stadiums - and use their celebrity for the better good of all. One of the immigrant women I interviewed for my upcoming book about American success makes a perfect case for successful life after sport.
The Case of Nadia Comaneci: Leadership and Personal Perfection
Nadia was born twice: first, as a baby girl in a small Romanian town; and then again, as an amazing gymnastics Olympian scoring perfect 10 in Montreal, Canada. Her initial track-record of leadership in gymnastics made her a girl of many "firsts": the first gymnast to score a perfect 10.00 in the Olympic 1976 Games, and then scoring six more 10.00s and winning three gold medals; the first Romanian and the youngest ever all-around gymnastics champion; the first gymnast to win three all-around titles at the European Championships; and the first to win two successive Olympic gold medals - in Montreal and Moscow - on beam and floor.
But above everything Nadia valued freedom. She defected from the communist Romania to become a refugee in America. Nadia eventually married another Olympic champion, an American gymnast Bart Conner, and since then the two members of gymnastic royalty go hand-in-hand in life and work.
Nadia's leadership evolved in the US: it moved from competitive gymnastics to other sports-related areas, where Nadia:
• Acted as head judge at Tumble, a gymnastics-themed reality show, which aired on BBC One in 2014. It demonstrated what people can do after quitting competitive sports.
• Was the featured speaker at the 50th annual Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony on July 4, 2012.
• Carried the Olympic torch (along with former basketball star John Amaechi) for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
• Is a Member of the International Gymnastics Federation Foundation
• Owns (together with her husband) the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, the Perfect 10 Production Company, and several sports equipment shops.
• Edits International Gymnast magazine.
• Provides television commentary for many gymnastics events.
Nadia has rebuilt her career, mostly through her generous charitable work for organizations such as the Nadia Comaneci Foundation in Romania, the Laureus Sports for Good Foundation, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Special Olympics International. She also generously shares her "secrets" in her book, Letters to a Young Gymnast.
The judge, not the judged today, Nadia continues to influence people with her soft beauty and strong personality, bringing up in the minds of the faithful fans the slim teenager with pigtails (pictured) who charmed the world with her daring elegance. And we're happy to see that perfection she always represented lives on!
I believe Nadia was right when self-assessing her American success on my Success Scale of 1 to 10 - at 10. Originally, I wanted 10 to be a hypothetical score, meaning one has reached "heaven on earth," and suggested Score 9 for Nadia - meaning "international fame." But she remarked, jokingly, that she'd been "accustomed to being a 10!" And I agreed: Nadia continues to score 10 because her worth goes beyond her gold medals almost four decades after her historic wins. No kidding: life after sport exists and can be beautiful.
Life after Elections-2016
Election campaign-provoked intolerance of the opposite opinion and deepening divisions of electorate are extremely worrisome. On a brighter side, elections are not forever. Some pundits are busy guessing what kind of President Donald Trump may make (they believe Hillary is more predictable). God knows...
Let's probe an easier question, "What does the future hold for a loser?" Like in sports, there will be no loser-losers in elections-2016: a mere participation brings better rewards than abstaining from competition. I'm sure that both candidates will survive and thrive: Hillary Clinton proved to be unsinkable and may continue her life in politics; Donald Trump will make more billions with his fundamentally boosted name recognition. They will be fine doing their favorite things--no need to quarrel with your friends, folks, for their sake.
But regardless of who wins, the political landscape, the mindsets, and the lives of us, the people, will alter in various ways after these elections. Let's consider preliminary damage control so our post-election lives are fine too.