Tuesday, August 19, 2008

If I had (or will have) a daughter . . .

I'm convinced. If I had (or in the future, have) a daughter, I'd want her to take a lot of lessons in grace, humility, integrity and focus from Shawn Johnson.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports has covered the gymnastics competition during the Olympics and he has provided what would be, in a political race, fawning coverage of Johnson and her teammates. But from all indications, Johnson deserves every bit of good coverage she's received.

Today, after a trio of silvers for the Olympic favorite (team silver, all-around silver -- thanks to a couple of shaky landings, floor exercise silver -- thanks in no small part to a bad draw), Johnson made her last performance her best -- a gold medal win on the balance beam.

The Monk has appreciated gymnastics more as he's gained wisdom over time (aka, gotten older) -- the strength and agility that the gymnasts display (seriously, go watch the men's rings routines), the training they do and the tremendous toll it takes upon their bodies (there's a reason they're usually short). Like figure skating, there's a high prima donna factor among the women gymnasts. There can be some rather unpleasant rivalries and there are unquestionably shenanigans (*cough*underage Chinese competitors*cough*).

And The Monk watched the competitors during the team competition to see their reactions -- from the occasionally elated but restrained Chinese to the befuddled Alisha Sacramone and the anxious Nastia Liukin -- and there was Johnson at all times: smiling, applauding her competitors, drinking in the whole experience.

So when two competitors as good as Liukin and Johnson fight for gold and are so close personally that they room together at the Olympics and consider each other good friends, it's nice to see. And when the world champion seemingly gets docked for being more athletically built than artistically but says "[i]t did upset me a little, but I thought about it and I decided, I was at the Olympic Games, I was having the time of my life and I’m winning medals," then we have a fine exemplar of the sportsmanship and competitive spirit of the Olympics.

And when my daughter, if I have one, is old enought to understand, I'll Google "Shawn Johnson" and show my little girl how a champion acts.

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