There was a lot to watch during this years Summer Olympics in Brazil. One event that I noted was the exciting bike race where Mara Abbott of the USA barely missed getting a medal by a few seconds.
Mara took the lead after the Netherland's Annemiek van Vleuten crashed. It was such a tense finish we were jumping up and down trying to encourage Mara from our living room. Perhaps because Annemiek crashed there was sympathy for the Netherland's Anna Van der Breggen, because Sweden's Emma Johansson and Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy joined her to take turns drafting, allowing the rider in back to save energy.
The television screen began showing the distance left with the seconds they were gaining on Mara, who exhibited tremendous stamina and grit. Alas they all three passed her with a second or two to go.
Anna won gold with Emma taking silver, and the bronze went to Elisa. Mara, who was fourth by a fraction of a second, did not make the podium.
She did win a personal battle because who would think a person fighting anorexia could become an Olympian one place away from a medal?
It made me think about my niece, Tara, and her oldest child, Emma, who has special needs. She was born with hydrocephalus, a buildup of cerebral spinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain.
A year ago, I wrote about Emma and her family's struggle both emotionally and physically as they faced this great challenge with their first child. Tara's comments and the pictures of Emma in two social media posts for her fourth birthday made me want to revisit this one more time.
Emma was not supposed to live and yet lived. Then she was not supposed to thrive, but she thrived. She has had wonderful therapist friends who have helped her begin to walk and communicate.
After a recent doctor appointment this month, Tara wrote, "This big four-year-old's spine and hips look 'gorgeous,' according to Dr. Carroll, because of all her hard work with weight-bearing and walking around her school in her walker!"
And in another post: "As I get older and we move forward in this special needs journey, my perspective changes and I have learned that it's OK to say it. Emma is my beautiful heartbreak. A heartbreak that brought me so close to spiritual and emotional death, and as I slowly gained my spiritual strength back I have a faith that is different than the faith I ever thought I would have. I love you Emma, I love what we have survived, you are my beautiful heartbreak baby girl. And I am so grateful you are mine."
After her race, Mara Abbott told the Washington Post, "My inclination as an athlete is always going to be to say, I didn't win, so that's not good enough.' But cycling is a team sport, so when I look at what everyone did … I'm really honored to be a part of this, and they're all sitting there telling me that it was a success, so I have to trust them."
During the Olympics there is a commercial with Olympian Kayla Harrison, who won a gold medal in judo at the 2012 Games in London. As she is running, the voice-over talks about how people ask her what it's like to win a gold medal. She says that we all know because our Olympic medals are all around us. It showed people various situations and said "your gold" medal with a mother and child walking past.
Sometimes our medals won't be given to us on an Olympic podium, but we still have accomplishments and deserve the gold.