This post is only a little bit about cancer.
I'm really enjoying the Rio Olympics. For all the fears of things that might happen (and that have happened) outside of the court/track/arena/pool, the athletic competitions have been pretty great so far. And the TV coverage has been kind of uneven, but the network has highlighted some great stories.
But before I get to that, I have to tell you about my favorite Olympian -- Mary Lou Retton.
Mary Lou won the individual all-around gold medal in gymnastics in 1984. She was the first non-Eastern European to win that gold. She was incredibly popular, not just because she was so great at her sport, but also because she always, always had a smile in her face.
Sometime in the mid-1990's, I got the chance to meet Mary Lou Retton, briefly. I don't remember the year, but I was living in Louisville, Kentucky, at the time, and my oldest child wasn't born yet. So I'll guess 1995 or so.
Mary Lou was on a promotional tour for Tyson Chicken at the time. She made an appearance at our local shopping mall. They had set up a kitchen in the middle of the mall, and my wife and I sat in the audience. (My wife sat very reluctantly. She thought I had a crush on Mary Lou. Ridiculous. I only admired her athletic ability, and her positive spirit. The fact that she was cute as a button had nothing to do with it.) A small screen in the "kitchen" showed highlights of Mary Lou's career, and the film finished with her sticking a landing, her arms raised high. And then -- Mary Lou herself popped out, arms raised high!
She demonstrated a few recipes and talked about healthy eating.
Afterwards, we were given a small cookbook of chicken recipes from Tyson. Here's a picture; you can get it yourself for $2.75:
The Orange Chicken recipe is a Must Try!
We were also given the opportunity to get an autograph. Most people were polite and gave Mary lou their name, got their autographed picture, and moved on. That's what my wife did when she went ahead of me. But then she looked back and saw me taking a little extra time to chat with Mary Lou -- probably more than most people did. But I needed to tell her that I appreciated that she was always so happy, when some of those other young athletes just looked miserable. And I was glad she was seemed so happy then, too. She thanked me. My wife thought I was being creepy, but I was sincere. If you've read this blog for a while, you know how much I value someone who is positive.
And I got my autographed picture. It's in a safe place, and I don't want to take it out and copy it, so I'll show you someone else's autographed picture from that same Tyson Chicken promotional tour:
I told you that so I can tell you about the most amazing athlete in the Rio Olympics, in my opinion: Oksana Chusovitina, who is a 41 year old gymnast.
41 years old!
Chusovitina was born in Uzbekistan, after the Soviet Union came apart, she competed in the 1992 Olympics for the Unified team, made up of former Soviet countries. Then she competed for Uzbekistan in 1996, 2000, and 2004. The she moved to Germany and competed for them in 2008 and 2012. Now she's back at Rio, competing for Uzbekistan again. (That's 3 different teams.)
And did I mention she is 41 years old!
Know what I was doing at 41? I wasn't competing in Olympic gymnastics, that's for sure. Mostly, I was having cancer and eating ice cream.
She won a team gold medal at the 1992 Olympics, and a silver in the vault in 2008, when she was 33 years old. She's also had 5 moves named after her -- two on the vault, two on uneven bars, and one on floor.
And if you're looking for a blood cancer angle here, it is this: she
moved to Germany because her son was diagnosed with leukemia. She paid
for the treatment in part by winning gymnastics competitions.
I just can't over the fact that she can do the kind of things she can do at her age, especially when most of her competition is about as old as her 16 year old son. She's pretty inspirational, isn't she? If she can train every day for the Olympics at her age, surely the rest of us can get to the gym for a half hour, three days a week, and make ourselves healthier.
Back to Follicular Lymphoma next time. But for now, I just have to admire this woman a little bit more.