A lot of improbable things had to happen for me to be here in PyeongChang, South Korea cheering on Team Tirinzoni (Silvana, Esther, Manuela & Marlene) in their first appearance in the Winter Olympics. It's probably similar to figuring out the all the angles needed to make an angled triple run-back to win a high stakes curling game (fair warning: this is the first of what will likely be several curling references. You've been warned).
It all was set in motion over a year before I knew any of these people, including Marissa, and none of them knew that I existed.
Anything Can Happen
In 2012, Marissa and Team Bond Girls traveled to Scotland to play in The Glynhill, a curling tournament in Glasgow. Marissa will tell you they got absolutely crushed by every other team in the field but the Bond Girls struck up a (perhaps unlikely) friendship with Team Tirinzoni. Later that year when she was visiting with Silvana in Switzerland, Marissa promised that when Silvana made it to the Olympics she would be there to watch them play.
I enter the picture soonish after the grand deal was struck when I throw my first stone and become enthralled with the roaring game. Marissa and I start dating a year later and then I trick her in to marrying me by using her love of the Matterhorn against her in Switzerland. She falls for the bait, doesn't push me off the side of the mountain and we are married a year later.
Intermixed with Marissa and my courtship are trips by some of the Swiss girls flying out to visit us in California. Sometimes for curling, sometimes just on their way through a vacation. There are times we go back to Switzerland to watch them curling and more recently, to curl with them in a Christmas spiel in Gstaad (that was super fun. Huus! Huus! Huus!). And there are countless texts, emails and funny video exchanges in good times and tough times.
Maybe the biggest obstacle (or double center line guard if you will) was the girls qualifying in the Swiss Olympic Trials last year. They go undefeated in the triple round robin and don't even have to go to the playoffs. They dominate against two other Swiss teams, both of who are former recent world champions. It is a stunning display of passion and precision. And ass kicking.
I'm not really a "destiny" guy but that is a specific set of dominoes that fell to get us to now. And here we are, fulfilling Marissa's promise from almost 6 years ago. It is emotional.
Tough Times Demand Tough Hearts
It has been a trill to be here supporting our friends in this environment while they compete at the highest level. A "once in a lifetime" level kind of thing (though hopefully not just this once). Much did not go as planned though.
No two ways about it, this was a challenging week. I think it's fair to say that the Swiss women were expecting and expected to be on the podium considering their current world ranking (it's 4th if you don't want to follow the link). At times they played brilliantly, even in games they lost. But other times they struggled. And that lead to missing the playoffs and the chance for a medal.
We know the girls wanted to play well, win, and bring home the gold more than anything. They have dreamed this dream for as long as I have known them and probably long before. We have seen the heartbreak. We have seen the frustration. We have seen the pain. It is a bit devistaing.
Of course it is difficult to watch your friends struggle. It is doubly hard here and now when you know they want to perform well so bad. It must only be a fraction of what they have been living with every day.
But also no two ways about: it the girls showed grit and character and pride and talent and poise and a dozen other superlatives that show what amazing women they are (so don't feel down for too long girls). We have also seen the smiles. We have seen the laughter. We have seen teamwork. We have seen them finish strong.
And that is the Olympics. Holding your fire. Standing up after adversity. Digging down deep and not giving up, even if some part of you wants to stop and go home. It's people crossing cultures and connecting beyond things like country and creed. This isn't a new observation, I know, but I think it's worth refreshing and remembering every so often. Especially now.
The Point Of The Journey
The quote at the bottom of our blog is from a Rush song (I couldn't help myself) and it applies to life in general. But I think it applies doubly to the Olympics and the athletes who compete, especially you, Silvana & Manuela & Ester & Marlene (if you are reading this).
The point of the games isn't gold. People may disagree, even you. That's fine. I'm competitive myself and I like to win. I understand wanting to be at the top of the podium and how that is the goal. And while I'm not an Olympian, and my opinion is not informed by the drive and passion of an elite level athlete, I would hope that the quest for a medal does not devour the glory and pride and the amazing, because it is amazing, that all Olympians should feel. Even if they do not achieve their highest goals. Honestly, just being in that rarefied air is more than enough. The chance to reach this high and still miss is nothing short of spectacular - the point of the journey is not to arrive.
This post may be overly sanguine and effusive. If so I apologize. But no I don't. We can't have nice things if we don't acknowledge that they are nice. Friendship is a nice thing. Especially when it spans our globe.
All this to say:
I ride for Team Tirinzoni and I always will. Hopp Suisse as along as its you. You are the best.
Bonus: The girls were also generous enough to invite us into and give us a tour of the Olympic Village. Read about that awesome time here: Village People.