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Lessons from the Olympics

Not To Win But To Take Part

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important
thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
~ Baron Pierre de Coubertin

Realizing A Lifelong Dream

Brooke deLenchThe founder of the modern Olympic games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, first stated the Olympic creed in 1896, and it is as much a cherished ideal today as it was more than a century ago: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part."

For the ten glorious days my three sons and I were privileged to attend the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, I truly felt that, even though I was only a spectator, I was also "taking part." I realized my life-long dream to attend at least one Winter Olympics. Indeed, it may have been a dream that began, incredibly, on the very day I was born, February 15, 1952, during the VI Olympic Winter Games in Oslo, Norway, the day that Dick Button, then a 22-year-old Harvard senior, won the gold medal in men's figure skating.

So perhaps it was fate that brought me to Salt Lake City fifty years later to the day on a crisp afternoon in the Wasatch Mountains under a brilliant azure blue sky, far from my New England home, to celebrate, not only my birthday with my sons and numerous friends, but the bronze medal performance of another U.S. Olympian, Chris Klug, who was just as glad to be taking part as I was, no doubt more.

A Life Saved

KlugIf February 15, 2002 brought a flood of emotions for me, I can only imagine what the day must have felt like for Klug, who was competing less than two years after a life-saving liver transplant, and, fittingly, just one day after the celebration of National Organ Donor Day. "Without the gift of the donor family, I wouldn't be here today. They're the real heroes," Klug told reporters. While he said he hoped his fame as the first organ transplant recipient to win an Olympic medal would "get families talking about organ donation," he said he never felt any pressure to win to make his ordeal worthwhile. He was just happy to be alive.

"I thought I was going to die waiting," Klug said of the days before his liver donor was found 19 months ago. "I was pretty scared, I wasn't thinking about snowboarding, or coming back and winning a bronze medal. I was just thinking about hoping to live, hanging out with my family and continuing with life as I know it." Even if he had not medalled, I know Chris Klug would have agreed with Baron Pierre de Coubertin that the most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part.