Focus of an Olympian

I apologize. I don’t know when something I am listening to is going to be worthy of comment on my blog until it is finished and I may often fail to retrieve the information I should have before writing about it. Case in point: Today I was listening to news about the Olympics and the reporter told of a young girl from China or Japan (forgive me) who won a medal for a sport which I didn’t catch (sorry). I think it was a gold medal that she won (does this detail really matter?) Anyway it is reported that as soon as she won, her parents told her that her grandmother had died. I guess you might call that bad timing. But it appears that they had held back the truth from their daughter until after her event so that sadness would not interfere with her performance. Understandable, you might say. That is what I said, too, and wondered why this was even being reported. But then the newscaster said, “The grandmother died a year ago.” I nearly dropped the iron. A year ago? Then my imagination got its way with me (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa).

How did the family hide the grandmother’s death from the girl for a whole year, my imagination asked. I mean, if she didn’t notice that her grandmother wasn’t around, maybe they weren’t all that close to begin with. She is an Olympian. Maybe she was training in the capital city for a year and her parents told her that grandma was too old to travel to see her. Did someone forge letters of encouragement to the girl signed from the grandma? Maybe they baked a recipe of grandma’s famous molasses cookies and sent them to the girl. Did the girl not go home for holidays? What excuse did they give for grandma not being there? If the girl couldn’t go home, maybe they took family pictures and pasted in an old picture of the grandmother as though she was at the family gathering as usual.

I know this is disrespectful. The newscaster, as she ended the story, said something about being respectful of other cultures. I will have to work on that. Meanwhile, I like to think as I write that the girl’s grandmother had a great sense of humor and would want me to write it. (Or not.)

2 thoughts on “Focus of an Olympian”

  1. I think it is unlikely that a Chinese or Japanese grandma is going to make molasses cookies.

    Most likely, this girl lived far away from her family. Her diet was probably controlled by her trainers. She may have had visits from some family members, but probably not elderly relatives.

    If she was from a rural family, such family can be desperately poor. A young girl selected to be an Olympic trainee can be seen as the family’s only hope for the future. A huge amount rides on her success. More than we–with our comfortable homes and social security–can understand. It’s easier to understand if you have lived your life in a small hut that you share with animals, use manure for fertilizer, and must give up much of your crops to the town officials. Life can be hard in rural China.

    Not all grandmas are close to their grandkids. This grandma may not have even been able to write. Chinese characters must be memorized, they do not have an alphabet. this is very difficult and takes years of study (the same is somewhat true in Japan, they do have some phonics, though).

    Anyhow, didn’t you have a distant elderly relative in your life as a child? Perhaps one that you’d met a few times, but weren’t close to? This may have been the scenario in this girl’s family.

    These may be some of the cultural differences the reporter spoke of.

  2. I didn’t see it but it was probably China. The Chinese Olympian powers to be scout very early for potential athletes. Early as in preschool years. The children then start living away from home and start training. When the Olympics were in Beijing they did a story on this. It was about gymnastics specifically but applied to the other sports also. In all likelihood this athlete had not lived at home in years. I think it’s kind of sad.

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