Recently, I’ve been getting in to the Olympic spirit as it is trial season, and this year (like one prior), I actually know one of the women competing for a chance to represent our country in the Olympic Games. I went to high school with Bettie Wade, now a Heptathalon extraordinaire, although at that time she was just a young woman whom everyone loved, who became homecoming queen beside her twin brother Marc, and who was really darn fast. Her brother was a particularly close friend of mine, and though I didn’t know her as well as I knew him, I always esteemed her, and she always made me smile (Marc and Bettie have that very much in common.)
I’ve been praying, crossing fingers, and getting excited for her over the last several days, and the other night I mentioned it to my coworkers at a going away party we were having for one of our team. You know the coolest part is, I said probably with my mouth full of onion ring (one of the many reasons I will never be a heptathalon champion), that she’s one of those people who really deserves it. I always remember her being such a spectacular human being; she really hasn’t been bragging on Facebook about it, and she’s been really openly grateful for what she has been given.
I watched her final event tonight on NBC, the 800 meter dash, and I was cheering so loudly (alone in my apartment on a Saturday night) that my neighbors probably think I’m certifiably crazy. Around and around she went, until the final stretch when her feet pounded across the white finish line–and she smiled. She smiled that tremendous Wade grin I know runs in the family. She smiled like she was proud of everything she had accomplished so far, everything she would accomplish in the future, and like she was thankful for all the gifts and opportunities God had given her.
That smile stuck with me. Bettie placed 4th, just shy of the three Olympic spots, and my heart broke for her. And yet, I felt like that smile said as much (if not more) about who she is than the panting or the exuberance of the women finishing in the top three said. And though I was sad that such a deserving woman had been so close to her dream, I was inspired that even in that moment, when she could have been anxious or exhausted or critical or any number of other negative things, she was proud of her hard work and the woman she is, and she was grateful for all she’s been able to do.
Congratulations Bettie. The way I see it, tonight, you were a true champion!