As you read this, the world's best athletes are giving everything they've got for a chance to stand on the podium at the 2012 Olympic Games with a gold medal around their neck.
The Summer Olympic Games are, hands down, my favorite athletic events. Partly because I have fond memories of watching the Olympics with my family while growing up and partly because the Olympics are the only time my favorite sports - gymnastics, swimming and diving - show up on television.
Of all the Summer Olympics we watched, I can most vividly remember watching the '92 Olympic Games in Barcelona. I was at my cousins' house for an extended stay during the Olympics. Since they weren't dairy farmers, we had lots of free time to spend parked in front of the television watching athletes leap and sprint and dive.
It was hard to watch those athletes and not dream of one day competing in the spotlight just like them. I think, at some point, every kid dreams of becoming a famous athlete. Since, by 1992, my gymnastics career was over, my dreams during the Barcelona games were filled with diving.
One of the American divers that year - Mark Lenzi - won a gold medal in the three meter springboard just six years after taking up the sport of diving. His performance and his story were the stuff inspirational movies should be made from.
I was so inspired that I set a goal to compete in diving at the 1996 Olympic Games. During an interview, Lenzi had explained how he had written his goal of competing in the '92 Olympics down on a piece of paper and put in on his dresser where he'd see it every day. I did the same thing. I wrote my goal down and taped the paper to the mirror in my bedroom. (Chances are good, because I am a pack-rat of the most incurable sort, that I still have that piece of notepad paper in a box somewhere.)
As I learned later in life, writing my goal down was a good idea. Goal-setting experts say putting a goal in ink is the most important step to reaching it. What I didn't understand at that young age is that goals should also be realistic and attainable.
My goal of becoming a diver was not realistic. Our small Minnesota town didn't even have a swimming pool, let alone a diving board. The closest things we had to a three meter platform or springboard were the mine pit cliffs we jumped off up on the Iron Range. It would have been much more realistic to return to gymnastics or take up running. Hindsight's always 20/20.
While my childhood Olympic goal might have been a flop, there's a young woman from our area who turned her Olympic dream into reality. Melrose native Amanda Thieschafer Smock is representing the United States in the triple jump at the London games.
I'll be passing along the tradition of watching the Olympics together to Dan and Monika, so we'll (hopefully, if farming permits) get to watch Amanda compete on August 3. I can't wait to tell them, "Daddy went to school with that lady. She's from our town."
Maybe Dan and Monika are too young to fully grasp the awesomeness of the Olympics, but maybe not. Maybe seeing the activities they enjoy - running and swimming and gymnastics - on television will inspire them to dream big.
But if, after watching the Olympics, Dan and Monika still aspire to be farmers instead of famous athletes, I'll be here to help them remember that even though we're not shining in the spotlight, farmers are gold medalists in one of the most important endeavors on this planet: feeding people.