The Olympic flame has been extinguished, our national flag lowered and neatly packed away. Dreams and realities are now measured. Saying good bye to old friends, team mates, officials, and new ones made. Christ The Redeemer no longer looks over you, but remains etched I your memory of Brazil, forever.
You step out of the microscopic environment of sporting excellence in Rio, and reflect upon your personal and team efforts and results. You all went for gold, but few will know what it feels like to bring one home. Some are already looking forward to Tokyo and planning the next Olympic campaign, others will be hanging up their togs, spikes and lycra. Either way, you have had the time of your life, an experience that so few in this world will ever experience.
You head home to your family, friends, supporters, clubs and institutes. We welcome you home with open arms and such deep pride of your efforts. Hold your heads high, you were the best in your chosen sport in your country. That didn’t happen overnight. In fact years of practice, never a sacrifice, just a high price for the chance to be the best at what you do. You have played hard with the very best in the world. A single goal or one hundredth of a second dividing a ranking or place. All the pre dawn starts, late night games, the beers you put on hold and social engagements that you missed. You travelled and lived long times and distances away from your loved ones, homesick and lonely in the tough times, but never bad enough to make you walk away from your mission. All in the quest of perfection of your body and sport. Your dedication has never been in doubt, it got you selected to go to the biggest sporting event on earth. You are an Olympian, that is huge.
Don’t come home disappointed that you don’t have a medal, or ranked as highly as you had hoped for. The only reason we wanted you to get a medal, is for you. As a reward for all your dedication and perseverance. You deserve one. Don’t feel you have let anyone down, you haven’t. You were champions and our heroes before you even landed in Rio. Performing at levels most of us could never dream of. Look back on your Olympics and search for all the great things you gained, not on what has eluded you.
Many of you are not yet parents, or perhaps reached the peak of your working careers. Life gets tough. The skills you have gained as an elite sportsperson will transfer to life. Your partner and kids become your team. Your new team will bring out the best and worst in you, you will want to leave some days, but you can’t. You will draw on you elite training for strategy and resolve. That together, you are a greater sum than just yourself. The great days are just the best, the reason you hang in there. Waiting for those days to repeat themselves, just like a sweet win at a tournament. Those days don’t come every day but you know if you work hard enough, you will get another chance. Your colleagues at work need a leader, someone calm under pressure to guide them through the tough days, lead them to great achievement through discipline, dedication and hard work. You have been doing this most of your life and find it easy. Your work colleagues look up to you and wonder how you can effortlessly cope with stress. You have learned from the best coaches, now you become one. They don’t know you, the training and preparation that you have spent so many years learning and executing. You haven’t come home empty handed, in fact your have returned with so much more than the glory of a medal.
You entertained us, often in the middle of a cold winter’s night. I am now sporting my own set of Olympic Rings under my eyes. I look like a feral Panda bear and I don’t care. I know that I can watch your sporting excellence tomorrow on replay, but can’t tear myself away from the thrill of the live game. The excitement and anticipation of a win, how can I sleep knowing their a great show going on the other side of the world? It was a privilege to stay up late or rise before the sun and support you from afar. I can’t give you stronger legs, a better shot or smooth weather condition but I can give you my support and respect and keep my fingers crossed for the rest. You have brought sports loving friends and families together, a common thread of conversation and well wishes for one team. All barriers of of local club rivalry set aside to support an Aussie sporting hero, no matter where they hail from.
Obrigado Athletes and Officials.