Monday Briefing: Olympics remind us of all we can accomplish

AP Photo/Francois Mori | Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark competed in her second Olympics this past week, doing her hometown proud with a ninth place finish in the Women’s 470 sailing competition.

Why do we love the Olympics so much?

I found myself involved in several conversations on this topic the past couple weeks.

Is it our love of country? Our obsession with sports? Maybe it’s just a great inexpensive way to fill our nights in the dead of summer, when most of our usual programming is on hiatus.

No matter what the reason, Americans were watching the Olympics more than ever before this year, even if many viewers complained that the tape delay in a new social media world ruined much of the surprise.

I watched the Olympics just about every day this year for all those reasons and one more: the personal connection.

When I first broke into this business as a sportswriter nearly a decade ago, a young sprinter in the Southern California town where I worked was all the rage.

Just a senior in high school, some folks were saying she could be the best in the world one day. This weekend, she proved she is.

I turned on my television just in time Saturday night to see a now 26-year-old Allyson Felix win her third gold medal of the 2012 games after failing to capture that precious medal in her previous two Olympic bids.

I got goosebumps as I heard commentator Lewis Johnson announce to the world that Allyson ran her leg of the mile relay in 48.1 seconds.

It wasn’t the only time my skin tingled this Olympics.

Jamel Herring was still in middle school when I graduated high school in 1997, but it still gave me great pleasure to watch a fellow Longwood High grad slug it out in his first Olympic boxing match July 31. Even in a 19-9 defeat to Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan in his only match, the Coram native did his hometown proud.

The same can also be said for Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark. She proved once again that you don’t need to wear a medal around your neck for your friends and neighbors to celebrate your Olympic achievements. After finishing 12th in Beijing four years ago, Clark improved her standing in what will be her final Olympics, when she finished ninth in the Women’s 470 sailing competition.

There’s no doubt she’ll receive the hero’s welcome she deserves when she returns to the Island. Of all the young sailors to take an opti out on local waters, she’s the one who went as far as the sport allows, sailing the world and representing her country.

She proved to us once again that anything is possible, so long as you set your sights on getting it done.

Maybe that’s what makes the Olympics so special: The feeling that one of us can do all that.

Here’s to hoping we can carry on with the Olympic spirit long after these London games have passed.

Every one of us is longing to accomplish something. Now seems like as good a time as any to say goodbye to the tape delay.

Grant Parpan is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup, publishers of the Riverhead News-Review.