We come to the Olympics to see stunning athletic performances, but the performance of the U.S. men's and women's volleyball teams in the wake of a random and senseless tragedy in Beijing goes beyond any mere clocking on a track, gymnastics routine or swim relay for what it said about the athletes not only as performers in sport, but as human beings.
The gold and silver medals won by the men's and women's teams, respectively, speaks to the character and maturity of athletes who, when faced with the worst sort of tragedy, dug down and found a way to take what they loved about their athletic lives and made it mean something for their lives outside sport. USA Volleyball representatives talk about their organization being a family, and the group conducted itself as one during what must have been an excruciating time after a random attack at the Drum Tower that took the life of men's head coach
Hours after the attack, the women won their first match of the Olympics. In the mixed zone they spoke lovingly of the Bachman family, often through tears. In a world in which so many athletes blow off the media, the women talked openly, shared their feelings, and then regrouped and got to work. The silver medal they won was the best showing by their team in the Olympics since 1984. The men were similarly graceful and dignified; their gold medal, in a fantastically-played final against Brazil on the last day of the Games, was their best showing since their double golds in 1984 and 1988.
Nobody playing USA Volleyball is named
But it will stay with me forever.
That's a testament to something much bigger than any mere medal could ever express.