Hammer and Chisel

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life in not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”- Pierre de Coubertin

Guarding the corridor towards the renowned statue of “The David” in the Accademia Museum in Florence, Italy stands Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures. These half-formed beings encased in unpolished marble seem to struggle in their stillness. Muscles and limbs partially formed stand out from the tan stone encasing them. Freedom of form appears to be a few weeks of work away.

I visited Italy when I was 15 years old, post-puberty and struggling with self-image. As soon as I stepped into the corridor, I was fixated by the rough, incomplete statues. I barely even glanced at the perfectly-proportioned marble David. Undeveloped and unchiseled, I vowed to become the Michelangelo for my own figure, shaping my raw materials into a strong, balanced body.   

In athletics, hard work manifests itself in one’s movement and form. Power and security of the body and mind is an obvious attribute of the developed athlete. There is a draw to athletics events, to games and races, to great physical human achievements. When developing the body, one must take a hammer and forge to the character as well.

The greatest athletes are the perfect paradox of supreme confidence and complete humility. To grow, they must constantly expose themselves to failure and defeat.

The Olympic season is a great time to highlight the accomplishments of men and women who have shaped their form, who have trained every aspect of their mind and body to achieve in a given moment.

The Olympics also calls us to recognize those of us who are not training for our countries, but for ourselves. This year, we celebrate athletes of every kind, while Olympians provide inspiration to everyday athletes who work toward personal goals.  The transformation into an athlete occurs through willingness to push themselves, to humble themselves, to break so they can grow.  

The most important moment in any workout is when your body feels like breaking; it is the struggle to better yourself that develops both muscles and character. Even pushing just one breath past that point of pain advances your athletic development.

Every Wednesday and Friday morning, I have the pleasure of watching men and women take the chisel to their own character, and their own form. I am excited to watch the development of athletes that appear week after week. My regulars, Don and Juanite, fight for those splits under 2:00 while Cindy sets the long, reliable stroke. I have seen Dave grow from a novice rower to a varsity athlete, shaving off seconds from the pieces with every appearance. I have seen people turn into athletes in a moment of crisis. Their struggle inspires my own athletic goals, and their growth reminds me of the power that exists in every human.  

By Maggie Simpson