How Your Childhood Olympic Dream Can Still Come True

August 13, 2008 at 4:33 am 4 comments

Defining Greatness

When I was a kid, playdoh was great. Dancing around in a tutu making cookies was greater. And Lilia Podkopayeva was greatness. Podkopayeva, overlooked by many due to the gold medal win by the Magnificent Seven by the USA, was from Ukraine. And she won the individual Olympic all-around gold in women’s gymnastics at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She was my superstar.

As a child, I loved the Olympics, and still do. A hardcore competitive gymnast growing up, I attended the ’96 games (as an observer) where I saw Podkopayeva achieve what I thought was the unreachable and untouchable – greatness. In this case, that meant the gold. Seeing both Podkopayeva and the USA women’s team both capture gold medals, I hoped to follow in their footsteps.

Re-Defining Greatness

Like any girl after ’96, my dream for Olympic greatness quadrupled, and my love for the sport escalated. I cut out every single news clipping from women’s gymnastics coverage in Atlanta and plastered my room in posters, photos and news clippings. You could say it was a Mag Seven Heaven.

Overlooked by the Mag Seven by many, Podkopayeva was a combination of grace, style, elegance and talent. My favorite coach even nicknamed me “Mini-Lilia” because he thought we looked alike, and had similar talent: grace and style.

However, fast forward 12 years, and I will never receive an Olympic gold medal, but I still reach for my Olympic dream in the horizon – greatness. And so can you.

Infecting Greatness

Every four years, athletes converge together to compete for world titles, Olympic golds, world records and – greatness. But, each of us maintains the home court advantage. We can achieve greatness in our own communities, everyday. Though I’m no longer conditioning, flipping and twisting on the apparatus’, I like to think that I’m still developing my craft – all the while growing in grace and evolving my style.

For what is greatness? As a kid, a gold-medal gymnast defined greatness. For me today, people who live with conviction define greatness. People doing the work that no one else want do = greatness. The single mother working two jobs to give her child a better life, is greatness I only hope I can mimic. As we grow, how we define greatness evolves. Today, my ‘greatness’ role-model is my mom. It’s also my dad. Nedra Weinreich. Andre Blackman. Kivi Leroux Miller. Beth Kanter. Marc @ Osocio. Mike Newton-Ward. Stephen Dann. The Unsung Hero.

See, these are ordinary people, and they are infecting greatness everyday. I only hope that one day I can join their team, and we together, as a team, can achieve greatness. For greatness, just depends on how you define it.


“There are countless ways of attaining greatness, but any road to reaching one’s maximum potential must be built on a bedrock of respect for the individual, a commitment to excellence, and a rejection of mediocrity.”

Buck Rodgers, American Baseball Player 1938

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Marie  |  August 13, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    I can’t believe someone else remembers Lilia Podkopayeva! I was a fan of hers, too. “Do well, or do not bother” was what her grandmother taught her. I liked that one. I thought of her just last night as I was watching the Olympics. My olympic dreams were of volleyball, not gymnastics. They did not come true, either. I get sentimental about it sometimes and think I should have tried harder to make it come true, but then I reflect like you did about other ways to succeed in life. I had some rough years, but I can’t really complain about the way my life has gone. In fact, it keeps getting better and better as I get more and more involved in my community.

  • 2. Nedra Weinreich  |  August 13, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    I’m very touched, Alex. You are definitely on the team – no doubt about that.

  • 3. socialbutterfly4change  |  August 13, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    @Marie How exciting! I love that you remember her too. She was on Ukraine’s version of Dancing with the Stars most recently I believe. But, yes, it does get nostalgic watching the competition every four years. The hardest thing for me was seeing past teammates competing in the Olympics or at the Big 12 Championshpis or meets during college.

    However, everything happens for a reason, and I never reached elite level, but there is always the what if. Though, I’m really happy with where I am now.

    Asking what if takes away from what could be…right now. =)

    @Nedra as always – thank you!

  • 4. Beth Kanter  |  August 14, 2008 at 12:28 pm


    I’m honored to be considered one of your “greatness” role models! And what an inspiring post.


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Meet Alexandra Rampy, aka SocialButterfly

I am a social marketing believer, blogger, practitioner, researcher and enthusiast. This site highlights the growing movement of social marketing. Learn more about social marketing and how to be your own socialbutterfly--> here.

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