Olympic sacrifice a family affair

Published On August 10, 2012 | By Alice Cook

Two weeks ago the London Games kicked off with the Opening Ceremonies and the parade of nations. Since then, it’s been wall to wall coverage of glory and defeat, celebration and tears.

Each athlete has unique story with a common thread. The one thing they all share is a support system that made their Olympic dream a reality. Be it family, friends or community, nobody gets to the Olympics without the help and sacrifice of others.  These are the unsung heroes, and because of the story-telling nature of this remarkable event, we sometimes get to know them.

Earlier in the week NBC did a feature on Lashinda Demus, the silver medalist in the 400 meter hurdles. The American finished ninth in Athens in 2004. Demus did not compete in Beijing in 2008 because she had yet to regain her fitness after giving birth to twin sons.

This summer, little Duaine and Dohntay were in London to see their mom on the podium. During a replay we saw the little boys sitting with their father, Jamal Mayrent, yelling, “go mommy go!”

There is no doubt that “daddy” has been doing his share of babysitting over the past five years. And what about grandma? Lashinda’s mother, Yolanda Demus, is also her coach.   Now there’s some true family commitment.

The profile of U.S. gymnast John Orozco is remarkable.  Growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., this son of a sanitation worker shared a bedroom with his three older brothers. His entire family at one point held jobs at the gym in Chappaqua, N.Y. to defer the costs of his training.

We have learned that Ryan Lochte‘s mother faced foreclosure and Gabby Douglas‘s mother filed for bankruptcy earlier this year due to the financial hardships they endured for the sake of their Olympians.

These are the lengths to which many Olympic families go to see their children and siblings fulfill a dream.

My mom and sisters did the same for me.

As a single mom with three daughters and little support, my mom, Marsha Cook, somehow kept me in the game as a figure skater. She bartered for ice time with rink managers and for lessons with coaches. She found a dressmaker that would sew my costumes for free. My mom went to school to learn how to type and took a job at Michigan State University as a secretary.

My younger sister paid the price by being carted to the rink in the evenings and on weekends so mom could watch me practice. My older sister learned how to make dinner for a family when she was still in junior high. There was never money for a vacation at Lake Michigan or to fix that hole in our kitchen ceiling.

There was also no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when I made the Olympic team in 1976. As it will be for many of the 2012 Olympians, the bills kept coming in long after I moved on and went to college the following fall.

But all these years later there are absolutely no regrets.

The majority of the athletes in London will never see a “pay day” and many will not return to the Olympics. There will never be a way to reimburse their families for all the support and sacrifice. The only thing they can give back are two simple words.

“Thank you.”

Thanks again mom.

Comments are closed.

About The Author

is a veteran television sports reporter and Olympian. Her experience includes 25 years of sports reporting for WBZ-TV, the CBS and former NBC affiliate in Boston. Cook has worked for ESPN, Turner Sports, and WTBS. Cook is a feature writer for She's Game Sports and Boston.com. She is also President and Founder of She's Game Sports LLC.