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What awakened my Olympic heart was the reaction of the crowd upon the re-entrance to the stadium by soon to be gold medalist, Yelena Nikolayeva of Russia. There was a sudden eruption of 85,000 people, filled with every bit of the enthusiasm they would have for David Justice crossing home plate in the World Series. For a Russian walker! The *rush* it gave Ms. Nikolayeva was plastered on her face, and as she crossed the finish line 50 feet away, I *felt* a tiny piece of the joy she was overflowing with, and it brought tears to my eyes.
This feeling was amplified many fold by the sights that soon followed. Women crossing the finish line fueled only by an inhuman determination, only to collapse helpless a few feet past that line. Women hugging each other with obvious joy, not because they'd won a medal, but because they'd finished.
They had fulfilled their greatest dream. To compete against the finest athletes on the planet in the Olympics, to give it their absolute best effort, and to be joyful in the participation, regardless of the results. For this regular guy, that is the piece of the Olympics that touched my heart, and left me humbly grateful for this experience, for I found it in the least expected place.
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