Olympics: Alicia Sacramone, American hero

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Amy Sancetta : Associated Press

Inspiration.

There’s so much talk about Olympic-record breakers, medal tallies and sad-sack backstories that it’s easy to get lost in all of the hype. All of the athletes that made it to Beijing are worthy of our admiration. As so many montages have told us, they’ve sacrificed and worked tirelessly to realize their dream — an example all of us would be better for following. However, it’s not just about who walks away from these games with the most hardware.

May I submit to you my pick for outstanding Olympic inspiration, American gymnast Alicia Sacramone.

Sunday’s broadcast marked another night, another heartbreak for Sacramone. After falling during both the balance beam and her floor exercises in the women’s team competition, Sacramone had the chance to redeem herself in the vault finals. Despite what appeared to be a more than competent performance, she failed to medal; placing behind even China’s Cheng Fei, who fell during her landing. Resident lovable loony Bela Karolyi called it a “total rip-off,” before bemoaning the judges, “How could you do this?”

And yet, despite my heartache, I feel uplifted by Sacramone’s journey.

I guess there’s something about the spunky Sacramone, who seems so much older than her precocious teammates, that really resonates. How could any American not identify with her struggle? Who hasn’t faltered when it mattered most, be it on an exam, a job interview or even a dream date?

We’ve all been there (or we will at some point). You just want to reach inside the TV and give her hug. Tell her this too shall pass. Tell her everything happens for a reason. You want to remind her that winning isn’t always everything. I don’t know, pick your cliche. You just want to tell her that we’re still proud of her and appreciate what she’s done. Because (surpise, Gen Y!) we all can’t always be winners, no matter how hard we try. And, really, that’s OK.

Even though we’ll be singing the praises of Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin and Natalie Coughlin when the closing ceremonies wrap, they’ll go down as very inspirational tales of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.

But Sacramone taught us an even more important lesson: Sometimes even the mighty fall.

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