The world right now is buzzing with Michael Phelps mania. And why shouldn’t we be? The man has just tied Mark Spitz’s standing record of 7 gold medals in one Olympics for largest gold medal haul by ANY Olympian EVER. And better yet, tomorrow he has a shot at marking his name at the top of the record books as the most winningest Olympian of all time if he can accomplish the unthinkable. Win one more race for an 8th straight gold medal. NBC interviewed both Phelps and Spitz this evening after Michael’s seventh title, and it occurred to me just how much I appreciate when the Olympics rolls around this time every two years (if you include the Winter Olympics as well). So without further ado, I’d like to present today’s Simplest Pleasures, Olympic style…

GOLD MEDAL: It is a pleasure to watch and support athletes who win with grace and humility.

Michael Phelps has won 7 gold medals, and during his interview on NBC this evening, he repeatedly spoke of feeling “honored” and “blessed” to be given “such an opportunity” to build and use his swimming talents. He thanked Mark Spitz for setting such high standards which gave him the personal motivation to reach higher to go after a record 8 medals. He often said he was “speechless,” and resorted back to portraying himself as a regular guy who “dreamed big.” After every race he retained his emotions and did not cause a scene, though he certainly deserved to, and looked up to the stands to his mother, siblings, and coaches as though each win was for them. He always congratulates his competitors and respects their talents as much as his own. This is the type of athlete who makes sports worth watching and is worthy of being looked up to as a role model by the younger generation.

SILVER MEDAL: The Olympic athletes teach us that no matter what, a positive, focused mind can always push the body just a little bit farther and harder than it was ever expected to go.

After their assistant coach’s father-in-law was killed in a freak accident outside of the Olympic village, the U.S. men’s volleyball team have every reason to waiver. However, they have held strong so far in the face of adversity; going undefeated into their last game of tournament play before starting the final rounds that could lead them to the gold medal.

The U.S. gymnasts finished second behind a perfect Chinese women’s team in the team competition a few nights ago with several girls pushing through injury to help the team capture a silver medal. Media called it a “disappointing” second place finish while the team saw it as a victory and celebrated their strong accomplishment. A night later, two of their top competitors went 1-2 to capture a gold and silver medal in the all-around competition proving to the world that the Chinese could be beat.

It is unheard of for a country to sweep the medal stand in any event. Yet, the U.S. women early on in these Olympic games proved that it can be done after capturing all three medals in the Women’s Fencing competition.

BRONZE MEDAL: The Olympics is a time when we can all reminisce of the best career highlights in our own lives.

Remember back to the time when you won a medal or ribbon in track and field day at school, at a local art competition, or for a recipe you sent into a local newspaper contest. Think about when you crossed the line first in your age class at a local road race, bench pressed more than you ever have at the gym, read a series of books in record time, or outperformed your coworkers on a project at work. We each have our own talents and have let them shine at some time or another in our lives. By watching the Olympians at their best, it helps the rest of us to remember that we’re each a winner in our own way.

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