I recently returned from Beijing, China where I served as the team physician for our US figure skating team.
The skaters competed in the Cup of China. I have been involved with Team USA for several years and what I have learned is their dedication to the sport is truly remarkable. These skaters start at a very young age, and to be competitive they give up much of their youth. With up to 6 hours per day of training, many are home schooled and their families can pay up to $40,000 per year for training.
But only a small percentage will make it to Team USA and an even smaller percentage will win a medal. During the Cup of China, one of our ice dance teams won the bronze. Contrast this to a young Russian skater who at the age of 15 won the gold for ladies singles. This was her first senior event and her stoic confidence was impressive. The Russian athletes have all the resources of the government at their disposal. The top coaches and trainers are provided to them. If they eventually win a gold medal, the skater and their families are rewarded handsomely and taken care of for life. In America, your face might make it on a cereal box.
Despite all the hard work, the skaters from all over the globe come together and seem to really enjoy each other's company. They will sit conversing in the skaters' lounge or hanging out in the lobby of their hotel. Although they are competitive athletes, most of the time they are just teens being teens. The political tension between the countries seems to be non-existent among the athletes. These are young competitors there to perform their best. When it's all done, they often stay in touch like old friends. We all should learn from these young people.