This is why the Games are priceless

Every four years, the world gathers and we are amazed.

Athletes convene for the Summer Olympics and we are taken for an emotional ride.

From humble beginnings to overcoming devastating circumstances — the stories make us root for them. Sometimes we even root for other countries.

We will always scan the list to see if an American is competing. These are names, that in a month, will vanish from our minds. But for a couple of weeks every four years, we cheer them and hurt with them.

We watch sports like gymnastics, diving, volleyball, swimming, rowing — yes rowing. Sports like badminton, fencing, and judo even capture our attention.

Then we will rarely think of these sports for another four years.

We want the U.S. to capture gold, and we hate it when China does. ButAthletes like the double amputee from South Africa, the 19-year-old from Grenada, who became the tiny country’s first-ever Olympic medalist — it’s a name, like so many, that escapes me, but his class and sportsmanship moved me in his victory celebration.

Sports has a way of humbling an athlete. They are all flawed in some way — even the best. That’s why I love the sports that only come into focus ever four years.

I love the sheer domination demonstrated by the NBAers playing in the Olympics, and Serena Williams’ total annihilation of the women’s tennis world. I cheer for them because they represent the U.S.

But they are the millionaires of sport. There will be future millionaires that emerge from the women’s gymnastics team and the pool, and from beach volleyball, but for most, these athletes play sports where the spotlight clicks on every four years.

If they lose, their one chance is over. One missed step and a virtual lifetime of practice — of blood, sweat and tears — is gone. And there is no medal.

That’s why the Olympics are special.

The Lebrons and Kobes and Serenas will earn gold to be added to their pile of riches earned from their professional sports.

The great Michael Phelps was humbled in his first race, finishing fourth, then rebounded for another amazing Olympics.

The adorable Missy Franklin, a 17-year-old high schooler, swam for Colorado and her neighboring town of Aurora. She won four golds and was happy with a good effort in one fourth-place finish.

The women’s gymnastics team saw glory and disaster.

This is the Olympics.

There was Kayla Harrison, who won the first-ever gold medal for the U.S. in judo. She was abused for years by her former coach and the tears she shed on the podium came from joy and tragedy.

Her name will be forgotten but her story inspired us for a few days in 2012.

Our heart aches when an athlete fails to make the podium after four, eight, 10 years or more of preparation.

When the biggest stage and the brightest spotlight arrives, some will fail while some will succeed.

That’s sports and that’s the Olympics. That is life.

Hard work and determination is not always rewarded with gold, silver or bronze.

Some superstars have already risen from the games of the 30th Olympiad, and the professional men and women of Team USA basketball, soccer and tennis will remain at the pinnacle of their sports and their stardom.

For the rowers, divers, fencers, archers, shooters, wrestlers, weightlifters and so many others who will see victory or defeat as the torch leaves London, there will be little glory in the future.

In sports, the rallying cry for those who come up short is usually “next year.”

But in the Olympics, there is no next year for redemption or a return to glory. There is only more work, more hope and a target four years away.

For the fans, we will remember some and forget the rest. Then in four years, we will embrace the familiar names and a crop of new U.S athletes.

These are the Olympics and that’s why they are priceless.

dales@cortezjournal.com