The feeling of becoming a US Olympian must be euphoric. Years and years of complete devotion to one’s craft buoyed by the support of families and coaches all culminating in the achievement of a dream. Very few, a mind-numbingly small percentage of humans perhaps get to experience this kind of thrill. Being an Olympian means more than just standing at the mountaintop of athletic success. It is also the opportunity to wear the country’s colors at a stand-alone event the entire world pays attention to. It is the potentiality of hearing the National Anthem be played as you take step-by-deliberate-step onto the podium, anticipating the moment when that medal, that wondrous, gleaming, priceless medal, will be lassoed around your neck.
Only, that medal doesn’t belong to you. At least not alone. Because chances are, there are plenty of others who had intimately shared in your sacrifice. They earned the right to at least pay witness to your dream’s fruition, and look on with with a loving understanding which bypasses all conventional emotions the rest of us have become accustomed to.
In short, it’s different. Every athlete functions within a team of sorts. But Olympians in the US quite often necessitate a support network that stretches far beyond what happens inside of an arena or practice room.
This year, two of America’s finest Greco Roman wrestlers, Jesse Thielke (59 kg) and Ben Provisor (85 kg), will be making the trek to Rio due in large part to the people in their lives who have given nearly as much of themselves to the cause as the athletes. The thing is, neither family is a lock to be in attendance. The cost of flights, lodging, and other logistical concerns looms as a mighty obstacle needing to be cleared. It would appear that the “team behind the team” needs a team of its own.
The United States of America, the world’s superpower and long-standing giant of capitalism, does not directly provide funding for Olympic athletes’ families to be in person when their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives reach the pinnacle of their athletic aspirations. It’s just not how it works. In fact, the United States Olympic Committee is the only federation of its kind on the planet which does not benefit from government dollars. With 39 Olympic sports to be keep watch over, that doesn’t leave a lot of money for family and friends to take part in the festivities. It’s a laughable system, a broken system, but it is the one these American wrestlers are operating in and as such, must be accounted for.
Unfortunately, there isn’t time to change the system right now. But there is a work-around and you can be part of it.
The families of both Thielke and Provisor have each set up Go Fund Me accounts which allow for donations. Of course, you’re familiar with how this all goes down. ANY amount can be donated. You have a dollar? They’ll take it. Got $10? Even better. $50? Super. The idea is an aggregate, drawing from a whole lot of streams in effort to reach specific goals. For the Thielke “Bubble” family, that number is $25,000. They’re almost halfway there. For the two-time Olympian Provisor the goal is the same, but there is ground to make up. Action needs to be taken promptly for both wrestlers.
Thielke is not one to dance around subjects so when it comes to his family, it’s no surprise he shoots it straight. “They are the most important thing to me in the entire world. Even more than wrestling. They’re the best.” So in essence, one of the best Greco Roman wrestlers at his weight entering the Olympics is telling you that his life’s blood, his family, plays an important role in his success. If you’d like to see Thielke with a medal resting on his collar, don’t you think having his family with him in Rio increases those chances?
It is no different for “Big Ben.” Provisor, an Olympian in 2012 at 74 kg, has re-emerged as an ominous threat to the bevy of foreigners who sit atop the field at 85 kilos. Make zero mistake about any of this – Ben Provisor, who defeated fellow US stars Jordan Holm and Jacob Clark to clinch his spot on this year’s squad, is absolutely more than capable of taking home the grand prize himself. Provisor had always been a talent coming up through the ranks in Wisconsin and his rise in 2012 was an eye-opener. After battling injuries the last few years, the 25-year old is not only healed. He’s not only rested. He has not only improved his technique. Nope. This version of Ben Provisor is a crushing cyborg whose abilities seem to have been supercharged thanks to special robotic technology, as if he was assembled in a factory for the sheer purpose of breaking would-be opponents down into puddles of sweat and tears amid cries of mercy.
Alas, Provisor is actually not a hybrid cyber-athlete. Instead, he is all-too-human. This is what he had to say to his mom in his Go Fund Me letter.
“Mom, thank you for showing me how to fight for what I believe in. For giving me the strength to stand up for myself and expect nothing less than the very best.”
Try not to see donating to the Provisor and Thielke families as charity. That is a skewed concept. Rather, look at it as an investment. If you are a fan of US Greco Roman wrestling and have a vested interested in the program’s success, what you are doing by contributing funds is enabling the prospects of what very well may turn out to be a special two days come August.
Plus, here’s the truth: As Americans, as Greco supporters, we have to stick together. There is no other choice. It’s ride or die. We might make up a large community, but it’s still a community. The government doesn’t help. The USOC can’t help. And time is of the essence. If you have any funds to spare, regardless of amount, know it matters. That you matter. For when an American Greco wrestler celebrates his victories, he celebrates it with you. This is an opportunity to play an important role in an athlete’s life. Don’t let it slip away.