American spirit suffuses US Olympic athletes

The realm of sports often reflects the affairs of men, and these Olympics are no exception.

The Wall Street Journal, in a piece titled "Mavericks with Medals," observes that Canada's state-run "Own the Podium" Olympic training program spent twice as much as the U.S. program, and has produced far fewer medals.

The difference reflects American exceptionalism writ large: top American athletes have gone off to train on their own, and obtain their own sponsors.  A few examples from the Journal column:

In 2007, for example, Bode Miller, who won his first Olympic gold in the men's combined earlier this week, took the unprecedented step of quitting the U.S. Ski Team to form his own Team America, which consisted of a mobile home and his personal entourage, before returning to the U.S. Ski Team this season...

Speed skater Shani Davis, who won gold in the 1,000 meters and silver in the 1,500 meters, operates even further outside the mainstream. An African-American from the South Side of Chicago, Mr. Davis opted out of the U.S. Speed skating's "athlete's agreement" that would have provided him a modest stipend; he chose, instead, to look for his own sponsors.
Other Olympic medalists have built on their initial success by finding their own sponsors, such as half-pipe medalist Shaun White and Red Bull, or by organizing their own fund-raisers or entrepreneurial ventures, such as the U.S. speedskaters.

While the U.S. Olympic Committee plays a key role in providing resources to young, aspiring athletes, the free market spirit of America plays a major role in giving our top competitors the freedom to do their own thing, to sink or swim on their own merits.  Only in America can a Bode Miller, or a Shani Davis, or a Shaun White, rise in triumph to the top of their chosen endeavor, and stand as beacons of freedom on the Olympic podium:

For all their talent and charisma, the heroes of Vancouver are also rugged individualists who reinvented their sports...

If there's a lesson to be learned from this magical Olympiad, it's that the only thing more important than discovering prodigious talent may be having the good sense to stay out of its way.

And the lesson for the affairs of men is for government to have but a limited role and then get out of the way so the individual has the liberty and responsibility to make it on his own terms.  While that lesson is no doubt lost on the current masters of the Washington universe, it is very much alive on the minds of freedom-loving Americans who have always been proud of their country. 

After a year of hearing our President apologize for America, our Olympic champions are a reminder that America is truly exceptional, and that the spirit that has carried us forward for 234 years is still alive and well.