Olympic experience resonates within commanding general
August 1, 2012
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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Aug. 1, 2012) -- Every four years, denizens spanning the globe focus their attention on the Olympic Games.
For many, it's watching their national athletes compete to bring home medals for their native countries; for others it's a dream of one day making the team. For Maj. Gen. Camille M. Nichols, commanding general, U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., the games are memories of past accomplishments and friendships.
A member of the 1984 Olympic team, Nichols remembers that time fondly.
"It was one of the most memorable times of my life," said Nichols, who served as a manager and assistant coach for the 1984 U.S. Olympic Women's Handball Team. "To work with elite athletes and travel the world competing allowed me to see other countries and cultures. It also allowed me to see the immense similarities all of us humans have -- pursuit of excellence and dreams. The spirit of the games is strong, healthy and very healing."
Many are unaware of her athletic background even though it's normally in plain sight.
"I had been to many different ceremonies and seen bios, so I thought I would put that tagline on my bio to see if people actually read it. I was surprised because it does catch their interest," said Nichols.
"As I was moving around a lot, I was taking plaques out of boxes and I found my 1984 Olympic Certificate, and I realized I was really proud of it and it is a part of who I am today and that I should show that off," explained Nichols.
"My time with the U.S. National Team taught me a lot about the sacrifices that other Americans do each and every day," said Nichols, who became involved in women's handball when she was a cadet at West Point. "The dedication and commitment and tireless pursuit of excellence helped me focus even more on my professionalism as I continued in the Army after my Olympic experience. Honing your craft, being an expert, giving it your all: these things ring true in our Army. These things can be seen on the fields of strife and the fields of glory."
Nichols believes it takes great teams to accomplish tough and incredible things on and off the battlefield.
"This is true in athletics as well as the military. Even the individual competitive sports take a team of coaches, managers, trainers, family and friends to be successful," she said.
Not the most popular sport of the Olympics, the handball competition tends to receive little if any television time.
"Every event should be televised," Nichols said with a smile. "It is a culmination of years of sweat and tears that these athletes went through for their five minutes of fame. The problem is no one person could actually sit through it all, it would take months. Seriously, the gold medal round for each sport should get some TV time for those thousands of supporters at home. This sport is very exciting and could really use the exposure."
A few years ago, Nichols' Olympic teammates held their 25th reunion but she was unable to attend. She hopes that doesn't happen again.
"I have a couple of teammates I connect with via email. I believe they are working on the 30th reunion. I hope to be able to get there. I know they all will be watching the Olympics over the next two weeks and I will be with them in spirit," she said.