"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part, the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.''
The quote by French educator Pierre de Coubertin, credited with helping to revive the Olympic Games in 1894, spells out the spirit of the world-wide competition.
It's a spirit a couple of Penn State athletes can appreciate after earning a trip to Beijing.
Penn State assistant gymnastics coach Kevin Tan will represent the United States after dominating the still rings competition at the Olympic Trials in Philadelphia in June. He's also expected to compete on the high bar, parallel bars and pommel horse during the Summer Olympics.
Local gymnastics fans know Tan as one of the best to ever wear a Penn State uniform. The six-time All-American won individual NCAA championships on the rings in 2003 and 2004. He became a full-time member of the Lions' coaching staff in 2006, and then helped his alma mater take home the national team title the following season.
But even while entering the coaching ranks, Tan could not abandon his Olympic dream. Since his graduation, he's trained for world-class competition while working with Penn State student-athletes, pursuing Penn State and personal goals simultaneously.
Tan becomes the 17th alum of the Penn State men's gymnastics program to compete in the Olympics but the first to wear an American team uniform since 1976. Other Nittany Lion gymnasts have represented their homelands of Great Britain, Puerto Rico and Sweden in past Olympic Games.
Head coach Randy Jepson, also a Penn State graduate, will make the trip to China as a member of the USA gymnastics coaching staff.
Gymnastics may not receive the press or publicity of Penn State football or basketball, but the Nittany Lion program is the envy of the nation, with an NCAA record 12 national titles to its credit. They've given their fans amazing moments at Rec Hall in recent years, hosting the NCAA and Big Ten Championships, and now Tan takes off for Beijing, ready to add another chapter to the Penn State gymnastics legacy.
He's not the only Nittany Lion bound for China. Penn State redshirt sophomore Aleesha Barber has become just the second woman in the university's women's track and field program to qualify for the Olympics. Barber is a six-time All-American who just wrapped up a highly-successful collegiate season that included an NCAA championship. She was part of the Nittany Lions' 4x400-meter relay team. Barber, who qualified individually in the 100-meter hurdles, will represent her home country of Trinidad and Tobago after winning that event during trials at Port of Spain.
Several other members of the Penn State track and field team are spending this week at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Oregon, hoping to trade in their blue and white for red white and blue and fulfill their dreams that have been a lifetime in the making.
Kellie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.