Every four years, I have an interest in synchronized diving, handball and sand volleyball.

That's what the Olympics do to me and probably most of the country.

Most of the time, I never give these sports and many others any thought at all.

I'm not saying I'm a huge fan of canoe slalom, but when the United States is competing, of course I'm going to watch.

It amazes me that these Olympians, from all countries, spend years practicing and competing in near anonymity.

Can you imagine the hours spent honing their skills, and in a lot of these sports, many people have no idea why you would participate.

I'm not even sure how these sports became Olympic sports. Canoeing? Handball? Yet, baseball was dropped. What's more international than baseball? Sailing?

But these athletes work for years to compete in international competitions and then the Olympics.

Most of them will not become rich by becoming an Olympic champion shooter or rower or modern pentathlon champion.

These are not glamorous sports, so the competitors must train and practice on their own time in between working and living an otherwise normal life.

These participants, who are willing to compete with little fanfare, are the ones who amaze me the most.

I could not name an Olympic fencer if my life depended on it, but if the competition is on TV, I'll watch and root for the good, old USA.

I guess that's what draws the participants to their respective sports. They want to compete against the best in the world and see how they measure up, but they also want to wear the colors of their country.

They are the glamorous athletes competing in sports that draw the most attention.

We all know Michael Phelps. We know the 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin, we celebrate the gymnasts, and this Olympic's version of the Dream Team were household names long before the Olympics.

These Olympians will make money through endorsements, playing professional sports and some will live in our minds forever.

Despite Phelps' heroics, no one has forgotten Mark Spitz, and Nadia Comaneci is still the perfect 10.

These athletes, along with those in track and field, participate in the more glamorous sports, and they draw our attention.

What Olympic athletes have accomplished in amazing. Just making the Olympics is a great accomplishment, winning a medal makes you special, and when you accumulate double figures in medals you become a legend.

We watch because we want our country to do well. But we are drawn to the stories of these men and women or in some cases, boys and girls because some have overcome so much just for a chance to compete.

Others will win, and we will never learn their names. But even that fact, that they have spent countless hours perfecting their performances in sports a majority of the country doesn't think much of, does not deter their determination to be great.

They might best represent the true Olympic spirit: competition for competition's sake.

That is why they deserve our attention, even if it is just for a few minutes of tape-delayed coverage.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.