It’s been great entertainment, and watching the closing ceremony got thinking and reflecting on the games. Every four years the top qualifying athletes go head to head to win the competitions in their disciplines. It is the ultimate stage for them. The stage where many people around the world tune in to watch sports which are rarely watched on any sort of scale. Competitions do happen within the cycle, but are rarely given as much attention as the massive event that is the Olympic Games.
The event is taking place in Tokyo Japan this time, putting a challenging time difference hurdle in my way of watching it properly. It’s been keeping me up watching at hours which I should probably be peacefully sleeping, recovering and recuperating. But once I tuned in, I found it so hard to turn it off. Even the replays, when I know the result, still somehow had me on the edge of my seat at times. It’s a year late after a crazy year for everyone, but the games definitely delivered.
Sport is not fitness. They are two different objects and industries and as I wrote previously, they should be differentiated and distinguishable primarily because the ultimate purpose for each of them is entirely different from the other. Sport is essentially entertainment. However, we can’t take away how much fitness both physical and mental these athletes require to even contemplate competing. To even get to the games they must qualify in the higher percentiles of all the other athletes in their countries.
But again each discipline requires a different training method. For example, the weightlifters who train to lift heavy don’t worry too much about body mass, physique, or how fast they can run as the weight categories increase as long as they work their way to lifting the massively heavy weights. Canoers are often top heavy with more muscular upper bodies because those are the primary muscles required in that sport. The best example is the climbing which is new to the Olympics. Some of the competing climbers have spoken about having finger strength and forearm coaches. It shows importantly that training needs to be different for our different lives and what we each individually want to achieve.
No event on such a scale is without its politics and controversy, but take those away and you end up watching humans compete on previously unfathomable levels and breaking records all around. I love sports so I’ve really enjoyed watching, but for me, it’s the inspiration factor that I really appreciate as well. I like to take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere, anyone and everyone. It’s not their fitness levels and medals that inspire me. Ultimately, I don’t really care how much they can lift, or how fast they can run albeit the crazy results that they do actually achieve. It’s the journeys and stories behind these journeys for many of these athletes that appeal to me most.
This time we’ve seen a bit of everything. For many of the athletes, their competitions are over in minutes. The competitors or athletes will usually work within four year cycles during which they make big sacrifices, train hard, compete in regular competitions all culminating at the biggest stage of all. Some enter as the world champions, other will enter the Olympics as just favorites based on the season they’ve had or raw talent. There are the dark horses, and of course all the surprises and surprise winners and competitors. Some sports such as the equestrian have athletes older than fifty while others have competitors as young as ten such as in the skateboarding.
Then there are the athletes that are participating in their first Olympics while other athletes who are competing in their last games. We see some athletes who have been to several games and just missing out on the medals, while other we see winning more than one medal. But it’s the work, stories, sacrifices, injuries, the hard work and back stories that go into this short two week event of competing that can be devastatingly over in seconds or on the flip side happily completed in minutes or seconds. Four years of this, for a race that can last less than a minute, and often four years that can be over devastatingly in a second by an injury or some technical fault in the equipment and sometimes by no fault of the individual athlete.
We can see the disappointment in an athletes face when they don’t believe they performed to their best. Similarly, we can see athletes beaming with pride when they have pushed themselves to their maximum achieving personal bests even when it’s not enough to get them anywhere near the top of the charts or the podium.
Among the many moments this time, there was a middle distance runner who wanted to achieve an unprecedented triple gold which meant long races every other day. She ended with two golds and one bronze, which in itself is an amazing achievement. There was the heptathlon gold medal favorite who fought back from injuries and surgery this season to make it to the games. Starting really well, she even ran a personal best, but unfortunately pulling up with a new injury in one of the last events. Refusing to end her year as it started in a wheelchair, she got up and hobbled to the finish line just so she would still be eligible to compete in the next event which she unfortunately had to withdraw from because of the injury.
There was the triathlete gold medal favorite whose bike had a puncture in the rear tyre causing her to lose all the headway she was making from the leading position of the race. She pushed on with the flat tyre instead of giving up and managed to pull it back and come in second place getting the silver medal. The BMX gold medal champion had her funding cut, while the men’s program wasn’t, and instead of putting an end to her dreams she worked hard and combined with crowdfunding made her way to the Olympics and won top honors.
Athletes who have been dominant over the last couple of cycles continued to dominate while others lost their titles and crowns. We can’t ignore the story of Simone Biles of course, arguably one of the greatest gymnasts and favorite to defend all her titles, pulling out of the competitions due to mental health reminding us that she is still only human even with all her achievements. We all feel the pressure and burnout at times especially when we stop enjoying what we are doing as much, just the same it can, maybe even especially, happen even to those at the top of their game on the biggest stage.
Many of these athletes are not highly paid or massively famous like individuals in other sports and sports stars. And many aren’t even known unless they achieve a record and even then are often forgotten pretty quickly. But they give their best both physically and mentally to achieve their dreams, win, break record, and entertain us. They are neither heroes nor villains. They are humans usually with a dream pushing themselves to the limit over four years for a few minutes event on the big stage. It is in the same way that I take inspiration in my day to day life from the people around me, my peers, friends, associates, and colleagues doing what they do, working in their lives to get to or achieve what they want to achieve.
There is inspiration to be found from everyone and everywhere. This is what I take away from the games besides for the enjoyment of actually watching the sports. The inspiration it accomplishes. It’s this journey to the event and the back story and often simply how the athlete can deal with the pressure or an unwanted situation beyond their control that does it for me.