With the summer Olympics warming up in London, we are reminded of what makes a great athlete: perseverance, focus, stamina, hard work, blood, sweat and tears.
Okay, there may be a few more things leading up to the big event, like:
1. Parents willing to cart their kid around to every sport event, tryout, and contest. 2. Sponsors to pay for all those sweatbands, tennis balls, skating lessons and frilly outfits (or tiny, body-hugging swimsuits)
3. A coach who knows how to train and mold a young person into a powerful machine.
4. And last but not least, a team of worthy shoemaker elves to keep them in footwear.
Some athletes are naturals. Not to say they don’t have to work and sweat and persevere, but no matter how hard the next guy works, it will never be good enough to beat the natural. Unless he breaks something. Obviously that was the thought process in the figure skating competition back in 1994 when Tonya Harding had her ex-hubby plan an attack on Nancy Kerrigan to bash her knee so she wouldn’t qualify for the Olympics. But thankfully, most people try to rise above such poor, white trash, mentality.
Every Olympic season we not only get to watch the greatest athletes in the world run, jump, skate, ski, swim, and sometimes fall, but we also get a full and equally dramatic life story. The media loves a horrific, grief-filled saga to fill in the time between races or matches or whatever. The sadder, the better. If an athlete’s entire family was blown up in a Himalayan disco bombing while on a pilgrimage to save the nearly extinct squirrel-faced snapping turtle, that would be optimum broadcasting. Especially if they can get the athlete on camera right when the president calls to inform him of his loss and award his parents posthumously with the Save a whale, harpoon a harpy Humanitarian Award.
Personally, I think the Olympics are becoming a bit too inclusive. I mean really, there are well-trained, buff, muscular, fast, strong, nimble, powerful athletes…and then there are people sweeping ice with a broom and calling it Curling. Do they need to be in shape? Lift weights? Run miles? Have a strict diet regime? Nope. Are they athletes? I guess it depends on how you define athlete.
In 1908 they actually had Motor boating as an Olympic competition. I’m surprised they don’t bring that back. There are plenty of people who know how to find the best fishing spots and some are even pretty fast about it. Of course, if the ability to steer a boat with one hand and hold a beer with the other were a sport there would be a whole lot more qualifiers.
I know when most people think of a Hollywood movie that depicts an Olympic hopeful, they remember the movie, Chariots of Fire. It was truly inspirational. But for me another movie comes to mind, a movie that depicts a team of underdogs and a has-been, overweight, coach. Cool Runnings with John Candy is hilarious and inspirational, and actually based on a true story, though probably loosely. But who wouldn’t want to watch a team of Jamaican bobsledders beat the better, stronger, faster, more experienced competitor with a never say die attitude and a whole lot of humor?
Barbara Ellen Brink
Barbara lives in MN, and is the author of Entangled, Crushed, Split Sense (2011 Grace Award Winner), Alias Black Raven, and Running Home.
Photo purchased at Fotolia.com