Monday, August 13, 2012

I enjoy watching the Olympic athletes compete

I like the Olympics.  I will watch hours and hours of sports I ignore the remainder of the four years.  Gymnastics and diving are long-time favorites.  In the 2008 Olympics I got more into watching the swimming events.  And this year I discovered how exciting really good beach volleyball can be.

Whether or not they win, I admire the athletes who compete.  Competing is a huge commitment - of time, money, physical effort.  I ache after doing a cardio class two days in a row.  And that's only for an hour.   I can't imagine the discipline it takes to devote hours and hours every day to a sport.  For years.  With no guarantee you will even be able to compete.

When I see a gymnast perform on the balance beam, I wonder how many times have they fallen while learning to do this routine?  How many times have they gotten hurt only to get back on the beam, or the bars, or the rings?  Can you learn how to do a backflip twist tumbling routine without ever getting hurt?  The number of bandages I saw leads me to believe the answer to that is no.

Does the sand in beach volleyball hurt the player's feet? Does it get into places you'd rather not have sand?  Is it better to dive after a ball in beach volleyball and bury your knees in gritty sand than to dive onto the hard, unforgiving floor of regular volleyball?  Will a swimmer's skin ever recover from years of being soaked in chlorine?  Is there a soccer player alive that has never been accidentally kicked?

It breaks my heart to see an athlete get to the Olympics and fail.  Not fail as in not winning a medal.  Winning a gold medal is not the only criteria for success.  No, I mean, fail as in trip over the first hurdle, fall in the middle of a foot race, suffer an injury in the qualifications that preclude continuing.  Four years of striving can be wiped out in an instant.

Why do these athletes chose the sports they do?  Basketball and soccer players may be able to get on a professional team.   What is the post-competition demand for swimmers, rowers, table tennis players, or pole vaulters?  What inspires someone to become a world competitor in handball, field hockey, or trampoline?  There aren't enough coaching positions for everyone who competes.

I have to believe they do this because they love it.  I admire that.  And I enjoy watching them.

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