Crossing the Threshold
Last night I was up until morning so I could watch some of the Olympic finals, with the end to the swimming taking place, which saw an Australian take two gold medals in about 45 minutes in first an individual and then as a member of a relay team. She took four gold and seven in total for the Olympics, which equaled the largest medal haul for a female athlete at a Games since 1952 - which is pretty incredible. Soon after, another Australian took the gold in the inaugural Freestyle BMX event - what they do is insane. Not too long after this, another Australian took a gold in the sailing, which was expected, as he had such a lead that all he had to do was cross the line - he still finished in second for the round.
This equaled the highest gold medal haul Australia has ever had, with four golds in the day. But as brilliant as this is, all of the events I watch just remind me of all the work that goes into all of these athletes being there, not to mention the massive amount of time involved. Regardless of the importance of sports in the grand scheme of life in general, the commitment it takes to be so highly skilled is incredible, as is the level of support necessary for each athlete to be where they are. While one person may win gold, it is the effort of many that gets them to that platform.
When I was a kid, I played field hockey and was pretty good, but due to some reasons that were outside of my control as a child, I chose not to pursue it. Even if I had, I suspect that like the vast majority of people on this planet, I am not the kind of person who has the dedication to commit at the level required.
Commitment is difficult and I think it is getting harder in the world of disposable consumption of all things, including people. Plus, the selection to choose from is so large that there is not the same sense of loss of opportunity to just give up, as it is possible just to pivot to the next thing. However, to be at the Olympics and perform at the level they do, not to mention to be the "greatest of all time" kind of athlete, means being committed very early to a very narrow selection of choices and committed to training in what adds value and excluding nearly everything that can potentially take value away.
While they are great to watch them perform, it is no wonder so many of them have various issues and an increasing number are suffering from mental pressure too. They put pressure on themselves in so many ways and then, we as spectators put pressure on them too and in this world of connectedness and the need for personal branding and constant media and public commentary, they are always in the spotlight.
While they have to be committed all of the time, they are judged only on their final performance and at the level they are performing, they are often going to fall short of the expectations of the people watching them. Even if all of the people who helped them through the years to get to that final stage are proud of them and completely understand that they are continually doing their best, those who had nothing to do with their success, are continually judging them, often looking to tear them down for not meeting their expectations.
Plus, there is the joy of cutting down the tall poppies. Performing at the level these athletes must takes more than physical skill, they also need to have mental strength and part of that is the mindset that they can win, they are the greatest, even if they are not. When most inevitably fail, their confidence comes back to haunt them, both personally and publicly, as their statements are used as ammunition to bring them down a peg, take them off their performance pedestal.
Watching some of the women's gymnastics, there was a 26 year old woman who has been training daily since she was three in the sport. That is over half a career and she is in her mid-twenties. How many people can dedicate themselves to a year of the kind of schedule that these people maintain for a lifetime during their youth, when there are a million other distractions. How many people fail to even stick to a moderate diet of healthy-ish food for month? I fail to make it a week without eating a sweet bun of some kind.
Watching the Olympics is a reminder of how brilliant humans can be and also how not brilliant I am. But, even though I am getting longer in the tooth and out of shape, it does make me want to improve myself, to reach more of my own physical as well as mental potential. While I am far from my prime of life and I will never compete in a sport again, with an expected forty years ahead of me in life, life isn't over and I can still benefit from being better than I currently am.
The thing is, there is nothing stopping me but me and whether I am able to commit to improvement consistently and for a long enough period of time that it has an affect and actually matters. I find it interesting at how hard it is for me to commit to things that benefit me and I am guessing I am not the only one. Whether it be a diet, an exercise regime, the learning of a skill or the willingness to invest - all of us struggle in some way.
The athletes at the Olympics face these challenges too and I assume that every single one of them have faced many moments in their lives that have pushed them to their limits and brought them to their knees. Yet, they overcome themselves. More than once.
I should be able to improve something.
[ Gen1: Hive ]