Who else loves the Olympics? If I could take two weeks off and just sit in front of the tv and watch all the events, I would totally do it. Summer or Winter doesn’t matter, they are both equally as great and I love how they are so good at showcasing amateur sports that normally get very little exposure. It’s the only time I get super pumped to watch athletic competitions like rowing, volleyball, and now, even skateboarding, and I think it totally has to do with the drama associated with sporting at the absolute top level. Who knows, but maybe if these sports were televised more I’d watch more? Maybe. Or maybe it’s like being hungry and after 4 years my appetite for something other than the usual big 4 has increased. Whatever it is, it’s awesome. Gimme the Olympics over the Stanley Cup Finals any day (unless Edmonton is going for the cup that is haha).
I have three events that I mark on my calendar so that I don’t miss them, although with gymnastics there are so many specific events that it’s hard to get them all in. I did happen to be watching, though, when Simone Biles dropped out of the women’s team gymnastics event and left it up to her teammates to continue, stepping away due to issues related to her mental state at the time. To be forced to quit in that manner indicates to me that something quite serious had occurred and I think that her quitting on her team at the biggest stage was more about necessity than heroism. Necessity from the point of view that her ability to compete became impossible in the same way as if she had broken her arm or severely sprained her ankle. Mental health problems need to be diagnosed and treated with the same importance as physical ailments but to be honest, I don’t know enough about the “twisties” to comment. It is loosely defined as a condition that occurs when an athlete experiences a sudden loss of skills that is thought by some to be psychological. Simone Biles should not be cast in a negative light because of the opinion that she may have let her country or teammates down because they had to settle for a silver medal instead of a gold. This certainly isn’t the case and in my opinion the failure was that the issue wasn’t identified earlier. Maybe it couldn’t have been, I just don’t know. We are talking about the greatest gymnast in the world coming to the realization mid-event that she is unable to compete with her team at the world stage. She definitely did not want to have to quit, there is no doubt about it. I get that the media and certain people are trying to put a positive spin on this but it really indicates to me that mental health initiatives to assist athletes in dealing with the monumental amount of pressure they face in training and at competitions is inadequate, or at least may have been in Simone’s case.
Moving on, if anybody has never watched Triathlon, this is something that you need to do! Back when Simon Whitfield won gold for Canada at Sydney in 2000 was when this underrated sport first got on my radar and now I try to watch as much of it as possible. In fact, on YouTube, you can find replays of old World Triathlon or ITU events that really showcase the athletes involved and their abilities at the top level. I’ve watched the old Olympic triathlons several times and even without commentary it’s still just so good you almost don’t even need someone talking in the background. I alluded to him before but when Simon Whitfield won in Sydney he flicked a switch in the last couple of kilometers in the race and went into absolute beast mode to cross the line for first place edging out Stephan Vukovich from Germany and Jan Rehula from the Czech Republic. In Beijing in 2008 he nearly did the same thing but came up just short to Jan Frodeno of Germany in what was another incredibly exciting finish. Triathlon is no different than other sports in that once a person is familiar with the athletes, it becomes so much more exciting to follow. I have a few friends that had never seen a Formula 1 race before but tuned into F1: Drive to Survive on Netflix, and now follow the races or visit the F1 website to see how the drivers are sitting in the standings. Triathlon is just a really great sport that I wish I would’ve been exposed to at a younger age. I’d like to try one one of these days and I think I’d enjoy the cycling and running portions but boy oh boy, I’m convinced I’d be last out of the water since an elephant swims better than me.
One more sport I’ll touch on quickly is the Marathon. Totally underrated. Even more so than triathlon. Yes, it’s true it doesn’t have the same buzz and furor associated with it as the 100m and everybody has heard of Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, and Donovan Baily. But Ryan Hall, Haile Gebrselassie, or Paula Radcliffe? Not so much maybe, but they have excelled as much as those other guys, without a doubt. Because this is a running blog, I’m sure there are many who would read this that would agree with me and say that it’s one of the more exciting events at the Olympics but I still think it’s often overlooked. The Marathon plays out like a story with a beginning, middle, and an end, filled with subtle sub plots throughout and always an exciting climax. The very first time I watched the Olympic Marathon was in Athens in 2004 when Stephano Baldini and Meb Keflezighi took gold and silver respectively. The real buzz about the event, though, centered on Vanderlei De Lima of Brazil. He came in third, but was on his way to winning the gold when an unexpected calamity occurred that no one was expecting and completely changed the complexion and the eventual outcome of the race. De Lima didn’t trip on a pothole, he didn’t suffer devastating leg cramps or take a wrong turn or anything like that. Nope. He got tackled by crazy nut in a leprechaun outfit and lost his cadence and stride, eventually getting passed in the last couple of kilometers. See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aV5hi5j0zYQ
It was a devastating turn of events for De Lima, and although he didn’t win the gold, he did walk away with a bronze medal and a good sportsman award. Check it out at this years games, maybe the drama level will be cranked again, but either way it’ll still be good. Till next time, folks!