About to trundle off for another day on the mag trainer, I’m enlivened by the athletes of the Winter Olympics. Most of their sports are not popular or even known in the United States, including the biathlon, in which most unusually an American won a medal. It was almost a gold, but he was overtaken in the last surge to the finish. Every true athlete competes for the love of the sport far more than for adulation or remuneration, and most Olympians are true athletes. they know it’s not all about winning, though all burn with a deep desire to win. They know that finishing second, or forth, or in whatever position with a personal best performance, is true success.
Their desire drives them to ignore training tedium, bad judging, bad luck, and most of all pain. The biathlon is a grueling combination of cross-country skiing and target shooting, at the end competitors fall to the ground in sheer exhaustion. Nothing is held back; everything is left out on the course. American downhill skier Lindsey Vonn will compete in excruciating pain–the operative concept being will compete, do her best, perhaps even win, since she’s among the best in the world in a sport in which results are measured in hundredth-of-second intervals. She will ignore with considerable success the messages her body’s nerves send to her brain. Not to try would be unthinkable.
Bode Miller, another skier, came up with my favorite statement, though. He said he loves to ski because he loves to go fast. (I read today that skiers go faster than sky divers in free fall–won’t go into details but the physics check out.) Miller is not so much worried about perfect form as he is about style, in the expressive, hell-bent, all-out sense of the word. Good for him! Pure exhilaration. I love to go fast on my bike, too; it’s one of my most primal motives. All form, no style makes jock a dull athlete. So onward! Let’s all exceed the speed of a free fall, if only in our heads.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.