Like many people, I am a huge Olympics fan. When I was a child, I use to make medals out of aluminum foil (and colour them in gold and bronze) and pretended to receive the same medals as my sport idols. Even though this Olympics was a bit “lack lustre” (except for the neon green pool), I found that I learned a lot about myself while viewing this Olympics with adult eyes rather than the shinny idealistic eyes of a child.
The perspective you have as a child watching the Olympics is different from that of an adult. I still love gymnastics and am in awe of the balance beam, but I am much more curious about the origins of the sports then I use to be. Watching the athletics I had only just realized that these games (high jump, pole vault, javelin, etc) are based on war tactics and training for battle. So pretty much each country is putting the capabilities of their army on display as they showcase their bravest athletes. This is contraindicative towards the unity and sportsmanship idealistically encouraged.
It was also interesting watching these games with different generations as we had vastly different focuses and views. I marvelled at the athlete’s skill and determination – they commented on their physique and criticised them for their emotions (ie “wow she looks like a beast”, “look at her hair”, “she’s too pretty to be an athlete”, “why can’t gymnasts look like women”, etc.). It not surprising the difference in our views as older generations were taught to value extrinsic accomplishments and outer appearances because they were considered more important than intrinsic growth. This reminds me of a comment a patient made to me the other day – that they needed to focus on intrinsic things to make them happy and not extrinsic as they aren’t sustainable or under their control. Hence, what’s more important is giving your all and achieving your personal best, not “beating” or being “better” than everyone else competing. Competition drives us to push ourselves past our comfort zones and achieve those all important intrinsic goals.
What I was most impressed with was the attitude and demeanour of the Canadian athletes. They were so well spoken, polite, confident, and well mannered. And yes, I value the person’s character more than their athletic ability (who they are is more important than what they do). Also I found that I became emotionally involved with their stories (although sometimes I find the media is too intrusive…like asking personal questions about an athlete’s divorce and how it affects their performance… that’s uncalled for). Thinking more intently about, I understand the emotion behind the performance. When you train your entire life, or at least 4 years, for that Olympic moment it is emotional. I’m not an athlete, but I know what it’s like to train and study, and dedicate four long years of your life to accomplishing a goal – that was my medical degree (many sleepless nights and early mornings studying for that degree, and the day I graduated was one of the most rewarding and elating days of my life). So I get being emotional after sacrificing so much, and I think as viewers that’s something we don’t take into consideration when cheering/jeering these athletes.
One commonality between child-me and adult-me viewing the Olympics is that I always leave inspired. I’m not going to jump on a balance beam (my gymnast days are over!), but I am going to push my self further, challenge myself more, and exert myself close to my physical limits. That’s the message I’ll absorb from this Olympics = challenge yourself, embrace your emotions, and give every task your everything like you are going for gold.
FYI – Stay attuned for next week for my post on my 7 day Olympic detox (started a week after the Olympic end) – the inspiration ensues!