Rushville Republican


August 16, 2012

Barada: We can all learn from the Olympics

RUSHVILLE — I was about to start this column by asking, rhetorically, if you've been watching the Summer Olympics from London. Then, it struck me what a foolish question that would be; who hasn't been watching the Summer Olympics from London? More basically, how could anyone avoid watching at least some of the Summer Olympics from London? After all, they're on three channels, and highlights of the games are on nearly every newscast. This edition of the Olympics has easily been the most widely covered event I can recall. More sports have been televised, I suspect, than ever before. That's due, in part, to the fact that three channels are covering them and also because it seems as if there are more Olympic "sports" to cover than ever before.

Which brings up another point: Who in the world decided synchronized swimming should be an Olympic event? It has to be one of the silliest "sports" anyone could have dreamed up. And why is it just two swimmers? Why not eight or 15 or 27 synchronized swimmers? For that matter, how did beach volleyball, field hockey, badminton, team handball, and table tennis become Olympic events? Well, I think I know how, at least, women's beach volleyball made the Olympics. It has to have something to do with the team uniforms (or lack thereof).

When I think of the Olympic Games, traditional events like track and field immediately come to mind, along with boxing, swimming and diving, basketball, gymnastics, rowing, soccer and tennis. With three channels from which to choose, I have to admit that I saw my first team handball competition just a few days ago. Without a doubt, team handball has to be the silliest event ever invented, second only to synchronized swimming. Team handball is sort of like soccer, sort of like basketball, and a little like water polo (if it's possible to imagine all three of those sports rolled into one).

What's also interesting is that a significant number of events in the Olympics seem to occur only in the Olympics. I can't think of a high school or college that has a table tennis team or a badminton team, and I'm fairly sure there aren't many schools at any level that compete in beach volleyball. One is led to wonder, therefore, how anybody becomes good at the sport when, as far as I know, there just aren't all that many beach volleyball programs in this country. Living in a state with a beach would seem to be a pretty basic prerequisite, but I could be wrong.

On the plus side, participating in the Olympics, regardless of the sport, requires an inordinate amount of hard work, dedication, training, self-discipline and mental toughness, not just for a season, but for at least four solid years of preparation. Most aspiring Olympic athletes do little else but practice their sport for that entire period of time, and longer. If you watch any of the long-distance runners, for example, you won't find one with an extra ounce of flesh. That's a commitment almost impossible to imagine. It's best seen, I think, when one watches our men's and women's gymnastic teams. How strong does one have to be, for instance, to start seated on the mat, lift oneself straight up and then go to a handstand! Or how strong does one have to be to specialize on the flying rings? There are two components that look totally impossible. One is called the "iron cross" which requires the gymnast to hold himself perfectly still with both arms fully extended and parallel to the floor! The other position is called an "inverted iron cross" which requires the gymnast to hold himself in essentially the same position, with the exception of reversing one arm so that one hand is holding a ring palm down and the other hand holding the other ring palm up! To do that exercise must require years of training, weightlifting, and conditioning like no other sport.

Because of the effort required, regardless of the sport, making the Olympic team is an achievement to which not many can ever aspire. In a society increasingly dependent on government for everything from food stamps to healthcare, it's a wonder we still have athletes willing to make the sacrifice to become an Olympians, let alone to win a bronze, silver or gold medal in competition against the best of the rest of the world. If the rest of us put forth a fraction of the effort our Olympic competitors do, imagine what this nation would be like. We wouldn't need government assistance, regulations, hand-outs, loans, or to be given anything for free. We would all have the ability, desire, and determination to make it on our own. Obesity, homelessness, and indolence wouldn't lead to dependence on anyone else, let alone the government. The fact that we have young men and women willing to prepare themselves for the Olympic Games suggests there's still hope for the rest of us and that we could, if we wanted to, help ourselves without expecting a handout.

Even a sport that strikes me as being as silly as synchronized swimming requires more dedication and determination than most of us can imagine and certainly more commitment than most of us are willing to make to the accomplishment of most things.

If the finest athletes in the world can run 10,000 meters in less than 27 minutes, perhaps more of us should be inspired occasionally to jog around the block!

That's Ñ30Ñ for this week.

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