Olympic Rant #9 Give the pool cleaner a medal
ONE important thing which sets sporting champions apart from the rest of us is they hat3e to lose.
That also sets sociopaths apart from us too, but Michael Phelps is no sociopath.
The Human Medal Detector
Few of us ever have a close relationship with a sporting champ, though we have all worked with a sociopath or three. The one in the corner office is the biggest worry.
Phelps won his record 19th Olympic medal anchoring the men’s 200-freestyle relay. . Fifteen of those medals were of the golden persuasion, including eight gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Some journos intent on enticing tweets asked if he was the best Olympian ever. Of course it is impossible to compare disparate sports and sportspeople. But 19 m4edals are more than anyone else has won. On that objective measure, Phelps is the best ever.
It says something about American hegemony – is that word still in the dictionary – that the previous holder of mist Olympic medals Russian gymnast, Larissa Latynina hardly raised a beep on the heart monitor of popular culture. It is not a case of how quickly we forget because most of us never consciously knew.
Best play the American London Games 2012 National Anthem before we forget that. The vid is not that clear and mostly zoomless but it was recorded en el Elstadio Olimpico de Barcelona el 17 de Mayo de 2012’. If you have to go to Google Translate to decipher the afore typed, you might want to relinquish that dream of learning another language.)
Swimming is a funny sport. In other games such as football or snooker, you can trade physical acumen for guile and experience and play into your 30s or 40s. On swimming once old age of say 27 or 28, you have pretty much had it. It is also a sport which requires inordinate amounts of training from a young.
Australian Olympic swimmer Jessicah Schipper wrote the forward for my collection of earlier rants, 7 Shouts (available from Google eBooks, Amazon and their affiliates: first and last commercial on these otherwise public-broadcast rants).
Jess wrote: ‘I am also guessing he (me) would have been pretty horrified to learn I woke up at 3.45am to go to swimming training and I did that five times a week, as well as training five afternoons a week.’ Horrified, flabbergasted, disbelieving; they were three of the seven stages of gobsmacked I recall going through. I never made it to acceptance.
When I was a young man I was somewhat adept at snooker and pool in a careless wasted-youth, sort of way. I used to frequent a snooker hall owned by a pro. He would spend four hours sinking the colours, in order, yellow to black from the shooting position half-way along the diameter of the semi-circle. I should explain it took him four hours not because age had made him hopeless. It was just that he would do it again and again and again, for four hours. You have probably heard that smashing your head against a brick wall is not madness; failing to stop doing it is. That might be wise advice to live by in many endeavours, but definitely not in sport.
This brings us to the people Phelps must, in all honesty and fairness, share his 19 medals with. There are his support network of family and friends, his coaches and sports managers, all his opponents and even the pool cleaners.
Esteemed Australian author Thomas Keneally (The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith) Schindler’s List) modestly declared himself a journeyman, helping to clear the field of literature for creative geniuses to pass through. Jess Schipper will finish her Olympic career with two gold and two bronze as she goes home empty handed from London. Yet, just like Phelps, she is a true champion. I was privileged to see a teenaged Schipper rise from a journeywoman age swimmer in Australia to winning World Championship gold five times.
In between all that swimming and training, she would always give her time to worthy causes in her community.
Jess became a world champ with an iron will embedded in the sweetest of personalities.
Michael Phelps, Jess Schipper and all the journey athletes of the world, we salute you.
Because I have been so nice in this rant, I now have to punish readers with a tribute to the POOs – parents of Olympians. This is the most cloyingly nauseous song I can come up with. Enjoy.
Bernie Dowling, August 1, 2012