Tag Archives: Olympics

Winners and Losers

Who hasn’t been watching the Winter Olympics? As a Brit, it will come as no surprise to learn that I was glued to the telly when Lizzie Yarnold slid to victory in the ladies’ skeleton bob event. It was a fantastic, triumphant moment and much of the country enjoyed it intensely. I’ve been keeping an intermittent eye on the curlers too; surely either or both of the British men’s and women’s teams will succeed in clinching a medal of some sort?
Without question, my favourite event at the winter games is the ice dancing. Again wearing my patriotic colours, I have to say a few words in praise of Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland who danced fantastically to a medley of Michael Jackson songs, Nick Buckland having undergone heart surgery only a few months ago. Nevertheless, the night belonged to Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who secured the gold medal by a comfortable margin following a mesmerising and intensely romantic performance to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade (a piece of music of which I’m particularly fond). Huge congratulations to them.
Much as I enjoy watching it, I’m no expert on figure skating and find it hard to make much of a judgement on the technical aspects; they all look fantastic to me. What I love is the grace and elegance of the dancers’ movements and the speed and sense of freedom they convey as they glide effortlessly around the rink. I would happily give them all medals, although of course that would defeat the purpose of the games; it’s a competition after all, and there have to be winners and losers.
International sport is no longer the preserve of gifted amateurs. Even to consider competing, as well as a natural aptitude, you must be prepared to train with utmost dedication and intensity, often for many years, often at the expense of any semblance of normal life. To be the best out of a world population of roughly seven billion, that’s what it takes. What this means in practice is that the margin between success and failure is continually narrowing. These days, the margin of victory is usually measured in millimetres or microseconds.
It’s easy to forget that those that come fourth or fifth are still pretty damned good at what they do, and will have put in just as many hours of intense training as their more successful rivals. So does coming fourth (out of seven billion) mean that you’ve failed? Or should the years training, sacrifice and preparation be regarded as a meaningful end it itself? It would be nice to think it’s all about the journey rather than the destination, all about achieving a personal best rather than an outright win, but I doubt many would be convinced by that. I’m thinking about writing too, of course. Is it enough to write just for oneself and one’s friends? Is it enough to keep trying to improve while recognising that you may never make the breakthrough that takes your writing to a professional level? And at what point do you throw in the towel and admit that it’s never going to happen? As for athletes, so for writers, it comes down to psychology – sheer bloody-minded determination, an uncrushable will to persevere and pick yourself up and keep going regardless of the fact that the odds are so dauntingly and overwhelmingly stacked against you. After all, some do win. Some do make it.

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