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The Olympics – the glorious tradition of contrived stories continue!

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You don’t need me to tell you that there have already been a tonne of major stories at the Olympic Games!

From Missy Franklin pipping Emily Seebohm – yes, Mrs YWS, that is her real name! – in the 100m backstroke final, Belinda Snell’s incredible 3/4 court shot to send their basketball game against France into overtime*, to Phelps showing his vincibility and the Lebron-led Team USA showing their invincibility, it’s been a cracking start to The Games.

(* I defy you to show me a better shot in the history of Olympic basketball. You won’t. Down by 3, 2 seconds on the clock, 2 opponents in her mug, no way she hits that shot.

And thank you referees for having NO idea on how to adjudicate the best player in the world – Lauren Jackson – and fouling her out before this moment, robbing the Aussies of the chance to seal the game in overtime.)

Snell for the tie … yes!

Personally, it took me a couple of days to find a rhythm with watching the Olympics. The time differences kill us here in Australia, so with the swimming finals happening at stupid o’clock in the morning, who can be bothered recording the overnight action and scrolling through over 8 hours of footage while scoffing their breakfast, the clock ticking rapidly towards ‘No really, you have to go to work NOW’ time. I think I’ve shared too much…

Still, you can’t help but be inspired by some of the feats we’ve been seeing and the emotions that they produce, from unknown kids from tiny countries winning gold – I’m talking to you, 15 year old Ruta Meilutyte from Lithuania, to the polar opposite responses of winning silver from the two Aussies – Emily Seebohm – desolation vs Christian Sprenger – punching the water joy!

Christian Sprenger wins silver. Well done young fella!

So much work and desperation into such a small window of opportunity. I understand that their nerves are frayed. There’s no coming back next season.

And that’s not enough?!

As always, the feats on the sporting arenas haven’t been enough for the media hordes. In the lead up to the Games, I totally get it. The editors of ‘Whichever Newspaper You Read’ had no actual events to report on, so the reporters would be under an incredible pressure to make something out of nothing.

Yet with the actual Games underway, the prestige of gold, silver or bronze can still fall by the wayside as the peripheral hysteria takes centre stage.

You try it!

First, there was the debate over Liesel Jones and her weight and body shape heading into the Games. I didn’t read up on those articles; the whole issue made me uncomfortable. Not because I thought, ‘poor Liesel’ but more, ‘Geeez, this is the type of crap I need to avoid.’

Having seen Liesel at the Games, yep, she looked out of shape, but to give her a break, it was her 4th freaking Olympics and she’s 26, standing next to 15 and 16 year olds who wouldn’t know what a carbohydrate is.

There’s also a double standard here. The physical condition of, for example, players in the AFL is under constant scrutiny. So why the outcry when a professional athlete’s ability to perform is questioned … just because she’s female? Their body reflects their ability to perform. Did Jones perform, just because she made the final, never seriously challenging in finishing 5th? I can’t say for sure, but I do know that when I’m in boardies bending down to pick up a towel, that’s not a photo I’d want being published either! (Nor would you… => )

Broken Missile

In Australia, there was also a massive kerfuffle* when our 4 x 100m relay team in the freestyle failed to medal. To our overseas readers, look, Australia doesn’t win too much at the Olympics, but we can swim! Most nations don’t give a hoot about what happens in the water, but look at a world map, we’re surrounded by the stuff! (*Kerfuffle … great word!)

If we couldn’t do well in this, we’d need to add pie eating and ‘taking it easy’ as Olympic sports to make up for the lost medals. So if our swimmers don’t live up to expectations, it’s like how’d you’d respond if your gun runner flopped in the spotlight. Note to Sally Pearson – bring your A game – you’re all we have!

Back to the relay – we sent our gun 100m swimmer – James ‘The Missile’ Magnussen out on the first leg. Not a bad idea. Fastest swimmer in the water, blow the opposition out from the start, see if they can catch us. The thing was, he didn’t even touch back in first place, swimming 48.03, almost a second behind his PB of 47.10.

So, as favourites, we lose by 1.7 seconds, coming in 4th. Eesh. Still, do the maths; even if he had hit a PB, it’d still be almost a second that we would have lost by… It’s a 4 person event, peoples! For many, he didn’t help his cause by being short, curt almost, in an interview straight after. I’m glad he was peeved! It showed that he cares. If he was ambivalent or nonchalant literally a minute after his team flopped, then I’d be concerned.

Still, with a nickname like ‘The Missile’, the headlines, ‘Missile Malfunction’ etc were always going to work against him. Good thing he didn’t name himself that. As for the relay team’s moniker of ‘The Weapons of Mass Destruction’…

There’s more!

We could go on and on and on with all the peripheral shenanigans that have hit the mainstream headlines over the past few days.

Some Aussies are swimming with white swim caps instead of the traditional yellow. I’m glad that’s a lead story. It’s not like there’s an uprising in Syria. Want more? There’s the outfits for the beach volleyballers, who’s flying economy and who scores premium economy for the trip over, Brits bagging their own, the Spanish team looking like teenagers you’d order your fries from…

Ye and Lochte. A contrasting tale of times…

At least we have genuinely humorous sideline news to keep us entertained. There’s Chinese supergirl Shiwen Ye, who swam the 50m quicker than the fastest man at the Games, Ryan Lochte, 29.10 vs 28.93. When they asked him about this, he responded, ‘If she was there with me, she might have beat me.’ Um, no mate, she would have beaten you! It’s basic maths. I love Americans.

‘My uniform? I, err, misplaced it…’

There’s also the  random Indian who came out with the team at the opening ceremony and walked alongside their flag bearer. Over a billion Indians and she decided to put herself front and centre, in casual bright blue pants and a red top! Check out the pic – it’s not like she stands out!

Spain’s official Olympic uniform. Oh. Dear.

Anything else?!

Wondering what else besides the Olympic might be making news, I scanned the headlines. Apparently there’s some love triangle with the stars from those Vampire movies. True story – I sat blankly looking at my screen for over ten minutes trying to remember what abysmal movie series that ‘that Pattison guy’ was in. I refused to google this. Into my head came Vampire Diaries, Indecent Proposal, Boogie Nights, True Blood, The Shining; none of which were in the ballpark. I still don’t know. And yes, I am proud of this.

So, as the Games continue, try to ignore the peripheral rubbish presenting itself as ‘news’ and allow yourself to be inspired and enjoy the amazing skills and abilities of some of the best athletes on God’s green earth. And give these guys a break. They’re busting their chops out there, and they want it more than you, believe me.

And if you find yourself getting snippy over underwhelming performances, chuck on a ridiculously tight fitting swimsuit, get someone to photograph you bending over to pick something up off the ground and post the shots online. You too might not win gold shaped like that…!


About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

One response »

  1. Good call E. Loved your analysis. It does put things in perspective when you think just how ridiculous some of these overreactions are in the media right in the heat of competition. I was interested in Seebohm’s post-race comments in relation to ‘tuning out’ to social media:

    “I don’t know, I just felt like I didn’t really get off [social media] and get into my own mind,” she said. “I have said a lot that all I need to do is focus on my own race. But when people start telling you are going to win gold, you are going to start believing it. When they tell you a thousand times you are going to get it, somewhere in your mind you are just like, ‘I’ve done it’. But I hadn’t and that was a big learning curve and I obviously need to sign out of Twitter and log out of Facebook a lot sooner than I did.


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