I Missed The Olympics By (*That Much)


The Olympics — a lifetime of training for just ten seconds. ~Jesse Owens

Olympic-sized Fail

Some people hate the Olympics. I’m not one of them. Every other year I’m glued to the TV watching athletes from Brazil and Belorus and Benin competing in sports I never knew existed until now. I have a theory on my Olympiaphilia, that it stems in part from my upbringing during the last throes of the Cold War. When it was OK to root for Team USA against the big, bad Evil Empires of the USSR and East Germany. If you ever saw either Rocky IV or Katharina Witt, you know what I’m talking about.
 
Naturally it occurred to me at some point that, hey, I can do some of that stuff. The question was, what event would become my route to Olympic glory and endless endorsement deals? I considered curling (too low-key and too Canadian), luge (Mom and Dad would never go for it) and even synchronized swimming (the ultimate quasi-sport at the Olympics.) Eventually I narrowed it down: either dressage at the Summer Games or biathlon in the Winter. Both were skills I already had. All I needed was time, determination and a bit of luck.
 
 

For those who don’t know, dressage is a kind of equestrian figure skating, in which rider and horse perform a set of maneuvers while trying to make it all look easy. Biathlon is a unique combination of cross-country skiing and target shooting which had to have originated in Russian or Scandinavia when the locals were going on vodka runs. Neither discipline required superhuman strength or speed, and the athletes I saw were, more or less, average Janes and Joes.

That was my first mistake. Nobody who makes it to the Olympics is average in the least. I had this crazy idea that I, in between work hours, watching the NFL, and bedtime, could somehow squeeze in a few hours of practice every day in pursuit of the dream. These guys and gals live and breathe their sport. It’s not a place for weekend warriors and armchair quarterbacks. For me, a riding lesson twice a week was all I or my parents could afford anyway. No intensive camps or two-a-days or private coaches were in the cards.

This is what we call an Olympic mess

All these years later I still haven’t lost my Olympian ambitions. With the ’12 Games coming up in London the embers are rekindling even as I write. Are there “regular” people who make it to the Olympics? You bet. Every Games there seems to be a story of at least one athlete who made it against the odds. That’s not to say they aren’t long odds. And then there’s the intense training involved. With my work schedule the way it is and my finances the way they are, it’s probably a million-to-one shot. But, as Jim Carrey memorably put it in Dumb and Dumber, that means there’s still a chance.
 
If I can make it on Jeopardy based on my talent alone, or finish my book manuscript, making it to the Olympics could be a reasonable goal. Of course, I’ll have to rely on an unexpected lottery win or inheritance to invest in the training, but I have to have a dream. And my dream is still to compete on the world’s greatest stage for glory, gold, and Wheaties box deals.
 
I may not be the next Apollo Ohno or Lindsey Vonn or Michael Phelps…but I have to start somewhere. And I think that somewhere’s going to have to be the local Olympics. Start playing The Star-Spangled Banner, because I smell gold in my future.
 

If this is an Olympic sport, I know I can make it.

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on December 11, 2011.

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