CONTROLLING OUR DESTINY?
The Olympics is the pinnacle of most sporting achievement. Athletes have inevitably worked for many years to achieve the laurel of sporting glory. Some of their training has been hard, determined and sacrificial. Many don’t have the financial support of sponsors and so have to rely on savings and family. Families sacrifice their time and particularly with younger athletes who depend on family for transport to the venue of training. At times in earlier years prior to national competition, entry costs to events can be pocket draining. So after years of toil and struggle, and yet in the main enjoying the sport and competition, the athlete if chosen by their nation is bound for an Olympic Games.
Over the years many of us have watched on the edge of our seat whether in the Olympic Stadium or in our lounge as athletes have performed. I remember well the 1984 3000 metres Los Angeles Olympic Games dual between USA athlete Mary Decker and the Briton, Zola Budd. The entry of Zola into the event was controversial in itself, but when a tangle between the two occurred mid-way through the race and Decker fell out on the in-field, she became another casualty – so close for the American athlete of which so much was expected and yet so far from winning the race.
Move forward to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Chinese pin-up boy Liu Xiang, World and Olympic champion in the 110 metres hurdles and favourite to give his country another track gold medal. He’s in lane one, there’s a twitch and another athlete has made a false start, but most of the remaining athletes also take off and in that moment Liu aggravates an inflamed Achilles tendon and holds his leg in pain – he’s out of the race. Four years in waiting for a second gold medal Liu Xiang walks disconsolate down the tunnel with thousands of Chinese in the stadium numb with silence. Another four years go by and we reach the London 2012 Olympics and Xiang is once again in the heats for the 110 metres hurdles. With a full stadium of 80,000 watching on much is expected of this speedster of the track. All eight athletes obey the gun and soon are over the first hurdle except for one - Liu Xiang. His leading left leg clatters into the top of the first barrier and he crashes to the track. His Achilles tendon has torn once again. Athletes and spectators wanted to see this top class athlete perform and yet what a shattering blow to all, but most of all to the one who had spent years working towards this sporting peak.
The London 2012 Olympics has thrown up many more tragic situations, most if not all, unexpected for various reason. On the last lap of the 1,500 metres for women Morgan Uceny of the USA was tripped from behind, falling awkwardly on the track. As the rest of the athletes ran on she was seen on her knees pounding the track with her hands in frustration, possibly with herself. Another medal contender with a ‘ DNF’ (did not finish) after her name!
Are the athletes ultimately in control of their lives? Clearly not, but it’s the same for all of us. However there is one that controls the future that is worth getting to know because we can put our lives in his hands.