Cake or Swimming?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I wouldn’t say that things have ground to a halt exactly, but Olympic developments have been few and far between in recent days. I have a wide range of excuses and have suffered all manner of distractions, but the truth lies closer to laziness and indulgence than unavoidable diversions.

To an extent, I am suffering a little from rabbit-in-the-headlights syndrome – the headlights being firmly fixed to the front of the task that lies ahead. If this challenge consisted solely of turning up to have a go at more than one hundred different Olympic disciplines in four years, it would still be tough, but it would clearly be achievable. The reality is that the organisation of most of these events is going to take a lot more time and effort than I had intially reckoned on, and, in many cases, a lot more time and effort than it will take to complete the event itself.

The 10m platform dive will be over in less than 3 seconds, but it will take a lot longer than that to persuade someone to teach me (and then to learn) how to do it without breaking my neck.

A fear of serious injury is my new neurosis. There seems to be a lot of it about at the moment. I have been looking forward to the Olympic football match I will have to play at some stage, and pretty much resting assured that I am fairly unlikely to get injured doing that one. Then I saw some pictures of Djibril Cissé and thought I might have underestimated the potential for disaster there [don’t click on that link if you’ve just eaten].

I also thought of the swimming as being fairly safe - I can take it as easily as I need to. No one ever gets seriously damaged in swimming, do they? Then I read that Grant Hackett, the Australian swimmer, successfully defended his 1,500m title in Athens despite having a collapsed lung. Frankly, I wonder sometimes if I’m hard enough for all this. I tend to view the collapse of any part of an internal organ as an indication that I need to be sitting on the sofa eating cake more and swimming 30 lengths of an Olympic pool less.

I suppose it’s one more lesson along the way though – these people put in the hours, not just in training, but also running around organising their schedules and trying to get sponsors to back their efforts. It’s like running your own business and being your own end product and the same time. The level of commitment goes beyond what most of us will ever see from the outside looking in, and in some cases probably borders on what would be considered psychological dysfunction for a non-athlete.

The BBC are running a competition on their Academy website to give readers the chance to train with the Great Britain gymnastics team. There are three age categories, with two winners to be selected from each category. I’m in the over 16 category. You are asked to write twenty words to tell them why you want to do it. I wrote:

"Doing 136 individual Olympic events between now and Beijing 2008 for charity. Need help or may die from my injuries!"

I don’t fancy my chances much to be honest, but if I win, perhaps they can teach me how to become the Pavlova of the Parallels without dislocating anything.