The Olympic Games provide a spectacular and exciting show of sport(wo)manship. One amazing performance after the other. The athletes are young, which of course is relative, some participate in these big games for the first time, some their third, fourth or fifth…But they all started in their sports at a very young age. And practiced diligently, many having the practice as their full-time occupation for the last few years. Without doubt, these athletes, whether they win or lose, inspire the next generation of young people to take up these sports and stay with it.
My dad excelled in many sports when he was young, particularly in track and field. He was also one of the Olympic torchbearers in the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki. So when I was a kid, I had a tiny aspiration to become good in at least one sport. It’s just that I never found one to be good at. I tried, to say the least, but always suffered some spectacular and often embarrassing misfortunes.
In grade school, I thought I’d try gymnastics. I liked it as long as we didn’t do horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse or rings. I always fell down from the horizontal bar, it just was not wide enough for my two feet. And I’d always hit myself and then fall down from the parallel bars, or grab a bar and hang in there. Rings were set far too high for me and the pommel horse didn’t look anything like a horse. I was too clumsy. I didn’t fail in gymnastics, just because of my stubbornness and my effort. She’s at least going up there again after three falls, so my PE teachers took pity on me and let me pass. Gymnastics was not for me, that was clear fairly early.
So in my early teen years I tried winter sports. I was an average cross-country skier, but was more fascinated by the speed in down-hill skiing. Will say, until one day when my friend suggested we’d do down-hill on a particular mountain close to my home town. We would compete and I liked the challenge. So up and up we climbed. I had not been there before, but noticed that the slope was full of large trees, some very close to the winding ski trail. But up I went and down I came, fast ‘n furious. The mountain was steep and my speed accelerated fast. Too fast. I saw an approaching curve surrounded by huge trees and that’s when I knew I wouldn’t make it. I avoided the largest trunk just by an inch or two and went flying right into the branches of a cluster of small trees. I was hurt, but it was a miracle that I didn’t break my neck. So that was the last time I did down-hill.
In high school I tried team sports. Became quite good in volley ball and was playing in my high school’s mixed team, boys and gals. I truly enjoyed it..until one evening at practice a 200+ pound (or so it felt) guy jumped to hit a slammer and fell backwards landing on me! I was squeezed between the gym wall and the guy. Oh boy, that hurt! And that also was the last night I played volley ball.
It didn’t go much better in basket ball. One day my PE teacher wanted us to practice receiving a hard horizontal pass and I volunteered to be the receiver when she demonstrated it. Well, I received the ball… and broke my little finger. It was blue and bigger than any other finger for several weeks. No more basket ball for me.
Then I took a pause in trying any new sports through my college years…until I met my husband, who was a fairly good tennis player. He had his own regularly booked time slot in the Royal Tennis Hall in Stockholm. So I had to try again. New sport, new adventure. And it went fairly well for a few months, I learned to play quite decently. Until, again, one day my fortune would end. I got the tennis ball right into my eye! Don’t ask me how that happened, it just did. I thought I’d never see again, but after a few weeks looking like I’d been badly beaten, my sight returned. But I was warned now, so that was my tennis career.
After all those misfortunes, I’ve remained a slow jogger, diligent dog walker, occasional ocean swimmer and gym goer. I’ve yet to meet a shark or fall from the treadmill. Until that time, I’m happy to just keep myself moving and admire the skills of the Olympians. Or maybe I should take up javelin?