The Natural –

The Olympics are upon us. As of Tuesday night (that’s America’s Tuesday morning), the top three winningest countries are: the USA, with 21 medals, China, with 20 medals (but with the most gold medals), and South Korea with 12 medals. Each year records get broken by athletes who are faster or stronger than their predecessors. It must be that the human race is getting stronger with each generation. It might also be because of the improved economies of the medaling countries which allows people to “work” at training for years and years while somebody else supports them.

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In the original Olympics of centuries past most participants were regular workers or soldiers or what not and they didn’t train for half of their lives for a particular sport. How things have changed. The athletes of today start training at a very young age and work out every day and longer hours than most of us work at our regular jobs. Most of the athletes that trained young tend to come from well-off familiessince they need to pay coaches and facilities. When the kids get to be high school age most don’t get a McJob since they put most of their energy into their workout jobs. The rise in the economies of South Korea and China has made possible the financial support of these Olympians-in-training. In China they are supported by the government and in South Korea they are supported by their parents. I wouldn’t want to be in their athletic shoes if they train more than six hours a day because so many of life’s lessons and pleasures are bypassed. Michael Phelps says he trains eight hours a day seven days a week. He started training when he was 11. Albeit, he says it was worth the sacrifice each time he stands on the Olympic gold medal podium, but what about the hundreds of other Olympic wannabes that trained just as hard and long and got nowhere? I say, if you’re not a natural at it and you’re sapping parental or government money for years on end, then, give it up and do something more productive with your life.

 

I had a girl in my high school class in Lamar High School (Arlington, Texas) who was a competitive swimmer. She swam four hours a day and won some swimming competitions. She wanted to make it to the Olympics but, as of yet, I haven’t seen her name on the roster. Apparently, four hours of training was not enough for the Olympics but it was a little enough to allow for a real life. She had top grades in school and was involved in many clubs and afterschool activities with friends. I feel sorry for those that train eight hours a day for most of their young lives and don’t even place. It takes a natural athlete to be able to medal in the Olympics without having trained their childhood away. Enter Jeremy Wariner. He was also a student at Lamar High School. He was a normal high school kid who played baseball, basketball and football. He wasn’t great in any of them, some would say he wasn’t even good. The football coach told him to join track since he ran pretty fast to catch the passes. Too fast, in fact, the quarterback couldn’t throw the ball far enough to reach him. Jeremy wasn’t interested in track. His love was baseball, although, there he was a bench-warmer also. Finally he joined track and he broke the school record after a few days of training. Things took off for him after that. He graduated from Lamar High School in Arlington Texas in 2002 and went off to Baylor and continued to win in almost every race he entered. He won gold at the Athens Olympics and he continues to be the man to beat in Beijing this year.

August 21 I’ll be watching the races and cheering with pride and ,maybe, a lump in my throat, for a unique, well-rounded, and naturally talented individual who is blowing the competition away.

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