Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Anyone can be an Olympian; but that doesn't mean it's easy

This week has been a big week in the lives of track and field athletes across the world. This is the week in which most national governing bodies are announcing and nominating their teams for one of the central sports on the Olympic programme. It is, in short, the week in which dreams are made and hearts are broken.

This morning I gave a small talk to some of the athletes attending the week's Wexford Athletics Summer Camp. Twenty-three years in the sport has thought me that if just one of those young athletes makes the Olympic, they'll have beaten the odds. In fact, if even two or three of them compete in athletics as an adult, that'll be a small miracle. Over the years I've seen hundreds of young athletes, many far more talented than me, give up on the sport because they can't handle been beaten, because they want to concentrate on their studies, because they want to get a job or spend more time socialising, because they get injured, because they go through a bad patch, because they think that success doesn't happen to people like them and because they think that if they are not good enough for the Olympics then the sport has nothing to offer them. Some simply fall out of love with the sport, move on, or do other things with their lives. And that is perfectly fine. There are things that I did as a child that I no longer do, there are things that I realised that I wasn't very good at, and there are things that no longer interest me. 

But, the Irish team named on Tuesday disproves all the myths about where successful athletes come from or what they do with their lives. It proves that you don't have to give up on your academic goals to follow your sporting ones - Paul Pollock and Sara Treacy are both doctors; Mark English is working towards that goal; Ciara Evarard has studied physiotherapy; Michelle Finn will go straight into a block of teaching practice when she gets back from Rio. It proves that you can absolutely work full time and still be a top athlete - Kevin Seaward is a fulltime PE teacher, Breege Connolly works full time in software testing, and Lizzie Lee, a fulltime employee at Apple, recently said that she wouldn't have it any other way (yes, that's half our marathon runners with proper jobs!). It proves that it's not always the best juvenile athletes that make it big time - many of the team will not have been standout juveniles - only a few years ago Michelle was deemed not good enough to be sent to a European Cross Country Championships, now she's going to the Olympics. Indeed, Breege and Lizzie didn't even start to run until their late twenties. It shows that injuries can be overcome - before winning European bronze on Sunday, Ciara McGeehan, one of the true former junior standouts to make the team, had not worn an Irish vest for five years because of injury. 

But most of all, it proves that ordinary people, like you and me, can make it to the Olympics. 

And those of us that don't, can have a darn good time trying, and achieving our own 'Olympic' goals.

The closest I'm likely to get to an Olympics

No comments:

Post a comment