Find your greatness

The Olympic Games end tonight with the closing ceremony. We’ve seen so many great things, unimaginable for the most of us. Only the absolute best athletes in specific Olympic sports can perform at this highest stage in the world, once every four years. And only the best 5% or so can amaze and win medals. The Paralympics are perhaps more impressive, athletes that are not able-bodied, performing at the highest level possible. Of course they are influenced by their handicap, but they have refused to let it stop them from pursuing their dreams.

I play sports myself and try to go as far as I can. It’s not my ultimate goal however, and not where I think my talent lies. I know from myself that I am always happy and that I can bring a smile to people’s faces, as I’ve noticed during my work on campings, in a store and now in a nursery home. My intention is to inspire people to start moving, to find a sport that suits them. All people are good at something, have bodies or attitudes fit for specific sports. They just don’t know it yet. Perhaps they have bad experiences with sport and decided they’d rather do nothing. Such a shame! There is a sport for everybody!

Perhaps you didn’t like the more established sports of for example basketball or tennis. Then go try out something else, such as cycling, fencing, or archery. Maybe you’ll find you enjoy it and are somehow good at it. And mostly we enjoy things we are good at. You don’t have any money, there are no facilities, but you want to try something anyway? Most cities have a way of financially supporting people wanting to play sport, at least in the Netherlands. Or try running, you don’t need any club for that, just your two feet. Go for a swim and try to cover the same distance in less and less time. You have a disability? Plenty of opportunities for you as well, just look at the Paralympic Games. And remember, what you see there and during the Olympics is only the tip of the iceberg where sport types are concerned and even more where athletes are concerned.

Not many people can make it to the top, but we can be great in our own way. We can find a sport and get better and better, improving and enjoying ourselves. The last woman finishing a marathon, sweating like crazy, a red face, a hand at her waist because it hurts so much but going on anyway, how is that anything less than the man completing the marathon first? We don’t have the same body or background. We are not fit for exactly the same, which is why people specialize in mostly one sport. But in that sport we should try our very best to come as far as possible, to persevere. We can all deliver our own great performances, if we just dare to try.

So.. I dare you

The best Olmypics ever

It’s so great Oscar got to participate! It took so much debating, literally about the advantage of the artificial legs (as if it’s a benefit not to have lower legs). Great inspiration, this photo especially, so thanks for sharing it!

The Poetry of the Earth

The best Olmypics ever

“Maybe my favorite of all the recent photos of Olympians. He’s Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. She’s Ellie, she’s 5, and she got to race him. She won all four times. Oscar = Cool.” – Brant Hansen

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Development 100 m sprint for men

Jamaican Usain Bolt broke the Olympic record on the 100 m sprint yesterday with 9.63 seconds, making it the second time he has won the gold medal in the Olympics. He has also broken the world record in 2009, with a time of 9.58 seconds. Nobody had expected someone to run that fast. More extraordinary, it appears that Bolt could go even faster and perhaps make it under 9.5 seconds. We’ll have to wait to see that, though.

Since the first Modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, technique and technology have become increasingly better. It is now possible to look at the movement of an athlete in slowmotion (have you all seen the super slowmotion of the speedwalking contest, which showed that none of the competitors followed the rules: all had a flight moment in which neither of the feet touched the ground). I will do a blog post about technology and sport later in time, so let’s focus on the effects for now. In swimming, new swimsuits were developed that allowed players to go even faster. These were banished by FINA (Fédération Internationale du Natation, the international swimming federation), but many world records had already been broken using these new suits. Some people in these Olympic games have again broken these records, using the older textile, which makes it even more remarkable.

The 100 metres sprint has been included in the Modern Olympic Games since the first occurence. Technology and technique have changed this sport as well. Better training, training equipment and better shoes. A better analysis of technique with video analysis. So many possibilities. And it has led to great improvements in time, with the WR by Bolt in 2009 shocking the world. They had not expected someone to run this fast in at least ten years. But here came Bolt. I can explain it to you, but this video by the New York Times shows it much better.

What do you think? Is it possible to go even faster? Perhaps to run under 9 seconds over 100 meter? What is the limit?

Why a gold medal?

(c) Reuters

Yay! Yesterday Marianne Vos won the first gold medal for the Netherlands these Olympics! The ‘golden girls’  from the 4×100 m relay swimming unfortunately didn’t prolong their title and had the silver medal to comfort them (which they are happy with… only it took a while to get from ‘losing gold’ to ‘winning silver’). Our archer has reached the final 16, Epke Zonderland has reached the finals in gymnastics and has a real chance of finally winning gold in gymnastics, Dex Elmont (judo) was so tired from his previous matches he lost the small final for the bronze medal. These are just several stories of Dutch successes or misfortunes during the first few days of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

10,960 athletes are competing in London and surroundings in 36 different sports, all trying to win that wondrous, special, GOLD medal. Silver is not enough for them, they have but one goal: GOLD. But why? Why is it not enough to be announced best of the world, to feel the glory when listening to the national anthem, to have the honour of being called Olympic champion? The modern Olympic Games were founded to “build a better world through sport”, based on the ideology of Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin (if you want to know more about this, the IOC has published a document in 2000).

The Ancient Olympics were different. I read an article today about the Pagan origins of the modern Olympic Games on about.com by Patti Wigington. It very clearly explained that the Ancient Olympics were first and foremost a religious festival. Competitors would honour Zeus by swearing an oath to him, offering and competing. The winner would be announced immediately after the event, so everybody could hear he had won, and red ribbons were tied around his head and hands (how symbolic, a colour of will and power). On the last day of the Games, all victors would be announced again and the kotinos (olive trea wreath) were placed on their heads. Some of these victors can still be named today! The organic material of the kotinos would not last forever, but the fame and glory of the athlete would.

Michael Phelps wins the gold medal (Athens 2004)

When the modern Olympic Games began in 1896 in Athens, the winner of an event was awarded a silver medal and an olive branch, whereas the runner-up would get a bronze medal and a laurel branch. Though the silver medal was new, the olive branch was somewhat similar to the prize at the ancient Olympic Games. Only in 1904 did the triad gold-silver-bronze become the standard.

So… why was there a need for medals and a gold medal in particular? Silver and bronze were enough, compared to the single winner in the ancient Olympic Games. Perhaps it has to do with the symbolism of the medal and the qualities of gold (though the Olympic medals are not made of solid gold anymore, they are >90% silver and copper). The medals are circular, to represent the world and possibly the everlasting glory of winning the Olympics. Gold is one of the least reactive solids: it will stay good for a very long time, unlike silver which turns black. It can therefore be a symbol of endurance and of everlasting glory. Gold can also symbolize the sun, or a sungod (though it was probably not intended as such). Alchemists strived to make gold out of ‘natural’ substances such as salt. It is believed to be a metaphor for their journey to wisdom. Perhaps the gold medalists have also completed their journey, only not per sé to wisdom, but to an amazing athletic achievement!

I love watching the Olympics, it’s on tv all day long and there is only a one hour difference, so we get to see most events live. It is spectacular, seeing what the human body is capable of! Though I agree we ought to honour these athletes because of their remarkable performances, I don’t know whether the medals are necessary. But on the other hand, it is also something the athletes can take with them, take home and remember their victory by. The medals are different every Olympic Game, so people will presumably collect different ones. I like the medals of the 2012 Olympics in London especially, because it looks so nice and has so many symbols on it 🙂 But though they are pretty and the athletes get a lasting object to symbolize their victory at the Olympics, I do not believe they are necessary. Any other object could have been chosen to give to the athletes. Nowadays however, the gold medal is the standard thing for athletes of Olympic sports to strive for, so it is appropriate that athletes get one if they win. I hope the Netherlands wins many more of them in the coming weeks!
This’ll hopefully spark some debate, I know it did here when my fiancée read it! What do you think about awarding medals to Olympic champions?

London 2012 Olympic gold medal

Design of the London 2012 Olympic gold medal