It’s interesting to see the news about doping in sports, Lance Armstrong going down and others around him. Interesting also to see how many people are/were looking up to him, and more generally in sports, to the elite competitors. Be it football, cycling, swimming or any other sport that has a profesional elite representation, you’ll sure find someone that will aspire to be them, to whom these elite few will be heroes and models.
Some of them are true heroes and have sacrificed a lot to get to the top of their sport. But more often than not, I feel this is the case in sports that are not largely publicised, and do not benefit from consequent investments that main stream sports have. Some profesional sports are riddled with overpaid elements that do nothing else than complain while still getting large pay cheques. Take football as an example: there is way too much money in and around it, and that plagues the sport. You’d be hard pressed to find a town in the UK where no one likes football, but I feel this ‘adoption’ is fabricated, and a giant marketing farce. If you really think about it, why would you be in awe of players who make millions every year, yet don’t seem to show much respect for each other on the pitch. That’s not a great models for kids is it?
On the other hand, you’ve got athletes in sports which aren’t in the media often, and are only publicised when big events like the Olympics happen. Athletics, swimming, show jumping, triathlon, you name it! Who knows how hard they train and what they sacrifice for these races, for hitting their own dream of getting to the top of their sport, regardless of funding and publicity?
I do triathlon, and although it has recently benefited from a bit more exposure in the UK thanks to the amazing achievements of the GB team at the olympics, it is still not a majorly publicised sport. Yet it draws attention from plenty of people, new comers from all sorts of background, and is doing all it can to be all-inclusive. The great thing about it is that you mostly get to race on the same courses, on the same day, and, in some races, at the same time than the pros! Race Organisers are making a point, even in large events like the London triathlon, to allow everyone who’s up for a challenge and can swim far enough, to compete amongst all others. I’ve seen people swim breaststroke, ride the bike course on a fully equipped dutch bike ringing their bell around the course, and walk the 5Km of a sprint “race”. It’s about participating, completing their challenge.
Being involved with the ESC D3 Triathletes club and having done my level 1 triathlon coaching qualification, I can vouch for what I consider the real heroes of the sport, and more generally, the real heroes of any sport, seeing it first hand. They are those who set themselves a goal, and then go and do it, no matter what. They are the ones who take an event as their ultimate achievement, and don’t care how much effort they put into it, because that’s what they said they’d do. Real heroes don’t roll on the ground 5 times because someone brushed passed them running after a ball. They stand up, and keep going, and they finish what they set out to do.
So next time your neighbour is telling you they’re targeting a 5Km run or a charity bike ride as their event, give them a sign of appreciation, and if you can, help them on their journey. They’ve set out to do it not because it’s easy for them, but because it’s hard. And they WILL do it! No matter what. They should be your heroes too.