The Bekele WR video from 2004 is finally online. Watch it here!
The Bekele WR video from 2004 is finally online. Watch it here!
Today’s post is about two of my favourite sports to watch, football and tennis. With the exception of athletics (Track and Field to American readers) these are the two sports I enjoy watching the most. Football is rightly known as the beautiful game and tennis’ perfect blend of skill and power makes it a great spectator sport. Now for the bad part.
Neither sport should be in the Olympics.
I love the Olympics, I really do. And now it has started I intend to spend the majority of the next couple of weeks gorging myself on the sporting feast that my country is currently playing host to. Not in person, I might add – only those who bought the equivalent of the winning lottery ticket or work for the sponsors actually get to go in person. If they decide to turn up. No, I will be enjoying the festivities from the comfort of my living room with coffee in hand and getting my money’s worth for my annual TV licence in the space of 12 days.
But I digress. The point of this post is to talk about tennis and football. You see, I just get a strange feeling watching the tennis and football that it just isn’t that important to those taking part. I’m sure Roger Federer is trying and everything, but I can’t help but think he’d rather be getting some training in for the upcoming US Open than playing a few pointless 3-setters at Wimbledon. I have no doubt that Micah Richards and Craig Bellamy are actively trying to lose or anything like that, but my gut instinct is that this is no more than a nice way to kill some time between seasons, whilst conveniently avoiding their clubs’ money-spinning pre season tours to Asia. All this is a far cry from the look of sheer joy and triumph on the face of Kim Un-Guk after winning the 62kg weightlifting class the other day. The 23 year old from North Korea was fist-pumping, jumping around and working the crowd and it was clear to see that the Olympics meant everything to him.
You see, I am of the belief that the Olympics should represent the pinnacle of achievement in a given sport and should be the highest thing a sportsperson can aspire to. In swimming, athletics, cycling and a whole range of other sports this is the case, but I would hazard a guess that given the choice between Olympic gold and a grand slam trophy or a world cup winner’s medal, the latter would be the choice for most tennis players or footballers. The winner of the Olympics should be the best in the world and by excluding the majority of players this is not going to be the case in the football. If Messi and Ronaldo can’t play I’m not interested.
There’s also something about other sports that seems to reflect the true Olympic spirit. Fencing is basically sword fighting. I bet the ancient greeks loved a good sword fight. Athletics is sport at its purest and not too far off what the original Olympics would have looked like: throwing your spear or rock further than anyone else, catapulting yourself over a bar or just trying to outrun or outjump your opponent. Weightlifting, swimming, rowing – keep them all. Hell, even horseriding earns its place. I know that eventing sounds more like a made up modern word like ‘tweeting’ ‘trending’ or ‘planking’ than a proper sport but whatever. Let the elite have their fun. At least they’re not hunting foxes.
Don’t get me wrong, I love tennis and I love football, but like golf and rugby there is no place for them in the Games.
I want to see this film, so much so that I emailed our local independent cinema to see if they would consider screening it. Fingers crossed….
In athletics, as in other sports, there are some things that make you sit up and say “where the fuck did that come from?” In recent years, Usain Bolt jogging to a world record in Beijing comes to mind, as does the memory of Ibrahim Jeilan chasing down Mo Farah in the final lap of the World Championships 10,000 last year. Or for those who have more interest in longer distances, Moses Mosop ran 2:03 last year on his debut at the Boston Marathon and didn’t even win.
Moments like these are what makes our sport so exciting. Of course, there are the predictable moments, but unexpected results and performances happen often enough to keep most fans interested.
Some might argue that anyone who had followed Bolt’s progress as a junior athlete, or that anyone with knowledge of Jeilan’s career in Japan shouldn’t have been too shocked. Maybe they are right, but the wider public still sat up and took notice.
This happens to average Joe athletes like me and my friends too. A couple of guys in my training group refer to something called a ‘Lazarus run,’ a training run or race that seemingly comes from nowhere, the kind of run you don’t deserve, haven’t trained for, and frankly, pull out of your arse.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my regular long run companions (let’s call him Dan) decided his hip injury was too painful and didn’t join us for the usual Sunday 20-something miler. Just to clarify, Dan is no slacker. If a man who regularly needs 3 digits to log his weekly mileage avoids a long run, it’s usually because there is something wrong. We met up the next day for the usual Monday recovery run and Dan surprised us all by recounting the story of how he went out the evening before and knocked out a 10 miler in under an hour. He couldn’t explain why his hip had recovered sufficiently to run a hard tempo run but it had.
I had a similar experience a few days ago; my Jeilan moment involved running a 10 mile PB in training despite feeling pretty terrible when leaving the house. Again, where the fuck did that come from? But just as the good runs (and races for that matter) can come along unexpectedly, so can the bad ones. All runners have a stinker now and then and I had a prime turd of a run this morning. After two days of easy running I was pumped for my session of 3 x 1 mile with 90 seconds recovery. Leaving the house to go to the park where I train, I felt stiff and sore but kept going, last week’s tempo run acting as motivation. The heaviness still hadn’t cleared after my warm up so I settled for my back-up session of 4 miles at marathon pace. How hard can it be, I thought to myself. Very, came the answer from my quads 100 metres after I started my watch. It hurt. I convinced myself that I could work my way into it and speed up but after a while it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. After busting my balls to run a 5:50 mile I stopped my watch and gave up. I ran home. In fact, to call my homeward shuffle a run would be an insult to proper runners the world over.
Next week I’m running the London Marathon. I’m hoping for a ‘where the fuck did that come from?’ moment. But only if it’s the good type.
Double world marathon champion Abel Kirui celebrating victory with a dance.