When I was young…er, I trained pretty regularly. Starting age 4 or 5 when my mother took me to ballet class, then – after my ballet teacher defected to France, or so they told me – moving on to rhythmic gymnastics until – after my aunt who was also my trainer pointed out that I am possibly too tall for a sport that requires so much flipping and contorting and also that i am probably not very talented at flipping and contorting- I arrived at athletics.
Now, I have to admit that I was born into the body of an athlete. I also have to admit that I have managed in the past 20 years to wear it down to the soft boiled egg texture of today thank you- but that doesn´t mean that I wasn`t born with the gift. Hence, I was pretty good at running and jumping, which made athletics the right choice.
As a child you don´t really question whether something really is the right choice. Or maybe it was just me – I think kids today are a bit smarter. Anyhow, I never really questioned why my life was divided between school and training only. I was having a good time. Sure, it was hard some times – particularly in winter, when we were running in the dark on frozen park alleys at 7AM and could see our breath turn into ice particles before our heated faces. Or during school breaks when we went to training camp while everybody else got to sleep long and do nothing.But I kept on going.
I met all my friends at training. Our conversations revolved around times and speed, the best shoes, whether we will be getting new running gear, how we hated the smell of the gym, who can do the most push ups in one go. We had initiation rituals during camp, where every kid who was there for the first time would be placed on their belly with a wet towel over their naked but and the rest of the team would smack them with running shoes. The ones with spikes on the sole. It was great fun. Also, painful and humiliating but hey, everybody had to do it. And it was a bonding experience or something.
Where am I going with this? Ah. Yes.
I might have the physical constitution of an athlete but, mentally, I gear towards bookworm. I don´t care if I win, or if someone else is faster or smarter than me, or weighs more, or less, or has more defined calf muscles. I´m not inspired by competition, quite the contrary. It was hell for me every time. While my friends were exhilarated, I felt like my soul was being crushed and my heart almost exploded in my chest before the starting shot was fired. Yes. Adrenaline. Yes.
But also: if your mind is not an athlete, it doesn´t matter what your body is.
All athletes (and by this I mean everybody whose job it is to perform any kind of sport) have my deepest respect for the amount of discipline, self-control, self-restriction and yes, self-flagellation they put themselves through. Not that my respect will do them any good. Most of them never get into the spotlight, their stories are not viral, they live quiet, unremarkable lives of physical exhaustion and financial need. Once every 4 years the world is reminded that they exist, and, all of a sudden, they are expected to perform and entertain; and we turn into experts, commentators, judges. We count medals and revel in their glory. We are disappointed in their failures from afar, sitting comfortably on our couches, stuffing our faces and browsing Instagram while watching them perform superhuman tasks. Suddenly they represent us and their success is ours. But their failure is their own.
So. Yeah. I´m not watching the Olympics.
I stopped training when I was 15 or 16 and I have been happily turning my muscles into pudding ever since. Mmmh, pudding.