I plug my nose before jumping into any pool. The same goes for lakes and other bodies of water. I can’t really swim. I probably could save myself if I had to, but I would have to do it with the doggy paddle.
Still, I am glued to the television when swimming or diving competitions take place during the Olympics, and this year is no different.
Most days the television was tuned to coverage of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. Sure, every now and then we would turn it to catch a cartoon for the children or the evening newscast. Otherwise, it was wall-to-wall Olympics.
Generally, I will watch almost any of the contests. I didn’t particularly care for the 3×3 basketball or rhythmic gymnastics, but mostly everything else was fair game.
As I mentioned, I love the swimming and diving events, and I also always watch beach volleyball, both the men’s and the women’s. A few other events have also caught my eye during these Summer Games.
It was great to see surfing and skateboarding added to the lineup. Those were fun events to watch, but the standouts to me during the Tokyo Games were canoe slalom and handball.
The body control the athletes in the slalom demonstrated was impressive. They were weaving their bodies in and around the polls that made up the gates they had to go through while battling the water’s current. It was like they were simultaneously made of rubber and steel because of the flexibility and strength they demonstrated. I was in awe.
And the handball. That just looks like fun. It’s like soccer, but you can use your hands and don’t have to run around as much. It also reminds me of water polo without the water and a more enjoyable version of basketball.
They can just run and dribble maybe once. Then they can just throw it at the goal, which is way bigger than the hoop in basketball. That’s how it is more like soccer, and there is a goalie like in soccer. I appreciate that they can be more physical.
It’s just an all-around fun game to watch. I hope you all got a chance to see it.
In all the competitions, though, I’m always a bit surprised by the scoring. Take gymnastics, surfing, skateboarding or diving for example. The commentators always seemed to get excited about maneuvers that didn’t look too complicated.
Don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t even begin to do what these athletes do. I’m just usually blown away when the competitor flies high in the air and does crazy flips.
The commentators never seem as impressed as I am by such moves. Instead, the commentators are often catty and overly critical. I’d like to see them do what those athletes did, even if they used to be competitors themselves.
For me, that’s the best part of the Olympics — the competition.
These athletes are the best in their sports. Just getting to watch them is an honor, just as it is an honor for them to compete and represent their individual countries. Even the Russian athletes represent their country, even if they didn’t get to do so under the Russian name and flag.
Watching any Olympian is worthwhile. I find it inspiring, even in an event like rhythmic gymnastics that I have zero interest in.
Think of the excitement that these events generate. Little compares to the electricity charging the air during a swimming or track and field sprint final race. Under non-pandemic circumstances, the arenas would be vibrating with the cheering from the fans.
That same feeling came through this year, even if it might have been a tad bit different.
I don’t have the ability to do what these athletes do. In fact, if you ever see me running, you better run too because I’m clearly trying to escape something horrible. All you have to do to survive is be faster than me. Piece of cake.
Still, I can only imagine that simply being chosen to participate in the Olympics feels like a victory.
We all love watching the medal count, but bringing home something shiny hanging from your neck isn’t all it is about. Being their matters. Winning is just a cherry on top.
The true point of the Olympics is the triumph of the human spirit. It is completing the race even if you have no chance of placing in the top three. It is being a role model for children and adults alike. It is speaking out to larger issues.
That’s why Simone Biles is a true champion of these Summer Games.
She had the courage to enter the competition despite the hardships she has faced, such as being a public face of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, former team doctor for the United States women’s national gymnastics team. She was the top-ranked gymnast in the world who had already accomplished so much, and all eyes were watching to see how many gold medals she would bring home.
Then things changed. She showed even more courage and emotional strength by withdrawing from the games. She made clear that mental health was more important than any competition, even on the world’s largest stage.
Not many would have the intestinal fortitude to recognize that they are not in the right headspace to compete safely. If she had continued and attempted to perform the risky maneuvers she is known for, she could have been seriously injured, possibly rendering her paralyzed with several spinal cord injuries.
Furthermore, mental health is something to be taken seriously. It isn’t something to brush aside or minimize. Not taking care of yourself can have dire consequences, and Biles recognized that.
She is a true role model and champion. She doesn’t need a piece of metal to prove that.
Todd Vogts is a native of Canton, a resident of McPherson County, and an assistant professor of media at Sterling College. He can be contacted with questions or comments via his website at www.toddvogts.com.