Tuesday, July 31, 2012


How should we define an "athlete."  Is a field goal kicker an athlete?  A 375 pound offensive guard for an NFL team?  Is the designated hitter on a baseball team an athlete? A fencer? A sharp shooter? A weight lifter?

I think whatever definition we create would include participants in three Olympic events I saw yesterday.  While I was extending myself perspiring on an elliptical machine I watched the synchronized diving competition.  This was something to see.  Let's start with the dives themselves.  From a platform a diver jumps up, then does four and a half somersaults in the air before gliding into the pool with as little a splash as possible.  Try that at your local pool.  Try one somersault. Given the nature of the event, not only do the athletes do four and a half somersaults they do it at the exact same time as a teammate is so contorting himself. The two of them have to enter the pool at the same time, having twisted at the same time.  Try synchronizing cannonballs with a pal the next time you are at the Y.

After the diving competition while I pushed myself to what amounts to fast walking for a while, I saw a beach volleyball competition. If you have never watched this, take a look.  Two women on a side, diving all over the court, jumping to block and spike. An American team won a contested match with the Czechs.  Timing, diving, blocking, changing direction while in the air--athletes.

But the most mind boggling event I viewed yesterday is one I see only every four years.  The gymnasts.  Contestant after contestant got up on the horse and effortlessly went through contortions for a minute. Grabbing one end of the horse and swinging around, then switching hands and positions.  I am in good shape. I exercise almost daily. Spend nearly an hour, sometimes more, on the elliptical machine without stopping--I could not last five seconds doing what these gymnasts were doing effortlessly. And of course after they were done, spinning dizzily, they dismounted gracefully landing two feet on the ground without a stumble before raising their hands in a deserved gesture of self satisfaction.

Today marks the third day of practice for the New England Patriots. We consider football players to be great athletes and they are, but not sure even the defensive backs--often the best athletes on the teams--could score a point against the women in the beach volleyball game, or last ten seconds on the horse, or dive in tandem with a teammate.

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