In his classic "Lose Yourself" Eminem begins:
Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
song etches the challenge of the Olympic moment. Each Olympic moment
presents this, just one shot. Each race, each game, each point
accumulate but end in this one moment that Olympian athletes have fought
their entire lives to achieve.
song came to mind as I watched the Olympic trials especially the
titanic races between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte which kept ending
with .05 to .2 second differentials. I realized again how a certain set
of sports give athletes only one shot with no room for error.
think back to the winter Olympic and the incredible performance of
American skier Linsey Vonn collapsing, sobbing and crying on her
husband's shoulder after her gold medal run in the women's alpine
Olympic. The scary intense no room for error run reminded me of the
cried from joy, satisfaction, triumph and relief. On the same night I
watched Shaun White simply soar at a different level than the rest of
his competition in the snow board half pipe as he glided, slung, twisted
and contorted his way to a stunning, dare I say it, awesome,
performance winning the gold medal in the half pipe. White whooped and
hollered and hugged. Later he played air guitar at the end of the
national anthem on the podium. His whoops and hollers reflected
jubilation and triumph and relief.
the relief? During the winter Olympics I realized several things about
sports. Many winter sports incur far more danger than your typical
summer sports. I mean careening down bumpy slopes and flying off ledges
at 100 kilometers an hour; luging around tracks in astronaut training
speeds; turning, twisting and launching into the air all entail real
risk of life and limb. Lindsey Vonn skied with a huge bruise on her
thigh and had to overcome several major injuries since her last
Olympics. Askel Svindel returned from a battered and broken body to win
the men's ski gold, for as he put it in his blog, "ten seconds" to stand
and know you had done it with your run. A lugger died.
athletes bring a level of courage and pushing the edge that does not
exist in most other sports because of the real physical danger that
courts them at every second. They are not encased in cars or kevlar,
just them, their bodies, equipment and the elements.
summer sports generally do not bring a similar level of danger, but
they still express the incredible pressure and naked end of pure
competition. One wins, everyone else loses. Just like the winter
Olympics many of the sports represent just one shot sports.
shot" sports differ from many sports that offer theme and variations
over and over again with ample opportunities in the flow of a game to
overcome lapses and still win. Soccer, volleyball, baseball, basketball
all unfold as continuous and repetitive plays during their allotted time
with ebbs and flows, lots of second chances. But one shot sports present a different psychological and performance profile. Athletes have literally just one shot with no room for error.
sports really provide just one shot. Just one chance with the athlete
or team alone, waiting, the bell sounds and the individual is off. It
all rides on one ride, one run, dive, one row. All the races, diving,
swimming, gymnastics, rowing play out with the same excruciating
intensity. Much like the vault in gymnastics, an explosive instant
second where years of preparation play out in seconds alone. The point
of the game here: everything is on the line just once.One error, one
nanosecond hesitation, one false move and the dream disappears.
the athletes who arrive at the Olympics stand for the best of the best
and the best their country can offer in this activity. They seek to
embody the Greek ideal of excellence in form, strength and performance.
Leave aside the commercialism, the crassness, the sponsorships, the
bloated nationalism and amid the noise and carnival, just as existed in
the original Olympics, it comes down to the one athlete, one woman, one
man, waiting on the starting block, intense, focus, coiled embodying
years of training and work. It is the moment Olympic cameras love to
catch for good reason, just as they zoom in on the ecstasy of victory
and of loss.
really admire the character and moral intensity of athletes in one shot
sports. The athlete has to bring all his or her training and life long
commitment to a pinpoint of focus. They need mental and physical
discipline to overcome past failures and past successes. They must be
totally present in that one moment, as Eminem advised, they need to
need flawless visioning of the action and the ability to execute and
adapt to any changed conditions at the same time. Above all they must
find ways to not let the pressure and adrenaline and cortisol rushes of
having everything depend upon this one chance and to being it home.
the end of a one shot run, every Olympic athlete can mimic Vonn's
screams or White's hollers; joy, triumph and release and relief. They
earned them all.