Like many people, i watched Usain Bolt sprint to victory in the 200m at the Olympics last night. By doing so, he not only ran further into the history books, but he also demonstrated how focus and determination can let us achieve things beyond what seems possible to the rest of us. Sprinting, more than any other Olympic sport, typifies what makes these achievements so incredible, because it happens so fast. A lifetimes work for twenty seconds of activity. These finals truly are the tip of the iceberg, and it’s a pretty formidable iceberg at that.
When people are having a serious debate about whether your haircut can affect your performance significantly, you know you’re in the big league. The only impact my haircut has on my performance is when people ridicule my university photos where i sported a ponytail. I suppose we all train for the things we need to be good at, Olympic athletes just represent the pinnacle of the idiocy: the focus so strong that literally years and years are spent in carefully coordinated regimes of exercise, fasting, testing and practice, all for a few seconds of activity and glory. They are literally shaping their bodies to excel for one minute.
One of the commentators was speculating on how everyone will want to watch what Bolt does next, and to listen to everything he has to say, and there is an element of truth in this. Whilst his achievements are physical, we tend to respect the mindset, focus and determination that drove him there. Many sportsmen and women go on to become prominent speakers and are respected in this context.
In our own way, we all take control of our destinies, learning, training, practicing, albeit for sometimes more mundane activities than running an Olympic final. The things we do leave traces on our bodies and in our minds. There is a field of archaeology that studies skeletons, determining details of the manual work that was done by the traces left on enlarged and worn joints. We even speculate on diet by examining the wear patterns on teeth. Everything we do affects us in some way, indeed, we say that to learn is to change ourselves. If we don’t change, we can’t learn.
So we can draw inspiration from others, pride in their achievements, even when they come from a different nation. There is a unity in seeing what a person can achieve, what they, and therefore we by association as humans, are capable of doing.
So whilst the activity may only take twenty seconds, whilst the body may be tuned to one event, one moment in time, i guess that the ripples will shape a lifetime.