Desi Anwar: Being an Olympian
I find watching the Olympic Games rather depressing, especially individual competitions, where the scores are so close together between winners and losers. All that excitement, drama, competition and nail-biting suspense is really not good for my heart.
The fact that there have to be winners and losers is for me particularly distressing. Certainly there are triumphs and joy when games are won and records broken, but it’s the disappointed looks on the faces of those who are not as fast, who lose their footing, make errors that shave off a tiny fraction of a second of their time to just miss that chance to get on the podium that really get to me more than anything else.
I guess taking part in the Olympics and being called an Olympian is already an honor in itself. But still, the competition is so stiff that probably getting out on the wrong side of the bed or missing a day of training in the last four years can mean the difference with getting a medal and getting a lemon.
There is another aspect about watching the Olympics that gets me down. It’s watching those sports where they highlight the athletes’ perfectly formed bodies and rippling muscles doing incredible feats with amazing skills, speed, height, grace or what have you. Watching the swimmers plow the water at incredible speed, divers and gymnasts leaping, somersaulting and putting their bodies through seemingly impossible movements and balance, athletes who run so fast, jump so high and lift weights so heavy, I cannot help but wonder if these Olympians are humans at all, or whether they’re of a different species altogether put on Earth and programmed specifically to excel physically.
Feasting my eyes upon so many examples of human perfection only reminds me of the amount of work, effort, training, concentration and sheer torture that human beings must go through in order to achieve a state of physical fitness that should actually come quite naturally to us. We are, after all, an animal born with two arms, two legs and a body that in theory we should know how to use. Imagine, for example, if a cheetah or a leopard has to go through rigorous training before they can run fast, or if a monkey has to be coached for hours on end before they can swing from tree to tree, that these creatures would last very long on the planet or even make it through evolution.
Humans, of course, excel in the brain department, particularly the prefrontal cortex that can save us from the need of having to outrun a man-eating tiger or compete with our simian cousins in trees for food, but this doesn’t change the fact that we do have a physical body that is there for us to use other than for sitting, lying down or the occasional walk.
My gripe is, why does it have to be so hard to achieve even the most modest of physical fitness and skill? Why do we have to learn to run, to jump, to swing, to lift, to bend and do all those things when we already have the equipment, not to mention a pair of lungs and a pumping heart to push us along?
Inspired by all these activities, I asked a friend, who happens to be a coach, to help me improve my fitness level. Although I’m by no means physically lazy, it’s only when my coach starts prodding my muscles and seeing the way I move my arms and legs that I find out that I’ve been doing everything wrong. And here I am, thinking “how can moving the body in a natural way be wrong?” But there you are. Apparently there is a correct way of running, breathing (like knowing when to breathe in and out), how to stand and how to distribute your weight and that you’re not supposed to look down when running but up ahead and so on.
It’s worse when I’m in the water. I can swim and float around for hours without so much as getting out of breath. But then she tells me that my kicks are all wrong, my toes not turning outward enough, my elbows not high enough and I’m breathing wrongly. It seems my body and I, we just don’t get along together. And all this time I haven’t even used it properly.
Desi Anwar is a senior anchor at Metro TV. She can be contacted at desianwar.com and dailyavocado.net.