Summer Olympic time is pretty much magic. Its in my opinion… the height of sport fever throughout the world and without a doubt the most coveted competition for the athletes that compete from the time they make the decision to be an olympian. Sport is an emotional, powerful and thoroughly exhilarating example of what amazing feats can be accomplished by humans. Up against the best of the best across the globe. They pour every ounce of heart, tears and agonizing sweat into every practice, tournament and blood pumping moment leading up to that surreal experience that finds them on the Olympic stage. I’m actually floored by the composure, focus and fearlessness of all who compete.
Its also why i’m so disappointed right now.
Yesterday, Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen won gold in the womens 400m swimming medley and simultaneously destroyed her own personal best by 5 seconds. She outclassed the field by nearly 2 seconds and swam the last 50 meters faster than the men’s American champions. This prompted US swimming coach John Leonard to describe her performance at “disturbing”. He also added the following insight to back up his thoughts…“History in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, unbelievable, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved,” he told the UK’s Guardian newspaper.(bbc.co.uk)
To be quite honest, i’m embarrassed. As an American and one who has been involved in sport and had my share of loses, I find it hard to level with someone who can so blatantly spit in the face of an outstanding performance. Granted, she poured it on more than expected but I can’t imagine that a tuned athlete isn’t going to give everything in the tank in that moment and if its best anything they’ve ever done, well, they earned it. Remarks like this tarnish the moment for the athlete forever in a way that could have very easily been avoided had he not decided to go public immediately.
All medal winners are tested and presently there is nothing to prove that Ye Shiwen was doping. If somehow things comeback to prove otherwise I will be as disappointed as everyone else but until that happens I find no reason but to be happy to have seen an unforgettable performance.
I caught a clip of IOC medical chief speaking about the incident and was pleased to see that his sentiment echoed mine.
“I say no,” Arne Ljungqvist told reporters when asked whether her dazzling swim had raised suspicions of doping. “I have personally no reason other than to applaud until I have further facts.”
“Should a sudden raise in performance or a win be primarily suspect of being a cheat then sport is in danger because this ruins the charm of sport,” said Ljungqvist, who has 40 years experience in anti-doping.(in.reuters.com)
The “charm” of sport to which he is referring is that rush you get as a fan and as a competitor as both the winner and loser. Putting it all out there and doing your best should never be met with skepticism and it is truly a sad day in sport when that becomes the rule. I agree that offenses by competitors in the past have made an unfortunate impact but this seems to be more a case of spite and poor sportsmanship than an honest assessment and should be contained very quickly for the sake of the US Olympic team.
Another point that I think is missed in all this drama is the fact that in this competition, sportsmanship should reign supreme. At the end of the day, we are all people and we may speak a variety of languages, and live in vastly different places on this earth but we all love sport and we compete because we can and because its an honor to so against the premier athletes of this world. Coaches and athletes would be well served to take a note from some of the 6 year old tee-ballers or soccer kids of the world that eat ice cream after a game with the opposing team because win or lose, its fun and you do your best. Now, although I think Baskin Robbins would make a great sponsor, ice cream eating hug-fests probably won’t wiggle their way into the Olympics but events like this hold no place in these games. Politics takes a back seat as it should when we aim to inspire those who dream to be the next Ye Shiwen.
Be proud of your team Coach Leonard and stop bitching because you just has a front row seat to witness one of the fastest swimmers in history achieve greatness.
Thanks for reading,