Olympic Observations

Seven one-hundredths of a second. That’s what separated the gold and silver medal finishers in the Women’s Giant Slalom downhill skiing event in the Sochi Olympics last week. As I was watching, I was struck by the tiny margins of difference that would determine the order of finishers in this event.  To put it another way, the top 9 finishers in the event completed the course within 1.77 seconds of each other! So less than 2 seconds decided the best in the world from the mediocre skiers.

This got me thinking of the athletes and what they do in the three years and 50ish weeks when they’re not in the olympics. Obviously, there’s a tremendous amount of training involved. For some of the more popular sports, the athletes may have the luxury of training nearly full-time while for some of the other olympic sports (i.e. curling, luge), I learned that most of the athletes have full-time jobs and careers and train for their sport on the side. Either way, the amount of hours and time that each of these people puts into practice and training is admirable and remarkable.

So going back to the ski race, I couldn’t help but feel astounded that for these skiers, who are the absolute best in the world, four years of intense and daily training and thousands upon thousands of repetitions of the same movements all lead to a day where their fates are decided in mere milliseconds.

This got me thinking about my own regimen and my own olympics (of sorts) that I’m training for. Despite my lifelong athleticism and passion for an active lifestyle, I know that before my accident, it was hard for me to fathom the life of an olympic athlete, spending THAT many hours of everyday training for an event in which you may not even be selected to compete. How could you justify waking up early, staying up late, sacrificing sleep and time for other aspects of life to train for an activity while knowing that you MAY have a chance to possibly go up against the best in the world and then and only then, maybe you will be seven one-hundredths of a second fast enough to win gold??!

Since the day I got out of surgery to repair my badly broken neck, since the day when I knew that my body was damaged yet my spirit was more resilient than ever, and since I knew that the road back to my feet would be a long and arduous one, I decided that I would do everything in my power and spend as many hours a day and as many days as necessary working towards my goal.

In this regard, I share something with those olympic athletes. Our commitments to our respective goals are unquestionably similar – I would even argue that I want to walk more than any athlete wants to win gold but I guess that’s gonna be hard to prove.

And so I understand now why someone would train so much for so long despite such slim chances of reaching their goals and winning the race, and being better than everyone else out there. If you want it badly enough, then no amount of practice or training or repetitions will be too daunting to prevent you from getting there, just seven one-hundredths of a second fast enough.

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17 thoughts on “Olympic Observations

  1. What a brilliant post.
    Your way of thinking is really put into perspective in your punishing goal to walk again.
    Thanks for sharing, Arash.

  2. good way to take it, Arash—the parallels are very clear, you do a very nice job synthesizing into words how your commitment and struggle is much the same as a world class athlete or scholar or teacher or any ‘hero’ that is toiling away….thanks for that, hope we can catch up sometime…Dan

  3. Great analogy! I have to add that all who make it to the Olympics are winners just for getting there. So are you a winner in my book for your grit and determination to improve your physical ability, no matter the amount of work, sweat, and lost sleep needed to make your goal. Just a caution, as a sleep specialist, don’t skimp on sleep. That is when your body restores and heals itself. It is just as important or more so than the exercise you do.

    1. Yes you’re right about the sleep part. I’ve heard this from many people and have actually grown to respect the need for sleep much more than I used to. Thanks for your thoughts -AB

  4. I am inspired by your perseverance. Your comparison between the Olympic athletes & your own mission for recovery hits me at a soul level. What you described is how I approach my son’s traumatic brain injury. My want for his continued healing & recovery is my very need. And this need to facilitate that process is greater than any damage that he’s suffered or any limitation that he currently has. When a goal is so personal that it becomes the very essence of who one is, striving for less than the “gold” is not an option.

  5. There’s no better way to appreciate the value of a day, an hour, a second, than by the difference there can be between the before and the after of that interval. Sports are an obvious focus for examples, but kisses, road accidents, bird droppings… all of their outcomes can depend on incredibly fine margins of time, too.

    Thank you for sharing, Mr Bayatmakou – I only JUST read your Freshly Pressed entry from 2013, but it’s earned you a follower! 🙂

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