Monday, August 25, 2008

Top Ten Lessons Learned From The Beijing Olympics

Now that the Olympics are over and I can stop mindlessly flipping channels at every hour of the day looking for inspiration from some obscure Olympic sport to rationalize not working for just a little while longer, it’s time to get up from the Lazy Chair, put down the remote, go out for a run (maybe?) and review what we all learned from the best two weeks of summer television.

Lession 1: Man versus Car. I thought my beating a cyclist up Harlem Hill a while back was impressive (to me at least). Then I saw Usain Bolt revving it up to 32 m.p.h. in the 100m final on his way to obliterating the field and winning the gold medal, which got me wondering…can he really outrace a car? Is that really possible? Then, I remembered, it’s Usain Bolt. He’s fast, he’s cocky, he’s young (just 21). With him, anything is possible!

Lesson 2: Older Means Faster. Like I mentioned in my last post, thirty is indeed the new twenty, or 35 is the new 25…at least if you’re female and an aspiring Olympian. Just ask Dara Torres, Constantina Tomescu, Deena Kastor, Paul Radcliffe, and a whole host of thirty- and forty-somethings who are running and swimming faster than girls half their age. Simply amazing!

Lesson 3: In Need Of A New Statistic. Maybe for the next Olympic Trials, the U.S.T.A.F. can use something other than the fastest finishing times when deciding who to invite to represent the US in the sprint relays in London 2012. Maybe for the next four years, they should keep a new stat on all the sprinters, called the baton passer rating, which similar to the quarterback passer rating in the NFL, incorporates velocity, accuracy, baton passing completion percentage, and the net result of each relay race into a single statistic that will allow each sprinter to be ranked individually in terms of their baton passing efficiency. I personally think that is the best way to prevent the baton dropping debacle that was the 4x100m relays for the U.S. Men and Women from ever happening again.

Lesson 4: Not A Woman Yet Not A Girl. Apparently, girls in China develop at a different rate than girls from any other country in the world, contrary to what we’ve always been taught in medical school. Here in the U.S., we consider girls who don’t show any secondary sexual characteristics by age 13 to have delayed puberty, a pathologic condition worthy of a full endocrine workup. In China however, apparently you can be sixteen, be so short you’d be the poster child for growth hormone deficiency, show no signs of puberty and still be considered absolutely normal, no questions asked. Unbelievable.

Lesson 5: Tall Guys Can Run. Yes, it is possible to be 6’5” and still run like a gazelle. Usain Bolt taught me that, contrary to what basketball centers in the NBA would have you believe…who knew?

Lesson 6: Humbled By Walker. Apparently, it is also possible for someone to walk faster than I run. Just ask Valerly Borchin of Russia, who won an Olympic gold medal in race walking this summer. He completed the 20K (12.4 mile) walk in 1:19:01, which equates to 6:22 per mile. By comparison, my 15K PR pace is 6:36 per mile. There was also a 50K (31 mile) race walk event, which was won by Alex Schwazer of Italy with a time of 3:37:09. This equates to a 7:00 min/mile pace. By comparison, I’ve never done a 31 mile run, and my PR pace for the marathon is only 7:11 min/mile. For someone who always associated walking with slowness of feet, I was embarrassed and truly humbled by these figures.

Lesson 7: Internationalism Trumps Nationalism. Although people all over the world from all walks of life gathered collectively to cheer on the representatives from their respective countries, so many athletes from these Olympics come from backgrounds that overlap nations and cultures that the games represented a celebration of internationalism more than a competition between the various nations. From Nastia Liukin, the gold medal winning all-around gymnast, whose parents were both former Soviet champion gymnasts, to Samuel Wanjiru, the winner of the Olympic marathon, who was born in Kenya, but learned to run and was coached in Japan, there were so many Olympians whose personal stories reached so widely across geographic barriers that to celebrate them as anything but international athletes would be wrong on so many levels.

Lesson 8: Olympics Fever. Yes, from now on, every four years, this term will be recognized as a true medical disease with universally recognized symptoms. Employers beware.

Lesson 9: World’s Greatest Athlete. It is amazing to me that despite proving that he can jump, throw, run, sprint and hurdle faster and better than anyone in the world so much so that he set an Olympic record by the widest margin of victory ever in the event, in a discipline where the winner was once celebrated as “The World’s Greatest Athlete, the name Bryan Clay, the gold medalist in the Olympic decathlon, got less mention from the media than human rights violations or the Tibetan controversy from the Chinese. This Hawaiian native led by so much after the ninth event that he jogged through the last race, the 1500m, finishing in dead last, and still set an Olympic record for the widest margin of victory. This guy is such a class act that he persuaded a fellow competitor not to drop out of the event before the 1500m race but rather that he’d jog with him to the finish if need be. So cool.

Lesson 10: Long Fingernails Wins Gold. After securing and studying the digitally enhanced replays from the men’s 100m butterfly race, I’m convinced that because Michael Phelps didn’t have time to cut and file his fingernails that day, the extra 2mm of armspan is what enabled him to outtouch Milorad Cavic by 0.01 seconds at the finish. NBC would have you believe that it was the extra half stroke Phelps took and Cavic didn’t that was the difference, but I knew it really had nothing to do with technique. He was just lucky his manicurist was late. I’m on to you, Phelps.

There you have it, my ten biggest lessons learned during these Olympics. Hope you all enjoyed the festivities as much as I did. Please feel free to comment and add your own favorite moments.


Andrew is getting fit said...

6 & 9 are truely amazing!

Jeff Tse said...

Hey Man, I don't know how you can walk at 6 m/m pace when I walk at 20 m/m pace. What kind of strides are these people taking. Wish I caught some of the decathlon. Maybe on video.

Nitmos said...

Lesson I learned: Completely ignore the NBC commentators during Olympic marathons. In both the men's and women's races, the commentator - not sure who he was - kept predicting a late race fade for both of the early leaders which never materialized. How 'bout next time you just shut up and watch a terrific performance unfold without the doom and gloom?

nyflygirl said...

LOL-love the list!! those racewalkers are sick!! the woman walks a 20K at a faster pace than i can run a 10K...i oughta check it out online.

Irish Cream said...

GREAT list, Lam! I love it! And I totally agree that Olympics Fever should be classified as a true medical disease!

The Happy Runner said...

Right on!

I feel for Bryan Clay -- he rocked and was not given the attention he deserved. Maybe the lack of media glare means he'll avoid the fate of Bruce Jenner (ooh, plastic surgery and reality tv -- not all that becoming).

Anonymous said...

> Then I saw Usain Bolt revving it
> up to 32 m.p.h. in the 100m final
I think you got your kph and mph mixed up ;-)

At 32mph, he would have run a 100m in 6.99s which won't happen without some cyborg parts!

Running at 9.69s gives him an average (not maximum however) speed of 23.1 mph. Coming off the bend in the 200m he gets faster than 25 mph, but nowhere near 32mph!


The Laminator said...

Hey Peter...

I got the Usain Bolt stat right out of the NBC prodcast...They mentioned that at the height of his maximal speed, he approached 32mph...of course, we know he slowed down significantly towards the end of the race that's why his average speed was only 23mph...

Thanks for your comment though.

Steve Stenzel said...

I love #10! I just posted 10 ways to get over the Olympics being over! Weird!

runner26 said...

Very cool post! It was awesome to watch those amazing athletes do their thing. So inspiring.

Non-Runner Nancy said...

A great post. Loved them all. I had Olympic fever together with Olympic hangover. Never enough sleep the next day, walking around dazed. Maybe that is just one of the symptoms of Olympic fever. :D

I especially enjoyed the sportmanship and class that was displayed at different times and also people just appreciating the best in the world, no matter where they are from or where you are from.

sRod said...

Great post--per usual. Is there treatment for Olympic withdrawl? I'm trying to get my hit from the DNC, but there's only so much Wolf Blitzer I can take before my head explodes.

Reid said...

The Olympics were definitely awesome. I'm sad it's all over. You've compiled some great highlight, here. Tons of motivation there!

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