i enjoyed watching the olympics this year. even with no fans in the stands because of the covid restrictions, the games were enjoyable. with all sports, there is drama; at the olympics, the stage is worldwide.
the only time that i watch track and field is at the olympics. i think about competitive running every four years. the buildup before a race is wonderful. the runners do all sorts of things in their particular routines: close their eyes to calm themselves, breathe deeply, last second stretches, practice their start with several bursts from the block, jump up and down, mug in front of the camera, stare down their main competition, etc… GREAT drama and anticipation.
in this year’s semi-finals men’s 100 meter dash, the slowest time was 10.31 seconds– of the field of 24. the fastest time was 9.83 from two men: usa’s ronnie baker and china’s bingtian su. 9.83 is the 9th and 10th all time fastest at this event. all time! they were only 0.2 slower than usain bolt’s #1 all time record of 9.63.
here was the 2020 finals results:
congrats to lamont marcell jacobs for the gold. i am sure that italy will be celebrating this win until the end of time. jacob’s time of 9.80 tied for the fifth best all time in the olympics; 0.06 seconds was the difference from fred kerley’s silver medal.
but i would like to try to get into the heads’ of ronnie baker and bingtian su. in the semifinals, they ran fast enough to be in the TOP TEN all time. in the finals, they came in 5th and sixth– the bottom of the race. but were only .13 and .15 of a second slower than that record setting time of 9.83.
imagine such a minuscule difference between setting al all time record and being the last places in the finals for a medal!
now, imagine being paulo andre amilo de oliveiro from brazil– the guy who ran the slowest time (10.31) of the 24 semifinalists. he was 0.51 seconds slower than the time that won the gold medal which was the fifth best of ALL TIME.
obviously in the context of the 100 meter dash, a half a second is a big difference. and too a race is not primarily against a clock but against the guys in the lanes next to you the moment the gun goes off. but what amazes me is that among the very best in the whole world, there is such a tiny difference.
in their training for four years in preparation for the olympics– countless hours– a race is over in ten seconds. for the “slowest” of the semifinalists to the gold medal winner!
the 100 meter dash dramatically shows us something important about ourselves. for me, this is one of the beautiful lessons from the olympics: ultimately, there is very little difference in our common humanity.
of course there will always be a top three on the current medal stand. it is the nature of competition. but we humans are a lot more than a comparison in any one event– even at the olympics. we are not defined by our best or worst race.
to close, here is some wisdom from st paul:
“… To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it. Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” 1 cor 22-27