I crossed a threshold some where here int the last 6 months…or 3 months….or 3 weeks. I am not really sure when. As you approach the Olympics you tend to take this graceful departure from reality. Everything around you fades into the background and at a certain point you stop making decision based on the same perimeters as everyone else in the world. It funnels you towards being extremely one dimensional. This is ironic because Olympians and pro or high level athletes in general are always asked to be these dynamic ambassadors of their country, sport, even gender. This means representing your sponsors appropriately and even in a way that is engaging but still on a level that can communicate to the common denominator. It also means being in a position where, if you are aware and choose to, you can influence the course of peoples lives, by providing inspiration which can be either positive or negative. That is why I find this contradiction so intriguing. Why is it that the general populace look towards us to be the standing pillars of something that seems to be the antithesis of our profession.
Everything about the Olympic experience seems to be “flattening”. You become more and more personally focused. Even to the point where you ask others to only focus on your needs. My wife is constantly having to plan her, eating, sleeping, activities and even phone calls around my needs. My coaches, staff and team mates are no different. I have even given up many of the activities that make me dynamic in favor of “the ideal” situation. It made me wonder how this simplified selfish monasticism can create so many good global ambassadors.
I think it is almost like deprivation training. The act of focus removes all the distractions and stimuli that normal people have all around them. When these become re introduced the best athlete ambassadors embrace them and appreciate them so much more. They take advantage of all the new options. I think this is why you hear so many high level athletes say “I would never have made it to where I am today with my sport”. It is not that their training or expertise has contributed to their success in a direct way. It is that the experience of refining that skill has turned them into a sponge. They have learned the value of experience. I think this is also why so many good ambassadors seem to have a split personality. As they focus down towards the ideal they can become different people, not bad, just different. It is not a negative change as long as they are aware of what they are doing and why. Then when they can “soak up” the world around them they suddenly have an excitement and vigor for the experiences of the world. This is what makes them inspirational. It is not just that they do these extraordinary things in sport, it is that they have this vigor and energy for all other experiences in spite of being involved in something that seems so much bigger to the average onlooker. Inspiration comes from the fact that someone that has been to such remarkable levels can have a genuine excitement about everything else. I know growing up I was inspired by athletes that where in the shoes I wear now. I also wondered how they could be so optimistic about the possibilities around them. Now I know, or think I know it is because of that deprivation. That exit from reality, that self centered objectivism, preps the body just like training does. It creates a child like optimism about all the other things out there. The good ambassadors recognize that and have a need to share that excitement and help others see part of the potential they see. Other athletes can get stuck in a downward spiral of “me” and there world will sort of collapse in on them.
For me I am truly looking forward to the soaking up. I am very excited about the Olympics and competing don’t get me wrong. It is priority one. But I know I am looking forward to spreading an excitement for life and all its experiences.