Olympians are people, too. We think that they’re invincible, that they can touch Heaven over and over, and every time they walk into the arena they have hitherto owned. We touch success through them, and we are so overcome, overwhelmed, by the feeling that we forget they’re not automatons. That they’re at the top isn’t because they can create magic with the flick of a wrist. It’s because they have learned to turn talent into a weapon through long hours of work, days of perseverance, months of focus, years of rote. Nothing is given., and nothing is a given.
It’s ironic that we feel our sports heroes are one with us when they separate themselves from us. They test limits and give us glimpses of what we can achieve. It’s why we cheered when Hidilyn Diaz won gold, because, through her, we believed we won — and were — gold as well. In truth, it’s the opposite. Like us, she’s not perfect. Like us, she will have bad days. And, like us, those bad days make the singular ones all the more memorable.
Why, then, are we hard on our champions? We questioned why Naomi Osaka withdrew in the middle of the French Open and skipped Wimbledon altogether. We cringed when Simone Biles sought to take a break from competition. We shook our heads when Katie Ledecky showed her mortality. We saw their actions as quitting instead of coping, never mind that we ourselves know we need to first survive in order to thrive.
We each of us have our own Everests to climb, our own burdens to carry on our shoulders. We do so for a great many reasons, but mainly because our needs intertwine with our wants. In our exemplars, we find hope, and we feel let down when that hope is seemingly crushed by unforeseen outcomes. It shouldn’t be. After all, Olympians are people, too, and it’s precisely because they are also one of us — and also us — that we should celebrate them all the more.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.