Spurred by a question posed by 12Kyle on my last post in reference to Usain Bolt's 100m world record, I have been thinking a lot lately about how sad it is that the sport that I have dedicated so much of my life to, which has also given me more than I could have ever imagined, has reached a point where every time someone does an outstanding performance, that performance is undoubtedly going to be questioned and scrutinized.
It's really sad actually. Track and field used to be thought of as the one true sport where you you used your raw talent, speed and power to compete and based on your natural God given ability and how refined your technique was, the best man would win. There are no plays to learn, no teammates to rely on (except in the relays of course), no trick plays, no ways to circumvent the clock, the measuring tape or the bar. You either run the time or you don't, jump the distance or sit down, clear the bar or it's going to fall on the ground and we don't get style points, as I think I mentioned on a post some time ago. We are measured purely on our output, day in and day out.
Even if someone does something fantastic in the middle or early part of the track season and then doesn't step up to the plate when the Big Dance comes, no one will care. In the sport that I love so dearly, it is often said, "You are only as good as your last race". Sad, but true! You'd be amazed at how many times an athlete who was running consistently well in the first half of the outdoor season or during the indoor season has to face the cut throat reality that if the Olympics or World Championships come around and you don't make the finals, all of a sudden those lanes that were open to you in Paris and in Rome in July are all of a sudden unavailable in Zurich and Brussels in August and September. Track is DEFINITELY a fairweather sport and the meet directors and managers make no bones about it. It is what it is as they say.
That being said, I am finding it increasingly disheartening to know that when an athlete does finally make a breakthrough and produces a magnificent result, instead of being rewarded solely with kudos and congratulations, the ominous eye of disbelief and scrutiny looms heavily. I have heard the comments and I have defended many. I am probably too ready to accept, to believe. Just because I NEVER would, I trust and believe that my friends and peers in the sport would never. I am an eternal optimist, almost to a fault. I am probably too trusting and gullible and that sometimes serves me negatively both on and off the track. I am always ready to give someone the benefit of the doubt and I hope against all hopes that my trust and faith will not be dashed. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.
But I am choosing to still have faith in my sport. To believe that when hard work and talent and atmosphere and competition combine themselves, that anything is possible. I am choosing to believe that there are just some athletes that are more talented. There's a reason why 2 athletes can do the exact same workouts with the same coach for a year and one can produce results head and shoulders above the other. Those reasons often lie equally close to talent and technique.
I have made it to the Olympic finals. I have made it to the World Championship finals. I have competed against and beaten Olympic and World Champions and I have NEVER taken any illegal performance enhancing substance of any sort. Heck, I forget to take my multivitamin sometimes so I know what is and isn't possible. Notice, I did not say that I have never failed a drug test. There's a difference because it has become increasingly evident that you can NOT fail a drug test for years and be the dirtiest athlete ever.
Anyway, I am here representing all those of us who do it cleanly, who do it proudly, who do it the hard way - the blood, sweat and tears way, who survive the ups and downs of this sport and who at the end of the day look boldly into the mirror and see ourselves looking back and smile, knowing that our conscience is clear, our character never in doubt and our self-respect in tact.
I gave my best...
4 years ago