Like most people, I’ve been transfixed by the World Athletics Championships from the comfort of my sofa. You wouldn’t think so to look at me now, but I used to be a keen sprinter and would happily participate in other events such as the high jump and middle distances to earn points for our athletics team. Then middle age and a love of food/beer took over and now the only time I exercise is when I get exercised by the self-service tills in the supermarket and such like.
So the last athletics event I watched was small son’s school sports day a couple of weeks ago. The school had drawn out lanes going downhill across the field along with gazebos aplenty. The children were divided into their houses (small son had happily been cheering the successes of all four so I wasn’t sure which one he was in until day) and were summoned up when required to the start line of the running races which also doubled as the venue for the throwing events.
When it came to his turn, I observed him sprint competitively to the start line. Four of them lined up and the race was started faltering by an older child who couldn’t decide whether to say “1,2,3 GO!” or “one your marks” and was so confused by this that he allowed one of the competitors an absolutely appalling false start, while the rest, including small son, dawdled gamely to the finish line.
Without having the opportunity for me to explain the concept of racing, he was back on the start line – this time for the hurdles, while parents, other children and stray jumpers multiplied across the running track and behind the finish line (which was incidentally being held by two girls who kept chatting and then letting go of the finish line before the runners had reached it, rendering it useless). Small son then took part in the hurdles where he was so busy waving at me and congratulating himself on successfully negotiating the first one that he swanned in second, completely oblivious to the concept of racing or competition. Compare that to when I jokingly suggest we race to the house and he throws a tantrum if I edge in front of him.
Having said that, the mums race was split into two halves and I only came third in mine. I did have a dislocated knee and 20 years on the winner though.
Having watched the heartbreak of the Botswana athlete who was refused entry to the World Championships tonight, I wonder if the school sports day might be deliberately chaotic to help future sports stars deal with heartbreak?