The Sport of Storytelling

Let me start by saying that I’m a big sports fan, so it isn’t really a surprise that I enjoy the Olympics. This year, I got into it so much more than any other. I’d go so far to say that I became obsessed for that two weeks. I became an instant armchair expert in beach volleyball and skilled at critiquing the high-dive.
At the beginning of the Olympics, I said to my husband, “The Olympics can make any sport exciting. Except for golf.” But I remember not being able to get off the couch on a Saturday morning as we watched the Kiwi golfer fight it out for a silver medal.

There are obviously many things at play with this Olympics. The 2020 Olympics that happened in 2021. The games that took place in one of the busiest metropolises in the world in empty stadiums.
The impossible games.

The storytelling of sport. The sport of storytelling.

I love the action, the trials and tribulations. The suspense of a tight game, the glory of a dominant win, the heartbreak of a loss. The drama when the Ref gets it wrong.

I’m enthralled by the teamwork, synchronicity and harmony of athletes finishing each other’s physical sentences. Contrast that with intense aloneness, the in-the-moment-where-nothing-else-exists but that one person and a wave, or an arrow, or 100 meters of earthy brown track, or 50 kilometres of asphalt lined with convenience stores and skyscrapers.

Of course, the biggest story is that of the “impossible games”. The games that many didn’t want – that many believed would never happen. The games that a global pandemic kept at bay and delayed by more than 12 months.

Making it human

Amidst the enormity of the global spectacle lies the stories of each and every athlete, their gruelling journeys, and the sacrifices of those and their families. 

An Australian high-jumper recorded and rated each and every element of each jump: sketching and scribbling in a journal with the world watching over her shoulder as she rode waves of anxiety, belief, fear and adulation seemingly at once.

Despite being the most successful Australian in history, a female boxer was destroyed by missing her chance at a gold medal, “I didn’t come for second. I came here knowing that I could get gold”. And the emotion of doing it for her brother, who was also a boxer and tragically passed away before she was born.

The Aussie Boomers basketball team, whose bronze medal was not only won by the team that hit the court but by the legacy of players, coaches and believers who got them there.

The female wheelchair rugby player who, when asked if she has much to do with the men’s team, responded with “I’m in the men’s team”. Her spine was broken in a car crash as a backseat passenger, and she couldn’t walk, let alone run or kick a ball. But she found a way through sport – through one of the most brutal, tough games around.

Perhaps my favourite story is that of Jarrod Clifford, who lost his vision at an early age and continues to find ways to adapt (and win Olympic medals) as it deteriorates. “Become a Paralympian” was on his to-do list as a kid, and he’s built his incredible life around this. He never wavered. He’s fearless. Inspiring.

Their performances were remarkable, but their story makes them unforgettable.

Header photo by Matt Lee on Unsplash

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