Olympics lifted us above the mundane
With the exception of the spoilsports, the rest of us came together to cheer as one.
THE Rio Olympics finally arrived and this time we had the best medal haul ever, four silvers and one bronze.
We may not have heard Negaraku being played at the victory ceremonies but we did see the Jalur Gemilang being raised five times, more than ever before. Tell me your heart didn’t burst with pride when you saw that!
The hours put in by our athletes, the hard work, the pain, the sweat, the sacrifice, all of these culminated in these medals.
Of course we are disappointed that we didn’t get a gold but we did come very, very close.
Whatever it is we have world-class Olympians and we should rightly be proud of that. Congratulations to our badminton players, our two synchronised divers and our keirin cyclist!
The Olympics may come only once in four years but for everyone in the world, it’s an opportunity to watch the fittest and strongest compete for sports glory for their countries.
It’s amazing to see the most famous and the least known compete together and sometimes deliver a few surprises.
There seems to be a big difference between competing for individual glory and for your country. Winning for your country seems to be more moving and easily brings out the tears.
And while everyone roots for their own countrypersons, we can all be inspired by the stories of athletes from other countries, especially those who had overcome all odds to come and compete.
This year there was a special team of refugees and although none of them won anything, understandably given their circumstances, watching them participate highlighted their humanity and reminded us that refugees have abilities just like anyone else.
We watched athletes who never gave up, no matter how badly things turned out for them.
Sandra Perkovic, the defending champion and discus-thrower from Croatia had two fouls (disqualified throws), which put her at risk of elimination before she threw one so good that she won the gold.
If you’re a champion, you don’t let failure discourage you, you give your all one last time.
For us in Malaysia, once again the Olympics is the opportunity to come together to root for our national athletes.
We forget our differences, settle ourselves in front of our TVs preferably with friends and family, and yell encouragement to our fellow Malaysians competing at the highest level.
We laugh together, we smack our foreheads in frustration together, we cry together and we cheer together. For a short while we are united.
But there are always spoilsports. Apparently some people think that commenting on the most inane matters is more likely to get them to heaven than compliments for sporting achievement.
There was the newspaper which described a silver medal as disappointing while celebrating a bronze medal in another event. Unsurprisingly, these mean-spirited headlines caused much consternation.
As expected, the crotch-watchers and tut-tutters were out in force, ready to police what our female athletes wore rather than how they performed.
Someone actually described Pandelela Rinong’s outfit as ‘incomplete’ although it is unclear what sport it was incomplete for.
It was certainly correct for her sport, diving.
Interestingly enough, there was no excessive praise for the female athletes who wore ‘religiously correct’ outfits, perhaps because they didn’t get very far in their events.
Ultimately, you just have to watch the female team events such as synchronised diving or gymnastics to realise that the hundreds of hours of practice it takes to get their routines perfect matter so much more than their costumes.
These armchair critics can make mean comments all they want but how many of them can say that they have stood on the world stage, competed with the best in the world and actually beat some of them?
How many of them can one day tell their grandchildren that they were Olympians, and even medallists, members of a very exclusive club?
I watched the athletes at the victory ceremonies and had to recognise that that is an experience I will never have.
It’s a truly humbling realisation.
Indeed humility, with a few exceptions, seems to be the stock character of top athletes.
Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s first ever gold medallist, could hardly believe he had beat his hero Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly event.
Mo Farah, the British distance runner, has dedicated every gold medal he has won to each of his four children.
We watched so many winners thank God first for their win before showing their joy.
Every four years we watch the ultimate sporting event with all their triumphs and heartbreaks and learn a few things about dedication and passion.
And for a few weeks we take a tiny break from the negativity, bloodymindedness and dishonesty we have to face around us every day.
25 August 2016