“I Am An Athlete”

I’m not going to claim to be a huge expert on sports here, but I’m going to have to take issue with a blog post I read on a personal website yesterday. I’m not going to link to the site, because that would be kind of mean, but I reserve the right to complain about it on my own blog! Incidentally, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m remotely of the opinion that sport matters. A post on my premier website, NavtejKohli.com, exemplifies exactly how I really feel about sport, but never mind!

The owner of this particular site spent an entire post complaining about herself in what appeared to be an attempt to have people tell her that she was pretty, thin and athletic. When an anonymous commenter dared to tell her that she was indeed not very athletic (which, incidentally, confirmed what the writer had initially posted), the defensiveness rocketed up to record levels.

I’ll save you the guts of the comments by saying that they revolved around what one must have accomplished in order to call oneself an athlete. While this may be akin to defining “writer”, I think you have to put some parameters on a term like that.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that these people aren’t athletes. Their catchphrase is “I am an athlete” and I simply don’t buy it. When your website is about walking and contains a link to an Emergency ID Tag form just in case you keel over during a race, I don’t think you belong to the same category of people who get up at five every morning, run, swim, ride, row, kayak or (indeed) walk for many hours and many miles.

What these people are accomplishing is great. However, their equally defensive battle cry of “I am an athlete!” is unwarranted. In my opinion, it is also unwarranted to blame your bad athletic performances on injuries. Sure, injuries can hamper your performances, but no one wants to hear about how much faster you could have run or swum if it hadn’t been for your bad knee. There have been plenty of examples of amazing athletic performances completed with rather horrendous injuries, and I thought I’d share one here:

Dick Roth was diagnosed with appendicitis three days before competing in the Olympic final of the 400 meters Individual Medley. The 400 IM is widely considered to be one of the most grueling swimming events along with the 200m butterfly and the 1500m freestyle.

Roth, however, refused medication and surgery, insisting that he compete in his event before being treated. In doing so, he won the race and broke the world record by over three seconds. With appendicitis. Needless to say, the offending organ was removed very soon after his event, but he did manage to achieve the pinnacle of sporting achievement whilst suffering from a ruptured appendix.

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