The Power of Sport
Updated: Oct 31, 2021
I’m over halfway through quarantine in Howard Springs, and I’ve had far too much time to think.
Now on the other side of a goal that has significantly defined me since I was 13 years old, I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of what I’ve just spent almost half my life striving to achieve. Then, scrolling through social media late one night, unable to sleep, some images of a dirt athletics track on a bare expanse of earth caught my eye.
And they got me thinking; on what sport means to me, and where it may fit into the bigger picture of the world.
Whilst running, riding horses, swimming, sword fighting and shooting may seem outdated, useless, and entirely irrelevant in a modern context, it’s shaped my life and given me enormous amounts of heartbreak, disappointment, anxiety and fear, but even greater amounts of joy. It’s given me friendship, adventure and immense satisfaction, and challenged me to become a better person and grow in ways that I might never have without it.
In Covid times, the impacts of the Olympic Games on home soil in Australia seem more far reaching and profound than ever; even just in my own street, my parents having their own torch relay to somewhat heal the disappointment of not being able to cheer me on in person, brought smiles to the faces of our neighbours, and they increasingly had dog walkers and drivers alike slowing down to check out our house decked out in flags and Olympic paraphernalia. Bringing community together and uniting a nation, and the world, in a time when border closures, frustration, and poor mental health have reigned supreme; sport did that.
On a personal level, I often think the Olympics are akin to attempting the summit of Everest; enticing, taxing, and insane to the extreme, we perversely put ourselves and our team of Sherpas (coaches, medicos, loved ones) through the ringer to do this thing which in itself really serves no purpose. But if you ask a climber why they do it, I imagine they would answer: Because it’s there. Because it’s a challenge. Because they enjoy it. To experience joy, wonder, awe, and to share those experiences with those around us. Sport is no different.
When we transition from club level, to developing junior, to elite level competition, somewhere along the way we think we need to “become serious” in order to achieve our goals. But I believe this couldn’t be further from the truth. Enjoyment and fun, mateship and human connection, and striving to be a better version of yourself; these are, to me, the cornerstones of what sport is about - at EVERY level.
They are why I started doing sport in the first place. And they are why I continue to do sport to this day.
Nothing sums it up to me more than this:
120 children from refugee camps in Syria, inspired by the events of Tokyo 2020, held their own Olympic Games, taking part in high jump, hurdles, discuss and javelin, just to name a few.
No Olympic medals, no world records, no fame or sponsorship or increasing their following on Instagram. Just sport for the sake of coming together, no matter what your circumstances. Sport for the sake of sharing, of testing limits, and of joy.
In my opinion, this is what the Olympic and Paralympic Games are about. THIS is the power of sport.
In July, the Session of the International Olympic Committee approved a change in the Olympic motto that recognises the unifying power of sport and the importance of solidarity – “Faster, Stronger, Higher – Together". And in regards to Tokyo, "Together” truly did sum up the Olympics in one word.