Who’d want to be a swimmer anyway?

So I’ve been watching the Olympic swimming every night. As an Australian I’m programmed to do this. I’ve also been brainwashed to expect that Australia will dominate the pool, which obviously we haven’t.

I even went to the swimming the other night! See, this is me. Us Aussies are hardcore.

Fine attire

I know there’s a great deal of debate around whether winning a medal at the Olympics is the most important thing, or if just taking part is as good. In case you were wondering, in my view winning a medal is important – find me an athlete who goes to the Olympics not to win a medal .. you don’t get endorsements and magazine deals for coming 7th or even 2nd, but that’s another discussion altogether.  I know if we go here it will end up as an argument about ‘setting good examples to our kids’ and, well, I’m not into debating good vs bad parenting (on that note I have four kids – I do my best and don’t really care how you parent yours as long as you love, nurture and protect them). Anyway, moving on.

Watching these swimmers win their races and get up to receive their medals and hear their USA national anthem, I couldn’t help but wonder ‘what next’? What do you do with your life after you’ve hit your peak? When you’re a swimmer at that level what else do you do except eat billions of calories, train and stare at the bottom of a pool all day? How do you focus on anything else in your life when all your determination is going towards trying to get an Olympic medal?

Arguably our most successful swimmer, Ian Thorpe, is now commentating with the BBC here in London. Yep great when you can get gigs like that but once every four years isn’t much. Okay he would have sponsorship income, etc. but he’s the only one I can think of who’d be generating a significant income on the back of his successful swimming career. Is it worth it?

Surely when you’re dedicating so much of your life to swimming other things suffer, most importantly an education. How do you compete at competitive level and also forge out a career in something else to fall back on when the inevitable happens – age? 

Don’t get me wrong, I think these athletes are a-m-a-z-i-n-g and I love the Olympics .. but would I want my kids going down that road? No. I might be missing something, but to me it just seems like a hell of a lot of sacrifice for only a handful of people in the world who can make genuine long-term careers out of their swimming. 

Just saying.


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