When the good Lord was handing out athletic prowess to Jamaicans, He saw me approaching the top of the line, sighed and said, “No, baby love. I will give you strong carpal tunnels instead, because you’ll be writing writing writing.” I have no physical talents whatsoever, pretty much failing my way through PE every term of the three years I suffered through it in high school. I was also just not interested, so Miss Lyngo had absolutely nothing to work with out there.
My interest in sports is purely from an observer’s standpoint. I am a proud couch potato pundit. My only exertion comes from screaming, jumping, and dang near flipping my furniture as I cheer for my favourites. Being a fan is fun, but it’s also hella hard on my fragile nerves, which is how I know that even if I had been blessed with the talent, I could never make it as an elite, Olympic athlete.
We’ve all seen the videos and memes of American gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents practically hyperventilating in the stands watching her compete. That is me every single time one of my faves is in competition. It’s even more stressful when it’s a Jamaica versus the world situation, because I am a rabid fan of my country and will lose my natural mind while showing my support. And it’s absolute mayhem on my psyche when it comes to athletics, particularly the sprints. I was practically throwing up on Saturday night as I waited for the women’s 100m final at the Rio Olympics. I was cheering for all three Jamaican ladies, but my heart was with my bae Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, so I was nervous enough to faint. I was shaking, pacing, almost crying, almost peeing my pants. So I have to wonder, if I can feel all of this, thousands of miles away, watching on a television, how do the athletes themselves feel? How the heck do they even do this?!
I was chatting with my aunt Sunday night as we awaited the men’s 100m final with king Usain Bolt, and I was telling her how I felt. She was an athlete in high school and college and basically told me that every one of those runners had probably had the runs just before going out there to face the starter and their destinies. In fact, she said “it’s coming out of both ends.” (Ewww!) She said no matter who you are, or how prepared, the immense pressure of the situation gets to you.
Now imagine me, with my nerves, in a situation like that, regardless of the sport. No sah! I’d be shaking like a leaf, bawling, and probably puking. It would be even worse in a high pressure event like the 100m, where there is absolutely no room for error (unless you’re Bolt and can routinely overcome a bad start.) The most pressure I’ve faced in my life was during CSEC exam time in high school, and later in college, where I blacked out upon seeing a difficult question once or twice. Ok, every single exam season. I despised exams. Somehow, I made it through those, but when you have two or three hours in front of you, you can start over those pesky essays a few times til you get your answers right. These Olympians have mere seconds to achieve perfection.
You also have to factor in the added weight of the hopes and expectations of millions of people resting on your shoulders. If you’re a Jamaican, that pressure is at an insane level, because as much as we love our athletes, we also have very short memories and as yu slip, yu slide. So imagine standing there knowing that 2.7 million people back home, plus millions more in the diaspora are parked in front of their TVs or computers, depending on you to start or build a legacy, or to tek shame outta dem eye if things haven’t been going as well as they’d want. If you deliver, you are a god amongst mere mortals. Fail to do so and your name could be cursed even into future generations. No sir. I do not volunteer as tribute.
I also don’t think I’d survive being the parent of an athlete in these situations. My particular brand of rabid support would probably get me kicked out of venues, but in moments like these, I think I’d voluntarily await the results outside. I’d be Aly Raisman’s parents times 100. I’d need somewhere to pace, someone to hold my hand and a paper bag to puke into, lest my nervous stomach erupts unto the people around me in the stands. And all of that tension would probably be transmitted to Tracey Jr and I wouldn’t want that for my kid. Call me a coward, but I would just have to watch the replays afterwards, please and thanks. I’m just not made for that kind of life.
So even though I routinely toss it out there that I’m going to take up one of the ‘big girl’ sports like discus, shot put or hammer throw in time for the next Olympics or World Championships, y’all know that’s a joke. In addition to the lack of mental and intestinal fortitude, I can’t do squat without my glasses and I don’t like the idea of contact lenses, so that’s one strike against me. I’m also hella uncoordinated and have been known to fall over my own two feet, so that’s two. I really hate being sweaty, so that’s three. I’m just rather allergic to physical activity. The yoga mat I bought in May is still sitting in my closet giving me the side-eye.
The only way I could ever become an Olympian is if they open it up to nerdly pursuits like speed reading, or have an event for the most rambunctious fans. Until then, you can catch me on the sidelines hyperventilating and cheering madly.