Every four years I’m haunted. Sitting on the lounge at home taking it in, I just know it could have been me up there. Behind the blocks, at the ceremony, on the dais. I had the lot you know; natural talent, a killer instinct, self-discipline and a willingness to learn.
I used to wonder, “with so much ability, where did I go wrong?”
Thankfully, for me at least, the London 2012 coverage has seemingly uncovered what I was missing – alarmingly overbearing parents.
The Olympics is about celebrating the exceptional performance of athletes. While thankfully this is still the focus of the Games’ television coverage, there seems an increased priority from executive land on the ‘back story’, where we delve into the adversity, circumstances and family life of the competitors we’re watching.
It’s been decided the viewer doesn’t just want to see who wins, but where they’ve come from and what their parents think.
The media has presumed that in the world of two-way communication and social conversation, that because we can learn more about those we admire, we want to.
Ryan Lochte’s mum speak about his preference for short courtships provided a thrilling, absolutely unnecessary insight.
“He goes out on one-night stands,” Mrs Lochte proudly announced to a global audience. “He’s not able to give fully to a relationship because he’s always on the go.”
Hmmm. Mama, we gotta talk.
Youtube is currently going crazy with the reactions of American gymnast Aly Rahman’s parents, who wriggled uncomfortably, comically, and it must be said quite naturally through their daughter’s Olympic routine.
Australia’s backstroker Emily Seebohm stoked the fire here at home with a poolside interview after (only) managing silver where she said “I feel like I have disappointed my parents. It’s really tough.”
While concern abounded as to whether Seebohm would be forced to walk back to the Olympic Village as punishment for her failure, her off-the-cuff, heat-of-the-moment statement was compounded by a subsequent PR push that even saw Mrs Seebohm interviewed on a national current affairs program, where she reaffirmed her pride in her daughter’s performance. Cringe.
I’m absolutely not saying that elite athletes need, or are the result of, intrusive and aggressive parents. That would be a remarkably simplistic and ignorant generalisation. However, the contribution and sacrifice of parents in assisting their children is more apparent in some sports. In swimming and gymnastics, for instance, athletes are identified at early ages and driven endlessly to and from training sessions. Juggle this with work, eating and raising other family members, and parents are justifiably proud of their contribution to their child’s success.
But crediting the parent is the athlete’s prerogative, not the media. Give me the event, information behind it and details about the competitors. The rest is up to us.