Olympian calm

20th February 2010 | Daily Life, Musings | 0 comments

I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics on TV and enjoying the interviews with leading athletes. Two American gold medallists, skier Lindsey Vonn and snowboarder Shaun White, have really stuck in my mind. They looked supremely relaxed and confident, and you could see they weren’t just pretending. They spoke of their joy in racing, their hunger for speed, the thrill of competition. Even injuries and crashes have not dented their desire to get back to the track as soon as possible.

When I watch people like them I feel that nature has set up their nervous systems in a different way to mine. Obviously their physical skill is immense, but it’s not just their skill that makes them different. To be able to stay playfully in control at very high speeds must require a co-operative nervous system and a high tolerance of adrenalin. No amount of training on the ski slopes would ever turn me into an ecstatic downhill racer (all right, stop smiling), because travelling at high speed just makes me feel afraid. Big dippers at the funfair are my idea of hell. When I tried learning to ski I was held back by my fear of falling and injuring my hands. I can marvel at Shaun or Lindsey as they hurtle down the track, but I know I’m seeing someone with a different nervous set-up.

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