Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Giants in our lifetime

In the last 15 years, we have been privileged to see giants. These are the individuals who can push back barriers and change our perceptions of what can be done.

Before my lifetime came Roger Bannister - the first man to run a sub four minute mile. Until he came along, it couldn't be done and now? Well if you can't run well under that number, you aren't remotely competitive. So what did he do?

He moved the bar and everyone followed. It helped that there was great rivalry from another runner who was so close to the mark but I don't remember his name. He wasn't the first.

Tiger Woods is also one such athlete. He arrived on top of his game and totally dominated the golf scene. All the others were left trailing in his wake. Either they had to change their belief systems or get left behind.

He revolutionised golf, expressing his feelings on the course (no doubt to the dismay of the old guard), in his training methods and his desire for perfection. And now, Tiger is not guaranteed to win every event he enters.

Roger Federer is yet another who perfected his tennis game and the only real challenger who could rise to those levels is Rafael Nadal. These two have titanic battles and none of the other men come close...yet. There are some who on a good day fear no one and beat these two but they have yet to consistently reach those sublime heights of skill and composure.

Lance Armstrong raised the bar for the Tour De France, dominating it totally for seven years. Single minded focus and a properly drilled team took him further than any other rider. Naturally gifted, he used his obsessiveness to create a legend that still keeps his younger rivals guessing.

Perhaps this is a sport that will take time to respond as in his absence of three years, only Alberto Contador has achieved significant success winning all three of the cycling "majors". But the youngsters are coming.

Which brings me to the man who has single handedly raised athletics back to an A list sport. The wonderful, incredible Usain Bolt. The dour IOC was unhappy about his antics at the Olympics last year when he broke the world record in the 100m. But what do they know.

The crowds love the man. He performs non stop for the cameras but when it is time to excel, he rips the heart out of world records that "couldn't be beaten". Another world record in the 100m and 200m in Berlin and record numbers of viewers watching the Athletics World Champs.

These are charismatic leaders who consistently cause us to see what is possible - and all of this in the face of ongoing detractors who find reasons to dismiss their achievements. The negative naysayers who would have us stay in our small cocoons of comfort never challenging, never improving, never shattering any myths.

I choose to believe in these giants for the joy and the awe they bring to us.

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