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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Usain Bolt practised social distancing ! Covid stoppage is good for Laura

World Wars threatened existence of mankind – there have been plagues and pandemics – but none ever imagined that such a situation would prevail.  Covid-19 has stalled everything and has stopped the World from rotating ! – the way people were moving in the World has been changed and challenged, if not stopped !

Still the stoppage  is different,  working to their advantage – for some – take the example of  Laura Wilkinson, a 42-year-old mother  working hard to making return to competitive diving after under-going spinal fusion surgery – to her, a year delay in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is not a bad thing - it's a gift. For those wondering why a mother of four is throwing herself off a 10-metre tower, you have to look back two decades when Wilkinson's name might have been familiar. It was a new millennium and Wilkinson, despite being hobbled by a broken foot, had just spectacularly won gold on the 10-metre platform at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Her triumph ended Chinese domination of the event stretching back to the 1984 Los Angeles Games. No American woman diver has won Olympic gold in any diving discipline since.

Comebacks have long been a staple of the sporting genre but Wilkinson's return has all the elements of a unique feel-good story. Her journey not only evokes memories of Tiger Woods' comeback following career-saving back surgery, but also exhibits the same kind of determination Serena Williams has shown in returning to competition after giving birth. To top it off, Wilkinson will also be facing an element of danger that neither Woods or Williams have to contend with when they are swinging a club or a racket respectively. Living with the risk that one small miss-step while crashing into the water at 38 mph might leave you a paraplegic adds another layer of drama to what is already a compelling return. Throw in a coronavirus pandemic that has turned the sporting world upside down and delayed the 2020 Tokyo Games for a year, Wilkinson, should she earn one of two spots on the US squad, will be 43 when she steps onto the Olympic tower again. Her goal is not just to climb back to the top of an Olympic 10-metre platform but to stand on top of the podium by becoming the oldest woman diver to win gold.

Olympics is very interesting and challenging ! ~ with  57 athletes, India headed to the 2008 Beijing Olympics with its biggest contingent at the time and came back with its most successful medal haul till then, with a first-ever individual gold medal courtesy of shooter Abhinav Bindra icing the treat. Aside from the gold, India also bagged two bronze medals, thus improving on India’s two prior performances at the 1900 Paris Olympics where Norman Pritchard won two silver medals, and the 1952 Helsinki Olympics that saw the India hockey men’s team and Dadasaheb Jadhav win a gold and bronze medal respectively. Beijing 2008 whetted India’s appetite for what was to come in the following edition when India would double its record with six medals.

In every Olympics or perhaps in every Athletic event, the most attractive one is 100m dash.   The brain is the unseen muscle behind all great athletes. In the 100-metre sprint it has to work on autopilot.   The moment the starting pistol is fired, the brain sends a signal to the muscles and everything goes into automatic mode. A runner’s body remains low, muscles contract to create the force necessary to push against the starting blocks. Then it’s time to accelerate. At least halfway into the race, athletes hit maximum velocity. Now the foot strikes the ground with a force equal to more than three times body weight. It’s a huge impact. The braking phase and the push-off phase must be equal to maintain maximum velocity.

The greatest race in the Olympics is the simplest. It is over in less than 10 seconds ! Eight runners, eight straight lines. A bang, an explosion of muscle and, less than ten seconds later, a winner. And all they do is run. No bikes, boats, vaults or horses – just one foot in front of the other. Yet, in those three dozen blinks of an eye, sprinters in the 100m perform physical feats so advanced that scientists are still trying to understand them.

With the world coming to a standstill due to the coronavirus outbreak, leaders and eminent personalities across the globe have called for social distancing and staying indoors and the legendary Usain Bolt has given his own spin to the directive by posting a picture of him winning an Olympic sprint way ahead of his competitors. Taking to Twitter, he posted the picture from the finishing line and wrote: "Social Distancing” !

Sportspersons across the globe have called for people to stay indoors as we fight the pandemic that has taken lives all over the world. In fact, PM Narendra Modiji  recently spoke to sports personalities in India and asked them to keep spreading awareness as the country fights the outbreak. "As our Honourable Prime Minister, Shri @NarendraModi ji just announced, the whole country is going into a lockdown starting midnight today for the next 21 days. My request will remain the same, PLEASE STAY AT HOME. #SocialDistancing is the only cure for Covid 19," Kohli had tweeted after the announcement of the lockdown till April 14. It has now been extended till May 3. BCCI President Sourav Ganguly had also urged all to stay at home and said that citizens across the world should listen to what their government says. "Let''s fight this together .. we will get over this. Be sensible and do not try things. Listen to what the state government says," he had said in a video tweet.

Eight-time Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt is encouraging people to social distance by showing off how he’s been practicing the cautionary act since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  The fastest man on the planet became a track phenom at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Bolt dominated the 100m dash, setting the then world record with a 9.69 second sprint. At the tail-end of the race, Bolt – who was easily a few steps ahead of his competitors – broke form and put his arms out to the side in a truly iconic moment. Even the showboating didn’t stop the famous sprinter from setting a world record.

Bolt reminded us all of that iconic moment in his latest tweet on Sunday. The fastest sprinter of all-time sent out a “social distancing” meme for Easter Sunday.  The Jamaican world record holder lightheartedly included a photo of him crossing the finish line way ahead of his opponents at, what looks to be, the government-recommended six-foot distance people should keep from each other during these unprecedented times.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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