The ongoing #AG2014 #Incheon2014 has seen some amazing performances from #OurTeamSG and the effectiveness of social media has helped fuel the athletes with local support, something which has been heavily critiqued for being grossly absent. My days of major games are behind me now but I’ve noticed some difference in the approach and attitude of local media.
These days there may seem to be a little too much ‘pat on the backs’. Credit definitely has to be given for effort, but where and how should we draw the line? Has effort properly been evaluated as a best-performance or does a half-arsed effort also deserve any commendation? To give an idea where this is coming from: I raced my first AG in rowling (which also happened to be my first major games), after 3 years in the sport, to the lack-of-delight of the rowling a-sociation. I finished 9th and of course that got me a C grade by the stalate times. At that point in time, did I think I deserve a C? No. Because I thought effort counted for something. I rowled 3 years out of the boathouse at Pandan, literally on my own. I looked for my own coaches who believed in me because no one in the rowling a-sociation ever did and couldn’t be bothered. Did anyone report that prior to me going down under to Mercs to train under Alastair, the previous head coach demanded he get a cut of the prize moolah if I brought home some bling? Did anyone report that I rocked up at the boat park to find out that a boat rental was not arranged for me? Maybe that’s also the athlete’s job. My bad for assuming administrators role is admin. And did anyone report that after hours of wait and eager anticipation I managed to pick up a left over scull which was too small? My bad for having long limbs. I suppose no one outside the circle knew because the 2 hr bus ride from the games village to the rowling site (that makes 4 hrs to and fro) was not worth our own media’s time for a lone competitor who is an outside chance for a medal.
From a high performance perspective, did I deserve a C? Yes. I didn’t come in top-6, which is what is required to qualify for the AG. I taught myself to harden up.
I raced at the SeaG the following year and bombed out in both my events. There was definitely no pat on the back for all the drama I went through: from a coach, who was hired 4 months before the games (I was already at Mercs), kicked out one of chaps in the doubles, threatened that he’ll pull me out of the single if I don’t fill in the double, insisted I cann my stint at Mercs early to train with him (which of course I said no) and he resigned even before I got back. Talk about short term planning. Did anyone report that, EVERYONE else in the team fell ill/sick, Which meant I was pulling a sick dog down the course, 1 hour before my singles finals. My bad for assuming that you get rewarded for being responsible for yourself, staying fighting fit, to give yourself the best possible chance of winning. The exact words from the grand master at rowling afterwards: “You lost, you’re not good enough. We won’t send you to 2012 London Qualifiers.” A slap on the wrist. A slap on the face, if I told you someone else was entered in that race I trained 4 years for.
So I never really got my share of ‘A’ for effort. But if you look back, our athletes were usually harshly judged based on performance. Now there is an effort to paint a fuller picture. It’s an encouraging step forward to building a sporting culture. Let’s hope it’s a genuine attempt to let the public be in the shoes of a professional athlete
At the end of the day, if you’re in it for high performance, my opinion is one of your goals has to be to reel in the bling. That’s just how it is. Maybe I’ve had too many bowls of nails of brekkie. But high performance is not what you go into if all you want is a feel-good rah rah.
So here I am in Bangkok, plugging away with the CCC Shuzenji coaches hoping I’ve made significant progress on my way back into the elite sports system, the hard way, because me and pats-on-back don’t seem to have much in common.