Ever since a week ago, I wanted to be an Olympian. Growing up these past 7 days, I kept thoughts of the dream close to my heart and at the forefront of my mind. The thrill of competition, the stories to pass down generations, the international lifestyle of a high-level athlete.
At first, I considered the Winter Olympics. Though it may come as a surprise, Australia is not known for its prowess upon the snow. Around these parts, the snow doesn’t come to you – you have to come to it. As such, one would imagine the national competition to be somewhat lacking. You may be right. Joining the national ice hockey team, I thought, seemed an achievable goal. The Mighty Roos, destined for glory. However, while I may have been destined for the Mighty Roos, the Mighty Roos were far from destined for Olympic qualification. The stats, they don’t look good. The qualification record is conspicuously empty of AUS, many years running. Dreams of ice hockey, I barely knew you.
Slalom, moguls, skiing and snowboarding – I’ll know my limits and leave that to the Nords and the Canadians. Not sure I can afford the 3 hour drives up to the snow every weekend to work on my cross country, so sadly Australia loses another hopeful.
Curling seemed an option. The Commonwealth Games plays host to lawn bowls, which holds a special place in my heart. Curling, for the most part, seems like lawn bowls without the lawn. A game of strategy, which assumedly does not age-gate the sport as harshly as, say, gymnastics. I may be 15 years too late to start that one. For these positives however, it was not a sport which spoke to me. I admire athleticism, yet it may be a quality less prevalent in the sport of the curl. Curling champions and aficionados, your rebuttals appreciated.
This leaves us with the gamut of Summer sports. Track and field, we cross them off the list. Fiercely competitive, but moreover universally popular. I need something with less footing in the public consciousness, where a plucky, committed upstart can rise through the ranks on grit and determination alone.
Investigation into team sports was also less than promising, for the same and different reasons. Understandably, basketball, volleyball and other bread-and-butter team sports have no shortage of talent, yet a shortage of places on the national team. However, even one such as water polo, with a notable absence of social water polo teams amongst Australian’s young adult population, presents difficulties. The road to the top spot is slow and gradual. Joining a local team, performing well in a season, being scouting for a state team, completing yet another astounding season and being picked up for the national team… Many years of playing, with no clear route to the Olympics. Not mentioning, again, the lack of a consistent appearance by Australia in Olympic level water polo.
A few others, researched then abandoned, be it from age limitations or other barriers to entry (even badminton, while more forgiving than gymnastics, has a retirement age of which I am fast approaching). Yet all is not lost. Or rather – all was lost, but for one. Having done the research, seen the stats on height, age, handedness, and saw that I could lie along its distribution of World Champions (admittedly, not on the peak but the tails), I chose my sport.
En garde. Pret. Allez. Every great Olympic fencer was, once, not a fencer at all. Soon, I’ll take those first steps.
See you in Paris, 2024.