And just like that Rio 2016 has come to an end. The Team GB athletes are back on British soil and, for some of them, back competing at their chosen sports. But what can we take from the Olympics and use in our daily lives as people who want to live healthily?
For me, the unquestionable winner was hard work and determination. The “it’s the taking part that counts” narrative took a back seat to a competitive drive and spirit that embodied the entire GB team. With watching sports that you probably only see once every four years, you can often forget that these people train day-in, day-out, year after year. But no medal was a fluke, none of it happened by accident. Every athlete who came away with a medal, and even those who didn’t, were only in a position to compete because they stuck at their sport and worked painfully hard for years on end.
Natural talent shone through in equal measure. Is there nobody on the planet who trains as hard as Usain Bolt? Does he work at sprinting more than anybody else on the planet? I wouldn’t insult the countless other sprinters by suggesting that is the case. Call it accident, call him a product of evolution, either way there is no doubt that Usain Bolt is a naturally gifted sprinter. And every athlete participating at the top of their sport has been dealt a lucky hand in being born with a huge amount of natural talent. But there are plenty of talented people in the world. They aren’t all Olympic gold medallists of course.
The dark cloud over the Olympics was cast by that of the doping scandal. As much as I enjoyed the past fortnight, it was difficult to see every athlete aboard the podium without wondering what cocktail of drugs could have helped them achieve the gold. I don’t know if it is naive to imagine that every victorious athlete was clean or if it is cynical to believe none of them were. My guess is that the reality is somewhere in between the two. Was every athlete doping? No. Was every athlete clean? Almost definitely not. All we can hope for is that the doping authorities continue to catch those aiming to cheat and keep the games as clean as possible.
The reason this is so important is quite obvious. The use of performance enhancing drugs in the health and fitness community has increased. But most people go to the gym as a hobby. They aren’t competing and the use of drugs that would be banned if you were an athlete, assuming they aren’t illegal, aren’t prohibited. So is it morally wrong? Well this question goes beyond the health ramifications, which are of course dependent upon which performance enhancer you decide to take. The idea of the Olympics is to push the human body to its limits. For me, this answers the question of doping. It isn’t about who has access to the best scientist or who knows the most experienced doctor. The Olympics are about humans training to get the most out of the body they were born with. And that same feeling of satisfaction just can’t be met with steroid use and doping.
So what now for Team GB? Well we go onto Tokyo hoping to beat the medal haul of 67 that we have accomplished in Rio. And we aim to do that by training as hard as possible to maximise our own individual natural talent, without the use of banned substances. If that isn’t a message for anyone who wants to train then I don’t know what is. Not everyone will be an Olympian. But there is no reason why we can’t all develop an Olympian-like mentality towards training. Rio 2016 was a victory for hard work and impassioned determination. Transferring that into our training can only lead to success in the future.