Finding the right path after the Olympic tempest
ATHLETICS:ONLY 1,434 more days until Rio, and another 10 more days until the release of Tempest: it doesn’t matter whether the earth is flat or round, because time is not always linear, it is relative – and possibly explains why the next Olympics actually seem a lot closer right now than the first listen to Bob Dylan’s 35th studio album.
Indeed Einstein always said time is an illusion, albeit a persistent one – and you don’t need to be Einstein to understand that time slows down near big objects. If the London Olympics were the biggest single moment in the lives of all those athletes who took part, only they can understand how in the sudden and empty aftermath time has stood still, maybe even taken on a new dimension.
Dylan describes Tempest as a record where “anything goes, and you just gotta believe it will make sense” – and he could well be talking about the tempest that follows the Olympics, where the only meaning of life is life itself. No wonder, after so many Irish athletes spoke of their lives being on total hold in the months before London, and how many of them had nothing whatsoever planned or in place for post 12/8/12 – no races, no job, no money, and in some cases, no place to live or sleep.
The Paralympics are providing a nice reminder of the Utopian world that exists when sporting events have the ability to suspend time, and they must be a reminder too that for many of the Irish athletes that competed in the London Olympics, their time has come and gone – their faces and names now masked and anonymous. A lot of athletes I know are closet philosophers, or at least think too much. They’re often heard talking about learning from experience, and sometimes it’s not enough to know the meaning of things; sometimes we have to know what things don’t mean as well, and it’s only when time starts all over again that we can understand what the world is really like.
Rob Heffernan, Derval O’Rourke, Deirdre Ryan, Paul Hession, Joanne Cuddihy, Olive Loughnane: these are just some of the athletes that had every hour of every day planned out well in advance of London, and had nothing definite planned for afterwards. It’s as if their lives after that point were left completely unresolved, another reflection of exactly how consuming the so-called Olympic cycle can become.
So, instead of it being all about the here and now, it’s all about the there and then – and there are different ways of cashing in on that guilt. It’s the difference between ignoring a problem and embracing it, and while for years some Irish athletes inevitably ran into problems after the Olympics, the Irish Institute of Sport are now embracing them through their perfectly-timely Athlete Performance Transition Programme.
It might sound a little flippant, even theoretical, but the Athlete Performance Transition Programme may well prove the most critical role of the Institute of Sport, which despite some lingering reservations, has filled some critical roles already.
It’s no coincidence that Gary Keegan, the former performance director the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, is now leading the Institute team, and with that recognised the need for post-Games support. Keegan saw exactly how some athletes struggled post-Beijing, four years ago, none more than some of the boxers he helped guide towards Olympic medals. Seven months after winning silver in Beijing, Kenny Egan went AWOL – later admitting that drink had driven his boxing career down the drain, and only thanks to family and friends was he able to save it.