Inspiration! How does a country, a team or an individual muster enough inspiration to transform a poor performance into a good performance and a good performance into a ‘gold’ winning brilliant performance? The 2012 Olympics are full of such stories, but the phenomenal success of British athletics in Beijing and at home in London is [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

After all Inspiration is not a bad word


Inspiration! How does a country, a team or an individual muster enough inspiration to transform a poor performance into a good performance and a good performance into a ‘gold’ winning brilliant performance?

The 2012 Olympics are full of such stories, but the phenomenal success of British athletics in Beijing and at home in London is awe inspiring.  This time we have enough inspiration to write on the subject of inspiration and also to take the message back home about what we have experienced here in London and compare it with what inspiration we are left with, back there.

Here on this large European island there are over 60 million subjects who are charged with inspiration and do not hide their voices. Always they let the British athletes know that they are behind them and more often than not the athletes reciprocate.

This picture says a lot. After ending up last at the Beijing Olympics, Farah showered himself with ‘gold’ in London. This is what you call inspiration.

So much so that while the two sporting giants on the globe, the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, are grappling with each other like two anacondas to get to the top of the table, Team GB almost unnoticed is shooting up and right now is in third place – grabbing some of the ‘golds’ which would have gone to the giants otherwise. They have definitely pipped the third in the last Olympics – Russia.  Yet by the time you read this you will know what the final outcome is. Would the Chinese athletes have achieved what they achieved in Beijing?

Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin, regarded as the father of the modern games, visited England just before the turn of the previous century and studied the programme of physical education instituted by Thomas Arnold at the Rugby School. This gave him inspiration to form the Olympic Movement.

The British who invented some of the modern games as shown in their Olympic prologue had once arguably lost their flair, but within the last decade or so have come back, through sheer determination and inspiration, to be brilliant.How do they do it? In the midst of a strict sporting regime which is meant for a harvest of ‘gold’, there are some out-of-the-box inspirational stories. Within the first two days or so the ‘golds’ were going but the hosts had none. Then quite unexpectedly Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won the coxless pairs with a stunning performance that sparked a mass outpour of celebration and relief across the country.

The magic is that Glover was not a competing rower until eighteen months ago but a National Lottery-funded Sporting Giants talent identification programme brought her into the limelight and produced Olympic ‘gold’.The inspiration does not stop there. The 10,000 meter ‘gold’ winner Somalian-born Mo Farah ended up last at the Beijing Olympics four years ago. That did not deter the system. They saw the inborn talent and put Farah through the mill.

He even moved to the United States for his training with Galen Rupp and produced a 53-second last lap to take the ‘gold’.
Galen Rupp has run so many miles with training partner Mo Farah that it’s only natural for him to follow his good friend’s lead. This time, Farah led Rupp straight to an Olympic medal. Rupp was the surprise silver medalist in the 10,000-meter race, staying close to Farah the entire race. The British runner crossed the finish line first, a look of awe sweeping across his face.

In Beijing, Great Britain got a total medal count of 47 — the second highest it has ever achieved, with only the 1908 Games resulting in more medals. Now they have definitely overhauled that mark.
That is the narration about the inspiration of a nation.

Moving back home I keep wondering why Sri Lanka even bothers to take part in events of this magnitude. Events for which we are not geared or prepared to compete in earnest. Events that we take part in just to make up the numbers in the final count. Events that we take part in so that the organisers could say at the end of the day, “Living with the spirit of the Olympics there were 12000 athletes representing 204 countries at the 2012 London Olympic Games.”

Prior to the games, the National Olympic Committee is a hive of activity. There are preparations. For what? To take some ill prepared ‘no hopers’ along with a posse of officials on a joy ride.

At the opening ceremony it was witnessed that an official from the Ministry of Sports was doing the trek. It is not the fault of that person. It is the fault of the so and so who was responsible for letting that person walk in the middle. Is that inspiration?

At the end of the shooting contest, teary-eyed soldier Mangala Samarakoon shot down the officialdom for the absence of his coach. If the system says that Samarakoon was a wildcard and there was no sufficient time to get accreditation for a coach then they should have also left the competitor at home. Yet, like Mo Farah, there is talent in this guy. The tragedy is that the officialdom in Sri Lanka cares less. If not for Samarakoon they may pick another competitor who is willing to make the trip even without a coach. This is the defeatist mentality that has been inculcated in our circles.

As long as there are wildcards Sri Lanka is happy. It will take part in the Olympics to keep the spirit of the games.
We at this end feel the Lankan Olympics is all about the lackeys and so-called high-officials in the ring, and once that happens who cares about the competitors?

What we are harping on is preparation. If a competitor like Samarakoon is nurtured and prepared with an investment, when he takes part he is ready for the event physically and mentally. He may be able to do better. Rifle shooting does not need most of the ingredients that are needed in most of the other sports. The biggest factor is how prepared the athlete is. That is mostly mental.

Sri Lanka should ascertain what our strong points are and areas where we could excel. Like Ethiopia going for the long distance events, go for that and forget the rest. When Susanthika Jayasinghe took part in the Sydney Olympics at the turn of the century, the entire country knew there was something special. A nation was inspired. She was one competitor who could have brought home the ‘gold’ and the nation backed her.

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