Factors to consider

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

The Olympics have officially begun, and a few of our 19 athletes in Tokyo have experienced problems upon their arrival. Though all things may be considered equal at this level, this is actually a double-edged sword. There are still a handful of factors that may decide whether or not the country gets its coveted gold medal.

Injuries. Figuratively also the most painful thing that could happen to an athlete, particularly is the timing is close to actual competition. Gymnast Carlos Yulo hurt his hip in the final week of training before the Games, and that is always a risk athletes take. Then again, at the 1976 Olympics, eventual gold medalist Sugar Ray Leonard fought most of the way with a broken hand. Playing hurt might actually be the added motivation to outdo the competition.

Equipment. EJ Obiena is used to the poles he vaulted with during the outdoor season in Europe. As of Thursday, there was a question of whether or not they would arrive in Japan. If not, he would have to break in a new one. This is a constant challenge to traveling sports teams, making sure all their gear is there when they need it. There is no masking it if they’re using equipment that they aren’t used to. The results will be vastly different.

Scheduling. This is particularly troublesome for athletes in multiple events. If their heats are scheduled close to one another, they will have to sacrifice the one that they are not as strong in. In combat sports, you may have the misfortune of being matched up against a world or Olympic champion in the early stages, which may spell doom before you even get your campaign into high gear.

Judging. The Olympics will always be vulnerable to political horse trading; it is unavoidable. After all, the events are run by the international federations of each sport, not the International Olympic Committee. At times, athletes are sacrificed as political bargaining chips. That is one reason why there is sometimes questionable judging even at this level.

External factors. Even at the Olympic level, athletes can be distracted. Cases of family tragedy, civil war, genocide, natural disasters can, naturally, affect an athlete’s performance. In his book, “100 Greatest Moments in Olympic History,” Bud Greenspan recounts the story of an Olympic rower who gave up a clear shot at an gold medal to be present at his son’s birth. Fortunately, 24 years later his son won an Olympic gold medal and dedicated it to him.

Experience and adjustments. Of the 19 Philippine athletes in Tokyo, 18 are first-timers. There will be jitters, sleeplessness and other manifestations of nervousness. They will be adjusting to where they are sleeping, what they are eating, and so on. The most mentally strong will not be bothered by these, or any of the other factors, we hope.

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