On Aug. 21, the Olympic Flame for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was extinguished, signifying the end of what many believed to be a historic and memorable competition. From Michael Phelps sealing his legendary swimming career to Usain Bolt reasserting his historic prowess in Olympic sprinting, one could safely conclude that the 2016 Rio Olympics truly were one to remember.
Junior Ryan Gilbert, a swimmer for RBHS, is just one of many who believed the 2016 Rio Olympics were great to watch.
“I think as whole, these Olympic Games were fantastic. With everything happening in the world, watching everyone come together to compete was great,” Gilbert said. “Swimming wise, it was awesome to watch swimmers like Phelps finish such an amazing career with such success. Overall, my favorite part of the games was the men’s 200 meter [individual medley] final.”
Even weeks after the closing ceremony, however, the flame of athletic inspiration the Games ignited is still evident in aspiring athletes like Gilbert. According to a report retrieved from Statista, a total of 57.3 percent of surveyed 11-15 year old youth in the United Kingdom felt motivated to take part in a sport after the 2012 Olympic Games in London, indicating an increased sense of competition and athleticism.
“Obviously, the effort to achieve at the highest level is motivational to elite athletes who have the opportunity to compete in the Olympics,” John Bartholomew, a professor at the University of Texas who has a Ph.D. in Health Science, said. “For other athletes, it depends upon whether they can find similarities in the Olympics for their own experience. They may not compete at that level, but the stories of effort and preparation can resonate for all athletes.”
One may wonder why such a large number of people would be so inspired from a simple sporting event. A possible factor is the glory associated with Olympic success; after all, the best athletes in the Games receive global recognition, money and fame. For Gilbert, however, watching world-class swimmers such as Phelps execute with elegant precision was the factor which inspired motivation within himself. It led him to begin improving on his own technique in the pool with other technical aspects of swimming.
“As a swimmer and as an athlete in general, I was absolutely motivated to be a better competitor,” Gilbert said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time focusing on the underwater parts of my swimming, which become so important when racing. Watching the Olympics, I saw how important underwater kicking is in backstroke. So, it’s something I’ve been working on. Goal wise, a lot of my goals are time-based. I’m trying to reach the time requirement for Speedo Winter Junior Nationals and some of my personal goal times in the 100 and 200 yard backstroke.”
As previously mentioned by Bartholomew, inspirational stories of Olympic preparation can also serve to motivate athletes. Gilbert, for example, felt particularly motivated by the story of Olympic breaststroke swimmer Cody Miller. Miller was born with pectus excavatum, a disorder which makes his chest appear pushed in. It dramatically reduced his lung capacity and limited his athletic capability since the beginning of his swimming endeavors.
Despite this, he still managed to overcome his setback and earned a bronze medal in the men’s 100 meter breaststroke and a gold medal in the men’s 4×100 meter medley relay in the 2016 Olympics.
“As someone who’s recently had a surgery that has set me back in the pool, it really resonates with me to hear a story about someone who didn’t let anything hold them back,” Gilbert said.
While Gilbert has felt powerful inspiration from watching the Olympics in the past, junior Corby Clowe hasn’t. Though he did end up purchasing a pickleball set during the Olympics and had some fun with it with his family, he doesn’t at all think that the Games can truly motivate him to a great extent.
“I look at the Olympics and most Olympians as more elite than I could ever be,” Clowe said. “Even if I could get to that level, there is no guarantee I could win a medal. Seems like a lot of work that could lead to no payout. If I were to try and put that much effort into something, I would want a guaranteed result.”
For any individual inspired by the Games, however, whether it is an athlete or non-athlete, Bartholomew presented one final suggestion.
“Training for competition can help provide motivation to stay with a program,” Bartholomew said. “Find a local [event] — something that is not overly competitive — to begin. Then, slowly work toward other competitions. Over time, you may begin to think of yourself as an athlete.”
Have the Olympics motivated you in the past? Feel free to comment your story below!