We are well at the end of the holiday season. Everyone is settling in the year of 2022. It was the sporting year of Mad Max and Fury Road. Iconic champions like Max Verstappen, Tyson Fury, Mark Cavendish, Emma Raducanu, Lionel Messi and Phil Mickelson led the world of sport out of a dark wasteland and back into the light amid the wrecking ball of the global pandemic.
After the harrowing Covid-induced interlude of 2020, sport in 2021 has felt like a moment in time when several of the world’s most magnetic entertainers rediscovered a sense of ringcraft under the Big Top.
This is a story of a miraculous comeback from the world’s greatest athlete. While this would usually be a unique show of sportsmanship, it’s actually been a common theme throughout 2020 sports. It seems that every time an athlete takes a medal, there’s a story: they’ve come back from a fall, they had a frustrating qualifier, they nearly didn’t make it.
Even in those who have sailed through their heats and smashed world records seemingly without breaking a sweat, their journey to the games have been full of adversity. Helen Glover admitted she nearly quit rowing due to the demands of childcare during lockdown. Bethany Shriever and Keely Hodgkinson had to pay for themselves to get to Tokyo through part time work and crowdfunding. All women won medals.
What is it about 2020 that has made sheer resilience the only acceptable attitude? Perhaps it’s simply down to getting through the last 18 months. Not only did every sportsman have to deal with every possible games, championship, tournaments being pushed back, messing up the timelines of their peak condition, but many had to train from home without their perfectly curated conditions or the watchful eye of their coach. Maybe this set them up to have more autonomy, to make decisions they’d never consider making, to throw out the rule book.
While it seems the athletes will do anything to win, it’s not at the risk of other competitors. Their resilience isn’t tainted with sly undertones or self-focused drive. Rather, the 2020 sports seasons felt like more of a display of community than ever before. We’ve seen men share medals, heard people clap for the competition louder than ever before, and we’ve seen people quit - a previously unthinkable move from the best athletes in the world.
If there’s a lesson to come from 2020, it’s not that athletes are successful because they can tune out the bad stuff. It’s that they can acknowledge it, learn from it and carry on anyway. While most of us won’t face the mental turmoil of falling during a competition and then having to take the stage again, we will at some point face a failure that we need to come back from. Olympians have taught us the way to do that is to look it straight in the eye and carry on.
We only wish that 2022 will bring about more resilience, positivity & success. Let’s not forget what 2021 has taught us.