Monday, August 18, 2008

Inspiration's in the Air

I have been watching the Olympics and getting so darn inspired by the amazing athletes. Without a question, they are all extremely talented but what I admire most is the sheer determination and dedication they have shown. The most obvious example is Michael Phelps, who’s won every one of the eight gold medals that he set his mind on winning. But it is those athletes who were dismissed as non-competition, or were deemed past their prime that inspired me even more.

Did you watch the tennis quarterfinals match between James Blake and Roger Federer? Who would’ve thought Blake could beat the invincible Federer? Or the women’s singles match between Venus Williams (world #7) and China’s Li Na (world #42)? When the game started everyone thought it would be a quickie with Williams crushing her opponent mercilessly, but Li held on, fought back, and won! In the gymnastics stadium, China’s Yang Wei finally won the men’s all-around after missing out on gold in two previous Olympic games. The next day, USA’s Nastia Liukin beat her teammate, the favored Shawn Johnson, and took the women’s all-around gold. To watch her on the balance beam was like watching a ballerina, except her whole dace floor is a piece of wood 10cm wide and 5m long! The Singapore women’s table tennis team also made history by brining home an Olympic medal after a 40-year draught. When they played the Korean team the entire island held its collective breath through the ordeal. In the end, the youngest team member Feng Tianwei played a critical part by winning two singles matches. And let’s not forget the 41-year-old American swimmer Dara Torres who missed the gold in the 50m freestyle by just 0.01 second. She became the oldest athlete to ever win a silver medal in the Olympics swimming events and a winner in my book.

The Olympics has almost another week to go and I am sure I will find inspiration over and over again. I guess you could say I am easily inspired. Since I am the type with no self-discipline and no self-motivation, I am always in awe of people who can drive themselves beyond their capabilities, and whose sheer mental force can push them to achieve the unthinkable. When Jason finished his first marathon in just over four hours with a badly twisted ankle, I briefly contemplated running a half marathon myself, before I remembered how much I hated running. That’s how easily I am inspired by people’s athletic abilities. I have never really been the athletic type and although over the years I’ve grown to tolerate hiking if there are nice sceneries to be seen, learned how to rollerblade because it was once cool, and even picked up tennis and golf so that Jason and I can have something to do together, I was never naturally athletic. I walk my dogs everyday for more than an hour and I play tennis at the American club every week anywhere from one to four hours, and I go to the occasional body pump or pilates class when I am feeling extremely motivated, but that is the extent of my exercise routine. Oh, I also hit a few balls at the driving range before my golf lessons so I don’t suck too much. But all that is going to change now, because if those Olympics athletes can win matches when all odds are against them, surely I can win over my own inertia and laziness.

Last week, after my one and half hour tennis clinic I sprinted to a Body Balance class five minutes later, sweat still dripping down my neck from tennis. After an hour of stretching and pilate/yoga-esque movements, I felt really good. Body Balance is the perfect cool-down to tennis, isn’t it? Riding the wave of inspiration, I also signed up for an 8-week spinning program at the club. It is actually a weight-loss program but heck, everyone can stand to lose a few pounds, right? The only problem is, the program starts after the Olympic ends. Will I still be motivated by then? It remains to be seen.

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