Headcase: Are Olympians Demi-Gods, Lunatics or Martyrs?

It's hard to imagine the life of an Olympic athlete, but superhuman strength and often-sore muscles are two primary elements that come to mind. What’s more, we often gape at the mental fortitude of our Olympians — without stopping to wonder if all that intangible strength is really necessary. 

Olympians around the world have been citing repetition, focus and self-control as elements of a successful Olympic attitude — but that doesn’t mean these traits are easy to come by. Perhaps this is why we insist upon seeing them in our best athletes; we want these select few to symbolize the epitome of our wasted potential, not just physically, but mentally as well. 

Many athletes source friends, family and coaches as inspirations; their undying support creates an eternal debt of gratitude, which can only be repaid with the weight of Olympic gold. This awareness of the sacrifice of others on behalf of the Olympian is also related to these athletes’ greater symbolism throughout history — they represent the collective, not just themselves.

What does it say of us, though, that we demand so much of our athletes that those with even a glimmer of Olympic hope have to cut down to the bone to remotely have a shot? “Free time” is for all intensive purposes nonexistent, with scholarly work often taking a hit as well. As mentioned, loved ones typically make extreme sacrifices (the Philippines' Michael Christian Martinez's family mortgaged their home to get him there) on behalf of the athlete — which can leave behind huge emotional baggage filled with nasty burdens such as guilt and resentment. It leaves many of us wondering, is it worth it?

Turns out the answer is: it depends. While there are a relative handful of Olympians who have earned their spots in our eternal memories, there are far more who, even after claiming the tallest tier of the platform, have faded away from common household knowledge. Which category an athlete will fall into is a gamble all in its own — but something tells us our Olympians aren’t turned off by fated competition. 

Image of Jamie Anderson: Facebook

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