Throughout our Spectacular Summer of Sport, I found myself regularly baffled. It wasn’t the sudden and unexpected ability of GB to win at sporting events (though that was a joy that I hadn’t bargained on), nor even the fact that the country’s transport system didn’t grind to a halt (contrary to the Jeremiahs’ darkest warnings). No, it was something that the athletes, during their obligatory interviews with the press, kept saying.
“I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it”, was the constant refrain.
Enjoy it? Really? Despite the screaming muscles and the burning lungs and the rising tide of nausea as the exertion reaches its peak?
This wasn’t just adrenalin-fuelled, pre-race hype, either. Even after the races were over, the athletes would insist that it had been an absolute pleasure.
“I loved every minute of it”, they would say, grinning broadly as they fought to catch their breath.
Now I know that athletes have to enjoy what they do in order to put up with the hours of hard slog that propels them to the top of their game. But as for actually enjoying the race… this is where I find myself confused. I can honestly say that I’ve never enjoyed a race. I might get a sense of satisfaction once it’s over if I feel I’ve rowed well and pushed myself to my limits, but while it’s going on all I want is for the pain to stop and for the race to be over.
Maybe this is why I’ll never be an athlete. Could enjoyment be the secret ingredient that makes the difference between sporting success and failure? And if so, can I learn to love it? I’d love to know what you think.