I am rarely, but increasingly, one who would be sporting a sporting ambition. But what of sporting ambitions? Are they selfish ambitions or egalitarian ambitions? Or, are they placed in the zone of neither one nor the other.
Lizzy Yarnold fulfilled her ambition to win Gold in the Skeleton at the Winter Olympics. Others had their hopes dashed – missing out by thousandths of a second; disqualification because of a rogue centimetre; discounted because of wearing the wrong clothes or being slightly lighter than last week… By the narrowest of margins dreams are made reality or consigned to a parallel universe where everything went just slightly more their way.
Watching the Yarny Army it is clear that Ms Yarnold’s ambition are not necessarily primarily selfish. Her family, friends and country are drawn along behind her on that speeding tin tray, willing her on to success. There was the talent spotter that found her; there is her team of trainers; her Olympian mentors and colleagues. An individual sport: a team effort for our nation.
But for the success, we needed her to be ambitious, committed, dedicated, beyond fit, sacrificial – and from a few seconds of her interview on “Breakfast” – my mind boggles at the intricacy of the sport (that looks like a wild and insane plummet) – we also needed her to be extremely clever. There’s more to it than gravity.
And so she has a gold medal. Job done. Mission accomplished. Ambition fulfilled. Everybody is happy – even the women that shared the podium with silver and bronze.
But, to be egotistical for a moment, what about me?
Oddly enough, my ‘sporting’ ambitions are, pretty much, selfish. Or I can read it in a number of ways. Eighteen months ago I started training. Selfish or not? Well, it was time to myself in the fresh air having fun with the aim of looking and feeling better; this all sounds fairly selfish. On the other hand, one could choose to look at it as good stewardship of my life and my body; as a healthy and sensible choice; perhaps reducing my potential burden on the NHS by bodyswerving a gradual descent into obesity and inactivity.
The events I have taken part in have just been for fun. So far, I have not asked for sponsorship. Maybe that sounds selfish – but I figure that if I want to run for eleven miles through mud, ice, barbed wire and electricity – why would I draw people into it that aren’t into that? Other people want to go and play golf for a few hours; they wouldn’t ask me to sponsor them. It’s just a hobby; it’s just for fun.
Maybe I will do a sponsored challenge one of these days, but I think it would have to be something that I really thought I might not manage, that I needed that extra support and motivation for; it wouldn’t be something I wanted to do for fun. (Then I wonder if I would do something like that, given that I do the physical running about stuff for fun).
Sure, I might sponsor other people- it’s a win-win admittedly : the charity gains the cash and the person gets some support. Maybe it is selfish not to ask for sponsorship when money could be raised for something; for me, asking people for money, even for a good cause, somehow feels selfish, though. I know it isn’t. It just feels icky. I’ll maybe work on that.
So saying, one thing is for sure, I will never win anything. Finishing is the point. When I want to achieve something new – to improve on my personal best in the 10k; to do more than two chin-ups in one go; to complete the 10k Major Series challenge – the point is just to see if I can. It’s just curiosity.
So, are sporting ambitions selfish or egalitarian? I think the better you are and the wider your following… the tension between selfishness and selflessness must be almost palpable. Individual hopes come alongside the support (and criticism) of a nation, and the ambition is shared by all interested parties – but, on the day, it perhaps comes down to one person to carry the hopes through.
For the average person, the same tension probably exists; sport and exercise require time commitment, and these eat into one’s other commitments and relationships because time is finite and it’s impossible to be in two places at once.
Unless you are as fast as Lizzy Yarnold.