My Olympic Dream

I love watching the Olympics, so I guess it isn’t altogether surprising when I decided that I would like to be part of the next one. I’m part of London 2012 too, but more in the role of a spectator. I’ve started to train tremendously hard. China’s latest swimming sensation says that she trains in two and a half hour blocks every day and at least twice a day. That’s tough to beat, but I would have to do one better than her because I don’t think I’m as talented as she is. So, every evening after dinner I switch on the TV, switch to channel 9 and sit on the couch for at least four hours straight. To the untrained eye, I’m no better than a couch potato, but let me assure you (and any sponsors or coaches out there) that I do have a game plan.

London’s mascot – the London eye. Eyes firmly on the prize!

After watching so many different sports over the last couple of days, I have come to the conclusion that endurance and perserverence is the common ground that is terribly important. I figured I would start with endurance. I force myself to watch all the sports, even if I’m not interested in them. Table tennis is great for training endurance. I have to concentrate very hard on two things: where the small white ball is because those players are horridly fast, and how to avoid boredom. Another good sport to watch for endurance training is basketball. The opposition is often better than my home country, so it is difficult to maintain a high level of enthusiasm and yell encouragement to the players at least a thousand miles away.

Sometimes, I yawn too much and that’s when I know it is time for me to refuel. So, I sprint downstairs to the fridge and raid it for chocolatey things, then I sprint back up to the couch. I know just how important refueling is. Afterall, I watched the men 250 km cycling race and at various stages the cyclists could be seen shoveling something into their mouths. My Mum excitedly pointed out whenever a cyclist grabbed a white bag that possibly contained water and munchies. She exclaimed loudly to embarrass the poor cyclist who thankfully cannot hear her because he is in a foresty-looking part of Britain, “there he is eating again!” I tell her that it is a different cyclist but she mostly ignores me. If I ever get to compete in the next Olympics, I don’t want my Mum there because I tend to get self-conscious when people watch me eat. She has the potential to be a great distraction and we all know that you can’t win medals if you are easily distracted. Even a squirrel has a chance to ruin my medal chances, so I’m hoping that there are very few squirrels or cute furry critters in Rio de Janerio.

Even cute furry critters can be fierce. This is why I can’t be a medal winning cyclist!

The next question I had to seriously consider is which sport would I be representing my country in. It’s tough to tell where my talent lies because I haven’t had this dream for long. In some interviews with the athletes, a few of them said that they have been dreaming of becoming Olympians ever since they were kids. Uh, I kind of started this dream about the same time as London’s opening ceremony commenced. Still, I’m not willing to let my medal chances slip by. Everyone is good at something, I just have to determine which sport I suck the least in. Channel 9’s advertisments provided some form of inspiration. Have you watched the Swisse vitamins ads? They feature Cadel Evan, the Australian cyclist best known for winning the Tour de France in 2011; the basketballer called Liz Cambage; and Matthew Targett, the swimmer who achieved two Olympic medals.

I could be the next Cadel Evans! I just know it because I take most of the Swisse vitamins that he apparently does. How exciting is that? I just found my calling. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know how to ride a bicycle, that is a rather minor impediment. But the more I thought about it, the more uneasy I became. As tempting as grabbing those white snack packs are, I don’t particularly enjoy long rides through the forest and those cyclists seem to do a lot of that. If the pack cycles too fast, I’d be left behind and I’m terrible at finding my way back. What if it gets dark? I’m a wuss in the dark. Snacks only last so long before some wild animal comes along to snack on me. Also, cycling uphill is going to be a killer on my non-existent calf muscles. Hmm, I thought to myself, time to find another event.

Basketball is totally out given my severe height disadvantage. The team doctors would be too busy bandaging me up after I get trampled within the first two minutes of the match. No time for physio for anyone else. I suppose I could ride atop someone’s shoulder to shoot the hoops, but I’m not sure if my team mates would mind piggy-backing me through all four quarters of the game. Moreover, I have a horrible suspicion that it is against the rules to do so.

How about swimming? I love watching all the swimming events and practice makes perfect right? I can swim, I took a swimming course in high school. Instead of the breaststroke, butterfly or freestyle, I would compete in floating because I’m excellent at staying afloat. Even my swimming instructor said so. When he asked if I wanted to learn some other style, I told him that it would be greedy to be so talented at two styles. Even though he didn’t reply, I knew he was truly moved by my generous spirit. Unfortunately, none of the Olympic swimming events seem to focus on floating. What a bummer! I could have been the Michael Phelps of floating, maybe even better than Phelps! The world would never know.

Some say he’s the greatest Olympian of all time, but is he as good at floating as I am?

Desperation setting in, I turned to my friends and asked them which Olympic event would they have competed in. One of them told me that he would have made an excellent sprinter because he ran well at track and field events at grade school. I readily agreed because he was often the first one out of the door after class ended. However, I’m not much of a track and field person. I don’t like to sweat much (hence my preference for the pool) or be in the sun for long periods. So, another one bites the dust – no pun intended. Another friend said that she would like to play tennis because she took lessons when she was younger and had showed some promise. Sadly, her parents made her quit and signed her up for art classes instead. I have not played a single game of tennis, but I have played badminton before. You know how some badminton athletes have since been barred because they looked like they were purposely throwing matches? I kind of play like them on my best day, so  that’s a worry. My hand-eye coordination needs huge improvements, so I’m considering laser eye correction for starters.

Even the newspaper that I usually pick up to read on the journey home asked the readers what were their personal bests (PBs). One reader said she could lick her elbow. A little gross, but I couldn’t do it. Another reader said he could polish off twenty six slices of pizza and wash them down with cans of soft drink. That’s competitive eating for you. I’m certain he ate more than one large pizza, maybe it even had the delicious cheesy crust. But I can’t do that! It’s physiologically impossible for me to wolf down more than 3 pizza slices! Yet another reader said that his PB was how he could stuff his entire fist into his mouth. I found this both gross and disturbing. Either he has a small fist or a large mouth or a strange combination of both. I tried it, but I couldn’t get my knuckles past my front teeth and I’m not going to remove them for any amount the toothfairy intends to leave me. Some months ago, I read that the average going rate for a child’s tooth is $2. So, no way will I challenge that event.

Finally, one of my friends came right up and told me that she figured herself best at finger clicking. What she meant was that she believes herself to be extremely fast at counting using a hand-held mechanical cell counter. LIGHT BULB! I use the cell counter quite often myself, and I’ve been training the last couple of weeks due to my need to seed precise cell numbers in 24, 48-well plates. So, I did what every other rational student would have done at 3pm after a tiring day of experiments. I challenged her to three bouts of cell counting. We won’t actually count cells because it might be subjective. Instead, we will try to press the cell counter as many times as we can, and as fast as we can in a given time. A three minute break between the bouts so we don’t cripple our thumbs for the rest of the week. Today, we found a shop that sells cell counters for a very reasonable price of $2.80 each.

To prove how serious we are about this competition, we are betting with bubble tea. Loser buys winner any flavour. I know this is not an actual Olympic event, but it might slowly gain momentum amongst bored science student. Lab pride is at stake here. Next week, I’m going for gold. My lab head would be so proud ;).