Sport never ceases to offer lessons

Ashish Kumar becomes the first Indian to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games (Photo courtesy: PTI)

I have rarely been spoilt for choice of sporting events to watch in my 28 years as a sports writer as I have been over the past few days at Delhi 2010. The wonderful assembly of world, Olympic and continental medalists here – in swimming and shooting, cycling and athletics, hockey and tennis and a lot of other sport – has given the sports fan in me much to cheer about.

On Thursday evening, I was caught on the horns of a dilemma like never before. It was not easy to make a decision on where I spend the evening and questions kept bobbing up in head. Should I make my way to the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Aquatics Complex to watch the swimming finals and then hop across to the Talkatora Indoor Stadium to catch up with boxing action?

Or, should I head to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to witness a whole evening of track and field action? Or, perhaps I should be at the Maj. Dhyan Chand National Stadium for India’s hockey contest with Australia. Then again, the new wrestling arena at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Complex was a good option as well.

The decision was taken out of my hand by the strong tug of the track and field competition, especially the prospect of watching two landmarks – an Indian shot putter winning a Commonwealth Games medal and the fastest 100m on Indian soil. Neither came true but compensation came in the form of a lesson: expectations can often lead to disappointments.

Come to think of it, it was the ability of champions to stay focussed on delivering their best effort rather than worry a great about the result that came through at the athletics competition. We saw that when Sally Pearson, who has concentrated on the 100m hurdles ahead of the sprint, emerged the fastest woman at Delhi 2010 in a race marred by false starts.

There was a fairly long-drawn argument that England’s Laura Turner had with the officials at the start and it would have been easy for anyone to lose focus. But Pearson, who won the 100m hurdles silver in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, stayed calm, banished thoughts of perhaps having false started herself, and sprinted to victory in 11.28 seconds.

Similarly, England’s Mark Lewis-Francis rallied from a poor start – and he said his starting block slipped – to finish with a 100m silver medal behind Jamaica’s Lerone Clarke. As he pointed out after the race, he had to run from deep within to be able to walk to the podium. The 28-year-old was quite naturally over the moon.

Indeed, the beauty of sport is that while it keeps offering surprises – and, for good measure – shocks aplenty for the athlete and onlooker alike, it holds out lessons for anyone who is ready to learn from merely watching it.