The 2016 Olympics ended Friday. It brings to a close that magical time when muscular people try to please Zeus, hoping he will shower them with gold and improve their ability to weather bubbles in the housing market.
I watched the Games—as I do so many things in my life—sporadically.
But I did watch. Superhuman will, talent, and dedication deserve a few hours of my time once every four years.
Many people like to imagine what it would have taken in their lives to reach one of those podiums. I like to imagine what it would take for me now. If I were to drop everything and dedicate my life to getting a medal, which Olympic sport would merit my 10,000 hours?
Let’s whittle it down. First off: any sport that involves physical movement is out.
That eliminates 99.9% of everything. It even knocks out curling, which would seem a likely candidate. Have you seen how fast those people have to move?
Let me clarify the movement thing: any sport that involves physical strength, speed, or reflexes of the legs or torso is out. If I’m calculating correctly, that leaves only archery and shooting.
Archers and shooters are definitely athletes, and I imagine the hundreds of them who read this blog will be laughing at me right now. But even they can’t deny that it is theoretically possible for me to medal in one of these sports in the future.
I’m gonna eliminate shooting just based on preference. It’s loud and I don’t like wearing ear protection.
That leaves archery. It combines all the things I love the most: standing quietly, not moving, avoiding conversation, looking at things.
Paulo Coelho, beloved author of The Alchemist, even uses archery as a way of meditating. I have repeatedly tried and failed to establish a meditation practice, so this adds another point to the “pro” column.
Archery also inspires the historian/fantasist in me. A fire-arrow version of the sport would be even better, but I understand the impracticalities.
I even came across a recent article explaining that medieval armies probably didn’t use fire arrows for battle. We’ll have to watch that beloved movie cliché with a grain of salt from now on.
Let’s view some Olympic archery in action. It proved surprisingly difficult to find an online video of Olympic competition, so this video shows a pre-Olympics qualifying match from 2012.
I love it. Elegant, simple, non-kinetic. I don’t approve of the cheering, but what can you do? It’s sports. Library rules just aren’t feasible.
The bows are extreme. You could hit the side of a building after punching through a closer building with one of those things. They don’t conform to the romantic notion of an archer’s bow, but I can compromise.
So what does an Olympic archer do when the Olympics are done, other than practice for the next one? How will I use these skills after winning my bronze metal?
That’s right, bronze. My fantasies are practical. I never storm the castle; I plan for a logistically sound and well-supplied siege from a safe distance.
Drone-hunting is going to be big business for the off-season archer. This one is a no-brainer. High-pay, high-status contract work.
What about teaching? I’ve always imagined this is what many Olympians do, coaching the next generation of medalists in their sport. But since archers can compete at a later age than most Olympians, is it in their interest to teach upstart youngsters?
I’ll probably hold workshops for young archers once I get my first medal, then deliberately teach bad form to the ones who show the most promise.
Just kidding. Or am I? Depends on how desperately I still crave the archery limelight after 2024.
Do you have any imaginary Olympic dreams? Is physical movement of the legs and torso something you aspire to?
Would you dare to be a curler? Or maybe a rower who slacks off and lets the other three do all the work?
Tell me. I will sit still and read your answer. I medal in reading all the time.