The games are in the last straight line and most countries know by now how well/bad they are performing on the Olympic stage. Well for the moment I am a rather dissapointed person. Being Belgian is not an easy job in these political troubled times. A medal or two would have made me a bit more upbeat. But that seems to be mission impossible. Our national atletes seem not to be having the time of their lives there in Beijing. What is wrong?
Well, that is the question that is asked by many. The national press is full with interviews with officials and politicians who seem to have no real answers. There has to change something but what? For a long time we were told that these sporty minds needed more money to be able to perform better. Many organisations pump now some more coins into them but this financial dopping doesn't seem to do the trick. There are even voices that tell us that it would be better to split up Belgium to get in Olympic heaven. Others state then that most atletes don't want to go the whole way in order to be invited on Olympos.
Guess that some of these voices are right to say that something is wrong but changing it will take a bit longer then we want. We are not a country that has a sportive tradition any way. Belgians enjoy life, work hard for their paycheck, are taken care of when they pay their taxes, can choose out of more then 100 beers to drink, are rather modest, insecure and never brag about their achievements. 'Les petits Belges', say the French. Well we keep that vision alive and the ones that go against the stream will be told to behave!
Justine Henin (God, do I miss that girl) told herself, her family and whole the world very plainly that she wanted to be number one and that one day she was going to wake up with that number on her T-shirt! Well, many countrymen told us that she wasn't modest enough that she was just a small kid from Wepion. Well, were they wrong this time. She did exactly that. But what did she have to sacrifice was quite a lot.
When we are young you are told that when you get good schoolresults that you will get a good job. The kids who tell their parents that they want to be a professional athlete are forced to combine this as long as possible with their studies. One day they then come to this crossroad where they have to make up their minds. Many then pack up their swimming suits, running gear, hockey sticks, tennis racket, bike helmet, floret,ballet shoes, riding gear....... They leave behind their sportive ambitions and walk the way they are suppose to follow. One that is most of the time without too many hurdles to jump over.
Who makes us do this? Well partly we, ourselves. Once we have to take the bumpy road into the unknown we get sweaty palms. It is ot our cup of tea! The mind game in sports is rather difficult compared to go to classes and end up at parties where you can meet your first boy or girlfriend. Besides that are in Belgium sports and school not the perfect combination. Your achievements on the track, in the swimming pool, on the field, on the tatami, ..... don't directly influence your grades. Not many teachers and coaches will be interested to know what their pupils do out there. Sports and education are seperated. In many other nations they are linked. These sporty brains are nurished and taken care of and told many times that should go for the gold. Pushing the limits and just go for it.
Michael Phelps, yeah he just did what he intented to do: become the ultimate sportshero of the olympic pool by winning eight gold medals in the Water Cube, has been told that he can swim and that he should try to go for it. Even at school he will be told by many (including teachers, his biology teacher might have been his high school swimming coach!!!) that he can do it. Many believed in him before he even probably thaught about swimming so fast. So that could have made him even swim faster.
Belgians are not told that much that they are doing a good job. Our modesty seems to make us rather humble. We don't want to be show offs. 'Yes, your flick flacks are quite well!! But you should keep in mind that when you want to gym on a Olympic stage that you will have to suffer!' Not the most thrilling prospect for a ten year old to hear. Parents then will decide that their kid will be better of do be just average. Very safe. Gym will and stay then just a favourite past time when there is some time to kill.
On many forums I have read many solutions but many have said that our educational system should be more adopted to the needs of sportive minds. I have seen abroad that school and sport can do the trick. I have seen amazing achievement on the field by people that turned up on the Honor Roll or were a member of the brainy NHS (National Honor Society). I cheered for kids that had enrolled for Ivy League Universities knowing that we be still swimming, playing football, basketball, tennis, baseball or American Football. The sporty minds will be stimulated even in a intellectuel environment and when an talent coach then sees what potential you have you will hear quite often that you should go for it.
The ones that have not been so lucky to be rather smart but turn to be rather good at sports then will be still stimulated to perform in the classroom. If they fail on a history test or math test then they might end up on the bench for a few matches. An atlete will be kept fit physical and mental. Motivation is so important and that bit is something we Belgian schools seem to be rather less good at. On the international scale our school system still gets high scores but for how long?
The excuse that professional athletes will destroy their body is of course one of the rather less nice truths about a gold medal. But let us be honest where are you safe nowdays? Our health is challenged in many other ways as well. Our food is not safe anymore, our air is polluted, we are obese and many other risks that will send us faster to six feet under. I feel the urge to say that we Belgians are too modest to create Olympic Gold getters. The ones that get there are one of a kind. They know what it takes and were lucky enough to find the strength, the drive, the motivation, the cheers, the sponsoring, the right attitude and coaching to get there. In the end they made sacrifices that many of us would never wanted to make. So Belgians out there still climbing the rocky cliffs of Olympos: don't be afraid. Go for it!!!!!! Zeus is awaiting you and God can he cheer!