Raise your hand if you are super excited that the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are just over two weeks away. Now if you didn’t raise your hand that must obviously make you an unpatriotic, selfish, good-for-nothing, heartless bum! OK, I am exaggerating here tenfold but considering the news lately, it kinda makes you feel like one, no? Some of the elite tennis and golf players are deciding to not attend Rio because of their hard schedules or fear of the Zika virus. While some of that may be true, I just feel that neither of those sports should generate that much excitement because we already see these athletes perform in a number of grand slams each year. So really, how does it benefit the players or the fans when the Olympics are at best, only the fifth or sixth most important tournament of the year? The Olympics should be the pinnacle of one’s sport but it obviously isn’t as there is no prize money and even doesn’t count to the yearly rankings. So although it sounds like a great idea (notice Milos Raonic in the video below) once you take a step back, you realize that maybe it isn’t worth all that trouble to go.
So why then are the Olympics so special? The truth of the matter is that the Olympics are very special to a number of sports, athletes and fans because winning there is winning at the highest level of their sport. Track and field athletes have world championships but it is the Olympic Gold medals winners that are not only remembered, but also get the notoriety and the lucrative sponsorships. Athletes in events like badminton, water polo and handball are not usually on the radar of the most ardent sports fan until the Olympics come around. So the Olympics are still very special and still very important as it makes patriotic heroes out of ordinary people; people who work harder than most; sacrifice more than most just to have one small chance to do the extraordinary.
But why tennis? Why golf? Tennis returned to the games in 1988 after a considerable layoff and ‘professionals’ are allowed to compete. But it really doesn’t have any special meaning as the best of the best play each other all year and there are already 4 Grand Slam Tournaments that show case this. Tennis stars have more to lose than gain from attending should they get injured. So it is no surprise that players have begun to drop out although their reasons are usually attributed to scheduling and the Zika virus. Top 10 seeds Simona Halep and Tomas Berdych joined Canadian superstar Milos Raonic as those who have already withdrawn. Fans shouldn’t be upset about their decision “not to play for their country” because these athletes represent their country every time they step on a court. If you don’t believe that is the case, find out how many average, non-tennis Canadians woke up early on a Sunday morning to see Raonic be the first Canadian male at a grand slam event and then tell me again how he doesn’t represent Canada 365 days a year?
Unfortunately, the same situation is happening with golf only on a scale ten times worse. This is the first time since 1904 (that is not a typo, it was 112 years ago) that golf will be held at the Olympics. It should be making all the headlines and unfortunately it is, but for all the wrong reasons. Very similar to tennis, we see golf’s best battle it out all year long. So with golf’s slams and their hectic schedule even more players have already dropped out. 6 out of the top 10 players including the top 4 are not going. No Justin Day, no Johnson, no Spieth and no Mcllroy which all in all, is actually quite good for Canada because we may have a chance now to repeat. For those that may not be aware, Canada is the reigning and defending Olympic Gold medalist for Men’s Golf. That’s right, George Lyon beat out a mostly American field back in 1904.
So don’t go getting your knickers in a knot about which tennis and golf players won’t be going to the Olympics this year as overall, I think it is for the better. Media and fans should spend their time watching, cheering and crying over the other athletes who are just as deserving, just as worthy as those not attending, in fact, maybe they deserve it more as this is usually their one and only chance to shine.
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