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Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Cycling

Philip Gomes has a post in Lavartus Prodeo a couple of days ago about Michael Duffy’s dummy spit about Sydney cyclists. Read his post, and the comments – a depressingly familiar tale of bike riders being blamed for riding in the only ways that are left to them by the way the road system has been set up.

I had a similar experience when talking to a local councillor of my acquaintaince about why the cycle pathways were so bad. He explained that because no-one uses them, he doesn’t feel he can spend rate-payers money on a luxury item for the few. The trouble is it’s a vicious circle. If no-one uses the bike paths (because they don’t go anywhere useful, or occasionally have a tree in the middle of them that you are supposed to walk around, or most stupidly on the Harbour Bridge, three flights of stairs) then cyclists are blamed for them not being used, and no more are built. It’s like public transport only worse.

And then the cyclists go on the footpaths, because the roads are unsafe, and everyone complains about the anarchic cyclists.

Sydney is not as well built for cycling as Melbourne – it’s not as flat, and our streets are narrower. But there is scope for good cycling paths, as you realise when you occasionally find one (my favourite is from Darling Harbour to Leichhardt, which required very little actual infrastructure, just some imagination about which roads to put it on) and realise it’s possible!

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Gymnastics

The world gymnastics championships are on this week in Melbourne. I did gymnastics all through high school, and I have really mixed feelings about the sport.

I was OK at it, not elite, but moderately serious (six hours of training a week), and for me it was a great sport. The training wasn’t that serious, and was with a group of girls that I got on with really well. There’s a lot of sitting around waiting for your turn when your doing gymnastics training, so it’s quite fun. Although we did talk about our weight from time to time, no more than any other group of teenage girls I was in at the time. And I was tall in gymnastics (I’m 162 cm), which is an experience I always enjoy, as it happens so rarely.

But I’ve also read Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, which is a pretty damning indictment of the sport at the elite level. I judged national championships in Australia for a while, and got to see some of the anorexia promoting behavior, and the clear way in which major changes were made to body chemistry in the name of sport. I saw many 18, 19 even 20 something year old retirees from the sport suddenly go through puberty. As a judge, I saw many elite gymnasts judged on their body type, not their performance – even a muscular body type could be implicitly punished as not giving a clear line in the dance elements.

To some extent, most elite sports involve a degree of self sacrifice that seems ridiculous to someone who isn’t as driven as the participants. Most elite women’s sports have terrible records with eating disorders compared with the general population. But the difference with gymnastics is that it takes place so young.

I don’t have daughters (and I won’t), but if I did, I wouldn’t let them start gymnastics if I thought they were in danger of being any good at it.

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Football

I went to the soccer last night. It was fantastic. I am so glad I was there. I made a vow after the Sydney Olympics that I would go to world class sport if it was ever in Sydney. Almost immediately, I got pregnant, and changed focus. But it’s reminded me why it was worth while. I think being a woman I was more outnumbered than I would have been supporting Uraguay (and that’s saying something!), but I loved every minute of it.

The experience of having a stadium of 80,000 people singing their national anthem with their hearts on their sleeves.

The experience of being one of a crowd that was invested in every half chance, that rose as one when a goal got close, that turned to the stranger next to them when we scored the goal that gave us hope, and started chanting and singing whenever our team looked like flagging.

It was one of those games that in 10 years time, 800,000 people will be earnestly telling their friends they were there. I was lucky enough to be one of the people in the crowd when Cathy Freeman won her gold medal. This was just as good.

Last time Australia made the World Cup football final was 1974. Since then, we’ve had heart break after heart break, the worst in my personal memory being 1997 against Iran, where we looked a shoo-in at two goals up with half a match to go, and then Iran scored two goals against us to win on the away goal rule.

Now we’re there again!

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City to Surf

I did the city to surf today. I just managed to avoid doing a new personal worst time (although it was pretty close). I was reminded again what a great event it is. From the very beginning – getting on the train to town filled with people in their daggiest running gear (so they could throw away their warm clothes when they started running) to the cameraderie of waiting for half an hour at the start, to the echoing shouts of Aussie Aussie Aussi oi! oi! oi! going through the William St tunnel, the jazz bands in Dover Heights and then sitting on the sand at bondi in the blazing sun with a cool drink, it was a great day.

I’m sunburnt (in the middle of winter!) and I’ll probably be struggling to walk tomorrow, but it was worth it.

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I went for a run this morning, (one of my very few training runs for the city to surf), and jogged straight past John Howard on his morning power walk twice. I’ve been running around North Sydney since he was elected, and he has been doing his morning power walk (when in town) all that time. That’s the first time I’ve actually seen him.

I’m sufficiently thrilled by celebrity that my first reaction was mild excitement, rather than wanting to take him to task for (take your pick from the various readers of this blog) asylum seekers, civil liberties or the republic.

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