Age – the ultimate Olympic barrier

Age – the ultimate Olympic barrier

Wednesday, 03 February 2010

Last Thursday I got to talk for a few minutes on BBC Radio 5’s show “London Calling”. The theme of the programme was age and athletes “coming back” or trying to come back for 2012. I was the final guest for the show because I was the extreme: the athlete who will be 50 years old in 2012, an ambition I had revealed first on insidethegames last October.

I was surprised by the response I received about my ambitious goal but I think I understand why people were so vocal about my goals.

Age is something we can all understand and relate to whether we are an athlete or not.  We are born and with time we grow, develop and mature. If you are an athlete it is the time you physically and mentally grow into an adult body improving in your discipline and reaching, hopefully, your full potential.

The flip side of time and age is that what you gain in your youth is then slowly, and sometimes not so slowly, taken away.

Time is our most valuable asset yet it is often overlooked and not appreciated. We can’t put our hands on it.  It is invisible.

When we watch the Olympics and Paralympics we are watching young adults in their physical prime. We are watching a celebration of life.

In the 1970s an athlete in his thirties was considered old, past his prime. In more recent years with better diet, training methods and fitness levels that age “barrier” has been pushed back, with athletes competing at the highest level well into their thirties and even on a few occasions crossing over into their 40’s.

The sport and event obviously makes a difference, but what is the ultimate barrier that we cannot go beyond for elite competitive sport?

I have always thought 30 is more of mental barrier than a physical. Now 40 seems to have become the new 30. So what about 50?  Is that totally and utterly ridiculous?

My athletic goal in 2012 is to be involved with the activities, the process and the celebration. Can I get to the 2012 British Olympic trials as a 50 year old?  I don’t know, but I am going to try.

If I do get to the Olympics trials in two-and-a-half years I will be just one step away from the Olympics – at age 50! If I am in the trials there is a chance, yes a chance, albeit very, very small, that I could make the British Olympic team. I am passionate and driven to attempt this but I do realize it would take a “beamonesque” performance on the day.  But isn’t that what the Olympics is about – being inspired, reaching for the stars, taking a chance?

My goal is to be a part of the Olympics in 2012 even if is just to make the Olympic trials, which will be a feat in itself.  Isn’t that what Pierre de Coubertin envisioned – the taking part?  Doing your best?

I have been an athlete and an artist my entire life – two seemingly very different pursuits.  In the next two years I will have to use my creativity to modify and create new exercises and adapt my technique to maximize my aging body’s potential and minimize aging body’s weaknesses.

Dick Fosbury created a new technique that revolutionized the high jump and got Olympic gold. Jackson Pollock created a new way of painting and looking at art with his drip paintings and films of the process which turned the art world upside down. Olympic Icon and fellow Olympian artist Bob Beamon (pictured here right with Willie Banks and Bradstock) achieved every athletes dream – he performed on the day beyond his and everyone else’s wildest expectation. I am inspired by all three of these historic sports and artistic figures.  If I can capture just a little of what each one did and combine them I can reach my goal.

The Olympics grabbed my attention and imagination at age six and inspired me to become an Olympian, as did art and artistic ideas have done my entire life.

No matter what in 2012 and the build up to 2012, I will be involved somehow.  It might be as an athlete, a coach or a spectator but I will be taking part in my own way. And isn’t that what the Olympics and Paralympics are all about?

Roald Bradstock represented Britain in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and in 1996 was an alternate for United States Olympic team. Bradstock competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 United States Olympic Trials. In addition to being an Olympic athlete, Bradstock is also an Olympic artist dubbed “The Olympic Picasso”.


Joboy25 November 2010 at 01:310
Godspeed Mr. Bradstock! You’re life story inspires us all!