Why Doesn’t This Happen More Often?

Katie Ledecky set a world record in the women’s 800 meter freestyle, and beat her closest competitor by more than 11 seconds. Katie now has the 13 fastest times in the history of the 800 free.

Almaz Ayana set a world record in the women’s 10,000 meter run, and beat her closest competitor by more than 15 seconds.

Simone Biles won the women’s gymnastics all around, and beat her closest competitor by more than 2 points. To put her victory in perspective, that’s bigger than the margin of victory from 1980 to 2012—combined. Put another way, Simone score 3.38 percent more points than anyone in the field. While that might not seem like much, it’s nearly double the margin any other gold medal winner.

Other examples of such epic performances are Usain Bolt’s winning margin in the 100 meters, and Bob Beamon’s long jump record from 1968, which lasted for 22 years.

These performances were epic, and the athletes have been rightly praised for such results.

And while I certainly agree with how amazing these women did, it also confirms something I have thought about for a long time.

I have often wondered why so many athletic competitions, such as the Olympics, which bring together athletes from all over the world, who have different DNA makeups and different training approaches, end up being decided by the slightest of margins.

It seems to me, on a  planet of seven billion people, there should be more of these types of performances, where someone is just on a different level than everyone else.

No one has ever broken two hours in the men’s marathon, but there are several people getting close. Why isn’t there someone that can run it in 1:55?

Is there someone out there capable of breaking nine seconds in the 100 meter dash; what about doing a 35 foot long jump?

I think there are people capable of such performances

But I think that part of the reason why this does not happen as frequently as I think it should comes back to one of my theories about the luck of birth.

All of the people mentioned above happened to be in the right place at the right time. They had access to the right coaches and the right opportunities. I am sure there are thousands, if not millions of people out there, who could be capable of such performances if they were, to borrow Chelsea Clinton’s phrase, blessed by fate, like these other athletes have been.

In the meantime. I’ll continue to be impressed by all of these world-class athletes I’m watching during the Olympics, but in the back of my mind I’ll also be thinking that there’s people out there just as good, if not better…


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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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