My child is not yet 5 years old, therefore this is the first time she has really seen the Summer Olympics on television. When I first turned it on, I expected her to show zero interest in the games since many of the sports are completely alien to her (inexplicably, they don’t do a lot of Whitewater Canoeing at her preschool). So, I figured she might ask a couple of general questions and then demand these shining spectacles of human accomplishment and perseverance be replaced by reruns of Paw Patrol. I was extremely wrong. It turns out when innocent eyes view the Olympic Games for the first time, you learn some things.
1. Swimming is awesome
Young children can relate to the sport of swimming since they are still trying to learn the skill. Many kids my daughter’s age can stay afloat to a reasonable extent and therefore understand and respect the general mechanics of the various strokes. Other kids, like mine, still struggle with the basics and the only stroke they demonstrate is the lesser-known Plummeting Anchor. My daughter watched in amazement as athletes shot through the water as if the act of swimming required little or no effort. She also observed that none of them appeared to be wearing “floaties” or water wings, which may inspire her to shed her crutch sooner than later.
2. Volleyball makes sense
Some events are more difficult to explain than others. However, a preschooler can easily pick up the basics of volleyball since there is one ball and a net separates the two sides. My child had never seen a volleyball match, but was absolutely fascinated by a women’s match between the U.S. and China. And when I explained that most of the women were taller than her daddy, she gazed on in amazement as she surmised giants really do exists.
3. Springboard Diving defies belief
Somehow I’ve taken for granted that there are people who can do somersaults and twists in the air before heading downward and knifing into a pool of water. To eyes which have never seen this, it’s a phenomenon that defies all explanation. My daughter quickly grasped the basic concept, but became impatient when divers stood on the springboard to collect themselves. She couldn’t understand how they could control their excitement at having the opportunity to bounce off the board and splash into the blue (or later green) water.
4. Synchronized Swimming may kill all of us
Much like her father, my child quickly became bored by this event. At one point she yelled out, “I wish water didn’t exist.” Confirming my suspicion that if she ever finds a genie in a bottle, we’re all toast.
5. Fencing is anticlimactic and not at all like Star Wars
Imagine the disappointment on my sweet daughter’s face when, in spite of the competitors wearing cool masks and wielding “swords”, not one of them lost a hand prior to learning the true identity of a parent. Additionally, not one competitor seemed to identify with the Empire or the Rebellion. Instead, they all represented boring entities like actual countries. Also, from the way some of the fencers whined about points, it was pretty clear none of them had trained in the Dagobah system and they probably needed to toughen up a bit.
Overall, watching the Olympics with my little one has been a fun experience. The beauty of the games are that if my daughter is bored by one event, there is always another one to watch. While she is less interested in some of the events I’d like to watch (distance running), many of the other events have become the subjects of long conversations that have led into general discussions regarding competition, nationality, adversity, and expectations (she asked me if I’d ever won a marathon). In fact this Olympic Games may end up being my favorite of all time, even if nobody loses an appendage.
What has been your favorite event in 2016? Comment below.
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in 2017!
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology