We are all freaks, one way or another.
I remember, at school, finding out that my legs were too short to ever win a sprinting race but then, a lot later, I also learnt that my physique enabled me to carry on running long after everyone else had packed up and gone home. This was over a distance longer than 100 metres, I promise you.
I took part in a “gym marathon” where people in my, well-known, gym’s chain of venues all over Britain competed for the longest distance run on one of their club’s running machines.
I had never until then and since then, ever won any sporting event and I was totally amazed and still prize the lousy sweatshirt that I won that day. OK, it was a fundraising event so I am not complaining that my victory didn’t make me rich and famous.
I succeeded for three reasons:
1) I had the right sort of body – especially heart and lungs and leg muscles – to just keep going.
2) I was doing this out of the public eye with no fellow competitors in sight.
3) No one else could be arsed to keep running for so long.
So I am in my own way a champion. Not fast, not skilled but dogged.
In that way I guess I am a freak.
I am committed to being a kungfu marital artist too even though I have no great skills to recommend me apart maybe, from the above mentioned doggedness.
To succeed in sport and I do not include myself in that world of supreme physical freakiness, you have to be positively weird.
Usain Bolt is a freak.
He can run 200 metres in 19.19 seconds and he can now finish a race so fast that his competitors now look like they are walking. That last sentence, by the way, can be spoken in 19.19 seconds. Usain Bolt is very fast indeed and he has, of course, unlike me, got all the right physical bits to make him a champion.
Another race winner is Caster Semenya who won the Women’s 800 Metres in the World Championships on Wednesday.
She too, as everyone is now saying, is a freak.
This 18 year old woman from South Africa is now enduring some literally probing investigations into whether she is really a woman. She is strong and big with long legs and, who knows, several other winning physical features that enabled her, like Usain Bolt, to leave all the other runners looking like also-rans.
For her troubles she is being humiliated in front of the World by those boring, usually lardy, men in blazers who do things like being sports administrators and judges.
Her case raises many issues, not just about gender, but about physical competitiveness too.
Since Martina Navratolova retired from tennis, the women’s game has seemed a gentle ladylike event compared to the physical excitement of the modern men’s game and, even though it is still possible to enjoy the women’s skills, it just doesn’t have the same buzz.
What women’s sports need to make them exciting though are World Beaters – Navratolovas and just the kinds of women that we saw when Caster Semenya won that race the other day. They just win – no argument.
If Caster Semenya’s chromosomes are a bit ambiguous then should this talented athlete just retire from a world that wants women to be, well, girls? Maybe we should look to our own prejudices rather than this poor woman’s private bits.
Then again, all of us non-champions know how cruel competitive sport can be. I, for one, can look back on a life-time of sporting humiliations. Apart from that tiny percentage of brilliant freaks who excite us all, the rest of us are failures. Well, we are, let’s face it. What would you look like on that race track with Usain Bolt or Caster Semenya? Just imagine yourself for a moment. We should enjoy the thrill of watching champions but we should also be relieved that we don’t have their lives where their bodies are analysed, trained and worshipped but then dropped when their age or our ignorance makes them look like losers too.
I am happy just to compete against myself – now there’s a real champion fight where the least bad loser wins.