Saturday, August 09, 2008

This post is not about Brett Favre

Not really.

Hey, have you heard? Brett Favre retired, then decided he wanted to keep playing, so he came back, but his team didn't want him, so they traded him to New York and it really sounds like he doesn't want to go there but his only other option is to retire for real this time, I guess.

That run-on sentence finally coming to an end, I want to highlight a sports pet peeve of mine. The frequent claim that pro athletes play "for the love of the game".

Bullshit. How often do you hear of a pro athlete retiring and playing just to play? Like with a local team, for the hell of it, where he makes no money (maybe even pays to play), gets little attention, endorsement deal, perks, etc. I would say quite rarely.

Hey, have you heard? The Olympics are on!

I love the Olympics. If there was a medal for watching the Olympics, I would make my country proud. My e-mail address starts with the grammatically incorrect "teamcanadas" because it was created to receive newsletters from the various sporting organizations (the grammatically correct version was not available).

You want to talk about love of the game? Here you go. There are no guarantees that an athlete will turn an Olympic medal performance into a lucrative career but there they are going through intense preparation for an opportunity to compete.

Get a load of this guy...

...courtesy of Vicky Hall and today's Ottawa Citizen:

Kyle Shewfelt's journey from the seat of a wheelchair to the pinnacle of his sport, the Olympic Games, could very well grace the next installment of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

The Canadian gymnast broke both his legs 11 months ago in training for the world championships in Germany. Today, the reigning Olympic floor exercise champion tumbles back into the spotlight in qualifying action at the National Indoor Stadium.

But talk to Shewfelt and he'll tell you there's an equal -- if not better -- inspirational story on the Canadian men's artistic gymnastics team. His name is Nathan Gafuik. He rooms with Shewfelt on the road.
Gafuik suffers from a rare condition called Addison's disease, which prohibits the body from producing adrenaline.

As a result, he tires easily. He struggles to recover from injuries -- and gymnasts spend virtually their entire lives with all kinds of aches and pains most of us never encounter.
"If he gets into a weird place, you can just tell," Shewfelt said. "His eyes glass over. He gets a little shaky and starts talking weird. You have to get on it right away because he can die. Easily."

Earlier this year, Gafuik split his ear open on the parallel bars during a friendly competition against the United States.

The training staff rushed him to Foothills Hospital in Calgary as a precaution.

"For a normal person like you or I, our adrenaline would kick in," Shewfelt said. "But not for Nathan. His body works against him."
From the tender age of six, Gafuik showed tremendous promise and had the coaches whispering about the future Olympic medallist in their midst. But then Gafuik crashed. At the age of 11, his improvement stopped. And so did his growth.

Other boys turned into men. Gafuik's development was suspended in time. His coach, Tony Smith, couldn't figure out why. No one could, until Gafuik ended up in hospital in 2005 with severe dehydration. The doctors finally came up with an explanation for all the troubles.

The mystery solved, Gafuik could have quit, but he decided to keep chasing his Olympic dream. In 2004, he went to Athens as a reserve gymnast for the Summer Olympics. At one point, his nickname was Alter-Nate, due to his constant role as a spectator for major events. But not now. Along with national champion Adam Wong, Gafuik is considered one of Canada's top all-around gymnasts.

"We've got all his medications at the right level," Smith said. "We downplay the Addison's all time. We try not to use it as a reason for any type of failure."

If Shewfelt ever starts feeling sorry for himself, he looks over at Gafuik and knows he's not the only one who fought daunting adversity to get here.

"What he does with what he has been given in life is pretty phenomenal," Shewfelt said. "He's an inspiration."

Indeed. So how's he doing early on?

The strongest Canadian team ever assembled crashed out of the men's Olympic artistic gymnastics competition Saturday at the qualifying stage. Defending Olympic floor exercise gold medallist Kyle Shewfelt? Done. The team itself? Eliminated.

The only survivors to be found in the debris field were Nathan Gafuik and Adam Wong, who cracked the top 24 on all six apparatus to advance to the all-around final.

You go, boy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an inspiration!!!

And no, this comment is not about Brett Favre...