Citius, Altius, Fortius

The olympics and I go way back. I was in the 1976 games in Montreal. Well…more like “at” the games rather than “in.” I was 17 and my summer job was to work in crowd control. We were all hired for six weeks even though the games took place over the last two. For the first four weeks, we were asked to make sure no trouble happened around the site. In actual fact, we slept, played frisbee, and admired our orange polyester jump suits, complete with Gilligan-style white hats. I got to watch the closing ceremonies from my perch on top of one of the scoreboards. A great experience!

The 12-hour time difference between Montreal and Beijing has put a bit of a damper on this year’s olympics but I still love athletic competition. I’m a bit of a purist. I think the real Olympic sports are the ones where the winner can be determined by a clock or a measuring tape instead of a judge. (Yes, diving is beautiful, but can we really say who is best? Every dive looks great only to be criticized by the commentators. “Oh, that was a total miss. Look at the splash that came up.” A miss? Are you kidding me? My golf balls bring up more splash when I hit them into a water hazard.)

Anyway, what I love most about the measured sports is that we can compare ourselves to the best in the world…and be sufficiently humbled in the process.


There is a famous cycling record, the one-hour record in a velodrome. Basically, it involves racing around the track for one-hour and calculating how far you’ve travelled. The record is held by Chris Boardman who covered 56 kilometers. I once calculated how my best performance on a bike compared to the vaunted hour-record. I would be lapped every 30 seconds on a standard 250 meter track.


Javier Sotomayor’s high-jump world record is just over eight feet, which is as high as my ceiling. If I warm up properly, I know I can jump and touch my kitchen ceiling with my finger tips. Getting my ass over that height is a whole other matter.


I did some weightlifting in high school. I was in eighth grade and still young (13) but I won the competition among my classmates with a clean-and-jerk of 125 pounds! The teacher once put 200 pounds on the bar. I couldn’t even move it. The world record in the clean-and jerk is 580 pounds! (as Sylvester the cat would whimper when in trouble, “Mother!”)

Altius part 2: Longer

Just prior to the start of the ’76 games, I had the opportunity to walk into the newly-built olympic stadium. I was all alone in the cavernous behemoth. The red rubberized track still had that new track smell (just like in the track store showroom!). The white lines were perfect. I looked around and saw that I was near the long jump pit. I was wearing my new red suede Adidas Gazelle running shoes (the best running shoe money could buy back then) and decided to test myself in the long-jump.

I looked around. Still nobody! I looked down the lane and started running. I reached my top speed and hit the take-off board almost perfectly. My leap was magnificent. A classic double hitch and a perfect stretch at the landing. I made it to a point exactly half way between the take-off line and the start of the sand pit landing area. Holy S..t, that’s a long way! The world record, by the way, is as long as my house!

Hats off to all those incredible human specimens competing in the Olympics. I am truly in awe of all of them.

By the way, if you are one of those people who sits on your sofa all day criticizing athletes that don’t win medals in events that they were favoured in, try getting on a bike and timing yourself. Or better yet, take a long hard look at your kitchen ceiling!

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Posted in Life, Random thoughts.

Posted on 18 Aug 2008

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  1. Stéphanie
    On Aug 19th 2008 at 09:41

    Love this entry, Camillo. I am certain there would be lots to be said about so many of us -myself DEFINATELY included – that love/hate the Olympics when they come around every two years. Love it because we practice and love sports, hate it because it makes us wonder ‘what could have been if I had pushed myself hard enough…’.
    Keep blogging, love your thoughts and wisdom!

  2. Catherine
    On Sep 8th 2008 at 17:46

    This entry makes you want to get back in your sweats and smash that world record! Seriously, you are absolutely right : Olympic atheletes – or any athlete for that matter – deserve as much respect as any NBA, NFL or NHL big stars!

    Allow me to add that the Paralympic Games should be getting more attention from us… wanna talk about humility? This is it, right there!

    Beautifully written, by the way!

    P.S. What’s up with the shooting discipline, though? I personnaly don’t get it!