I do not think of myself as a sporty person, largely because I’m comically dreadful at almost all sports. But despite that, I realised while watching the Olympics (and oh, how I’ve watched the Olympics – were watching an Olympic sport then I would definitely win the gold medal) that I’ve tried quite a few of the sports. Perhaps, had I done as that Always campaign is telling me to do and persevered, I could’ve been an Olympian after all.
So I decided to go back through all the sports I tried and work out where I missed my chance at Olympic glory.
I love tennis, but tennis does not love me. I try, and I try, but I just cannot make contact with the ball. My only hope of glory with a tennis racquet in my hand is if someone films me and sends the clip into You’ve Been Framed. I really love You’ve Been Framed.
I do not like horses. I do not like getting on them, or off them, or steering them, and I really don’t like it when they have to jump. I rode a horse in Argentina when I was 21 and spent the entire time convinced I was going to die like Drew from Neighbours. I’m still a bit scarred by the experience.
I did six months of diving at school in Australia, and I remember three things about it; I could do a back dive half twist, and a one and a half somersault, and I always got a really good toasted cheese sandwich for breakfast after the lessons. Perhaps, given enough cheese, I may have succeeded, but I’m pretty sure my fear of heights would’ve scuppered any attempts to move up from the 1m board.
Played many a time in my parents’ back garden during family days. In complete defiance of logic and reason, the tiny ball and tiny bat seem to make it easier to hit things, but I’m still hardly Olympic standard. Still, it’s nice to be able to participate in a sport for once.
Another parents’ back garden sport, but this one was mostly played drunk during the summer of 2002. I have no idea if I was any good at it. I was drunk.
This entire selection of sports was so traumatic to me that at age 13 I managed to convince a GP I had exercise-induced asthma just so I could fake an asthma attack anytime anyone tried to make me run, jump, or throw things. I stand by that as a plan.
Attempted for a year at age seven, my gymnastics career was brought to a premature end by my total lack of upper body strength and massive fear of absolutely everything.
Just in case I wasn’t quite middle class enough, I went sailing when I was 24. My main memories are getting quite wet, falling over a lot, and being covered in bruises. But I did enjoy it, and I didn’t fall overboard, so I’m taking that as a win.
Floating about’s nice, isn’t it? If they put floating about in the Olympics I would definitely be there, but alas, they like you to actually swim fast, and that defeats the point of something that’s meant to be relaxing.
One afternoon in 1998 my friend invited me to canoe down the river with her. I went round in many circles and crashed into almost all the boats that were moored at the side. I was not invited back.
Finally, a sport I’ve actually achieved something in! For last year, I cycled from London to Brighton. Sure, it was on a tandem with my dad, and yes, he did probably 75% of the work, but I’m still claiming it. I’m practically Laura Trott, me.
I know I have played hockey, but I have no idea when, why, or where. I can only assume that this means the whole experience was so deeply traumatic that I’ve repressed the whole thing, and it will only come screaming back to me if I undergo some kind of hockey-related hypnosis. Which I don’t think I’ll be doing.
My foray into rugby was brief, ill-advised, and done when I was about 15. I mostly remember tackling one of those big bags and winding myself quite badly, and then being terrified of ever getting the ball in case someone took me out. We did not get along well, rugby and me.
Alas, I fear that the reason I abandoned all these sports wasn’t because of the patriarchy making me feel that I shouldn’t continue (although I’m sure that does happen for others.) I think it was simply because I’m just a bit rubbish at almost all of them, and stand little to no chance of Olympic glory.
Unless they do make sitting and watching a sport. I’d be all over that.