Defending Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington had hoped to become Britain’s first swimmer to retain an Olympic gold medal but sadly it was not to be yesterday, as she stepped further down the podium to receive her second bronze medal of the London 2012 games. Her billed rival for the race was the eventual runner-up, Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain, but they both lost out to the American Katie Ledecky in the 800m freestyle. A newcomer to the international stage and described by the BBC as an ‘unknown quantity’, Ledecky dominated the race and won gold – all at the tender age of 15.
The spin on the story seems to be the alleged disappointment Adlington has for finishing third, or the supposed disappointment there is amongst the British public that she could only win bronze. Of course, it is a shame she couldn’t win another gold for Great Britain, but surely the real story here is that the winner was someone so young. Is no one else amazed that a 15 year old can perform at that level?
When I was 15 I spent too much time day-dreaming about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be, all those future success stories I thought I would have. I can’t imagine being a success story already, in-between breaking curfew and having English homework due in at the end of the week. Did I waste my youth by actually being youthful or should I have somehow decided to dedicate my life to something before I’d hit puberty?
Growing up you always hear that you shouldn’t worry too much about not knowing what you want to be. Well, I’m almost 22 now and I can’t help but worry now that I know someone seven years younger than me came close to beating a world record at the most prestigious international sporting event in the world. It’s a quarter-life crisis of sorts.
Do we need more people out there like Ledecky, who have what is described as ‘focus’ and ‘determination’, to have the foresight from the beginning to know what they want and how to get it? If so, why isn’t everyone striving to see their children participate at the World Cup instead of just seeing them at inter-school football tournaments? Maybe we don’t have the drive, or maybe we haven’t got the facilities and the coaching staff. Maybe the majority of our society’s youth are more concerned with texting their mates the latest gossip and ruining their liver’s before they’re even old enough to drink.
Or has Ledecky and those like her missed out, having sacrificed what’s regarded as an ordinary childhood for superstardom. They can take on the world but they’ll never know friendships, relationships and everyday interactions like the rest of us. Don’t get me wrong, I have the highest respect for these over-achieving adolescents, I just pity them a little too.