Sprint Canoeing might not sound like the most engaging Olympic sport to spectate, but every event has some element that captivates the audience. For example, water polo is possibly the only sport played while the athletes wear bathrobes. Skeptical? During Olympic water polo matches approximately half the team stands on the edge of the pool, eager to be subbed into the game. While waiting, the players wear warm, fuzzy bathrobes to keep from catching the chills.
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This collection of knowledge comes from a memorable family trip to the London Summer Olympics in 2012. After inheriting my mother’s sister’s retirement funds, my mom, the practical sister, was told through my aunt’s will that my mother “could not do anything practical or useful with the money”. This meant no paying off the mortgage, no saving for college funds, no paying off bills. It meant something completely impractical, a trip to the 2012 Olympics. As a family we decided to go on a vacation we’d always remember, and visit the slightly rainy, but still marvelous, London, England.
After viewing a Gabon vs South Korea quarterfinal soccer game, an interesting water polo tournament, several Tae Kwon Do matches, and a fascinating archery competition, we visited the sprint canoeing event. This sport involves teams of 1 to 6 rowing or paddling down a straight waterway. On the day we visited the event, hundreds, if not thousands of people lined the river, sipping their scalding tea or munching on a chocolate chip cookie, watching the frenzied athletes zoom across the water. Of course, as Americans, we cheered loudly for any American natives that were announced, as did every other nation for their respective country. However, not every country had representatives. At the archery competition, the only female athlete from the Middle East received little reception from her home country’s flags and fans. South Korea had relatively few native fans in the crowd, compared to the opposing country, Gabon. But most strikingly of all, the Sprint Canoer from the Cook Islands seemed to only have relatives as his native supporters.
These gaps in numerical amounts of supports was never any sort of heartbreaking issue. My family and I cheered at the soccer game for every goal, for the fun of it. Our entire section cheered for the Middle Eastern woman at the archery competition. But at the sprint canoe races, when the competitor from the Cook Islands was almost a mile behind his opponents, the entire stadium stood up and cheered. People were yelling in all sorts of languages, cheering for this man who had worked so hard to make it to London, and never slowed down after he had clearly lost. And this man from the Cook Islands, through the excitement of thousands of fans, had his Olympic moment. At that very second I realized this is what the Olympics are truly about; comradery, enthusiasm, and sharing an international feeling of togetherness.
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