AskMe Olympics followup! March 4, 2010 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Long-delayed followup to the Do I have a shot at the Olympics AskMe question from 2008.

I doubt this is the place for it, but I've (sadly, pathetically) been obsessing about a question in AskMe that wondered if a mid-20s guy could possibly pick up a sport and get to the Olympics as a competitor in a few years.

The best answer is now Jon Montgomery, the winner of the gold medal in Vancouver in Skeleton, who picked up the sport in 2002, was competing in the World Cup by 2006, won his first World Cup race in 2008, and won his gold in 2010.
posted by mikel to MetaFilter-Related at 10:50 AM (66 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Cool!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:04 AM on March 4, 2010


A true Canadian!
posted by gman at 11:10 AM on March 4, 2010


Also, the captain of the gold medal winning 2010 US bobsled team is, shall we say, a skosh less than svelte.

Hope for us all!
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:11 AM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's also this guy, the sole member of the Ghana Winter Olympic team, who learned to ski indoors only eight years ago.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 11:22 AM on March 4, 2010


Also, the captain of the gold medal winning 2010 US bobsled team is, shall we say, a skosh less than svelte.

..and he's a sysadmin
posted by electroboy at 11:26 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, the captain of the gold medal winning 2010 US bobsled team is, shall we say, a skosh less than svelte.

That's the least of his problems -- a few years ago, he was blind.
posted by puritycontrol at 11:27 AM on March 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


Cool!
posted by OmieWise at 11:30 AM on March 4, 2010


On the Summer Olympics side, Rugby Sevens, which just got approved last year for the 2016 games might be one to watch for athletes new to the sport. The standard 15 a side version of rugby draws elite athletes who play all of their lives in many countries (such as New Zealand), but the sevens version is generally not on the same level (partially because many of the best sevens players move on to play professionally in the 15 a side version).

On the US men's team for example (which is ranked 11th in the current World Series) they recently brought on a former Chicago Bears running back who had played rugby as a kid and a former olympic sprinter who had never played rugby, although that's more of a sign that the US team is relatively weak compared to most of the other teams. I'm not sure what the women's side of rugby sevens looks like, it might be even more wide open, because I know that on the 15 a side teams many of the US female competitors pick up rugby in college. At any rate I would expect that come 2016 many of the players on some of the less competitive teams (like the US) will have picked up the sport later in life than most other Olympic athletes.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:36 AM on March 4, 2010


Also, the captain of the gold medal winning 2010 US bobsled team is, shall we say, a skosh less than svelte.

Hope for us all!


Define hope.

He also looked like he had a turkey stuffed down his pants. Those outfits leave little to the imagination. I feel like I should send him a congratulations card (for the medal obviously!).
posted by cjorgensen at 11:39 AM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, the captain of the gold medal winning 2010 US bobsled team is, shall we say, a skosh less than svelte.

Hope for us all!


What? Is that guy's lack of leanness supposed to mean that average slobs can be Olympians or something? I think you might find this slideshow of several Olympic athletes enlightening (although the numbers accompanying the photographs are highly suspect).
posted by ludwig_van at 11:51 AM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


What? Is that guy's lack of leanness supposed to mean that average slobs can be Olympians or something?

Curling is in the Olympics. 'nuff said.
posted by FishBike at 11:55 AM on March 4, 2010


I could've sworn there was a US speedskater in Vancouver that started skating at age 26 or thereabouts. He was a good one, too.

I am sure, though, that even if that was the case, he was probably an elite cyclist or something already.
posted by Mister_A at 12:59 PM on March 4, 2010


Steven Holcomb is the only example of his phenotype (accurately described as the musclebear) in bobsleigh. It says nothing about his actual fitness, but it has attracted 900 followers in four days to the Bears for Steve Holcomb Facebook group.

I posted about Holcomb’s visual impairment previously.

Chaotic ginger scamp Jon Montgomery now has a medal to match the drapes.
posted by joeclark at 1:28 PM on March 4, 2010


Hmmmm never thought it was possible but I would love to try out for speedskating.

Friends of ours is going to seriously try curling.

CURLING.

Wimps. :p
posted by stormpooper at 1:34 PM on March 4, 2010


Also making the rounds, in U.S. bobsled news: your daily dose of beefcake.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:58 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best answer is now Jon Montgomery

No, that is not the best answer. That is an exception, not the rule.

Look, if you have a dream, go for it. If you really love something, then do it, but nobody should be guided by the false premise that someone can get off the couch one day and be an Olympian the next.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:09 PM on March 4, 2010


I think there's a difference between "guided" and "do I have a shot?"
posted by smoke at 2:21 PM on March 4, 2010


Yes, and it's better to say "maybe, one in a million" rathan than "sure, that guy did it."
posted by P.o.B. at 2:37 PM on March 4, 2010


Also, the captain of the gold medal winning 2010 US bobsled team is, shall we say, a skosh less than svelte.

My favorite thing about bobsled (possibly the only interesting thing about bobsled?) is watching cute fat guys in skin-tight suits.
posted by serazin at 2:46 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Friends of ours is going to seriously try curling.

Well, don't let age stop you there. The skip of the Gold medal Canadian curling team is a balding 40 year old! He's been doing it a long time, but I guess it's one of those sports you can do into (relative) old age.

I've always thought when the Olympics roll around we should look at the histogram of everyone in the country's ability in each sport, and pick people from the median to compete. Then we would see really how each country measures up! A competition among the average (ok, the ratings might not be that great).
posted by bluefly at 3:04 PM on March 4, 2010


the false premise that someone can get off the couch one day and be an Olympian the next.

I don't see anyone suggesting that here. Rather, people are noting that Montgomery took up the sport as an adult (albeit a young one) and won Olympic gold in that sport eight years later. No one's saying doesn't take years of hard work. Rather, people are hopeful because you don't have to have been training in the sport since you were five years old to have a chance at being an Olympian.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:33 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, speaking of age, Kazuhiro Koshi was 45 years old, the oldest member of the Japan team. But he's been competing for a long time. I wonder who the oldest athlete was in the 2010 games, overall?
posted by misozaki at 3:35 PM on March 4, 2010


Most of what holds people back in life is perceived lack of opportunity, not actual lack of opportunity.

Assuming your basic fundamental needs like shelter, food, health care and mobility are taken care of, of course.
posted by davejay at 4:06 PM on March 4, 2010


Has skeleton always been called skeleton? I swear this was the first year I noticed a sport by that name, but I've been watching the Olympics forever.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:30 PM on March 4, 2010


jessamyn: They had Skeleton in the St. Moritz games in 1928 and 1948, probably because the sport was born there and they had a track specifically for it. In the official reports for those games, the sport goes by the name Skeleton. Wikipedia says it was also called tobogganing. The sport came back came back in the 2002 games.
posted by zsazsa at 4:47 PM on March 4, 2010


I kept calling skeleton "skeletor" all through the Olympics, but that dude is obviously way too old to compete in anything. Except evil.
posted by maudlin at 5:00 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder who the oldest athlete was in the 2010 games, overall?

That would be Hubertus von Hohenlohe, 51, according to a few news sources.

Olympic site ought to have an Infodump. grar.
posted by FishBike at 5:30 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even if your national Rugby 7s team is mostly made up of kids who took it up in college, and therefore presumably not SO hard to get into, you really don't want to be playing against the big boys from the serious rugby nations.

Like this guy, for example - 6'5" & over 100kg in his playing days, Jonah Lomu could run 100m in little more than 10 sec. And that's straight at you:

Lomu's attacking style was one of pure power; he had a tendency to run straight into or over any defender who had the misfortune to get in his way.

See if you can get into sailing - Laser class or something. Your body will thank you for it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:20 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see anyone suggesting that here. Rather, people are hopeful because you don't have to have been training in the sport since you were five years old to have a chance at being an Olympian.

This is supposedy a best answer followup to "Do I have a shot at the Olympics?", and yeah the suggestion is from couch to Olympics. This answer is not the best answer because it is an exception. Most Olympians have been doing what they are doing for a long time for a few simple reasons.

But let's set aside the idea that you have to start really young. Let's say you are in your mid-twenties and want to take up...something, whatever.
First, the something is just as big of a factor as anything here. You don't really think anyone can come up with the idea that in eight years at the age of thirty they can compete at Soccer (Football) in the Olympics do you?
Second, let's make a list of most everything else you need:
- Do you have the time for the six to eight hour training days?
- Do you have the money? Because at best you'll have to pick up a part time job to support your newfound diet of 4,000 calories.
- Do you have access to a really good coach, if not a world class one?
- Do you have access to training equipment & facilities?
- Do you have any innate skill? Anything like great endurance, or exceptional dexterity?
- Do you have the drive? Can you push yourself through eight hours of training?
- Do you have the will to overcome all the obstacles that come up like the injuries and everyday life and keep training through them?
- Do you have the right body type for what you are doing?

Seriously, think about it. It's a little bit harder then, *ding* "I think I'll go do the Olympics." If you put some thought into it, it becomes obvious why elite athletes have been doing what they do forever, because they started when they were really young.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:04 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This answer is not the best answer because it is an exception.

All Olympians are exceptions. Yes, 99.999% of people could not become Olympians by taking up a sport as an adult. But then, 99.999% of people could not become Olympians if they started training at 4 years old and practiced 6 hours a day 365 days a year. All of the questions you pose are valid, but they apply just as much to the athlete starting at 4 as they do to the athlete starting at 24 (except the money, where it's your parents who have to have the money rather than you personally). By your standard, no one should ever try to become an Olympic athlete.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:35 PM on March 4, 2010


The best answer is now Jon Montgomery, the winner of the gold medal in Vancouver in Skeleton, who picked up the sport in 2002, was competing in the World Cup by 2006, won his first World Cup race in 2008, and won his gold in 2010.

What did he do before 2002? I'd wager it wasn't sitting around surfing MeFi and eating cheese-doodles.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:50 PM on March 4, 2010


All of the questions you pose are valid, but they apply just as much to the athlete starting at 4 as they do to the athlete starting at 24

No, it doesn't. Time, money, affinity towards the sport, ability, finding the proper coach/trainer, recuperative ability, etc. - all those things are a billion times easier to cultivate and bring about in a pre-teen than someone who is looking at being in their thirties before having a chance at the "big show". Now, unless you're going to argue "statistically speaking" then you're just plain wrong, and I've never said people should not try to become an Olympian. As I said earlier "if you have a dream, go for it. If you really love something, then do it"
posted by P.o.B. at 8:05 PM on March 4, 2010


Also, you're twisting up what I said there. The man is an exception by way of how late he came into the sport. Not the fact that you need exceptional ability to compete.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:12 PM on March 4, 2010


Yes, but that he's exceptional in starting late isn't relevant to the question. The poster of the original question appears to be well aware that most Olympians start very young. The question was whether it's possible to pick up a sport as an adult and make it to the Olympic level, not whether it's easy to do so. And to that question, Jon Montgomery is a good answer.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:23 PM on March 4, 2010


Do you have the money? Because at best you'll have to pick up a part time job to support your newfound diet of 4,000 calories.

Oh shit y'all, is anybody hiring
posted by ludwig_van at 8:43 PM on March 4, 2010


If quashing quixotic dreams were a sport, y'all would be very good at it. Not world champions of course: that would take world class coaches and you're probably the wrong snarkotype anyway. But you can still dream big, you hopeless sacks of wide eyed dreaming.
posted by ~ at 9:47 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, but that he's exceptional in starting late isn't relevant to the question.

Whaaaa...? That's exactly why it's not a good answer. He's an exception because he started so late, most anybody who starts that late is...too late. That's the point.

Anyway, I'm not going to keep arguing this but let's make this analogous and maybe you'll get a better idea.

Dear AskMeFi
I just graduated Community College and I was wondering how hard would it be to get nominated for an Academy Award within the next eight years? I'm not picky, just give me a category.

Hello AskMe,
So I was just dinking around lately wondering what I'm going to do with my new BA in Communications and I decided I'm going to write a New York Times Besteller. Anybody got any bright ideas?


It's not that you couldn't do it, it's that it's highly unlikely. You could probably pull those questions I made upthread and use most of them, but the big difference is that in most athletic endeavors the body does have a time limit. That's just the way it is. Once your body hits the late twenties, there is a persistent downward trend in function.

But hey, don't take my word for it. Go do it. Pick something out and train to be an Olympian. Let us know how it works out.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:33 PM on March 4, 2010


Well, if tilting at windmills is their game, something in the equestrian events might be suitable.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:47 PM on March 4, 2010


Well done for ruining this fun post, P.o.B.
posted by ninebelow at 3:56 AM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


???
posted by P.o.B. at 4:15 AM on March 5, 2010


Oh, wait! I have a perfect haiku that I learned from Godzilla to mark this event.

Am I violent
Because you assume I am?
Is this really me?
posted by P.o.B. at 4:25 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Even if your national Rugby 7s team is mostly made up of kids who took it up in college, and therefore presumably not SO hard to get into, you really don't want to be playing against the big boys from the serious rugby nations.

Like this guy, for example - 6'5" & over 100kg in his playing days, Jonah Lomu could run 100m in little more than 10 sec.


Luckily for everyone who isn't from New Zealand, Lomu was pretty much the exception rather than the rule. Most players of his caliber (i.e. the best ever) play the 15 a side version exclusively. If you play against the New Zealand sevens squad today (which is currently leading the World Series standings after a disappointing season last year) you'll be up against guys like Kurt Baker, who while not a pushover is not yet good enough to make the 15 a side All Blacks team. That's part of the reason why countries like Kenya that don't have decent 15 a side team can still field a top sevens squad.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:15 AM on March 5, 2010


I keep wanting to pronounce skeleton as "skelington" even though I'm not 5 years old.
posted by like_neon at 5:26 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But seriously guys I am going to start telling everyone who asks a training question to get a second job so that they can afford to eat 4,000 calories.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:21 AM on March 5, 2010


Great. Let us know how that works out.
posted by electroboy at 7:38 AM on March 5, 2010


Well done for ruining this fun post, electroboy.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:20 AM on March 5, 2010


It's still fun for me.
posted by electroboy at 8:28 AM on March 5, 2010


Well, this thread went downhill pretty fast.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:29 AM on March 5, 2010


Well, this thread went downhill pretty fast.

Maybe we should nominate it for the MetaFilter skiiing team at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
posted by FishBike at 8:30 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


In those comments above, P.o.B sleighed the good mood.
posted by patricio at 8:33 AM on March 5, 2010


Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. We still haven't figured out how to pay for all those extra calories.
posted by electroboy at 8:34 AM on March 5, 2010


In just over 2.5 years, P.o.B. went from a metafilter n00b to winning the Gold in Snarky Killjoy, 2010. Amazing!

You can do it too (but it's highly unlikely).
posted by milarepa at 8:41 AM on March 5, 2010


You know what, I take back everything I said. I was joking! Somebody turn the music back on in here!
posted by P.o.B. at 10:06 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But seriously guys I am going to start telling everyone who asks a training question to get a second job so that they can afford to eat 4,000 calories.

I'm not sure what your joke is there, but that's not what i said.

posted by P.o.B. at 10:09 AM on March 5, 2010


Because at best you'll have to pick up a part time job to support your newfound diet of 4,000 calories.

Snickers for breakfast.
2x Snickers for lunch.
2x Snickers + 500ml Haagen Dazs Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream for dinner.

Are you an Ameri-Can or an Ameri-Can't?
posted by biffa at 10:24 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


8(+) hrs sleep
+8 hrs workout time
---------------------
leaves 8 free hrs

means at best you'll be able to pick up a part time job to support yourself (assuming someone else isn't fully sponsoring you), including twice as much food cost as a normal person.




But forget all that....LET"S DANCE!
posted by P.o.B. at 10:32 AM on March 5, 2010


http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/, for all your 4,000 calorie meal needs.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:34 AM on March 5, 2010


Breakfast of Champions
posted by not_on_display at 10:38 AM on March 5, 2010


Thanks for giving me anorexia, ludwig_van.
posted by Mister_A at 11:11 AM on March 5, 2010


For reals though, if you want to get some trophies, start running or cycling or something and look forward to your mid-30s when you can start collecting age group awards in races. Be forewarned, though: good 40-year-old bike racers are fast as hell and mean as snakes. Likewise the better runners. My point is this: if you can place in your age group in a medium-to-large event, you are a bad mamma jamma.
posted by Mister_A at 11:14 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aw, crap. I thought this post was going to say Montgomery was a Mefite who read that post and decided to take up skeltor.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 3:21 PM on March 5, 2010


I'm with POB, it's conceivable but not really a high enough possibility to qualify as 'a shot'. It would be a really bad idea to go into something like this with anything but a 'shoot for the stars, maybe you'll hit the moon' mentality.

I took up fencing at age 20 and in about 13 years got to within what I would call one cruise missile away from a shot at the team before an injury took me out. Still, I was proficient enough to give some olympians a good bout and occasionally upset them in competition which was hella fun, and I do mean upset if national rankings were in play.

But reaching even this level was mostly because the USA was a fencing backwater when I began and I was lucky to fall in with an elite coach when there were very few in the country. It would take a really unlikely confluence of circumstances: like an obscure sport variation accepted by the IOC after you've got a head start training, world class coaching, deep pockets, innate physical talent, dual citizenship with Elbonia, and complete dedication to the sport to give yourself a non-zero chance to make it. Oh, and 4000 calories a day. I was doing about 3500, maybe that extra shake would have done it...
posted by Manjusri at 7:39 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most players of his caliber (i.e. the best ever) play the 15 a side version exclusively.

Lomu's good, but hardly the best ever - Rush did better as a 7s player, and there are more than a few better wingers in New Zealand's history.
posted by rodgerd at 12:03 AM on March 6, 2010


Most players of his caliber (i.e. the best ever) play the 15 a side version exclusively

Several of England's Rugby World Cup winning side of 2003 were former 7s players - Matt Dawson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back, for example.

For the most part, 7s is a young person's game.

Anyway, the simplest answer to how to become an Olympian is trivially easy.

1) Earn a bit extra or have a private income
2) Move somewhere small and obscure, or somewhere where nobody competes in your sport.
3) Voila - you're nearly in.

See Hubertus von Hohenlohe or Eric the Eel, the Jamaican Bobsleigh team, Eddie the Eagle etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:55 AM on March 6, 2010


*Ahem* You still have to qualify

I know, I know, reality is - *cough*I mean - I'm such a downer
posted by P.o.B. at 4:58 AM on March 6, 2010


I've got it!

The best answer is Coxswain. To compete as an Olympian in 2012, all you'll need is to be a loud and commanding coach and at most weigh 130lbs. The hard part is getting on the right team, but it looks like China held a contest where anyone could sign up for their 2008 team. So maybe there really is "VoilĂ , you're in the Olympics!"

Here are a few guides to get you started:
How to Coxswain a Rowing Sprint
Rowing 101 - Coxswain Calls
Coxswain's Guide
Essays on the Art of Coxing
posted by P.o.B. at 2:27 PM on March 6, 2010


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