EDITORIAL – The heart of a nation at the Olympics

Lara and Geoff Butler get ready for a training session at the Olympic pool in Rio.

Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, the esteemed cardiac surgeon currently practicing at Health City Cayman Islands, tells us that the human heart is distinguishable neither by race nor gender nor country of origin. Through the eyes of a skilled physician, all hearts look similar and function exactly the same.

The heart of a nation, of course, is very different.

Check the Cayman Compass 2016 Olympics page for more coverage of the Rio Games

A national heart beats collectively as one, fueled not by blood but by pride, which we will experience in full force tonight as our five Cayman athletes carry high our national colors at the opening ceremonies at the summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Representing Cayman will be Ronald Forbes in the 110 meter hurdles; Kemar Hyman in the 100-meter sprint; Florence Allan in the women’s “Laser Radial” sailing; Geoff Butler in the 400 meter freestyle swimming; and his sister Lara Butler in the 100 meter backstroke.

In many ways we flatter ourselves with the thought that “peak performers,” such as our Olympic athletes, are “just like us,” and in many ways they are. Where they differ, however, is what makes all of the difference – and that is why they’ll be competing in Rio and we’ll be cheering them on from the homeland.

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Top athletes share common traits, mindsets and behaviors that lead almost inevitably to success, not only in sports but, indeed, in most fields of endeavor.

Primary among them is self-discipline and the willingness to delay gratification. Put another way, this is doing what needs to be done – especially when we would prefer to be doing something more pleasant.

What is invisible to the viewers of the Olympics but is a shared experience of all 11,385 athletes who will be competing in the XXXI Olympiad are the thousands of hours they spent in preparing for these games – in the pool, on the track, or on the myriad of other playing fields.

Another quality, shared by almost all successful athletes, is described by an obscure word (although it sounds familiar) called “conation.” Conation is the mindset that encompasses “will,” “drive,” “perseverance,” and, most important, “unstoppability.” You can be certain our Cayman athletes rank inordinately high on the conation scale.

In Rio, they will be challenged not only by the world’s best competitors in their respective sports but by the conditions of the Olympic venue itself.

Nearly every social and political plague imaginable has converged recently on the host country, including a Zika epidemic (which resulted in some top athletes withdrawing from the games), crime and security issues (elevated now to terrorism concerns), traffic and transportation woes (a new rail line is so problematic that a member of the security forces precedes each tram on a motorcycle in case of accidents or mishaps), polluted water, impeachment of the president, of course corruption, and the list goes on.

Nevertheless, from their ancient Greek origins through modern times, the Olympics have gone through nearly unimaginable trials and travails – from the ignominious 1936 Berlin games presided over by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to the 1972 Munich games where 11 Israeli athletes were murdered to the bombing at the 1996 games in Atlanta.

And yet the torch continues to be passed, and the Olympic flame continues to burn reassuringly on.

We expect a marvelous XXXI Olympiad, and we congratulate our athletes, the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, our Minister of Sports Osbourne Bodden and all of the volunteers who helped put our national team on the international stage.

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