“What matters more? Competing or Winning?” one of the seniors asked with a stern look on his face on my first day of medical school. Hazing in my medical school was pretty mild. “Competing”, I said timidly, thinking that’s probably the expected answer. “Tell me the name of the 6th fastest male runner in the world. I’m sure you watched him run the 100 meters in last year’s Olympics”. Alright, I backed myself into a corner. I smiled weakly. “You are right. It’s about winning. But competing is necessary in order to win.” “You are arguing too much, young woman…..”

Rio was such a treat the last couple weeks. Usain Bolt was the best of all, by a mile and a margin! He makes winning look super easy. While his high ‘boltage’ performance is freakish, I haven’t yet put my finger on what I want to emulate after watching him. May be the happy easy look of accomplishment without making a big deal of it. P.V.Sindhu, Saakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar, on the other hand, who represented 18% of the world’s population in Rio (India’s population is 1.377 billion whereas the world’s population is 7.444 billion), have got to be inspiring to everyone in India. The country’s lack of sports infrastructure is so pathetic and those with the power and ability to improve the infrastructure have been busy announcing large gifts and incentives for medal winners instead of getting to work on improving the infrastructure. Another major contributor to poor performance by India in every Olympics is the Indian society itself. Every parent wants each of their children to be either a doctor or an engineer. Participation in sports is encouraged by a select few parents and most of the time only to the extent of earning the label of an ‘all-rounder’ in school, at best. In fact, when an athlete turned model Madhu Sapre represented India at the Miss Universe pageant in 1992 said she would build sports complexes in India if she were to be head of the state, she was booed down. She was second runner up in the competition and the winner was a woman who said she would work for world peace. She said in a media interview, “All the officials had told us that our answers had to be truthful and coming from the heart. Nobody told us we had to be politically correct. I said what my heart told me and I lost. According to me India has been in poverty for many years, so it was not going to suddenly change in one year by my becoming the prime minister. But there are other areas like art and sports in which we can improve. And being a sports girl I had suffered because we don’t have the equipment and the grounds in India.” That was twenty four years ago.

Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez were such a joy to watch! Loved watching Simone Biles and her team defy gravity with sheer control, beauty and grace. Laurie’s wink is something else– she’s such an entertainer. Van Niekerk and his grandma coach – many of my friends at work thought she was his real grandma. Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky – very inspiring and wholesome performance by both. Minxia Wu and Tingmao Shi stole my heart with their perfectly synchronized diving. Others with a special place in my heart – Diro who finished the race with one shoe, Dibaba who is such a terrific no-frills athlete, and of course, Sindhu who picked up her opponents racket and gave it to her! Some of these athletes are purely focused on performance. No makeup. No drama. As for Lochtegate, it’s so embarrassing that I don’t feel like talking about it right now. Closer to home, my friend Anupa and I rooted for our trainer Jessica Flax who missed making it to the US Olympic heptathlon team and shared her loss. She is a very inspiring trainer who was struggling with back injury leading up to the trials.

Overshadowing the spectacular display of human performance is the Zika virus and the issues of developing countries in general. Brazil lost so much revenue because of the virus and the fear was disproportionately greater than the threat itself. Faster. Higher. Stronger. Against viruses, hypocrisy, and other threats to humanity. Towards the best of everything about human performance.

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