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 Time to respect our sporting Elders
scepo
 Posted: Jul 14 2017, 04:50 PM
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Queensland Maroons, Roger Federer and Venus Williams show it's time to respect our sporting elders


Analysis
By Offsiders columnist Richard Hinds


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Photo: Roger Federer celebrates after winning his Wimbledon quarter-final against Milos Raonic. (Reuters: Andrew Couldridge)


You will not understand this until the first time a teenaged barista looks pityingly at your grey-haired, pot-bellied 50-something self and patronisingly enquires: "What can I get for you, sweetheart?"

It is tempting to believe diminished respect for elders is a generational failing of entitled Gen Y and, more recently, uber-emboldened millennials whose idea of ancient history begins somewhere around the Snoop Dogg era.

But then you recall, if your fading long-term memory allows, the contempt with which you treated the advice of your parents, teachers and just about anyone old enough to legally buy cigarettes and acknowledge disdain for age has long been rife.

Sport has usually done very little to promote the cause of the wisdom of age over the power of youth, especially in some commentary boxes.

If you did not include leisurely pursuits such as lawn bowls, darts, snooker and even golf, until relatively recently the average champion was sucked in and spat out by his late 20s with the physical toll reducing the competitive life-expectancy of an athlete to that of a caveman.

Yet — take this patronising post-pubescent barista — we are now enjoying a period during which sport is proving age and experience can be more than a match for youthful exuberance.


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Photo: Venus Williams made the final at Wimbledon 20 years after her first appearance at SW19. (AP: Kirsty Wigglesworth)

On Friday night, Roger Federer will contest his 12th Wimbledon semi-final just a month before he turns 36; an age when most others are contemplating trampling on their legacy by trading quips with Henri Leconte at some slapstick novelty event.

Federer's Wimbledon renaissance comes less than six months after he won the Australian Open over fellow 30-something Rafael Nadal in a match that had seemed more likely to be contested by holograms in a living museum after both champions, for a time, succumbed to the ravages of injury.

As Federer marched on, Venus Williams, aged 37, contested her 10th Wimbledon semi-final precisely 20 years after she played the tournament for the first time — astonishing to those of us who can recall burn-out victims such as Andrea Jaeger and Tracy Austin making 20 the use-by date for teen-phenoms.

For at least five years, Williams had been better known as Serena's big sister. More recently, she was the aunty of Serena's foetus and, sadly, the woman involved in a fatal car crash.

But here again was your Venus, her enduring brilliance even more unexpected given a languid game that never betrayed the manic drive of her now legendary little sister.

Similarly, Old Man Federer was supposed to have been blown away by his talented successors Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. And, after them, the powerful modern players who would surely exploit a man with dodgy knees and the sleep deprivation caused by his two sets of twins.

Experience the key in Maroons' Origin triumph

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Photo: Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk embrace after Queensland won State of Origin III. (AAP: Dan Peled)

Meanwhile, in the somewhat less restrained atmosphere of Lang Park, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, born on the same day 34 years ago, and Cooper Cronk, 33, conspired with their Storm teammates to deliver Victoria's first State of Origin title. (OK, Dane Gagai, Valentine Holmes and a few others from clubs outside rugby league's Victorian heartland helped out.)

State of Origin is the ultimate medical. There are few other sporting events that test your heart, stamina, reflexes and every aching joint quite like a pounding eighty minute epic. Yet the stately Smith, Slater and Cronk remain the masters of a domain with no place for walking frames.

From the moment Smith exerted his influence in the opening minutes, charging from dummy half with the irrepressible energy of a toddler on a long-haul flight, the Storm's 'Big Three' controlled the pulse of Origin III, opening gaps and feeding hungry young teammates with precise passes.

None was better than Cronk's cross-field drop punt to Valentine Holmes for a stunning try that was a touching homage to the AFL-dominated city he will leave at the end of the season.

You might add to this list of inspiring sporting geriatrics the 32-year-old Chris Froome, leader of the Tour de France. Although the recent enquiries into drug use by Team Sky and its "poor record keeping" leaves the usual question marks for those whose performance enhancement is found at the bottom of a Viagra bottle.

The common link between these ageless performers is that all are long-acknowledged champions, not ancient journeymen who have taken a belated slurp from some sporting fountain of youth.

In each case, incredible skill has been supplemented by years of experience. At set point, in the white-hot Origin furnace or in the midst of a tortuous mountain climb, their muscle memories are encyclopaedic.

In recent times, improved sports science and full-time professionalism has lengthened the lifespan in many sports — Test cricket is a noteworthy example — despite seemingly greater physical demands.

But the longevity of Federer, Williams, Smith et al is remarkable. The same factors that inspire some athletes — the yearning for competition, the desire to write yet another chapter in sporting history, a passionate engagement with their sport and, yes, even the rich rewards — can drain or demotivate others.

Some — step forward Bernard Tomic, if you can be bothered — only briefly, if ever, match their raw talent with the inspiration needed to endure beyond an age when their pure athletic gifts are sufficient to compete.

So thank you to the old timers cutting it up on the court, the field and on the bike. No need to dye the grey hairs or suck in that gut before we order another latte. Our role models are old models.



http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-14/time-to-respect-our-sporting-elders-richard-hinds/8705722?section=sport


A good article in my view.

--------------------
Everybody is Willing:
Some are willing to work, the rest are willing to let them!

The older I get, the better I was.
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