I’m not silly. I know being an elite athlete is about the worst thing you can do to your body. Strange as it may seem, all that fitness really isn’t good for you.
So I’ve opted for what I thought was a much safer pursuit as a couch potato.
Over the years, I’ve swum world records with Perkins and Thorpey, done c’mons with Lleyton, jumped hurdles with Sally Pearson, bowled out Poms with Warney and Ooh Aah Glenn McGrath or tonked them all over the park with Steve Waugh and Clarkey. I’ve done all this without even pulling a hammy.
Yes, there have been a few late nights and a few early rises. Sometimes both in the same day. But that’s the price you pay for being a champion in the field.
Six weeks ago though, I could see trouble on the horizon. The kind of trouble when you meet a potential partner and can instantly tell that, for all the attraction, it won’t end well.Embed from Getty Images
Brewing in the distance was a perfect storm of sporting events: the World Cup, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the Commonwealth Games. All in unfriendly time zones.
Now the art of being a couch potato is knowing, to borrow a Formula One analogy, when to pit. You can do a few late nights if you know there’s an opportunity to change your tyres. This is critical because at some point in the day all couch potatoes need do a convincing sideline as a functioning member of society.
So I paced myself through the group stage of the World Cup and the early rounds of Wimbledon. I juggled the late night finishes of the Tour de France with the early morning starts of the Commonwealth Games finals. Even as each of these competitions reached their pointy ends, I was able to exercise restraint. Well, some.
But the cumulative effect of this festival of sport was taking its toll. Last night was crunch time, with the Commonwealth Games, the Hungarian Grand Prix and the historic women’s version of the Tour de France all vying for simultaneous attention.
As each contest developed, serious questions were asked of my remote control thumb. Despite my years of training, I was feeling the pressure. My eyeballs were cramping, my heart pumping at peak couch potato capacity. If there’s a muscle in your thumb, I’m sure I tore it.Embed from Getty Images
Mentally, I was barely able to keep up. Was that Daniel Ricciardo sprinting the 100-metre heats in his Formula Onesy and cycling champ Marianne Vos burning rubber in a racing car? I upped my caffeine intake and hoped I wouldn’t be done for performance enhancing substances.
Years of muscle memory kicked in. Intuitively, I caught all the pivotal moments of the three events: Daniel Ricciardo taking the winning lead in Budapest, the favourite Marianne Vos emerging victorious from the bunch sprint in Paris and Australia’s Jodi Elkington winning gold in the Para-sport long jump, leaping about four times the distance I could.Embed from Getty Images
It was the toughest challenge of my couch potato career and satisfying to come out of it with such a massive PB.
But I had to break the news to James Magnussen that he’d be on his own for his 100-metre freestyle final at 4.14am. I had to be a functioning member of society in a few hours. He seemed to take it quite well.
So, on this my third cuppa of the morning, I have this small request of sports schedulers across the world. One I thought I’d never make. Yes, I love my sport. But please make it stop before it kills me.