askST@NLB series ends with 'crazy' talk on athletes

Mr Rohit Brijnath speaking at Library@Orchard yesterday in the final instalment of the year-long askST@NLB series. His talk, attended by 165 people, was peppered with stirring videos of athletes' accomplishments.
Mr Rohit Brijnath speaking at Library@Orchard yesterday in the final instalment of the year-long askST@NLB series. His talk, attended by 165 people, was peppered with stirring videos of athletes' accomplishments.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath marvels at the 'remarkable' spirit of sportsmen

At Library@Orchard yesterday, Straits Times assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath revealed to a 165-strong crowd that his waist used to be smaller than the thighs of speed skater Eric Heiden.

"My waist then was 26 inches, and his thighs were 29 inches each," said Mr Brijnath, during his talk titled An Athlete's Life: It's A Crazy One.

But Mr Brijnath pointed out Heiden's "suffering", which purportedly involved holding 136kg weights and doing 300 knee squats, was what helped him win five gold medals at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

He said: "There is something valiant and almost moving in the athlete's capacity for struggle."

Mr Brijnath's talk is the 12th and last talk of the year-long askST@NLB series, where readers can learn about topics ranging from finance to education from ST correspondents.

One word popped up repeatedly throughout Mr Brijnath's 45-minute-long talk: crazy.

He explained: "I mean crazy in the most affectionate sense.

"Athletes are crazy, but what would sport be without these dreamers?"

He used the word "crazy" to illustrate how athletes would mortgage houses, juggle three jobs and wake up to train at ungodly hours just for a shot at glory.

"I saw a heavyweight judoka competitor at the 2012 Olympics who crashed out in the first round after 24 seconds.

"He had trained for 14 years," recounted Mr Brijnath to his listeners, who collectively winced in sympathy.

The talk was interspersed with stirring videos, including one of Gabriela Andersen-Schiess completing her 1984 Olympics marathon while on the brink of physical collapse.

"I feel like applauding this woman even now. I call her crazy, because her spirit is one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen," he said.

Mr Brijnath's account of the feat by Anderson-Schiess left a strong impression on Mr Eddie Lee, 69, who used to be a competitive marathon runner himself.

"Many people don't know about the struggle athletes go through, but Rohit captured it really well.

"He is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker," said Mr Lee, who previously worked in the shipping industry.

After the talk, he asked Mr Brijnath if he knew any athletes who regretted being so "crazy".

"No," replied Mr Brijnath.

"I've only met athletes who regretted not being crazy and not working hard enough."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'askST@NLB series ends with 'crazy' talk on athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe