Living far away from snow fields in a relatively warm climate makes me fascinated by the winter Olympics. Over the years I have been on snow three times and managed to just manage the baby slopes on skis and did slightly better on a snowboard.

Knowing how hard it was to keep balance at a slow pace underlines the tremendous skills the competitors have. The ski jumpers hurtle down a rail and then go nearly horizontally in the air (there are points for “style” as well as distance”) before landing on their skis and then pulling up at the base of the run having jumped 100 metres or more!

Those doing the luge (which is lying on your back on a toboggan like vehicle on ice skates) are travelling at over 120km/hr and somehow negotiating curves and not crashing.   I am also in awe of the snowboarders who do twists turns and other gymnastics and then land back on the snow without falling off. The amount of practice involved must be astronomical.

It is also certain that before reaching the stage they are at now, there were many falls and practice runs that did not go so well.

It is interesting to contrast the way we admire those who push the boundaries of human capability with the way we try to create sterile hyper safe environments where nobody is allowed to do anything where they may injure themselves or (particularly in the case of children) do a sport where they might not “win”.

At the Olympics only one person will get the gold medal. The others will have done their best and this is recognised by the fact that they are at the Olympics. They will also live with the fact that on that particular occasion they were not the best. Some will be happy with having done their best. Others will be spurred to train harder and learn from the experience.

All will be better for it-winners and those who did not.

At the other end of the evolutionary cycle we have the bizarre situation where swimming lessons were cancelled because some NIMBY (not in my backyard) complained to a gutless council about noise. Children in a swimming pool may make some noise and the teacher may well call to them.

If this was at 3am then maybe the complaints are valid. But this was at 8am in a public pool. To put the proverbial icing on the cake a listener told 6PR that the complainant had called through a megaphone to reduce the noise.

The fault lies with the council which gave in to a petty complaint. This same council has tried to ban personal trainers from using parks lest the grass wear down.

Keep in mind that government bemoans that we do not exercise enough. And that despite nanny state laws about pool fences, drownings have increased. But never mind that, let’s stop children from learning to swim.

It was also notable that a school principal celebrated that two students (aged six and eight) had walked to the shops, to buy bread, and back by themselves. That such an event is considered news worthy and “radical” says much about helicopter parenting. It was not that long ago (up till the 1980’s) that children were routinely sent off for the day to play outside and entertain themselves.

Fitzroy community school principal Tim Berryman told parents last year that children were being driven everywhere instead of being allowed to walk or ride their bikes. This was fear based. “If we are aware of the cost of going with this fear, and instead keep it in check, we will help to nurture a more empowered child, laying the ground for a more empowered adult”, he wrote.

Some parents have let their children go to school independently for the first time this year. Even an academic was supportive. QUT education lecturer Rebecca English told WA Today “If we don’t let children have some danger, and fear, you are not allowing the human brain to develop to the full potential.”

Nobody will develop their full potential unless challenged. This also applies to our ideas. Those who want safe spaces so they never have to hear new ideas or views they disagree with will never develop intellectually. Those who don’t challenge themselves to perform better in their chosen sport will never succeed.

And if we cannot teach our children to swim, to walk to school, or that ideas other than their own exist, they risk never becoming independent, capable adults.