Like most people, my interest in sports like swimming, high jump, and canoeing, to name but three, increases for the two weeks of the Olympics. There is something that touches us about seeing people who excel at what they do. Regardless of whether it is winning gold or not even making the finals, every athlete at the games has worked and trained hard. They are by definition, the best in the world at what they do.
To reach this position requires talent. But talent alone is not enough. To be the best you can be requires effort and in many instances some form of sacrifice. Perhaps more correctly put, it requires the prioritising of one aspect of life over others. It means going to training rather than watching TV. It means sticking to the eating plan rather than munching donuts.
There are two levels of competition in any individual sport. One is against other competitors and the other against oneself. It is possible to achieve a personal best and still find that on the day another person’s personal best is still better.
Over the centuries, human beings have always admired those who strive to be their best. We innately understand that they will do whatever it takes. We also understand that they accept that despite all that effort, there may be no reward.
It also means accepting risk. BMX bike riding is an Olympic sport for the first time. The moves that these riders are able to do are remarkable. Many of us when riding a bike do well to keep it going in a straight line. Obviously, along the way there have been falls. There will have been injuries.
Pole vaulting, high jumping, hurdles and even running and swimming carry risk. It is possible that injury can occur. The athletes understand this and whilst seeking to reduce the chances of injury, also know that risk can never be eliminated.
There is a trade-off between risk and reward or thought of another way between risk and benefit.
This principle applies in everything that we do in life. There is a proverbial risk in getting out of bed in the morning. Indeed, there is risk in staying in bed all day.
The ability to manage risk enables speed limits to be set above 5kph. It enables us to fly in planes. It enables us to negotiate stairs.
Somehow the ability to manage risk and balance risk and benefit has been lost during the pandemic. The harmful effects of lockdowns such as delayed cancer diagnosis, increased suicides, poorer physical and mental health and the loss of livelihood and connection with friends and family have been ignored. The only focus of most of those in politics and bureaucracy has been the number of positive tests of the Wuhan virus.
The brilliant Johannes Leak captured this in his cartoon in the Weekend Australian where a young girl says, “I want to grow up to be a champion swimmer like our golden girls in Tokyo”. A Chief Health Officer replies “Swimming? But what about the unacceptable risk of drowning” and a man at a desk with a sign ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) says “We’d prefer you to only swim in Evian water if possible”.
This really sums it up.
If we applied the approach being taken with Covid to life, nobody would ever do anything.
Let me be absolutely clear. It is not a binary choice between “letting rip” and lockdown.
After 18 months we can see the results in different jurisdictions. Sweden, which like all countries made mistakes, is showing that its approach is suited to the marathon rather than sprint that we are in. The virus is never going away. It can only be lived with.
The low numbers of fatalities in NSW shows that protection of those most at risk is working. That said, those aged over 80, especially with co-morbidities remain at greatest risk of death from any infection, including but not restricted to Covid. It should not be national news that a person aged 90 (which is six years above the average life expectancy) has died with a virus.
The UK is showing what can be achieved with around 60% of the population vaccinated. Positive test numbers have been falling since “Freedom Day” defying the predictions of “experts” that numbers would soar.
There is a Buddhist saying, “this too shall pass” and like every pandemic in human history this one will too. However, before that occurs, we need to rediscover our sense of proportion, and our understanding of risk management. Aside from admiring the efforts of Olympic athletes, we can learn a bigger lesson from them.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.