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Strange Times

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Mexico Olympics 1968. His feet danced down the runway. His foot planted in the perfect position. Takeoff was perfection. Tailwind was the maximum allowed. It was the Men’s Long Jump Final and Bob Beamon’s body flew through the air. A new world record in his first jump and the competition was over at that point.

Bob Beamon did not just break the world record, he smashed it! The measuring system in place at the time reached 28 feet. The old record was 27’ 4 3/4” (8.35m), so this system allowed plenty of room for improvement. That is until Beamon jumped. The competition was delayed by 20 minutes while extra tape measures were brought out to record his spectacular leap of 29’ 2 ½” (8.90m). Measurements were taken and taken again.

To put it into perspective, that one jump would have won EVERY long jump competition bar one, until today. It is still the Olympic record and as the World Record, it was held for 23 years until Mike Powell broke it in 1991. This is the only time it has been bettered.

The Mexico Olympics were held at altitude. There were numerous World or Olympic Records broken at those Games, but the thin air, legal tailwind and an extraordinary jump combined to create what is perhaps the greatest single athletic feat in history.

But there was a dark side to the Mexico Olympics as well. The thin air, while helping some, meant long distance events were impacted in a not so positive way. Ron Clarke, Australia’s best middle and long-distance runner of the time who broke 17 World Records, was the raging favourite for the 10,000 metres. He collapsed after finishing in 6th place and his heart stopped. He had run himself to exhaustion.  

It was strange time indeed during those ‘68 Olympics. 

Seeing Clarke prostrate on the track was a rarity. There are times when we see marathon runners also struggle into the finish. Athletes wobbling, shaking, with no apparent body control, is a difficult thing to watch and, once seen, is never forgotten. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often. However…..

Stranger times are upon us. 

Healthy athletes, many world class, are collapsing during competition or training. Not just one or two, but numerous, and the list continues to grow. 

Soccer players have died during games or training in assorted ways for many years. The first being noted back in 1889. Each death is a tragedy, but fortunately it happens rarely. Years may pass between these occurrences until last year.  

Just in soccer alone, there have been 15 reported deaths in the last 12 months. There are many other young, healthy sports people who have suddenly collapsed and or died over the last 12 months. 15 deaths have been reported in the last 3 months across a wide variety of sports.

Some athletes who have decided against taking the jab have been ostracised or prevented from playing. NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets has decided to sit out the season rather than risk his health by taking the jab. NFL quarterback Aaron Rogers has also decided to forgo his jab. In Australia, there are NRL and AFL players not willing to gamble with their health despite the lucrative contracts on offer.

Pat Cash, an Australian Tennis player and Wimbledon winner in 1987, recently made an impassioned plea: ‘‘Why are young, super-fit, healthy athletes getting vaccinated who have virtually zero chance of dying of Covid? We’ve vaccinated the elderly and vulnerable. Stop coercing athletes.’’ 

World number one tennis player Novak Djokvic has shunned the vax in favour of natural immunity and is prepared to miss the Australian Open in January 2022. Last week, world number 3 tennis player Stefanos Tsitsipas, 23, said during the Western & Southern Open in  Cincinnati: “The vaccine has not been tested enough, it is new, it has some side-effects. I just see no reason for someone in my age group to need to be vaccinated.” 

An Israeli study shows that natural immunity gives 13 times better protection against Covid than the jab.

Judging by recent sports deaths and collapses that are being attributed to the experimental vaccine, these athletes are justified in being hesitant. Reports of injury, collapses and death in sports as diverse as volleyball, rowing, tennis, football, badminton and cricket, for both men and women, are coming in. These are athletes at the peak of their careers.

Mexico ‘68 was strange but it was explainable. 

The strange times we’re facing today are not quite so simple to explain away.  To some the connection is plain but mention the vaccine connection and as per the Guardian newspaper editors you will be labelled “highly impressionable or a village idiot”.  

As the number of injuries and deaths continue to be reported, surely the ‘lights will go on somewhere’…hopefully. But then again, these are strange times.

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