Kaieteur News – Sometimes, you have to know when to call it quits. Otherwise, you may end up destroying all that you have earned, including your reputation.
Simone Biles who yesterday withdrew from the team competition had nothing more to prove to the world. She had firmly established herself in the public imagination as the Greatest of All Time (GOAT).
At the Tokyo Games yesterday, she was there physically but her mind was not fully there. As such, she did not perform to her usual high standards and had to withdraw.
One of the things about great sportsmen and sportswomen is that not all of them know when to call it quits. Mohamed Ali was a notable example. He came back to fight Larry Holmes and was a shadow of himself. Overweight and far past his best, he was given a sound thrashing by Holmes and was only spared being taken out on a stretcher by his trainer who stopped the fight to avoid Ali absorbing any more pressure.
Kathy Ledecky is considered as the greatest distance swimmer of all time. But she has overstayed her time in swimming and should not have considered participating in the Olympics. She should have left at the top of her game.
The great Alexander Popov, the undisputed free style king at 50 and 100 meters, extended his career way too long. Fortunately, the man known as the Russian Rocket’s swimming career did not end in disgrace.
Others got out at the right time, including Matt Biondi and Mark Spitz. Biondi realised that his star was fading and after the 1992 Olympics, he retired from Olympic competition. Spitz retired after the Munich Olympics, his second. He was only 22.
Sadly, he was lured into a comeback at the age of 41. But he failed to make the qualifying time and was humiliated by bringing last in the American trials. He had gotten out at the right time but then tried to get back in.
Nadia Comaneci was considered as the best gymnast of her time. She participated in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal when she was only 14 years old and again in 1980.
Basketball legend Michael Jordan who initially retired at the age of 30, came back, retired again and then made an ill-advised comeback with his own team. Sometimes, you have to know when it is time to go.
The great Bjorn Borg retired at the age of 26. It is a sad today to see Roger Federer who has nothing more to prove still trying to win a Grand Slam event at the age of 40.
Sometimes, it is hard to know when you are at the top of your game. But once you know, then you should retire before you reach the point of diminishing returns. Rocky Marciano retired at the top of his game. He was undefeated. Marvin Hagler had a lot of more boxing left in him but he wanted to do something different with his life and he retired after his first controversial loss. So too did Prince Naseem Hamid whose hands could no longer hold up to the pressure of his punches. He too retired early.
It is time for Biles to bow out of gymnastics. She has done it all and will remain highly regarded for her exploits and achievements.
Unfortunately, some athletes opt to continue beyond their best. And they end up being beaten by younger athletes who once idolised them. Bowing out at the right time is the right decision.
The problem many elite athletes face, and something, which they are not always keen to admit, is that they have nothing to look forward to after their glory days are over. And as such, they find it impossible to quit.
Elite athletes therefore have to make preparations for life after their sport. Otherwise, they will end up like so many others have, unable to handle the pressures of life after fame. How many athletes have not turned to drug and the bottle after their glossy days have ended?
Remember glory is fleeting, as best captured in the verse of the poem, ‘To an athlete dying young’:
‘Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.”
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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