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Soup of This Day #226: Happiness, More Or Less

August 7, 2012

Aphrodite's Rock, Cyprus
Aphrodite’s Rock, a sea stack in Cyprus. As legend would have it this is where Aphrodite, born of sea foam, came ashore having been brought in by the waves. It would have been more comfortable and a good deal less tiring if she’d hitched a ride on a laser class sailing dinghy – Photo: Nino Verde, 2011. Nino Verde is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

In any sporting contest there is an element of fortune. It might be a choice of ends decided by a toss of a coin, or a sudden rain shower reducing the playing surface to a levelling morass. Whatever the instrument of fate there is a fine line between lucky and unlucky.

Of course, the successful will argue that you make your own luck and there is no doubt to a certain extent that you can force fate to yield to your way of thinking simply by sheer force of will. That won’t guarantee you a win but it certainly will make it more likely.

Olympic sailing exemplifies this. There are a ridiculous number of variables – The wind for starters and the behaviour of the water to be going on with.

Modelling flows, be they wind or water, is incredibly hard to do. I have some experience in this, having studied fluid dynamics at uni.

Of course I failed fluid dynamics. Twice.

The 1st failure was down to the fact that it was my very last core unit and I had reached the limits of my endurance. I’d had enough. Enough of starving and enough of scrabbling through life with no surety. Unfortunately this breaching of the threshold occurred around 2 weeks before my fluid dynamics exam and so I failed.

I got a 2nd chance though. I hadn’t failed by much, it was something like 43%, which was good enough to earn me a supplementary exam 2 weeks later.

Where they generously gave me exactly the same exam paper as I’d previously sat.

Somehow I managed to score less the 2nd time around.

I’d really had enough.

Anyway that fluid stuff was horribly complicated and so it must be for the competitive sailors battling it out offshore at Weymouth as part of the 2012 London Olympics. The guys in the men’s laser class for instance pilot these tiny skiff like boats around while constantly seeking every advantage, from the smallest breath of wind to a tiny run down a swell measured in centimetres.

And they do this in 11 races.

With that kind of sample you would need to make your own luck. Austalian Tom Slingsby did just that for these Olympics. Tom you see, won 4 of the 1st 10 races. This gave him such a commanding lead that when the top 10 boats set of in the medal race, where points count double, that all he had to do was finish in 7th or better and even if he didn’t his nearest rival, Cypriot Pavlos Kontides, still needed to win.

So Tom went out, focused entirely on beating Pavlos. The Australian ignored everyone else and just concentrated on a match race with his direct rival.

It paid off.

The Australian finished in 9th, comfortably ahead of the Cypriot in 10th. Thus the gold went to Slingsby while Kontides netted the silver.

Both should feel proud – They made their luck throughout the regatta.

That was good luck – You can also make bad luck. Particularly for other people.

Take Usain Bolt for instance. When he was lining up for the 100m final he was concentrating hard on not false-starting. He’d done that in last year’s World Champs and thus had been eliminated. In fact, Bolt was so scarred by that he had purchased a set of the exact same starting blocks in use at London, just so that he could become familiar with them.

So Usain was making his own good luck.

Seconds before the gun went off though, someone else set out to ruin all of that for him. A drunk spectator chose to lob a beer bottle in Bolt’s direction. It landed behind the Jamaican’s starting position and turned out to be rather unlucky in its timing.

Not for Bolt who parleyed a decent start, the 5th best of 8, into an Olympic Record 9.69s and another gold medal.

No, the unlucky person was the bottle thrower. Because standing next to him was Dutch woman Edith Bosch.

Who had recently won a bronze medal of her own.

In judo.

What happened next is best left to Edith the judoka to explain, which she did via Twitter:

‘Some drunk in front of me throws a bottle onto the track!! I hit him … Unbelievable!!’

This blog does not in any way endorse the taking of matters into your own hands that are best left for the police. Such actions deserve no reward.

Unless your name is Edith and you nail a dumbass bottle-thrower with a move worthy of an ippon. In which case you get a full point and a round of applause from me.

Not so much for American judoka Nicholas Delpopolo. Nick – I feel like he’s a Nick – has been expelled from the Olympics because he tested positive to a banned substance.


He apparently ate some baked products that he didn’t realise had weed in them. That is unlucky and furthermore I can sympathise – I once ate some brownies with pot in them and I didn’t realise at the time.

I had no idea.


As funny as that all is – I’d rather end this post on a high note.

The Cypriot sailor Pavlos Kontides who won silver notched up a rather significant feat with that medal. It was the 1st by a Cypriot.

Not just the 1st by a Cypriot sailor, or even the 1st silver medal by a Cypriot.

It was the 1st medal of any colour for a Cypriot in any Olympics.

In Australia right now we’re having much wringing of hands over the relative dearth of Olympic gold medals we’ve won in London. Apparently we’re miles behind the British on the medal tally, at least in part because we have a decent haul of silver medals that we were unable to convert to gold.

We’re also behind New Zealand. This irks us because whilst we like them, it’s more a condescending pat on the head kind of thing.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has now weighed into the media-fuelled angst, blaming the government who only gave them half of the funding they asked for.

To be fair, the AOC did ask for $108m so only getting $54m isn’t under the heading of crippling financial hardship. Particularly not against the backdrop of a global financial crisis. For the record the Australian Federal Government coughed up $350m last year for sport, which strikes me as rather a lot.

Me thinks the AOC should suck it up. That might sound heartless but some of this post was written in a waiting room ahead of me having a scan on my heart – Following that I can now confirm that my heart is most certainly in the right place.

You see, I don’t think Cyprus has $350m to spare for sport. Their nominal GDP for 2011 was $24.949 billion. Australia’s was $1.488 trillion, which is roughly 59 times bigger. I’m no economist but it would seem that Cyprus has to make a lot less cover a lot more stuff – Things like hospitals, schools and food.

In spite of this they got themselves an Olympic medal, their 1st.

Bet they aren’t upset it’s not gold.

Bet they’re not even going to hold multiple enquiries into what went wrong. In fact Pavlos thinks they’ll have something entirely different in store for him:

‘I think now my name will be written in Cyprus Port with golden letters, but it still hasn’t sunk in and the emotions haven’t come out because I was really trying hard to keep focus and not pay attention to any media or anything like that.’

His name in golden letters.


It might seem strange it being in gold given that he got silver but it actually makes sense – Pavlos you see is a winner. He won his way to London. He then won 2 races in London and lastly, he won a silver medal for Cyprus.

See? Winner. What a lucky man.

Happiness, More Or Less

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