It really is an incredible time to watch sport at the moment – over the past few weeks we have been privileged to be able to watch, among others, Wimbledon, The Open, Tour de France, The Euros, the British and Irish Lions Tour and now, the Olympics. Notwithstanding the amazing sport being played, it is surely going to make for some great trivia questions in the future – I can just imagine Alexander Armstrong on the television show Pointless asking the question “in what year was the 2020 Summer Olympics?”
For me, one of the great joys of watching these sports is seeing what the human body is capable of doing. Usain Bolt, arguably the greatest sprinter of all time, is the only sprinter to win Olympic 100 m and 200 m titles at three consecutive Olympics (2008, 2012 and 2016), and still holds the 100m and 200m records, being 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds. Impressive right? Unfortunately, in the animal kingdom Usain Bolt would have been eaten quicker than you can say Lightning Bolt, with his top recorded speed of 27.8mph being significantly behind the cheetah (70mph), lion (50mph) and, sadly, the domestic cat (30mph). Even hippos are known to be able to run at up to 19mph, although surprisingly hippos cannot swim – they walk underwater.
My current favourite athlete is a Swede by the name of Armond Duplantis who competes in pole vault and regularly clears a height of 6 metres. Pole vaulting is one of the four major jumping events in athletics, together with long jump, triple jump and high jump, and involves running as fast as you can to jump as high as you can, with the assistance of a long pole. To put it into perspective, 6 metres is basically the width of a double garage. Imagine jumping up that high, only to have to fall all the way down, all due to Newton and his pesky apple!
As impressive as vaulting 6 metres into the air is, the world record for long jump is 8.95m held by Mike Powell, dating all the way back to 1991. This is therefore almost a double garage plus a single garage. The achievements of athletes like Duplantis and Powell are simply unbelievable and way beyond most people’s wildest dreams – with almost 8 billion people on this planet, it is only the select few that are even able to come anywhere close to these (lofty) heights. But to put it in perspective, the impala, typically standing only 0.7m to 0.9m tall, is able to jump as high as 3m while covering a distance of 10m in one leap. And ALL of them have to be able to do this in order to survive. Too often while on wildlife African safari we simply take a cursory glance at them before driving on in pursuit of more worthy subjects – makes one think doesn’t it!
Love from Thanda Safari