On Valentine’s Day, a love letter to sport

A swept yard, a still pond. The smell of grass, the taste of sweat. The ringing of a boxing bell, the final whistle. The feel of a familiar grip, the fit of a new shoe. The fog on the first fairway, the heart like a drum solo.

Love in sport is in the little things. Always.

It’s Valentine’s Day and what’s that but romance? you and the sport. Emotional, compelling, desperate, rewarding, it may be the longest love affair you could have. World-class bowler Shayna Ng says with a smile, “I’ve been bowling since I was 10 years old. That’s 23 years of my life. I think we’re practically married.”

Love wins? Yes, but really all things are on the way to victory. The commitment, the digging, the quiet pride in progress, the suffering. “I love the pre-competition adrenaline,” says Asian Games jiu-jitsu silver medalist Constance Lien, “and the feeling of hard work. I love grinding. I don’t think I’m a talented person so I have to work 10, 20 times as hard.”

Love is a dry mouth and a murmured prayer, because without excitement, sport is meaningless. Swimmer Ian Thorpe, now 40, remembered that moment before the big race last week in Singapore: “You’re going to have butterflies in your stomach, but you want them to fly in unison and not hit each other.”

You nod, you know this feeling, you love it.

“Love is Rocky” reruns, Rory Smith on football and the late Roger Angell on baseball. “Feel the ball,” he wrote, “turn it over in your hand; Hold it over the seam, or vice versa, with the seam right next to your middle finger… You’ll want to get outside and toss this economical and sensual object to someone, or at least watch someone else toss it. The game has started.”

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We understand. It’s the same with a soccer ball. The urge to run down. The pain to play Nature is escape, it’s the rest of life stopped, it’s liberation, it’s a blessing. “I love,” says Brandon Ooi, Gold Medalist in Kayaking at SEA Games, “that my sport brings me into contact with nature, lakes, reservoirs and rivers, and it is through navigating these outdoor elements that I understand and appreciate the world around us.”

Love means letting go in the arena. You smack, pound, bleed. They invent, create, design. They dare and defy. You find yourself in something by losing yourself in it. “I love,” says Asian Games athlete Debbie Soh, “that artistic swimming is versatile, that like any other dance or aesthetic sport, it allows freedom of expression through movement.”

Love is wearing a HF cap and a tattered Brazil jersey. It sings at 4am with a Liverpool tribe and sits in silence after the defeat. You don’t want to go home, your heart has kicked in the gutter, you hate this game. For an hour or four.

But you will come back because you love this game more than you despise it. You love it because the sport challenges you, demands, questions, provokes, mocks: “What’s wrong with you? Just that?” That’s why Calvin Sim, the SEA Games Gold Medalist says, “I love the mental and physical challenges that come with it, especially when it all comes together, the sense of accomplishment and accomplishment that you have during training and… competition.”

Love is watching heroes and finding the one in you. Even if it’s a brilliant shot on a bad day. Love is aging amateurs dreaming of what they once were and young professionals dreaming of what they will be. It means practicing alone on a basketball court at nightfall, just you against the shadows. It’s sitting with friends next to a sweaty sea of ​​tossed bracelets, talking about a missed badminton smash at 18-18. Part of love is always regret.

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Love is discovery between the lines. What you can, how far you can go, how much you can take, what you will become. “I love,” says swimmer Quah Ting Wen, with a touch of poetry, “who I become in the water… I’m confident and strong and free.”

Immersed in liquid, she finds what we are all looking for in sport. The best version of ourselves.

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