Competition in name only

Why do I compete? Why do we compete? I think the answer is different for everyone.

For fun. To win. To push ourselves. Even to see friends. It can get to the point where it takes more out of you than you get out of it, or where the dynamic just isn’t right any more. There can be many reasons to compete but just like anything in its ideal form you do it because you have one or more reasons you want to do it, not for any other reason.
So, I was an injury substitute for one of the girls at my gym who was registered for a competition up in Pretoria on the weekend.
I had actually really wanted to do the competition to get experience competing at altitude but couldn’t find a partner who wanted to travel up (teams were two people of the same gender). So when the chance presented itself, I took it.
In retrospect, I almost wish I hadn’t although it was GREAT to catch up with some of the Joburg/Pretoria folks that I don’t normally get to see in my normal rotation (i.e. anyone who doesn’t train at Platinum).
Firstly, I am not even sure you could call this a competition. The judging was so bad they may as well not even have bothered having judges.
Secondly, I got injured. Luckily it was in the semi-final workout, or else we would have had to withdraw. What really gets to me about this is that I got hurt because some other people were being sloppy and stupid. Everyone has their pet peeves in the gym. The people who spill chalk. The people who don’t put their stuff away. Mine? People who drop their weights from overhead without controlling them.
One of the teams in the lane next to us dropped a 45kg barbell from overhead and it bounced into our lane – straight into my knee. And this was AFTER I noticed it coming and jumped out of the way so it didn’t hit me at full force. On the day I couldn’t squat or even bend my knee, and I was afraid to bend it too much because it looked like a blood vessel was going to burst through the skin. When I get injured and it’s my own fault that’s one thing. This was something else and for a while there I was very worried and very upset.
The event organising could have been better. It was held on this rooftop events arena which was awesome … except that the first day was absolutely pouring rain. So we did the first two events inside, in something resembling a Fight Club style garage gym setup. As a competitor, this was pretty epic actually, and I was personally happy that they had to sub handstand pushups for pullups in the second workout.
My main purpose in competing was to get a sense of how I compete at altitude. I now have some sort of answer, although individual competition is different of course. I also wanted to check the capabilities of the competition. Conclusion: I have some stuff I need to work on, but in some other areas I’d say I match up pretty well.
But here’s the thing. In any competition even if you’re not expecting to win, you want to know how you place. The clock broke in our first event so they basically just made up a time for us that I have good reason to believe is way off; putting us in 14thplace when we should have been more like 6th.
And then there’s the judging. It does make me angry to do a workout as you are supposed to, with the correct standards of movement, and then see teams that no way on earth should be beating you, beating you because they weren’t.
One of the guys at the competition said it best: it was actually an embarrassment to be part of an event like this, and it was the first he’d heard of a split snatch being a power snatch with a Boksburg shuffle (you had to be there).  
At the end we finished out of the running for the finals which is probably fair at the end of the day as the strongest 3-4 teams did get through. Our final place mattered to me less than how we did, which I think is really well outside of the last workout where I struggled with the hang cleans. That beautiful moment when the world vanishes down to a single point of focus & concentration. THAT might be why I compete.
Hell, I have no idea why I compete. Because I like it. Because it’s fun? Probably just because I’m competitive.
Here’s the thing though: there were actually two types of teams at this competition. The teams that did things properly and the teams that cheated as much as their judge would allow. Make that three types of teams: the ones that did it right, the ones that intentionally cheated, and the ones that unintentionally cheated. Yes, there is a line at which we probably all have questionable reps because you’re moving fast and if a judge doesn’t call you out you might short a range of movement a little. And then there’s the other stuff.
But this, all of this, did not go unnoticed. In a way it may make the community stronger. It sure as hell acted as a topic of conversation for the weekend which is really a shame because there were some more interesting things than that to be talking about. My personal favourite was my teammate, Tash King, doing hang cleans at nearly her bodyweight. That was inspiring.
I will say that I really did enjoy catching up with some of the other community members, especially Lorinda and Anneke who I never get to see. I did manage to make some new friends & fans. It’s weird this fandom thing, and how having an audience can either push you or make you more nervous. But I am definitely a fan of certain athletes (male and female), and not fans of others. I also do have my own fans, and you can tell the real ones because they go out of their way to congratulate you on the workout where you struggled..
All in all, though, while the judging may have been shocking and I may have gotten injured (as it turns out, not too badly), I came away inspired. Inspired to get better, at least.
I will admit, on Saturday night I did have a little bit of an ethical debate as to whether or not we should start cheating along with the rest. But no, I/we have a reputation. This was accompanied by a debate about whether or not we should withdraw in protest as another team did, which was also a bit of silly pettiness.
As a competitor you like to win. You also don’t (or shouldn’t) like people talking behind your back about whether you’re ignorant or just unethical, taking advantage of inexperienced judges and bad organisation.
Actually, I’m probably projecting. That’s why so many athletes take steroids & other garbage. The end justifies the means?
Well, we have a hard-wired sense of right and wrong. The research proves it. Its origin is that you can’t have freeloaders or cheaters or pathological liars in a pack. It’s bad for the pack. But then again, to be completely fair, we did our pistols the way the other teams did. Not sure why; maybe we were too fed up at that point. So we’re not exactly ‘perfect’ competitors either. But at least we didn’t touch our other foot to the ground.
While I’m complaining I want to take another crack at Vodacom. Oh my word. Their data doesn’t work in Cape Town. Their data doesn’t work in Pretoria. Their data doesn’t work in South Johannesburg. And yet we’re locked into a contract. It’s so obnoxious to have to carry around an MTN SIM card just so if I need data I can get data. Even still, it’s intensely frustrating to be at an event like this and have your mobile phone battery die around 2pm when you’re barely using the phone compared to a normal day, because the thing is trying to find signal all the time, as is everyone else’s phone.
Enough negativity. I really killed those split snatches, got to know Tash a lot better, and I also did learn quite a few things about competing at altitude.
I’ve said before, all’s fair in love and war, and competition is war. Maybe I’d cheat if I really cared about the outcome. Perhaps that’s an indication as to why I compete.
Bring on a real competition.
  • “I’m hoping we get to Pretoria and the weather’s changed.” – Tash
  • “I had to fix my one bum.” – Lorinda
  • “It’s not the workouts that get you, it’s the nerves.” – Craig
  • “And you obviously have a gymnastics background.” “Haha. No. You should see my pullups.” – Gill & Ellie
  • “I almost can’t even watch.” – Tash
  • “Oh, Ellie. Please [do].” – Lorinda
  • “You were the only ones doing it right.” – Michelle
  • “You’re not here to have fun.” – Paul 


One comment

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. Love the way you point out reality but tie everything together with vision and the good outcome of 'whatever felt so wrong' 🙂

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