For the Love of the Games Part IV

21 02 2010

After drawing attention to the youngest competitors at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, curiosity about this year’s oldest participant peaked.

The honour goes to 47-year-old Ruben Gonzalez.  Gonzalez’s story is an interesting one.  Competing for his country of birth, Argentina in the harrowing luge event, Gonzalez is the only Winter Olympian to have competed in a Games in four different decades.  A relative latecomer to the sport, Gonzalez did not take up luge until the age of 21.  He first competed in an Olympics in 1988, which is renowned for ‘Eddie the Eagle’ and the Jamaican national bobsled team, but it took him almost three decades to be at ease with the gruelling requirements of the event.  In an interview with the Times Online, Gonzalez admitted that he never took a breath when sliding on the track saying “It’s easy to hold your breath when you are scared to death.”  His honesty is admirable.

However, 2010 will be Gonzalez’s final Olympic Games.  Competing in the men’s singles Luge event last week, Gonzalez – affectionately nicknamed ‘Speedy Gonzalez’ – finished in 38th position, and at his best travelled a speed in excess of 134 km/h to cover the track in 51.312 seconds (more than three seconds behind the Gold medal winner, Felix Loch of Germany).  This year’s luge event was a test unlike any other for Gonzalez, overcoming the tragic death of his friend and fellow luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili who crashed in training just days before competition.

It would be fair to say that, as the recipient of last place in the luge, he is not the most gifted athlete in the field, but there is something inspirational to be taken from this man who has competed against other men half his age.  Surely he is testament to what a person can achieve if they have a dream and believe? 

Gonzalez has used his Olympic experiences to become a successful author and motivational speaker, and it can only be assumed that there will be another chapter to the story, the next time he’s called to tell it.

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