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Reflections on “elite athlete”

Here at Arbutus we work with athletes. Many of our partners are athletes. We sponsor athletic teams. We give talks and presentations to athletic organizations. We meet with physicians who work with athletes.

Collectively, it’s fair to say that we have a lot of sport in our lives here at Arbutus. We believe in the power of sport.

But lately we’ve been a little bit curious about digging deeper into what “athlete” or “elite athlete” means. It’s partly about the level of commitment and discipline. How early do they get up every day? It’s partly about the force generated by their bodies on their bones and soft tissue. How much do they lift? It’s partly about their performance and level of success. Do they make it to the podium? It’s also about their funding. Are they sponsored? Professional?

But here’s the thing. Not every athlete has every feature. And sometimes, people we might traditionally consider non-athletes, have many of these features.

Put another way, many people seem like elite athletes to us. We work with elite athletes. And we also work with regular people who also seem a lot like elite athletes.

  • Up at five to work out? Loves fishing, or sailing, or starts work early, check.
  • Lifting heavy weights? Has grand kids who love to wrestle, check.
  • Multisport? Enjoys kayaking, para-sailing and also runs, check.
  • Career in sports? Has lawn bowled for four decades, and professionally networks via squash and golf, check.
  • Repetitive strains? Has cooked dinner for family for 37 years, check.
  • High joint force generation? Volunteers at the community garden and chops wood for neighbour, check.
  • Strong back? Works in construction, or has a giant suitcase from the 1980s, check.
  • Quick on their feet? Has kids, does family event planning, check.
  • Committed? Refuses to miss yoga for anyone, check.
  • Strong heart? Visits father with dementia every time, check.
  • Consistent? Has biked to work for thirty years, check.

When we start to drill down into people’s lives we find extraordinary people accomplishing extraordinary feats. So, yeah, be safe out there folks. But also, yeah, keep moving, keep climbing, keep growing, and stay vital.