WHEN American basketball star Kobe Bryant died in a horrific helicopter crash in January, it was a huge loss for the world of sports this year.
It couldn’t get any worse, I thought then.
I was wrong. It did.
The year 2020 will end in three weeks – but what a tumultuous year it has been.
The Covid-19 pandemic exposed many things in sports, especially about how athletes and officials dealt with the unprecedented situation.
Some panicked but that’s what fear does. Some became selfish and made stupid decisions but many also showed how resilient they can be in the face of hardship.
The first half of the year was the hardest.
The Covid-19 pandemic emptied stadiums, put an end to all the on-field action, and turned most of the venues into almost-graveyards.
Even the mother of all Games – the Olympics -– had to be postponed as a host of other events all over the world were either called off or deferred to other dates.
Athletes were demoralised. They lost the steady income which came from what they had been trained to do; the sports calendar was in a mess; fans were starved of adrenaline-pumping action; and the sports business came to a standstill.
Most athletes had to resort to creative ideas at home to keep themselves fit – and sane!
It was only in the second half of the year that things started to come alive for sports – with football, tennis, golf and motor-racing taking the lead in Europe and the United States.
Under strict guidelines with health as the priority, sportsmen and sportswomen took centrestage again, showing grit and passion in their game.
I’m sure they were fearful but they knew life had to go on, but with more care and responsibility.
There were a few foreign athletes who were tested positive – even the great Ronaldo – along the way but immediate action were taken to contain the spread.
In Malaysia too, permission was granted to some of the sports to resume training and run internal competitions under a semi-lockdown concept.
It’s not easy to start from scratch, but these athletes adapted.
So that’s why it was upsetting when the Malaysia Cup football was cancelled just before the quarter-finals action.
After all, the Malaysian Football League (MFL) had done all they could to provide a safe environment for the players. The earlier rounds went on without fans and with all players having to undergo health tests.
Still, it was called off. Players lost their income and the hosts suffered losses when sponsorship deals fell through.
Ironically, an entertainment award show around the same time was allowed, with ministers trying to justify it. A double standard, by any standard!
But then, the athletes are a resilient lot, aren’t they?
They will bounce back from poor decisions, pain and heartache, depression and loss of income – challenges like these will only toughen them up.
I’ve seen how athletes adapt, reinvent and inspire others. It’s in their DNA.
The year is ending the way it started, with the death of yet another sports great, Diego Maradona.
But we live to fight another day. The hardship and lessons of 2020 will only make athletes go faster, higher and stronger next year.
Now, that’s the Olympics motto one can apply in life in general too.
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