What Is An Athlete?

By Laura Moncur @ 12:18 pm — Filed under:

Bennett Sisters by The Library of Congress from Flickr

In the early twentieth century, the Bennett Sisters were a vaudeville act, featuring wrestling, fencing and boxing. Almost a century before Joanie “Chyna Doll” Laurer wowed audiences, the Bennett Sisters were showing their skills to the world.

Bennett Sisters by The Library of Congress from Flickr

When I look at these photos, I wonder if they were just an act, just like the rest of the vaudeville acts, or were they “real” athletes. There is no question whether the women wrestlers of today are athletes or not. Their antics might be an act, but the physical stamina required to perform those acts is very real.

What is an athlete?

Dictionary.com gave me this definition:

ath·lete: a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.

If that’s the case, Chyna, The Bennett Sisters and I are all on the same page. We’re all athletes. Just because my game requiring physical skill is Dance Dance Revolution doesn’t negate my abilities.

So why do some athletes get all the attention and others are ignored?

It’s not about winning. There are marathon winners every week that never get shoe deals with Nike. There are cyclists that never make the cover of Sports Illustrated. Lance Armstrong, you say? Well, he hasn’t competed for over three years. Quick, name the last three winners of the Tour de France…

I’m waiting…

The truth of the matter is, FAME is very different from ATHLETICISM. Fame is the cover of Sports Illustrated. Fame is the stadium filled with screaming grease-paint covered fans. Fame is a show on the vaudeville circuit.

What is an athlete?

An athlete is the one who exercises every day. An athlete is the one who white knuckles a rest day because she wants to get out on the road and run, even though her body needs a break. An athlete practices to be better. An athlete is out there competing, even though she knows she’ll lose. Even though she knows there’s no stadium full of people. Even though Sports Illustrated would only put her on the cover if she was in a bikini. Even though it’s only her sister she’s fighting against.


One Response to “What Is An Athlete?”

  1. Dobovedo Says:

    stumbled across your blog while looking for definitions of “athlete” for my own blog. Had to laugh when I saw your ‘test question’.

    w/o having to look it up, the past three winners of the Tour de France are Oscar Pereiro (no thanks to Floyed Landis), Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre. And while we’re at it, prior to Lance was Marco Pantani and Jan Ulrich before that.

    all that aside, nicely worded blog and I think you hit the nail on the head.

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