The lost art of multi-sporting

Published 7:21 pm Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What has happened to multi-sport athletes?

The likes of Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrikson and Bo Jackson are pretty much extinct. Even though younger fans have heard the names, they probably couldn’t tell you much more than that.

It’s a shame that corporate endorsements and agents have turned some of our best competitors into one-trick ponies and robbed us of truly great entertainment.

So then I got to thinking…

What if Olympic athletes today could or would play multiple events? I’m not talking about people who run the 100-meter dash and then throw a shot put. We’re talking completely unrelated sports. Fun for the entire family, and a medal race to boot.

5. Kobe Bryant – You know, basketball isn’t the only sport where it helps to be tall. I would love to see Kobe and 6-foot-4 Michael Phelps duke it out in a gold medal race in the water. Nothing too strenuous, a simple 50-meter splash and dash. Crank up the HDTV, and let ‘er rip.

4. Shawn Johnson – Hmm, a lot of options here. Soccer, field hockey and equestrian first came to mind. And then it occurred to me – fencing. With her low center of gravity and small target area, she’d make a good pupil. Wouldn’t get much distance on her thrusts, though.

3. Usain Bolt – He’s 6-foot-5, he’s fast and he likes to showboat, which means he’d be a perfect basketball player. Don’t know if he can make a layup, but the girls would go crazy over him.

2. Lu Chunlong – You’ve never heard of him, I know. He’s Chinese, as you’ve probably guessed by now. And he is a proud gold medalist in the grand, exciting sport of…trampoline. Oh yes, believe what you just read. I’m at a loss for words as to what other possible sport he would be competitive in. High jumping, maybe.

I’ll say this much. The International Olympic Committee is pulling the plug on baseball and softball, but trampoline and badminton live on. That’s a real picture of justice.

1. Any weightlifter – Has anyone else besides me thought these people would destroy pretty much any table tennis player alive? Think about all the power they could bring on their backswings. OK, yeah, just me then.