“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln.
The preparation stars undergo to make sports the entertainer that it is today often goes unnoticed even if there’s a ticklish side to it. Take for example, the legendary Geoff Marsh who practised his forward defensive prod naked in front of the mirror every single morning of a match day. How about Neil McKenzie, who’d spent hours taping his bat to the ceiling and then for some weird reason would go about checking that all toilet seats were down in the dressing room before he headed out to bat.
In the same vein , Shawn Crawford will always be remembered for his larger than life preparation for the 2004 Summer Olympics.
At a meet in Milan 2002, he lined up besides his fellow 200 metres compatriots sporting a Phantom of the Opera mask. Unfortunately for him, his stunt backfired as the mask dislodged and his blurry vision took him wide of his lane which led to subsequent disqualification. The self-proclaimed Cheetah Man then went on to take on a sprinting challenge in the famous “Man vs Beast “episode on Fox TV.
The first race pitted him against a giraffe. Shawn paced his run to perfection against the animal whose trip up made it a no contest. Waiting in the wings was his next opponent – The Zebra . The race got underway with both man and beast matching each other stride for stride till about the halfway mark before the zebra pulls ahead and wins rather comfortably. Twist in the tale and Shawn got himself a re-race after the zebra was adjudged to have taken a false start. A second bite of the cherry for a pumped up Shawn. On your marks, get set and go . Shawn gots out the blocks and zipped ahead. But the animal hit back and caught up, dashing its way past before the finish line. Shawn’s improved 10.14 seconds not good enough against the zebra’s 9.90.
Many observers argued that it was a stunt for commercial interest more than anything else and they do have a case in point. But the fact remains that Shawn’s career took off from there and a 2004 Olympic Gold Medal (in the 200m) and a 4th place finish (in the 100m) showcased his true skill and ability. Talk about Animal Instinct! ;-)