Pittsburgh Prepares for Handball Fever

The limits of human achievement were tested on multiple fronts this weekend.  The London Olympics are playing host to the world’s most elite athletes, while the outer limits of scientific achievement were tested early Monday morning with the Curiosity rover landing safely on Mars.  After successfully landing on the surface through a procedure involving a rocket stabilized “sky crane” maneuver, the Curiosity rover transmitted back a grainy 60x60 pixel image of Martian gravel prompting celebrations in NASA’s Pasadena center.

Despite the massive achievements in science and athletics this week, the most impressive story of the weekend comes from the merging of the two.  Oscar Pistorius made history by becoming the first double amputee Olympian to compete with the assistance of prosthetic legs at the Olympic Games. Overcoming not only disability, but an overturned ban caused by the belief that his prosthetic legs would provide him an unfair advantage.

On Saturday afternoon, he competed against able bodied athletes in the 400m competition, finishing second in his first heat and advancing to the semi-final.   His semi-final heat took place on Sunday afternoon where he finished eighth in his heat, with a time of 46.54.  Despite not advancing to the final, Pistorius secured his place in Olympic lore.  The “Blade Runner” had earned the respect of his fellow competitors, displayed when immediately following the race heat winner and World Champion, Kirani James, exchanged name labels with Pistorius. 

Usain Bolt once again triumphed in the 100m dash, securing his status as “The Fastest Man in the World” and becoming the only the second athlete to ever win two consecutive gold medals in the event.  Four years ago he outpaced the expected evolutionary curve for human foot speed, yesterday he managed to set an Olympic record.  Bolt is a legendary athlete; considered by many to be the greatest sprinter of all time, but speed is a fleeting attribute that must be appreciated at the current moment. 

Four years from now the dialogue will inevitably change to reflect Bolt’s current ability, but we need to understand that Usain Bolt represents the absolute pinnacle of human evolution.  The Olympic Games are an event that celebrates the finest in human achievement and no man has done more to push the boundaries of human speed than Bolt.  Bolt is not finished at the London Olympics; he still has to compete in the 200m and 4x100m races despite considering himself only “95% fit”.

Finally allow me to turn to a topic that has garnered my interest over the last ten days.  Men’s Team Handball is an exciting sport which is a combination of basketball and hockey without the ice.  It is a fast-paced, high scoring sport that hardly receives any attention in the United States.  In an age when every medal is vital to the USA vs. China rivalry for the total medal count, neither country has a team in the competition. 

In an attempt to remedy this situation and selflessly sacrifice myself for the greater good, I have volunteered my services to my country in the sport of Team Handball.  After exchanging emails with USA Team Handball I have decided that I will form a club in Pittsburgh, with the goal of sending participants to the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janiero.  I am still several months away from anything remotely athletic, so during that time period I will be recruiting members and looking for an available facility. So if you are interested in playing Team Handball or being an Olympian in 2016 give me your contact information and we can get on our way.

If you are interested, send your contact information to schaffer.alex1@gmail.com