Thank you Simone and Phil. Thank you for your achievement and your inspiration.
It’s a special day when an athlete sets an all-time record. Two of those spectacular records followed one after the other recently.
The first was the unprecedented achievement of gymnast Simone Biles. She executed a move that had never been done before by a female gymnast in competition. That was on Saturday, May 22.
The second was golfer Phil Mickelson winning one of the year’s four major tournaments, the 103rd PGA Championship, at the age of 50. That was on Sunday, May 23.
The previous record for oldest winner of a major was Julius Boros, 48, when he won the 1968 PGA. I remember watching Boros in televised tournaments, which will give you an idea how long I’ve been following golf.
What a weekend May 22-23 was.
These consummate athletes made their historic marks in quite different ways.
Biles is at the peak of her career. The movement she did is called a Yurchenko double pike. It’s so difficult that no other women has even attempted it in competition. Biles included it in her routine at the U.S. Classic at the Indiana Convention Center.
“To execute it, a gymnast first must launch herself into a roundoff back handspring onto a vaulting table, and then propel herself high enough to give herself time to flip twice in a pike position (body folded, legs straight) before landing on her feet,” The New York Times explained.
Writer Juliet Macur helpfully added, “It’s the kind of maneuver done much more easily by a platform diver who has the help of gravity and the safety of a soft landing.” Actually, the best thing to do is call up the video.
Besides being blown away by the video I was impressed by Biles’ assertiveness in the face of controversy over the fact she performed the move in the first place. No need to go into that. She’s the defending Olympic champion in the all-around, tops in her sport.
Mickelson’s accomplishment is of another kind. He’s not at the peak of his career, but he’s just as inspiring, winning a major that’s open to the best professional golfers of all ages who earn an invitation.
Mickelson qualified by virtue of being a former PGA champion.
Mickelson’s performance has been erratic in recent years. Holder of titles in five majors, Mickelson hadn’t won any tournament on the PGA Tour the last two years, the Associated Press reminded readers. It had also been eight years since his last victory in a major, writer Doug Ferguson noted.
Mickelson was far from giving up and moving to the Senior Tour like most PGA golfers who turn 50. In fact, he redoubled his efforts and intensified both his physical and mental preparation for competition.
After his two-stroke victory at the Kiawah Island, S.C., PGA Tournament, Mickelson himself gave the best description of his training: “I might try to play 36, 45 holes a day and try to focus on each shot so that when I go out and play 18, it doesn’t feel like it’s that much.”
He also said, “I’m trying to use my mind like a muscle and just expand it because as I’ve gotten older, it’s been more difficult for me to maintain a sharp focus, a good visualization and see the shot.”
Mickelson had much more to say, words that would inspire any 50-plus golfer.
Gymnastics, on the other hand, is something for the fearless young with other-world talent and skills.
One thing these athletes have in common, though, is they make great TV when you know that something unprecedented just might occur right in front of you.