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Bizarre Olympic Dreams

If you hang around a large number of hopeful Olympians--say, at a U.S.Olympic media summit in Chicago--you're likely to hear about how long and hard many of them have dreamed Olympic dreams. Which is fine and all, but it turns out that their actual dreams often trend toward some darker direction.

"It's usually more like a nightmare," said synchronized swimmer Kim Probst.

"Like you jumped in the pool and it's not your music, it's somebody else's music; and you're not with your team, you're with a foreign team," added her co-captain, Kate Hooven.

"Never seen the routine, or your hair's not done; it's just a nightmare," Probst continued.

"Awful, it's awful," Hooven concluded.

Sure, there were several Olympic athletes who described happy dreams, nighttime slumbers filled with visions of medal ceremonies and victorious poses and tears of joy.

"Those are always the dreams where you wake up and you're like 'YESSSS!!!!' and then you're like, 'NOOOOO!' " cyclist Taylor Phinney said.

But for every nearly visualized victory, there was a story of vivid and agonizing defeat, complete with details more surreal than a rhythmic gymnastics routine. I'm telling you, a ballroom filled with Olympic athletes could provide enough data to keep the Association for the Study of Dreams busy throughout the entire Opening Ceremonies.

"It's never a good dream, it's always me messing up and losing the game," said two-time Olympic soccer star Kate Markgraf. "I don't think I've ever had a happy soccer dream."

"I wake up trying to dig a ball that's coming at my face, I wake up liks this" said volleyball star Phil Dalhausser, cringing and covering his face with his hands. "It kind of freaks me out."

"I get these weird dreams where I'm dragging something and I can't get it across the finish line, weird cycling dreams," said cyclist Sarah Hammer. "It's not really a bike, but it is, and I'm dragging an anchor behind me."

"I'll dream about competitions that are coming up, I'll dream about random competitions that have never even existed before, but I'm either late or something's gone wrong," said archer Jennifer Nichols. "I had a dream where our trials would be held indoors, my dad was the one directing the tournament, we had to shoot the tournament from our knees--we never shoot from our knees--and we had to do this turn thing.....It was impossible, you were kneeling one way [and shooting the other]. This was just completely off the wall."

"Every gymnast I've ever met twitches like crazy when they sleep," said U.S. gymnast David Durante. "If you're ever by a gymnast while they're sleeping, check it out. They're always reaching for something when they sleep."

And yeah, there are some Olympic dreams that are neither happy nor sad, but just bizarre.

"So I was actually at a competition in this one, which was probably the most realistic part of the dream," explained canoer Benn Fraker. "I had this awesome boat with this design on it that was so cool I can't even remember, and one day I broke it and I was devastated because it was the best boat ever. And I found this blemish on the front of the boat, and I fumbled with it for a second and it turns out it was a zipper. And I ran this zipper all the way down the length of the boat. And I was shocked, because I opened it up and the old boat turned into a bag, and I pulled out a new boat that was even cooler than the first one. And I found out that I had this limitless supply of boats, and I could get a new one every day. I am not making this up."

So think about boats with zippers next time you hear an athlete give a quote like this, which I actually heard from a badminton player this week: "I dream about winning the gold, and I will keep saying it to myself until it becomes a reality."

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 16, 2008; 6:27 PM ET
Categories:  Olympics  
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