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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Special Olympics - Les Faits Saillants

I know I’ve posted Jamie’s Special Olympics exploits before, but this is different. Now Jamie’s in the big time. The statewide Special Olympics.  The Show.

Since 2005, he’s competed in three events in the Centre County games: the 50m run, the standing long jump, and the softball throw.  Bless his heart, but only one of these events really challenged him athletically; as I remarked four years ago, he hadn’t ever run 50m—or 10m, for all I know—in his life.  The important thing, though, was that the local Special Olympics introduced him to the idea of athletic competition.

This year, as many of you know, I had the Bright Idea® of introducing Jamie to competitive swimming.  And after his stupefyingly triumphant debut this spring, it looked like this was one Bright Idea® whose time had come.  But then, a few weeks later, because Jamie’s parents are sometimes confused and discombobulated, we forgot that the next meet took place on a Saturday rather than a Sunday, so Jamie missed that one.  Last week’s Pennsylvania Special Olympics, in other words, were only Jamie’s second experience of doing the swimming-racing thing.

And I had to miss the games!  But Janet was there, and she brought our brand new digital videorecording device, and here, for your Jamie-blogging pleasure, are the results.

First, however, you need to know that Janet’s visual style is rather different from mine.  Janet studied for nine years with legendary videocam director Max von Schaechenholden:

The object of this technique, as you have probably surmised, is to disrupt the subject’s suturing into the Western scopic imaginary and its panoptic regime of “visibility” and “intelligibility”:

Note how the camera refuses to “represent” the large “crowd” at the Special Olympics, turning instead to the shoes of the common people, in a détournement of the well-worn Van Gogh motif.  Interestingly, Janet employs this “de-personalization device” even when the camera is ostensibly “identifying” a “person.” In the following clip of the opening ceremonies, we briefly see Jamie in a grey hoodie; then, at 0:12, Janet asks about Jamie’s dorm roommate, “where’s Austin?” Though she answers her own question, crying “there’s Austin” at 0:22, there is a crucial irruption in the ideological-identificatory apparatus:  the camera immediately proceeds to evoke the opening scene of Blue Velvet, as it plunges deep into the very grass of the field itself before pulling back and revealing the “person” known to the Western scopic imaginary as “Austin.”

Michael’s going to make fun of my camera work? Merciful Moloch, do I look like the kind of asshole who makes fun of his wife’s camera work?  (Though of course asking what I “look like” is itself a speech act that testifies to the hegemony of the Western scopic imaginary.)

OK, enough making fun of Janet’s camera work.  Because once the Olympics got going, Janet had a much tougher filming task than I did: whereas I was allowed to walk up and down the length of the pool at St. Francis University, Janet had to sit in the stands at the Penn State Natatorium and film from a great distance.  Which is, you know, harder to do.  So here’s Jamie as he makes his entrance—with the new bathing suit and goggles Janet bought him a few days earlier.  What a He-Man!  What a Hero of the Beach!

And here’s his first prelim, the 25 meter backstroke.  You can see he’s up against much stiffer competition than he saw in April; but even though he finishes fourth or fifth (we can’t tell, cough camera work cough), he shaves a few seconds off his personal best time.

His next prelim was the 25 meter freestyle, with much the same result: back in the pack, but 3-4 seconds faster than in April.  Clearly, he’s stepping it up, bringing it, playing his game, and staying within himself, though he’s not quite at that Next Level yet:

The really dramatic improvement, though, came in the 50 meter.  Check out the very end:

He finishes third in a four-man race, yeah, but that was a good kick, and ZOMG look at that time! 1:06.07!  Ten seconds faster than the 1:16 from the sectionals! And that 1:16, in turn, was a dramatic improvement on his 1:32.85 qualifying time.  Citius, altius, fortius, my son!

Two more clips, this time from the final competitions on Saturday.  First, the 50m, where he’s dead last by a full body length at the 35m mark until he busts it and somehow kicks himself into second place:

Second, the 25m, where he finishes either fourth or fifth by a fraction of a hair, but breaks the 30-second barrier for the first time:

Congratulations, Jamie!  You did not win, but you were brave in the attempt.  And you came away with a silver, a bronze, and a ribbon.  Not bad for your second meet, and your first appearance in the statewide games.  Your reward is . . . game six of the Stanley Cup final!  (Aside: Oh, and by the way: he did really well living parentless in the Penn State dorms for two nights.  Our young man is growing up.  And now I am going to cry.  Don’t mind me.  Discuss among yourselves.)

Many thanks (really, sincerely this time) to Janet for capturing all this—and much more!—from way up in the stands.  And for yelling encouragement to Jamie from way up in the stands, too!  Janet says she was trying to make up for the fact that (a) the other athletes had entire cheering sections and (b) her husband the bum wasn’t even there to cheer on the kid.  Well, I’ve learned my lesson.  No more speaking gigs this time of year!

OK, off to Pittsburgh for the final home game of the year.  Here’s hoping there will be one more away game left to play....

Posted by Michael on 06/09 at 02:05 PM
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