Did your nonstop watching of the Olympics only highlight your own growing waistline as you dip your Santitas in queso between the Mustafina’s uneven bars routine and Canadian superduo Benfeiro & Fillion’s synchronized diving bronze medal performance? How often have you thought “I could do that!” while watching the pint-size Mary Whipple scream and nag the Women’s Eight to a gold medal on Dorney Lake? Well, as it turns out, Brooklyn is the birthplace of more than 100 Olympic athletes across 25 sports, so opportunities abound for the general public to train like — and perhaps become — an Olympian.
Sure, you could plop down $85 for a one-hour beginner’s riding lesson at the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy or $129/month for once-a-week lessons at the Brooklyn Fencing Club in Gowanus, but those are a bit pricey. With that in mind, I set out to find the freest and least expensive ways to train your way from eating the crushed powder in the bottom of an off-brand Smile-O’s to being on the front of a box of Wheaties.
The sand courts at Brooklyn Bridge Park opened last summer and are a great place to play. There are lessons every Friday if you aren’t ready to dig like Misty May; and the two-double sized courts are complemented by a third larger court more suited for casual fun group play. Big City Volleyball also runs a late-summer league starting August 22nd.
Cost: Free, but the leagues are $100 a head. Other than the ball, there’s also no associated equipment you need to buy.
Odds of playing with an Olympian: Low. There are on occasion excellent players in attendance, but serious beach players live in California.
The Kissena Velodrome in Queens is a world-class cycling facility available to those with legit track cycles; a flat-bar fixie won’t cut it. The good news is there are free hours available as well as lessons. But be warned, you can be fined cash for breaking peculiar rules (such as not having an approved helmet or “lockring,” whatever that is). Track cyclists abide by third-world style rules of the road: “What happens behind you in a mass start race is none of your concern.” These are the people that the Daily News and NY Post complain about.
For those a little less hardcore than that, the Kissena Cycle Club hosts new-member rides most Monday’s at Prospect Park, which include riders of varying fitness levels.
Cost: The training rides at Prospect Park are free, but you’ll need a USA cycling license to ride at the velodrome, which starts at $10 for a one-day license; or $60 for an annual membership. Of course, the carbon nano-fibre bicycle, footie shrouds and bribes for your eventual blood-doping can run into the several thousands of dollars.
Odds of riding with an Olympian: Outstanding. The Velodrome hosted the U.S. Olympic trials in 1964 and has been producing world-class racers ever since.
In my book there are only two reasons to go to Ozone Park, and the only one that doesn’t involve passing out drunk on the A-Train and waking up for 5:30 in the morning is a schlep to Pro Line Archery Range. Although its website hasn’t been updated since 1994 and they shamelessly trades on post-Katniss buzz (even the New York Times took the bait), it’s still the top-spot in New York City. They’ve even got some crossbow equipment if you want to get all Joffrey about it.
Cost: For $20, you can come in and get unlimited shooting time, equipment rental and instruction. In the spirit of Robin Hood, steal $20 from your roommate for this enlightening opportunity.
Odds of shooting
at with an Olympian: Solid. The owners are former Olympians and near-Olympians in a sport in which a blind man just set a world record, so even you and your oversized glasses have a shot.
Considering that you couldn’t train a human to willfully dance to the weird synthtunes preferred by experienced riders, dressage is really quite incredible. If you’ve feasted at Medieval Times, you’ve seen dressage for a mere fraction of the cost of tickets to the Olympic event. If you are still interested, it’s not too late. Dressage is a “lifetime” sport, and 2012’s oldest Olympian is 71-year-old rider Hiroshi Hoketsu, giving even aging brokesters time to train up for the 2066 games in New Los Angeles, China.
Cost: Besides a lifetime of accumulated street cred, beginners rides/instruction cost between $47-$57 an hour at Kensington Stables at Prospect Park.
Odds of Equestrianing with an Olympian: Please. If the words “Manor,” “Palace,” or “-upon-” aren’t in the name of the place where you ride, you aren’t likely to end up in the Olympics.
As it turns out, Badminton is super popular throughout Asia, and there are plenty of immigrants in Brooklyn to bring the game with them. There are at least four clubs in Brooklyn to choose from.
Cost: Walk-in fee is $10 at almost every club; quarterly fee is about $115 and includes play once or twice a week. Training seems to take place on a skill-share model at the lowest levels, but I recommend you learn Malay, Bengali or Shanghainese first before seeking more advanced training.
Odds of shuttle-cocking with an Olympian: Nil. China and Indonesia have combined for 62 percent of all medals available in the sports since its Olympic inception in 1992; and a vast majority of America’s top badminton talent reside in California. You may be better off working on your solo handball game and hoping that becomes an Olympic sport than to try to break in to the world of elite Badminton.
Follow Manzell as he trains for the 2066 games: @ManzellBeezy.
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