Spirit of competition kept alive and well with the Stay-at-Home Olympics during quarantine

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The spirit of competition is alive and well even with social distancing. Golf courses are open, there's always board games or playing cards with the family at home. Duke grad student Alex Karsten raised the bar -- hosting a backyard Olympics.

Pressure putting and pushups.


67 family members, friends and friends of friends of Alex Karsten are competing in dozens of events over a six-week span. The reason why is simple enough.

"I miss the different ways that I would, you know, compete against people in normal life playing pickup basketball or something like that," Karsten said. "I think a lot of people are really looking for that kind of connection that you only really get through competition."

Events range from the more traditional like a 5k run to the silly. Fast typing and pun competitions.

"Olympics. I repeat, the category is Olympics. When Alex proposed this to me I thought it had a nice ring to it."

Players are from all over the country. Interest took off and spawned creativity making it more successful than imagined.

"People started making flags for their countries. We made this channel on the Slack, random facts about your country. People were just, it was so funny some of the things people said. There has been just a real exciting level of engagement around it. People really making it their own."

Showcase events are held on the weekends via zoom for all to watch. The games are inspiring some to try new things, like coin-flipping.

"Someone who had entered had actually never flipped a coin before. So when it came time for the event she flipped it and it didn't go very well she was like, ah I've been practicing this all morning!"

The winner will get close to $2,000 to put toward a charity of choice. Karsten calls the optional donations cooperation through competition.

"There's a lot to be concerned about, there's a lot feel bad about right now, but it's nice to have something to feel good about. Knowing that you have basically sporting events that you have to look forward to on Saturday and Sunday and maybe some games that you're playing against on a Wednesday night or something like that, it's giving people structure. "

Competition has been fierce, producing a photo finish in the 'standing on one leg' event.

"And with Zoom lag time we couldn't really trust who was first. So we had to switch to the other foot."

All in the name of fun.

The Olympics wraps up on Memorial Day weekend. A closing ceremony is in the works and the group is hoping that one day they can meet in person for a field day of activities. Until then, virtual will do just fine.
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