Fans of the Olympics may have noticed a strange ritual performed by one of the swimmers before the start of a race.
Before every race, Santo Condorelli raises his middle finger to the crowd.
Pretty much since sports have been a thing, athletes have had their before game, during game, or after game rituals. Sometimes the rituals are meant to help them focus, other times it’s a matter of superstition.
Men’s Fitness has published a list of some interesting rituals professional athletes have had. Baseball’s Wade Boggs had his chicken eating ritual. Ecuador’s soccer team hired a witch doctor to clear stadiums of evil spirits. Of course, there’s also the most well-known ritual, football’s Tim Tebow dropping to one knee and praying after a touchdown and/or before the game.
Knowing about pre-game rituals and how important they are to athletes, there’s no surprise that Olympic athletes also take part in their own rituals. It just so happens that Santo Condorelli’s pre-game ritual is a bit on the controversial side.
That raised middle finger is not from Santo Condorelli to the crowd. In fact, he’s flipping off his father.
Santo Condorelli’s father is not only aware of his son’s pre-game ritual, it was his idea.
“(He said) ‘You’ve got to build your confidence yourself and say eff everybody else that you’re racing,” Santo told the Canadian Press when he was interviewed about why he raised his middle finger to the crowd before every race. “He said ‘Every time you’re behind the blocks, give me the finger and I’ll give it back to you.”’
The ritual started when Santo Condorelli was very young.
Santo was 8-years-old when his father, Joseph Condorelli, came up with the strange ritual. Santo was nervous and frustrated about swimming because he was going up against, and getting beat by, much older kids. So, Joseph told his son to flip him off every single time he raced and he would raise his middle finger up in response.
Since then, that’s exactly what Santo Condorelli has done, but the ritual is not without its drawbacks.
Without any explanation, it often looks like Santo is flipping off the cameras, the officials, his competition, or the crowd. You can see how his ritual looks in this video around the 1:28 mark.
During one of his races, Santo Condorelli searched the crowd for his father and found the man sitting right behind the cameras. When he raised his middle finger, it was obvious and looked as though he’d clearly directed the motion to the camera. He was forced to write an apology as a result.
“Athletes always have that one thing that gets them going that they need to do,” Santo went on to tell the Canadian Press about the ritual. “That happens to be mine and still is. Seeing everybody’s reaction to it has been interesting.”
During the Olympics, Santo doesn’t want his ritual to take away from the glory of the events, so he intends to tone it down a bit. He’ll still be raising his middle finger, but he’ll be putting it in the middle of his forehead instead of directing it to the crowd.
“I’m not trying to piss people off. I just put it in the middle of my forehead now,” Santo Condorelli went on to say.
Joseph Condorelli, however, doesn’t see any reason to tone down the ritual at all. According to the Huffington Post, he has no intention of being subtle with his part of the ritual.
“It’s a communication between him and I to calm down and get ready,” Joseph Condorelli explained, according to the publication. “Racing is about being at peace. It became a good ritual for both of us. He got a lot of his aggravation out with just a really simple ‘Give it to the world’ rather than keep it internalized. It calms him down on the blocks for sure.”
[Photo by Chris Young/The Canadian Press, via AP]