Sunday, 19 August 2012


If we were still having a drought, it would have ended anyway now with all the crying that has been going on at the Olympics.  Even Sir Chris Hoy, six time gold medal winner and that model of coolth and steely resolve, had his blubber moment as the National Anthem played.  As for me, I'm on my second box of tissues.  And I'm only a spectator. 

Of course the steely resolve from the years of training and self-denial required to win an Olympic gold has to evaporate as the ultimate goal is achieved.  The relief would lead anyone to tears.  I was quite shocked though that even our gold medal clay pigeon shooter collapsed from the stress and tension after he had won.  You wouldn't think it on a par with cycling half a dozen laps of the velodrome at 70kms an hour, would you.  But it seems to be the same for almost all athletes. 

The dedication, not just the strength and fitness, needed to reach world standard is incomprehensible.  Some of the stories that are emerging now, make it very clear (if we didn't already suspect it) that winning is not just luck on the day.  Katherine Grainger for example, our double scull gold medal winner, has won silver medals at three previous Games, and explained that she has been training for 15 years to reach a good enough standard to take the gold medal.  15 years!  No wonder she cried.

I have written two posts before about Jessica Ennis, so it would be churlish of me not to highlight her again, now that she has finally won her Olympic gold medal.  She too has done little else for years but to train for this moment.  She is so little and so sweet that it hardly seems possible that she could compete against the other athletes in the competition.  Yet she pulled out personal bests in three of the seven heptathlon events and her time for the 100m hurdles equalled the 2008 Beijing gold medal winning time for the individual womens 100m hurdles event.  No one could ask more of her.  Her winning points total was a new British and Commonwealth record.  What a golden girl!  What pressure she faced to win on her home soil!  But she is so normal and cool that she seemed to acknowledge her achievement with a smile and a wave and without a tear in her eye (until the last moment, when her lip quivered a little).  Lucky I was making up for it or we'd soon be back on that hosepipe ban.

Perhaps the greatest achievement though was that of double gold medal cyclist, Laura Trott.  She was born with a collapsed lung, subsequently developed asthma, and then decided to try cycling to build up her strength.  She still suffers from a vomiting condition which requires her to have a bucket on hand when training and usually throws up after a race (and famously threw up on live TV at the World Championships last year).  Yet, since competing for the first time last year, at the age of 19, she has never lost a race.  Double world champion and now double Olympic champion.  Wow!  Makes complaining about a bit of a stomach ache seem really wimpish.

But, in amongst a slew of remarkable Olympic champions and even in the midst of extraordinary cycling success, I feel I have to pluck out Ben Ainslie as my British champion of champions.  Ben has just won sailing gold in his fourth successive Olympics (he only made silver in 1996).  OK, I know he hasn't run or jumped or peddled or lifted any heavy objects, but how can one sailor be so obviously better than the rest of the world for so long with identical boats, identical water and identical wind to his rivals?  I don't know anything about sailing, but his achievement seems way above all the others.  He's not sure he'll be at Rio, but why not?  I want to see him one more time!  And he didn't cry when he won either.

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