You only have to listen to the news, or open a paper to realise that the world is far from perfect and life can be far from easy... I’m not going to compare the “now”and probably rose-tinted “then” and I don’t need to compile a list of all the various issues that can affect modern society, suffice to say every now and again, something happens that, however briefly, can become so totally enthralling, so captivating that it almost unites a nation.
The past couple of days at London 2012 has arguably done just that... It’s not all about the gold medal successes (remarkable as they have been); for me it’s been more about the extremes of raw emotion that our athletes have displayed to the watching world.
A previous blog mentioned Katherine Grainger’s twelve-year quest for gold... then there was Rebecca Adlington breaking down in tears after securing her second bronze medal. Very few can understand the mental and physical demands of being a Team GB medal prospect at a home Games... this young woman swam brilliantly, won two fantastic medals, yet felt she’d let down everyone who’d wanted her to win gold... I’m not sure how you can let down people you don’t even know, but it was a humbling moment and Becky’s tears on the podium were the release she probably needed after the pressure and intensity
of the months and years that had followed Beijing.
Over at Eton Dorney, the regatta has been incredibly successful... yesterday saw Katherine Copeland (who lives less than ten miles from me...) and Sophie Hosking sharing the sheer elation of their gold-medal performance before the enormity of their achievement hit home as the National Anthem was played. This was in stark contrast to the interview given by Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase, whose quest to retain their 2008 gold “failed” by a fraction of a second.
The interview was ill-timed, but John Inverdale was only doing his job... Hunter had rowed himself to the point of exhaustion and even though he could barely stand, let alone speak, his first thought was to apologise... Purchase couldn’t hold back the tears and as hard as it was to watch, I was left with nothing but sheer admiration for them as athletes and people and I hope that time will allow for reflection and acceptance that this was a silver medal “won”, not a gold “lost”.
More velodrome gold... and Laura Trott, one third of the victorious women’s pursuit gold medallists, displayed the kind of genuine wide-eyed wonderment matched only by a childhood visit from Santa... and not to forget Victoria Pendleton’s emotion on receiving another gold medal as retirement looms...
All this before events in the main arena, as history was made with three track and field gold medals inside one hour... Unprecedented... incredible...
Greg Rutherford won the long jump... emulating Lynn Davis way back in the year I was born... Mo Farah’s 10,000m success was superbly controlled and how nice that his training partner claimed silver... but their combined brilliance will probably (although perhaps unfairly) be overshadowed to an extent by Jessica Ennis, the best all-round female athlete on the planet.
One after another, she produced fantastic performances in each of the seven disciplines... the pressure on the Games’ “poster girl” is beyond imagination... the gold was placed figuratively around her neck despite her missing Beijing through injury and Tatiana Chernova taking her world title in Daegu last year. Yet when it really mattered, Jessica simply destroyed a field of fine athletes... she is so unassuming, her smile has lit up the games and it’s safe to say her life will never be the same again...
So how to sum up an incredible night... and incredible Olympic Games thus far... well as I watched Jessica Ennis during her medal ceremony, I could put my overwhelming feeling into just four words...
Proud to be British...
All my own work... almost.