Every now and then, sport can throw up some truly wonderful moments. Of course opinion is subjective, but for me, this morning’s women’s snowboard slopestyle final at the Sochi Winter Olympics provided one such moment.
By now, most of you will probably have heard that Team GB’s Jenny Jones won the bronze medal—Great Britain’s first ever “official” Olympic medal on snow (skier Alain Baxter’s Vicks inhaler in 2002 notwithstanding)—to spark some emotional scenes of celebration.
Before yesterday’s men’s final, I knew nothing about this particular sport, but I now class myself as a bit of an armchair expert. First of all, a certain “ohhh!!” sound from the commentary team means that the competitor has spun round in the air quite a lot of times before landing safely. By adding a few decibels, or just an element of extra excitement to the delivery, that indicates either that an innovative move has been attempted, or there has been a spectacular failure.
Finally a massive “yessss” confirms that the final competitor Anna Gasser (the only girl left who could deny Jenny a medal) had made a huge blunder and could not better the Briton’s score. And that was the cue for those celebrations to begin in earnest.
Jenny's second run had scored 87.25 points, putting her in gold medal position at the time. She’d done a few twisty, somersaulty things and they looked pretty impressive to me, but clearly the important factor for the judges was a string of perfect landings. Use your hand to steady yourself and you were effectively out of medal contention (irrespective of the difficulty of the move being attempted)—using your head (as one poor competitor did during the second run of the final) was another effective way of guaranteeing a low score.
Jenny’s total was overtaken twice as the second round progressed, but in the most dramatic of finishes, she clinched that historic bronze medal by just a quarter of a point, with the eventual winner being USA's Jamie Anderson. The reaction from the commentary box was gloriously parochial and unprofessional, but arguably befitting of such an amazing achievement.
Unbeknown to Jenny, her parents had flown over to watch her compete, but it was clear from the television pictures that her father’s face had appeared on a big screen, so when Matthew Pinsent tried his impression of Surprise Surprise, Jenny was already
aware that her parents were there. If things fell a bit flat from a BBC perspective, the reunion of mother and father with their 33 year-old daughter, and now Olympic medallist, was very special indeed.
Perhaps it wasn’t right that the viewers should invade the family’s privacy, but it made for magical television. I’m sure I was far from alone in wiping away a tear, but sometimes that’s just what wonderful sporting moments can do…