Olympic Update No 5
I’m actually back in NZ and had forgotten about my last piece, sitting here on the laptop. I’d forgotten to send it
So here it is….late and well past the use by date.
This last down load comes at the end of the Olympics.
As the Olympics continue, the UK is being swept along in euphoria by its sporting success. This nation is not normally a sporting nation – I mean, they keep on going back to 1966 and the football world cup for any meaningful success. At least they know how to poke fun at themselves. That’s sad for they have produced many world champions, and yet the public psyche is firmly embedded in soccer. Anyway, for years the public have doubted Britain rules anything, but now………….. the jingoism is nauseating. That said, for a country this big – I mean population wise and with a sporting budget as large as it is, it should be doing better than it has done historically. The question I ask is, why hasn’t it done better in the past?
Now with the whiff of success and the legacy of success planted, fresh with glowing success, the countries politicians have gone stark raving mad. They’re insisting on 2 hours of PE at schools – including primary school for everyone – and wait for it…. It’s got to be COMPETITIVE. The PC bandwagons will be circling now, as mediocrity and dumbing down of achievement are banished. British bulldogs are in, and god help the artistic, bespectacled, non sporty at primary school! At last, the UK will get rid of the PC advocates who don’t want to hurt the feelings of non-achievers! This was one of the problems. At last an era of supporting mediocrity will be laid to rest. This world has an ongoing code of competition for its inhabitants. Existing and expecting medals for doing so, and I mean existing or turning up, does not happen. We all have to strive to achieve – not just in sports or for medals necessarily, but to carve out a niche that we will be happy with. That is the way of the world.
There is a debate raging in the UK press. 20% of athletes in GB team are from private schools where there are better sports facilities and coaches. However 40% of athletes in rowing, equestrian and sailing are from private schools (fee paying). The class system is alive and well in the UK. The elite class still do well in UK. They buy success and this has been noted. Even this country, despite this stat, likes to see fair play, and there is a widespread review occurring now to look at this inequality.
And so to another new initiative in the UK. In an effort to ensure that ‘gifted’ sportspersons are not left unidentified, sportspersons who have already achieved success, will be identified and given a chance to try out for Olympic sports. So unfortunately, sports persons such as me who think they’re fantastic, will not be picked up and groomed for Olympic success. But if you’ve reached an elite or close to elite level in one sport and want to give another sport a chance, the talent identification scouts will look at you.
Last night I witnessed an incredible feat – no, not the 200m but a world record in the 800m – phenomenal effort. What saddened me was that all eyes were on UB’s parade after winning the 200m. Everyone focused on UB and not on the medal ceremony for a great athlete – David Rudisia. Jin was there, but when I asked him about his day at the races, he was all about Usain Bolt, and the 800m didn’t really rate!
Our hockey girls have done so well – lifting the mood here. I have to say it was deflated by Val’s silver and Nick’s race. Nick just didn’t have the gas and Val – just was second on the day. There is no shame.
We talk about athletes being born with a gift – but whilst genes are fundamental, what actually counts is training ethic – the ability to out train and out last your opponents on the training field. Its not about luck or good fortune – it’s about training, and doing smartly and efficiently, avoiding injury and getting on with it, no matter what the weather or circumstances.
GB cycling has had unbelievable success. There program has achieved so much and we’re all wondering what their athletes have been doing. I’m assuming no drugs are involved. The Brits have always been keen innovators – just look at the Dam busters and the stuff invented for that mission!! In 8 years the Brits have turned their mediocre cycling program in to the envy of the world. How?
No expense was spared – they bought the best sports scientists, nutritionists, psychologists, physios etc. – even from overseas. They paid them well and they looked at every margin to achieve success!
That is the cost of success, or part of the recipe. Nations like ours are still digesting the enormity of the GB cycling teams success. In a similar way their rowing success, paralleled ours.
At the end of the day, money buys gold medals! USA and Team GBR show that. GBR has invested huge amounts in training its athletes for this show – a show of force, that they have arrived on the sporting world. You have to wonder why it hasn’t happened before… with a culture mix ideal for sporting prowess and certainly the numbers available. The same story applies in rugby and soccer. Is it a mentality? One thing is certain, it will inspire a generation, and the news here report on the increase retail sales of sports equipment, especially bikes, and the increase in enquiries to join sports clubs etc.
I’ve been thinking – my theory that money buys medals, is perhaps a bit cynical. It doesn’t explain all the medals won – the Africans in the middle and long distance races, though Kenya will be looking at their track record this year – a man called Mo, the darling for the UK press did it all, apart from Rudesia. I’m thinking about football in the UK – money buys players and that seems to buy success.
But then you’ve got the Jamaican trifecta in the 200m. Maybe my theory falls down, though I bet they’re not short on $$s.
The Olympics is a freak show – physiologically, mentally and anatomically – the best of the human race in sport gather. Now some of these champions, I suspect have some interesting biochemistry and genetics. We know about the haemaphrodites – but I bet that a few of the athletes have some interesting physiological conditions – they are not within 2 standard deviations of normal.
If you’ve got a decent genetic mix for the sport, plus incredibly supportive backers – parents coaches, access to a first class innovative multi disciplinary team you’re a winner?
Wrong – all these Olympians have a story of sacrifice and hardship. The ones who succeed are able to get up every morning and train, till there are tears and blood, till they’re at breaking point, but a grim determination that comes with a burning passion keep simmering away and keeps the fires burning.
It is interesting that many elite sports people didn’t start life in their chosen sport. They excelled in other sports and then made a switch to their successful event. For example there’s the GB long jumper who just won Gold. He had a trial for Aston Vila in the premiership football league and of course we all know that Rafa and Federer were good footballers before becoming tennis icons.
The best day ever happened when the Olympics had finished. The remaining NZ athletes in the village were ushered into a quadrangle outside by Dave Currie, the Chef de Mission for NZ. He made the announcement that Valerie had won gold. The penny dropped immediately for me, and many others who already had their suspicions about the ‘man’ who had won gold! At last she had been found out. There where tears of joy from her athlete co members and of course long hugs and congratulations to Raylene, the team manager for athletics NZ who had made a human error. We were overjoyed at the result, and saddened that Val’s moment had been taken away from her. She had been robbed by a cheat. The plain fact is that athletes know who is and who is not taking drugs, and unfortunately there are athletes who get away with it. Val knew that man was cheating, but couldn’t do anything about it. Later that day, the topic of drug cheats came up again. There is an argument that we could allow drugs to be taken, to’ level the playing field’. What sort of message does that send our children – that it’s ok to cheat to win?
And Lance Armstrong, my hero for years - shame on you.
Packing up the village at the end left me with feelings of sadness and unfinished business. Not been able to talk to some athletes and the realisation that this might be my last games struck me. The fact that we in the medical team had worked so closely together for a month and so harmoniously, and now were disbanding to go our own ways, left me sad. The hard work over, the athletes departed or departing and now my turn to say good-bye to a colourful chapter in my life. The legacy will live on and generations will be inspired. In the UK it has started, but for me the post Olympic blues have started. Nothing like a family needing entertaining, to bring me back to earth though.
In view of costs, one idea, which was muted by us within the medical team, is that an Olympic village be created, let’s say in Greece, where the Olympics were born. Every 4 years, the hosting country then decorates and plans the Games with their own culture in mind. That way we may find that an African nation or an Asian nation other than Japan or China can host a games?
As I sit back in Kent at my sister’s place and relive some amazing moments, I glance at the TV to see an advert for the Para Olympic games. Now the real heroes are going to be seen. There won’t be a dry eye around when you hear some of their stories and their battles to achieve just getting to these games. My heart goes out to these human beings. If you think the Olympics was about determination and pursuit of dreams, about battling against a system to achieve, about sacrifice and self-belief – you ain’t seen anything yet! The Paras will make you weep with joy, to see what humans can do, against all odds.
There’s a lovely quote from a film I saw recently, called Precious. See it if you can stomach how low humans can go.
The quote goes something like this……..
‘sometimes there is no light at the end of the tunnel…………………. there is only a light within you’
And so folks, that’s it form me, as I return to my new home in NZ with memories of a wonderful Olympics and our first family holiday abroad, where the kids grew up with their cousins for a few weeks, and imbibed a little of the Olympic magic first hand.