Bravo London, for a joyous celebration and more
From a great distance, the London Olympics looked like a joyous celebration of the very best in sport. From those who were there and experiencing the fortnight in person, it was all that and more.
Let’s be honest; despite all the posturing and the sporting rivalries, many Australians retain an affection for London.
Thousands have started a gap year there, worked there, sought out a late night curry in Brick Lane after a few too many lagers, pulled beers for cash money to fund a backpacking trip through Europe and never quite got to the “through Europe” part.
London 2012 certainly brought out the best in the British team who roared up to third in the medal standings.
(And yes, last time I wrote, the gold medal score was 1-0 Australia so it’s only fair to admit that the final score of 29-7 to Team GB was a thorough spanking!)
No matter what channel you tuned into if you were lucky enough to have more than just the Channel Nine coverage, it seemed that a British athlete was doing it higher, stronger and faster than just about everyone else, whether rowing, cycling, boxing, riding horses, sailing or shooting.
For mine, one of the most memorable British wins was the diminutive 5000 metre runner Mo Farah. In an amazing final, he was seemingly swamped on all sides by African runners who seemingly have a mortgage on distance running. But somehow, Mo held on and found something extra in the last 400 metres to win the gold medal. To stamp his authority on the distance events on the track, he also won the 10,000 metre final.
Of course, there were great performances from athletes from all corners of the globe, and it wasn’t just about winning. Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia sent female competitors for the first time and just being there was an achievement for those incredibly brave women, who have had to conquer a lot more than just qualifying times to take their place at the Games. Niger’s Hamadou Djibo Issaka won the hearts of all in the men’s single scull at Eton Dorney, taking the “Eric The Eel” award at these Games despite finishing last in each of his races.
One of the classiest acts of the Games was another Team GB athlete, “Queen” Victoria Pendleton. Fierce rivals with Australia’s Anna Meares, having already claimed a gold in the Keirin, the sprint final was to be Pendleton’s last ever Olympic event.
We all know the result, but it was the class of Pendleton that will be remembered as much as the race, as she extended her hand to Meares and raised her arm in victory as the two slowly rode around the track.
In losing her last race, Victoria Pendleton ensured she would be a winner for ever more.
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