Tuesday, August 14, 2012

London 2012: Highs and Lows

This is the first of a few posts containing thoughts on the London Olympics.  This post remembers some of my personal highs and lows of the games, in vaguely chronological order.

  • First day of the games, before the opening ceremony: GB vs New Zealand in the women's football.  The tears in Kelly Smith's eyes showed what the Olympics meant to her and gave a little taster of what the next couple of weeks would hold.
  • Team GB being destroyed in the men's road race because, basically, everyone was scared of them.  Mark Cavendish, the only cyclist in Beijing not to win a medal and the unsung hero of Team Sky's domination of Le Tour, didn't event get a chance.
  • Lizzie Armitstead, having won silver in the road race, genuinely not sure in her interview about whether to be happy or gutted.  A great achievement, and so close to gold.  The bittersweetness of simultaneous success and failure.
  • Luis Leon Sanchez in the men's time trial - a snapped chain in the first two seconds, then a puncture later on. One of the favourites seeing his chances removed by horrendous luck.  The brutality of sport.
  • Chad Le Clos in the men's 200m butterfly, actually unable to believe he had won.
  • Euan Burton's post-judo interview, taking no positives from the experience.  Completely gutting.
  • The women's team sprint, Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish disqualified  for changing over too early.  An almost guaranteed gold down the drain.
  • Katherine Grainger winning gold after three consecutive silvers.  Get in.
  • Tearful triathlete Helen Jenkins (5th place) apologising in her interview for not medalling.
  • Heather Stanning and Helen Glover absolutely destroying the field in women's pair, one of the most devastating performances of the games.
  • Katherine Copeland's flabbergasted reaction to winning in lightweight double sculls.  
  • Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter giving their all in the lightweight double sculls, coming second, and then apologising for not winning, moving John Inverdale to tears.
  • Andy Murray winning on centre court.  Perfect.
  • Louis Smith being edged out for gold in pommel horse - same overall score, separated only by execution marks.  So close.
  • 39-year old Iorden Iovtchev competing in the rings final and clearly loving every second of it - the freedom of having no pressure to win and just being able to enjoy the experience.
  • Beth Tweddle's dubiously-judged low difficulty score leading to a bronze medal which, while wonderful, could seem unsatisfactory in making up for being robbed in Beijing.
  • Goldie Sayers having no chance in the javelin qualifying with her injury, and then fighting the tear in her post-throw interview.
  • Mo Farah's triumph in the 10,000m, a year after a tactical error cost him the gold in the world championships.
  • Felix Sanchez breaking down in tears on the podium after unexpectedly winning the 400m hurdles.
  • Andrew Osagie qualifying for 800m final against the odds and celebrating like he'd won the gold.
  • Sally Pearson delivering the goods in the 100m hurdles under some of the most enormous pressure.
  • Liu Xiang crashing out due to injury in the heats of the 110m hurdles, after injury also kept him out of his home Olympics four years ago
  • Merve Aydin of Turkey getting injured in the first lap of the 800m and then hobbling round the second lap a la Derek Redmond.
  • The receptions from the crowd for Saudi Arabian female competitors.
  • Jade Jones winning a Taekwondo gold and going absolutely mental with celebration.

The highs and lows are perhaps summarised best by these two moments: Felix Sanchez breaking down with happiness as he receives his gold medal, and Goldie Sayers trying, and failing, to hold it together at the end of her interview.

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