A is for attitude when it comes to Olympic success
The last time I had more than a passing interest in the Olympics was 1996 in Atlanta. I followed Michelle Smith’s exploits as she won three gold and a bronze medal and Andre Agassi’s journey to clinch the gold medal that would become a career Gold Slam. Of course I followed Sonia O’Sullivan’s silver medal performance in Sydney and saw the prospect of future boxing success after Barnes, Egan and Sutherland’s success four years ago. But nothing could match the anticipation of Katie Taylor going for Gold at London 2012.
From the minute it was announced that women’s boxing would feature in this year’s games the pressure was on Katie. But here we have one focussed, composed and supremely dedicated athlete. The Bray girl came, saw and conquered in magnificent style. The country stopped last Thursday afternoon as she stepped into the ring against a crafty Russian opponent who had beaten her before. This was a hard fought contest and Katie justified all the billing and delivered all our hopes and dreams with a Gold Medal winning performance.
She managed the expectation brilliantly and never wavered in the belief that this was her destiny. Paddy Barnes turned round a 0-15 points result in Beijing against the Chinese Olympic Champion to draw 15-15, only to go down on the count back, but became the first Irish boxer to get back-to-back medals at the Olympics.
Michael Conlan also claimed bronze with a very promising Olympic debut whilst John Joe Nevin was in contention for boxer of the tournament before he lost to an English opponent whom he had previously defeated in the final. Cian O’Connor was the comeback kid of the Olympics winning bronze eight years after he had to hand back the Gold Medal in Athens. Rob Heffernan was fourth in the 50 km walking race and Annelise Murphy was fighting for a medal til the death in sailing. What I liked mostly about these athletes and many others I saw interviewed was their attitude.
Derval O’Rourke, Paul Hession, and all of those who represented Ireland went out there to compete. Barnes and Nevin in particular were devastated not to go all the way. These athletes were not content to fade away into the background and be patted on the back for becoming Olympians and reaching London 2012.
That’s not enough, they were fighting for a place on the podium. In fairness to Hession and O Rourke reaching the finals would have been some achievement given the times set by the competition but I was really impressed by the attitudes of Taylor, Barnes and Nevin in that they were there to fight for Gold. Annelise Murphy had the same attitude and you could see how disappointed she was not to win a medal. The race for Rio is on!
Full credit must be given to the organisers of London 2012. From the spectacular opening ceremony to the excellent TV coverage (between Fri and Sun I clocked up 24 hours watching tennis alone…typically Nadal won in Beijing without the facility of BBC’s red button) and whereas I followed Serena Williams and Andy Murray’s progress on BBC I found the boxing coverage first rate on RTE with Mick Dowling, Kenneth Egan and Bernard Dunne. Who else but Jimmy Magee could guide us through Katie’s bouts?
The atmosphere was electric throughout and I hope that the support Irish athletes received from the British crowd will finally put an end to this hypocrisy of supporting anyone but the English (except of course when they play in The Premiership) for once and for all. That’s probably being overly optimistic but it seemed to me that everybody was willing Katie to take gold and along with John Mary Pius Boland who claimed Ireland’s first gold medals in the Olympics in Athens 1896 (singles and doubles…tennis of course) didn’t the British press even claim the Bray girl as one of their own…briefly.
It’s going to take four years for most of us to recover from the tension of those three fights so do us a favour Katie and call it a day and go back to football. After all somebody has to stop the Americans from dominating the Olympics and I can’t think of a better person to captain Ireland in 2016 in Brazil.
24 Upper Newcastle,