Monday, 20 August 2012

My memorable moments of London 2012 Olympics

1. Sir Chris Hoy taking gold at the Keirin track cycling race and bowing out of the Olympics. It wasn't guaranteed that he would do it, especially when the German guy got ahead of Hoy on the last lap. I was really glad the real McHoy did it!

2. Felix Sanchez completely overcome with tears and emotion on the podium after winning 400m hurdles. We really got an idea of the strife that athletes go through in their quest for gold. Sanchez had missed out at the Beijing Olympics. His grandmother, who raised him had died during those games. So winning at the age of 35, eight years after his last olympic victory, and in memory of his deceased grandmother was something very special.

3. Watching Mo Farah take victory in the 10,000m. I had not been convinced that he could do it - especially after losing out to the East Africans at the World Championships last year. It was a really tense moment sitting among the crowds of folks outside the Tower of London watching on a big screen on Saturday night, willing him on.

4. The reception that Mo Farah got in the Olympic stadium when he stepped onto the track for the 5,000m heats a few days after becoming 10,000m olympic champion. At the end of his heat Mo Farah took the time to shake hands and congratulate the last finisher of his heat. The guy finished almost a lap behind Mo and the other lead runners, but Mo Farah still had time for him. It shows what a great champion he is, and how well he embraced the Olympic spirit.

5. Dressage and the reactions of the horsewomen after their events. It's easy to underestimate what is involved in preparing horses and riders for competition, and I admire the hard work that these guys put into it. Gold medallist Charlotte duJardin is not a posh bird, as people might think. From an ordinary family in north-west London, the family had to scrimp and save for her to practice her sport, since they did not have any financial backing.
The bronze medallist rider, Laura Bechtolsheimer was very emotional and proud of her horse.
"At the end of the day, it's not a bike, it's not a tennis racquet, it's a living animal that you've worked tremendously hard to have a partnership with. He's not a fan of moving to music, but today Alf was beautiful to ride, and he was doing it for me."

6. Usain Bolt coming up with the goods in the 100m final. I had had my money on Yohan Blake, but deep down I wanted Bolt to win. I'm glad he did. He was like lightning.

7. Getting to grips with fencing. We watched this live at the Excel Centre. Initially the sabre moved so fast that I couldn't tell what was going on. I just saw  men waving swords and then they both spontaneously cheered and punched a fist in the air. I didn't think I'd be able to sit through 5 hours of that. After a while I understood what it was all about and I could even see what they were doing with their weapons and how they were getting points striking each other. Apparently the simultaneous cheering was because both fencers thought they have scored a point against the other so they end up both cheering, when in fact neither of them had won since they both struck each other simultaneously. The fencers show agility, strength, guile, and gave the spectators suspense and entertainment. Italians are quite good at fencing, and they had quite a fan club following them. The cheers and shouts were almost like being at a football match.

8. The whacky races on the BMX track. It was a stomach in mouth moment for every race. You hoped no one would crash and hurt themselves. When they did crash it was quite a spectacle though - especially on a couple of rounds where there was a 6-man or woman pile-up and only 2 of the 8 riders actually managed to complete the race route unscathed. It was a shame that neither of the team GB riders medalled, but in a way I was just glad that they came away without any broken bones!

10. Watching women's boxing. I know it has already been going on for some time, but I have never watched that before. It was quite a historical moment watching women box. I guess at Olympic level it's not so bad, but if you get the shenanigans we see on the pro circuit that would be a shame for women's sport.

11. Luke Campbell winning gold in the boxing. That was my only experience of being outside of London during the Olympics. I was in Hull, and I could really see how the whole town got behind the young guy who appears to be known by everyone and their dog in the town (at least that's how the TV reports portrayed it with their vox pops)! There was alot of bunting in the local shops and many people gathered in pubs on the Saturday night to see him beat his Irish opponent. It also shows that even though the Olympics are held in London, it reaches way beyond the Capital. Hull has not had the best press in recent times and a win like this is great for the city and puts it on the map. They also get a golden pillarbox!

12. The Cycling Road Race. I watched both races live in Box Hill and the atmosphere was great each time. For me the special moment was just seeing London shown on the TV across the world. All the areas that they showed from Buckingham Palace through Chelsea, Fulham, Putney, Richmond Park, Kingston, Weybridge, Dorking, Box Hill and all the various other villages and neighbourhoods in between are places I know and have ridden, run, walked or driven through loads of times. It was  funny seeing the pubs and bars on Putney or the shopping Centre at Kingston-upon-Thames, or the village post office in Mickleham being beamed to people all around the world.

13. The women's 100m hurdles. To me this was a perfect race. The competition between reigning Olympic Champion, Dawn Harper and the practically unbeaten World Champion Sally Pearson as well as other contenders like Lolo Jones and Kellie Wells meant that this would be a hot race. The times posted by the fastest finishers in all the semi-finals races were quicker than the winning time in the final at Beijing. In a thrilling final all the women hurdled perfectly, and Pearson came away the victor by just 0.02 seconds - a new Olympic record. Sally Pearson has a beautifully fluid style of hurdling, and is a joy to watch. Judging by the standard of the hurdling in this race it seems that a few may have taken a leaf out of her book.

14. Victoria Pendleton bowing out of professional cycling. She was down to do 3 events and so could potentially have won 3 golds. A mixture of bad luck and over eagerness stopped her in her tracks (excuse the pun) so she came away with 1 gold, 1 silver, and unfortunately 1 disqualification. But still, for a woman who has been at the top of her game for so many years I think she has carried herself exceptionally well and she has nothing to be ashamed of or to regret. Queen Vicky has been a great ambassador for the sport, and for women's sport in particular. It was quite a moving moment when she very sportingly shook hands with her longtime rival Anna Meares after losing to her in the women's sprint, before breaking down in tears in the warm down area.

15. Seeing the women's track cycling trio of Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell win gold in the team pursuit. These three young ladies all competed in cycle races which I did in London and the South East. I remember Laura Trott when she first raced. It was at a women's circuit race in Milton Keynes with her sister about 7 years ago. They were barely teenagers then, but they were still pretty quick. Joanna was in Sutton Cycling Club, a local club that supported youth cycle racing. Joanna would have only been about 14 years old, but she was still putting us to shame on the road, velodrome, and even in the odd cyclo cross race. I met Dani later when she took part in the Women's Team Series of road race events 3 or 4 years  ago. The women's cycle racing scene is not big, and people tend to get to know each other at the various races. These were girls who put in the hard work and the hours to reach the level they are at now. Cycle racing training is tough. I have tried it! So it was great to see these local girls get their just reward and be up there at the top of the world stage. Truly inspiring.

16. The general feeling of well-being and enjoyment. I just enjoyed the whole vibe of the Olympics. Everyone was in good spirits and sports were put on with more than a hint of entertainment value, especially during the beach volleyball. There was camaraderie, emotion, and a great feeling of being witness to this historical time. Those are the memories that will stay with me for years to come.
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