It is impossible not to be swept up in the Olympic fever that has swept the country this past week, especially if you are supporting Team GB! We currently sit 3rd in the medal table and our noble little country has got more medals per head of population than anyone else in the world. It’s a fantastic feeling. I don’t remember a time EVER in the past where British athletes have been so successful, or the support for them has quite as feverish.
While the rest of the country (and the world) are saluting the Jessica Ennis’s and the Mo Farah’s of the Games, I’d like to draw your attention to three people who for me embody what a true Olympic champion is.
Kate Walsh – Kate is the captain of the GB Ladies Hockey team and I saw a headline today that said she was forever having to explain her way through the security at the Games because she has a titanium plate in her face. Wow, I thought, I bet that gets a bit tiresome after a while! But then I read further into the story…
Kate is pictured here competing yesterday and as you can see she is wearing some sort of brace on her face. She was hit in the face playing a match last Sunday and her jaw was broken. She had surgery to insert the titanium plate into her face and spent three days in hospital this week to recover, but she was back playing again YESTERDAY in the Olympics. Now, I don’t know about you but I think this woman must have the Olympic spirit fizzing pretty fiercely in her blood to come back from an injury like that and just carry on.
Next, Ellie Black – this young lady is a Canadian gymnast, 16 years old, and was competing in the Vault Final today in her first Olympic Games. She fell at the end of her first vault and it was pretty obvious that she’d hurt herself as she fell. Tragically, even though the vault had gone well, she didn’t land with her feet first on the mat so there was no score for it. (If you didn’t know, the gymnasts have to do two vaults where both are scored and it is the average of those two scores that count for your placing). She looked like she was near to tears as she went back to the start of the runway to do her second vault, and to be honest, I felt near to tears myself especially when the score of “0” came up for her first attempt. She was limping quite badly and her coach did a fantastic job of calming her down before she did her second vault. My heart was in my mouth as she did her run up for the second attempt but she pulled up just shy of the springboard, obviously in pain and deeply upset because this was her Olympic debut going down the drain. She could technically have tried again (the rule is that if you touch the springboard it counts as a vault attempt but if you don’t touch it it is counted as an aborted run up and you can try again) but it was obvious that she was too badly injured. I was so moved by her situation and when I learned later on that the officials brought out a wheelchair for her to go out of the arena, I thought that she just summed up what the Olympics is about. She just didn’t want to admit defeat even though she was facing a zero score for the first vault as well as an injury, and she did her best to have a go at the second one.
And lastly, Zamzam Mohamed Farah from Somalia. She competed in the Women’s 400m and she was drawn in lane 1 in a heat against Christine Ohuruogu (Team GB). She stood out for two reasons for me: first, she was permitted to race in the first place (she is the first female Somali athlete who has been allowed to compete), and second because even though she had no real chance of making it through to the next round, she gave it her all to get round that track. She eventually finished around 30 seconds after the winner (the whole race only takes about 50 seconds to complete by the elite athletes!) but nevertheless, she was THERE and she DID IT.
I am absolutely certain that there will be many more athletes competing at these Games who are as equally heroic, but to me, these three women epitomise what the Olympic ethic is all about.
Each in their own way represent something about what the Olympics means.
While it’s great to celebrate success and winners and gold medals and world records etc, I think it’s worth remembering that those accolades belong to the few, and stories like these women’s are where the true champions are.