It sounds like madness, but I'm going on ...

The Road To Beijing

'And I was about to say they're away first time.'

Watching the final few days of the Olympics in Athens it occured to me that I'd been just as happy just watching the performances of all the British athletes, even those who would be leaving without medals but who had just tried to outdo themselves and their own past performances. After every race or contest each athlete was asked the same inevitable question: 'Will you be back for Beijing?' Some said quietly they it was their last appearance, that they'd had a good run, but they would retire. But the majority nodded, they could do better, and over the following four years the would show it. Each time I wondered what would lead them there, how they'd again be able to try their hand against the best of the world. So I decided that next time I wanted to know and that I'd be cheering them on not just because they were British, but because of who they are and what I'd seen them do. It occured to me that I have the perfect medium for doing it.

Looking across all the sports I've selected six athletes whose appearances have been extraordinary in their own way and, via this weblog, over the next four years, I'm going to try and follow their careers as they leave Athens, return to their own sporting arenas and take the long, hard slog to the next Olympics. In some cases they've just missed out on a medal, their opponents moving ahead in the last few moments of the contest. In others it's times when the individuals have outdone their own expectations, reached a final or placing which they couldn't have expected going into the games. I've tried to choose people who have a spark of potential that spirit of 'do better', and who also engender that feeling in their audience. And I have faith that all of them have the potential to win a medal in four years time and I hope it's going to be an exciting and fun time watching their progress. So we find ourselves on the long Road to Beijing. Who's with me?

Michelle Dillon Triathlon
In Athens: 6th place, Women's Triathlon
While the surprises were happening at the top end of the field, Michelle had been fighting away through dirty tricks in the swimming and being held in a chasing pack in the cycling to run down the field and hold her place in the final section six minutes ahead of the closest other Britains Julie Dibens. Given her previous form, in which she's frequently in the top three it's going to be interesting to watch her achievements in the coming years. [biography]

Matthew Elias Athletics
In Athens: 5th place, anchor leg, Men's 4x400m
After this final race of the Athens Olympic Athletics, Matthew Elias was missing as his team mates were being interviewed for television. He was sitting on the track, in a daze, wondering what had happened. A bronze or even silver medal should have been theirs, but as Elias entered the closing straight he found himself engulfed by athletes from Nigeria and Japan and all was lost. So he decided to sit down for a while. It was a learning experience and hopefully it's taught how to win that race in the next Olympics. [biography]

James Goddard Swimming
In Athens: 4th place, Men's 200m Backstroke
In a games which was filled with athletes finding themselves with medals after disqualifications and protests, James was one of the unlucky. For twenty minutes his Olympic dream had finally come together as he saw himself joining Steven Parry as a Bronze medal winner until wierd judging methods got in his way. After medals at both the Commonwealth Games and World Championships we're bound to see a lot more from him. [biography]

Laurence Godfrey Archery
In Athens: 4th place, 70m Archery
A Bronze medal was just one point away for Laurence, although it looked for a moment as though a late surge after being behind for the whole match would have given him victory. But he wasn't downhearted: "I am happy with anything, all I expected was to give 100% and do my best and it gave me fourth. If giving 100% had given me 64th then so be it, but it has given me fourth and that is fantastic." Although he's been shooting for eighteen years, his performance has improved markedly over the past couple of years so I'll be surprised if we don't see great things in the next four years. [biography]

Lucy Hardy Canoeing
In Athens: 7th place, Women's K1 500m
In the post race interview it was revealed that Hardy's goal was to come ninth in the Olympic final. She reached seventh, gained a personal best time and produced the best performance of a women's canoeist in the games. "Seventh is much more than I could have thought of at this Games," Lucy told the BBC after the race. "Hopefully it's the start of good things to come." It was the kind of inspiring show which appeared throughout the games but it just seemed sweeter in Hardy's case somehow. [biography]

Abi Oyepitan Athletics
In Athens: 7th place, Women's 200m final / 5th place, 100m semi-final
Of all the non-medalling athletics performances this was one of the most affecting. Oyepitan has said that she entered the Olympics little imagining she would be in a final let alone through the semis -- a personal best would have been OK for her. Well she managed that and much more besides. Despite disappointment in the 100m she found herself lining up in that 200m final against an extra-ordinary field (the first British woman to reach that final since Kathy Cook in 1984). She didn't disgrace herself and managed to keep with them for much of the race only to fade slightly at the end. [biography]

No comments:

Post a comment