Sunday, 5 August 2012

Let's Talk About Some Other Olympians..

The Sunday papers are doubtless replete with the triumphs of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and the other British gold medallists from yesterday and it was a highly successful day for British sport. However, because there is so much, indeed saturation, coverage and it won't be long before we know every aspect of their lives from their favourite food to their favourite musician, I'll focus on some non-British olympians.

If any of these individuals were British, they would also enjoy the trappings and plaudits of success but because of the jingoistic nature of the media in this country, their not inconsiderable achievements are barely worth a mention.

Let's start with Tirunesh Dibaba. She's the remarkable Ethiopian woman who slaughtered a class field to retain the Women's 10,000m title she won in Beijing. She also won the 5,000m four years ago and may well do so again. For any athlete to retain an Olympic title is remarkable but were she to retain them both, it would be the stuff of legend.

Now, let's move on to Ding Chen who won the 20km walk up and down The Mall. That kind of walking isn't a stroll in the park - indeed, he walks faster than many can run and watching this athlete endure what must be an agonising form of physical endeavour while smiling and high-fiving spectators was wonderful. He's far from the usual dour Chinese athlete and far from a usual talent.

Now, for a pair of admittely easy-on-the eye Olympians, the Czech Republic women's beach volleyball pairing of Kristyna Kolokova and Marketa Slukova . Not perhaps the first place you think of when considering sandy beaches, the Czech pair defeated the top Brazilians in the quarter-final and go on to contest a semi-final against one of the American pairings. I won't make an obvious comment about bouncing Czechs but they were a joy to watch.

Whatever Usain Bolt achieves this evening, he has some strong competition in Jamaican olympic folklore from one Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who, while we were all still obsessing over Mo Farah, retained the Women's 100m title to add to the world title she won in 2009. While lacking the flamboyance of Bolt, Fraser-Pryce has joined a very small list of elite women who have retained the Olympic sprint title - the last to do so was Gail Devers. On the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence, she has done her bit to help her country celebrate its golden anniversary in the most appropriate manner.

Finally, a mention for those countries punching above their weight - Kazakhstan is not a country one automatically thinks of as a nation replete in athletic prowess but they won the cycling road race gold and have won four golds in weightlifting - a sport, like Handball, which is ignored in the UK media because we aren't very good at it - including three in the women's categories. In addition, New Zealand, a country of just five million souls, has won three gold medals which, if we were on a per capita basis, would mean the British would have to win 42 golds and the Chinese 750 golds to match.

More heroes and heroines will be acclaimed today as twenty-five sports continue across London. Tonight, of course, all eyes will be on Usain Bolt in the 100m final. Whatever he achives tonight, this is the one event in the athletics which genuinely seems to transcend national virility and one-upmanship. I hope the world record goes tonight but the past couple of evenings have shown that it's not likely.

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