London highs Olympic memories

Thu, Dec 27, 2012, 00:00

Some of our sporting celebrities share their magic moments from the Olympics

Ireland had another medal thanks to the competitiveness of Cian

Sonia O'Sullivan

Sydney 2000 silver medallist, London 2012 Chef De Mission

One memory that stands out for me was on the day of Katie Taylor’s semi-final. I went to the ExCel Arena with a Kangaroo dressed in Irish gear (an even longer story). I knew my Dad and youngest daughter Sophie were in the arena and one of my jobs was to bring the Irish boxing Kangaroo so that Sophie could blend in with all the other colourful Irish supporters. I found my Dad and Sophie and was lucky enough that one of the few spare seats was alongside them, so we sat together to watch the semi-final.

Prior to Katie entering the Arena I quickly checked the London 2012 App to check on the rest of Team Ireland competing that day. As it turned out Cian O’Connor was after having a great first round at Greenwich Park and the final was coming up straight after Katie’s semi. All of a sudden I went from enjoying a family moment in the ExCel Arena cheering on Katie to planning my route to Greenwich. As soon as Katie was finished I said a quick goodbye and ran out. There were plenty options for transport around London to each venue, but I managed to hitch a lift with OCI president Pat Hickey, Willie O’Brien and the FAI’s John Delaney in a London 2012 car with Sat-Nav.

It was all very exciting, racing across London, Katie was guaranteed a silver medal and Cian was about to compete in the final group with every chance of a medal. We arrived at Greenwich in plenty of time and I was told it was full. But I found a seat and sat in the silent arena as each horse and rider took their turn. It was such a contrast between the thunderous noise and chanting in the highly-charged atmosphere of the ExCel and the appreciative applause in a rather more subdued Greenwich when each horse and rider completed their round .

Even so it was a very tense atmosphere as Cian completed his round and to me it looked like he had secured a medal. But the result was unclear and people were getting up to leave. Next thing everyone was returning to their seats as it was announced there would be a jump-off for the silver medal. You could sense Cian was never going to settle for bronze and he chased the silver medal, racing the clock and clearing every jump.

When it looked like he had the silver medal in his pocket Blue Loyd 12, just clipped the final jump. But Ireland had another Olympic medal to take home, thanks to the competitiveness and never-say-die attitude of Cian O’Connor.

The highlight was when I presented the gold to Katie

Pat Hickey

(President Olympic Council of Ireland)

The highlight of the Games was when I presented the gold medal to Katie Taylor. That would be the one highlight. It’s the first gold medal I presented to an Irish athlete. I was hoping to do it with Sonia O’Sullivan in Sydney but as it turned out, it was a silver medal.

That stadium (ExCel) and that night was just electric with about 98 per cent of the crowd Irish people. When the ceremony started and I walked out to present the medal . . . it was really special.

The other memory of London 2012 was the spectacular Games and the job done by the organising committee. I was particularly struck by the great mass of British public that turned out to support the whole Games, not just their own athletes. They proved they really know their sport.

The boxing event was extraordinary

Brian Kerr

Former Ireland soccer manager

My Da used to bring me to the National Stadium. To this day people ask why I still turn up for the Senior Championships. But Da was involved in setting up Drimnagh Boxing Club and when I was a boy he used to bring me to the Stadium for the championships. Sometimes he’d take me down to the changing rooms and to me that was the Holy Grail. Boxing was always part of my life and when London came around people just said to me you have to go and watch this Irish team in the Olympics. I did.

I had tickets for the semi-finals and finals but I remember I was outside the stadium trying to get a ticket for Paddy Barnes’ quarter-final. We finally met this guy from Dublin and were able to buy tickets from him. We would have won the 1,500m we ran so fast through the ExCel Arena.

The whole boxing event was extraordinary and the thing around Katie . . . I remember seeing Katie playing football in the Kennedy Cup around 2000 and going over to her and saying well done. She was probably the best player on the field. I used to say to her don’t take on the responsibility of getting women’s boxing into the Olympics, just keep boxing.

There was so much pressure on her going into London people had no idea. In my head I was making a list of things that could go wrong, scoring, judges, warnings . . . That and the tension, the tension of waiting at the end. It was incredible . . . the jumps in the ring . . . the run around the ring . . . the flag.

In the pool the 200m breaststroke final will always stick with me

Gary O’Toole

(European Breaststroke silver medallist)

What I remember and what surprised me from the first time I landed in Heathrow was that people were asking if you needed assistance. You get used to the anonymity of London but everyone went out of their way to be helpful and courteous and even the people you met on the street were equally committed. In the pool the 200m breaststroke final will always stick with me. I will always remember Daniel Gyurta winning the gold medal. He had always knocked on the door but hadn’t won an Olympic medal. This time in London he was also challenged by Britain’s Michael Jamieson. Jamieson came back at the end of the race and as he did the noise in the place just stunned me. To get the crowd going in such a fashion is something I had never experienced before.

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