Roll on Rio where Natalya may well be crying salt tears
TV VIEW:THERE WERE times you thought it would never end (specifically during the dressage), there were times you didn’t want it to (like during the badminton, non-beachy volleyball, BMX, table tennis, trampoline, Greco-Roman wrestling, anything involving Usain Bolt, the Irish boxers, Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Annalise Murphy, every minute inside the velodrome and lots and lots of speedy running events), but ended it has.
On an upbeat note, too, it should be said. “I actually broke my goggles before the swim, but it was grand,” Natalya Coyle told RTÉ yesterday, like broken goggles just before a swim were a trifling botheration. How many of us have refused to dip our toes in water – even in the bath – when that happened? Exactly: all of us.
Ninth in the modern pentathlon, at the age of 21, in her first year as a senior?
As the very, very great, and now sadly late, darts commentator Sid Waddell once put it: “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33 he cried salt tears because there were no worlds left to conquer: Eric Bristow’s only 27.” With the wind at her back in Rio, Natalya may well be crying salt tears, wondering what’s left to conquer in modern pentathlon after she collects gold.
“I’m speechless,” said RTÉ’s modern pentathlon expert Hugh Forde, gobsmacked by Natalya’s performance in an event that comprises pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, show jumping, and a cross-country run, which suggests it might have originated somewhere like Siberia with a fella legging it from a labour camp through forests and lakes. To our knowledge, there are no Siberian labour camps in Tara, Co Meath, so Natalya’s modern pentathlon skills are beyond admirable.
It was, then, a highly encouraging end to our London 2012 involvement, at a time when dissatisfaction was being expressed about the performances of our non-boxers and non-show-jumpers. You know what they’re saying, we’re only good for fightin’ and ridin’.
But sure, where’s the harm in that?
The Brits, of course, were good for almost everything, except, maybe, swimming. “The support that we’ve had this week has been unbelievable and the crowd have been unbelievable and I’m just a bit disappointed that I haven’t been unbelievable,” said Fran Halsall, a freestyle swimmer.
But they got just about everything else right. True, the BBC got dog’s abuse from some quarters over their allegedly chest-bumping, ‘Rule Britannia!’, jingoistic, ‘we totally rock’ coverage the past couple of weeks – eg Jake Humphrey: “Let me tell you how it works in the velodrome – you turn up, you watch a race, we win a gold medal” – and it was certainly startlingly bias next to, say, how we covered Katie Taylor’s final.
Sofya Ochigava? “BATTER HER!”
So, when, for example, John Inverdale, Steve Cram, Brendan Foster and Co mislaid the plot when Mo Farah did his double goldie thing it was either (a) outrageous or (b) perfectly understandable, just relax the head, can you blame them for being excited? Take your pick.
Cripes, grab a glimpse of NBC . . . a gold in, say, dunno, rhythmic gymnastics was regarded as the latest triumph in the “war on terror”.
When we, inevitably, host the Olympics some day soon, maybe in 2040, we’ll anticipate Jimmy Magee wishing Sofya all the very best as she takes on her nemesis, President Katie Taylor of Ireland.
Until then, we’ll just celebrate what we have, a whole heap of outstanding boxers.
True, there’s a little work to be done elsewhere, Bill O’Herlihy’s face this past fortnight suggesting that if he heard one more time “I wasn’t entirely fit, Bill”, “I was carrying a little knock, Bill”, “I was sick, Bill”, he’d spontaneously combust, but who are we to judge these athletes from the comfiness of our armchairs?
Need we ask?
“Is it me,” asked Katie Taylor.
Several years, so it seemed, later:
“The winner . . . by a score of 10 points to 8 . . . Olympic champion . . . Katie Taylor.”
Pure unadulterated golden magic.
And it was a magical fortnight, Katie gifting us moments we’ll cherish forever.
Only four years to Rio. It’ll be here in no time.