It’s been an emotional rollercoaster watching the Olympics from the couch

Everybody in life needs an older sibling who’ll instruct you to ‘wind your neck in’

Aidan Walsh   in action with Merven Clair   of Mauritius in the men’s welterweight quarter-finals. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Aidan Walsh in action with Merven Clair of Mauritius in the men’s welterweight quarter-finals. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

There’s been quite a bit of talk of late about what an emotional rollercoaster the Olympics can be for its competitors, and it’s a very good thing that the issue is being addressed. But it would be a welcome development if some thought was also given to those of us who go through very similar hoops while watching it all from our couches.

Take the early hours of Friday. Whooping for Kellie Harrington and Tom Barr, bawling for Annalise Murphy and the hockey team, back to whooping for Aidan Walsh and our 4x400m relay people. Drained. Don’t talk to us about emotional rollercoasters.

And Michaela Walsh set us off again when she talked with Peter Collins about Aidan guaranteeing himself at least a bronze by reaching the semi-finals of the welterweight division. “That’s my baby brother,” she said, “I’ve never felt a joy like it before.” You actually had a notion that if she won Olympic gold herself, which she will one day, she wouldn’t be any happier.

Her baby brother, meanwhile, was paying tribute to his big sister without whose encouragement as a young fella, he said, he would never have made it to the Olympics, never mind getting himself a medal.

“I would actually cut the medal in half and give her half of it, that’s how much she means,” he said. “She’s my best friend. I’d do anything for her and she’d do anything for me. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here because I would have stopped boxing. When I was younger running around the streets, she was the one pulling me in saying, ‘wind your neck in’. She saw the talent I had.”

‘Nightmare to fight’

Everybody in life needs an older sibling who’ll instruct you to “wind your neck in”. In fact, it should become our national motto.

Kenny Egan, meanwhile, paid the mother of all tributes to Aidan by describing him as a “nightmare to fight”. “He’s as awkward as a bag full of coat hangers, he’s horrendous,” he said. To which we said: “What?”

Perhaps even more awkward are those moments when telly interviewers ask severely gutted sports people who’ve just been knocked out of Tokyo if they’ll be back for Paris 2024. No one, of course, should ever condone violence, but you have to think the interviewees in these cases should be allowed at least inflict a slight jab to the ribs of the people holding the microphone. As the saying goes, “too soon”.

Annalise didn’t need to be asked about Paris 2024, though, her mind already mind up, volunteering the information in her chat with RTÉ that her Olympic race was run. “I’m looking forward to a more chilled out life,” she said, Ciara Peelo, back in the studio, reminding us that she had given over a decade of her life, a third of her time on earth, to her sport, which, of course, necessitated her missing out on all the fun stuff.

She’s long been one of Irish sport’s most impressive characters, always with something interesting and insightful to say, so, if it was something she’d enjoy, it would be highly excellent to see her talents put to good use in the years ahead, rather than see her drift away. Mind you, she’s already talking about helping the younger breed coming through in her sport, so sailing, at least, won’t lose her.

“I’m pretty happy I don’t have to live off salad anymore,” she said of the upside of her retirement from competitive sailing, which chimed with the reaction of Britain’s Mallory Franklin after her Olympics ended with a silver in that canoe slalom thingie. “I’m just going to get fat now.”

Humble pie

Poor old Eurosport, meanwhile, have been eating so much humble pie after their commentating malfunctions on the women’s Olympic football tournament, they’ll be feeling decidedly bloated. Although, while their somewhat quirky playing of a boxing commentary over the Sweden v Australia group game was their very own blooper, the commentary mishaps have been the fault of the Olympic Broadcasting Services’ people who Eurosport used until the tournament reached the quarter-final phase. And the OBS commentators knew as much about women’s football as the rest of us did about the Laser Radial before Annalise entered our lives.

Eg: Britain’s Ellen White, Lucy Bronze and Caroline Weir were referred to as Ellie, Linda and Catherine, the Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema was renamed Abbie, Kim Little was said to have won 140 caps for England when she’s Scottish, and Phil Neville was referred to as the England manager . . . when he left the job in January. Apart from all that. . .

Red cheeks all ‘round. Almost as red as Clare Balding’s when she told gold-medal-swimmers Tom Dean and Matt Richards that “your third leg was just phenomenal”. Tom and Matt, to their eternal shame, couldn’t suppress their giggles. The moment was as awkward as a bag full of coat hangers. “Wind your neck in,” they might well have been tempted to tell her.

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