Monday, September 01, 2008

Beijing Olympics (1)

I really enjoyed watching the Olympics last month. I wasn't going to watch much of them because of the Chinese human rights thing - but that's another blog entry (if I finish it). But once I started I got hooked. I enjoy watching people who are the very best at what they do performing at the top of their ability.

I saw some fantastic performances, of course – anything with Michael Phelps or Chris Hoy, for example, and Rebecca Adlington’s two totally contrasting gold medals (the first, she won by inches having lead for maybe the last two of four hundred metres; the second, she annihilated the field and had time to turn around and look at the clock before anyone else had finished).

But it’s not all about the winners. Lots of people put in fantastic performances without getting that gold medal. Indeed, I’ve always felt that the purest form of contest is the contest against yourself. And often the hardest.

So my favourite performer of the Olympics this year was Cassie Patten. This is the young loudmouth who stood beside Rebecca Adlington during her interview after the 800m final (in which Patten finished 8th), put her arm around her, and said to the cameras “My best mate. Queen, if you’re watching – two gold medals – Dame Rebecca Adlington. Dame Rebecca Adlington.” (As the BBC commentators were quick to point out, it is more traditional to address the queen as “your majesty” – but less fun). And lest we think that she’s just a big mouth – as if reaching an Olympic final isn’t already an amazing feat – a few days later, this same Cassie Patten won a bronze medal with a fantastically brave performance in the 10k open water swim – a mindblowingly tough event. After which she was still talking. Words and deeds – respect.


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