Sport on TV: We only bling when we're winning. Long may we reign
Sunday 12 August 2012
What will be the legacy of 2012? A new breed of athletes has emerged to emulate and maybe eclipse the old gold crew. A year on from the riots, a gold medal has become the ultimate fashion accessory. Everyone wants that bit of bling. As Jade Jones said after winning her taekwondo final: "All of Britain has done amazing and made me think, I wanna do that, be like that." You wouldn't stand in her way.
As Jade inspires a generation to kick seven bells out of each other in a rigidly disciplined fashion, so Laura Trott can propel our cyclists onwards. While Vicky Pendleton retires tearfully to married life and baking cakes – that really is her hobby – Laura has had a more modern taste of success. She spoke of how she trained so hard that she could taste lactic acid in her mouth. Even Michael Johnson had to admit he'd felt it everywhere else in his body but not in his mouth. Now everyone will want a lactic attack.
Johnson has spent a lot of time on the BBC sofa with Denise Lewis and they make an impressive pair. After watching the women's beach volleyball final, Gabby Logan asked them: "If you were to have an ideal partner, who would it be?" Perhaps inspired by the sight of all that bare flesh, Johnson instantly replied: "Denise." "I think you're a good-looking duo," gushed Gabby, and you were left to contemplate the superchildren this couple might engender. A new heptathlete to replace Jess Ennis, maybe even a 200m or 400m gold medallist?
Ennis was the epitome of joyous charm when she appeared in the studio on Thursday alongside another multi-event legend, Daley Thompson. He, of course, was the last superhero, a man who knew exactly how to be the best when the rest of us weren't so sure.
When asked about Keri-Anne Payne's failure to win a medal in the open-water swim, his response was typical – no sympathy at all: "That's the beauty of sport, there is a winner... and unfortunately there has to be some people who..." and he tailed off. What he meant was: "There is a winner, and then there's the rest." That would be a good legacy: don't settle for second-best.
It would constitute a massive cultural change. "The British have a problem with success," added Thompson. "First we were saying we're not winning anything, next we're saying we're winning too much." And yet words of warning came from Ian Thorpe, Australia's legend, at his compatriots' horrible lack of success here after the highs of Sydney 2000: "We've become too accustomed to being successful." Having copied the Aussies when they were brilliant, we don't want to copy them now.
But some things never change. Nick Skelton won his first Olympic medal, gold in the equestrianism, at the age of 54 and he fully intends to carry on in Rio in four years' time, along with many of his fellow competitors. We know what they do to old horses, but luckily the same doesn't apply to old riders.
Johnson has been fascinated by the relationship between man and beast all fortnight long, and former cricketer Michael Vaughan was so enamoured by what he saw at the showjumping that he said: "I'm even considering going out and buying a horse." It seems a few retired athletes might have seen their chance to forge a whole new sporting career. So get on your horse and ride, Rio Grandads.
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