Archie Bland: Unlike footballers, our Olympic stars keep it real

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It's a tough call because they're all so great, but in the end it was a simple thing that secured our rowing gold medallist Kate Copeland her presumably treasured status as my favourite Olympian: a picture she posted of herself on Twitter in which she is dressed as a bunny rabbit.

It is hard to imagine Kevin Pietersen or Maria Sharapova posing for something similar; if they did, their agents would presumably start carping about image rights. Not Kate, who is right up there with irrepressible cyclist Laura Trott and daddy's boy clay pigeon-shooter Peter Wilson (who broke off from a BBC interview to give his old man a hug) as the unaffected heart of Team GB.

Think, too, of the barnstorming Brownlee brothers, gold and bronze winners in the frankly lunatic triathlon yesterday, who live together in the Leeds suburb of Bramhope, where Alistair dug the hole for their very own swimming pool in the back garden. It is hard to imagine Gary and Phil Neville ever doing the same.

It is these normal gestures that explain why we love them: because they spend most of their time labouring in total obscurity, these supreme athletes react as you or I might when a microphone is thrust under their noses shortly after winning. It's not the fault of footballers that they react differently to success and failure (really – anyone stuck in that goldfish bowl and paid millions would be the same) but it is hard to deny that they come off badly in the comparison.

And so, everyone says, we need some new heroes: let's elevate charmers like Ennis, Rutherford and Farah above those millionaire playboys who can't even win a penalty shoot-out. It would be nice, wouldn't it. Sadly, it doesn't work that way. We can idolise these people for more than a couple of weeks every four years if we want, but if we do so, they won't be the same people at the end of it.

Buy their calendars, read their hastily penned autobiographies, sure; but don't expect them to see them dressed as woodland animals in four years' time. It's not that I wish Copeland and Co ill, but the less I hear about them before Rio, the better: I like them far too much to hope for anything else.

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