Olympic Inspiration

As a Brit, this Olympics has probably been just what we needed.

I know I’m biased when I say that this has been a staggering Olympics for Team GB, but the facts and figures back this up.

Funding

Back in Atlanta 20 years, Team GB won a solitary gold medal courtesy of Matthew Pinsent and the now Sir Steve Redgrave.  After those games, Primeminister John Major chose to roll some funds generated by the National Lottery in to the country’s sport and it was interesting hearing Pinsent, Redgrave and Victoria Pendleton talking on the BBC about the impact that Lottery funding has had.

This funding has allowed athletes to focus on their sport.  As Pendleton put it, when she was starting out she expected to have a job and train in her spare time.  That is still the case in a lot of sports, but where lots of funding has been available, Team GB’s athletes have taken full advantage.

With the money, the organisations who receive need to know what to do with it, and it was noticeable how many athletes thanked support staff and the people behind the scenes for their help.  Indeed, Lutalo Muhammad won a silver in the -80kg taekwondo final and was inconsolable having felt that he’d let people down.

Just while on the subject of money and funding, and I don’t want to put too much of a downer on this post, it is worth noting that the number of British people participating in sport had actually fallen since 2012.  Those responsible for funding need to take advantage of British sport being on this crest of a wave and put money not only in to elite athletes but at grass roots.  This is a failing I believe happens all to often as many sports in Britain, such as golf and especially tennis, cost so much to take part in that our pool of talent is very small.

Marginal Gains

As much as commentators spoke about money, it was interesting to hear the phrase “marginal gains” move from cycling to other sports.  This is the theory that chasing ten lots of 1% can be more effective than looking for one big lot of 10% and is something the Dave Brailsford introduced in to British Cycling and Team Sky.

The BBC noted an intersting example where the sleeping arrangements of 400 elite GB athletes were analysed by a PhD student at the English Institute of Sport named Luke Gupta.  This resulted in a change to beds and bedding meaning that British boxers were now sleeping 24 minutes more per night.  That doesn’t sound much, but over a 4 year Olympic cycle that could equate to nearly a month of extra sleep in which to recover and recuperate from training.

Cycles of Success

Success is also breeding success, with former athletes taking on mentoring roles as well as the aforementioned coaches.  It is worth noting the much reported effect that legendary cyclist Bradley Wiggins had on his team mates while recognising that similar relationships were there in Team GB’s gold medal winning Women’s Hockey team in the shape of Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh.  Former Olympic heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua was on hand to speak to the latest crop of talent in his sport.

Hopefully some of these things can be continued in to the future as the true legacy that received so much publicity after London 2012, so that the team and country are not just successful in the next 4 years, but in the next fifty.

Medals

However, for now, enough of the whys and the wherefores.  This was Team GB’s best medal haul in 108 years and means that they are the first country to win more medals in the Olympics directly after they have hosted the event.  They won golds in 15 different sports, a figure with which no other country can compare.  Those golds include first time British champions in gymnastics and diving.

For me, and I assume people from some other countries have had a similar feeling, there was always something there that felt like a Briton was going to win or do very well whenever they stepped in to the arena.

There were stunning performances all round.  The medal rush started with Adam Peaty taking the men’s 100m breastroke title, breaking his own world record in the process.  Helen Glover and Heather Stanning kicked off much success in rowing before Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Owain Doull and Steven Burke won their gold.

Max Whitlock lit the touchpaper on Super Sunday when he won Britain’s first ever Olympic gold medal in gymnastics – and then followed it up with another just hours later.

Professionals Justin Rose and Andy Murray took gold in golf and tennis respectively, the latter defending his gold from 2012 and in so doing rounded off Team GB’s most successful day at an overseas Olympics.

Laura Trott and Jason Kenny dominated the voldrome, the Brownlee brothers continued their own domination of the triathlon and Mo Farah simply carried on where he left off in London.

Goalkeeper Maddie Hinch stole the show as Great Britain’s women won a first ever hockey gold.

Planning, Preparation, Trust and Delivery

However, the expectation of success was certainly the case in the velodrome, where every Brit to take part was able to pull something out of the hat.  Even those not expected to win exceeded expectations.

It was on the boards that the first murmurs of scandal were accusingly made in Team GB’s direction.  The performance was swiftly defended as being a result of a 4 year cycle that builds up to the Olympics at the expense of other championships.

It’s this reasoning that makes me proud of the team and is where I think an important lesson can be found.  It points to a focus on preparation and a confidence that that preparation will take you to where you need be when the time comes.  It points to mutual trust whereby in a documentary about Wiggins’ Road to Rio, his cycling team are seen complaining about their grueling regime to be told that they need to put the work in now to get the most out of it later.  They did, and broke the World Record in the semi-final and bettered it again in the final.

There is a well oiled machine where coaches trust the athletes and athletes trust the coaches to deliver a plan to achieve.  Irrespective of funding, is that not an inspirational lesson to take anywhere?

I look into the window of my mind
Reflections of the fears I know I’ve left behind
I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I am on my way
Can’t stop me now
And you can do the same

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It’s never too late to try
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Still so many answers I don’t know
Realise that to question is how we grow
So I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I am on my way
Can’t stop me now
And you can do the same

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It’s never too late to try
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

We need a change
Do it today
I can feel my spirit rising
We need a change
So do it today
‘Cause I can see a clear horizon

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
So what have you done today to make you feel proud?
‘Cause you could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
So what have you done today to make you feel proud?
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
What have you done today
You could be so many people?
Just make that break for freedom
So what have you done today to make you feel proud?

Proud by Heather Small

Comments 2

  1. Jessica Grooms

    I absolutely LOVED this! As an American, I love seeing the Olympics through the WORLD’S perspective and not just from that of one county. What a wonderful accomplishment for Great Britain! This is something I would not have known about had I not just read your Blog. The Olympics are always such a wonderful time. I am always sad to see them end.

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