Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gold all the way – Mimitig

It’s a strange, strange thing sport.

When Nicole Cooke crossed the line, first, at the very beginning of the Olympics, to win Great Britain’s first Gold Medal, I thought that nothing would be easier than writing about success.

Not the case. I can’t count how many times I’ve settled in of an evening to try and capture the elation and utter wondrousness of the victories that followed Nicole’s success – not just for the cyclists, but for the rowers, the sailors, canoeists, swimmers, a track athlete or two, the boxers, the gymnast oh, and the chappesses and one chap on horses.

In every walk of life there are ways to excel. In music this could be an exquisite Mozart opus, the ultimate Beethoven concerto, the aria from heaven in a Puccini opera, or perhaps Abba’s perfect pop song: Take a Chance on Me. (Fill your own personal favourite in here).

In sport there are a few rare occasions when it all comes together in that symphony of divine excellence and we have had a rare chance of enjoying a British master class in perfection during these Olympics..

Orchestrated by behind-the-scenes directors Dave Brailsford, Peter Keen, Shane Sutton and the other coaches, played out by the cyclists: Cooke, Pooley, Hoy, Pendleton, Wiggins, Newton, Romero and the rest, and conducted by the maestro and wizard of the wheels: Chris Boardman, the Cyclists have shown the world how to win and win big.

The signs were there last March at the World Championships held at the Manchester Velodrome. The British cyclists won virtually everything. Hoy, Wiggins and Pendleton got double golds. Jamie Staff and Cav got medals too.

These guys and gals went to Beijing with a target on their back. As did our rowers. Loads of medals in World Championships. Everyone wanted to beat us. Everyone wanted to stop dreams coming true.

The thing is (and I hated that phrase when I worked in corporate .. it was all about the Thing) that for the last few years British cycling has really been getting it right and in a big way.

One man has been the inspiration for so many.

Barcelona – Boardman. Say no more.

One ride was enough to inspire Bradley Wiggins – a mere boy at the time – to have an Olympic dream. Chris Boardman won Gold in Barcelona, won stages in Le Tour, and did the ultimate for track cyclists. He got the Hour.

And he has, despite the physical infirmities that his career in cycling have left him with, stuck with this sport. He has become the maestro of all maestros, the leader of the “secret squirrels” who find ways for GB cyclists to eke out that little bit extra.

Hard to know what it was that did it for the British cyclists. Every little extra bit of technology, every bit of skill and pride and determination not to fail. To deliver on Chris Boardman’s promise of giving them the best in bikes, the best in skill, and the best in motivation.

Doesn’t matter now, does it? They won utterly clean.

Seven Golds, three silvers, two bronzes.
Chris Hoy – Triple gold.
Bradley Wiggins – double gold.
World records in the sprint and the pursuit.
Victoria Pendleton – won her gold and the grudge match against the Aussies (Mears – you know what you did – or what your sister did, and that was mean, mean mean).

We came away from the velodrome with only one failure. Brad and Cav in the Madison, but it was always an ask too much there is a limit to even Wiggo’s legs. What did Cav do in response?

Sprint win of Stage One of the Tour of Ireland.

So that’s what our cyclists do when they don’t win. Go win!!

It is such a joy to have a chance, maybe my chance of a lifetime, to write about such world beaters – in a sport of mine!

I don’t take anything away from the rowers, sailors, canoeists, but they are not my sport. Cycling is what I do – it’s why I nurse my broken collar bone.

They – the rest of the world, the Australians – said after Manchester, that we would flop and fail in Beijing.

We didn’t.

They are now looking so closely at our programme. The Aussies have put loads of money up to Dave Brailsford to go work for them.

Dave says no. He wants to be part of 2012 and says it would be wrong and all wrong to work for the Aussies.

I hope that’s a truth.

On the track we are a world-beating squad. No question. And with Nicole and Emma and The Manx Express we are pretty world beating on the road.

I guess what I’ll do now, when my leg is mended, is be on the bike, ride some of Phil Liggett’s “killermeters” and enjoy my cycling.

Boy, what a year for us in cycling. Just win win win or so it seems.

Guess Phil might have a rethink about retiring.


Ebren said...

Simple point that I feel hasn't been made enough. No one crossed the line first in any track cycling event unless they were in a Team GB suit. No one. The only time the GB team didn't win gold was on points races.

Great work, and let's get some more female events in for 2012 (if we are allowed).

zeph said...

As the actor Edmund Kean (a man who drink any taproom dry) once said: "Dying is easy, comedy is difficult."

Likewise, criticism is easy (or blogs would hardly exist) but celebration is difficult. Great piece, Mimi.

zeph said...

(that should be 'a man who could drink..' sigh, this laptop makes so many mistakes)

munni said...

what did Mears do?

David Barry said...

I've been an occasional lurker here for a while - I know (through the Internet only) MotM through cricket blogs.

Anyway, there's nothing wrong with Phil Liggett's pronunciation of 'kilometre'. It's listed as the standard pronunciation by the OED, which says that the kiLOMetre pronunciation is also used, probably caused by the influence of words such as speedometer and thermometer.

Zephirine said...

David - lurkers and reformed lurkers are both welcome. Especially if they know about cricket:)

guitougoal said...

I am still confused about the theory of "winning" a silver or a bronze when we just lost the Gold- Athletes finishing second or third are not really "winning" a medal while they lost, they are" getting" a consolation
price don't they? I don't think the word win should be applied to someone finishing third.

mimi said...

Zeph - thank you for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed it. British cycling had another fine day yesterday with Cav winning the sprint finish on Day Two of the Tour of Ireland.

Munni: you can read all about it here:

and I apologise to all for misspelling Meares. Genuine error.

David Barry - thank you for taking the time to read this. My reference to Phil's pronunciation of "killermetres" is not some sort of a slight - I prefer it to kilOMeter, but it's rare to hear these days, and in an earlier piece I wrote on Le Tour, I described the "killermetre" as being a particularly apt description, specially for poor sprinters trying to drag themselves over the high mountains.

mimi said...

Sorry - that link was incomplete.

Try this:

Zephirine said...

Mimi, Blogger always chops the end off links in the 'comments' version, it's really annoying.

What people have to do is click on the title of the article, and then you get the layout where the comments go right across the page and the full link is there.

Took me ages to discover that...

Zephirine said...

Guitou, that's a very purist view!

But grammatically it's correct to call it a win, you may not have won the race but you've won a medal - three prizes were available and you've won one of them, no?

Anyway don't grudge us Brits calling everything a win, we're not in the habit of all this medal stuff:)

mimi said...

Ah Zeph - you have the answers! Thanks for that. I couldn't understand how my second attempt at posting the link didn't work either.

Now I have tried, and it's true. Click on "Gold all the way" at the top, and the link is there in full.

And while I see Gui's point (and Shanaze Reade would certainly be in his corner - a silver just wasn't good enough, so she crashed going for gold and got nothing), I'm with you that winning a medal of any colour is winning. Gold is obviously best though!

guitougoal said...

zeph, mimi
it was more about the french than the brits, they claim they won 40 medals (5 gold only)-in my book they lost 35 finals-winning it's being the number One

mimi said...

I've just looked up the table Gui. France got seven golds and more silvers and bronzes than GB. Netted them 40 as you say.

To my shame, without checking further, I can't remember a single one of France's golds.

I was so engaged with the joy of the British wins that apart from Usain Bolt, and of course Isembyeva (sp?), I didn't register a lot of the other wins.

guitougoal said...

don't tell me you missed Phelps! he won more medals
than the 120 french competing for the olympics..something fishy about this guy.

Ebren said...

Don't tell me you haven't seen this yet?

Zephirine said...

Ebren: lol and rofl!

Mimi, those two Meares girls had better not try that stuff in 2012, they'll be taken round the back of the Velodrome and given a kicking, we know how to deal with that sort in East London:)

mimi said...

Those Meares girls never played Oxford County hockey!

But if you heard Vic on R5 the other day about how much her gold meant because of what they did, blimey.

It hurt, it really hurt.

mimi said...

Mark did it again today.

How does he do it? Three sprint wins in one race.

He's a bit of a hero, and still in yellow.

offsideintahiti said...

Silver is often a huge disappointment, because you just missed out on gold. Bronze feels more like a victory, because you were that close from finishing empty-handed. I'll give mimi a gold for her consistent contribution to this site.

Out of the few French gold medals, the one that got me out of the sofa and on my feet was Alain Bernard's in the 100m freestyle. Phelps is a wimp for not taking part in THE race.

And Bernard came back from Beijing with the full set of Olympic memorabilia: one gold, one silver, one bronze. Allez Antibes!

mimi said...

I'll take your gold, Offie, and treasure it. Though it seems a bit being given a reward simply for being here.

I'd like to think that my contributions,over the last year or so, are worth more that a prize for being here.

guess that's in Ebren's gift, eh?

Zephirine said...

Don't be daft, Mimi, lots of people come here and don't contribute anything, not even a comment. That's 'just being here'. You, on the other hand, consistently write articles and comments, that's a major contribution no?

But it's no use asking Ebren to pay you, you know how mean he is, all his vast wealth is in Swiss bank accounts so I've heard.

offsideintahiti said...

Panama. I'm following the money trail. Dog, it's murky.

mimi, consistent as in reliably good.

bluedaddy said...

For the Brits, I think being not just winners, but all-conquering, streets ahead, how-do-they-do-that winners is a feeling so long forgotten, we don't know what to do with ourselves.

In typical fashion, we'll quickly move on to 'Have we peaked too soon'? But you're right to celebrate while it lasts mimi.

mimi said...

Bluedad: we went through that whole "peaked too early" back in March after winning almost everything at the World Champs in Manchester.

The fact that we didn't even peak then but had it all in hand to win in Beijing is just, well, about as stonking as Cav winning three from three this week in Ireland!

bluedaddy said...

The likes of Cav and Hoy and Vicky P seemed to have reached that status of being so dominant that they have a head start. Their dominance is making the others worry about what they'll do, to the point that it can only sap their own efforts.

Long may it continue.

Astonishingly the Guardian seems to feel Cav's exploits in Ireland are not worth reporting.

MotM said...

Thanks for the piece Mimi - celebratory non-jingoistic writing isn't easy, but you pulled it off.

It can't be said often enough that Team GB's performance was incredible. Apart from The Ashes in 2005 (McGrath standing on the ball was worth all those millions in funding), I can't remember a British team doing so well so unexpectedly. (In 1966, there was a lot in our favour even before the Georgian linesman intervened and in 2003, the rugby boys had been the class of the field for two years).

I'm putting the mortgage on Ms Reade to pick up Gold in 2012 and if La Pendelton can keep away from photo and TV studios long enough, she'll win again too. I suspect there'll be more, but another clutch of golds to match 2008 will be plenty for me.

mimi said...

Bluedad: you've noticed this too? They think it fine to print the results (in tiny little letters) for the Tour of Germany - Brit interest Charlie Wegelius in about 90th, but no pics of Cav, no reports, not even a bloody listing - in tiny print!


And thank you Mouth - I'm so glad this didn't come across as jingoistic. My attempt was to convey my thrills and excitement in the Velodrome. But there was and Aussie/GB undercurrent to so much going on there and I did try not to let that dominate the piece Lord Ebren published.

Should have seen some of the drafts!!

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