It’s Super Saturday for Team GB and the familiar sound of “God Save Our Gracious Queen” sounds sweeter and more glorious every time we hear the national anthem boom out at London 2012. The unprecedented levels of expectation have raised the emotional stakes to such intense levels that we are witnessing the ultimate human joy for our winners – but the price of failure is almost unbearable.
Nowhere have we seen more extreme emotions than Eton Dorney where the British rowers have given absolutely everything and delivered our greatest medal haul in the history of their sport.
The day began with superlative gold medal winning performances for the men’s coxless four of Pete Reed, Andy Triggs Hodge, Tom James and Alex Gregory, followed by Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking in the women’s lightweight double sculls.
But then came the raw pain of failing to retain their Olympic crown for Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter in the lightweight men’s double sculls. Given a second chance when the final was re-started after a broken seat brought their race to a halt, the British duo made a superhuman effort to hold off the Danes. But they had to settle for silver when they were caught in the final surge for the line.
As former Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington so passionately proclaimed yesterday after winning her second bronze of these Games, there is absolutely no shame in winning silver or bronze. A medal of any colour is simply outstanding. But Purchase and Hunter were unable to share that sentiment when they were left shattered and devastated at Eton Dorney.
Watching Sir Stephen Redgrave assist the medics help distraught Hunter to his feet onlookers shared the raw pain of defeat that was so overpowering it was impossible not to feel emotional. The subsequent interview for Hunter and Purchase live on TV with the BBC’s John Inverdale was painful to watch. Even the veteran interviewer was close to tears as his lips trembled when he handed back to the studio.
But this is why we love sport and why the Olympics is The Greatest Show on Earth. The full range of human emotions experienced in the quest to be the best sports men and women on the planet all contribute to the ultimate drama. But the priceless value of sport is much more than the entertainment it provides – and this is the rub.
There are too many people in Britain who for far too long have argued against the value of sport because of the fear of losing. Learning how to win and lose is one of the most valuable lessons we can experience in life. Sport teaches us so much about ourselves. It teaches us personal discipline. It teaches us how to fight for what we want. Sport in my humble opinion is the most important subject in any school’s curriculum. I sincerely hope that London 2012 will help restore sport to its rightful place in our nation’s hearts and minds.
The pain of losing is no reason to shy away from sport. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger – and I am certain that is how every athlete will feel when they eventually come to terms with the disappointment of not achieving their goal. Meanwhile, for the winners there can be no greater experience and the pain makes the glory all the more special.
london 2012 truly was
the greatest show on earth