Team GB

teamgb_2308229bOne of the downsides of living for so long in Australia as a patriotic, sports-loving Brit was getting used to losing. Pretty much all the time.

Sure there were some glorious exceptions – the 2003 Rugby World Cup (13 years ago!) and the triumphant Ashes tour of 2010-11 – but by and large it involved eating a great deal of Green and Gold coloured humble pie.

Cricket, Rugby, Rugby League. It seemed that every time there was a match-up between Australia and the Old Country, it was the aggressive, competitive Aussies who would ultimately triumph.

And boy did my Aussie pals remind me of the fact – “Mate, did you see the game at the weekend?”

And then there were the Olympics. Again, I got used to Australia over-performing on the world stage as the pre-Games favourites justified their tags and the underdogs rose to the occasion when it mattered the most.

The media would always be crammed full of stories of proud Aussies taking on and beating the world.

Of course, this reached a zenith at Sydney 2000 when as hosts, Australia finished in 4th place on the medal table with 58 medals, whilst GB languished down in 10th place with fewer than half that number and lagging behind Cuba and The Netherlands.

(Admittedly that was a big improvement on the dire GB performance 4 years earlier in Atlanta when they only managed 1 gold for 36th place on the medal table with Australia far ahead in 9th place)

So how does a Pom in Australia cope with such ritual humiliation on the sporting field? Well, there are broadly two options it would seem.

Either accept your fate with a self-deprecating stoicism, hoping for improvement sometime in the distant future, or else (as a number of my British friends did), follow the glory and switch allegiance to become a card-carrying Australian fan.

I could never bring myself to follow the latter path, so thought I was resigned to a life of sporting disappointment and of wondering just how Australia managed to maintain such a winning edge.

But then something changed. I moved back to live in the UK in the year of the London Olympics and approached that sporting fiesta with the usual mix of blind optimism and a lurking pessimism.

But from the moment the opening ceremony burst into life I witnessed a resurgence in British sporting pride.

Our athletes taking on and beating the world over a wonderful fortnight, culminating in a massive haul of 65 medals and an unexpected (by me, anyway) 3rd place on the medal table.

But home teams always do well anyway, don’t they? The real test would be to build on the ‘Olympic legacy’ and show what we could do in Rio. I wasn’t overly hopeful, but hey, you never know.

How wrong could I be. The Rio Olympics have proven a real tour de force for Team GB.

We became the first host nation to actually improve on their medal count at the following (away) games, not to mention beating the might of China on the medal table and reaching the giddy heights of 2nd place.

And more than that, achieving gold medals across a wider range of sports than any other nation at the Rio games.

Of course, some of those medals came from expected sources – Mo Farrah, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny, Charlotte Dujardin, Helen Glover & Heather Stanning, Nicola Adams, Alistair Brownlee.

But for me, the real pleasure came from the lesser known names, picking up medals of various hues in other sports – Taekwondo, Canoeing, Judo, Gymnastics, Badminton, Diving, Show Jumping… the list goes on.

And the other thing that struck me in watching many British athletes being interviewed following their success (or failure) was just how grounded, focused and appreciative of their opportunities they were.

No arrogance, no petulance and certainly no drunken scandals. The athletes I saw interviewed were all polite, genuine and good humoured – a credit to our nation and providing excellent role models for potential future Team GB Olympians to look up to.

And riding on the tidal wave of interest that the Rio Olympics has unleashed, the BBC has launched an initiative called Get Inspired, linking ordinary Brits with local opportunities to try out some of the sports they have been witnessing over the last 2 weeks.

Maybe I’ve left my run a little late for Tokyo 2020, but if a Brit can win gold aged 58 and with a hip replacement and a previously broken neck, what more inspiration do I need?


2 thoughts on “Team GB

  1. Hey Sean, I happened to be in the passing through BA First Lounge at LHR yesterday to be greeted by newspapers adorned with headlines like “On top of the World” and “Now give em gongs” and lots of Poms all chattering and laughing and being very happy about the outcome and so thy should. Well done. It was a fantastic effort. ( Of course a few Pommy whingers whining about the cost ! )

    In security lines, I also met 2 of the tri-athalon team who were also passing through and I invited them in to the lounge as a Thank you for their efforts. As an Australian, this did not pain me at all. We’re getting used to the Poms knocking us off across a range of sports, but, having said that, we still kick way above our weight when it comes to sporting endeavours.

    Bring on Tokyo.

    • Hey Rob. Great to hear from you – hope we get to catch up again sometime soon. Perfect time to be passing through the BA lounge eh? After all those years of wondering how the Aussies do so well at sport, it is nice to have our own triumphs to celebrate. I did also love how humble so many of them seemed to be in interviews too – a real contrast to some of our higher-profile footballers! Think it will be a big ask to sustain things for Tokyo, but I’m glad to hear you don’t mind witnessing a bit of (low level) Pommie crowing for now. Cheers. Sean

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