Olympians- the true sporting heroes   Leave a comment

The Olympics is certainly the primary global celebration of sport.  I will write about my overall views later.  However much has been made of the differences between those competing in this marking of the 30th Olympiad and other “professional” sport.

Those competing for medals are often professionals.  By professional I am not talking about the football or basketball stars who might be paid millions of pounds just to turn out on the pitch or court but athletes  who get financial support to back their training.

I am involved with English lower league football and know that British Olympic boxers get far less than the average fourth tier footballer for leaving home and being put up in dormitories to train.  I expect for many fringe athletes the same is true.

British Judoka Gemma Gibbons, now a silver medallist, put out a public appeal for help to buy a second-hand car so she could continue to train.  Peter Wilson lost all his funding for a while in the run up to London 2012 before he won the gold in the double-trap shotgun.

Now these are not sports that automatically attract public support but the BBC coverage has shown that all of these sports can be compulsive viewing. There is already a groundswell of interest in the established sports such as Track and Field as well as the less fashionable in the UK like Handball.

‎What has struck me is that there are “ordinary” athletes out there who are battling for the resources to continue competing who do not have the egos associated with some of our well known stars.  I have seldom seen a football star apologise after a poor performance; I have got used to Olympic stars breaking down in tears of regret after super-human efforts.

Defending Olympic champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter finished second in the lightweight men’s double sculls.  Hunter had to be helped from his boat by rowing legend Steve Redgrave and his doctor wife; the skuller was so physically drained that he was sick into the water and unable to walk.

In his interview Mark Hunter said: “We gave everything, we tried everything, we wanted to win so badly, sorry to everyone we’ve let down.”

Yes some of the stars of the Olympics make silly money from the advertising and sponsorship but in the main they deserve it.  Others pick up the minor gong from the Queen and go back to battling for the money and recognition for their sports.  Many are just an indication of all the unsung heroes in British sport nurturing talent and going out of their way to make a difference to people.

Back to Mark Hunter and his, “sorry to have let everyone down!”  That is a double medal winning Olympian apologising not only to his coaches, colleagues and family but to the general public for disappointing them.  By the general public I mean those of us watching the Games from the comfort of the sofa.  Those of us who pay twenty-plus pounds a time to watch footballers who are not fit to oil Hunter’s rowlocks!


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