23 August 2016: Midges and Mosquitoes

Having successfully completed the Highlands and Glens Audax in two completely different ways, Dene and I decided to write a report together, giving an account of our separate experiences. Sadly, that is about as far as we have got. We will start piecing together our accounts before the memory fades and hopefully next month we shall have our report finished. Meanwhile, something hugely more interesting has taken my attention, the Olympics! As it is cycling related I thought I’d write about that instead!

I was ill for the final week of the Olympics so, confined to bed, I immersed myself in every sweat soaked minute of it, often sweat soaked myself with a high temperature. Obviously the cycling was the main event and Team GB mopped up most of the medals like greedy children at a party leaving few for the remaining hopefuls. Close to spitting blood, Australia couldn’t disguise their frustration – even suspicion – and Kristina Vogel from Germany was quick to back them up but maintained there was no accusation of cheating! Team GB explained what their funding policy was, how they had access to cutting edge bike design, equipment and clothing, and that they had a four year (Olympic) cycle. Oh, and an attention to detail, all those “marginal gains”! And they left it at that.

Now, you don’t have to be Chris Boardman to recognise that the British cyclists rode faultlessly. Beautifully. Watch some replays. They were more aerodynamic, tighter in the change overs and all at the peak of physical fitness. They sacrificed four years of their lives doing that. The very best equipment, training camps, mentors and coaches who organised every minute of their 24/7 cycling lives. And presumably some sort of a wage.

The rowers and canoeists deserve a mention. They never get to go to cafés for a cappuccino and slice of carrot cake during a training ride, let alone a mountain top training camp. Irish rowers get a fraction of the funding Team GB get and Gary and Paul O’Donovan from Lisheen, ( close to Sherkin Island – if you haven’t seen them being interviewed by Irish Television you should ) who got silver in the mens lightweight double sculls, presumably row up and down the muddy Illen river in training, a river which follows the road out of Skibbereen. Apparently, the GB rowers spend a while in Brazil each year getting acclimatised to the heat.

Looking at canoeist Liam Heath it is difficult to imagine how you can attach any more muscle to a human frame. He totally dominated the field in the 200 metre kayak sprint event. And he seemed genuinely ignorant of his appalling start in the semi finals and, again when he was interviewed, after the final, the interviewer failing to get a response. It later turned out that he doesn’t have time to do anything other than look forward and paddle. And he seemed surprised he found winning so easy. So understated and my sort of Olympian.

There were the boxers, swimmers, track athletes, pentathletes, triathletes, all putting their lives on hold making this big sacrifice. But I’m now thinking, how much of a sacrifice is it to be paid to do what you like doing best in life and then perform in Rio? It’s not like having to bring up a family, on a low income, slave away to pay the mortgage, put food on the table and still be reasonable to one another in front of the children – who would probably be pitched off a flight to Rio anyway!

Or a refugee who has risked their lives and the lives of their children simply to get to a country where it is possible to do all the above.

So, good old Andy Murray. He innocently let slip that he had focused all of six weeks to prepare for the games! Fortunately he didn’t admit to any sacrifices!

By the end I was near to spitting blood myself after seeing Team GB mens 4 x 400 metre team get disqualified by some Brazilian “jobs worth” in order to allow Brazil into the final. ( Gaby Logan wasn’t allowed to say that but I can! ) So, I switched channels to watch two large ladies, one clinically obese, ( might have to be careful here ) attempt to putt a little white ball into a hole not very far away. They didn’t even pull their own trolleys. I suspect neither of them could run for a bus. And now I understand why the worlds best golfers were fearful of the Zika virus. It was the perfect excuse to duck a totally inappropriate event.

Brazil was host to a hugely successful games, despite grossly insufficient funding and a lack of resources. We didn’t get to see the slums, the poverty and the out of control crime but we did witness some truly remarkable sporting achievements.

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