independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Olympic flame warms up a damp summer

• What a great London 2012 Olympics for Britain as the host nation and for Ireland, too.

The theme of this Olympics was: "This is for Everyone." It really felt like that when Katie Taylor won gold last Thursday in the women's boxing. She is four-times world champion and many times European champion.

RTE's George Hamilton did a great commentary as usual on the Olympics opening ceremony, and Jimmy Magee did likewise for the boxing matches (Jimmy was given a special award from the International Olympic Committee for his 50 years of Games broadcasting).

The RTE panel of boxing and athletics experts added to the enjoyment of the two weeks, when viewers could tune in to RTE's main anchorman Bill O'Herlihy (who never lost his lovely Cork accent) in the evenings and see the highlights and fine races like the 10,000 metres won by Britain's Mo Farah.

Katie Taylor was the flag-bearer for Team Ireland and influential in having women's boxing in the Olympics for the first time. Interviewed when she was 11, she said she wanted to be the best in the world.

She is one of the few Irish athletes to win gold for Ireland since the founding of the State. Boxer Michael Carruth took gold 20 years ago in Barcelona, and Ronnie Delany, who's still with us, riumphed in the 1,500m in Melbourne 1956 -- incredibly now 56 years ago.

One Englishman overheard in London trying to get tickets for him and his daughter to see Katie said: "Katie's a proper role model for girls. Pure class."

We hoped she would win gold, for herself and for the country, as we've had more than our share of Olympic hopes dashed.

A key factor I think in the boxers' success in two successive Games is the high-performance programme introduced in 2003 by Gary Keegan and continued by chief coach Billy Walsh and assistant coach Zaur Antia, the head technical and tactical guide from Georgia.

The fighters have done consistently well in the last two Olympics, winning two bronze medals and one silver in Beijing in 2008 and more medals and gold at London 2012.

Katie had Paddy Barnes and others as tough sparring partners. They have great camaraderie, different I suspect than in the world of professional boxing.

Funniest tweet of the Games came from Belfast man Barnes when he tweeted how this guy was pestering him for an autograph. "Anyone know him?" he asked of one of the world's top tennis players!

Iarnrod Eireann released a photo showing 2,000-odd people stopping at Heuston Station to watch Katie win gold. After a very rainy summer, where would we be without sports?

Mary Sullivan
College Road, Cork

Irish Independent

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