Tuesday 12 December 2017

What a start!

Drug bans, 'racist' remarks, court cases...

BILLY DODD Olympics analysis

WHAT A start we have had to the 30th Olympic Games in London. Athletes banned for taking drugs, court cases involving Irish competitors and Daley Thompson being accused of insulting the Irish nation.

All of this before a step had been run, a punch thrown or the flame even set alight. When I saw the furore over the remarks made by Thompson, one of the great Olympians, I wondered have the Irish people lost their sense of humour.

A torch-bearer had the word Olympic misspelled on her arm and Thompson remarked that the tattooist must have been Irish. I thought it was a harmless funny remark and if Tommy Tiernan or Des Bishop had said it people would find it hilarious. We have always had the ability to laugh at ourselves as well as others, but the over the top reaction to his comment makes me wonder are we becoming too politically correct.

The legal challenge by Joe Ward against his nonallocation of a wild card place was a bit of a surprise given the timing. Surely it was too late to expect a change of mind two days before the games began. On top of that the rest of the team had been in training camp for weeks and he would have missed out on some vital preparation. He is one of the most talented boxers ever produced in Ireland but he would not have been in adequate physical conditioning to do his talent justice.

From the first minute of the opening ceremony we have been treated to some tremendous entertainment from all sports. In fairness to our neighbours across the water they do know how to put on a show. The venues are top class and the facilities for spectators and competitors are second to none.

Billy Walsh has told me the Olympic village is like being in wonderland for any sports person. He has met some of the most famous sports people in the world in the last few days, but is devastated that none of them have asked for his autograph.

Mind you he did say that Usain Bolt asked if Tom Dempsey is still writing his rubbish for the local paper! Apparently he is a big hurling fan and an avid reader of this paper and the 'Ireland's Own'.

Few people knew of the illness that Gráinne Murphy suffered over the last few months and how much it has affected her preparation. High performance athletes are finely-tuned individuals and any interruption in their extreme training regime will always have long-term effects both mentally and physically.

Gráinne will feel disappointed given her own high standards but her performance suffered due to circumstances outside of her control. Her decision to withdraw from the 800m is heartbreaking for her, but shows a maturity beyond her years and will benefit her in the long run.

She has done us all proud in London as she always does in every event she partakes in. Hopefully after a few days she will recover enough to enjoy the whole Olympic experience and realise she is in a place her amazing talent deserves to be. Brazil in 2016 will be her games.

The boxing team has once again led by example with some great performances in the ring. Wexford came to a standstill on Sunday night to watch Adam Nolan's historic win in his opening bout. He was excellent in the first two rounds, faded somewhat in the last round but had enough of a lead to sail through to the next phase.

People might think that his fitness suffered in the last round but that is far from what really happened. People have to realise that this is a young man in his first Olympics fulfilling his and his family's dream. He was waiting all day until almost 10.30 at night before he eventually entered the ring.

During that waiting time he expended a massive amount of nervous energy, something that is just human nature and cannot be controlled for a first-time Olympian. When he entered the arena the pressure increased as he was hit by a wall of sound and a display of banners wielded by friends and family.

Seemingly the support was so intense it was as if he was boxing in the local village hall. How he performed the way he did in the first two rounds is a credit to his conditioning and mental strength. The problem with the last round was he was so far ahead he began to think about the end result instead of focussing on his performance for the last three minutes.

When the result was announced it was ample reward for years of hard work. He has a tough Russian opponent in the next round but what he experienced last Sunday will be invaluable to him going forward. Who knows what will happen next in this amazing journey by an incredible young Wexford man?

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