Thursday 14 November 2019

Medal rush raises spirits and glasses

With more medals coming in every day, the atmosphere in the Irish camp has totally changed in the past few days. Everyone is pretty happy, full of chat and there's a great vibe around the place.

Although I didn't get into the ExCel Arena to see Katie Taylor book her place in the final against the Russian, I did bump into her afterwards and she is genuinely delighted with the support from all the Irish fans, even if one of the British newspapers infuriated us all by attempting to claim her as British today. I actually think they were just trying to wind us up. How could that be a genuine error?

With John Joe Nevin and Michael Conlan also getting themselves onto the medal table this week, and Paddy Barnes securing another one last night, all the focus in the Irish camp has been on the boxers lately, so we were all surprised and delighted when Cian O'Connor got into a jump-off for silver in the showjumping today.

I have to admit I was nervous for him as he jumped his final round and was shouting at the TV when he hit the last fence and had to settle for bronze, but to some of us it feels a little bit weird to be cheering him on when his horse failed a drugs test in Athens after winning gold.

Because it was a horse rather than an athlete, nobody really took any blame for that and of course, it didn't make as many headlines as Michelle Smith did in Atlanta in 1996.

There have been people who failed dope tests in other sports allowed compete in London too, including a couple of Brits, but to have the Kazakh guy (Alexandre Vinokourov) who won the cycling road race go home with a gold medal is also a joke.

I think people like that shouldn't be allowed back and win things like the Olympics. I wonder how the horse from Athens feels now.

But with five medals guaranteed now for Ireland, the feelgood factor is increasing in the village and we still have the possibility of more medals before the weekend.

If you're not in the hunt for medals though and are out of your event, you don't have many options left. You can go sightseeing, but most of the athletes from Europe have seen London before and it takes so long to get around the city that nobody is bothered.

People are also fed up with the fact that they can't get tickets to events, so there's not much else you can do in here apart from sleep, watch TV, get fat or go on the beer.

You most likely can't train anymore because the rest of the competitors are still using the facilities but I don't think anyone is in the humour to do any training in the last week anyway.

People have been training so hard for the past four years that whether they win a medal or get knocked out they're going to go out and have a bit of fun and more and more athletes are waking up to the sound of their hungover room-mates calling 'Huey' on the big white telephone in the bathroom.

Quite a lot of the Irish contingent were heading to the Irish House last night for Paddy Barnes' fight. An eight-minute train ride from Stratford Station brings you to King's Cross in the centre of London and the Irish House is about a minute's walk away. It's basically a pub that has been transformed into a home away from home for the Irish athletes and fans for these Games.

I know a lot of athletes have been in there and they say it's pretty good craic. Spread over three levels, with a garden terrace on the roof, they show Irish channels on the TVs and, while the general public have to pay a £5 cover charge, Irish Olympians get in free.

But it's not just the Irish who are beginning to let their hair down towards the end of these Games. Even 100m gold medallist Usain Bolt apparently celebrated his victory the other night by allegedly partying with the Swedish girls' handball team, arriving home around 3am. With a squad of 14 on each Olympic handball team, no wonder he's called 'Lightning' Bolt.

Irish Independent

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