Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Sycerika is an Olympic marvel

Every four years with the arrival of the Olympic games we fall in love with sport and the people who play it. Part of the reason is national pride, watching the performance of athletes from our home country.

But another reason is that, for the most part, the Olympics represent an idealism that is absent from most professional sport. It is the very antithesis of the vulgar riches of Premier League football and its often equally boorish participants. Apart from a few exceptional athletes, most of those taking part in the Games will never make a fortune from their chosen discipline.

In many ways Portaferry teenager Sycerika McMahon epitomises all that is lovable about the Olympic spirit. She knew she was not going to win a medal in London, but that did not deter her from striving her utmost during her long years of training and in the Olympic pool. She put the disappointment of one failure behind her to swim a personal best in another race. It was all about being the best she could be at this stage of her career.

What a fantastic role model she is for other young sportsmen and girls. She has shown tremendous discipline since first entering the pool as a young girl, continually improving to reach her current standard. Just to make the Olympics is an incredible achievement for any athlete. Only a handful of the 14,000 athletes in London can realistically hope to mount the podium, but all, including Sycerika, can proudly call themselves Olympians.

Witness also how Lizzie Armitstead, the women cyclist who gained Team GB's first medal, a silver, greeted her performance with real humility. She was delighted with the result and accepted that someone else had performed just that little bit better to gain gold. That is the Olympic spirit, striving for victory with every sinew but accepting defeat if it comes. And that is why so many of those competing in London will enter our affections in a way which the highly-paid, over-rated and petulant stars we are so used to seeing will never do.

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