Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

An Ards act to follow in Minsk and Rome

In the post-Olympic glow that still exists on the Beeb, you almost felt it was your patriotic duty to stop protesting on the streets and come inside and wave a flag to cheer on Team GB at the World Cycling Championships in Belarus.

A quick look at the medal table shows that the world order is still intact – Great Britain on top, followed by Germany, Australia, France, USA, New Zealand and Newtownards ... Hang on, I've spotted an anomaly. New Zealand – how did they get there?

Yes, move over Eddie, the magnificent Martyn showed that there is only one Irvine from north Down who can rightfully call himself the speed king with a gold and silver medal in Minsk. I wondered where Minnie had gotten to.

Technically, he was competing for Ireland, but we'll gloss over that as who knows what this may be the start of. I can see it now, thousands of competitors from across the globe converging upon north Down for the Conlig Olympiad in 2032.

Wales though could put in a late bid though as Queen Victoria may be no more but there is a new golden girl to hype up endlessly for the next three years – Becky, or to give her her full regal billing – Rebecca Angharad James.

She won two golds and two bronzes, but the silver lining for Pendleton fans was that she's still hanging around, sandwiched between Jonathan Edwards (who isn't Welsh, but should be) and Craig MacLean (a burly Scottish cyclist who isn't Chris Hoy) as the Beeb revelled in the post-Olympic legacy.

And they had all the successful chemistry of my third year exam results, no spark and in Edwards a man who was a magnificent athlete but as a presenter makes Gary Lineker seem dazzlingly entertaining.

Thankfully the action on the track filled the awkward silences of the studio but even more crushing was the news that the voice of the velodrome, Hugh Porter, had wheeled off into the distance leaving the most disappointed Boardman since Stan's joke about the Fokkers fell flat on the Des O'Connor Show.

Simon Brotherton has joined Chris in the commentary booth, or the 'Two Bs' as Edwards, somewhat harshly I thought, referred to them, but without Hugh it just wasn't the same.

Even the Keirin wasn't as much fun. That's the one where the wee man in black on a scooter forgets to deliver a pizza followed by cyclists following him slowly like aged greyhounds chasing a hare, before he clears off and all hell breaks loose for a couple of laps.

No-one ever spares a thought for the poor scooter man, ripped limb from limb by excited cyclists at the end of the race, away from the glare of the cameras concentrating on a Union Jack being waved. I'm not sure how many days that is allowed in Newtownards, but I'm guessing it's probably quite a few.

Becky was delighted to win blurting out that 'I can't believe I've got a rainbow jersey now.' I wanted one of those for years, but I just had to make do with Rod, Jane and Freddie pyjamas.

But while in Belarus, the Welsh were wowing them, over in Italy all was not well, with an under the weather Andrew Cotter last seen making a mad dash to the gabinetto. That's a toilet, not a cross between a blonde presenter and an ice cream.

"You'll have to excuse Andrew for a minute, he's not feeling very well," said Jonathan Davies who sounded equally queasy that he was left alone with a microphone, surrounded by thousands of Italians.

"I have a very able replacement next to me now, Shane Williams," as a booster seat was found for the Welsh wizard who had to wing it like never before, and held Jonathan's hand.

"I'm right in at the deep end now, aren't I?," was Shane's opening gambit and by the end of the 40 minutes you could feel that the only people feeling worse than poorly Cotter were the two Welshmen, dripping in sweat, clutching desperately onto microphones.

"Hopefully we will find a commentator somewhere in the stadium for the second-half. I'm going to have a lie down now," gasped a relieved Davies.

There was a commentator, but he was on his knees shouting on someone called Hughie I think, and his prayers were answered as Huw Llewelyn Davies filled the breach, allowing Jonathan to resume punditry and Shane to put his arm around a green Scotsman and assure him that's 'it's okay, you think you're feeling bad, wait to you see how Declan Kidney feels tomorrow'. It's not easy being green.

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