Belfast Telegraph

Tears, agony and ecstasy ... and that was just watching Games

By Nuala McKeever

What are we going to do now? It's all over! The Olympic staycation has finished and evenings are just going to be so empty after two weeks of inspiring sport coverage. Well, I say inspiring. It inspired me to sit on the couch every evening and watch.

But I did cheer vigorously and some of my sprints up to the bathroom and back, so as not to miss another interview with a Brit who'd come sixth in a heat, were close to my PB. (That's Personal Best).

It's been like a holiday in a foreign country. All the new faces. All the names I'd never heard of before but now they trip lightly off my tongue. Oh, yeah, Jessica Ennis? Knew she'd do it. Katie Taylor? Queen of Ireland. Never mind Rudisha, Blake, Rutherford and Alan Campbell.

And the language! Again, it was strange and foreign at the start but by Day 10 or so I was asking, casual as a native, "So, did anyone medal today?" "Who d'y'thinks gonna podium in the 110m Hurdles tonight then?"

Medal? Podium? As verbs? Who'd've thunk it.

I've learned more about sprint starting techniques, swimming turns, pommel horse maneouvres and triple jump pitfalls than I ever thought I'd want to know. I've been in tears almost every evening over something. Someone winning who I'd never even heard of until that evening but whom, through a two minute profile video, I'd come to love and admire with all my heart. Well, until the next one.

There were some Big Things going on, weren't there? Everything was heightened to within an inch of its life. (Sorry, to within 2.54 cms). The winning, the glory, the reactions in tears and shouts and snotters on the track (I'll never forget Mo Farah rolling on the track inches away from his training partner's nasal evacuations). The losing, the pain, the shame, the reactions in tears and shouts and accusations of mistreatment.

We lived it all with them, vicariously, for just a short while. It was heady. Nights I went to bed with so many stats and figures and comparative timings running round in my brain, it felt like my head was hosting its very own 10,000m final.

Did you ever give a damn about rowing before? Admit it. If someone had mentioned a Coxless Pair, you'd have sniggered wouldn't you? But not now. Now we are the proud holders of several medals in the sport which really should be boosted with training available to every single school pupil and I for one will happily pay more taxes to ensure this happens. Eh, sorry, strike that last sentence. I was momentarily carried away with the memory of medal-winning euphoria.

Maybe it's an age thing, but this was the first Olympics where I was struck by how young the competitors were. Teenagers, early twenties, all holding the world in thrall for the sake of minutes, seconds, decimal points of time we can't even register with the naked eye. The scale was so huge and yet, when it came down to it, very, very small. Each person an individual. Just like you and me. (Ok, a lot fitter and better looking maybe, but still...)

It really was awesome (in the true sense of the word) to witness such human excellence. If hope and inspiration are the legacy, the Games will have been worth their weight in gold.

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