Trying to maintain one’s personal dignity whilst dealing with life’s ‘natural needs’ is one of the most debilitating and often distressing aspects of travelling life’s journey with a disability. Put simply, not being able to go where and do what you want, out of fear of being caught in an upsetting and undignified situation.For that reason, immense difficulty pertains to feeling any sympathy towards Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) President Pat Hickey regarding the manner of his apprehension in Brazil. Do I think it was right or necessary? No, but spare me talk of preservation of dignity. Come navigate a mile on this road.
There’s been a squalid, ominous cloud hanging over the most recent Olympiad – and other previous ones – for a long time. Between Russian doping, nefarious conduct by some coaches and officials and the obvious irregularities regarding ticket sales comparative to obviously sparse attendances at some events. The latter factor being entangled, you suspect, is why the OCI’s supreme being ended up in digs far less plush than his norm.
Scepticism is a very easy bus to board however. Any situation is what you make of it for yourself. Therefore, as is always the case with any sporting event for yours truly, Rio 2016 was looked forward to and enjoyed while it was in full flow. Decoding the disasters could occupy another time.
Now, if it were horse racing, Willie Mullins winning a Grade 1 or Aidan O’Brien winning a Classic could be chalked up at the start of any season. Such is the air of certainty that prevails surrounding such occurrences. In Olympic terms, for Ireland, boxing commands similar status when it comes to medal possibilities. Or it did.
What caused the unprecedented major malfunction in South America? Notwithstanding Mick Conlan being obviously blackguarded in his bout. Where does fault lie, the OCI, the amateur boxing body (IABA) or Sport Ireland? It’s not going to change any outcomes now, but it needs looking into.
Temptation is to say that Katie Taylor’s usurpation was not, in fact, all that surprising owing to a combination of competitive mileage accumulated and – more significantly – the absence of her dad, Pete, from her corner. Then, the elephant in the room – as was feared here months ago – turned out to be who wasn’t actually in the room, Billy Walsh.
Anyway, for some of us, negotiating life’s travails necessitates plenty of steak, spuds and pulling like a dog! You’d do it in immeasurably better spirits, however, for your life having encountered the preciously talented and indescribably uplifting O’Donovan brothers from Skibereen.
Therein lies the beauty of the Olympics. Opportunities to see sports which, for whatever reason, don’t attain the same exposure as some codes. Be that as it may, they are central to the lives of the partaking competitors. Who put in as much effort, dedication and commitment as those attached to disciplines which do attract coverage.
Thus, success needs to be measured in relative terms. What is certain, though, is that the exploits of the charismatic Cork lads – as well as others such as Scott Evans in Badminton and Thomas Barr in Athletics are likely to spur a proliferation of young people taking up those particular activities.
Or if they desire other utmost inspiration look no further than the stories of gymnast Kieran Behan or the swashbuckling sailor, Annalise Murphy. In the case of the former, if ever a newspaper interview can be described as moving, the piece with Behan’s mother outlining what he’d gone through should be enough to motivate anyone.
For Annalise (the fact that mere mention of her first name now guarantees recognition bears out her standing) her triumphant taking of a silver medal restores faith that there is a bit of romance left in sport. Her attainment of a podium finish granted her due reward after the agony of being so close in London. Furthermore, the touching, beautiful photo of herself and her grandmother and the medal encapsulates what sport should be about.
That said, in conclusion let’s celebrate what brought about this column. How brilliant it was to have an Olympian from so close to home. In Meath’s case, two of them. Obviously, though, particular pride emanated at seeing Moynalvey and Dunboyne AC’s Sara Treacy go in the 3000m Steeplechase.
Incidentally, it was also good to see justice done as Sara – who was obviously barged into and brought down in her heat – was re-instated to the final and though luck was not on her side, greater days surely await the Birmingham based doctor.
Modern Pentathlon is another of the sports which is all too seldom seen or heard, outside of those with direct involvement. That may be about to change, however, thanks to the exploits of Arthur Lannigan-O’Keefe and, in particular, our own Natalya Coyle.
Theirs is a pursuit of varied requirements, comprising running, showjumping, fencing (with swords, not posts!), swimming and target shooting. For much of the two day event it appeared there’d be a glorious outcome for Natalya and, though it wasn’t to be, having improved her London 9th by two places, surely it’s next stop medal!