Welcome to the greatest show on earth

No matter what you happen to think about the obnoxious amounts of money involved in TV rights and sponsorship, the hyperbole in some of the BBC’s coverage, some of the dubious tactics employed in certain events, not to mention the involvement of some previously banned drug cheats, once the Olympics are stripped down to the bare essence of sport and competition it is compulsive viewing.

No matter what you happen to think about the obnoxious amounts of money involved in TV rights and sponsorship, the hyperbole in some of the BBC’s coverage, some of the dubious tactics employed in certain events, not to mention the involvement of some previously banned drug cheats, once the Olympics are stripped down to the bare essence of sport and competition it is compulsive viewing.

Having a personal connection with the Olympics makes them extra special

By Colin Regan

As I write this I have just finished viewing a photo-finish in the women’s Triathlon. It’s a gruelling competition across three disciplines – a 1,500m swim, a 43km cycle, concluding with a 10,000km run – and for it to come down to a sprint finish was just remarkable.

While I have happily been cheering on the efforts of some of our neighbour’s athletes I was happy the British competitor didn’t win as TEAM GB had employed the use of what I would describe as a ‘mule’ to try and ensure their fastest competitor Helen Jenkins won a medal.

What this means is that the other TEAM GB entrants would not try and win but would work tactically to assist Jenkins, allowing her conserve her energy in the cycling section in particular ahead of her preferred final leg, the run.

This is not against the rules, but I would suggest it is against the spirit of the Games. What it could mean it that the best individual athlete might not necessarily win the race.

And the triathlon is an individual event, not a team event. It really plays against athletes from smaller countries that may have one outstanding entrant in the competition and as such cannot employ similar ‘team’ tactics.

That is why I was delighted it came down to the supreme individual efforts of the women who came in first, second and third (Spirig winning the first gold medal of the Games for the Swiss).

Ironically, I was heartbroken for the Scottish born Jennings when I heard her interviewed afterwards. She was not responsible for choosing how TEAM GB selected their entrants or the tactics they employed; she just wanted to win an Olympic medal and was devastated, but magnanimous in defeat.

When you consider the money and machines behind the likes of TEAM GB, and the American, Chinese and other major world power teams, it makes the Irish athletes’ efforts all the more impressive. We will always produce the occasional remarkable track and field athletes, but our consistency in boxing is something the wider sporting world really takes notice of.

I really felt for Darren O’Neill when he went out. Darren appeared as a guest speaker at an event I arranged in Portlaoise last year and he was an inspirational speaker (he had represented Kilkenny in hurling up to U21 grade before concentrating on his boxing career).

A national school teacher by profession, he has taken a sabbatical from his work since Christmas to prepare for these Games and while he will be terribly disappointed not to have featured in the medals he still did his country proud.

Having a personal connection with the Olympics makes them extra special and having two competitors from Leitrim taking part offers each and everyone one of us that experience. Colin and Laura have already done their county proud by giving themselves the opportunity to compete on the greatest stage there is in a sporting context no matter what happens in their individual events (Colin is in action on Saturday at 9am in the 50km Walk with Laura’s 20km race starting at 5pm on the same day).

That said I know both will be incredibly focused on bringing their ‘A’ game to the Games and only a personal best (PB) will really satisfy their hunger for excellence.

I can only imagine what the build up has been like for the guys, Laura in particular. Colin has had the experience of the Olympics before, and coming from the unique position of also being Laura’s coach, he will have been able to pass this knowledge on to his young protégé.

Laura is only 23 we must remember, and the balance for her will be about enjoying the experience of her first Olympics with making sure she does justice to all the hard work and training she has put in to get there on the day.

I wish them both the very best of luck as do everyone in the county and indeed, the country. Checking out their profiles on the official London 2012 website I see Laura is listed as a Kildare native, so we’ll have to put that right upon her return. It is not enough they got Seanie Johnston?

Best of luck guys, we’ll be rooting for you.