Posted by: John McGerr | August 11, 2012

Olympic Musings

We’re nearing the end of another Olympics. That fact that this one was in London meant that there was great Irish support at all the events in which Irish athletes performed. As always with these games Ireland went to the Olympics more with hope than expectation. Except for one young woman there weren’t many hopes for medals. That one young woman was Katie Taylor the face of Ladies boxing in Ireland. Her chances were good for a medal in a new event to the games. Other boxers had high hopes too but she seemed a safe bet if you went to the bookies, to at least get a bronze. Unless John Joe Nevin wins his fight this evening she will be our only gold medal. The luck of the Irish was with Cian O’Connor, originally not selected at all then drafted in to go he ended up getting a bronze medal because another rider dropped out. So was this years of preparation come good or just dumb luck? Probably a bit of both – when you consider that he might have had a silver if his horse had not clipped the last fence and knocked a pole.

Boxing seems to remain Ireland’s best chance at medals – regardless of the outcome of Nevin’s fight Ireland have won five medals at this Olympics and four of them came from Boxing. Overall Ireland had won 16 medals from Boxers. We entered 65 athletes in the Olympics – some in events that probably drawn little notice except during the Olympics, sailing, judo, triathlon for example – in a country largely dominated by Gaelic Games, Rugby and Soccer it’s nice to be reminded now and then that others work damn hard for little public notice. ‘Toiling in obscurity’ certainly fits many of these men and women.

Though the Olympic reputation has been tarnished a number of occasions – mainly by doping scandals – it is still the one giant sports event that gives a showcase to these ‘minority’ sports. As always the exposure, they hope, will interest a new generation of people to try out these sports. Will Katie Taylor’s exploits mean we will have more female boxers in Rio? I don’t know the names of any other Irish women boxers (there is a list here) but that might change in the next few years.

Of our other, non-medal winning, athletes  there were mixed fortunes. Some like Annalise Murphy (Sailing) and Rob Heffernan (50Km walk) came very close to medals, some got personal bests or season bests but made little other impact. I know in the past there have been questions raised about the value of sending athletes to Olympics who have little or no chance of winning medals and I know I’d love to see more medals coming our way but I think the medal tally, while nice, would be missing the point for a country like us with a small pool to choose from. I think it would just as much of achievement to have an entrant in every sport that is open to enter. Why shouldn’t we be able to produce weightlifters, archers, gymnasts and so on. Having someone meet the qualifying standards for the Olympics in these events would at least be an indication that work is being done to promote these sports.

I like the Olympics as an event – I think it’s the variety of sports that makes it interesting – although I am a fan of the World Cup and the Euros there isn’t always the same drama. Would I omit any events? No. Would I include others? Perhaps – I think a Rugby competition along the lines of the Olympic soccer would be nice and imagine Hurling  at the Olympics, even as an exhibition sport (according to Wikipedia it was an unofficial event  at the 1904 Olympics.

Sadly John Joe didn’t win the gold but he’s Ireland’s only silver so well done.




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