Huge credit must go to Billy Walsh and the team he has built to guide the best of the best in Irish boxing. The coaching talents of Walsh, Pete Taylor, Zaur Antia and company are now the envy of the world. And the fear is that the world will now come calling with cheque books at the ready to entice our brightest boxing brains trust away from these shores. Hopefully new contracts will be waiting for everyone involved when they touch down in Dublin today.
The fallout from Athens eight years ago would have perhaps broken a lesser man. But credit Cian O’Connor who bit his lip, bided his time and knew his day would come again. That it did in such incredible circumstances makes his bronze medal at Greenwich all the more remarkable.
“If someone told me a month ago, I would be getting a bronze medal I would have been accepting it with open arms,” he admitted.
“Someone asked me earlier on: you must be one of the greatest riders in the world. I don’t think I am one of the greatest riders in the world but I can produce on a big day. The reason I can produce on a big day is because I’m organised and focused.”
Apart from the record shattering performance of Rob Heffernan in the 50k walk, there are very few positives to be taken from London by Irish athletics bosses. High profile names like Alistair Cragg, Paul Hession and Ciarán Ó Lionaird all failed to progress beyond their heats while Tori Pena in the pole vault and high jumper Deirdre Ryan also made quick Olympic exits. Yes, Derval O’Rourke had a season best in making the 100m semi-final and Fionnuala Britton had a pb over 5,000m but should such achievements be the height of ambitions for Irish competitors. Expect a lot of tough questions in the weeks and months ahead for those tasked with steering the sport.
Irish athletics aren’t the only ones under the spotlight. London was a miserable campaign with sickness and poor performances the hallmarks of the fortnight. Gráinne Murphy was forced to withdraw due to glandular fever which begs the question was she fit enough to come and compete in the first place? Melanie Nocher’s Twitter spat with some members of the Irish media after a poor performance due to a stomach bug did the sport no favours either. At least high performance director Peter Banks wasn’t attempting to offer excuses admitting: “My job is to take what we learned from this and from the preparation, and make sure that we’re better when we get there the next time. We’ve performed at the European levels and done well but the next step up is a tough step. And we haven’t made that step yet.”
Michael Phelps is not just the greatest swimmer but perhaps the greatest Olympian in history. After his final race of his Olympic career, the 4x100m medley, Phelps was presented with a lifetime achievement award from swimming’s governing body, FINA. The inscription simply read: “The Greatest Olympic Athlete of All Time.” The ‘Baltimore Bullet’ won six medals in the Aquatic Centre, four of them gold, to become the most decorated Olympian in history and the first male swimmer to win an individual event (200m individual medley) in three consecutive games. He finishes his competitive swimming career with 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold.
That famous William Shakespeare line, ‘I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him’ comes to mind in the lead up to Bolt’s 100m final defence. Four years ago he was considered the greatest sprinter to ever grace the track but since his world record performance in Berlin in 2009, doubts have surrounded the Jamaican speedster’s appetite and fitness for battle. Rumours of injury coupled with a failure to dominate his own national championships added fuel to the fire with suggestions that his younger, hungrier, and then faster team mate Yohan ‘The Beast’ Blake was set to take his mantle in London. But Bolt kept his cool and his counsel. And after 9.63 seconds on Sunday, August 5, he silenced his doubters in stunning fashion. And don’t even get us started on his 200m and relay performances.