The sight of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Super Mario garb at the closing ceremony in Rio last weekend was the most visible representation as to how the five-ringed circus continues to operate away from the bright lights of the shows we see for two weeks or so every four years. For some, there is just no getting away from it.
Ireland’s boxers will be back in the gym come the start of October, their immediate focus on the grind of daily training and the next major championship constantly backed up by thoughts of Tokyo. James O’Callaghan, high performance director for Ireland’s sailors, will go a fair few steps further in that regard.
“The sailors will obviously all take a break,” said O’Callaghan at the official homecoming at Dublin Airport where he was reunited with his young family after weeks of separation. “I am probably the first one back to the millstone, so to speak. I’ll get out to Tokyo in October, get the base set up there.
“It’s been a big, big strategy win for us being in Rio for so long before the Games. Everyone has heard about how Annalise (Murphy) spent 128 days there before these Olympics. I was the fourth (rowing) guy on the ground in Rio so it pays big dividends. This time, I might even be the first guy on the ground. We’ll see.”
No, the Olympic dream never dies though it can fade away. Martyn Irvine spent much of these Games in RTÉ’s Donnybrook studios. A former world track cycling champion, he proved to be one of the most engaging and knowledgeable among the station’s vast army of pundits as he called an event that saw Team GB crush all opposition with an historic level of domination across the boards.
Most viewers would have last seen Irvine on the national broadcaster’s Road to Rio documentary when his attempt to wear green for Ireland in Brazil came up short. Raw emotions were captured vividly on camera and a man who always calls it as he sees it revealed his intention to climb down off the saddle for the last time.
There was no doubt in his mind. He was a track cyclist riding for a country with no cycling track. And he was sick of the grind, the injuries and the inability to find a smooth enough run of form and luck to take him back to that peak in Belarus in 2013 when he won gold in the 15km Scratch Race less than an hour after claiming silver in the Individual Pursuit.
But time and distance has tempered that frustration.
Home at the moment for the Newtownards man is Lusk in North Dublin. Throw a stone and you could land it in Meath. The area is awash with a readymade patchwork of roads for someone with a mind and a means to explore them and he has both. The problem for Irvine is that his time has been limited by the new schedule of nine-to-five.
Joining the sleepy conga line of commuters from Rush and Lusk station into Dublin Connolly for work as a car mechanic five days a week has opened his eyes. It’s only a half-hour journey but he’s had enough and it seems fitting that the job has driven him back towards the bike given it was a fellow mechanic who first prompted him to take a spin when he was a 17-year-old working in a garage.
“It was a shock to the system,” he says of life post-retirement. “Training is hard but it is your own routine, you are self-motivated. I find working for somebody I turn into a zombie. I actually missed road racing as well so I put the feelers out a month or so ago and there’s a few options out there. I just thought I’d be mad not to.”
There isn’t anything solid cemented in his head just yet. Possible teams and goals, such as a shot at the next Commonwealth Games, were mentioned in an earlier interview but it is the open road that has lured him back rather than the suffocating spin cycle that is life on the boards. At 31, he’s listening to his heart and renewing his first love before it’s too late.
“It’s hard to phrase it,” he explained at a press launch for Pieta House in Dublin.
“You think ‘well, the Olympics is it’ and it’s not really. There’s World Championships, there’s European Championships and a lot of other things around that four-year cycle.
“The fact that I was a track cyclist and there was no track in Ireland made life that bit harder as well.
“I just thought that if I don’t do it now I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.
“It’s kind of like goal setting really. I’d love to be Irish road race champion. I’ve said that to a few people and they’ve thought I was having a laugh but if I could do that I could retire happy.
I’ve done a lot in cycling but that would be great.”
That’s it then: Not every road leads to Tokyo.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @Rackob