Irish Examiner staff writers and columnists on how they’d excel in their chosen sports at the Olympics - under certain favourable terms and conditions of course...
Although there is a certain status attached to being an Olympian, if I had a choice of travelling to compete in Rio and pick my event, it would not have been to make up the numbers.
A medal would have been the aim. So the object of the exercise would be to pick some discipline which guaranteed success.
Rugby Sevens would have been the chosen sport. The team would be Fiji. My troublesome hamstring would keep me out of the 12-man squad for the tight games against the USAand New Zealand. However I would have declared myself fully fit for the final against Team GB, winning 49-7.
I would have practiced hovering one or two metres from the try line and taking the scoring pass.
On game day I would be deadly from a metre, with scoring dives resembling those of ‘60’s winger Asaili Batibasaga. Okay, so it might be against the spirit of the exercise, but Cork needs gold medals by any means possible.
Although part of the Irish Women’s Sevens rugby team that failed to qualify for these games at the penultimate stage, my favoured Olympic event would be the modern pentathlon.
As a “jack of all trades, master of none”, this event would suit the sporting and life experience I’ve attained so far. Running and shooting would be my strongest event. Growing up on a farm, many a summer’s day was involuntarily spent fencing, equipping me with the nous to duel with any modern pentathlete.
One of the unique aspects of this sport is that the competitor is introduced to their horse only 20 minutes prior to the showjumping event. Having scrutinised Robert Redford’s character from The Horse Whisperer, I would immediately develop a relationship with my horse that would allow us to faultlessly navigate the course.
Unfortunately, watching me thrash around a pool invokes images of “Eric the Eel” rather than Michael Phelps.
It would have to be the rowing.
It’s such a gorgeous mixture of power and grace and timing. But I think the way I’d like to do it is in the quadruple sculling. Just me and my three brothers. Our role model would be the Australian rower Sally Robbins who lay back in the boat and stopped rowing in the last 300m of a final at the 2004 Olympic Games. Depending on a favourable wind and tide, we could just drift home.
A gentle wave to the crowd. Another bottle of Bulmers. A quick check to see if all four were still on board. Proud parents in the stands. Offaly jerseys everywhere.
Storm the medal presentation. Savage homecoming. The Freedom of Tullamore bestowed.
I’m pretty sure I’m the only Irish man in history to ever defeat the fastest man on the planet Usain Bolt. It wasn’t even close. I crushed him.
Now, the fact that it was in a Gaelic football hop-ball when we met him in Jamaica on a Kerry holiday and not a 100m sprint might surprise very few. I think if we could’ve squeezed the hop-ball into the Olympics I’d have had a decent shout of medalling. In its absence, the obvious choice for me would have to be the basketball, but realistically, the only real craic there would be if you were playing with the USA and not against them.
Although, Cork’s by-now world renowned hoops commentator Timmy Mac might explode if the day ever came that Ireland were competing on the same hardwood floor as a Dream Team in a future Olympics. There would be more ‘boomshakakala’s’ and threes from way ‘downtown’ than you could shake a stick at.
Irish Olympic sprinter Gary Ryan used to come round to my house when I was small, with his two brothers, who also had a turn of pace. We didn’t replicate an Olympics, but we did stage a Superstars on many occasions, so I was appraised early on of my athletic standing, watching Gary dart into the distance, in a range of disciplines. Gary also played for Limerick United, in his day, so there wasn’t even much respite in the penalty shootout.
When the lads went home, though, the stage was mine. Sweeping brushes became parallel oxers, a burst paddling pool the water jump. Deck chairs were repurposed as a tricky combination. I won many an Aga Khan trophy, smacking my arse in the front yard, without ever sitting on a horse. Time to add an Olympic medal.
Certainly if I were at the Olympics this is the man whose job I’d be taking.
Easiest job in world = Olympic pool lifeguard? pic.twitter.com/E73nhZ9WwB— Rich Matulewicz (@RichMatulewicz) August 7, 2016
People have seen this person — crumpled face, elbow propping him up — as a figure of fun, the ultimate embodiment of the belt-and-braces approach which characterises health and safety, but I disagree.
As a representative of how fortune’s tide ebbs and flows, of the sense that life is elsewhere, what could be a better illustration? This man’s split-second boredom speaks to all of us and embodies life in the early 21st century. For that alone he’s shown the Games are worthwhile.
Nothing to do with the charm or craft displayed by the magnetic O’Donovan brothers from Skibbereen, but rowing really appeals to me.
Similar in shape to the likes of Team GB greats Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, I would have loved a go in one of those flashy boats when they were in their prime.
At a minimum it would have to be in the pairs or better still, the coxless four.
You need someone else to blame if you fail to come home with a medal or, worse still, end up in the water.
That said, having watched Paul and Gary O’Donovan struggle to stand or walk due to the build up of lactic acid after their brilliant Olympic final showing, maybe something less strenuous like the 100m - over in 10 seconds, well maybe a bit longer for me - would be more appealing.
Ever since my 12-year-old self upturned a canoe and got a lungful of Loch Insh’s contents during a family holiday in the Scottish highlands I’ve had a more than healthy respect for the kayakers who launch themselves down the Olympic slalom course every four years.
If the flat calm and frankly idyllic waters of Loch Insh can cause such havoc for an ambitious if limited pre-teen athlete then negotiating not just 250 metres of white water rapids but the 24 gates, both upstream and downstream, between top and bottom, should invite palpitations in the older version of me.
Yet it is a strangely compelling event and one that needs to be conquered.
Furthermore, any sport that involves sitting down for the entirety of one’s participation has a natural appeal for this correspondent. Tokyo here I come.
I’m way too small for volleyball or basketball. I know because I tried. I was never quick enough to dream about winning gold in any sport that necessitated being the quickest to get from A to B and I’ve never had a desire to try anything that might involve a punch in the face. So that’s a whole pile of Olympic sports ruled out straight away.
It would have to be BMX for me. Boy, did I rip it up on that thing as a kid! Like, who didn’t love improvising rickety ramps on the street and spitting out all those kick-ass wheelies? You could grow a rad hairstyle like some ‘90s grunge rocker, hang out with some bodacious dudes and wear those cool leather pants all day.
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