Team GB’s unprecedented success at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro came as a welcome relief, after what has been a summer of turbulence at best.
In four pulsating weeks of sport, our inspirational athletes performed at the highest possible level, which saw Britain punch heavily above their relative weight.
67 medals, two more than the 65 won at London 2012, were achieved at the Olympic Games and a whopping 147 were attained at the Paralympics, making it Great Britain’s most significant medal haul in history.
Of the 366 British athletes who went to the Rio Olympic Games, 130 of them, just over 35%, returned with a medal, including every member of the 15-strong track cycling team.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) August 22, 2016
However, we all but forgot what had happened in this country just over two months earlier. Waking up on the 24th June to the news that Britain had left the European Union genuinely made me, for the first time in my life, embarrassed to be British.
“Andy Murray keeping his cool to hold off an inspired Juan Martin del Potro, buoyed by a partisan Argentinian crowd, to pick up consecutive Gold medals; that’s pressure”
In a summer that was bordering on the depressing already, the last thing anyone needed was the England football team to be involved in a major tournament. That list of people who had let us down somewhat inevitably grew ever so longer as England crashed out in the knockout stages to a country with a population smaller than Nottingham. Players paid hundreds of thousands every month ‘couldn’t handle the pressure’, apparently. There’s nothing to be said other than that it is simply pathetic.
Thank goodness for Team GB.
Turn the clock forward a month or two and I am sat there watching Jason Kenny storm from a handful of places back on the final bend to write his name into the history books as the joint holder of the highest number of Gold medals by a British athlete. Now that’s pressure.
Andy Murray keeping his cool to hold off an inspired Juan Martin del Potro, buoyed by a partisan Argentinian crowd, to pick up consecutive Gold medals; that’s pressure.
Mo Farah recovering from an early fall to claim the 10,000 and later, stretching away at the end from the sternest of competition, 5,000 metre Golds; that’s pressure.
Hollie Webb rounding the keeper to dispatch the winning the penalty to give Team GB their first ever Hockey gold; that’s pressure.
Just four examples of the numerous there were throughout the four weeks of Team GB athletes delivering under the highest of scrutiny and pressure on the world stage. That is what sets them apart from the England football team of recent years.
“It felt like a very special team to be a part of and as the medals start rolling in there is an immense sense of pride that is infectious and everyone wants to add to that,” said Katherine Grainger who became Britain’s most decorated female Olympian at the games.
It was a huge achievement to improve on their outstanding medal tally in London 2012. The inspirational atmosphere which surrounded Team GB’s camp and their impeccable conduct and sense of fair play during the games was there in abundance for the whole of the UK at home to admire.
“They were a credit to the country both on and off the field and displayed values of sportsmanship, modesty and a willingness to think of others before themselves”
In a summer of political uncertainty both at home and abroad, the ever present threat of terrorism and the EU leave vote, Team GB’s most successful away games ever came as a more than welcome relief.
They were a credit to the country both on and off the field and displayed values of sportsmanship, modesty and a willingness to think of others before themselves, something many in this country seem to have forgotten of late, restoring a sense of pride to be British in the process when it was dearly, dearly needed.
On behalf of the British people, thank you.
Words by Joe Robinson
Image courtesy of PIVISO via flickr.com
Video courtesy of youtube.com