From the Grandstand by Col Hennessy


 Last weeks efforts by the Aussie’s in Tokyo certainly were a mixture of emotions. It began with our success in the pool and finished with the start of the athletics at the end of the week.

The agony that our 10,000 metres contestant Pat Tiernan went through just to finish the race has to be applauded. As he said at a press conference “I just had to finish the race” (25 laps in total). And he did just that but the way he fell down and got up again had to be admired. It was the true spirit that epitomises the Olympics. He was there abouts when the last lap bell was sounded but those Africans were in the zone and continue to dominate such races. Not to worry says Pat, he’s off to run the 5,000 metres as well. He will be an inspiration no matter what happens.

The ecstasy came at the end of the women’s 200 m freestyle when Ariarne Titmus took the gold medal from the American champion Katie Ledecky in the match race of the Games. Actually, it was the reaction of her coach Dean Boxall that caught everyone’s attention. He just went ape in his own words “I just lost it.” Who can blame him? Some American commentators were not impressed saying that it was selfish and took attention away from the swimmer. I disagree. Titmus embraced it.

If you have ever done any serious coaching, you would understand why he reacted the way he did. There was nothing between the two swimmers and they had a plan which Ariarne executed perfectly. “I am the author of her pain” he said afterwards summing up the work they had put in these last 15 months. When asked for her reaction she showed her true feelings by saying “He means everything to me”. That was such a contrast to some comments by swimmers prior to the Games.

It was a peak performance when it mattered because if you remember, Ariarne could not beat the Chinese swimmer when she did the first let of the 4 X 200 relay just a couple of days later. Boxall’s antics went viral and apparently mimicked one of his wrestling heroes ‘the ultimate warrior’ from days gone by. It was great to see such exuberance.

If that was the gold medal performance of celebrations, there were some others. When the Matildas levelled the score in the 88th minute of their clash with Great Britain I thought the coach Tony Gustavsson was going to do something similar, but he just raced around like a chook without a head and embraced the large loudspeaker. What will he be like if they win a medal?

Finally, for something different when the Fijian ladies ‘sevens’ team (Rugby Union) won, they all knelt and together sang a hymn. A nice and genuine touch. The government will probably do more than that and produce a coin or money note to that value (which is what happened when the men won in Rio).