There have been brief moments when the true spirit of the Olympic Games have shone through in Rio. None more so than when Skibbereen siblings, Gary and Paul O’Donovan, took home Ireland’s first ever medal in rowing last week. They may have had to settle for silver but their interviews have been pure comedy gold!
The brothers clearly have no intention of getting carried away by their recent success and their answers to mundane interview questions have been a breath of fresh air. No media training or bland ‘athlete-speak’ in Skibbereen, thanks very much. They even enjoyed the reaction of former Irish rower, Neville Maxwell, calling him a “sissy” for his tearful analysis of their famous medal win.
This is what the Olympic Games should be about; characters who dedicate their lives to their sport and then react like human beings when they win or lose.
Speaking of human reaction, former Olympic champion, Katie Taylor, was visibly heartbroken following her split decision defeat in the last 16 against Finland’s Mika Potkonen. Some would question the decision to grant the television cameras access so early in the aftermath of such a defeat, but it was compelling viewing.
Katie struggled to compose herself as she looked back on “a very, very tough year. A lot of losses…” This was raw emotion and not some planned, rehearsed reaction or go-to cliché-fest reserved for such occasions. Katie carried herself like the people’s champion she is and doesn’t owe the Irish sporting public anything.
Meanwhile, Michael Conlon reacted to his ‘defeat’ in understandable fashion. It was a con job and the rest of the world could see it. I had better not quote what he said afterward!
Contrasting emotions for contrasting results, but all three were entirely human and added something to what has become a bland and sometimes impure sporting event.
In what has been a difficult summer Olympics for team Ireland so far, the passion and emotion shown by both the O’Donovan brothers in glory and by Katie Taylor and Michael Conlon in defeat, proves that Ireland’s love affair with sport will continue regardless.