I cannot get over it. I have Olympic Fever, well and truly. It’s not just the stunning physiques of strapping young men flipping and twisting all over my screen, although that certainly helps, but the atmosphere that surged out of the North Greenwich Arena on Monday as our male gymnast team took the bronze medal against all odds behind gold medal winners China and silver medal winners Japan.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m a huge gymnastics fan – I don’t know my parallel bars from my parallel parks – but as soon as the Olympics rolls around, the lycra, the muscles, the double backflips and the drama are all too much to ignore. I love getting caught up in atmosphere, whatever the reason for it, and Monday’s gymnastics team final certainly had plenty of it. This year was the first since 1922 that Team GB have even got to the final, so to be competing for a medal was beyond everyone’s expectations and every soul in the UK was behind our five-strong team, willing them to do the very best they could.
When our fellas Max Whitlock, Daniel Purvis, Louis Smith, Sam Oldham and Kristian Thomas took to the floor/horse/bars/hoops, the world and I watched with baited breath. Each twist, flip, handstand was exceeding expectations, with Louis Smith, Krisian Thomas and Dan Purvis performing nigh-on perfectly every time. I could not take my eyes off it; it was incredible. The strength in their core, in their arms and in their determination was like no other; we were the dark horse and it was increasingly looking like we were going to get a medal, if only we could shake Ukraine off our backs.
The drama and my heart rate got even more intense as Kohei Uchimura for Japan, who was expected to secure the silver medal, seemed to fall off the horse on his dismount, resulting in a score only good enough for fourth place. This pushed GB up into silver medal position and Ukraineinto the bronze. Silver!! That word was circulating furiously on Facebook and Twitter as it was revealed; to even place in medal position was completely out of the blue, but to come second behind onlyChina was something nobody could quite believe. I could almost feel the pride and happiness radiating out of the stadium into my living room and it was a feeling I recognised as being completely unique to the Olympics. Every four years I get the same surge of pride for our country as everything our youngsters have worked for is realised. It really is a big deal.
Unfortunately for Team GB, Japan challenged the judges’ decision, and with just under a 0.5 point leeway for us to stay in silver medal position hanging in the balance, hearts were pounding in ears up and down the country as we not-so-silently willed the boys to get exactly what they deserved. The 10 minutes we spent in silver were a cruel yet incredible experience and when we were demoted down to bronze, I couldn’t help but feel for poor Ukraine… at least we were still getting a medal; they had one wafted in front of their faces and cruelly snatched away at the last minute. Safe to say that Japan weren’t the most popular of countries in the UK at that moment, but we had to tear our emotions away from contempt and annoyance back to pride and congratulations for our lads who had done so incredibly well.
Another couple of lads who were flipping and twisting all over our screens on Monday were Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield diving in the final of the men’s synchronised 10m platform. This was another event I watched with my heart in my mouth and which caused me to show all signs of Olympic Fever; however, after leading after three dives, their fourth dive let them down and the pressure they must have felt by every British person around the world would have been enormous. They ended up in fouth place, just missing out on a medal which must have been heartbreaking for the duo. All we can do is congratulate their efforts; fourth in the world and Daley is only 18, performing at the Olympic Games in his home country. Pretty amazing.
I think it’s safe to say I am in complete awe of these people. The Olympics has got me firmly in its clutches, my “I love Gabon” t-shirt has arrived for when I go to watch them play football this week and I know I will always remember this two weeks as one of the most exciting in my life so far. Bravo, London!