Saturday, 16 August 2008

I'm Getting Excited

I'm supposed to be asleep in preparation for my alarm going off at the ridiculous hour of 1.45am. Why am I intending to be awake at this time? Well, I need to get myself awake to switch the television on to watch what promises to be a very exciting day at the Olympics. We are guaranteed at least two silver medals in the sailing, we have a very good chance of a gold medal in the swimming at the Water Cube, our cyclists look likely to to add to the gold medal that they won in the velodrome yesterday, and we have crews in five of the finals at the rowing regatta. All of this and I haven't even mentioned what is happening in the Bird's Nest Stadium.

With luck it will be a very good day for all our athletes at the Olympics tomorrow, no matter what their sport, and the battle for medals looks set to continue on Sunday, with more chances in the cycling, and five more crews in the finals of the rowing. But our biggest wish for success should go to Paula Radcliffe as she takes on the Marathon and races for that elusive Olympic Medal. Paula has been a magnificent representative for this country for many years, but she always seemed to be the bridesmaid, never the bride. She ran her heart out at all manner of competitions and major games, but never had the speed to allow her to win a medal.

This all changed for Paula at the Manchester Commonwealth Games; at long last she managed to win a major title, and she won it in style. Suddenly she had found that extra bit of determination, and an unbelievable ability to set a punishing speed that others could not follow. She became a World Champion. She ran a marathon and set the fastest time ever run by a woman, and then she repeated it at more major city marathons. Everything was set fair for the Athens Olympics, but it was not to be. Paula was fit, but feeling unwell, and she had to retire from the race, heartbroken. After the disappointment in Athens she then went on to break her own fastest time for a marathon; she was determined to keep going and to try to be fit and ready for Beijing. She did take a little bit of time away from the running though; time enough to have a daughter, and yes she got back to work with the training in order to prepare herself for the Olympics.

But fate was ready to deal Paula another cruel blow. When she should have been working to get herself in perfect condition for the race that could give her the thing that she wanted m ost, an Olympic medal, and preferably a gold one, she was found to have a stress fracture of the femurd. We have probably never had an athlete who has represented our counhtry for so long at the highest level, who has things happen to her that were beyond her control, at the times when she was most likely to achieve her dreams. Paula didn't give up; she has prepared herself as best she could, the fracture has healed, she seems to be fit and is going to run on Sunday in the Olympic Marathon. If they were to give Olympic gold medals for sheer determination, Paula would surely be worthy of one, but I am quite sure that she would rather win won for herself by running the race and showing the world what a truly great athlete she is.

So let Sunday be Paula's day, let us all cross our fingers, and even though the race is due to start in the early hours of Sunday morning, we should be there willing her on so that she can win the gold medal she so richly deserves.

That is why I am getting excited. I know that I need some sleep, but that can wait; I know that I could watch the repeats of the events at some later hour, but that would not be as exciting. I suffer from depression, but the Olympics give me a thrill, and to see the events as they happen, be they good or bad, will give me more enjoyment than getting a few hours sleep. After all, there are only 11 more days of the Olympics, then I will have to wait for another four years to get this excited again, and four years is plenty of time to catch up on my missed sleep.

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