‘Olympic Nan’ deserves a medal

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
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It takes great commitment and dedication to reach the top in anything in life, whether you are a famous actor like Warwick Davies or a top gymnast such as Louis Smith.

Both will have had to put in long hours away from their families, honing their skill and plying their trade, both will have missed out on things we all take for granted, all in pursuit of their dreams.

Great Britain's Louis Smith during the team announcement at Lilleshall National Sports Centre, Newport. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 12, 2016. See PA story GYMNASTICS Olympics Team. Photo credit should read: Tim Goode/PA Wire EMN-160408-101931002

Great Britain's Louis Smith during the team announcement at Lilleshall National Sports Centre, Newport. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 12, 2016. See PA story GYMNASTICS Olympics Team. Photo credit should read: Tim Goode/PA Wire EMN-160408-101931002

Success cannot be achieved in isolation though; behind every story is a devoted family member prepared to forego sleep, food and their own sanity, in order to follow that yellow brick road, to who knows where it might lead.

Louis Smith has his mum to thank for inspiring him on to Olympic glory (and trust me, she also makes a mean cup of tea!) whilst across the city mums, dads, grandmas and grandads, try to do the same for their potential medal winners of the future.

At the crack of dawn, in the regional pool car park, mums desperately glug copious amounts of coffee before watching their little ones take their first strokes towards glory.

Countless miles are clocked up on dad’s Mondeo, ferrying potential athletic wonders, to running tracks and sand pits in places you had never thought of visiting, whilst hockey pitches and gymnasiums echo to the sound of encouragement from the proudest of relations.

The rewards for success are evident; to be part of the greatest show on earth, to make your family proud, to help create history.

Of course only a handful of the 11,000 athletes taking part in Rio will come home with a medal and even fewer will discover monetary reward for their tremendous investment of time and effort; for every Michael Phelps (estimated worth-£50m) there is a thousand others who will be going home to anonymity and a large overdraft.

But the majority are not in it for the money or the fame; they want to test themselves against their contemporaries and judge whether they are indeed, “Swifter, higher or stronger.”

Having reported for the BBC from the Sydney Olympics in 2000, I can testify to that being the case.

I was fortunate to sample the special Olympic atmosphere and get a unique behind the scenes insight into the games; there were no pampered footballers driving around in flash cars, or agents negotiating big money contracts, just athletes of all nationalities, mingling together, brother and sisters of the world, with a common purpose.

Sir Steve Redgrave wasn’t thinking about Nike trainers or Head and Shoulders shampoo when he climbed into the boat, on that amazing day at Penrith lakes, his eyes were instead fixed on the finish line and a fifth consecutive gold medal.

Money and fame couldn’t have been further from the mind of Adam Peaty as he climbed into the pool in Rio and then smashed his own world record, taking Britain’s first men’s gold in the pool since 1988.

None was prouder of his amazing achievement than his Nan, Mavis; dubbed “Olympic Nan”, for her adorable posts on Twitter, in support of her grandson; in fact, Olympic Nan could yet end up being the “real” star of Rio 2016!

This year’s Olympics in Brazil may have been overshadowed by doping and they are taking place in a virtual police state but the world needs this sort of inspiration right now and our children do, too.

They are playing less and less sport these days and these incredible sportsmen and women will provide important role models that the future Olympians of this city can aspire to be.

For that we have to thank all those “Olympic Nans”, mums and dads of the past for their selfless support and sacrifice.