VIDEO: Opinion: I got the chance to see an athlete transformed, forever, into an Olympic champion
PUBLISHED: 15:26 06 August 2012 | UPDATED: 17:54 06 August 2012
During each Olympic Games, we all find ourselves watching sports we previously knew very little about. Here, our reporter Martin George speaks of his experience of watching archery and weightlifting at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
To win an Olympic gold is to join a roll of honour stretching back to 776BC. I had always wanted to witness that moment when an athlete is transformed, forever, into an Olympic champion, and so it was I took my seat at Lord’s for the women’s archery final on Thursday.
With no Brits, the crowd was good natured and relaxed, with the contingent backing the heavily-favoured South Koreans swelled by the free plastic flags and balloons that easily bought the affections of many Brits.
But they did not have it all their way, with Lee Sung Jin felled by Mexican Mariana Avitia in the quarter finals.
Soon the crowd, mostly archery novices like me, was hooked on the competition and oohs, aahs and groans greeted every shot as it hit the target 70m from the archers.
And then suddenly it was the final - Roman of Mexico versus Ki of Korea.
There was nothing to separate them, each winning two and drawing one set. The gold medal came down to archery in its purest form - a single shot from each player with the closest to the centre winning. Simple, appropriate but brutal.
We gasped as Ki, shooting first, could only manage an eight. The title was Roman’s for the taking.
She drew back the bow and seemed to hold it taut for an eternity. She finally released her arrow. More gasps - she too only managed an eight.
The judges declared Ki the closest and the Korean’s erupted. And in that instant, by a matter of millimetres, Ki Bo Bae joined the immortals.
A day later, I headed to ExCel for the weightlifting. I had never realised how complicated competitive weightlifting is. Each competitor is only allowed three attempts in the snatch and three in the clean and jerk; if there is a tie the lightest competitor is the victor, and spectators need to keep an eye on the constantly shifting decisions about who lifts what and when. It was a surprisingly tricky sport to appreciate live.
Some spectators were specialists, and Thai musicians busking for tickets outside the ExCel centre showed some had a real interest, but most people were like me, casual newcomers with half an eye on their mobiles to check Jess Ennis’s progress in the Olympic Park.
The crowd was indiscriminating in its support, urging each competitor on in turn, but only really engaged in the competition when the clean and jerk approached 225kg and the announcer assured us medals were at stake.
And then he said defending champion Ilya Illyin was going for a world record. The Khazakh made it look easy and the spectators leapt to their feet. But best of all, while queuing for the train home, someone shouted the news we had all been waiting for - Ennis had won.