December 19 2014 Latest news:
Michael Bailey , London Olympics correspondent
Sunday, July 29, 2012
There are fewer things more selfish than Olympians – that sounds harsh, but it has to be true. To be single-minded enough to enjoy success in such a setting requires it. And that was exactly why Emma Pooley’s efforts in Beijing were so remarkable.
Now I’m well aware of the dynamics of road cycling. If any sport sees people put their own efforts on the line for someone else, it’s the domestiques of this world – although they ultimately share in the prize pot that comes along at the finish line.
But for Pooley, in Beijing her job was to make Nicole Cooke an Olympic gold medallist. Not share the publicity spoils or the podium. Maybe a smile at her country earning another gold at their best Games in a lifetime.
In fact, having spoken to Emma, I feel confident in saying her role in Nicole’s victory will most definitely have brought her great joy. It’s the most selfless sporting act I’ve seen.
The Norwich cyclist was rewarded by karma too, picking up a brilliant time-trial silver a few days later – and in the end, getting the recognition her effort deserved, in her own right.
Since then the former Norwich High School for Girls pupil has taken her career up several levels. A world title and a renowned title for being as good as this country has produced.
And this is where it gets interesting. At this Games, the mountains are missing. Pooley’s time-trial chances diminish with that a bit – but don’t write her off.
What may be more telling is the road race plan: where Lucy Martin will perform the selfless role to support power house Lizzie Armitstead on Sunday and hopefully take Olympic gold for Team GB on The Mall.
Women’s road coach Chris Newton added: “For any athlete to commit so much to not win and to put another athlete in a winning position, it’s almost like you’re rewarding a striker in football and the rest of the team getting nothing.’’
Beijing champion Nicole Cooke has apparently been given licence to roam. And Pooley? She has no defined role. And for me, if Box Hill hits the field as some suspect, she could well pull off a major surprise.
But really, it will just be nice to see her truly ride for herself in the road race – before she does it all again in Wednesday’s time-trial.