Athletes, We Salute You!

Black Line London’s Laura Trimble was one of the lucky ones. She was there.

I love the Olympics. Always have. I remember running home from school to

see Sally Gunnell win the 400m hurdles at the Barcelona games in 1992. I

was 10. I remember avidly watching obscure sports throughout the 90’s

(when we were rubbish at most things and the Olympics were no exception).

And in the meantime I also became an athlete, nowhere near the level of

those we have been lucky enough to watch on TV and in the flesh the past

two weeks, but good enough that I understand the sacrifices, the thousands

of hours of training, the endless following of the black line needed even

to get close. And yes, I am one of the lucky ones. Because I was in the

Olympic Stadium on the evening of Saturday 4 August, the greatest 45

minutes of athletics Britain has ever seen.

First up was Jess, leading the heptathlon by a distance, with 80,000

people willing her to take the final step. She didn’t disappoint. In a

random turn of events we found ourselves seated just behind former Olympic

Champion Carolina Kluft who assured those nearby that not only would Jess

win, but she was likely to break Kluft’s Olympic record. This was good.

She should know. And we all know what happened next. The fairy tale ending

as Jess continued the demolition job and won not only the 800m but the

heptathlon by over 300 points. Or, you could say, by miles. From the

moment Jess walked onto the track the atmosphere was electric and as she

led her competitors on a lap of honour the joyous mood was infectious.

But what of Greg? Well that was unexpected. Having nailed a massive jump

early on he led the long jump pretty much from the start, and he was the

only person to jump beyond this all evening, taking his last jump joyously

with victory already assured. The crowd were back on their feet. This was

epic.

People have hardly had time to catch their breath when Mo steps onto the

track. Mo who came to Britain as a Somalian refugee as a child and who

learned his craft on the streets of southwest London. Mo who until two

years ago had been agonisingly close but somehow always just out of the

medals, not unlike Paula in her track days, and who responded to the

challenge by uprooting his family to Portland to join Alberto Salazar’s

“Oregon Project.’ Mo who, like Jess, carried with him the hopes of all of

us.

Up until 600m to go it was impossible to tell who would win. Mo looked

good, but so did Bekele. Both Bekeles in fact. And the Kenyans too. We all

know the Africans always beat us with that devastating sprint in the

finish chute. At 500m to go Mo is on the front alongside Bekele, not

winding it up to full gas yet, just pushing a little, testing those around

him. Then 400m and I’m still not sure, the Kenyans and Ethiopeans are

right there, waiting to pounce. But then it’s 300m and there’s a gap, a

real gap, and the entire crowd is on its feet and you can sense this is

the moment; you can hardly hear yourself think but it doesn’t matter

because everyone is thinking and shouting the same thing. GO MO. You can

do it Mo. This is it. Into the

last 100m and Bekele is gone, Rupp makes his move but he’s never going to

catch Mo who is pulling away, it’s almost an easy victory in the end as he

coasts across the line, arms aloft, glancing behind. Olympic Champion.

Without doubt the best 45 minutes that British athletics has ever and almost

certainly will ever experience. I will never forget it. Jess, Greg and Mo

– three very British champions. We salute you all.

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