Last Friday, I was lucky enough to have tickets to the opening session of the Athletics at the Olympics – an experience that will not be forgotten any time soon. The crowd, the atmosphere, the support for our own athletes – most of which coming from people who had most likely never seen live athletics before – actually made me pretty emotional.
I have read headlines, and seen endless tweets about how through this Olympics, more than ever, our athletes, and sportsmen and women from all over the world, are developing as real role models for a next generation of children. Firstly, I really hope it happens. Secondly, it got me thinking about my own childhood and my sporting heroes.
Okay, so I come from a sporting family. My dad is a Club Athletics Coach, and has given up thousands of weekends, evenings and summer holidays coaching, and attending athletics meetings all over the country (and occasionally world!). My Mum used to be an active badminton player, and coached netball and rounders at my primary school. So for me, sport – and the values surrounding it – have always been a big part of my life. My family gathered round the TV for every Olympics, Athletics World Champs, Wimbledon finals and even Ski Sunday!
My role models when growing up weren’t celebrities, they were mostly sports men and women. Athletes like Carl Lewis, Sally Gunnell, Kelly Holmes and Flo-Jo (those nails!); Tennis players – Arancha Sanchez Vicario and Monica Hingis, Ice-Skaters – Torvil and Dean and Tonya Harding (who will forget that scandal with Nancy Kerrigan!)…the list goes on. Those heroes, and their stories, (along with the nudge from my family), inspired me to try a variety of sports when I was young – athletics being one of them. Training on a wet evening was easier if you imagined you were running the home straight for Team GB in the Olympics! I can only imagine how many childhood dreams are being played out right now in the Olympic Stadium by our sports stars.
I think what comes through when athletes are being interviewed, or when you see how emotional they are about winning, or losing, a medal – you realize that sport is one big story. The ups and downs, the commitment, the pain, the heroes and villains – they all create story legacies that will hopefully inspire many. For me, it worked. And while I might not have ended up a sports star (oh well) – I learned so many key life skills by taking part in sport. (And I remember it being pretty useful for meeting boys too in teenage years…ahem!)
For many parents and children watching the games, I really hope it is working. Anyone wanting to give Athletics a go, it is very easy, and you don’t need much to take part. You probably have a club somewhere around the corner, and pretty much all of them welcome absolute beginners from about the age of 11. Check out the UK Athletics website for clubs and schemes about how to get involved (and honestly, it isn’t expensive!).
For those reading, I’d love to know who’s sporting story has inspired you in this Olympics, or in the past when you were growing up? And if you need inspiration (or a bit of a cry!), watch this video (thanks BBC for reminding me of this!) of Derek Redmond trying to finish the 400m at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 *sobs*….