The end springs eternal
August 21st. The end of the Rio Olympics. I have kept my powder dry until the end of the Olympics. It was a sporting extravaganza which inspired, it was a sporting extravaganza which questioned the ideals of the Olympic movement with greed and corruption. It was an event which has put the spotlight on Ireland for the good and bad reasons, it is time to reflect, it is time to review the accomplishments but also plan how best to achieve sporting glory in Tokyo 2020.
The good, the bad and the downright ugly
The picture above sums up my sporting thoughts from the last weeks. We have had some inspirational performances from Ireland in sporting events either home or in Rio.
Rio Olympics will go down as the games where Annalise Murphy and the O’Donovan brothers came to national prominence with performances which fully merited their silver medals. Murphy’s triumph was so poignant considering the final medal race in London 2012; the post race interview where she was devastated. Experiences of failure either make or break you and Murphy’s resilience and determination to win a medal was truly inspiring.
The O’Donovan brothers were equally inspiring; their focus and drive to win along with their interviews to raise the profile of rowing in this country was phenomenal. Their planning, dedication and their ability to focus on what was required paled into contrast when you seen the performance of the lauded boxing team.
Irish boxing team can blame judging decisions but the preparation of the squad was off. Apart from Conlon and Donnelly, all other boxers in this tournament under-performed. I felt so sorry for Katie Taylor, the golden girl of London 2012 is now facing a decision on her boxing career. The alarming defeats this year were compounded by a loss to a Finnish boxer who on paper should not have posed many issues. Taylor owes nothing to this country, her sporting exploits are unparalleled but the management of her and the rest of the team post Billy Walsh must be called into focus. Distinct lack of tactics in several Ireland boxing performances and visibly exhaustion in the later rounds of bouts unfortunately caught the eye.
The rumors of Michael O’Reilly not participating in training camps to the lead-up to the games was embarrassing let alone compounded by the doping test result. The fact that Paddy Barnes was forced to drop massive weight the day of his fight looked shabby. The fact that Joe Ward did not implement a proper game plan to beat his Ecuadorian opponent speaks of a team in chaos. Conlan’s performances were the highlight, he was robbed of a medal but the team as a whole were well off the pace. Over-trained?
Massive questions are now on the high performance boxing unit need to be asked considering the level of funding put into the programme. Zero medals is a massive let down. The lack of focus in several twits from the boxing team speaks it all. Sorry state of affairs as Conlan will turn professional while the likes of Taylor, Ward and Barnes must assess where next in their careers.
The ticketing fiasco is a national disgrace; the manner in which Mr. Mallon came to receive the OCI tickets is one thing but the subsequent events of Pat Hickey’s arrest (evading Brazilian Police in a hotel room) casts a major PR blow to Ireland as an assured, reputable Olympic member. It is a shame considering the admirable detection and calling out of Michael O’Reilly in the lead-up to the games. Ireland doping test procedures coming up trumps where other countries are lagging well behind (Caribbean, East African countries) to name but a few.
More uncomfortable evidence will ensue in the weeks to come but OCI needs a revamp. Hickey needs to go and needs to be replaced by a person who has experienced the games and knows the changes required. Sonia O’Sullivan or Derval O’Rourke for me look like ideal candidates to fill the role. To replace Hickey with another crony is simply not an option. The ticket fiasco may be a god scent for the OCI going forward.
For the horrific bad news stories coming from Ireland in this Olympiad, there were several standout performances on the track. Thomas Barr was exceptional in the 400 meters hurdle race. The modern pentathletes were superb in finishing in the top ten. Rob Heffernan yet gain produced a consistently high level of performance to finish sixth. The Ireland field hockey team provided several keynote moments, their teamwork and work rate were immense.
Can Ireland strategize funding to maximize sporting success?
While looking at the GB medal haul, they have strategized on the sports to win their medals. Why can’t Ireland have a sevens rugby outfit for men to follow the women? Why can’t Ireland invest in velodromes to unearth cyclists from all over the country? Why can’t Ireland look to improve their equestrian ranking to get more riders into the Olympics? A shame when the likes of Bertrand Allen was missing from the event. The planning for Tokyo 2020 starts tomorrow, sincerely hope that OCI / Shane Ross think long term in sporting investment and look to spend funding in an efficient manner to yield more medals in the next Olympiad. Enforce national centers of excellence for swimming, athletics. Our performances in the Games needs to be accountable like Team GB where funding is determined on performances in competition. Precious little in the past so hoping for more scrutiny in the performances of our competitors in order to give the potential athletes who could medal at Tokyo 2020 to get more funding.
High point of the Games
A toss-up between Fiji’s gold medal in the Rugby Sevens or the unstoppable force that was Usain Bolt in his treble treble success in successive Olympic games. Bolt is the guiding light of the athletics sport, his charisma and performances leave you awe inspired. Andy Murray’s defense of the Mens Tennis gold has to be noted too, something Novak cannot boost on his resume. Simon Biles in the gymnastics. Team GB medal haul. Jason Kenny. Michael Phelps in the pool but it is probably Fiji’s performance in the rugby. World class, celebrations were emotional.
Low point of the Games
Michael O’Reilly. Boxing judging. Nikitin’s result over a Thailand boxer in the previous round before facing Conlon was even more bare faced. GB Joyce’s loss to French boxer Yoka this afternoon summed it up perfectly with the judging. Doping cheats caught rotten during the tourney. Hostile home crowd to any opponent who dared compete well against a home nation competitor. Lack of crowds. No lasting legacy for Rio after the Games. Paralympic funding debacle; where did the money go? Ryan Lochte and chums on their infamous nightout in Rio – embarrassing. Men’s golfers who decided it was best to ditch Rio over Zika even though the women top golfers participated. Bullet holes in media center tents, let the drug war recommence in the Favelas tomorrow. Pat Hickey. OCI ticket distribution process.