John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Saturday August 4, 2012) Super Saturday


Roy hadn’t deserved a lazy day. He knew it all too well. But he was helpless.

Ennis got off to a bad start in the long jump. Roy’s default pessimism kicked in, but Ennis pounced again and his smile confirmed the joy of six yard 40, a big score. Half an hour later, she found eight centimeters more, a blue flash, her momentum throwing her forward in the sand. And now you could say: the Face of the Games was on its way to gold.

More rowing, and the victory of a team of men: Andy, Alex, Peter, Tom, names on all fours, solid in triumph. Then another pair of women won, Sophie Hosking and Kat Copeland, funny and half mad in disbelief, they brought a tear to Roy’s eye, they’d be on a stamp tomorrow, it was too weird. A stunned Copeland thanked her father and mother, she said there had been ups and downs with all of rowing. Each of the three pairs of golden rowers had been like a different sort of double act giving an unsupervised glimpse into their life offstage.

Two Britons were next, their seats broke, there was a restart after some screwdriver work, but they were hit on the post by the Danes. Roy saw too well that money meant nothing to them but second best, the weight of disappointment literally hanging around their necks. He fled their pain to return to Ennis, throwing the javelin, a personal best, she was miles ahead, only an injury in the evening 800 meters could stop her now. She turned on, she went out. She waved at the camera like she was on vacation. Roy watched, amazed, transfixed: she was all steel; she was all girl.

In tennis, Williams crushed Sharapova. Evening has come. At the velodrome, Rowsell, King and Trott won gold in the women’s team pursuit. In the stadium, British long jumper Greg Rutherford took the lead. Then it was Ennis again, two laps away. She lead. Three more passed her on the backstretch and she suddenly looked small, like a kid in an adult race. But as she approached the final turn, she breached a gap, attacked and was the first across the line with her arms up. She was lying on her back, her hands covering her face. Rutherford extended his lead in the long jump. Mo Farah emerged to warm up for the 10,000 meters, to cheers.

On the starting line, Farah bounced on the spot. Roy evaluated the other runners: Kenyans, a Saudi, Eritreans, Ethiopians including two Bekeles, brothers, one of whom was a two-time gold medalist before; Americans, including Farah’s sparring partner, Rupp. Let’s go for twenty-five long laps. Will Claye, an American, in bronze position for the long jump, now the only man capable of overtaking Rutherford, is far from up to the task. Cameras found Rutherford standing, one arm, one finger raised. In the pit, Claye also pointed to the sky, clasped his hands, spoke to God.

Sixth lap of the 10 km, two Eritreans picked up speed. A Kenyan fell, got up, rushed to catch him. Farah remained stable around the tenth. There were shuttles out front, Kenyans pushing up. Seven laps to go and Farah closed the gap between him and the leader. Tension built up in Roy’s guts.

Halfway through the race, they were breathing hard although the pace was slow, Farah remaining apart, right next to the leading group. There was a ruckus, he pushed a guy away.

Five to go, Farah moved up to third, looking tough, a shoulder shake. There was a group of twelve escapees.

Four to go, Farah approached the leader’s shoulder. Rupp was third.

Three to go, Farah third or fourth, an Ethiopian in the lead, a lot of surveillance, who is playing, who is strong?

Two to go, grouped, Farah on the hip of the leader. In the straight line, towards the bell, he hit the forehead, stepped it up, eyes going left, right, left. The last lap and stretching, he was sprinting and they were chasing, he was devouring the ground. Eighty yards to the left and he found another flurry and was off, Rupp chasing hard but too far behind. Fara d’or.

Roy was standing on the couch, roaring, all alone.

Farah knelt down and kissed the ground, thanking Allah. He rolled, almost rolled in Rupp’s phlegm spit on the floor. The American helped her up, they kissed. Farah’s daughter ran to her father from the crowd to hug him. Then the interview:

“I can’t believe it, the crowd was so behind me, it was getting louder and louder, I, I’ve never experienced anything like this, it’s just…it doesn’t come up often and having people right at your doorstep, having people supporting you, screaming your name It’s never gonna get better than this it’s the best time of my life it’s just something you have to work so hard for , and that’s just hard, hard work and 120 miles a week, week after week out, you know, long distance is a lonely event, so it’s just you, what you put into it, is what I want to thank everyone who has supported me from my childhood until now.

Long distance loneliness. Roy cried.

All previous installments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE. Picture from here. Follow John Vane on Twitter.

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