Too Much Pressure and Too Much Limelight

So, the Olympics are upon us and can I just say I am loving them this year! Every day I’m glued to the tv and to the BBC’s incessant coverage. relishing in every moment of it. I always enjoy them whenever they come around as I enjoy seeing the sports that we don’t often get to see. I always say it and it may be part of the reason I don’t particularly like the sport, but this country puts far too much emphasis on football, even though we never seem to get very far with it. Whereas you look at sports such as Rowing and Cycling, where a lot of medals have come from this year, sports that we never hear much about it.

I just thought I’d post my views on the pressure of being an Olympic athlete -a pressure that surprise surprise is mainly coming from the media. The media have their favourites – their poster boys/girls that they tend to hone in and focus on to ‘bring home the gold’s for us’. But sometimes things don’t always go to plan. Mark Cavendish for instance -a fantastic sprinter and cyclist unfortunately was out of the hunt for a medal and he blamed other countries tactics after the race. Other times things do go to plan – Sir Chris Hoy yesterday rode to his fifth Olympic Gold medal equalling Sir Steve Redgrave’s record. But wait a second, there was also two other guys in the team pursuit that helped him bring home the gold – Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny. Such a shame that the media don’t really mention them and they tend to show pictures of Hoy rather than all three men.

But then this tends to be the case for a lot of things. Prime example number 1 goes to Tom Daley – the media’s no. 1 poster boy. Young, good-looking and he can dive as well! Now I’m not a massive fan of Tom Daley and I don’t really get what all the fuss is about but, I’m not taking that away from the fact he’s obviously a great athlete. The media kept re-iterating he would be going for the gold in the synchronised dive earlier this week. But, wait a second. Synchronised? Doesn’t that imply he has a partner. Step forward Pete Waterfield -Tom Daley’s unsung partner. In the 2002 Commonwealth games he won the gold medal for the 10m solo dive and then 4 years later won the silver medal. However the poor guy has had to contend with being an afterthought in the media’s love of Tom Daley, with a constant barrage of Daley love, you have to feel sorry for him.

Now I’m not naive enough to think that the media don’t focus on people that aren’t ‘deserving’ to be focused on – however in team events, surely it’s about the team effort not about the individual? Cyclist Chris Froome has had a fantastic year -2nd in the Tour de France and a bronze in the Men’s Time Trial, and all the time supporting his Team Sky and fellow GB teammate Bradley Wiggins.

Something which has angered me to no end has got to be the mantra that ‘Nothing but Gold is good enough’. After the first couple of days of having no Gold medals, we constantly heard about it from the BBC commentators -when will our first Gold medal come? It didn’t matter that we had already got a bronze medal in men’s team gymnastics – something which hadn’t happened for 100 years. When the Gold’s started to come through, suddenly it didn’t matter so much about the other medals we were picking up. They were seen as an casual afterthought.

Not again I understand that the goal is to ultimately WIN and that’s what these athletes come here to do – but ultimately every athlete and team have a goal and an objective that they want to try and achieve. Ultimately though, goals and objectives sometimes have to be changed or re-thought.

I come to the main point of why I decided to write this post (or rather semi-rant) Rebecca Adlington – double Olympic Gold medalist at Beijing, who was fully expected to try and equal that again this time around. When Adlington qualified last for the final of the 400m freestyle despite winning her heat the BBC was then forced to backtrack claiming that it wasn’t her stongest forte. When she won the Bronze medal Adlington was ecsatic and so were we-obviously remembering the information the BBC had fed us. The commentators re-iterated that the 800m were still to come and we waited anxiously for tonight’s final. The BBC hyping it up as a two horse race between Adlington and Danish athlete Lotte Friis. Out of no where a 15 year-old US swimmer Katie Ledecky made a go for the gold – leading from the front pretty much from the outset, swimming under world record pace for the majority of the swim and Adlington just couldn’t catch her up, ultimately winning Bronze for Great Britain.

You could obviously see the frown on her face after the race had ended, possibly a sign of her frustration but ultimately she had won another Bronze medal at this Olympics – a great achievement!  However, this soon appeared on the dedicated  BBC Olympics page. The quite frankly disgusting headline of  ‘Adlington beaten by US teenager’ makes it sound like she achieved nothing in the final – frankly an extremely negative viewpoint. The BBC commentators were forced to apologise after the match in case their comments sounded ‘negative’ pointing out they were disappointed for her (something which is probably true). Even tonight’s BBC report questioned whether the expectation and pressure was too high, and Adlington even mentioned that herself after the race. This could perhaps be a wake up call to the media -a signal that putting full page pictures of athletes on newspapers, with headlines proclaiming their success, before the actual event, is too much pressure and perhaps causes a negative effect.

This Olympics so far is proving to be an extremely successful one: After Day 7 we are 4th in the table with 8 Gold medals, 6 Silver and 8 Bronze medals – a total haul of 22! We’re already up on this time last year and we still have a lot of events still to come to add to our success. The media need to remember, that this country is proud of every single athlete taking part in this Olympic games -our Olympic games! The support of the British crowd is phenomenal, and we need to see that when we do win a medal -whether that is a Gold, Silver or Bronze it is a medal to be proud of and not something to be ‘disappointed with’!


“I am proud to get a bronze, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. I hate it when people say it is losing because you have not done my sport. Swimming is one of the hardest events to get a medal at. It’s not like other sports. Hopefully the public will be proud of me getting that bronze.” Rebecca Adlington, Double Bronze Medalist at London 2012 Olympics