Athletes’ passion has won me round to the Olympics

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A few of you read my column last week and got the impression that I don’t like the Olympics.

You must have thought I was one of the few people in the country that wasn’t gripped by Team GB and its successes. Well, maybe I did sound a bit harsh when complaining about the grip the games have had on our televisions.

As my family will tell you, I have a stubborn streak and it’s not often that I admit I’m wrong - but this time I’m prepared to admit that I’ve been won round by the sheer excitement of the Olympics.

This time last week all that seemed to be happening was endless swimming races. But now the track and field events are in full swing, as well as the cycling, it all seems much more enjoyable to armchair fans like me.

I used to think that athletes could come across as quite stern - not really surprising given how focused they have to be to win these kinds of events.

But during the past week I’ve seen a totally different side to our champions. Sir Chris Hoy shedding a few tears after winning his sixth gold medal for cycling had me blubbing as well.

Chris is an Edinburgh boy and cut his teeth as a racing cyclist at the battered outdoor velodrome at Meadowbank, not far from where I work. Indeed some of my pals claim to have used the track themeselves (in their younger days!). It’s inspiring to see where it all began for our greatest ever Olympian. Hopefully someone might invest a bit of time and money in restoring the track so another generation can enjoy it.

But it’s not just Sir Chris that’s had a cry up on the podium. I might be stubborn, but I’m a softie at heart and there’s been so many moments that have had me reaching for the tissues.

On Monday night, I found myself watching the men’s 400m hurdles in the company of my son. Now hurdling is something I know little about, other than it requires you to jump over wee fences every so often. But my son assured me it was one of the best events to watch, as the races tend to be close and can often have a surprise winner.

I’m glad I listened to him. It was thrilling to watch. The wonderfully-named Felix Sanchez raced to victory. Apparently, he’d won the same event at the 2004 games - with exactly the same time.

When he got on the podium, tears rolled down his cheeks.

I read the next day that Sanchez’s tears were not caused just by the joy of winning. The Dominican athlete had dedicated himself to winning gold to honour his late grandmother, who had died during the 2008 games.

He even had her name engraved on his running shoes, and had a picture of her pinned to his kit, which he kissed at the of the race.

It had me crying all over again as I sat on the train going to work.