This is I why I don’t follow sports – the anxiety that I feel when I watch them.
Picture the scene, if you will – my city (normally a buzzing hive of incident and Saturday night shenanigans) is silent as the proverbial grave as local Heptathlete Jessica Ennis continues her two day campaign to win an Olympic Gold medal. You can’t turn a corner in Sheffield without seeing an image of our favourite daughter, particularly in the run-up to London 2012. Witness the front of our local branch of department store John Lewis:
So, no pressure then?
Her first day of competition on Friday had gone really well – two personal bests in the 100m hurdles and 200m race later in the day – but Saturday saw the Javelin throw, the heptathlon event which has traditionally stymied her in past competitions. Add into the mix strong competition from Nataliya Dobrynska and Tatyana Chernova and nobody was going to call this event over and done.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I found her final event, the 800m race, impossible to watch – barring a disaster, she would comfortably win the race but I’ve long held the belief that by merely watching a UK athlete compete on the world stage, I somehow act as a jinx and cause all manner of problems.
Andy Murray won his Wimbledon semi-final because of talent, grit and being the best guy on the day? No, friend – he won because I couldn’t bear the watch the final couple of sets and took Hagrid for his evening walk, leaving behind Mrs Rolling Eyeballs to sit on the edge of the sofa and watch the drama unfold. By comparison, I was there for every set of the Wimbledon final and we know how that turned out.
This time, though, I had to stick around and see Jess Ennis win this thing – and win she did. I normally remain studiously indifferent to sport as I have a typically male response to the drama on display in games and matches – it’s one of the few stereotypically male characteristics that I do possess – and the elation that we felt in our house as Jess fell behind the main runners in the 800m before pushing herself forwards to win the event and win her gold medal was possibly only slightly less than I imagine she felt.
True, we weren’t utterly exhausted and hadn’t spent all of our lives working towards this glorious, shining moment as Jess had, but you get the point – we were with her all the way and overjoyed when she crossed the line.
She was brilliant and, for a quiet second that I probably won’t tell anybody about again, I was actually proud to be British on what has become known in the UK as ‘Super Saturday’ (Six Gold medals for Brit athletes! In a day? Inconceivable!). I distrust patriotism quite a bit – it usually acts a smoke-screen for much less desirable qualities – but watching the Steel City Siren smash personal bests and grab Gold in such splendid fashion made me delighted to be from this comparatively small island. Good on you, Jess – you did brilliantly and made everybody in Sheffield proud. And given what a bunch of grumpy Yorkshire gits we normally are, that’s almost as amazing as Olympic Gold.
- Entire county holds its breath as pride of Yorkshire goes for gold (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Richard O’Brien: Ennis, the face of the host nation, delivers on immense expectations (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)