Olympics: Blood, sweat and tears at Rio 2016
There’s no gain without pain at the Olympics. The blood, sweat and tears of the Rio Games:
Bloodied but unbowed
The Olympics proved a painful and cruel experience for Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten and French gymnast Samir Ait Said.
Ten kilometres (6 miles) from the finish of the women’s road race and van Vleuten was in a good place. In the lead, gold within her grasp.
Then disaster. In a stomach-churning high speed crash she was hurled over the handlebars on a tricky bend. Instead of climbing the podium she was stretchered to intensive care with heavy concussion and three cracked vertebrae.
Happily she was well enough to take to Twitter 24 hours later, to tell her fans: “I am now in the hospital with some injuries and fractures, but will be fine. Most of all super disappointed after best race of my career.”
Another casualty in Rio was Ait Said. Anyone watching qualifying for the men’s vault will have winced in horror at the sight of the unfortunate French gymnast snapping the lower part of his left leg after a bad landing.
The 25-year-old fell to the mat in agony clutching the back of his knee and his leg, which was left at an angle that shocked many in the crowd. After surgery he showed remarkable spirit in the face of adversity, declaring that he wanted to try for Tokyo 2020. “I can be back on my feet in not very long, well ‘on my feet’, everything is relative.”
Cook’s sweat but no dessert
It’s one thing to sweat and sweat and then reap the rewards of your endeavour. It’s quite another to put in all the hard graft for zero return. Just ask Aaron Cook. But not yet perhaps, it’s too soon. Utter devastation was etched all over his face after his first round knockout in the under-80kg taekwondo competition.
Defeat is part and parcel of sport, but for Cook this was especially hard to swallow. For Rio was his big moment, a first return to the Olympics since 2008 after being controversially overlooked for selection by Britain at London 2012.
His parents mortgaged their home to fund his ultimately failed appeal against the decision. He then resorted to drastic measures, switching nationalities.
He walked out this week behind the Republic of Moldova flag. But all the exertion, cost and personal hardship he’s endured flashed before his tear-stained eyes as he was sent packing by a Taiwanese rival in his opening bout.
A tale of two tears
Rio 2016 was awash with tears – at times the Olympics was akin to a crying convention. The Maracana almost floated down to Buenes Aires on the torrent of tears shed by Neymar and the rest of the Brazilian football team after Saturday’s penalty shoot out gold medal win against Germany.
Over the past two weeks there were tears of joy, of frustration, of agony, and in the case of Renaud Lavillenie, of shock at the ear-splitting boos directed at him as he went head-to-head and lost to local hero Thiago Braz in the pole vault.
The Frenchman was stunned and wounded by the reaction, so much so he was moved to comparing himself to Jesse Owens and the hostile treatment meted out to the American athlete at Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics.
“In 1936 the crowd was against Jesse Owens. We’ve not see this since. We have to deal with it,” he said. The ill-judged comment stirred up partisan locals even further.
He was roundly booed again at the following night’s podium ceremony. That reduced Lavillenie to tears, his crumpled face a picture of misery, as smiling Braz saluted the Brazilian national anthem after receiving his gold medal.