With just 5 days to go until the start of the Rio 2016 Olympics, it feels like a good time to summarise my journey over the past 4 years.
Until the past couple of weeks, the build up to the Olympics in the media has been relatively low-key, with the exception of the Zika virus and Russian doping scandal. However, once Euro2016 was over, Olympic fever fully kicked in.
I still can’t believe it’s been 4 years. It almost feels like yesterday that I watched Ed McKeever winning gold in the kayak at Eton Dorney in the morning on 11th August, followed by Mo Farah in the Olympic stadium winning the 5,000m later that evening. Not only was I fortunate enough to watch so many great events during the London 2012 games, I’ve been able to use these fantastic facilities on route to completing my Olympic challenge, including the two mentioned above.
Since London 2012 I’ve been asked on many occasions why I decided to take on the challenge. Well, it was a spur of the moment decision on that amazing day on 11th August, but essentially I thought it would be cool to have an appreciation of every Olympic sport whilst watching the Rio 2016 games.
So I’ve been thinking how to best summarise the past 4 years. As someone obsessed with stats I could think of only one way – in the form of Top 4s.
Top 4 sports
- Number 1 has to be Athletics. I mentioned numerous times on this blog that prior to this challenge the only running I had ever done was part of a training session for another sport, the thought of running for ‘fun’ seemed absurd to me. I’ve definitely got the bug, in fact more than the bug, it has become an obsession. 97 running races, including 50 parkruns, 4 marathons and over 4,000 miles have taken up a lot of my free time over the past 4 years. I truly love running for the freedom, the community, the challenge, health benefits and many more reasons that would take too long to include here. Definitely my number 1!
The next 3 aren’t in any particular order and are included for different reasons.
- Diving has to be included for the sense of achievement I had during the final lesson. I’ve never been able to even dive in from the side of a pool, so to be able to hurdle-dive, back-dive and dive off the 5m board by the end of the course provided an enormous sense of personal pride.
- I didn’t manage to get to the Velodrome during the Olympic Games; however I’ve been to the venue on 3 separate occasions – once for the Revolution Series, with Dani King and Laura Trott amongst the competitors and twice for a taster session round the track. I would recommend this to anyone. For a start it’s one of the most impressive sporting venues I’ve ever been to and the speed and gradient of the track is a thrill for any adrenaline seeker.
- The final sport has to be rowing for the combination of the team camaraderie, speed adrenaline, technical skill and peacefulness of gliding up the river, the Thames in my situation. I can see why people get into rowing in a big way, the only downside really is the time and cost commitment required.
4 least favourite sports
I won’t go into too much detail about these, as it’s unfair on the sports and I’m sure many people get a lot of satisfaction from these up and down the country. For whatever reason, the following sports just didn’t float my boat.
- Greco-Roman wrestling.
- Freestyle wrestling.
- Archery – this one is probably a bit harsh as it was below freezing during most of my sessions.
The other three were just a bit too close and personal.
4 hardest sports
- All of the martial arts: I didn’t really enjoy any of them, but I do have a lot of respect for anyone that takes part in these regularly. Strength, balance and agility are definitely not my strong points!
- Synchronised swimming: Wow – I’m still not sure how they do what they do!
- Waterpolo: Those guys and girls were seriously tough!
- Modern Pentathlon: Fencing, swimming, show-jumping, running and shooting. I did all of these on different days, but doing these all in one-day. Now that’s impressive!
4 most travelled locations
- New York – New York City Marathon.
- Cardiff International White Water centre – Canoe slalom.
- Guildford in Surrey – Diving – Not that far away, but travelling from London to Marlow and back every Monday for work followed by a return trip to Guildford in the evening was pretty shattering at times.
- Greece – Sailing – Well almost, this was supposed to be my first completed challenge, only for a lightning storm to start up 5 minutes before the start of the regatta.
4 favourite running events
- Ealing Half Marathon – my local, multiple awarding wining, half marathon organised by the amazing Ealing Half Marathon CIC not-for-profit community interest company.
- New York Marathon – just an incredible event and amazing experience to be part of.
- Welsh Castles Relay – running as part of a team from Caernarfon to Cardiff Castle over 2 days. Amazing scenery, atmosphere, camaraderie and the most incredible finish I’ve ever experienced for an event.
- All parkruns – surely the single most impactful health initiative ever created.
4 most difficult to access sports
One of the most frustrating aspects of the challenge was identifying appropriate opportunities to get into certain sports. Sports like running, cycling and rowing have multiple routes for adults to have taster session or to join a course. Others unfortunately don’t seem to be building upon the Olympic legacy as well as they could, either by not having any initiatives for new starters or focussing purely on children.
The 4 sports that I found most challenging were:
- Hockey – only through the introduction of Rush Hockey at the Olympic park did I manage to find a route in.
- Judo – whilst I was able to join as a beginner, I was thrown into a session with experienced fighters and almost suffered an injury as a result.
- Horse riding – I wrote to numerous clubs in the London area and didn’t get any replies.
- Gymnastics – again I wrote to many clubs in London and explained the challenge and didn’t get many replies.
4 coolest things that have happened during the challenge
- Completing the synchronised swimming challenge with two of the GB Olympians from 2012.
- Running the New York City Marathon.
- Running into the Olympic stadium during the Great Newham Run.
- Receiving signed personalised messages from Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Chris Hoy and receiving a personalised message on behalf of the Queen.
4 memorable events that have happened in the past 4 years
- Getting married to my amazing wife, Rhian.
- Becoming an Uncle for the first time to the gorgeous Alfie.
- Buying our first house in Ealing.
- Being bullied into getting Manu and Cookey, our two cats!!
4 events I’m looking forward to watching at the Olympics that I wouldn’t have previously been interested in
- Synchronised swimming.
- Show jumping.
Finally a massive thanks to everyone that has helped me complete this challenge. All the clubs, organisations, coaches, friends, family, in particular those that have joined me in various sports and especially my parents and Rhian, who have been incredible along the way.
I’m immensely proud of what I’ve achieved and the money that I’ve raised for charity. People keep asking me what I’m going to do now the challenge is over. I’m never going to be bored, I’m always thinking of new challenges and adventures and anyway, I’ve got the Great North Run, San Sebastian Marathon and London Marathon in the next 9 months so I’ve got plenty to fill my time with. I’ve also got to keep up with any additions to the Olympic programme, which can change every 4 years so I’m going to make a commitment to try any new Sports that get introduced to future Olympic Games.
2012 – 2016, a period of time I will never forget!