John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Friday 3 August 2012) Stadium gaze

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Friday 3 August 2012) Stadium gaze

The sun came up and stayed out. Roy walked in the garden, took comfort from the rays, imagined doing the same in a wheelchair some day, his hands shaking, mouth hanging open, Leila or Lucy pushing him, Kristie already in her grave, no one hearing his plea to join her there.

The first morning of athletics started at ten; the first day of competition in the London 2012 Olympic stadium. Roy was in his sofa seat early, waiting for Jessica. Hurdling was the opening heptathlon event, the packed crowd erupted and there she was, warming up, prowling, her features all switched off. Roy gazed, couldn’t help but gaze, at her belly, hips and face, her union flag racing briefs. He wouldn’t have known without reading about it that her father was black, Jamaica-born, it was interesting how you sometimes couldn’t tell.

A close-up of her settling into her starting blocks: predator eyes glowering down the 100 metres of obstacles and track. The gun went, she took off, other athletes falling away like discarded burners as the Ennis missile flew. She won in her fastest time ever, the fastest time for the event ever run in the heptathlon. The pundits, commentators, crowd declared their awe and in Roy’s eyes she became human again, all relief and smiles. The back of the briefs was deep blue, silky blue.

Back to Buckinghamshire and the rowing. Roy had read about Katherine Grainger, 36, three-time Olympic silver medallist, this was her last chance to win gold. “Her life should be defined in the next six and a half minutes,” the commentator said as Grainger and her partner Anna Watkins set off. This was a crazy thing to say, but so crazily true, just as it could be true that Adam Scott was “scarred for life”.

Like Stanning and Glover, Grainger and Watkins surged ahead, stayed ahead, finished first. They raised their arms in salute, left the boat. Inverdale approached. Roy had the impression that he knew Grainger quite well, revealing that he’d just talked to her mum and dad. This rowing pair were less dizzy in triumph than the previous one, but Roy was just as seduced by the chemistry between them, the arms around each others’ shoulders, the look into each others’ eyes, like sisters, like the very best of friends.

Ennis in the high jump cleared 1.8 metres, cleared 1.83, cleared 1.86, just, at the third attempt. Pretty good. Roy gorged on the Games through the evening: Pendleton, a cycling gold; Adlington, another bronze; Ennis disappointed with her shot put, slipping back to second, but ended the day with her best ever 200 metres to go back into the lead overnight. A day of beautiful, brilliant girls. How tired Roy felt, how old.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE. Follow John Vane on Twitter.

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Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

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