I’m proud to say that Team GB have been outstanding, London being their most successful Summer Olympics since 1908; whilst Sochi produced Britain’s finest Winter Olympics performance since the inaugural Games back in 1924.
As one of only three nations to have competed at every Summer and Winter Olympic Games, Team GB have a proud record, and some incredible performances to match.
All Olympic games have produced memorable events. Sochi was no exception. Some 98 events in 15 winter sport disciplines were held during the Games, with a record 88 nations competing. Renowned concert violinist Vanessa-Mae (competing as Vanessa Vanakorn) made her much-publicised Olympic debut in women’s skiing, representing Thailand; and the Jamaican bobsleigh team were back in action.
So let us turn the clock back some 26 years, to a remarkable year in the history of the Winter Olympics, some remarkable displays of bravery and a most amazing coincidence. Jamaica made their debut, and achieved world fame at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games.
At the Canadian-held event, a record 57 nations with 1,423 athletes in 46 events competed. But all eyes were on the Jamaican four-man bobsleigh team as a crash turned to cheers when they pushed the sled across the finish line. This somewhat bizarre result inspired the 1993 Disney movie, Cool Runnings.
In another remarkable display at Calgary, Briton Michael Edwards became the first competitor to represent GB in Olympic ski jumping. He finished last in his two events, but soared to celebrity status as he became world famous as “Eddie the Eagle”. His heroic failure made him an instant celebrity; the plucky underdog whose lack of success endeared him to people around the globe. The worse he performed, the more popular he became. What an example of bravery, perseverance and commitment.
Whilst Eddie was in flight in Calgary, a new World Darts Champion, Bob Anderson, was crowned in the UK at The Embassy World Championship. The ‘Limestone Cowboy’ has had a long and successful darts career, being ranked as world number one for over three years in the late 1980s, and still in demand on the popular exhibition circuit.
But it could all have been so different as an athletic career beckoned. As a teenager, Bob was a champion British athlete and was selected to throw javelin at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. But fate stepped in – a broken arm ended his javelin-throwing career, whilst a broken leg ended his football days. So a budding Olympic athlete became a World Darts Champion.
It goes without saying, but the Olympics are not just about medal winners; they are about commitment, dedication, attitude, elements of luck and often times, a twist of fate. It happened to “Eddie The Eagle” and to Bob Anderson, not to mention, to “Eric the Eel” at the 2000 games, but that’s another story.