Tuesday 12 August 2008

Olympic Fever

Well, here I am, a Zimbabwean born Irish citizen, caught between rooting for the land of my birth and heritage and the nation which I now call home, under whose passport I traverse the world. Suffice to say, it has actually been easy. The land of my birth has already featured on the medals table and the land under whose flag I now lay my head has not.
It’s early days yet but it would seem as poor, devastated Zimbabwe could finish the 29thOlympiad with more medals of any colour than my far much wealthier and more technologically advanced adopted home. Never mind that all of Zimbabwe’s medals will most surely come from one Kirsty Coventry, as was the case at the Athens games four years ago. Back then she picked up a full set of medals (3), becoming Zimbabwe’s first Olympic champion and medallist since the Golden Girls picked up the field hockey gold at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. By Day 4 of the Games, Kirsty had picked up two silvers in the Women's 100m Backstroke and Women's 400m Individual Medley. She goes into the Women's 200m Individual Medley on Day 5 seeking to claim another medal, hopefully gold this time seeing as she’s qualified first and in new Olympic record time in the qualifying. However, she will be defending her Women's 200m Backstroke title from 2004 in what is her favourite race.
Remember Eric the Eel? Well, at the other end of the scale, this Olympiad seems to have already produced far more successful results for black Olympians in sporting disciplines that rarely feature black athletes. I mean, how many black athletes do you find in the swimming pool, diving, sailing, kayaking let alone on the podium. Well, it was gratifying then to see Cullen Jones, alongside the phenomenal Michael Phelps in the USA’s gold medal and world record shattering team in the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay. Furthermore Togo got its first ever Olympic medal when Benjamin Boukpeti claimed bronze in the Canoe/Kayak Slalom (K1) Men’s final. Long held stereotypes about black people and water being slowly debunked? Perhaps?