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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

I don't know how Olympic parents do it

P&G have been running a campaign around the Olympics celebrating the mothers of athletes. This was very shrewd. It's a way-in to the subject for people who aren't bothered about sports and it doesn't depend on picking winners.

The TV coverage has briefly made stars of a handful of proud mums and dads, from the South African Burt Le Clos through the twitchy parents of American gymnast Ali Raisman (watch how he has to lift himself out of his seat so great is his suffering) to Chris Hoy's mum and dad who are so nervous they only get out their home-made banner (above) when it's clear he's won.

Most of us who are parents have had a very distant taste of what it must be like to watch the whole world watching your child try to do something unbelievably difficult. I've stood on touchlines in earlier years watching some of mine take part in team games. They're the most intense experiences of my sporting and parenting life because on top of the usual team loyalties you have the ties of flesh and blood. There are few sterner tests of your unconditional love than an own goal or an intercepted pass that lets the whole side down.

I genuinely don't know how the parents of top athletes stand it. How they can contain the joy when it goes right. How they can disguise their disappointment when it goes wrong. I can certainly understand why Jonny Wilkinson's mother was in the supermarket at the moment her son slotted that drop-kick.