T&FT@30 – Rewind 2008

“THUNDERBOLT” & “CHRISTINE OOO – OH” were T&FT Beijing Newsletter headlines as Usain Bolt & Christine Ohuruogo’s performances took the international & Team GB limelight at the 2008 Olympic Games as both became “overnight sensations” to non-athletics fans.

Usain Bolt became the athletics star of the Games with his 9.69 / 19.30 WR double with a personality that exploded onto the world stage. On the first morning in the Birds Nest stadium, just 36 hrs before “detonation”, T&FT fans sat with Jamaican fans discussing the merits of recent 9.72 WR holder Usain and Asafa Powell – a brief silence and then a Caribbean “What are you sayin?’” whoop hit us all as it turned out our new friends were the “Bolt Brigade” headed by Usain’s delightful mother. Smiles and laughter filled the brief awkward silence which regular international fans know well as mutual non-tribal appreciation of athletics talent is shared. That Usain’s “third” 4x100m gold, of his Beijing trio, was not to last none of us knew back then but as his talent scorched the track, and into our memories, we just revelled in being witness to his prodigious talent.

Christine Ohuruogo was, and is, in most respects the opposite of Usain. His showmanship blazed the track whereas Christine’s talent was understated, her personality modest, as she crept through 400m races seemingly not in contention until the lactic “killing fields” of the final 100m that she skilfully negotiated and that, odds on Beijing favourite but over excited, Sanya Richards did not. If Usain’s style was pure unashamed speed, Christine’s was optimal speed endurance: since 2006 she had won 3 major championships gold medals which must surely have impressed even the shy Christine O. It certainly impressed us fans – a legend.

The records show that Team GB left Beijing with 4 medals, with Philips Idowu / Triple Jump and Germaine Mason / High Jump with silvers and Tasha Danvers / 400mH with a bronze medal adding to Christine’s gold. However, as the years unfolded by 2018 these became 8 medals as drug testing improved and samples from earlier times were re-tested – where are all of these samples kept, and for how long, incidentally? So, belatedly 4 more bronze medals were awarded to Goldie Sayers / Javelin, Kelly Sotherton / Heptathlon and both of the 4x400m teams, their podium moments lost, national appreciation and headlines denied and sponsorship revenue, in effect, stolen. 20 medals originally awarded in Beijing were withdrawn to be re-allocated over the next decade with 4 of these then re-allocated again: these 24 athletes were from just 8 countries and 18 were from the former Soviet Union – 10 Russia, 5 Belarus and 3 Ukraine. Whilst it is to the credit of WADA and Athletics as a sport that it does this in order to right wrongs it is a feature that never fails to disappoint fans so for the denied Olympic athletes what can it feel like?

T&FT’s Beijing Supporters Party, with Kelly Holmes our guest, was not denied to any of our clients. She added to her iconic track status with an inspiring insight into her off track contribution to our sport in her mentoring of athletes through “Double Gold” / “On Camp with Kelly” and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. A privilege that she spent time with our group of 300+ fans at the party. The Beijing schedule, with 100+ clients on add-on tours too, was very demanding but we were delighted that new staff member Lindsay Ripper joined the T&FT team. Memories are made on and off the track and Beijing and China offered many.

Earlier in the year the World Indoor Champs in Valencia was a delightful warm late winter break and the GB team departed with 5 medals with Philips Idowu winning Triple Jump gold with a 17.75 NR plus 4 silvers from Dwain Chambers and Jeanette Kwakye in the 60m events, Chris Tomlinson in the Long Jump and Kelly Sotherton in the Pentathlon – little did Kelly know then that it would be her third elite world medal of the year with her Beijing Heptathlon and 4x400m bronze ones belatedly to come.

That the annual Spar European Cup should hold the final edition of its original format in beautiful Annecy / France again, and that the GB Men’s team would win convincingly with the GB Women’s team coming third, was an appropriate finale to this outstanding competition. This event had delighted large groups of British and international fans over its 29 editions with its balance of keen competition in all events, and outstanding individual performances in some – its points scoring team format resonated from the grass roots of the sport. In Annecy there were 7 GB Men’s event victories and 2 GB Women’s team event wins to keep British fans happy. The competition would be re-formatted as the European Athletics Team Champs from 2009.