I’ve never been a fan of sport. It started at school. P.E. and I stared warily at each other across mouldy changing rooms and frozen playing fields, before I decamped to the library with a period that lasted four years. Recently I’ve taken up swimming and Pilates as part of managing the inherited connective tissue disorder I suffer from (EDS III). Were it not for the threat of immobility I’d happily avoid all Lycra-related pursuits for the rest of my life. I regard people who compete in triathlons, marathons and fun runs with suspicion. Watching sports doesn’t interest me: all that shouting at the telly looks insane. Give me a good book and glass of wine any day, I thought. Then the Olympics came to London.
It started with the tears. The bit just after someone won a medal. The bit where they scream, cry and run into the arms of their loved ones. I sniffed and I snivelled. I’m not fussed about sport, but I understand human emotion. I can relate to that. But London 2012 sucked me in further. It whirled me into the excitement that spread from Stratford throughout the country, until I found myself shouting “Go Mo! Go!” at the television. I am one of the mad people now.
I love the swimming, the fencing, the jumping, the throwing, the boxing, the horses: all of it. I loved Mo Farrah running into the Olympic mascot’s arms. I loved Usain Bolt stealing the photographer’s camera and taking photos of the crowd. I loved Andy Murray climbing into the stands to kiss his girlfriend. I loved Jessica Ennis and the rest of the heptathlon competitors taking a lap of honour together. I loved Tom Daley jumping up and cheering when the USA’s David Boudia scored higher than him and secured gold for diving. So much laughter, so much joy, so much sportsmanship, so much humanity: I loved the whole thing.
Once you start watching sport you appreciate how hard these people train. How much they sacrifice. How many friends, family, coaches, sponsors, and supporters they have to thank. How inspirational they are. Look what sweat and tears and determination gets you! There is hope. Good people with pregnant partners, good people who’ve lost love ones, good people who’ve suffered tragedies like us do get rewarded for their hard work. How many spectators will take up cycling, boxing, or even just speed walking to the shops since watching the Olympics? My muscles have tingled with the genetic memory of speed and fitness: I want to run.
I can’t run, my condition won’t allow it. But it doesn’t matter. The perspiration these Olympians have shown is my inspiration. A wave of positivity has washed over the UK. I feel cheered, renewed. I can do whatever I want if I work hard enough. Write another book? No problem. Land another column? Sure. Increase my swimming from 20 to 25 minutes? Go, Ange, go! Whatever your own personal goal, whatever it is you want to do, the athletes have shown us the way. The Olympics have made me come over all ‘self-help’: we can make dreams come true. Take your positions, on your marks, get set, go.