Upon their return to their homeland yesterday, South Africa’s two best swimmers were introduced as two African countries by the sports minister. Cameroon van der Burgh and Chad le Clos, two guys so good that they named entire countries after them.
Le Clos will have some explaining to do to his fellow Manchester United fans when he gets home after he said, on Chelsea TV a few days ago, that he was “very proud to be at Chelsea”.
Perhaps Cameron van der Burgh should have shut up. Perhaps, when the Australian journalists waited in a little pack for him in the mixed zone, he should have said he was in a hurry and walked past them on his way out of the 2012 Olympics, settled down comfortably with a celebratory beer and simply wondered at the wonderfulness of it all.
Instead he stopped. And listened. And was honest. I listened to the interview. I recorded it. He did not avoid a question, he did not try to fob them off. He told them the truth of the thing. The Dolphin Kick. The way the Australians were going on about it, it and nothing else apparently won him gold in the 100-metres breaststroke, breaking the world record just for good measure.
At a braai held on the sixth floor of a building on the South Bank on Monday night, a lady wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a wide-brimmed smile shook the hand of James Thompson, the South African rower and Olympic gold medallist, and congratulated him on his achievement.
“I always knew you were going to win,” she said. “From the first stroke I said to everyone you were going to do it.” Thompson smiled and thanked her, nodding his head.
We should thank our lucky stars. What if the world’s fastest man had not been born with the surname Bolt? What if he had been called Plod? Usain Plod. That would have stuffed a few headlines. It would have been hell for commentators.
You think that Bolt could have been called anything and he still would have been the quickest man in the world. He’s a bolt of lightning from the sky, they scream. Hey, he could have been called Usain Storm, which would have meant he would have been from the Stormer family and have proven than not every Stormer finishes second. He was born a bolt and a bolt he is. He lives his name.
Jarvis Cocker is an unlikely sports fan. The lead singer of Pulp has the look of what horrible children at school would once have called a specky four-eyed git. He freely admits he has the sporting prowess of a snotty handkerchief. On the morning of Super Saturday at the Olympic Stadium he was the guest on the stadium’s in-house television show.
Cocker became an expert in sport, wrote Kevin Mitchell in The Observer yesterday, because he “was in awe of” Jessica Ennis. Both are from Sheffield. Both are national treasures. Both made Saturday the most magnificent day of sport seen in London for many years.