It’s done. After a breathtaking 800 metres Jess secured second place on the podium but ceded her Olympic title to the 21 year old Nafi Thiam who performed spectacularly throughout the event, achieving Personal Best after Personal Best.
Like many people back in the UK I spent last night, gazing bleary-eyed at a screen, urging Jess on to achieve the unimaginable. In the end Jess’ performance was heroic but 3 seconds short of what was needed.
Even before the event Toni had identified Thiam as a potential medalist and his hunch proved well founded.
I managed to speak to Toni, very briefly, following the long jump. After Thiam’s final jump his response was simply, “The cat is well and truly amongst the pigeons. The competition has really started now”.
Watching Jess’ response to winning silver and her subsequent interview with the BBC she was dignified, humble and full of praise for the new champion. The phrase ‘role model’ is bandied freely around but, for me, is defined by Jess’ approach throughout. They should update the Oxford English Dictionary to include JEH in the definition of the phrase. They should probably also add a footnote for Toni and the rest of the team.
At the time of writing I’ve yet to speak to Toni although Derry sent a simple, slightly heart wrenching message, “We tried our best”. Yes they did. And it was an inspiring, humbling, uplifting, heart-warming best. I couldn’t be more proud to have been involved in the journey.
Of course, the story will continue and although the day-to-day blog has now finished I’ll still be writing updates over the next few weeks and months. One thing to keep an eye out for is an in-depth interview I’ll be recording with Toni at some point in the near future. Watch this space.
A final, unashamed plug. This blog, plus additional photos and commentary is being turned into a glorious coffee table book as a memento of the journey.
If you’d like a copy you can place your order on Kickstarter now.
To close, it’s thank you time. Thank you to the ‘silent’ team of Mark and Sera – you’ve been stars, thanks to you for reading and your messages of support, thanks to my family (starting to sound like an acceptance speech isn’t it?) for putting up with me writing when I should have been paying them attention, thanks to Jess and the team for putting up with me (full stop) and most of all thanks to my friend Toni whose constant good humour, patience and insight made this blog possible.
It’s been an incredible experience and true pleasure – ‘Taking the Coach to Rio’.