A long way to Tipperary? You should try Rio

I thought travel was quite fast these days, but yesterday they said it’s four years to Rio – must be rowing (or cycling).

What a happy and glorious fortnight we’ve just experienced? And most of the time it didn’t rain over us – God save the Queen. Most of the budget for the closing ceremony went on the fireworks – there didn’t appear to be much left to spend on the acts. Television coverage of the Games was generally excellent, although some of the interviewing was naff. Phil Jones interviewing the marathon winner from Uganda suggested he had a language problem – most of us would have struggled with the bo****ks he was talking.

Sports personality will be a packed show this year. They’ll need the stadium just to house the candidates. The headliners are likely to be Mohamed Farrah, Jessica Ennis, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Bradley Wiggins (with his back to back events), but Katherine Grainger’s gold medal was also something special. Her first silver medal, twelve years before, would have been a triumph, the next would be disappointing, the next – a disaster. By this time most would think they had peaked, and that was enough.

To accept those disappointments (four years apart), to continue training to get even better for yet another four years is extraordinary (the word isn’t adequate but I had a restricted education, albeit approved) – and shows something in her character that’s missing in most of us. Her medal, as much as anything, epitomises not only the Olympic spirit, but one of the essentials of life. Those that win successive golds over many years show a similar tenacity. Their incentive is to stay at the top, but in the knowledge they had been there previously. Katherine Grainger didn’t know if the top was attainable.

I didn’t realise any of this when I was a boy. I thought that sport’s day was a chance for the fortunate few to show off. The philosophy of sport, not just of winning, but striving to be better (than you already are) should be taught to every child (and the rest of us). Not just assume those that are good will get better and those that aren’t, won’t.

Disappointment is a significant part of life (I should know). Keeping it from children does them no favours. Katherine Grainger is a prime example of how to overcome and triumph over disappointment. Her story should be part of the curriculum. Sports personality? I have to go with the face of the games – almost a ‘Dennis’.