I had a wonderful trip to the Olympics on Sunday. I was completely blown away by the whole experience and, when I’ve got my head round it a little bit, I’ll try to write some of it down but right now I wanted to look at what bronze medals are all about.
Strange, valuable little fellows with a winning motif all of their own I reckon. There is an old saying that ideally you should win a gold or a bronze, never a silver. The premise being that if you’ve won gold there’s no disputing you’ve won – you’re the best, it’s as simple as that. If you’ve won a silver medal there is that nagging doubt that with a little more application you could have won gold, you just didn’t want it enough. With a bronze medal you’ve just bloody grateful you’ve got on the podium – there’s an element of the cheeky chancer, the tried really hard and had a bit of luck about it – it’s a working man’ s or grafters medal.
Winning a bronze medal is like getting a 2:2 degree (I can say this as I’ve got a ‘Desmond’ myself’). It’s a degree but it’s not as smug as a 1st – it shows effort and application more than raw unbridled genius and it has that knowing nod to fellow holders that despite being a bit of a thicky, you’ve managed to persuade the powers that be to give you a certificate. But I would say that would I? A 2:1, the silver medal of degrees, means you’ve tried too hard, you really wanted a 1st, you resent the fact you didn’t get one and will go on about it for years. A bronze medal is the 'second hand Porsche Boxster with 65k on the clock' of medals – ideally you want a brand new 911 but you’re not a millionaire, you’ve had to work for the money and, hey, it’s still a Porsche right?
I’ve been incredibly lucky in my cycling ‘career’. I’ve won all three colours of medals at the World Transplant Games and my first medal in Budapest in 1999 was a bronze. After all these years, it’s still my favourite medal and, yes, I was bloody grateful to step on to that modest 3rd rung of the podium with two better riders who smiled, shuck my hand and thought ‘lucky bastard’. I won a silver medal in the road race in Australian games in 2009 and I can’t look at the picture of the sprint – all I see is me losing the race.
My bronze medal thinking was promoted by witnessing Ed Clancy’s bronze in the omnium at the Olympic velodrome at first hand. He was in fifth going into the final event and put in a kilometre time trial that would have beaten the world’s best specialist in that discipline. The look of sheer delight on his face when his 3rd place was confirmed was wonderful. Now, I know Ed had won a gold in the team pursuit a couple of days before but we all knew, if everything went to plan, there was a good chance of that happening because they are just awesome at it, the bronze was, I am sure, a welcome addition to his significant palmares.
My heart went out to Hunter and Purchase, the two rowers who were just pipped to the gold medal. They thought they’d let everybody down – they were distraught and in tears because they hadn’t quite got the gold medal. They hadn’t let anybody down, they’re heroes: complete heroes, and their attitude and dedication shines through and is a massive credit to them and team GB. I just can’t help thinking the pain may have been a little less if they had taken a bronze rather than a silver.
Now then, this little piece is in defence of the Men (and women) of Bronze, not an attack on noble and proud silver medallists. Please don’t come round in your Porsche, wave your 2:1 at me and punch me up the bracket with your silver medal. Your achievements are noble and significant. Just try a bit harder next time eh? ;)