20 Jul

Olympian Emotions

Jo Pavey in action

Team GB’s representatives for the Rio Olympics were officially named last week. As with every four-year cycle, the selection provoked fierce debate on running forums and on social media among fans of the sport.

The most heart-warming pick was that of Jo Pavey. The Devon mum, now aged 42, has been selected for her fifth Olympic Games. Having won European gold two years ago after giving birth just eight months earlier, she became something of a national treasure. Now on the road to Rio as Team GB’s oldest ever female runner, she is set to cement that position in the nation’s affections.

"I was literally in a race against time," Pavey told the BBC. "I was busting a gut in training just to give it one last attempt that could get me even considered really. I can't believe it, I'm really lucky to be going to a fifth Olympic Games."

At the other end of the scale of emotion there were athletes devastated to miss out. Among them 800m runner Alison Leonard. Third in the trials and in possession of a qualifying standard, she missed out as she was not reckoned to be a likely finalist or have the potential to medal at future Games.

She eloquently blogged about her disappointment.

“To leave a space empty on an Olympic team when several athletes have the qualifying standard is an insult to the effort that athletes put in to the sport,” she wrote. “It tells us that the early mornings, icy runs, hill reps, missed parties and every other damn thing we do, are not worth anything if you’re not going to make the Olympic final.

“For me to be told that the space will be left empty despite being third in the trial – well clear of fourth place, despite have six qualifying times in the qualifying period, despite having made significant steps forward in sports psychology in the past two years, makes me feel I am mediocre. I am an also-ran. I am an extra on the stage of athletics and no one cares that I practised my lines over and over – I am not needed and my part has been cut.”

Both athletes’ stories provide a raw insight into the emotional draw of the Olympic Games. For most of us the Games provides a hugely entertaining backdrop to the summer every four years. But for others, it can be life-defining, it is a purpose.

It is what makes the Olympics sport’s greatest act drama. Get ready for some emotional moments these coming weeks.