Mo Farah. Everything about this country that makes me proud is embodied in Mo Farah's gold medal. You probably all know his story, arriving here from Somalia when he was 8 years old, unable to speak English, lost and bullied.
His talent for running saved him.
In my time working in education I have seen many young men who could have been saved by their sporting talent, sadly slip through the net, choosing to pick an easier path. A naturally gifted basketball player, year 9 lad, was asked to join the school team, come to training after school. He chose not to, instead preferring to 'train surf' at weekends and impress his mates. He is now in an alternative education setting, with no access to sport and with lads who find his extra curricular activities thrilling and exciting. Sport could have saved him, he may not have become successful basketballer but just that belonging to something, that feeling of success, the discipline of training. Another lad, terrible background, father in prison mother a drug dealer, was a talented footballer. We spoke a lot about what he would do when he left school, he was bright, funny and warm. When I asked him about maybe joining a local football team his response was frightening. 'Come on Miss, there is no point in me getting involved in anything like that, it's clear where my future lies, look at my family, how can I fight against that?' Resigned to a life of......well who knows but he's not gone to college and he is often seen down in the park with a can of lager....what a shame.
The London Olympics have shown, particularly in cycling, that if you invest you get results. Sport within education is now just a tick box activity 2 compulsory hours a week squeezed into a very tight timetable. Is it any wonder that most of the athletes excelling in London are privately/grammar school educated? It's not about money it's about a pride and a will to win, something long forgotten in our state schools. My youngest son's sports days at primary school consisted of everyones a winner activities, not a whiff of healthy competition,, sadly many secondary schools are the same. Don't get me wrong taking part is good but how can we enthuse the youth when winning is almost ignored because the plaudits go to the fat kid because he 'had a go'.
It's ok to win, it's ok to wave a union flag, it's ok to lose too. Bobby Robson once said to got to be a good loser to be a good winner, something Roger Federer displayed yesterday, Louis Smith, who lost on a count back technicality in the pommel horse showed and while she was upset Christine Ohuruogu displayed grace in defeat. They all wanted to win, something our young people don't quite get. They see footballers tweeting, arguing, engaging in casual racism and they want in....little do they realise that to be even a half decent footballer you have to commit, something many young people can't be bothered to do.. Football, love it but.....my pal texted me when Team GB lost on penalties....'All those amazing sports that bring us so much joy: underfunded. The one that gets all the money, all the coverage, all the hype, consistently disappoints......What's wrong with football??' I'll leave that to people who are far more qualified to answer that question....
Tonbridge is home to Dame Kelly Holmes, who was an inspirational athlete. I met her briefly when she came to unveil our new 'house' system....named after sporting legends, decided by the pupils. MacArthur, Thompson, Redgrave and Pele...was she excited? Did she feel that sport was important to our young people? Well, she was more put out by the fact a 'house' hadn't been named after her....bearing in mind that the school she attended, half a mile up the road is dripping in Holmes pride.....I was left a bit disappointed. That probably says more about me than her I guess.....
So London 2012....I have cried, shouted and frankly spent a lot of time
on my arse watching our amazing athletes. Committed and proud to
represent our country. Star of the show so far? Well obviously Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Bradley Wiggins blah blah blah.....but for me Adam Gemili 18 years old a former Dageneham and Redbridge player is my superstar, he took up running full time in January, his smile on the starting line when the crowd cheered his name said more than any interview could express, he's obviously talented and he's young enough to inspire, hopefully.....lets celebrate that.