I am an Olympian…

I go horse riding every Saturday. It’s something I started when I was around 21 but lost in the starting a job and having children ether. I came back to it some months ago by accident and went with a friend every week and we both had a coffee and a bacon butty afterwards (and a bit of a natter!) I know I’m not very good, I know I’m not going to be a professional rider or make the Olympics and although I’m scared senseless when I’m riding as my anxieties try to overtake me I put the jodhpurs on, dig out the riding boots and drive the 5 miles to the stables each week. I love riding…

The long awaited Olympics has just started and I know it will be a fabulous couple of weeks of amazing talent, stories of triumph over adversity and there will be lots of tears of sorrow and joy from all the athletes who take part. My boys have already been spotted in the living room trying to learn to row as they watched the heats of the rowing yesterday. They are fascinated by the speed, the power and, most importantly, the winning. They easily get caught up in the excitement and the thrill of Team GB and shouts of ‘come on Britain can already be heard which is amazing as it comes from them, I haven’t cheered anyone on yet. They are wrapped in it and it’s fabulous to see.

A lot has been talked of the legacy that the Olympics will leave behind. Much has been put in place to make sure that this huge event that probably won’t take place again here in our life time leaves a lasting impact on everyone watching the Olympics today and those who would watch future ones. I listen to Radio 4 every day and listened to an interview with a legacy coordinator and a Dr ‘something or other’ who were verbally debating the impact past Olympics have had on the sporting population after the Olympics had finished. The legacy coordinator was fantastically positive that this would be a games that would inspire, motivate but above all get our ‘slightly larger than it should be but not quite yet obese’ backsides off the sofa and running to our nearest gym/football club/athletics track/swimming pool and by doing this we would take our doomed (we’re all doomed it seems in some way or another the papers would have you believe) children with us. Okay, she didn’t say it in quite this way but this really was her message. Dr something or other was listening politely to the legacy lady’s spiel and then said one sentence which totally blew apart anything she had just said ‘Research has shown that whilst the Olympics are in going on in whichever country the interest in sport increases but this does not last and people soon go back to how they were before.’ In short’ having the Olympics in your country will not get bottoms off sofas. The legacy lady seemed to ignore the ‘research’ part and kept talking of ‘inspiring’ a generation and she was painting the most amazing mental picture in my head with adults running around throwing javelins, children cartwheeling to school and babies lifting mini dumbbells. I was cleaning though and my mind can wander…

I think the Olympic organising committee have missed a trick though. I think we should have done something before the Olympics to get everyone enthusiastic in a different way. At home we are enthusiastic about anything we see on TV at the moment yet we (apart from Ollie) don’t really play any sport

I think there should have been, last year, a Children’s Olympics where the best and brightest would have a place in our country to show what they can do. Imagine the legacy of having started the very first Children’s Olympics and having that run say, every 2 years in whatever country wins the bid to host it I think would be a much better way to inspire them. The organisers are right: the Olympics are special, it has prestige and it has a history that is important to anyone who takes part. To have a medal of any colour is an amazing thing and past athletes still talk about that winning day with eyes that light up with the memory. To give that to children, to let them have some of the feeling of fire and passion would be an amazing legacy.

Like I said though I’ve no idea how it would work but it’s one I’ve had floating round my head for a while. A bit like the one I have of a children’s parliament. I think it should be called something like ‘Young Person’s Parliament’ and there should be elections, a purpose built building, they should have the title ‘MP’ after their names but above all they should have some control. Some real control of consequence. Our teenagers want to rule the world? Then let them have a go at ruling parts of their world I say and I think everyone would be amazed at the results in a positive way. Anyway that really is a blog for another day.

I have 2 children at school and neither of them have had anything to do with the legacy project. Their school put on an amazing Olympics event for the younger children and we all watched the torch parade (they were SO proud of their torches) and they loved having a go at all the events. My elder son (he does sport every day as well as swimming once a week and rugby at weekends so I’m not too worried about him) learned about the Olympics so came home quoting facts and figures at us which we found interesting. But nothing has been heard of from the Olympic legacy committee. Why haven’t they been in schools? Why have they not sent every child in this country a commemorative gold medal for each child to keep and, possibly, become inspired by? This committee could have made sport open to all, it could have been made a social leveller and the thought that anyone from any background could take part and not only enjoy but win should have really been at the heart of the campaign. It’s not how much money you have but what your head and your body can do but facilities and coaches are needed to nurture…

So I will carry on riding despite making tiny little progress steps each week. I’ve got off the lead reign, I’ve learned to trot and yesterday for the first time ever I cantered. Yes, it was only for a few strides but it’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I had a bad fall when I was 21 and scared myself silly. My teacher said; ‘let’s have a go’ yesterday and I was raring to go. I did it. At the age of 36 I had achieved a personal best. I jumped off ‘Baz’ (the lovely horse) with the most enormous smile on my face. I was bursting to tell anyone who would listen about what I had done I was so proud of myself. I met Ollie back in the reception building (he rides before me and usually watches but didn’t want to today as he was watching the Olympics on the big telly) gave him a huge hug and the first thing he said was ‘I’m still ahead of you though as I can already canter!’ (Ever the competitor is Ollie) but he was pleased. It’s something we have in common and I hope that continues forever. Yesterday I got to taste just a little of what our amazing athletes do every day of their lives. Sport (however basic!) made me feel amazing and I can say I’m hooked; I can’t wait to go back next week to have another go. As I drove home in the sunshine with Ollie next to me –head in book –I was an Olympian. I had that magical gold medal around my neck, however imagined but I do find it sad that so many children may never get the chance to feel the way I did then just by circumstance of birth or motivation of parents…


About littlewhitecottage

Emma is a qualified teacher with 14 years of teaching in many different settings. From teaching adults and children at a music school to choosing to work in a demanding primary school that was failing (which meant moving from an outstanding school – her colleagues were aghast!) to running her own sewing business for the last 5 ½ years teaching all ages how to sew: Emma loves to teach.
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