A year ago today I went to Lords Cricket ground for the first of three sessions at the Olympic archery venue. Here’s to the memories.
At 8.30 this morning I wake up in Berlin, of all places. Long story. Then it’s walk to the station, train, plane, bus, train, tube, bus (to office to dump stuff), bus, tube, and another bus to find myself outside Lords shortly before the 3pm afternoon session with my eight year old nephew. Thanking the transport gods, we go in. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him, and it’s probably the first time I’ve properly hung out with him, ever. If I’m going to finally do ‘uncle stuff’, it’s best I kick it off in style: the women’s team Olympic archery final. I sit him down outside and explain how important the day is to the both of us. He’s, like, yeah, whatever Uncle John. I know now he’s more interested in Star Wars, but one day, he’ll thank me.
We are up in stand 2 on the right of the shooting lanes, so we can see the right-handers front on. Good. Unfortunately the Team GB women got knocked out this morning by a rampant Russia. E wants to support someone, but he seems a bit lost as to who until the noise level around us cranks up, and the excitement builds. Korea are shooting. The immense shower that follows rattles no one (it’s the rainiest day of the shoot and leads to some of the more spectacular photographs). No one even flinches. Me and E hide under an umbrella in the bedraggled stand. You wonder if, given the training standards in Korea, seven years ago the developing squad heard something like “Oh, the Olympics is in London? Rainy old London? Right, turn the hoses on…”. As Ki Bo Bae, Lee Sung-Jin and Choi Hyeongju demolish a miserable looking Denmark, E has picked his team. Luckily the two Korean lads in front of us, who have taken a shine to him, have some spare flags and noisemakers.
The rhythms of the team event become gradually familiar as the afternoon winds on. The ‘third’ up first, usually looking the most nervous of the trio, the quick to the mark second, and the grimly determined first, usually the most senior member. The widest shoulders. The anchor. The skip. The one with the most difficult job. As the gold medal match between China and Korea comes up, no one seems to have taken to this role with more fervour than Yuting Fang…
…a 22 year old of terrifying focus and will. Although she is run a close second by the Japanese skip Ren Hayakawa, the string sometimes distorting her face into a terrifying, malevolent rictus grin.
Both pics source: Paul Gilham/Getty Images Europe
The script is for Korea to win, as it has been for decades. But China come incredibly close. It is down to Ki Bo Bae, needing that 9. I remember watching her, and not the arrow, and then listening to the roar. Just another day at the office. Perfect.
VIDEO to follow: Korea v Denmark in the rain, 29/07/12 at Lords Cricket Ground.