It’s been a long, tough week. Why, you ask? Because I’m having serious Olympics withdrawal. From staying up all night watching the opening, having coverage on the office television every afternoon, running 3 devices at a time every evening so I could watch as many different events as possible, setting my alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to watch Mo Farah win another gold, and generally just being completely obsessed; 16 days have never passed so quickly.
This isn’t a one-off for me. I absolutely love sports and always have. I’ve always played sport, I’ve coached rugby for 12 years, I’ll literally watch and support anything that’s competitive. So whilst I am gutted that the Olympics is over for another 4 years, there’s the F1 Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, Premiership rugby starts in 7 days, and it’s just 12 days until the Paralympics starts.
I’m not sure where my obsession with sport came from (well, probably from my dad who played every sport available to him during his Army career and is a total sports super fan) but it has been a passion of mine for as far back as I can remember. Some of the fondest and clearest memories I have revolve around sports – recollections of primary school sports day, league-winning team celebrations, live fixtures at the most awe-inspiring stadia, spending time with my parents on the golf course. Whereas most people would make a bucket list featuring things they want to achieve in life or places they want to visit, mine is comprised solely of sports events that I want to attend.
In a former role as a Retail Manager, one of my staff members asked me why I didn’t work on Sundays and was it because I went to church. My response was that I didn’t work Sundays because that was the day I played rugby, and yes, in many ways rugby is my religion. The values that rugby can instil in a person are, I truly believe, as important as the values that others may find through their religious beliefs. Discipline, respect, sense of community, sportsmanship, teamwork, commitment and so much more. Sport can bring so much positivity to an individual, a team, a community and a nation. I also love that, for some people, being a sports fan and supporting a particular team is as inherent as the colour of their eyes or their regional accent. The phrase ‘die-hard’ holds such a relevance when you’re talking about a team’s dedicated fan-base.
There is such diversity in sport that I really do think there is something for everyone, either to take part in or as a supporter.
As difficult as it is to do, I’d say that these are my 3 best sporting memories so far (picking 3 wasn’t easy but I went with the 3 which I think about most often and which resonate most strongly in my heart):
1.Watching David Weir win the T54 5,000m at the London 2012 Paralympics (& seeing Oliveira beat Pistorius in the T44 200m final the same night) – I can’t imagine that I will ever experience a stadium atmosphere like that for the rest of my life. The support for Team GB was already at a ridiculous level after a hugely successful home Olympics and now a Paralympics that saw sell-out crowds and had the nation and world gripped. The noise was indescribable – I couldn’t even hear myself cheering and screaming in support (and I’m loud). That evening will stay with me forever and it’s a date I look back on frequently as it was like nothing else I have or will ever experience again.
Olympic Stadium with my mum and my brother
T44 200m Final
2.England Rugby winning the 2003 World Cup – with the final taking place in Australia, it was therefore shown in the morning in the UK and I had to go to work. I made sure my car radio was off and the second I finished work, I rushed home to watch the recorded match. When the game went to extra time, I don’t think I took a breath. I have never wanted a particular result so much in my entire life. To me (and I imagine to many others), Jonny Wilkinson’s kick happened in slow motion. It was truly amazing. When the team returned to the UK and had their victory parade in London, my dad and I skipped work/school and went to Trafalgar Square to see the end of the parade and see the trophy and players. Seeing people hanging out of the windows of the surrounding buildings waving flags and trying to get a good view and being in a crowd which was so jubilant and excited was simply amazing.
3.Watching the New England Patriots @ the Gillette Stadium – I was on my gap year in Canada and myself and 2 friends got tickets for the Patriots and drove to Boston for what was a really fun weekend. I’d been to an NBA game before but this was my first NFL game and I’d been a Patriots fan for years. It was December and for those who don’t know, Massachusetts in the winter is cold, very very cold. We also bought the tickets from a re-seller and they were standing tickets. So picture that it’s December, it’s bitterly cold and snowy, an American football game lasts around 4 hours, and we have standing tickets. But you know what, I couldn’t have cared less. It was incredible. So much fun and laughter with my friends and a truly wonderful experience to see the Patriots play at home.
December 2004 – Patriots with Rob and Max
I could talk forever about sports and I can’t wait to keep adding to my sporting memories – just booked flights to NZ for 2017 Lions and I’m ‘ants in your pants’ kind of excited for that! I’d love to hear about your favourite sporting moments and also if you have any suggestions for my sports event bucket list, then please leave a comment or tweet me @amiilau.