Athletes, stop being so nice

Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield were tumbling towards an Olympic finish. Three faultless dives in the 10m synchronised event left the Brits on the brink of a place on the podium.

But Waterfield kicked too high and the two looked more out of sync than Andy Carroll and Liverpool.

Any chance of a medal was gone. Questions were asked, namely how did Daley refrain from shoving Waterfield into a couple of potato sacks, weighing him down with bricks and rolling him off the top board.

There wouldn't be many points for Waterfield's dive - he'd probably make too much of a splash - but Daley might feel better.

Instead, Daley merely said: "We win as a team and we lose as a team."

Clearly, Daley has never played in an office sports team before.

I once took part in an office table tennis competition, where I narrowly lost to a former Singapore national junior player (all right, my opponent was a former Singapore national junior female player).

A teammate didn't speak to me for a week.

His fury and contempt suggested I had been caught in a barn with farmyard animals.

The punishment did not fit the alleged crime. (We lost 5-0 in the singles and got progressively worse, so my opening defeat had little bearing on the overall result. By the fifth singles match, I seem to recall, the opponent was a toddler wearing an arm sling and an eye patch and still won convincingly).

Still, I was despatched to the doghouse for losing an office table tennis game.

The unfortunate Waterfield fluffs a dive, costs his teammate an Olympic medal and gets a pat on the back and a heavy dose of sympathy.

That's far too sporting and not really representative of the wider community.

But then, synchronised divers have always been too forgiving and tolerant. Like gymnasts, they display a superhuman patience for the world's most impatient critics.

Couch potatoes lie back on the sofa, balancing a bag of potato chips on one side of the stomach and a beer on the other, alternating their utterances of disgust with farts and burps, only to sit up suddenly and shout at the TV: "What a crap dive that was. Call that synchronised? The other one's toes touched the water first."

Some of these armchair critics haven't touched their own toes since primary school.

Yet, stick them in front of a TV during the diving or the gymnastics and they cry: "What sort of dismount was that? The feet didn't land together. Rubbish. Got no standard. Oh no, I've sat on my nachos."

Daley and Waterfield should grab a microphone and say: "From this point on, we'll accept criticism only from those who can perform a synchronised toe-touching."

But they are too polite. These boys won't even point a finger at each other. My wife wants to point a gun at me every time we lose a game of piggy in the middle - and our opponent is our four-year-old daughter.

Extraordinarily, the forgiveness has extended beyond the diving at London 2012.

Blame game

While an outraged Australian nation jumped on James "The Missile" Magnussen after a below-par leg cost the "unbeatable" 4x100m freestyle relay team a medal, his teammates refused to play the blame game.

Everyone else did.

I'm writing this column in Australia, where The Missile is going down in the jingoistic media like, well, a missile.

His nickname obviously doesn't help. It has rather definite, strong connotations of speed, power and efficiency.

If he was called "The Tentative Tugboat" or "The Plodding Paper Plane", he might have slinked off the hook.

Instead, Magnussen has endured the usual mad, manic headlines... The Missile crashes and burns, The Missile misses target, The Missile Crisis brings the US and the Soviet Union to the brink of war (they get really carried away with their sports headlines Down Under).

And still his swimming teammates refuse to down The Missile.

Even though there was a medal at stake, they refused to throw tantrums. I don't know how they didn't throw chairs at each other.

There are certainly enough empty chairs at London 2012 venues to go around. (Unless Singaporean parents need them to watch their children compete. Those parents should be throwing chairs at officials).

The Olympics are chugging along, but the athletes are being too considerate to each other. So here's hoping for some sulks, shouting and slanging matches in the coming days, just to add a dash of spice.

And if The Missile doesn't explode at someone, he should think seriously about changing his nickname.


This article was first published in The New Paper.

Become a fan on Facebook