Letter from an Olympic athlete

Dear Boris and Dave or Tony and Ken

and dear Lord Sebastian – all of you men –

oh yes Tessa as well. And my dad and my mum

and the guy at the gym and, well, everyone

who helped me to practice and battle and train:

the lifting, the stretching, the running, the pain

The months and the years of hard preparation

the things I gave up for the sake of my nation:

early mornings and nights; no parties for me

as I struggled to gain a place in Team GB –

and I did. Alongside names well-known in the press:

Bradley, Sir Chris, Mo, Victoria and Jess

and all those who’d come first or second or third.

But think of the ones whose names you never heard

who, just like their team-mates ran, jumped, swam or pedalled

and came fourth or nineteenth, for which there are no medals:

achievement dismissed, effort not celebrated

Paid lip-service perhaps, we were not denigrated;

just politely ignored. None remember the faces

Of those who don’t make first, second or third places.

Spare a thought while you celebrate Britain’s Games glory

For four hundred and more who've a different story:

Who went silently back to the Village alone

And packed up their bags, said farewell and went home.

 

But now I conclude I could not have done better.

I just wanted to put all of this in a letter

Written in my home town to which I have returned

where there was no reception, not like those who earned

a handshake, a bus ride, TV interview

where they showed off their medals – and quite rightly too

I’m not bitter, I really applaud their success.

But I want you to know that I too did my best.

You won’t know my name, but at least there’s a hope

that you’ll read what I’m putting in this envelope

and addressing to you who brought us the Games.

At the top, on the right, just above all your names

is an ordinary stamp, one bearing the queen’s head,

which I’ll place in a post box that's still painted red.

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