Garside at the Games: Olympic champions make good bus companions
The people you meet on a bus eh? So there I am exhausted by the effort of covering the Copacabana cycling beat for two days when a dopey photographer plonks herself next to me.
Believe me that is the worst thing that can happen on a bus full of media workers. I’m there with my notepad and pen inconveniencing nobody while Ms Photographer comes laden with lenses, tripods, camera cases and sundry items without which no pics would ever see the light of day. Or so she explained.
“Use your iPhone, love. Works for me. And you won’t have anybody’s eye out as you take your seat,” I said, pleased with my smug putdown. “Where you from?” she asked. And so it began, an exchange that would eventually identify my new travel companion as the women’s Olympic road race champion from the 1992 Barcelona Games.
It just goes to show you should never judge a book by her cover. It is difficult to reconcile the 51-year-old cyclist-turned-photographer with the heroine that had Australia swooning when she returned the first Aussie gold medal of those games. Cathy Watt didn’t need me to tell her that. And what a hoot she turned out to be, taking my initial hauter with a pinch of sodium chloride.
I was quickly on to Google to verify her story, and there she was rocking the cropped blonde look. She was now my discovery and I wasted no time in alerting my chums in the seats about me, taking ownership of her story as if I had crossed the line first.
Again she smiled, no doubt having spent a post-Olympic life running into clots like me at every turn. Tool that I am, I told her to Google me, to look out for a picture of yours truly throwing a James Bond pose in a dinner suit alongside Australia’s ex-F1 driver Mark Webber. I thought the Aussie connection would swing it. She was kind enough to say she would. That’s what champions do.
The good, the bad and the ugly
It happened last night, the tap on the shoulder about which the alarmists had been over briefing since the dawn of Brazil time, and I had been dreading. Don’t resist. Give them whatever you have. It is better to walk away minus possessions than to become another Rio crime statistic.
“Is this yours, sir?” asked the Rio native in perfect English, holding my smart phone aloft. I had done my party trick, left it on the restaurant table. Pre-Olympic expertise had this lawless brigand making off with my valuable hardware while clumping me on the back of the head.
In truth the majority in Rio go about their business just like you and I, the good, the bad, the ugly distributed in much the same proportion as Blighty. If they can, Rio man and woman will do you a good turn not bad, unless of course, the realities of life in the margins have brutalised the good out of them.