On Saturday night, in the midst of the DDOS attack crisis I took up the kind invite of my friend Mark, to escape for a few hours to the British Athletics Writers Awards dinner. If nothing else to provide my techie team with a welcome break from “is it up yet” phone calls.
I’ve always been a huge fan of track and field, so the prospect of sitting on a table with Olympic Gold Medalist Marlon Devonish (who won the male athlete of the year award) and seeing Christine Ohuruogu and all the others was too good to turn down.
It was actually quite strange to be there; as this was a proper industry awards ceremony rather than an event with all and sundry there, so I felt a little bit of a fish out of water. Plus I love athletics, so many of my heros were there. I’ll always remember going to the Channel 4 music hall of fame awards a couple of years ago; while everyone was amazed to see Ozzy Osbourne, The Who and other rock stars – I was star struck by seeing Michael ‘19.32s’ Johnson walk past. So you can imagine how I felt about being at these awards.
Thankfully though, my love of athletics saved me. When I was a teenager I could quote world records in the way I can now quote credit card interest rates (in other words I’m a bit of a statto). As Mark was aware of this, he’d try and catch me out by testing me in front of the athletes; e.g. “Marlon, this is Martin, he’s an athletics nerd, go on Martin what’s Marlon’s PB?” luckily I could oblige by saying “I think it’s 10.06 set this year, and his Gold Medal winning 4 x 100m relay team did it in 38.07”. It certainly helped break the ice, though some people did look at me as if I was Data from Star Trek.
Unfortunately my statto knowledge let me down at exactly the wrong moment. Abi Oyepitan is the only British woman since Kathy Cook (I believe) to have been in an Olympic sprint final. And she walked up to me and went “oh wow, it’s the money man, you saved me £500 and my sister £600!”
The problem was, I didn’t recognize her (I’m much better with numbers than faces), partly because I’d always imagined she was about 6ft tall, yet actually she’s quite petite. She then said her name was Abi, and I instantly thought of her last name but didn’t say it. And then I told her I knew who she was, and she wouldn’t believe me; at which point I drew a blank when trying to recall any stats about her career – even though I’ve remembered since.
A great night…. Extra fruit for the athletes.
It was a three course meal, but what I found amusing was that the athletes on my table were all given a fourth course fruit salad. Then again their bodies are temples, whereas mine is a bit more like a derelict old church. Yet training didn’t stop a few of them enjoying a few drinks (I may’ve engaged in one or two myself) and then getting up on the dance floor.
Overall a fantastic night. The dedication our athletes show is immense, and having met and chatted to some of the people working at UK Athletics and focusing on 2012… I’ve got a feeling there’ll be a good few golds coming our way.