This month Compleat Golfer’s playing editor looks at the experience of representing your country at the Olympic Games
Good luck to the men and women flying our flag. It will be an event that creates lifelong memories
Well, we got there – eventually! After an entire year of suspense the Olympic Games are happening in Tokyo. And what an incredible event it could turn out to be.
I had the honour of representing South Africa in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 edition and I can honestly say it was the best sporting experience of my life. I have never been so close to so many iconic sporting personalities – ever. Within the first two days I had seen Novak Djokovic, Usain Bolt and Serena Williams. How can you top that kind of star-spotting?
People often ask me what was the best part about the whole experience. The answer is quite simple really, on reflection: it has to be the athletes’ Olympic village. It’s the epicenter for the entire thing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Rafael Nadal or Brandon Stone, everyone is in the village. You get to meet all these different sportspeople, icons in their own arena, in an environment where they are relaxed and having a great time. The energy in that place was indescribable.
It’s the only event in the world where global stars from nearly 30 sports get to interact at the same time. Sure, at a golf tournament like The Open Championship for instance you’ll bump into the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and so on. At a tennis event like Wimbledon, the players ranked in the 100s will get to rub shoulders with the likes of Nadal and Djokovic and Serena. But at the Olympics everyone is in the same village. It’s eye-opening and mind-boggling at the same time.
From a golfing perspective it was quite weird. Everyone who was there kind of had the golf at priority level No 2. Our first priority was to take in the overall experience of the Games. We all wanted to watch as many events as we could. We wanted to meet as many people as we could. So the tournament was actually one of the most relaxed environments I’d ever come across. But I feel Tokyo will be very different.
Japan is such a proud golfing nation and they have been for decades. So you can expect the spectators to flood to the course if they are allowed to attend. In mid-June a decision still had to be made regarding crowds. Having Hideki Matsuyama win The Masters at Augusta has only added to the excitement of the event. That, along with the likes of McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau really makes for an exciting spectacle. I can’t wait to see what happens.
And after the year South African golf has been having, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a medal make its way back to our shores. So good luck to the men and women flying our flag. It will be an event that creates lifelong memories. It took golf about 100 years to get back into the Olympics but now that it’s in again, it’s hopefully there to stay.
As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be doing everything I can to get ranked high enough to be in the selection mix for the next Olympics in Paris.