Have you ever stood next to someone when they realised they’d just won an Olympic individual gold medal?
I have, now.
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl was in the mixed zone after her test when Isabell Werth – her greatest competitor for the individual gold – rode her test. Finished with the German press, she moved along to her English interview, but understandably, she was somewhat distracted by watching her compatriot on the television beside us.
We stopped trying to interview her. It was only fair.
Nonetheless, my phone was on the little plastic tray in front of her recording… so I now have a live recording of what happens when someone finds out they are almost certainly the Olympic champion.
The first part is coherent – “it’s very exhausting to watch… now I’m really nervous, not when I entered the arena”. Then Isabell’s test finishes. Jessica goes silent. She wanders away for a moment. She’s back.
Isabell’s score comes up on screen. You can hear Jessica’s gasp. Then her whole face dissolves into tears. She’s not the only one.
We all sort of laugh, the release of tension.
The awful part was that none of us could touch her, comfort her, celebrate with her. I felt terrible she wasn’t with her team, with someone she was bubbled with, to hit that incredible high with the people who had worked for it alongside her for decades.
“I wish I could give you a hug,” said deputy venue media manager Amy Powell. We all did.
Jessica was swept away to join her team and moments later, we knew that Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin was the bronze medallist. Somehow, my H&H colleague Polly and I managed not to fall into each other’s arms.
This Games… it’s a celebration of hope, of joy, of the power of sport. There are moments you forget it’s not a normal Olympics… and then you get told off for standing too close to someone or you look up and see the empty stands – or you stand with someone on the cusp of greatness and can’t reach out to give them the most basic human reassurance. It is wonderful… and heartbreaking at the same time.
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