Spare us… Pietersen and Idowu should take a running jump
22:45 GMT, 7 August 2012
Officially, and in strictly professional terms, Phillips Idowu came up nine centimetres short in Tuesday's triple jump qualifiers. /08/07/article-0-146D8303000005DC-985_634x437.jpg” width=”634″ height=”437″ alt=”Agony: Idowu's Olympic experience was over after just three disappointing jumps on Tuesday ” class=”blkBorder” />
Agony: Idowu's Olympic experience was over after just three disappointing jumps on Tuesday
So when Idowu's Olympics ended roughly 36 minutes after it had begun, there was nothing left to do but slip away, to fade into the background. The man who wasn't there at London 2012.
Mr Invisible, UK Athletics tagged Idowu, yet despite his painfully brief involvement, he does have a legacy and it is one that the England and Wales Cricket Board would do well to heed.
The greatest talents often require the highest maintenance, but there must always be balance. Even before the Games started, with his disappearing act and vow of silence and non-compliance towards Charles van Commenee, head coach of UK Athletics, Idowu's ego was writing cheques his ability could no longer cash.
The time spent tracking him, checking on him, planning for him, tiptoeing around him, far outweighed the possible reward.
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Idowu, once the shining light of UK track and field, had been usurped by better performers, and the same may be true of Kevin Pietersen now.
He remains a brilliant cricketer, one of the best of modern times without doubt, but he is occupying a disproportionate amount of man hours in the offices of his employers and coaches.
As the recent Test matches that have been won by Pietersen's intervention are rare enough to be recalled individually, does he warrant greater consideration than the rest of the team
Others contribute more and demand less. So if Pietersen wants to be a freelance cricketer, that is his right, but it must be a path he travels alone. And it is a big old world out there, as Idowu is about to discover.
To be remembered as Team GB's gold medal pain in the neck at a feelgood Games is no triumph. At a time when the nation – and most certainly its athletes – were pulling together, Idowu made himself a man apart.
Having finished 14th in the triple jump qualification yesterday morning, he gave a mature and reasoned assessment of his injury problems and schedule over recent weeks. It all came too late.
The muted stadium reception was its own commentary. The people thought Idowu had messed everybody about. They thought he was selfish in his behaviour and wrong in failing to resolve his tort with Van Commenee. They wished he had come clean on his fitness sooner, too.
The same folk will not have warmed to Pietersen this week, either. This game of will-he, won't-he continue in Test cricket is unedifying. It makes one man appear bigger than the rest.
To use the occasion of a man-of-the-match performance at Headingley, albeit thoroughly deserved, to announce that the next Test may be his last is poor form. That match is a must-win for England, if they are to retain their prized status as world No 1. It is bigger than the future of any individual, even one as gifted as Pietersen.
If England got by without Freddie Flintoff, they can thrive without their talisman again, many will reason. And they will be right.
Centre of attention: But England will cope without Pietersen should he decide to call time on his international Test career
'I hope this issue with Kevin isn't going to be a distraction,' said England captain Andrew Strauss, but it already is.
Pietersen has hinted at issues within the dressing room, as well as disagreements with his employers. His words cut to the heart of team unity, in a year when it is going to be very easy for the positivity around English cricket to evaporate, if a home series is lost to South Africa with a tough tour of India next.
Gold medal hope: But Idowu flopped at the fist hurdle
The second half of 2012 could be extremely difficult. Cracks have appeared since the dismal series against Pakistan earlier this year and Pietersen's personal sense of priorities are no boon to Strauss's team doctrine.
England travelled to a boot camp to prepare for the Ashes tour in 2010. Strauss said it would have been very difficult if any individual player had not bought into the shared philosophy.
Pietersen now appears unwilling to buy into next season's visit of New Zealand, if it coincides with the Indian Premier League. He wants a unique arrangement, as good as operating as a freelance bat for hire.
And what if a team-mate requested parity or a similar, part-time contract How would it leave Strauss's precious group mentality then
In a different way, Idowu also wanted to go it alone. Considering that an athlete has to let drugs testers know of his whereabouts almost hourly, the idea that UK Athletics had no means of finding him seems a little far-fetched.
He had certainly stopped co-operating, though, and the extent of his readiness for competition remained a mystery until made quite obvious in the Olympic Stadium. It is not as if Idowu took the place of another athlete, because Great Britain possesses no triple jumper in his class, but he did make a drama out of a crisis, he did give the impression that of 541 members of Team GB, there was one at the pinnacle demanding special care.
And that is not how sport works. Not at the Olympics, certainly. And not in Test cricket, either.
There will always be players who need a cuddle, or a rocket, some who the coach will barely have in his orbit from one year to the next, others who will be a constant drain on his time. But attention must bear relation to talent.
Sir Alex Ferguson would probably have accepted a lot more aggravation from Paul Scholes, but found Lee Sharpe more trouble than was necessary.
Pietersen has been worth a whole lot of bother for England, but has been indulged accordingly. There comes a time, however, when – like Idowu – he needs to be told to take a running jump.
Don't let cynics take shine of Andy's gold
He didn't care if he won. That is the cynical view. Roger Federer, 17 Grand Slam titles to his name, had no great desire for Olympic gold, so Andy Murray got the better of him.
There is only one problem with that. On the Friday before losing to Murray, Federer played an Olympic semi-final match against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina. He lost the first set, but fought back to claim the second on a tie-break after 67 minutes.
Flying the flag: Murray powered to a straight-sets victory over Roger Federer to win Olympic gold on Sunday
What happened next, though, suggests Federer cared more for a medal than anyone could have imagined. The deciding set became the longest played by either man, lasting 36 games and 17 minutes under three hours. Federer won it, 19-17.
Now, if he was utterly unconcerned about the Olympic tennis tournament, this was a bizarre way of showing it. It would have been easy to get the match done in straight sets and depart that day. Easy and quick.
There was certainly no need to hang around for 230 minutes breaking his neck to make a final in which he had no interest.
/08/07/article-0-14665B05000005DC-927_634x413.jpg” width=”634″ height=”413″ alt=”Outclassed: Federer didn't have an answer to the brilliance of Murray ” class=”blkBorder” />
Outclassed: Federer didn't have an answer to the brilliance of Murray
After Federer's semi-final, nobody can say that the Olympics means nothing to the greats of tennis. And it puts Murray's achievement into perspective, too, as he defeated Federer in straight sets.
Without doubt, this can be his springboard to Grand Slam success. The Olympic final was no walkover and if Murray made it look that way, it is to his credit.
London never succeeded Vancouver
The Worst Olympics In The World column was quietly dropped by The Guardian this week. The nit-picking daily missives of Harrison Mooney, columnist for the Vancouver Sun, did not seem so relevant when it is now plain that London 2012 is a storming success.
Mooney was employed to bitch about our Olympic shortcomings in tongue-in-cheek revenge for the poor reviews of Vancouver 2010 in the British press.
Canadians have always believed the negativity was an attempt to boost the standing of London by comparison. After all, they say, it wasn't as if anybody died (no, sorry, scratch that).
Sadly, Mooney's premise was flawed on two counts. Firstly, he did not point out any failing that had not already been highlighted in Great Britain, each flaw scrutinised long before the world arrived.
And, secondly – and whisper this, because Canadians do not know it, and we really do not want to hurt their feelings – we never felt London succeeded Vancouver anyway. Vancouver hosted a winter Games. That's like comparing Disney on Ice to The Beatles at Shea Stadium, as far as a summer Games is concerned. We think we're following Beijing, and Rio de Janeiro are next.
Sochi World, the promotional centre for the 2014 winter Games based in Kensington Gardens, is now letting people in for free due to the lack of interest. Vancouver, we hardly knew ye.
Fergie holds key to United
The battle for control of Manchester United will not be won without the support of Sir Alex Ferguson. Yet those who wish to wrest the club from the hands of the Glazer family do not have a clue how to get the main man onside.
Wish you were here Rooney and Vidic front a press conference in Gothenburg on Tuesday
Those ill-fated Red Knights announced that Ferguson backed them, causing him great professional embarrassment and forcing an angry denial, after which he was ever more a company man.
Now, at the point when the owners again look vulnerable, dissenters have alienated Ferguson further, by claiming he stood to gain personally from the Glazers' business plan.
Ferguson's position from here will grow more entrenched and he will carry the majority of the fans, particularly if he is successful in luring Robin van Persie from Arsenal.
Andy Green, a financial analyst and leader in the anti-Glazer movement, issued a grovelling apology to Ferguson for doubting his motives. He must hope the most influential figure at Manchester United is not one to bear a grudge. Ah well.
It was very significant that, after completing his 400 metre semi-final, the fastest man over that distance in the world, Kirani James of Grenada, was only looking for one competitor. When he found Oscar Pistorius, they exchanged their athletes' name bibs.
Icon: Pistorius' presence at the Olympic Games has divided opinion
Pistorius is the first double amputee to run in an Olympics on synthetic blades, and some are against him. Michael Johnson, the greatest single lap man in history, thinks Pistorius should remain a Paralympian. So Kirani's gesture was part-endorsement, but more straightforward admiration for a remarkable man and his achievements.
Compare this to the attitude of Theresa Edwards, chef de mission of the United States team, when asked about Pistorius's presence. Astonishingly, she had never heard of him. 'I've been in meetings,' she said. On planet Zog, apparently
No brotherly sprint in triathlon
/08/07/article-2185051-146D822B000005DC-840_634x382.jpg” width=”634″ height=”382″ alt=”Brothers in arms: Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee celebrate gold and bronze respectively after Tuesday's triathlon” class=”blkBorder” />
Brothers in arms: Alistair and Jonny Brownlee celebrate gold and bronze respectively after Tuesday's triathlon
ITU officials said they would disqualify the pair if they tried to stage a show of fraternal unity and Jonny avoided confrontation by winning bronze to Alastair's gold.
Even so, it would appear that the ITU subscribe more to the words of another famous sportsman, the legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi. 'If winning isn't everything,' he said, 'why do they keep score'
Don't mess with Ainslie
All that testosterone at the track, the women boxers, the raw power and animosity in the Velodrome, who would have thought sailing was the sport most likely to end in an Olympic-sized tear-up
Yet there was real niggle between Ben Ainslie and his rival, Jonas Hogh-Christensen of Denmark, down in Weymouth, just as there always was between Ainslie and old adversary Robert Scheidt of Brazil.
Feel the fourth: Ainslie won gold on Sunday and thus being crowned the greatest sailor in Olympic history
'You don't want to make me angry,' said Ainslie to Hogh-Christensen, pointing to his chest and gesturing to signify the three gold medals he had already won. He was right, too. Once riled, Ainslie was brilliant, and has now added his fourth gold.
It is just as well he is only let loose on sailboats. He could be quite the threat to world peace with his finger on the button of a nuclear submarine.
Keystone Kops or The Sweeney
As we know, Football Association hearings do not require the burden of proof. Yet now there is a suggestion the FA will demand telephone records to get to the bottom of what passed between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand.
Is this a proper investigation or not One moment the FA needs less clarity than a public court to make its judgment, the next it is demanding personal information that even the police could not obtain when bringing the case.
As Terry was tried in a magistrates' court for an offence with a maximum sanction of 2,500, there was a limit to how far the Metropolitan Police could go into his personal affairs. So why could a hearing working merely on the balance of probabilities assume extraordinary power The FA should make its mind up: Keystone Kops or The Sweeney