Two Great Britain superstars take different paths to glory

By Chris Longo and Colin Brown

LONDON, UK  — Just a few months ago, Bradley Wiggins was known almost exclusively within cycling circles. Andy Murray was already well known outside of tennis circles.

At the London Olympics, however, the roles have reversed – at least for now.

After a historic Tour De France victory two weeks ago, Wiggins became the first Brit to win the world’s most famous cycling race. Wiggins turned Great Britain’s growing cycling craze into full blown hysteria Wednesday by taking gold in the Men’s Time Trial race. The 44K course was completed in 50 minutes and 39 seconds, good for Wiggins 7th Olympic medal, the most ever for a British athlete. Wiggins’ victory in London has cemented his legacy as one of the country’s most decorated Olympians ever and could potentially be the defining moment of the games for the home country.

“That was the best British athletic performance of all-time,” said Gerry Bruton of London. Since the Tour De France finished a week before the Olympics, many fans have merged the two events as one shining athletic achievement.

Just a few weeks before, a teary-eyed Andy Murray was faced with the burden of trying to become the first Brit since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon. He had to address a packed Centre Court crowd after he bowed out in finals to Roger Federer.

British cycling fans anxiously wait for 2012 Tour De France champion Bradley Wiggins at the Men’s Road Race in Surrey, UK (Photo by Olivia Arbogast)

“There are mixed emotions,” said Murray. “Most of them are negative. The reaction from the crowd was great. I felt like I was playing for the nation and I couldn’t quite do it.”

Murray, born in Scotland, has been criticized in Great Britain since he made anti-England football comments a few years back. A magical run to the finals at Wimbledon, coupled with Murray’s emotional post-match interview has revived his image, but when it comes to national heroes, Wiggins still takes the crown.“[After winning gold] Wiggins cycled back down to greet the real fans, not the wealthy at the finish line,” said cycling fan Jenny Roe. “He has the common touch. [Wiggins] is a London boy so he’s like a local hero.”

For Murray, a guy who has been on the brink of greatness so many times, a chance at beating Federer for a gold medal at Wimbledon could define his career. The Olympics aren’t a Grand Slam and nobody pretends it is. On a stage where Murray has faced as much adversity and scrutiny as any tennis player has ever had to endure, a victory at the All-England Club would be a second chance at redemption.

Murray will get another crack at a title on grass and on Sunday he’ll make a case for the best moment of the 2012 games for Great Britain, but for now it’s Wiggins — a pioneer for the sport of cycling in his home country — who stands alone as the late-summer hero.

Olympics comes full circle for David Chin

Photo by Hans K. Meyer
David Chin stands on the street outside the CoSport Olympic ticket pickup location Monday, July 30. Chin has attended the last 10 Olympic games.

Walking down the street, you would never notice David Chin. He doesn’t cover himself in pins like most Olympic fans and he doesn’t wear his country’s name like a badge across his chest. His looks don’t scream Olympic super fan, but his history with the Olympic games stretches over 35 years.

Chin’s Olympic adventure started back in his home country of Canada during the 1976 Montreal games. Since then, Chin has caught what he calls the Olympic fever as he has now attended 10 Olympic games as he adds London to his list.

“It’s not just the sports. It’s the atmosphere, the people, the friendliness,” he said. “Every (athlete) is willing to spend the time to talk with you. It’s amazing how the games can change people’s attitudes (to others).”

Chin has seen more than just events at the Olympics. He usually buys about six to seven tickets for each Olympics, but has seen his fair share of Opening Ceremonies, sitting in on Seoul, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens’ ceremonies.

“This is a once in a life time experience,” he said. “Most athletes may only get one chance. It only happens every four years, or two if you count the winter Olympics.”

For Chin, the Olympics has truly become a family affair. Chin’s daughter has worked at a handful of Olympic games and is in graduate school training to work for the IOC.

She started as a volunteer in the 2010 games as a hostess for an Olympic family, Chin said. Her host was the president of the Ethics Commission, and he and his wife didn’t speak English. His daughter was a perfect hostess becasue she speaks five languages.

Chin has no plans to stop his Olympic trips. He said he plans for months before the games and works out his holidays to be during the games so he won’t miss a single day.

He has spent much of his life traveling or living in other countries.

“I’m Canadian, living a lot of my time in Hong Kong, driving a French rental car from Paris and now in the United Kingdom,” he joked.

No one can attend just one Olympics, he said.

“This will not be someone’s first and only Olympics,” he said. “They say you catch a bug. You have no choice but to come back.”