I was asked the other day how it feels being a Team GB fan. Right now, I have to say it’s amazing and we are on cloud nine.
It hasn’t always been this way. As a Brit and a Team GB supporter, follower, and fan, I have been previously used to second best. We would celebrate making an Olympic final as though that were the Gold Medal itself.
In Atlanta 1996, Team GB brought in a measly 15 medals. One Gold, eight silvers, and six bronzes. Each were celebrated in exactly the same way. As were those who didn’t medal but made the final. It was a feeling we had been all too used to.
In terms of Tennis specifically, we were certainly used to falling short. Tim Henman was the closest we came to a major event winner. The Brit ended up never making a Slam final. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Henman was celebrated by fans (but not the media–does that sound familiar?) for reaching the semifinals of the French Open and the US Open (in the same year, 2004), even more exciting, he made the semifinals of Wimbledon four times (Yes, count them, four!). Henman produced a tennis medal in Atlanta, securing the silver medal in doubles with Neil Broad.
We had very little expectations; we were British, we were not as good as the rest of the world, and be honest world (I’m looking at you specifically USA), you laughed at us. There were certain sports that we would never be any good at right? Tennis, Cycling, Gymnastics, Rowing, Football (Soccer, and I’ll give you that one!) to name far too many.
To be honest, we mostly felt the same way–even when a young Scot burst onto the scenes in 2005 and played three amazing matches at Wimbledon, only to go down in round three in an epic five-set match that the Brit had been leading by two sets to love.
Roll forward to 2012 and Britain went into meltdown. July saw Andy Murray reach his first ever final at Wimbledon, and take a set from Roger Federer, only for the Swiss Maestro to prevail in four sets as the final ended under the closed roof (you’ll know that feeling this year, Flushing Meadows). There were tears, Murray was crying, we were crying (in fact, if I watch the speech I still well up now).
Less than three weeks later the 2012 Olympics began in London. Team GB had been steadily improving their performances. Funding had begun after Atlanta, meaning that finally sports people could afford to take part on a professional basis. In Sydney in 2000 Britain practically doubled the medal tally, walking away with 28 medals. Breaking the medal tally by two in Athens, Team GB were getting better, but still ranked down in the medal table. We had made it into the top 10–which, as Brits, we celebrated like it was in the top three. Britain was beside itself in 2008 in Bejing. Finishing fourth in the medal table, we had to blink and pinch ourselves. 47 medals, and 19 were Gold. Such an improvement in a few short years. Rowing & Cycling were leading the way, but we were still sadly lacking in the tennis department. A final was great, and we reveled in it, but we were experiencing a new feeling, we were not sure what it was.
London 2012, the home games. 29 Golds overall, third in the medal table, what was this feeling? Oh, yes, winning, we were winning things, and we were winning things we had not won before, or certainly not for a long time. Equestrian, Dressage, Boxing, Tennis, wait? Tennis? Yes, barely four weeks since losing to Federer in a very emotional final, Murray returned to the very same court, to face the very same opponent for the Gold Medal.
Rankings said the Swiss would win it, Wimbledon history said the Swiss would win it. The crowd had other ideas, and so did Murray, roaring his way to a straight sets obliteration of the then-World #1. We had finally won something big in tennis! We didn’t know what to do with ourselves, more pinching occurred. As it did when barely a couple of months later Britain had a Grand Slam champion, as Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in a thrilling final. Matchsticks were required to keep eyes open the following day as the time difference meant a very very early morning finish.
Wimbledon 2013 proved to be even more historic. Murray made his second Wimbledon final, and once again (as per many of his other Grand Slam finals) his opponent was Djokovic. The Serb was now the World #1, but the Brit was ranked two at the event and Djokovic was seeded one. They met in the final. Britain came to a standstill, the tennis fans (and let’s be honest the “oh tennis is on for two weeks, we’ll watch it” fans too) nervously dreamed.
After what felt like an eternity the Brit defeated the Serb in straight sets. Britain had a Wimbledon mens champion, 77 years since the last one. More pinching followed, we dare not go to sleep for fear of waking up and finding it was all a dream, but no it did happen.
We don’t talk about 2014.
Although the British #1 did not win any Slams in 2015, he was after something more historic. The Davis Cup. Up to this point, I had only watched the tour and the Slams on television, however I was privileged to attend and watch (and celebrate) each win GB had on the way to winning the biggest trophy I’ve ever seen! The feelings this brought were special, as I can always say that I was there, in Ghent, as that lob went over the top of David Goffin and we all stood as one, and cheered. That will be one of my JFK moments. I had to check several times it wasn’t a dream.
In 2016 the British #1 found himself in more Grand Slam finals (at the time of writing, the AO and FO final (FO for the very first time) both against the World #1, and the Wimbledon final–where Murray once again secured a Grand Slam title, and in straight sets. For the first time his opponent wasn’t either Federer, Djokovic, or Rafael Nadal). Once again this was amazing and the feelings of happiness and winning were back. Lots of pinching followed, and checking it wasn’t a dream.
No tennis player in singles history had ever won the Gold medal in back to back Olympic games. In Murray, though, Britain has a tennis player who likes to make or break history. After being selected to be the flag bearer at the Rio Olympics, Murray then had to prepare to play matches. He put us through the wringer again (as he often does, watching his matches sometimes should come with a blood pressure warning)
Having made the final, and not having to face his current nemesis (Djokovic), we were hoping that he would do it, get that Gold medal again. Once again, it was a night involving pacing, coffee, swearing (quietly), more coffee, hiding behind cushions, frustration and celebration (a standard Murray match!)
Once again the Brit had taken the Gold medal; we were shattered, but we didn’t care. Many of us had to work the following day, were very likely not very productive, but we really didn’t care. Team GB are winning things, they are still (as I write this) winning things, 66 medals and counting.
So, what is it like being a Team GB fan. Amazing, seeing them through the ups and the downs, and there have been plenty of downs. Brits have that winning feeling, and we are more than used to it now.