ANDY DUNN COLUMN: Team events seem to lift athletes to greater heights because of the responsibility they feel to each other. And in Team GB’s glorious performances, it seems mixed team events lifted them to even greater heights
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Not for the first time, Sir Andy Murray had it right.
“How good are mixed events in sport? They are a huge asset and so many sports miss a trick not supporting/promoting them more.”
Having said that, he would think this, wouldn’t he?
After all, like the rest of us with Team GB affiliations, Murray had been captivated by the Saturday successes of the triathletes and swimmers.
The victories in the mixed triathlon relay event and the mixed medley relay were gold medals for the ages. Modern medals.
Men’s and women’s teams should not be separate entities.
One of the most joyous clips from Tokyo was the film of silver medallist Kye Whyte cheering fellow cyclist Bethany Shriever to a BMX gold medal and then scooping her up in his arms.
On the road and in the pool yesterday, the mutual support between the men’s and women’s team was even more tangible.
And it made for compelling viewing.
As she slipped off the wall and then trailed her male rivals, we did not know how good Kathleen Dawson’s backstroke leg was until we saw the time and saw how it gave Adam Peaty and James Guy the chance to win Team GB into a lead after three legs.
But we knew how good Anna Hopkin’s freestyle finale was – it resisted the charge of, among others, the great Caeleb Dressel.
In setting a new world record, this was a history-making swim from a history-making team.
Peaty would go on to speak about the ‘belief’ in this Team GB swimming squad and that is what underpinned the performances of Dawson and Hopkin.
The swimmers are vying with the triathletes to go down as the stand-out Team GB performers at Tokyo 2020.
And in Jessica Learmonth, Jonny Brownlee, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee, Great Britain might just have had their team of the Games.
Just to listen to these triathletes throughout the competition has been an infectious pleasure.
And they inspired each other as Yee’s final leg saw Team GB take gold by 14 seconds.
The poor performance of the Team GB rowing squad has already ignited the familiar debate about funding.
But triathlon is surely a sport that should be financially ring-fenced … at worst.
It received £7million in financial backing for the Tokyo Olympic cycle and justified every penny of it.
And as, unlike rowing, it is available to the masses – as long as we build rather than close down more swimming pools – then it is hard to think of an Olympic sport that deserves the National Lottery cash as much as triathlon does.
But in Tokyo, it was not about the money. It was about the camaraderie, the bond between athletes.
Team events seem to lift athletes to greater heights because of the responsibility they feel to each other.
And in Team GB’s glorious performances, it seems mixed team events lifted them to even greater heights.
Not for the first time, Sir Andy had it right.