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14THESWORDJANUARY2015REPORTSTheRomeOlympics96CongratulationsonbeingselectedfortheIrishOlympicFencingTeamtheletterbegan.Pleaseacknowledgeyouracceptancebyreturnenclosingachequefor20or20ifyouwouldliketostaythreeweeksinsteadoftwo.Yourblazerandhatwillcostafurther.TheIrishAmateurFencingAssociationwasnotawashwithunds.Isoldmy937Rileyor38andmyparentswhowerenotwell-ofgenerouslystumpeduptherestandboughttheirrsttelevisionsetsotheycouldwatchtheirboymarchroundtheOlympicStadium.AtleasttheightwasprovidedbyAerLingus.TheIrishepeeistshadqualiedbecausewehadbeatenEnglandIrelandandScotlandintheQuadrangularTournamentheldthatyearinDublin.WewerentasgoodasthatsoundsEnglandhadenteredaBteambutinthatcompetitionweallencedwellaboveourusuallevel.AndIhadauniquedayinmyotherwisemodestencingcareerwinningnineoutonineboutsmyepeeseemingtobeourincheslongerthanmyopponents.IwasagooddeallesssuccessulwhenwegottoRome.TheIAFFaswellasbeingperpetuallypennilesswasotencontroversial.IntheHelsinkiGamestheyenteredateamoourencersagainstthewishesotheIrishOlympicCouncilwhoreusedtoletthemparticipateintheopeningceremony.TheyonlyoundaccommodationintheOlympicVillagethankstotheinterventionoCharlesdeBeaumontcaptainotheBritishsquad.In96wewerelegitimateanddulymarchedroundthemagnicentOlympicStadiumwiththerestotheIrishathletes.OurstarwasRonnieDelaneyabrilliantmodestour-minutemilerwhohadwongoldinthemetresinMelbourneouryearsbeore.In96hecompetedonlyinthe8metresbutwaseliminatedinthequarter-nal.RomeandTokyoouryearslaterwasthelastotheinnocentgames.Securitywasminimal.IntheOlympicVillagetherewerearound3athletesbuttheorganisersoundtheywereserving4ateverysitting.Theydidntseemtomind.TwoOxordriendsominewhohaddrivenouttoRomespentahappydayinsidethevillageonecarryingmyencingbagtheotherwearingmyblazer.Ihadtheocialpass.AllthatchangedatertheterriblemassacreoelevenIsraeliathletesbyterroristsattheMunichgamesin97.Theothergreatdiferencewastheopeningandclosingceremonies.NovastlyexpensiveandirrelevantcabaretwithpopstarsparachutingQueensdancersandreworks.Wejustwalkedroundapackedstadiumandthatseemedgoodenoughatthetime.NowthecostotheextravaganzaswouldundveyearsoathleticsinmostThirdWorldnations.TheencingtookplaceinRomesEURsuburbinthePalazzodeiCongressiasplendidbuildingwithpistesandseatingor3spectators.RomeinAugustwas8degreesintheshadeandthePalazzowhilecoolwasnotair-conditioned.Manyencerswereafectedbycramp.TheIrishteamwerenotinvolvedlongenoughorthistobeaproblem.Wewerealleliminatedaswere6percentotheencersthereintherstround.Wealsowentoutintherstroundotheteamevent.OurbestperormerGeorgeCarpenterwasalsotheoldestmemberotheteamaspritelyyearoldromCountyCork.MyonlyconsolationwasdeeatingmuchtohisandmysurprisetheSwissnationalchampion.AndbeatingChristiandOriolaintheteamevent.DOriolawasadazzlingourtimesworldchampionandtwiceOlympicgoldmedallist-butatoilnotepee.HewasaccompaniedbyhisownchantingentourageDOriola-la-la-la-laandwasinAllanJayswordsthebestIeveraced...onhisownthatboy...couldhavebeenalmstarverygood-looking.EarlyeliminationmeantIhadplentyotimetowatchtherestotheencing.TheBritishepeeistsdidexceptionallywellwinningsilverintheteamandindividualevents.IknewthemallwellandwasagreatadmirerotheirtwostarsAllanJayandBillHoskynsstillthemostsuccessulBritishencersothepost-warera.Theywerebothlet-handersbothormercaptainsoOxordintenselycompetitiveonthepisteandverygoodriendsofit.Allanwassoliddeterminedandabletoencewithhisootalmostonthebacklinewithoutlosinghiscomposure.InRomeIneversawhiminhisopponentshalothepiste.IntheindividualeventhecameagonisinglyclosetoGoldlosing-4toDelnoinaboutthatwouldhavegivenhimGoldandthentoDelnoagain-inabarrageorthetitle.Thenaltookveandahalenthrallinghourstocomplete.DelnosboutagainstAchtentookminutesiAchtenoBelgiumhadwonAllanwouldhavetakentheGold.ThatboutendedinCharlesdeBeaumontswordswithadevastatingstop-hitromDelnothatickedoutlikeaviperstongue.StillitwasabrilliantresultorAllanJayagreatcompetitorwhosaidIdidntsleepproperlyorthreeandahalyearswhenhewasquiteimproperlynotselectedortheMunichOlympics.HiscloseriendBillHoskynswasacompletecontrast.AnOldEtonianBillwasanelegantandapparentlylanguidencerteasedbyAllanasLordFauntleroy.AnAmericandescribedhisstyleassuavesosuaveitspainulatthe98WorldChampionshipswherehewontheepeeGoldmedalhebroughtalonghisowncampbedanddozedofbetweenbouts.Orsolegendhasit.InRomealthoughhecameseventhintheoileventhewentoutinthequarternalsotheepee.Ofthepistehewasthemostmodestandcharmingomen.Rome96overyearsagostillremainsthepinnacleoBritishencingachievement.ItwasanentirelyamateurworldthenanditseemsclearthatBritishencinghasnotadaptedtotheorganisationalandundingdemandsothemodernproessionalera.WhatelsedoIrememberTheyoungCassiusClaywinningGoldinthenalothelight-heavyweighteventsurroundedbyhiswhiteentourageoGoodOlBoysromKentuckywhomhewastoshakeofwhenhebecameMuhammadAli.LivioBerrutiwinningthemetresnalwearingdarkglasses.AbebeBikilarunningbareootupatorch-litAppianwayintheRomaneveningtotakethemarathonGold.AndanaudienceobligatoryoranIrishteamalthoughmyProtestantorebearswouldnothaveapprovedwiththePope.Greatdaysgreatdays.SirChristopherBlandcaptainedtheOxordUniversityencingteamin1961.HeisaormerchairmanotheBBCBTandtheRoyalShakespeareCompany.HisfrstnovelAshesintheWindwaspublishedbyHeadoZeusinautumn2014.BillHoskyns963AllanJay99bySirChristopherBland