It was with confused feelings I watched Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson move to the green on the 18th hole during that golden middle Sunday, the next couple of shots deciding the top two medals. On the one hand it was a win-win situation. My native country Britain was guaranteed a medal and my adopted country Sweden, courtesy of my partner, would pick up the other. The Brit in me won out, favouring Rose, but not without a tinge of sadness when he finally triumphed. That victory would have meant so much more to Sweden, doubling their gold medal tally. A week later and they finally doubled it, ending on two golds to our twenty seven.
There's something about the Olympics that provokes a rash of good-natured patriotism every four years. Admittedly it's easy to support Team GB when Adam Peaty is destroying world records, Katherine Grainger is standing on a podium for the fifth consecutive Olympics, and the combined might of Laura Trott and Jason Kenny would make the top twenty in the medal table.
Rio is our best Olympics since 1908, better even than London in total medals. It took a few days but after that slow start the medals didn't so much roll as pour in, peaking on middle Sunday and not really letting up. Second place in the table seemed an impossibility, and yet there Great Britain ends. It's perplexing to remember the rumbles of discontent after the first few days when we hadn't stormed every single event a British athlete turned up in. That complaints could register only days in suggest we don't realise quite how good we have it when it comes to the Olympics.
That's been hammered home this year watching with my Swedish partner for the first time. The Olympics with her brings an entirely new perspective. Amidst all the golden glory, I found myself glued to the skeet final on the middle Saturday, watching through fingers in the hope Sweden might snatch a medal. For anyone wondering they did, a silver that made up 20% of their entire haul at that point.
For Team GB it would have been an excellent little side note, slightly lost amongst the three golds that came that day, and the five the day after. For most countries, it's not a question of how many medals were won today, it's how many they have the Olympics have finished. As it is, Max Whitlock managed as many golds in an afternoon as the entire Swedish team did in a fortnight. It's not a slight on Sweden. Other countries aren't underachieving as much as Britain is performing astonishingly well.
Planning a viewing schedule for most countries is a very different process. It involves looking at the select number of medal hopes and making sure you're around to follow them when they eventually make their appearance. It's not like watching Britain in the track cycling where I can sit through pretty much any session and expect to see world records and medals galore. Or Britain anywhere really after we captured at least one gold in fifteen individual sports. We have so many chances to win, so many fabulously talented, well-supported and hard-working athletes it can be hard to work out which way to look.
Not that it always used to be like this. We're also living through something of a golden age for Britain in the Olympics. Just this year we've already had our first diving gold medallists, our first female athlete to win four golds, and our first female athlete to retain an individual title. We've seen gymnastics medals fly in, our first golds again, and our best medal haul in the pool for nearly a century, even with seven fourth places finishes from swimmers who gave it everything and fell agonisingly short.
If Team GB has peaked, and let's face it, we can hardly go higher, we should make the most of it. The magical effect of London 2012, an event bestowing not only host status but also big increases in funding and competitors surely can't last forever. There we came third in the medal table, up from forth in Beijing. It's a far cry from the nadir of Atlanta, a failure that started the funding increases. Two decades back we ended thirty-sixth in the medal table, behind the likes of Algeria and Ireland. Behind Sweden for that matter.
Only a small number of countries are big enough, rich enough, and obsessed enough with sport to have the luxury of losing count of medals over the course of any single day. As our team returns home victorious, it shouldn't be ignored or taken for granted. It's something to celebrate.Suggest a correction