A fascinating sideshow to the Olympic viewing schedule was provided by the Towering Thespian, who added an actor’s special spice to the goings-on in Rio. In his younger days the Thespian had been good enough a sportsman to earn junior provincial colours on the rugby field though his boundless enthusiasm for the moving tableau surely stemmed from his roots on the stage.
It is also worth recording that no single male across the planet can have fallen instantly in love with more females in a shorter space of time and his catchphrase “Wow! Look at that woman,” as yet another sportswoman in yet another sporting discipline became the focus of his attention.
In all fairness, it must be added that the Thespian’s fleeting crushes never lasted much beyond the winning post before another Olympian snatched his attention from the last and another cry of “Wow! Look at that woman,” signalled a change of allegiance. It must also be said that the classic definition of what supposedly equates in many minds to what constitutes the epitome of femininity seldom formed an integral part of this complex equation.
The Thespian loudly proclaimed in what high regard he held Anita Wlodarczyk, a Polish athlete of generously, matronly proportions, who garnered gold and a world record in the women’s hammer throw in Rio. And well he should. Apart from the record distance, Wlodarczyk was the ground-breaker in this particularly demanding discipline and the first woman to better 80m in the event.
But it should not be supposed that he accorded any less respect to the stellar achievements of 400m record-breaker Wayde van Niekerk, the flying Usain Bolt or middle-distance marvel Mo Farah. The “Wow!” was still there though not as pointedly gender-specific.
There was also the matter of his wildly enthusiastic outstretched arm, pointing to anything that specifically grabbed his interest, a display of zeal which the assembled company greatly enjoyed. Nor was there any holding back in the Thespian’s reactions to each successive South African Olympic medal as the tally mounted upwards toward the magical 10.
But like any one of his aware countrymen and women – and probably nearly all sensible, sleep-loving South Africans – he had forgone staying awake for Caster Semenya’s 800m final, a race crucial to the anticipated medal cache.
He had joined the casual Sunday viewers fully aware that Caster had delivered, and was anxious not to miss the replay. It was, thanks to the Thespian’s passionate running commentary, that while history had already been written, her victory elevating South Africa to an exalted fifth spot in the athletics medal table, that the recorded version came out as pristine as a premiere.
And as she turned on the afterburners through the final bend and left the pretenders to the spot on the podium flailing in her imperious wake, the Thespian dutifully said: “Wow! Look at that woman go.” But then his brow creased in perplexity. “What,” he asked, “are we going to watch now”?