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Gary Player’s Rio 2016 diary

2016-08-12 13:35
Gary Player (Supplied)

My experience at the Olympics continues to prove unique - and what a time it’s been.

Waking up on Saturday morning in a strange room and bed, with very little sleep due to the late night after the opening ceremony, I definitely felt it. At 80, I am not as young as I used to be.

That being said, I thought what better way to get my body started than a workout at the magnificent gym in the Olympic Village surrounded by all the world-class athletes. I felt so honoured working out among Olympians who represent the pinnacle of world sport. The Olympics are the biggest sporting showpiece on the planet, bringing together the best of the best all under one roof. I felt humbled when many athletes, some I knew and some I didn’t, came up to me to introduce themselves, chat and just make me feel alive again. What an amazing feeling. I absolutely love and admire those who take care of their mind and bodies.

Later that day, the South African Sevens rugby team invited me out to lunch with them. Not knowing what to expect I got dressed and landed up at a burger joint, can you believe, and this with some of the world’s healthiest and fittest athletes. Well, I suppose everybody deserves a cheat day every now and then. So I said to myself: “What the hell. I worked out like a demon, I’m going to spoil myself and have a big, fat cheeseburger.”

And what a burger it was!

I don’t often eat burgers, but I rate that one as the best I’ve ever tasted. We laughed and swapped stories and talked about everything from sport to life in general. We all had so much fun over lunch. The Blitzboks really are a great bunch of guys. While they didn’t manage to win gold for South Africa, they can be proud of their bronze medal achievement.

I have spent some quality time with my wife Vivienne and we have enjoyed more of what the city and the Games has to offer. I was also invited for a breakfast by Laureus for the International Sports Journalist Association. As a member myself, it was great bumping into old friends and catching up with the good work this organisation is doing around the world.

As usual, a great amount of my time has been spent conducting various media interviews regarding the re-admission of golf as an Olympic sport. All the channels I was interviewed by unanimously agreed that golf deserved to be included, after an absence of 112 years, and are happy to have us back where we belong - part of the biggest sports show on the planet.

On Sunday, I made my way down to the Olympic golf course for a team leaders’ meeting which went very well. Everyone is so excited that the golf event has begun and it promises to be a world class spectacle with many of the top professionals vying for the title of Olympic champion. The South African team, consisting of Ashleigh Simon, Brandon Stone, Jaco van Zyl and Paula Reto, will have to play very well if we are to walk away with a medal.

Ahead of the start of the competition, I spent two days at the golf course getting the feel of the layout and was pleasantly surprised. I must say well done to course designer Gil Hanse. The course looks to be in superb condition and the greens are quite undulating. I’m sure it’s going to prove a real test for even the best players if the prevailing winds blow hard enough.

Until next time, when I will share my thoughts on the men’s competition which concludes on Sunday, obrigado, stay well and enjoy the Olympics and the sights and sounds of Brazil.

Gary Player is the most successful international golfer of all time and is the captain of South Africa’s golf team at the Rio Olympics. He will be sharing his experiences of the Games for Sport24.

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