Go to a live sporting event

This item from my bucket list has been waiting for a solution. Unlike some of the other items, sporting events do not feature frequently among our activities. Neither Majella nor I have much interest in sport. We don’t often participate in sports as players or spectators. Majella sometimes watches cricket or, less often, tennis on television but other sports broadcasts have us changing channels.

It’s not that we are averse to physical activity. I walk about 6 km in 45 min for exercise most mornings and ride my bicycle if I go to town, except if it is raining or I expect to return with a load. Walking in national parks is one of Majella’s current projects that is likely to become more strenuous as we complete the shorter walks from Laura’s book and graduate to the longer ones.

Forty or so years ago when we lived in Dalby we played basketball and touch football. When we moved to Kingaroy we were busy with 3 kids and found other ways to amuse ourselves. We never felt the urge to sign up to sports teams again. Neither did we have any interest as spectators, other than when our kids were involved or work required supervision of school sport. Over the years, I have been to a couple of events with friends but lack the interest to do it unless somebody else arranges it.

Callum plays soccerOne solution I contemplated was to attend one of Callum’s soccer matches. We watched him play one Saturday morning last year and found that more interesting than a professional game because we knew somebody on the field.

After I posted a previous piece about a bucket list item Romina checked the list of remaining items, correctly deduced that this one would be a challenge, and offered to assist by accompanying me to a State of Origin game. That was a kind offer but one I hoped not to need to accept.

Now I can report that I ticked off this item last Saturday when we attended the Cycling Road Race at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and cheered for a rider from Guernsey. That was James McLaughlin, son of Debbie and Ian. We rented their cottage in Trébry for 3 weeks in July last year and, during a night of celebration before we moved on to Normandy, had talked about their plans to travel to Australia to see James compete.

Majella had managed to make contact with Debbie a couple of weeks ago to see if we might be able to catch up with them while they were in Queensland. We had hoped they might be able to visit us and John and Pauline  Dwyer in Toowoomba but the only arrangement that worked was for us to catch them at Currumbin on Saturday. We were able to combine that with a trip to South Tweed Heads to see Majella’s parents but John and Pauline were not available.

Surfers Paradise viewed from CurrumbinWe drove from South Tweed up past Currumbin on Saturday morning, found a parking space across the creek, and walked the 2 km or so, including on soft sand around the competition enclosure near the mouth of the creek, to the Currumbin beachfront. Along the way we had our first view of the women competing in their event and enjoyed the views from the beach up the coast to Surfers Paradise. We arrived at the beachfront cafe where we were meeting Debbie and Ian a little before 10:00 am and they arrived soon after.

Final sprint to the lineAfter coffee and catch up we watched the end of the women’s event. We had seen them come by on an earlier lap but the sprint to the finish line just beyond us was faster and more exciting. By the time the field had finished and medals were presented it was approaching 11:30 am. The men’s event was due to begin at 12:30 pm so we went for lunch before getting into position to watch the men about 300 m from the finish line. There would be action on the road periodically as the riders came by on each of 9 laps and in between we could watch the race on the large screen nearby.

The men’s race took just less than 4 hours for the riders to complete almost 170 km (9 laps of the approximately 18 km circuit). That’s an average speed of about 44 kph and they were hitting more than 80 kph on the big downhill stretch that had a turn at the end. I rode 14 km around town this morning at an average of 22 kph and thought I was doing well to manage that. Admittedly having to deal with traffic and stop at intersections slowed me a little but I know that I am nervous doing anything more than an exhilarating 30 kph on a downhill stretch. I can’t imagine what it must be like to maintain 40+ kph for hours and hit top speeds of 80+ kph.

James McLaughlin leads the wayUnderstandably it is much more exciting to watch an event in which you feel you have some stake. We have not met James but we were watching with his parents and Debbie’s nervousness was tangible. It became more exciting for us, and nerve-wracking for Debbie, when for much of the last third of the race James was part of a small group that broke away from the peloton and led the race by more than a minute for much of that time.

For a time we thought that there was a chance that James might win or place for a medal but the nature of the racing, with teams of riders working together to limit the effect of air resistance, was against that. In the back of the final lap the Australian and New Zealand teams made up the gap and an Australian rider powered through to win in the final sprint. James had put all he had into the effort and we heard later that his back had seized up and he needed intense physiotherapy after the race. He finished about 2 minutes behind the winner in 29th place among the 50 riders who finished. There were 116 listed for the start but the furious pace on the first laps saw many pull out.

Before the race finished Ian and Debbie went to the accredited enclosure to be there when James came in. We were not able to follow or catch them after the event but we did exchange messages before we walked back around the point, across the bridge to the car and drove home. I’m pleased to have been able to tick off another bucket list item at a more interesting and exciting live sporting event than I could have anticipated.