British javelin thrower Goldie Sayers missed out on a medal at Beijing 2008 by 38cm.
After the third-placed athlete was disqualified for doping following retests, she has since received her bronze medal.
Watch Goldie’s story and the rest of the Take the Podium series on the Olympic Channel.
I always used to watch the Olympics and think that it looked so far removed from school sports days, and these people competing almost looked like demigods chiselled out of stone. But then when I was given a javelin, I was just absolutely taken with it. I love the feeling of throwing and I was actually handed one to take home over the school Easter holidays. I was instantly taken with how I could get this really awkward Implement to fly a long way.
I remember snippets of it as if it was yesterday. In the evening, the final was at 7:20pm. It was going to rain at 7:27pm, so I said to my coach, “Right, we’ve got one round. That’s it.” Once it starts raining the air gets heavy and it becomes quite difficult to throw in those conditions. I remember us both saying, “mid 60s [metres] will win a medal”.
It was an amazing final, and it was frustrating for me to come off the track 38 centimetres off an Olympic medal. [Eventual champion Barbora] Špotáková had to pretty much throw a world record in the final round in the last round of the competition to win it, which she did. I’ve always had respect for her, but then more than ever, because that’s pretty difficult to do in those conditions.
If you’re talking about success, it was a very successful competition and that’s what is kind of weird in sport. Sometimes you can have an average day and win, and other times you can compete out your skin and come fourth.
Take it all in
I first heard about being upgraded to the bronze medal from Beijing 2008 when I was driving my car. I got this call from my agent asking if I’d heard the news, but I could barely hear him. Once I understood it what it was about then I kind of knew what he was going to say next. I laughed and cried and also just found it really ridiculous that I was in my car.
I had nerves [when receiving my medal] as if I was competing. It’s really strange but it’s a mixture of nerves and excitement. I think I’ve probably visualised that subconsciously every day from the age of 16, it was just very surreal. I stood at the back of the podium thinking, “take it all in”, and then became really emotional. Sport has definitely shaped me as a person and I think it’s taught me that you can achieve a lot more than you imagine.
I also remember standing in the stadium watching the ceremony kind of thinking, “I’m pretty sure I should be standing on the third-place rostrum!”
People ask me a lot about how I feel about the athlete who cheated, and I think they find it a bit weird when I say I don’t have anything against her, but that I actually feel really sorry for her. She never really got to know how good she could have been on her own terms.
I definitely missed out on a lot of things not winning a medal at the Games themselves. I would have had more sponsorship and I think financially it would have made a difference. The biggest thing for me, though, is just missing out on the moment at the time.