SPEAK to any Olympian, and they will invariably say their Games experience, or experiences, were the highlights of their sporting career. In fact, often, it’s one of the greatest moments of their entire life. I know I fall into this category.

Which is why it was so jarring to hear Alan Forsyth say his time in Tokyo at this summer’s Olympics was the worst time of his life.

Having established himself as one of the best hockey players in the British club game over the past five years, the Scot seemed assured of his place in the GB squad for the Tokyo Olympics. However, to the astonishment of many, head coach Danny Kerry omitted the Paisley forward from his main squad of 16 players, instead naming him an accredited reserve.

It resulted in Forsyth travelling to Tokyo with the team, but being forced to sit in the stands for the entirety of the Games, with GB refusing to make use of the lifeline  allowing teams to play their reserves if they wished.

The British men were eliminated in the quarter-finals and when I spoke to Forsyth in these pages last weekend, he admitted the best moment of the Olympics for him was when he finally returned home. Already, he has blocked out his memories of the summer.

The outcry over Forsyth’s omission from the GB squad was comprehensive, with former internationalists, current players and coaches and observers of the sport voicing their dismay over Kerry’s decision.

But that is not the issue here.

Elite sport, as Forsyth himself would acknowledge, is a cut-throat business. For every athlete who gains selection for a major event, there are dozens who miss out. That’s the way it has to be and no athlete is oblivious to this.

Selection for team sports is invariably contentious and far more subjective than selection for individual sports.

Athletics, swimming and the like are no less harsh, but things are, almost always far more clear-cut. Did you record the fastest time? Yes? Well, you are in.

Team sports are very different. With no way of definitively proving one athlete is more deserving of a place than another, it ends up coming down to the opinion of the coaches.

Countless factors contribute to their decision and for those who miss out, there is little, if any way, of proving their worth over another.

So, despite the fact so many believed Forsyth was worthy of selection for the Tokyo Games, Kerry disagreed. Unfair as it might seem, that’s the nature of elite sport.

As devastating as it was for Forsyth personally, however, there is a far wider concern.

The issue is that months after Forsyth was told of his omission from the first 16 for GB’s Olympic squad, he remains in the dark as to the reason for it.

As he said to me, he believes this is unlikely to change.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get an answer. I think they [the GB Hockey coaches] will just move on,” he said. “They don’t take into consideration that people have given their whole life for this, they just see it as another selection.”

Forsyth is right. While few would argue the life of an elite athlete is anything other than privileged, this does not take away from the fact it requires many sacrifices.

Forsyth, for example, uprooted and relocated to England, forfeiting any opportunity to play in Europe, to pursue his Olympic dream. 

Fair enough, if that’s what is required to make it to the Olympics.

Every athlete knows the sacrifices don’t always reap the rewards, but to be given no explanation or reasoning seems unfair.

Forsyth’s tale comes on the back of UK Sport’s recent shift in direction, which, the body said, will focus more on athlete welfare.

By now, we are all well aware of the reports from athletes of abusive behaviour from coaches, with medals of primary importance. 

This was, admitted UK Sport, unacceptable and they have vowed to ensure athlete welfare is the top priority.

No one would argue the actions of the GB Hockey coaches have been abusive, but looking after an athlete’s welfare does not mean merely refraining from abusing them. Forsyth, who has dedicated much of his adult life to becoming an Olympian, is oblivious as to why he is not one.

An explanation may not dampen the disappointment of the GB coaches’ decision to omit him from the squad, but it would provide an element of closure for the 29-year-old.

To deprive an athlete of that is most certainly not looking after his welfare.

So while levels of abuse may not be as widespread as in the past, there is still a considerable way to go before I, and many others, will believe athlete welfare is top of the agenda.


THE ubiquity of Emma Raducanu since her US Open triumph two weeks ago has been astonishing, with her latest appearance coming at a “homecoming” event on Friday, which was, unprecedentedly, broadcast live on the BBC.

She deserves every plaudit that has come her way, but there should surely be a touch of restraint when it comes to predicting her future success.

Getting to the top is, in many ways, the easy bit, it’s staying there that’s far more difficult.

So, as hard as it will be, leaving Raducanu alone to develop her game may well be the best course of action to help her build on her New York win