The month-or-so before the Olympic Games is such a weird time for an athlete.

Only the tiniest of improvements can be made in such a short space of time so, the million dollar question is, how do you navigate the treacherously thin line between training just enough to peak, but not so much that you’ve got residual fatigue in your body or mind going into the Games.

And there’s always the risk of injury. Train too hard and you might pick up a niggle, but if you don’t fully commit to what you’re doing, there is, ironically, an even greater chance of injury occurring than if you’re fully invested. A pull of a hamstring or a tweak of an achilles can be fatal to an athlete’s chances of standing on the Olympic podium.

It’s a constant balancing act and the closer the Olympics get, the finer the line an athlete has to tread.

And then there’s the injuries that are utter freak occurrences.

Injuries that come out of nowhere, are nothing to do with your Olympic preparations and are just pure bad luck.

That’s what happened to Katie Archibald this week.

Archibald is one of Scotland’s greatest-ever Olympians.

Already, the track cyclist has two gold and a silver medal from the Olympic Games to her name. And, given her status as one of the true greats in track cycling, it seemed likely that she would add further to that tally this summer in Paris.

Yet, it’s not to be.

On Tuesday, Archibald tripped over a step in her garden and dislocated her ankle, broke her tibia and fibula and ripped two ligaments off the bone. On Wednesday, she underwent surgery and on Thursday, she revealed on social media that she would miss this summer’s Olympic Games.

It’s the most horrendous, untimely bit of bad luck anyone could hope for, never mind one of GB’s brightest gold medal hopes for this summer.

And it’s such a poignant reminder that the Olympic Games, and the experiences of the athletes involved, can be so contrasting.

Archibald has dedicated literally thousands of hours to performing well in Paris this summer.

Now, instead of fighting for a gold medal, she’ll be at home, maybe watching the races she should have been contesting, but maybe not. 

In so many ways, these fine margins are why the Olympics is such a compelling watch.

The extreme differences in the emotions felt by the athletes involved are unlike almost any other job. 

Success at the Olympic Games, particularly if it’s an Olympic gold medal, is remembered forever. 

And if you’re one of those athletes like Jessica Ennis-Hill or Mo Farah or Katherine Grainger or Andy Murray, your victory remains etched in the minds of everyone watching for years. Often forever. 

What’s so easily forgotten, however, is that for every athlete who departs an Olympic Games elated, there are dozens who depart absolutely devastated.

For every gold medallist, there’s tens or sometimes even hundreds of their fellow athletes who will leave empty-handed.

There’s the most obvious disappointments; the ones where an athlete has to settle for silver having been beaten to gold.

Or the ones where an athlete is nudged into fourth-place, leaving them empty-handed, despite being within touching distance of a medal.

But there’s other disappointments that hit even harder than the ones at the Games themselves, and they’re the ones that happen in the weeks leading up to the Opening Ceremony. Like has happened to Archibald.

She’s someone who, given what she’s endured in her personal life over the past few years, deserved a slice of luck more than almost anyone else who’s heading to Paris this summer. After the sudden death of her boyfriend two years ago, she was surely due a smooth ride.

But that’s the thing with elite sport, no one is owed anything. Archibald’s found that out in the most brutal of fashions this week.

There’s not a single person in British sport that won’t be desperately hoping the Scot will recover from this setback and can return to her imperious, medal-winning form sooner rather than later.

But nothing she does in the remainder of her career will make up for missing Paris 2024. Even if she goes on to win Olympic medals in 2028, it’ll only go some way to compensating for her dreadful bad luck in the summer of 2024.

And it’s just a reminder that for all the athletes who experience the best moment of their life this summer, there’ll be countless more who are forced to deal with a far more disappointing Olympic experience.


The conversation about which sports deserve to be in the Olympic Games, and conversely which don’t, is never-ending. It also has no definitive answer. 

For some sports, the Olympics is unambiguously the pinnacle.

And there’s others for which it most certainly isn’t.

Tennis, which has been in the Olympics since 1988, is one that I can’t decide whether I’m happy about its inclusion or not.

After this week, I’m leaning further towards its exclusion after Emma Raducanu knocked back an invite to play at Paris 2024.

The Englishwoman, who won the 2021 US Open, was offered a place at the Olympics by dint of that grand slam win but she turned it down saying this Olympics “wasn’t the right time” for her.

And this is exactly why sports like tennis probably shouldn’t be in the Olympic Games.

The thought of Duncan Scott or Josh Kerr or Laura Muir turning down the opportunity to compete at the Olympics, for any reason, is unthinkable. Yet Raducanu, it seems, just doesn’t fancy it.

She’s not the only tennis player with Olympic apathy, either. And that, in a nutshell, is why tennis shouldn’t be an Olympic sport.