It’s something that’s special because I’m proud to be Swiss. I love my country and when you have the national anthem, like when you play Davis Cup, you feel something special. It’s unique, because you have the gold medal, and the fact it was the only medal for Switzerland in ’92 meant it was even bigger. You feel proud.
For sure, it was surprising (that I won). I’m not stupid. I saw the draw and I said the first match was okay, it was against Karim Alami. The second match was a tough match against Wayne Ferreira, but I managed to win in straight sets. And then I had Jim Courier, two-time winner at Roland Garros and No. 1, so I was like, “Okay guys, you know what, soon I’m back home,” and I beat him in three sets. And then I started to say, “Whoa!”
I was starting to play more and more my best tennis, and then I was one match away from making a medal. It was against Emilio Sanchez, he was the matador and, for sure, I didn’t want to lose that game. Then I beat Goran [Ivanisevic] in the semis and then I ended up in the finals. Against [Jordi] Arrese I was two sets up but physically, I was roasted, but I managed to finish in the fifth. I can tell you honestly that after the match point, my first feeling was not, “Whoa, I won,” but it was like, “Whoa, it’s over.” I was exhausted and I didn’t realise I won the gold medal, it was, “That’s it, no more tennis to play,” because it was more than five hours I played.
It’s my No. 1 achievement, not only in my career, but I would say in my life because it’s 24 years ago and still now, I meet Swiss people, and they come back to me, “Congratulations for your Olympic medal.”
The funny thing, and the weird thing is, they come and say I remember I was in Spain, or in Italy, or in Switzerland, I was somewhere, and I remember that day. You have the feeling to share one day of your life with plenty of these people.
All of those people remember what they were doing on that day. It’s a title you keep for all of your life. They can always introduce you as a gold medallist and you will be forever an Olympic champion.
Before the Olympics you receive all the materials from the Swiss (Olympic) Committee, the training suit, the t-shirts and this and that. I received two training suits and it was 35 degrees in Barcelona, so I called the Swiss
Committee and said, “I’m sorry but this is the first time I come to the Olympics, do I wear the suit from the Swiss Olympics or can I bring my own stuff.” It was military and they said, “You have to wear this, you have to
wear that,” and I said, “Okay.”
Then I was in the Village and I met Dano Halsall, he was a Swiss swimmer, and it was his third Olympics and the guy is wearing his own clothes. I was wearing the training suit and he said, “No need to do that.” So the first day I went to the physio and I ask for the scissors and I cut my training suit to make it short. When I saw the face of the chief responsible for Swiss Olympics, it was like if I was in the army and I forgot my gun.
I really enjoyed the Olympics, being in the atmosphere in the Village. It’s the thing I remember the most, maybe even more than the victory because it was a good occasion to be with other Swiss sportsmen that I never met all year long. For ten days, two weeks, you can talk about their career, their sports, you can share things with them.
It was a nice feeling. For me it’s what was helping me to win. I took this fun energy that I was happy to meet other guys, see other athletes; I was super happy to be there and I think that’s why I won the Olympics because I took this energy.
Source: ITF Olympic book
There’s no comparison in tennis for the feeling of standing on the Olympic podium listening to your country’s anthem. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride. It was a moment I certainly will never forget.
It’s the same game, same format, yet entirely different [to other tennis experiences].
For example, in the Fed Cup you play for your country on a team. In the Olympics you play for your country as an individual. Winning for something greater than oneself in tennis is a privilege that only the Olympics can provide.
We have the pillars of our sport and the Olympics. Each is difficult and rewarding for its own reasons. It is impossible for me to separate all that was asked and given. The special feeling of winning for my country allowed millions of people to share in that moment with me.
After all this time, to be an Olympic gold medallist feels… How can I say this? Incredible! I keep my medal in a very safe place.
My fondest memories are of taking part in the opening ceremonies at Seoul and Barcelona and staying in the Olympic Villages. It was fascinating to be able to talk with the other athletes from all the different sports, cultures and backgrounds. We had a lot of fun guessing which country and sport they represented.
I also loved being a spectator at some of the other sporting events. Being able to see the events live was thrilling. As a big fan of track and field watching the 100 metres final was a highlight. The team spirit, and seeing the athletes give everything for their sport and come together to support one another, is to this day very inspiring.
It was a special feeling when I converted the match point. It was a little bit different on the podium when the national anthem started up and you begin to realise what has happened. It’s very difficult to describe.
Before my quarterfinal I had friends from other sports, like handball, cycling and athletics, who had already finished their competition and some of them came to see me with their medals. They were talking about their experiences and everyone was hungry for this information. The emotion was really high and it helped me, it was a big inspiration rather than putting more pressure on me. I was playing against an opponent [Michiel Schapers] who I knew it was possible to go through against, so I just prepared for the match as normal, but I knew it was going to be better if I won.
I remember when my friend Jozef Pribilinec, who won the 20 kilometre walk, came to the Village the day before my semifinal against Stefan Edberg with his gold medal. I got to hold his medal and we had a talk. I asked him how he felt when he arrived in the stadium for the finish of the walk and the second man wasn’t far behind him. I asked
him if he was nervous and he said he knew he had enough in hand and wouldn’t be passed. It was important to know how other people handled pressure. It helped me a lot and I found out that it was possible for me to do the same.
It was really special because normally when I came home from a tournament it was just a regular day at the airport, but now coming home with other athletes and bringing some medals too there were a lot of people, some politicians, television crews – it was really different. Even before I had left Seoul I had received a lot of congratulations from friends and then to see them at the airport too… My wife was there with my son who had been born in January that year so it was good to see him again, it was really nice.
I got a prize from the President for representing the country, the kind of special award soldiers sometimes receive. It was not only for what I did at the Olympics, but without the Olympics I would never have got it.
From my point of view it was something else from the regular tournament. I came there not like a tennis player but a sportsman. The Olympics from a young age was very special for me. It felt a little bit different. I knew I was a tennis player but with all the sportsmen around it was kind of bigger for me.
For me, the Olympics, it’s kind of a Grand Slam. All the best players have the chance to go there and compete. In my day all the matches were best of five sets so it was even more similar. I think it’s a huge, huge event, it connects the people, it connects the sportsmen and women, which builds up the value even more. Of course, I didn’t win a Grand Slam but it’s hard to say if I would change it for anything else.
For a sportsman, it’s a big honour, it makes me proud. It’s one of the nicest achievements to have in sport. I made a lot of friends and it brought me closer to some of the other sports and generally brought me a lot of experiences I’d never had before.
Source: ITF Olympic book
Extract from Tennis’s strangest matches by Peter Seddon:
Since the Modern Olympic Games began in 1896, the number of occasions on which British competitors have made a clean sweep of the medals in one event has been, let’s admit it, rather fewer than they would have liked. So hats off to the British ladies’ tennis squad at the 1908 London Olympics who saw off all opposition to take gold, silver and bronze.
What a proud moment it must have been as the long-skirted heroines ran down every ball and rallied to the cause, pink cheeks all aglow, with true British spirit. But alas, behind this most agreeable 1-2-3 is a rather different story.
What could possibly be insinuated? Might it have been a hollow victory? Who were the opposition? In truth, a more appropriate question is ‘Where was the opposition?’ Let the farce commence.
Matters began only mildly strangely when it was decided there would be two Olympic tennis titles that year, a covered court tournament staged at Queen’s Club in May, followed by a contest on grass at Wimbledon in July.
Gladys Eastlake Smith served notice of Britain’s triumphal intentions by taking the indoor gold and two months later the grass court Olympics sprang into action at Wimbledon’s Worple Road ground.
‘Sprang’ may be too strong a word. Teetered proved to be about right. Thirteen ladies put their names forward for entry into the singles, among them six overseas players willing to mix it with the seven-strong British field. But things started to go pear-shaped early on.
Officials in charge of the draw squirmed uneasily as none of the overseas players turned up! They comforted themselves with the thought that it could still be a cracking contest even though Britain was guaranteed the medals. It was, after all, a strong field.
There was Charlotte Sterry, fresh from winning her fifth Wimbledon crown the month before, and six-times champion Blanche Hillyard; what a battle that might be. ‘Might’ proved to be the operative word as both of them scratched. The officials, meanwhile, merely began to itch a little.
That still left fine five players chasing those three elusive medals. It was fighting talk but nothing more as the destination of gold, silver and bronze was decided by playing just four matches in four rounds.
In a ludicrous draw, which included all eight phantom players, walkovers were the order of the day. Madame Fenwick, the French hope, was entirely conspicuous by her absence but still progressed to the semi-final draw by first ‘defeating’ the equally invisible Austrian torchbearer Miss Matouch and following this walkover with another over fellow truant Charlotte Sterry.
While Madame Fenwick might have read of her disembodied Olympic progress with not a little astonishment from the comfort of a sun-drenched terrace somewhere on the French Riviera, Dorothy Chambers Lambert seized gold by winning three matches comfortably. Her opponent in the final was Dora Boothby, who just about made a game of it by losing 6-1 7-5 after getting there without striking a ball, courtesy of two walkovers. Thus she became the honoured recipient of an Olympic silver medal without winning a match and by taking only six games.
Even that performance was heroic compared to the one that captured the bronze; that coveted gong went to Ruth Winch whose only match was her semi-final defeat againt Chambers Lambert in which she took the meastly total of two games.
No matter! It was a triple triumph for the British who had steadfastly overcome the absentee Austain, French and Hungarian entants by adhering to the most important principle of lawn tennis competition. The cynics may chorus ‘It’s a lottery’ and that’s precisely the point.
Those British girls weren’t daft. They knew the first rule of any competition. If you’re not in it you can’t win it.
Opening and closing ceremony outfits:
Medal stand apparel:
Olympic village outfits:
The collection is on sale online and in Lacoste stores, but only in France.
Stay tuned for more Olympics coverage on Tennis Buzz.
The Canadian Olympic Committee launched the “Ice In Our Veins” campaign today with the Summer Olympics just 100 days away.
The campaign – which features, amongst others, tennis star Milos Raonic, sprinter Justyn Warner and diver Jennifer Abel – was unveiled on the Canadian team’s digital channels and via athletes’ social media channels.
“We want to inspire Canadians, our athletes, our partners,” said COC chief marketing officer Derek Kent. “We want people to rally behind Team Canada. They work so hard behind the scenes, out of the spotlight in between the Games. It’s time to start telling the athletes’ stories and that’s what this campaign does.”
“I think (the video) is something that will resonate not only throughout Canada, but I think many parts of the world,” said Milos Raonic.
Behind the scenes with Raonic:
Stay tuned for more Olympics coverage on Tennis Buzz.