His lips blue from the turmoil he’d put his body through on the streets of Beijing last Friday, Jamie Costin still found time to talk to the Irish media following a tortuous 50 kilometre Olympic walk.
Four-plus hours under an unforgiving sun certainly took its toll on the West Waterford clubman, as he crossed the finish line inside the Bird’s Nest stadium physically empty and mentally drained. That’s what 97 per cent humidity does to the body.
Costin was subsequently carried into the changing area before being administered oxygen and hooked up to an IV drip.
He’d finished in 44th position – no big deal your average clueless ‘Liveline’ contributor would quickly proclaim.
But let me tell you: anyone that decries the 31-year-old’s efforts deserves a couple of Kenny Egan uppercuts in my view. Why? Because Jamie Costin is not just a true Waterford hero. He’s a great Irish hero.
That Jamie found it within himself to get back to this level of competition is nothing short of extraordinary – and the telling of his story goes well beyond the boundaries of sport.
Four years ago, during the Athens Olympics, I unexpectedly found myself punching phone digits to talk to Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Doctor Sean Gaine.
Just hours earlier, on Tuesday, August 19th, on a narrow hillside road near the town of Porto Heli, Jamie was carried from the wreckage of a car after a head-on collision with a lorry. It’s worth reminding readers that the lorry was on the wrong side of the road.
Ten days before he was due to compete in his second Olympiad, the Ballycreen man found himself in hospital having sustained a compound fracture of the lower back.
Inserting medal rods into his back was one of the options available to Jamie when the manner of his recovery was being assessed in Athens.
But such a procedure would end his competitive sporting career and Olympic dream. Even then, in the midst of excruciating physical pain, Jamie was, extraordinarily, already casting an eye towards Beijing 2008.
So he opted for the slow-fix solution, which meant four months in a body cast and eight months on crutches. Imagine what that must have been like. No, I can’t either.
And over the course of his recovery period, Jamie Costin, in more ways than one, got back on his feet with Beijing firmly on his mind.
Despite feeling disorientated during the final 10 kilometres of last Friday’s race, there was no way Jamie wasn’t going to reach that finish line in the Bird’s Nest.
The journey back to this level had been simply too arduous and too much human spirit has been invested on Costin’s behalf for him not to reach that finish line.
His greatest fans – parents Jimmy and Margaret, who’ve been there every step of the way, were, no doubt a source of enormous comfort to Jamie after last week’s efforts.
I first met Jamie during my juvenile athletics’ days and I liked him from the off. Articulate, funny and completely consumed by his vocation, he is a credit to his family, his club, his county and, most significantly of all – to himself.
The word ‘hero’ does get bandied about a lot, especially in the hyperbolic sphere which journalists regularly operate in, but I waste no time in placing Jamie Costin in such a bracket.
For him to finish an Olympic race just four years after doubts were cast over whether he’d ever walk again represents a magnificent demonstration of the strength of the human spirit.
He may well have left Beijing without a medal, but, to me and a great many other people the world over, Jamie Costin of Ballycreen, An Rinn, County Waterford is a true champion. And I for one am enormously proud of him.