Many of us truly enjoyed the Wimbledon men’s final on Sunday. Andy Murray’s victory ended the drought for male British winners at Wimbledon at 77 years, Race Results Weekly’s Chris Lotsbom began thinking of other droughts in sports. Particularly, for this crowd, droughts in the sport of athletics. Here he goes….
CLEVEDON, ENGLAND (09-Jul) — On the seventh day of the seventh month, seventy-seven years after the last Briton won the Men’s Wimbledon Championship title, Scotland tennis ace Andy Murray captured the winner’s trophy, ending one of the longest victory droughts in sporting history.
“I understand the match, how everyone else wants to see a British winner at Wimbledon,” he told the BBC moments after winning, looking up to the capacity crowd. “I hope you guys enjoyed it, I tried my best.”
With the whole of Great Britain watching, Murray defeated top-ranked Serbian Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. More importantly, he fulfilled the nation’s dreams of once again owning the top spot at the famed All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, something which hadn’t happened since Fred Perry won in 1936.
“It’s hard. It’s really hard. You know, for the last four or five years, it’s been very, very tough, very stressful,” Murray told ESPN.com, describing the effects of being a British contender at the event. “It’s just kind of everywhere you go. It’s so hard to avoid everything because of how big this event is, but also because of the history and no Brit having won [in 77 years].”
While watching the match on Wimbledon’s pristine Centre Court, thousands tweeted about history being made in front of their eyes, including many in the athletics world.
“Date w destiny. Great stuff. happy [sic] 4 all of Britain,” said New York Road Runners CEO and President Mary Wittenberg.
“@Andy_Murray Well done mate!!! #LEGEND,” wrote double Olympic gold medalist and fellow Briton Mo Farah.
As Djokovic hit his final backhand into the net and Murray raised his hands to the heavens, all the land cheered. Brought to tears, the first Briton in three quarters of a century had scored the victory.
“It’s history. We haven’t seen this in our lifetime,” said Catherine Batchelor, who took in the match with friends here.
While watching the duel come to a close, thoughts of other sporting droughts came to mind, particularly in athletics. It’s been 28 years since an American –male or female– has won the Boston Marathon (1985, Lisa Larsen Weidenbach); ten years since Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe set the women’s marathon world record of 2:15:25 (2003); 14 years exactly to the day (July 7, 1999) since Hicham El Guerrouj set the mile world record in Rome, timing.13.
“The end to the wait at Wimbledon…next up – American women winners-NY & Boston marathons…?!” asked Wittenberg in a tweet, receiving six retweets and six favorites.
For years athletes have talked about snapping athletics streaks like Murray, much more meaningful than simply being crowned champion. With droughts also come a pressure unlike any other, a feeling that motivates athletes and provides frustration for both athlete and nation alike. For Shalane Flanagan, this was evident following this year’s Boston Marathon, where she finished fourth.
“I’ve been thinking about this moment and running in this race for a really long time, so I’m extremely happy to have fulfilled a lifelong goal of mine,” said Flanagan on the verge of tears. “But I dreamt of winning. I dreamt of a laurel wreath on my head, and it didn’t happen, but that’s the reason why dreams or goals are big, and they’re hard.
“The hardest part about Boston is that the Bostonians want it just as bad as you do,” Flanagan –a native of Massachusetts– said in April. “We want to be that person. We want to be the next Joanie,” referring to Joan Benoit Samuelson, the second-to-last American women’s champion in Boston.
According to his book “14 Minutes,” drought is what even spurred Alberto Salazar to begin the Oregon Project, hoping to get Americans back to the podium in marathons and athletics. In 2012, Salazar partially fulfilled that goal, aiding Galen Rupp to his 10,000m silver medal at the London Olympics.
It’s near impossible to say which athletics drought will end next. But one thing’s for sure: they are always on athletes’ minds. As shown by Murray at Wimbledon, nothing’s too far out of reach, as long an athlete has the will, hope, patience, and determination.
“I didn’t always feel it was going to happen,” Murray, runner-up in 2012, told ESPN.com. “It’s incredibly difficult to win these events. I don’t think that’s that well-understood sometimes. It takes so much hard work, mental toughness, to win these sort of tournaments.”
The same can be said for races; patience can be a virtue.