“HAVE a dream and follow it. If I can, anyone can.”
Samantha Murray’s elation at winning a silver medal in the modern pentathlon provoked a profound quote that seemed to sum up the Olympic Games.
The tagline of London 2012 was “Inspire a Generation”.
The 22-year-old was one of those inspired a generation ago, by Steph Cook, who won gold in the modern pentathlon at Sydney in 2000.
Samantha, pictured left, had a poster of Cook on her wall when she was younger, and, by a quirk of fate, Cook was on the BBC team as Samantha claimed Team GB’s 65th and last medal of a remarkable fortnight.
Since Cook’s win 12 years ago, Great Britain had won medals at every Games since – bronze for Georgina Harland in Athens, and silver for Heather Fell four years ago in Beijing.
Faced with that pressure, in front of a home crowd – including a large number of family and friends – she delivered in style.
Speaking on Monday, after arriving back in Bath where she is studying French and Politics, the size of her achievement was hitting home: “It’s funny, this morning when I did my interviews on television, I said it had sunk in.
“But now, sat on my bed, it’s like ‘Oh my God!’ I’ve started to realise exactly what I’ve achieved, and it’s an amazing feeling.”
Still shattered from the competition, the closing ceremony and press commitments, I asked if she had slept with her medal, and she admitted: “I didn’t get to sleep!
“After the competition, I had to do my drugs test, then I got back to the athletes’ village, got changed as quickly as possible and raced to the stadium for the closing ceremony.
“It was an amazing night, but to be honest I was really tired.
“I had to get back to my room, pack all my things and be out to do media at 6-30 a.m., so it’s been a bit hectic, and I’m shattered now, but it’s all worth it.”
But she added: “I’m exhausted, but absolutely elated.
“It was a privilege to compete in front of a home crowd, 24,000 people or something like that, and they gave me a massive lift. I’d not seen people in so long, due to our preparations, and to see so many friends and family was incredible.”
The World Championship bronze medallist had been in the Pyrenees for altitude training ahead of the Games, missing the opening ceremony – and while British success snowballed, Samantha had to retain her focus: “We only got to the athletes’ village on Tuesday, but stayed focused – there are so many distractions, and it’s a pressure-cooker.
“Thankfully, I was able to perform well and win a medal.”
Murray started by losing her first seven fencing bouts, but admitted she went to the bathroom and screamed at herself, before returning and pulling off five wins in a row. She finished with 18 wins from 35, before a remarkable 200m swim – just outside the Olympic modern pentathlon record – lifted her to third.
Murray kept up her challenge in the ride with just two fences down, which left her in fourth ahead of the run/shoot.
There she slipped back to seventh at one point, before powering past her rivals, and was strong enough to hold on to the silver medal – a fantastic reward for her grit and determination.
She said: “I wasn’t happy with the start I made, but I improved, and I knew the swim was one of my strongest events.
“I was confident going into the run and shoot though, I knew there was a medal there for me, and I gave everything to get one.”
As the nation copes with withdrawal symptoms after the Games, Samantha now has chance to have a break: “I’m free for a bit now, I’ll be back in full training by January, but I have my degree to concentrate on, and I’ll travel, have a holiday, and just relax!”