In many cases this can be cruel. By their very nature young Olympic champions have lived lives that involve training hard for a single end, getting up at the crack of dawn and going to bed early, foregoing much of the frivolous lifestyle of their peers. Most of their conversation outside their family (not that some of them have much time to see their families) will have been with their unyielding trainers and others involved in their sport. And then they are expected to go on screen so that they can engage in witty banter and treat us to humorous anecdotes about their fun-packed lives. If they're invited onto Countdown (and some of them will be) they will be expected to have a scintillating story for every programme in the weekly run.
Perhaps I sympathise with them because I always had trouble with small talk, especially in new situations with strangers. I can do jokes (even if their merit is not always recognised) and I can spend an evening in chit-chat with those I know well, but when it comes to daily introductory small talk I'm often at a loss and I envy those who can do it. This may be because, when I was younger, so much of it was so banal that I found it difficult to know how to respond. An old lady I used to visit often used to make conversation with sentences beginning 'so what do you think of...' Unfortunately they all required one, and only one, answer. She never asked 'So what do you think about the merits of a single currency?' (she would never have understood any of the answers anyway). No, it was always something like, 'So what do you think of that bomb that went off in Hyde Park killing all those people?' or 'What do you think about that earthquake in Italy?' Did she really expect me to say, 'I think it was absolutely wonderful.'? There was only one thing I could say: 'Terrible!' It took me years to realise that many people only expect one answer to most questions, and the trick is not to feel like a twit when giving that answer. Those of us who have often been under pressure to be original find this difficult to master, but you really only need four or five stock answers when people you meet start making conversation. For me it's usually 'Terrible!', 'Beautiful' or 'But it looks like rain later.' A couple more depending on your local circumstances and you will have everything you need, and when you die tragically your neighbours will not tell reporters, 'He (or she) always kept himself to himself'.