Thursday 18 July 2013

Athletics and Cycling - Fighting the sceptics

When you think about drug taking in sport for many people athletics and cycling are the two sports they immediately think of.

Both sports are facing up to the doping questions again this week but for different reasons.

As an athletics fan I was gutted to hear that both Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell both tested positive for taking banned substances. This is the last thing athletics needs especially when it involves two of its biggest stars.

In cycling, Britain's Chris Froome is favourite to win this year's Tour de France following a series of impressive performances.

Despite no evidence of him actually taking drugs, there's an air of suspicion hanging over him. Rather than celebrate his lead in the Tour he's having to defend himself against accusations that his performances so far have been too good!

I love athletics and I'm increasingly becoming a great fan of cycling, but it seems both sports will never be able to rid themselves from the question of drugs.

You could argue both sports have only themselves to blame due to the actions of former athletes. A healthy dose of scepticism is for many the only way to watch these sports.

It's a shame as I find both athletics and cycling compelling sports to watch, there's a simplicity to both sports which I love.

It does make you wonder whether there's any point in actually winning anymore as people will immediately starting asking questions over whether you're cheating or not. It's almost as if you can win but not too well as it only give the sceptics something to talk about.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Is Britain getting too good at sport?

What is happening with British sport?

I ask this question because it feels like we've reinvented ourselves in recent years.

No longer are we the heroic, plucky loser always falling short. We've now become ruthless, determined, hard-nosed winners!

Look at the evidence - there was last year's Olympic Games, third in the overall medal table, untouchable in cycling and rowing. There was 'Super Saturday' the greatest night in the history of British Athletics.

We've had our first ever Tour De France winner in Bradley Wiggins, and we could have a second this summer with Chris Froome.

In rugby the British Lions defeated Australia at the weekend to claim their first series win in 16 years, then on Sunday Andy Murray becomes the first men's Wimbledon champion since 1936! And lets not forget we've got a pretty decent cricket team who are favourites to retain the Ashes this summer.

Where did it all start going right?

I think in the past unlike other countries we haven't used sport as a way of defining our national character or self worth.

Compared to somewhere like Australia who have used sport to remind the world of their existence, sport in Britain didn't matter quite so much. We could play the game, occasionally win, generally lose but it didn't matter.

If you think about it, Britain is a nation obsessed with sport. We invented many of the most popular games in the world and for a relatively small nation we play a huge range of different sports.

If feels like something has changed though. As a country if you look at our resources and our passion for sport there's no reason why we can't dominate and win at certain sports, why just take part, why not be in it to win.

We're seeing this now and the success of our sports stars is creating a great feel good factor for the country.

Ok, Olympic champions and Wimbledon winners aren't going to improve the economy or solve various problems the country faces, but sport offers many inspiring lessons that we can all apply to our everyday lives. That's what I love about sport.

Despite all this new found sporting success, there is one elephant in the room. One sport that dominates over all others, yet continues to provide disappointment.

What is this sport? Have a think.

That's right, it could only be football. It's frightening to think what would happen to the country if England actually ever won something, but Football is the only sport letting us down now.

Despite our failings on the football pitch, the rest of British sport has shown us a new alternative as to what we can be as a sporting nation. I hope it continues.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Wimbledon 2013: Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion!

Finally! The wait is over. A British man has won the Wimbledon title.

For much of my tennis watching life the very idea was laughable. Then there was a glimmer of hope, firstly with Tim Henman and then with Andy Murray's emergence.

The difference with Murray, was that this hope turned into genuine expectation as we realised he was a serious world class player.

Despite his obvious talent, all the years of failure and disappointment meant nobody could believe with 100% conviction that this day would arrive. Well it has and it was fully deserved by Murray.

His success reminds me a little of last year's Olympic hero Mo Farah. Like Farah, Murray was already a supremely talented and gifted athlete - but he wasn't good enough to beat the very best in the world when it mattered. He had to improve.

Being ranked 3 or 4 in the world wasn't going to be enough to win majors. The likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have set the standard so high in mens tennis that he had to go away and improve his game further.

This is what I admire about Murray, the willingness and desire to push himself further to achieve his goals.

By taking on Ivan Lendl as his coach and through shear hard work and dedication he's now stepped up to that next level which has resulted in him winning the US Open and now Wimbledon.

It might still feel like a shock, a Brit winning Wimbledon. But take away Murray's nationality, look at things purely from a tennis perspective - he should be winning Wimbledon titles because he's simply that good.

I think the stage is set now for Murray to go on and win more majors including more Wimbledon titles in the next few years.

After today's result I'm just thinking about future Wimbledons. What's the story going to be now that our wait for a British winner is over?

Watching Wimbledon will never be the same again.