Friday, April 6, 2007

Seven Gold Medals - mimitig

In some sports, Great Britain or England winning anything brings headlines on the front and back pages of the print media, and calls for such things as open-top bus tours and gongs for the heroes.

In cycling, the guys and girls come home quietly after a mammoth medal haul at the World Championships and get on with their training.

Track cycling is routinely described as a minority sport, and true, compared to the number of junior football clubs out there, far fewer competitors take part. This is partly to do with facilities, but leaving all that aside for now, one thing is sure. Track cycling is an Olympic sport and one in which Team GB has a more than odds-on chance of success.

Two world championships have just taken place and with Beijing less than 18 months away, I find it hard to understand why the one discipline in which we are really leading the way is not being used by all other Olympic sports as a blueprint. Swimming has commanded a lot of attention with the appointment after Sydney of the Australian coach Bill Sweetenham, and yet most of the print inches have focussed on controversy and the team comes home now from Melbourne with results lacking in any conviction for success in China.

On the other hand, very few people have ever heard of the Performance Director of Cycling, Dave Brailsford. He neither courts controversy with high profile arguments with his senior team members, nor publicity by whining that his success isn't recognised. He has gone quietly about his job of building a group of coaches - with personal success records - who work together and talk to each other and the team members. He has concentrated on seeking out experts who can bring experience and discipline to his squad - Chris Boardman being the most recognised name. He has not complained about the lack of facilities - the swimmers complain about not enough 50m pools, but there's hardly a plethora of velodromes in the UK either.

There is a different mindset about how the multitude of UK Sports' Performance Directors go about their tasks, but I think it's hard to argue with a man who has just brought home a total of 11 medals in his sport, 7 of them gold, and with a team stuffed full of young talent that will not just be riding for us in Beijing, but they'll be competing in London too.


MotM said...

Track cycling is a sport that only exists for the British media at the Olympics, which is such a shame as Mimi shows. It wasn't always thus with Reg Harris and Beryl Burton invariably recognised by my parents' generation.

Track is big in Japan and used to by big in Northern Europe through the Six Day Races, but smoking bans, changes to culture and the multiplicity of ways to bet have impacted on track's hold even in its heartlands.

Ebren said...

Sorry for the posting error mimi.

All better now.

Good report, with one vital omission.

You didn't mention how Cycling has benefited from the UK's natural bias to being good at sports where you get to sit down.

Rowing, sailing, motor racing, equestrian, and cycling. If you get to sit down, Briton has wolrd chamions in it.

MotM said...

Not to mention snooker where you spend almost half your time sitting down.

guitougoal said...

Mimi they used to have the veld'hiv in Paris and that was the most popular place in France,they held the" 6 jours de Paris" 6 night and days non stop (by relays).
Track cycling, the mixte of speed, power and strategy involved make it one of the most entertaining sport.
Very good piece.

Zeph said...

Odd, isn't it? More and more people in Britain are cycling just to get from one place to another, but it doesn't translate into an interest in the sport.
GU should hire you as their track cycling correspondent, Mimi.

mimi said...

gitou: the Six Jours de Paris is something I only know of from reading. Wouldn't it be great if it happened again? Hoy is aiming at the world high altitude record, and I'm backing him to bring it home to Scotland.
Zeph: if only they would!!

guitougoal said...

mimi, I know it from reading too and from movies, but when I lived in Paris I knew one ex-track racer from the "6 jours" , Andre Pousse, he became later a movie character actor, he used to tell us incredible stories about these days of cycling. For what i understand these meetings were viewed as sporting and social events.

mimi said...

It's lovely that some of you have read another mimi piece on cycling. Although tempted to do a piece on Graeme Obree immediately, I'll be holding off until Chris Hoy's World Kilo challenge. More in May - do I promise or threaten??

BlueinBetis said...

Its a mystery to me why track cycling isn't more popular. It's the perfect telly sport. I love it when the Olympics finally do come so that we can see it.

Road races can also be made interesting, Channel 4 used to show the Tours regularly, and I used to enjoy them a lot.

I think the recent high profile drugs problems that the sport has had, has had a negative effect. Which is a pity, since there are obviously some very dedicated and talented athletes that are not being praised highly enough.

Lovely Mimi, sorry to hear about your work situation; but being selfish, it means I get to read more by you, which is fine by me!

nesta said...

Lovely Mimi,

Track cycling is a thrilling sport. The indiviidual and team pursuits are fantastic live and make good telly. Also the cat and mouse tactics of the sprints is top entertainment. The Keiran and the Madison can be confusing to the uninitiated but a madcap must see at any cycling meet.

Australia like Britain have a tradition of producing Olympic medallists on the track. In parallel to Soviet Russia the Australian Institute of sport visit schools on a daily basis measuring both physically and psychologically the hapless students. Even if they have never raced a bicycle, if you have the right stuff you are offered a lucrative scholarship at the Canberra Sporting Gulag. Parents are pressured to give their children to the sporting bureaucracy for the good of the nation. Apparently this method of recruitment is highly sucessful medal wise. Personally, I find it distasteful. Eugenic scientists testing children gives me the creeps. I'm starting to rant so I'll end with, Nice Work Mimi.

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