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Role Models

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That last blog post was all written by me by the way, for those that didn't realise. It didn't actually happen, it was a fabrication.

Sports people are role models whether you like it or not. They often embody qualities that are virtuous and suitable for a role model, things like single-mindedness, focus, dedication, *Ďprofessionalismí, clean-living and so on, everything you need to get ahead in life. One of the most enjoyable parts of watching sport is supporting your favourite athlete, living in their shoes as they do their thing so well, even if you donít realise you are doing it when you are supporting them you really are. For example I doubt many people watching Boonen win Roubaix the other day didnít secretly wish they were him, just a little bit. Athletes are role models whether you like it or not, whether itís appropriate or not.

The best athletes inevitably become the biggest role models, mainly I suppose because they get the most exposure. It's also because they help imply that those previously mentioned virtuous qualities are the key to success. This is of course all true in the main but I contend that if these qualities are taken to an extreme, as they necessarily are in professional sport then these people no longer qualify to be good role models.

Many sports people build or have constructed for them a little world in which they can take their focus and single-mindedness to an extreme, an extreme where nothing else exists except themselves and the attainment of perfection in their given discipline. This isnít actually as bad as it sounds, I often try to get into this zone whilst racing and I have people like a coach that help me do that, in fact I have never done well in a race in which I wasnít like this. I also behave like this sometimes when I train, for example when I am doing an interval there is nothing to do but concentrate, for that moment nothing else exists except yourself. It is selfish but it only exists for that moment and afterwards you come out of it again, if itís an interval you want it to be over as soon as possible. It is something you snap out of easily, often you snap out of it even when you donít want to.

A trait I have noticed in many athletes, particularly big and important ones is that often this bubble is never burst. The athlete is forever only concerned with themselves, their performance and nothing else, they are divas. And more than this their staff, sponsors and fans live in this bubble too, helping to ensure that it isnít burst. Anyone that isnít part of that bubble is ejected. With such an important commercial property at stake itís important to pamper your investment so that they perform, distractions often donít help. I have heard it said of Tour de France riders that literally every decision they make in the preceding 9 months leading up to the race is tempered with the question Ďis what I am doing going to help me win the Tour de France?í. When I say literally I mean literally, from deciding whether to eat a packet of sweets to going for a training ride. If ever there was a way to transmit Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder like a disease it is this. Combine these traits with the equally common sociapathic tendencies also found in those that rise to the top of intensely competitive environments, add a dash of talent and you have the making of a superstar cyclist, or athlete from any sport for that matter.

Iím not saying all athletes are like this, there is another common type that is able to turn their little bubble on and off like a light switch and re-enter the real world, although I think the former type tend to be found nearer the top of the sporting world. As soon as they swing their leg over a bike, pick up a racket or get in their F1 car they are a different person, perhaps a vicious, possibly sociopathic one that will try to win at all costs but once they cross the line they are back to normal again. This is the type of rider I feel that I am, although I didnít choose to be like this I think itís healthier psychologically, I feel like I get all my anger and aggression out and become a nice person again once the race is over.

There are probably lots of other types of athlete too, you could write many books on the subject and Iím not going to do that now. The reason I started thinking about this in the last few days is firstly because it has always seemed strange to me that athletes are role models. Secondly a quote from Sebastien Vettel, F1 driver extraordinaire about all the protests in Bahrain (where he was racing today) seemed to imply his bubble was very much intact:

"It's not a big problem and I'll be happy once we start testing... because then we can worry about the stuff that really matters - tyre temperatures and cars. I don't think it's that bad. I think it's a lot of hype,"

He won, naturally. Apparently he didnít know about the protestor that had already died Ė he did know that is was cancelled last year though due to around 35 deaths beforehand. His little bubble remained intact, thanks mainly to his team I suspect.

I know sports and politics shouldnít mix but in this instance it was unavoidable, the location was a poor choice to hold an F1 GP, here is an interesting article about it all, blaming Bernie Ecclestone mostly: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...ain-f1-protest.


It isn't the first time a sporting event has been held in a dodgy country, the Olympics seems to have done a world tour of them right from 1936 Berlin to Beijing in 2008. With an increasing amount of sporting events being held in dodgy places it looks like politics and sport are going to have to find a new relationship. Perhaps we will find out how robust athleteís bubbles are and weed out some good role models from the bad.

Here is a great article about the 2013 world track championships in Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe: http://inrng.com/2012/03/belarus-track-worlds-2013/.

Last year I rode the Giro di Padania, Iíll have to have a think if I ride it again next year, although to be honest I probably will. Italian politics is totally nuts but it isnít quite the same as that of Belarus or Bahrain.

*Iím still not wholly sure what this word means.

Links:

The end of the world is nigh: 11 speed Shimano - http://hamptoncycles.posterous.com/n...ed-sighting-hi.

A look at a very suspicious letter of admission from Katusha's Denis Galimzyanov: http://bicycling.com/blogs/boulderre...ved-questions/.

If you don't know about Addison Lee yet you probably should, here is the petition: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33116.

Ricco finally got his 12 year ban as expected, he can now get on with his life, here is a summary of his career: http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/11...or-doping.aspx. Watch out for the juicy Floyd Landis tell-all book.

You can never watch enough slow motion videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUZ-e2SkeMI.

It's funny how easy it is to stop for a pee during a 1.1 or harder race but how difficult it is in smaller races. Here is the lowdown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aMMx...feature=relmfu.

Updated 29-05-2012 at 10:20 AM by David Mclean

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