Tuesday, August 26, 2003

When the going gets ‘tough’, just let go –

The Stade de France at the World athletics championships -
Jonathan Edwards, triple jumper extraordinary chucks the towel in after only 2 triple jumps. Why? Because he didn’t feel he could ‘perform to his potential’. It’s hardly the stuff that made Alf Tupper in ‘The Tough of the Track’ great is it?

Alf used to weld metal all day, then change into his knitted woolly mum-made track suit, do 1,500 miles of pounding road work - in the pouring rain, (always in the pouring rain) on ill lit, petrol soaked cobbled streets. Finally finishing off at Gasworks Street Fish and Chip Emporium for a well earned carbohydrate-cholesterol sphincter testing treat of steak pie, double chips and extra large mushy peas with dollops of onion gravy.

Now that IS tough………

Jonathan, where was the will to win? Where was the gritty Geordie determination to succeed? And most importantly where was God? For, at his Friday retirement-announcing press conference, Jonathan said that Big G would be there with him as he hurtled down the track towards his silica-sodden nemesis. Well He wasn’t, whoever was watching, it wasn’t Him – or me. Just a few die-hard turnips watching a Swede trouncing the opposition.

I think the Big Man was probably taking a sneak look at the women’s pole vault – I know I was.

Take into consideration Dwain Chambers negative reaction to his athletes village-supplied bed. This powder puff, fluffy as a 'just washed feather boa' mattress – and Dwain's subsequent ‘flounce-out’ to the nearest 5 star hotel and you get the feeling that British athletes are not as tough as they once were.

For true toughness just think of George Mallory. You may remember that George, along with Andrew Irvine was spotted in 1924 at around 24,500 feet ‘going strongly for the top’ – of Mount Everest that is. The next thing, clouds rolled in and they were lost from view forever. It isn’t known if they made it to the top, but a few years ago an American Expedition set out to find the bodies – and maybe the camera that they were known to have. In this way, they could prove one way or the other what actually did happen.

They found Mallory’s body, he was crouched over into a foetal position. Because his back had been exposed to the elements for 75 years it had been polished ivory white. Add the intense cold, and his petrified skin had become as hard as carerra marble.

It was then noticed what sort of equipment George had with him. He was wearing a buckled up sporting Norfolk jacket – the sort of thing you might wear to nip down to the pub on a grim November night, a polo neck sweater, a cardy, a cotton shirt, a vest and a regulation pair of trousers – and that was it. On his feet he was wearing some sturdy walking boots and a few pairs of woolly socks.

They searched his pockets and found a Gamages Department store receipt, some string, library tickets as well as other ephemeral stuff. It was almost as if he had been in a Home Counties pub’ having a drink and been challenged with "I bet you couldn’t do ……"

"I bet I bally well could! I will bet you a crisp white fiver that I can do it. Landlord, if you can hold the stake, I am orf to climb Mount Everest, I may be some time, so look after my drink.

"I will ask my wife to prepare me some sandwiches, and make a flask of strong, hot tea to go with my tube of peppermints – that should do it"

Now that IS tough………