Friday, December 23, 2011

10 things I learned in 2011

…from great sporting performers

1. Paula Radcliffe in Berlin - Paula for me still stands as one of the most inspirational characters from the sport of athletics. If ever anyone symbolized the essence of ‘hard work’ it’s Paula. Her return to a competitive marathon in Berlin could just be the start of one of the most amazing stories our sport has ever seen. Failure to finish in Athens followed by a below par performance in Beijing (by her own standards) leaves Paula, at the age of 38 in London, a long shot but someone who will undoubtedly be buoyed by the increased sense of pride performing on home soil. So the lesson she encapsulates and we all hope can see through is - never ever give up.
2. Mo Farah in Daegu - after a close ran race in the 10k, Mo hobbled (his blisters were so bad) to the rostrum to receive his silver medal. Had he ‘gone too soon’? Did he have the ability to close out and beat the best of the Ethiopians & Kenyans? Would he be ok for the 5k? All questions were answered a few days later when Mo returned to the track to take the 5k title. The lesson - keep believing
3. Jess Ennis in Daegu - clipping the 3rd hurdle in the first event and under pressure right from the 1st of the 7 events. The defending champion went on to see her Russian nemesis Tatyana Chernova go on to deprive Jess of the gold. A frustrated Jess was under pressure in the javelin and despite a credible fight had to settle for silver - winning isn’t easy; it’s never guaranteed.
4. Manchester City - Are you enjoying seeing Man City with their successes this season or cynical at their money driven improvement? Top of the league at Christmas for the first time since 1929! Either way, their performances (despite the European cup hiccup) teach us, in my opinion, one of the basic rules for success in any world - Surround yourself with talent.
5. The England rugby team at the World Cup in New Zealand was not a pretty sight - from the lack of professionalism off the pitch to the lacklustre performances on it. For me the performance based teachings are around the concept of acquiring and retaining clarity and of being impeccably self aware. The lesson - Always aspire for greater self awareness
6. Dai Greene in Daegu . There was one athlete on the British team who stood out for me at the world champs and that was Dai Greene, and not just because he won! Dai walked into the stadium on each of the days when he performed, like a champion. He imposed himself on the opposition with a quiet reassurance. There is a lovely lesson to be learned from Dai - act like a champ in everything you do.
7. Huddersfield Town 43 games unbeaten. Watching Huddersfield’s winning streak come to an end in a 2-0 defeat to Charlton reminds me of a saying I learned from my friend and colleague Roger Black. And it is ‘if you think you’ve found a winning formula, you’re just about to get beaten’
8. Rebecca Adlington in winning the 800m World title. - I happened to be in my car listening to 5live during the swimming world champs from Shanghai. I tuned in just as Becky Adlington was starting her bid to take the 800m crown. Down with 100m to go, Becky kept her rhythm and hauled in her challenger Lotte Fris in an inspiring victory. The lesson for me is - Get into a strong performance rhythm and keep the faith.
9. Darren Clarke winning the Open - I was fortunate enough to be at Sandwich for the final day of the Open which saw the Northern Irishman Clarke defeat the best in the world to attain golf’s ultimate prize at the age of 42. The lessons from this are many but I’m going with. Smile your way to victory. Darren seemed at peace with himself and nothing was going to dent his enjoyment of what was to be his best ever day. The lesson - Enjoy the journey.
10. Nicolas Anelka in moving from Chelsea to China polarizes opinion. To some he is the coolest man in football and others a spoilt mercenary who lost site of his true values. No one can deny the €10.6m (£8.9m) a year would be difficult carrot to ignore. The lesson for me is simple - know what you want and why.

What were your sporting highlights of 2011 and what did you learn from the greats?

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