Monday, 19 October 2009

Mission Accomplished

Just a short article to congratulate Jenson Button on his magnificent achievement in becoming Formula One World Champion.
Button is a role model to anybody taking part in any form of sport. An example that persistence and belief in your own ability will pay off if you never give up.
He hasn’t had it easy in his career. Bursting on to the scene as a raw, prodigiously talented 20 year old, his early promise quickly nose dived and he was written off as a playboy. More interested in partying than scoring points was the general consensus.
However he has turned his career around in magnificent fashion with the help of technical genius Ross Brawn.
Button drove a terrible car for years as he showed the patience of a saint knowing that sooner or later his chance would come and in 2009 it did.
He might have struggled in the latter half of the season after being so dominant in the first but the history books will not show that.
All they will show, is that in 2009 Jenson Button was the best racing driver on the planet. A childhood dream achieved and one that is thoroughly deserved.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Cracknell on thin ice

I am not a big fan of rowing. I, like many others, get swept away in the excitement of it all during the Olympics but that’s about it. The sport enters my consciousness once every four years then disappears for another four. I am a self confessed football and cricket fan and those are the sports that I most immerse myself in.
However if somebody was to ask me who I admire and respect most from the world of sport, then the answer for me is an easy one. Ex Olympic rower James Cracknell.
However despite his extraordinary achievements as a rower (2 Olympic Golds and 6 World titles) it is what he has accomplished after his retirement that leads me to admire and respect him.
Now when a sportsman retires it is for one of two reasons. They are no longer physically capable of doing what they used to or they have lost their hunger for success. Neither was true of Cracknell. He has readily admitted that he might have retired too early.
So after announcing his retirement Cracknell found himself without a long term goal for the first time in his adult life. What could fill this void?
The answer came in the form of Ben Fogle.
Having already entered the Atlantic Rowing race and ordered the boat Fogle approached Cracknell with a proposition.
“I’m rowing the Atlantic. Would you like to do it with me?”
“Can you row?” replied Cracknell.
“Errrr no.”
Cracknell duly declined his offer.
However a month later he had a change of heart. He needed an outlet for his passion and drive and what better way than testing himself against one of the toughest environments Mother Nature has to offer. The trip was a great success. They finished first in their class and a great friendship had blossomed along the way.
It was their next challenge that really caught my imagination. Cracknell, along with Fogle and new team member Ed Coats set off on a race to the South Pole, which was documented by the BBC for a TV Series called ‘On Thin Ice.’ I tuned in every week without fail as I witnessed the incredible efforts of these three polar novices as they battled to win the Race to the South Pole. What made it such compelling viewing for me was seeing Cracknell try and survive in such a tough and unforgiving environment. For a man who has seemed invincible in many of the challenges he has taken on this was one that broke him down. Despite all his months of preparation, Cracknell realised that the kind of environment he was now in could throw him tests that he was unable to prepare for.
It showed the side of a sportsman that we rarely see. Cracknell was vulnerable and for the first time in his life admitted that this was a task that he may not be able to finish. However with great mental strength, and with the help and support of his team mates he pushed on to achieve his goal of reaching the South Pole.
It might not have made pleasant viewing for Cracknell, but for the first time the viewing public were able to see a sportsman with the layers stripped back, as somebody who is normal, and struggles like the rest of us. Not everybody likes him, he can often come across harshly on television, but you can’t help but respect him.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Alonso back at the top

Fernando Alonso’s move to Ferrari was one of the worst kept secrets in the history of Formula One. Everyone in the paddock knew that the move was going to happen, it was just a matter of when. The move , though, is undoubtedly a good one for Alonso, but it also extremely beneficial for the sport. In my eyes, and the eyes of many others Alonso is the best driver on the grid. No other driver could have got the results that he has managed over the last two years in what has often been a terrible car.
Many have questioned whether the complex Spaniard will be able to handle driving for Ferrari alongside a competitive team-mate in the form of Felipe Massa after his experience with McLaren and Lewis Hamilton in 2007. However, Alonso is an intelligent man and will have learned from his past mistakes and also has the added benefit of having a great friendship with the currently absent Brazilian.
Next season now promises to be an intriguing one. Alonso in the Ferrari against Hamilton in the McLaren. Both will be battling at the front of the grid but they won’t be the only ones there. Kimi Raikonnen, the man moved aside to make way for Alonso looks increasingly likely to return to McLaren in place of his under achieving countryman Heikki Kovalinen. Massa, should be a formidable force when back in full health, and there will also be the Brawn’s, most likely consisting of Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg and the Red Bull’s of Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel, both of whom have enjoyed successful but somewhat inconsistent times in 2009.
If there is a sport that needs a shot in the arm it is Formula One. This season has seen its reputation dragged through the mud, with the controversy early in the season about whether the top teams would be re-joining the competition or forming a breakaway competition to the recent race fixing scandal that saw Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds jettisoned from a sport they once graced. The fight for the title has also lost all momentum after the thrilling finishes of the previous two seasons. Jenson Button has done his very best to throw away the Championship but still finds himself 15 points clear of his nearest rivals as he crawls to his first World Championship.
It is about time that the best drivers were back at the front of the grid. Fernando Alonso should be fighting for wins and World Championships, not battling it out in the midfield. Next season he will be back at the very top, where his immense talent truly belongs.