Getting ready for a swim in Lanzarote back in January I spotted a young lad getting ready to swim in the lane next two me and I recognised him. I spent a moment or two trying to figure out how come I knew him. I couldn’t say hi without at least remembering his name. Then the penny dropped. It was Jonny Brownlee and no, I didn’t know him at all.
I felt I was getting an inkling of the problems celebrities (of whatever nature) face. Most people they meet will feel like they know them and, in fact, will know a fair bit about them whilst they know nothing of them. Of course most Triathlon celebrities will not be recognised beyond the Triathlon community. Lots of people are celebrities in their own little circle but very few are within the wider public.
So each year we have a “Sports Personality of The Year Award”. Certainly an unfortunate title as it’s not really about personality. In fact, if a sportsman with heaps of “personality” (whatever that means) won it but was a complete also ran at his chosen sport everyone would be up in arms. Most would probably consider the award to be recognition across all sports of the greatest achievement that year. A difficult decision even if you had full and equal knowledge across all sports and were not receiving outside influence. Lets face it, that is not the case and this is in fact a popularity competition between the few that are chosen to be on the short list. A little like a US Presidential election. I can remember two occasions where the fact it’s a ‘popularity’ contest has been highlighted. I used to be in to fishing and I remember there being stirrings of getting all the fishermen (then the biggest participation sport in the country) to vote for their celebrity. I also recall that following Beckhams World Cup red card there was an internet campaign to vote for him which, if memory serves me right, resulted in Gary Lineker announcing on the night that no electronic votes would count.
Efforts are made to get round this by letting “experts” create the shortlist but that just results in mainstream sports as even writers for major newspapers don’t seem to know much about sport beyond that with major television coverage. Even the Suns expert didn’t put forward Chrissie despite months before them running an article about her and how she should be on the list. She fit the title of the award big time. A definite personality. She fit the bill big time on achievements. The same could be said for the Brownlees, in fact as a double act they’d be right up there on the personality front in my book.
However, Triathlon isn’t mainstream and they didn’t even get a look in. It seemed the Triathlon community was up in arms about Chrissie not being on the list, it was put in sharper focus when the list excluded any women.
I agree it seemed rather lacking but before we all complain about it we should look at ourselves. There is another Triathlon World Champion who is ignored even by the Triathlon press. I’ll come clean, this guy is a friend and someone I coach. With my supporting of two Ultra events this year (Double Enduroman Lanzarote and Thames Path 100) I have a new found respect for these amazing athletes. It may be a niche but what these people achieve is truly stunning. Within this arena Paul Thompson, IUTA (International Ultra Triathlon Association) World Champion 2011, is a celebrity.
To win this title he won Double Enduroman Lanzarote, Double Ironman Switzerland, Triple Ironman Lesahn and Double Ironman Virginia. On top of that he qualified for the 70.3 World Championships and came close to a Kona slot. A week after his final Double he joined a friend for the 50 mile Round Rotheram race to help pace him to a Western States qualifying time.
In my book Paul fits the bill for personality and achievement. So come on, lets get our house in order first and recognise all our World Champions. Once we do we can truly complain about the lack of recognition of our Triathletes in the mainstream press and at the Sports Personality of The Year.