20121031

Armstrong scandal makes The Secret Race the bestseller among shortlisted contenders for 'bookie prize'

Who wins the William Hill Sports Book of the Year for 2012 is entirely down to the panel of judges but if their assessment of the seven titles shortlisted is a reflection of sales figures then Tyler Hamilton's Tour de France exposé The Secret Race will take the prize.

According to data compiled by Nielsen Bookscan, more than 10,500 copies of The Secret Race were sold in only six weeks following its UK publication in mid-September by Bantam Press.

Most of these sales came before the United States Anti-Doping Agency effectively endorsed the accusations Hamilton makes in the book by branding seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong a "serial cheat" on the basis of testimony offered under oath by Hamilton and others.

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France, written with the help of former Armstrong biographer Daniel Coyle, came about after Hamilton, himself a self-confessed drugs cheat, decided he would come clean about cycling's murky past.  It reveals the sport's dirtiest secrets in unvarnished detail, with particular focus on what he saw and was party to during his time riding alongside Armstrong on the US Postal team.

However, Hamilton's book is not the only one on the shortlist with sales figures in excess of 10,000.

It took her autobiography, A Life Without Limits, almost eight months to reach that number, but Chrissie Wellington is only just behind Hamilton in Nielsen's figures, compiled from data supplied by more than 90 per cent of UK book retailers in both the High Street and online.

Given that her athletic prowess has never enjoyed the benefits of wide publicity -- her fourth Ironman world triathlon title in October last year merited only three paragraphs in The Independent, for example -- it is a reflection of how her remarkable story caught the public imagination that A Life Without Limits has sold steadily ever since it was published by Constable in February.

Wellington was almost 30 before she even thought about becoming a professional athlete. She had been a girl who was good at many sports but never particularly excelled in any. But when she was invited to take part in a 'duathlon' race -- combining mountain-biking with off-road running -- while backpacking in Argentina in 2006, she surprised herself by winning it, even though there were professionals in the field.
The former civil servant from Bury St Edmunds lined up for her first Ironman triathlon 18 months later and her debut victory was seen as an astonishing achievement given the nature of the event, which is made up of a 2.4 mile open water swim, an 112-mile cycle race and a full 26.2 mile marathon run, all on the same day.

The Olympic triathlon won by Alistair Brownlee at London 2012 is a breeze by comparison, combining a 1,500m swim, a 43km bike ride and a 10km run.

Wellington, who is currently taking a sabbatical from competition, is undefeated in 13 races over the Ironman distance.

The William Hill award, now in its 24th year, has been won twice by a cycling title.  By coincidence, the first of those, A Rough Ride, by Paul Kimmage, which triumphed way back in 1990, also gained notoriety for exposing the use of drugs in the sport.  Somewhat ironically, Lance Armstrong was the winner in 2000 with It's Not About the Bike, which documented his recovery from cancer.

Should Wellington win, however, it would be a first success for an athletics book.

The full shortlist is:


  • That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  • Running with the Kenyans – Discovering The Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber)
  • The Secret Race – Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (Bantam Press)
  • Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)
  • Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)
  • A Life Without Limits – A World Champion’s Journey, by Chrissie Wellington with Michael Aylwin (Constable & Robinson)
  • Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash, by James Willstrop with Rod Gilmour (James Willstrop / Rod Gilmour)


The longlisted titles that did not make the cut were:

Iron War – Dave Scott, Mark Allen & the Greatest Race Ever Run, by Matt Fitzgerald (Quercus);
The Footballer Who Could Fly, by Duncan Hamilton (Century); A Weight Off My Mind – My Autobiography, by Richard Hughes with Lee Mottershead (Racing Post); The Dirtiest Race in History – Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final, by Richard Moore (Wisden Sports Writing); Between the Lines – The Autobiography, by Victoria Pendleton with Donald McRae (HarperSport); Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton (Particular Books); Jonny: My Autobiography, by Jonny Wilkinson with Owen Slot (Headline).

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and most valuable literary prize for sports writing.  As well as a £24,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a £2,000 William Hill bet, a specially-commissioned hand-bound copy of their book and a day at the races.

Only books published for the first time in the UK between September 30, 2011 and September 29, 2012 were considered.  Shortlisted authors will receive £3,000 cash, a leather-bound copy of their book, and a free £1,000 bet. Longlisted authors will receive a free £500 bet and a certificate.

The judging panel for this year’s award consists of broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; footballer and chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the judging panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.

The winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, on Monday, November 26.

For more information and to buy any of the short and long-listed titles, visit the William Hill 2012 page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

More reading:

James Willstrop -- Hidden star of the sport the Olympics left behind
Why Bobby Charlton's handshake meant so much to author Duncan Hamilton
Tyler Hamilton reveals all
Hamilton and McRae go head to head for 'bookie prize'

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20121026

James Willstrop - hidden star of the sport the Olympics left behind

Here's a question -- in which sport does Britain boast the top two male players in the world and two of the top four women yet did not win a single medal at London 2012?


The answer is squash.  And the reason for its conspicuous lack of success in Britain's golden year is that, as yet, squash is not an Olympic sport, despite years of lobbying for inclusion. It has featured in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games since 1998 but never in an Olympics.

That might change this time next year.  Having missed out in London and again in Rio in 2016, squash has turned to Mike Lee, the bid strategist behind London 2012 and Qatar's controversial securing of the 2018 World Cup, to steer their campaign for a place at the 2020 Olympics.  Squash will learn its fate when the International Olympic Committee meets in Buenos Aires next October to elect the host city and decide which new sports get the nod.

It will be too late for James Willstrop and Nick Matthew, who will go into next month's World Championships in Qatar as one and two in the world.  One or the other would have been expected to win gold in London, but at 29 and 32 years old respectively it is unrealistic to think that either would still be competing at the highest level eight years from now.

If only they had been around in the 1980s, when squash attracted some high profile sponsors and enjoyed much more interest from the media than it has in recent years.  Then the sport was dominated by Pakistan's Jahangir Khan.

To be world squash champion is no minor feat.  Few sports provide such a grueling test of a ball player's mental and physical endurance and, what's more, it is played in 185 countries.  World Squash Day, an event staged earlier this month in support of the game's bid for 2020 Olympic inclusion, involved 32,000 players from 700 clubs.

Just how tough a feat is graphically described in Willstrop's book, Shot and a Ghost, subtitled A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash, which was deservedly named on the longlist for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

It is a reflection of how squash has slipped off the radar despite the success of its British players -- Matthew will be attempting to win his third world title in Qatar -- that the book, a project encouraged by the Daily Telegraph journalist, Rod Gilmour, attracted only scant interest from major sports book publishers and only modest offers from smaller houses, eventually emerging as a self-published title.

A minor book it is not, however. Willstrop opens his soul with considerable eloquence and gripping honesty not only to describe the rigours of playing sport at the highest level but to take the reader into his own world, well beyond the confines of the 60-odd square metres in which he plies his trade, one in which he has had to cope with the premature death of his mother, the strict regime set for him by father Malcolm, who is something of a coaching legend in squash, and growing up as a young man apart in the earthy Yorkshire town of Pontefract.

Simon Redfern, whose measured, succinct reviews of sports books are a must-read in the Independent on Sunday, described Shot And a Ghost as "an engrossing read".  Whether the William Hill judges see it that way will be revealed on Monday, when the shortlist for the 2012 award is due to be revealed.

Read more

Longlist announced for William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2012
Ex-doper Tyler Hamilton reveals Lance Armstrong's dirty secrets
The handshake that touched the soul of hat-trick seeker Duncan Hamilton

Buy Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash direct from amazon.co.uk

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20121022

The moment that a handshake from Bobby Charlton touched the soul of William Hill 'treble' contender Duncan Hamilton


When Duncan Hamilton won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for the first time in 2007 the first hand he shook was that of Bobby Charlton, whose autograph he had once queued for in vain as a small boy growing up in Newcastle. It was a moment that Hamilton felt was 'scarcely credible' .


Charlton had been a contender for the award himself for My Manchester United Years, the first volume of his autobiography, brilliantly crafted by the veteran sportswriter Jim Lawton, but it had been beaten by Hamilton's book Provided You Don't Kiss Me, an entertaining, perceptive and well-received account of the time he had spent working with Brian Clough as a local newspaper reporter during the glory years of Nottingham Forest.

Hamilton recalls the moment in The Footballer Who Could Fly (Century), for which Hamilton has been longlisted for the 2012 William Hill award.  The Footballer Who Could Fly is on one level a journey through football in England from the 1940s, a evocative paean to the most gifted players and most respected managers that have shaped the game, but on another level is a rather moving autobiography, at the heart of which is a father-son relationship that Hamilton says was held together only by football and a shared admiration for certain players, Charlton being one of them.

"My Manchester United Years," Hamilton writes, "...is powerfully and beautifully written. I was convinced it would win. But my overriding thought was how my father would have reacted to the fact that I was competing against Charlton in the first place.
" 'You... on the same pitch... as Bobby Charlton?' I could almost hear him say it, the triple spaces between the words served as his astonished punctuation.
"Friends wanted me to get Charlton's autograph for them.  I wanted his signature too -- the signature I'd failed to get 35 years ago outside St James' Park.  With serendipitous timing, I met him on the way into the ceremony.  He was wearing the sort of good suit my father would have worn. Everything was noisy and crowded and hot. As he patiently signed away, I watched the pen gracefully shape his name, which he must have written on more than a million occasions."

When the result was announced and he was called on to the platform to receive the award, Hamilton was almost incredulous.

"The impossible happened," he writes. "My book was awarded the prize.  As I came off the stage, the first person waiting to congratulate me was Charlton, as gracious as ever.  He was standing at the foot of the steps. The handshake, which he'd given at the end of some of football's most epic matches to Pele and Beckenbauer and to Eusebio and Puskas, was offered to me. It seemed scarcely credible. I wanted to tell him about my father.  About the high esteem in which he'd held him. About the afternoon we'd spent watching his last appearance at St James' Park. And how he'd never believe the circumstances of this meeting.  But the words would not come, and the chance was lost."

It could be imagined that the Charlton handshake inspired The Footballer Who Could Fly.  Hamilton, who overcame the handicap of a severe stammer to become a successful journalist and now full-time author, paints some wonderfully nostalgic scenes as he delves into his memories.  But because so much of what he recalls about the football of his younger years is influenced by what his father taught him, the memories are tinged with regret that he and his father were never close on a personal level, at least not in the way he wished they had been.

Hamilton senior, a working class Geordie, was not a man comfortable with shows of intimacy, preferring to preserve with his son the kind of relationship that he had with his own father, one of quiet respect and mutual caring but not something that was ever spoken of as love.  A passion for football, however, was a way in which emotions could be shared.  The book takes its title from a remark Hamilton's father once made about Wyn Davies, a forward renowned for his ability to jump high above other players, whose picture appears on the cover.

Hamilton, who won the William Hill award for a second time in 2009 for his biography of Harold Larwood, would the first to win it for a third time.  He was also nominated in 2010 for A Last English Summer, a reflection on the state of cricket based on a summer spent watching the game in England.

As well as a £24,000 cash prize, the winning author, to be announced on November 26, will receive a £2,000 William Hill bet, a specially-commissioned hand-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races.

The shortlist will be announced on Friday of this week.  The full longlist comprises:
  1. That Near Death Thing: Inside the Most Dangerous Race in the World, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  2. Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber)
  3. Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and the Greatest Race Ever Run, by Matt Fitzgerald (Quercus)
  4. The Footballer Who Could Fly, by Duncan Hamilton (Century)
  5. The Secret Race - Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (Bantam Press)
  6. A Weight Off My Mind: My Autobiography, by Richard Hughes, with Lee Mottershead (Racing Post)
  7. Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)
  8. Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)
  9. The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final, by Richard Moore (Wisden Sports Writing)
  10. Between the Lines: My Autobiography, by Victoria Pendleton with Donald McRae (HarperSport)
  11. Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton (Particular Books)
  12. A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey, by Chrissie Wellington, with Michael Aylwin (Constable & Robinson)
  13. Jonny: My Autobiography, by Jonny Wilkinson, with Owen Slot (Headline)
  14. Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash, by James Willstrop (Rod Gilmour)
My Manchester United Years, by Bobby Charlton with Jim Lawton, is published by Headline. The second volume of this biography is entitled My England Years.

Harold Larwood, by Duncan Hamilton
A Last English Summer, by Duncan Hamilton
Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough, by Duncan Hamilton

For information about all of Duncan Hamilton's books, visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop

20121016

Bookie prize contender Tyler Hamilton reveals all you need to know about the Lance Armstrong scandal and cycling's doping secrets


REVIEW: THE SECRET RACE, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle



Among all the contenders to be named 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year, none is more topical than Tyler Hamilton's disturbing expose of the tainted Lance Armstrong era in professional cycling.


The Secret Race, which Hamilton wrote in conjunction with journalist and best-selling author Daniel Coyle, builds on the confession former US Postal team member Hamilton made in front of a grand jury in 2010 during an investigation into the doping allegations that have now led to Armstrong being stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005.

Armstrong dismissed Hamilton's book as an example of a "washed-up cyclist talking trash for cash" but Coyle went to considerable lengths to ensure he was not imparting the one-eyed account of an embittered rival, himself effectively banned for life after failing a drugs test for a second time in 2009, and stripped of his gold medal from the 2004 Olympics only this year.

Coyle had harboured his own suspicions about Armstrong since spending almost a year following the American rider to write the essentially sympathetic biography, Lance Armstrong's War, but was not prepared to accept Hamilton's word alone that the stories of drug use, blood doping, complicity and cover-ups were true.

He recorded more the 200 hours of interviews with Hamilton but also talked to numerous independent sources, including other teammates, to verify and corroborate the claims made.

Hamilton spoke of his appearance before the grand jury as a release, an unburdening of his soul as he shared with the wider world the secrets that had tormented him for much of his career.  Coyle said that when Hamilton agreed to put it all into a book it was akin to being given "a ticket behind the wall of silence" that had allowed the doping culture in cycling to survive for so long.

Hamilton extends the confessional aspect of his court appearance by revealing the years of cheating in every complex detail, describing every way in which he felt the testers were so easily outwitted and the lengths to which the co-conspirators went to ensure their astonishing deception went undetected.

As an explanation, for the benefit of the curious but perhaps less well-informed reader, of why the Lance Armstrong story, and all its ramifications, is so huge, Hamilton's book will make a riveting, jaw-dropping read.  For cycling fans, though, it is likely to induce considerable discomfort, perhaps even dismay, at the questions it inevitably raises again about the sport over the last couple of decades, of how much has been clean, how much a lie.

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs is published by Bantam Books

The Secret Race is among 14 books on the longlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year for 2012. A shortlist will be announced on October 26 with the winner due to be revealed on November 26. 

The list in full comprises (click on the links for more information at amazon.co.uk):

  1. That Near Death Thing: Inside the Most Dangerous Race in the World, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  2. Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber)
  3. Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and the Greatest Race Ever Run, by Matt Fitzgerald (Quercus)
  4. The Footballer Who Could Fly, by Duncan Hamilton (Century)
  5. The Secret Race - Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (Bantam Press)
  6. A Weight Off My Mind: My Autobiography, by Richard Hughes, with Lee Mottershead (Racing Post)
  7. Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)
  8. Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)
  9. The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final, by Richard Moore (Wisden Sports Writing)
  10. Between the Lines: My Autobiography, by Victoria Pendleton with Donald McRae (HarperSport)
  11. Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton (Particular Books)
  12. A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey, by Chrissie Wellington, with Michael Aylwin (Constable & Robinson)
  13. Jonny: My Autobiography, by Jonny Wilkinson, with Owen Slot (Headline)
  14. Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash, by James Willstrop (Rod Gilmour)

20121011

Bradley Wiggins takes a starring role alongside Stuart Broad, Gary Lineker and Sam Warburton on publishing's Super Thursday

Today has been the publishing world's so-called Super Thursday, the October date that signals the start of the Christmas sales push. Among 97 new titles to hit the shelves, the crop of new sports books includes offerings from Stuart Broad and Gary Lineker -- and two books that will hope to benefit from the wave of popularity that has made Bradley Wiggins into a strong contender to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

We will not know the thoughts of the Tour de France winner and Olympic champion himself until November 8 -- publication date for Yellow Jersey's new Wiggins autobiography, My Time -- but in the meantime, two titles celebrating the feats of sport's most famous mod revivalist are released today.

Bradley Wiggins: The Story of Britain's Greatest Ever Cyclist, by Press Association journalist Matt McGeehan is published by Carlton Books.  The 128-page biography looks at how the Wiggins 2012 success story has been more than a decade in the making, tracing back his rise to the posters of the great Spanish cyclist Miguel Indurain that adorned his bedroom wall as he grew up in inner-city London.

Cycling journalist Daniel Friebe, author of the Eddy Merckx biography, The Cannibal, and Mark Cavendish's ghostwriter on Boy Racer, offers Allez Wiggo! How Bradley Wiggins Won the Tour de France and Olympic Gold in 2012.  Published by Bloomsbury Sport and spanning 176 pages, Friebe looks in particular at the strategy Team Sky employed to help Wiggins become the first British winner of the Tour.

Wiggins is a popular subject at the moment -- cycling journalist and friend John Deering tells his story, too, in Tour de Force, which was published by Birlinn at the beginning of this month -- and while today's cycling headlines are regrettable for the sport, the Wiggins story offers a timely counter to the sordid details thrown up by the Lance Armstrong enquiry.

Carlton have been by far the busiest sports publishers on Super Thursday, with three titles from sports statistician, historian and journalist Keir Radnedge alone.   These are an updated fourth edition of the best-selling World Football Records (256 pages), a new post-London 2012 edition of Olympic and World Records (208 pages), and the former World Soccer editor's 288-page Complete Encyclopedia of Football.

Gary Lineker's light-hearted Football - It's Unbelievable is also from the Carlton stable, as is Mike Hammond's exhaustively comprehensive UEFA European Football Yearbook, now in its 25th year as the ultimate reference for European football, covering not only the international teams and the Champions League but the domestic leagues in all 53 UEFA member countries.

Completing the clutch of Carlton titles are Robert Lodge's collection of bizarre football stories, A Game of Three Halves, Bruce Jones's 288-page Complete Encyclopedia of Formula One and Ian Valentine's unusual Cricket Yesterday and Today, which uses photographs from the modern era with days past to compare and contrast the cricketing giants of history with the stars of today.

On a cricketing theme, look out also for Going Barmy, Paul Winslow's first-hand account of life as a member of the England cricket team's loyal unofficial entourage, the Barmy Army. Published by SportsBooks, this is an engaging tale of cricket obsession, with a foreword by the England off-spinner and Barmy Army hero, Graeme Swann.

There will be much interest in Stuart Broad's My World in Cricket, in which the England fast bowler and Twenty20 captain reveals among other things the techniques and tactics, mental and physical, that have helped him succeed in top-level cricket, with advice on how to apply the same formula to the game at any level, either in club or schoolboy cricket.


My World in Cricket is published by Simon and Schuster, who also unveiled rugby star Sam Warburton's Refuse to be Denied: My Grand Slam Year, in which the Wales captain talks about the drama and disappointment of the rugby World Cup in New Zealand, in which he was controversially sent off in the semi-final against France, and his triumphant return to lead Wales to Six Nations glory.

Look out also for As The Crow Flies: My Journey to Ironman World Champion, by Craig Alexander (Bloomsbury Sport), The 368-page Official Illustrated History of Manchester United: 1878-2012 (Simon & Schuster), John Hartson's Celtic Dream Team (Black and White), and Ayrton Senna: The Messiah of Motor Racing, by Richard Craig (Darton, Longman and Todd).

For more information and to buy, visit the Super Thursday page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

Read more from the world of sports books...
William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2012: The complete longlist
Rick Broadbent talks about ghosting the Jessica Ennis autobiography
Face to face with himself: Ex-footballer David McVay sees his '70s diaries brought to life on the stage

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20121010

Hamilton and McRae go head to head in battle for sports literature's annual 'bookie prize'

BIOGRAPHIES OF VICTORIA PENDLETON, JONNY WILKINSON, RICHARD HUGHES, CHRISSIE WELLINGTON, SIMON JORDAN AND JAMES WILLSTROP ON 2012 WILLIAM HILL LONGLIST



Sportswriters Duncan Hamilton and Donald McRae are pitted head to head in a bid to make history by becoming the first to win the prestigious William Hill Sports Book of the Year for a third time.  Both have made the longlist - just announced - for the 2012 award and a £24,000 cash prize.  

McRae, who won in 1996 with Dark Trade, his exploration of the shadier sides of professional boxing, and again in 2002 for In Black and White, his joint biography of iconic black athletes Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, is in the running as co-author of British Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton's autobiography Between The Lines. 

Hamilton, winner of the award in 2007 with Provided You Don't Kiss Me, his account of his day-to-day dealings with Brian Clough as a local newspaper reporter, and again two years later with his biography of Bodyline fast bowler Harold Larwood, has been nominated for The Footballer Who Could Fly, which charts the progress of post-war British football as well as exploring how a mutual love of the game provided a bond between father and son that might otherwise have not existed.

Other longlist titles include
  • Fibber in the Heat by comedian and actor Miles Jupp, one of the stars of political satire The Thick of It, who bluffed his way into the press corps during England’s Test series in India.
  • Jonny: My Autobiography, in which rugby star Jonny Wilkinson reveals how he overcame his own psychological barriers to reach the top in his sport.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For, the story of Simon Jordan, the life-long Crystal Palace fan who bought the club with his self-made millions, only to lose almost everything when it went into administration in 2010. 
  • That Near Death Thing, Rick Broadbent's journey to the heart of the extraordinarily dangerous Isle of Man TT motorcycle race through the story of four riders.
  • A Life Without Limits, the story of Chrissie Wellington, the triathlete from Norfolk who became four-times female world champion in the almost impossibly-demanding Ironman event, which combines a 2.4-mile swim with an 112-mile bike ride and a full 26.2 miles marathon run, back-to-back, without a break.

 The list in full comprises (click on the links for more information at amazon.co.uk)

  1. That Near Death Thing: Inside the Most Dangerous Race in the World, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  2. Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber)
  3. Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and the Greatest Race Ever Run, by Matt Fitzgerald (Quercus)
  4. The Footballer Who Could Fly, by Duncan Hamilton (Century)
  5. The Secret Race - Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (Bantam Press)
  6. A Weight Off My Mind: My Autobiography, by Richard Hughes, with Lee Mottershead (Racing Post)
  7. Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)
  8. Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)
  9. The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final, by Richard Moore (Wisden Sports Writing)
  10. Between the Lines: My Autobiography, by Victoria Pendleton with Donald McRae (HarperSport)
  11. Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton (Particular Books)
  12. A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey, by Chrissie Wellington, with Michael Aylwin (Constable & Robinson)
  13. Jonny: My Autobiography, by Jonny Wilkinson, with Owen Slot (Headline)
  14. Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash, by James Willstrop (Rod Gilmour)

Graham Sharpe, William Hill spokesman and founder of the Award, said: “2012 was a memorable sporting year thanks to the Olympics and the Paralympics, the Ryder Cup and the US Open tennis to name but a few of the highlights, and it is a year which has also produced a strong crop of memorable sporting books.

"It has been difficult enough to narrow the contenders down to a manageable longlist of 14 titles, and with sports like squash, swimming and Ironman racing represented for the first time, this is the most diverse longlist we have yet seen.”

Now in its 24th year, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. As well as a £24,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a £2,000 William Hill bet, a specially-commissioned hand-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races.

The judging panel for this year’s award consists of broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; footballer and chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle, who joins the judging panel for the first time; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; plus columnist and author, Alyson Rudd.

Chairman of the judging panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop.

The shortlist is scheduled to be announced on October 26. The winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, on Monday, November 26.

More reading...
A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke win 2011 William Hill Sports Book of Year Award

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20121008

Jessica Ennis adds final chapter to a golden year with story of how she fulfilled her Olympic dreams

The autobiography of Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis

It is a measure of the essential modesty of Olympic golden girl Jessica Ennis that she was reluctant to commit to telling her life story before London 2012 because she was not sure that she had done enough to warrant it.

The idea was discussed earlier this year, when she asked Rick Broadbent, the athletics writer who had ghosted her column in The Times since 2009, if he would be willing to work with her, only to decide that she did not want to blur her focus on her ultimate goal.

"We talked about it but she was always in two minds," Broadbent told The Sports Bookshelf. "She didn't want to do it because, in her mind, she had not really achieved anything, so the project was put on hold."

Ennis had been European and World heptathlon champion but only Olympic gold would satisfy her definition of achievement and it was not until the medal was hers on that memorable August night in east London that she felt she had a story to share. The rights to her autobiography were not assigned to publishers Hodder and Stoughton until the first week in September.

It gave Broadbent a testing schedule to deliver the manuscript on time but having written a number of books in his own name and ghosted others, he had some experience to draw on.  He had the benefit, too, of a well-established working relationship with his subject. The book will be published on November 8.

"It helped that I've known Jessica for some years so a lot of the background was familiar to me already," he said. "I first met her in 2008 and we have worked together on her column in The Times since 2009.

"And I like her as a person. She is genuinely lovely and a pleasure to deal with, and that isn't something you can always say about people involved in professional sport at the highest level.  She is the nicest person I've met in my career in journalism."

"She had never cried on the podium before."

Ennis has a personality that exudes warmth and her place in the affections of the British public was only reinforced when, in her trackside interview with the BBC's Phil Jones in the aftermath of her Olympic victory, she struggled in vain to hold her emotions in check.  Tearful scenes at the moment of triumph or defeat have become commonplace but for Ennis, a proud Yorkshire girl with some Sheffield steel beneath the soft exterior, it was a first.

"She had never cried on the podium before," Broadbent said. "It was a first show of emotion in public.  She had always managed to hold it in before, even at the lowest moments.

"She has been through the mill with injuries, missing the Beijing Olympics of course.  So after winning in London I think it was just a total outpouring of relief.  She knew it was her one chance really to be Olympic champion and she had done it."

Broadbent first encountered Ennis at Gotzis in Austria in 2008, when he was among the journalists who interviewed her as she lay on a couch, her foot encased in ice after the fateful injury to her right ankle had forced her to withdraw from competition only 10 weeks ahead of the Beijing games.

"It was typical of her that she insisted she would be okay, that it was only a precaution.  Of course when she got home the scans revealed the triple fracture and her Olympic dream was over."

It would not be the first time she would put on a brave face while inside wanting to cry.  Her book will reveal, however, that away from the public gaze Ennis can be as emotional as any young athlete.

"Behind the scenes there have been tears left, right and centre at times," Broadbent said. "It is not a misery memoir by any means but there bits that the public don't see.

"She has what you might call a love-hate relationship with her coach, Toni Minichiello, that can get a bit feisty.  They can go at each other pretty hard.  She has been with him since she was 13 and I think she feels he treats her sometimes as if she were still 13.

"There have been moments, too, when she has been deeply worried about her health.  She had a time when she was suffering from serious bouts of dizziness, so bad that she could hardly stand, and she had to undergo a brain scan.  It turned out that it was an inner ear problem but she found it pretty scary at the time."

The story reveals, too, that Ennis has a strong sense of what she feels is right for her and that she will not be pushed around.

"This was her one last shot."

"She came under a lot of pressure to move to London at one stage," Broadbent said. "Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, wanted all the elite athletes and coaches to be based at the Lee Valley Performance Centre in London, and tried to engineer things so that Toni would have to operate from there.

"But Jessica's life was in Sheffield.  She is very close to her family and has a long-term boyfriend and simply refused to move.  It was having that strong connection with her roots that probably kept her grounded and she felt it was important to have a normal life in Sheffield to go back to, away from the limelight."

Broadbent revealed that Ennis speaks out from personal conviction on the subject of body image and eating disorders, prompted by the remarks attributed to an unnamed Great Britain official during the build-up to London 2012 that the 5ft 4ins athlete, renowned for her six-pack, was overweight.

"She was really worried about the message comments like that put out, particularly to young female athletes and girls in general," he said. "She has strong views on body image and eating disorders and drugs as well and she puts them across very well."

There is much in the story about her upbringing in Sheffield as the daughter of a painter and decorator originally from Jamaica and a social worker from Derbyshire who now works for a charity helping people with drug and drink addiction, but also about balancing the commercial opportunities opened to her by fame with the need to keep her eyes on the goal of winning.  Her endorsement contracts only reinforced her status as the poster girl for London 2012, adding to the pressure on her to deliver on the day.

"Don't get me wrong, she likes the profile she has," Broadbent said. "But the build-up to the Games became incredibly stressful for her.  People were expecting her to win but she knows what can go wrong in competition. She also knows she might not get to the next Games in Rio so this was her one shot, her one opportunity to achieve what she had worked for.

"One of the interesting things was that she never wanted to go to the stadium beforehand.  She had never competed in London before the Olympics, not even at Crystal Palace, and she wanted it to be new and exciting."

Ennis has subsequently said that when she stepped into the stadium for the first time ahead of the 100m hurdles event that began the heptathlon programme and was hit by the noise generated by 80,000 spectators in response to her name being called -- a far cry from the half-empty stadiums that often witness the first event in the seven-part programme -- it did give her a significant lift.  Clearly the strategy was the right one.

Unbelievable - From Childhood Dreams to Winning Olympic Gold is published by Hodder and Stoughton on November 8.

Rick Broadbent is the author of several critically acclaimed books, on football, boxing and motorsport.
His Ring of Fire: The Inside Story of Valentino Rossi and MotoGP was shortlisted for the 2009 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

That followed Looking For Eric: In Search of The Leeds Greats and The Big If: The Life and Death of Johnny Owen .

He returned to motorsport this year with That Near Death Thing: Inside the Most Dangerous Race in the World, which focuses on the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races through the story of four leading riders.

He also collaborated with paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson and motorcycle racer Ron Haslam on their autobiographies.

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