20121127

Why The Secret Race had to be the judges' choice as William Hill Sports Book of the Year for 2012

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2012

The Secret Race, the jaw-dropping expose about the drug-taking, blood-doping, cheating and cover-ups that revealed so much of professional cycling's recent history to be a sham, had to win the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for 2012, in the words of the judging panel, because it "fundamentally changed the sport being written about".

It was to a large extent the evidence of former Olympic champion and leading Tour de France rider Tyler Hamilton to a grand jury after US federal prosecutors pursued a two-year investigation into allegations of doping against Lance Armstrong that led this year to the announcement by the United States Anti-Doping Agency that Armstrong should be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life.

That evidence is outlined in all its disturbing detail in The Secret Race, which Hamilton, who was Armstrong's teammate in the US Postal Team, had begun writing in collaboration with journalist and author Daniel Coyle in 2009, when he decided after almost a decade wrestling with his conscience over what he knew that it was time to come clean.

In presenting the award at Waterstone's in Piccadilly, London, television presenter John Inverdale, speaking on behalf of the judging panel of which he is a member, said that in some ways he wished The Secret Race had never been written, given every ugly truth and the devastating betrayal of cycling fans it has brought to light.

"It starts off being a book about Tyler and then it is about Lance (Armstrong) and then Tyler and Lance and by the end you wish this book had not had to be read," Inverdale said.

"You wish these kind of things were not in sport and therefore this kind of book did not have to be written but they are.
"It took me a long time to come clean but I'm proud I that I finally did the right thing" -- Tyler Hamilton

"Tyler and Daniel have written a stunning book about cycling and all the good, the bad and the ugly of it.

"It is not a prerequisite of a book to change a sport but this book clearly had done that and as such it was the book that had to win because it has fundamentally changed the sport it is writing about."

Hamilton, twice banned from cycling himself and stripped of the gold medal he won at the 2004 Olympics, spoke of his feelings being a mixture of pride and regret and made reference to one of the moments that persuaded him finally to come clean.

"In the year I began working with Dan on this project my young nephew came up to me and he told me he had been riding his bike with my brother and he wanted to become a professional cyclist," he recalled.  "Deep down inside it broke my heart because I knew what the culture was like in cycling at the time.  I didn't really know what to say to him.

"Unfortunately it took me a long time to come clean but I'm proud that I finally did the right thing.  Writing this book actually gives me a lot of hope for the future, a lot of hope for the sport."

The Secret Race – Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs, published by Bantam Press, is the 24th winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, which is the longest running award for sports writing in the world.

The winner receives a £24,000 cash prize, a £2,000 William Hill bet, a specially-commissioned hand-bound copy of their book and a day at the races.

The Secret Race was chosen from a shortlist of seven in what had been one of the most diverse fields in the history of the award and Inverdale said that the outstanding merits of them all had made choosing the best a difficult task.

Adharanand Finn's Running With the Kenyans, Rick Broadbent's That Near-Death Thing, the Simon Jordan tale Be Careful What You Wish For, Miles Jupp's Fibber in the Heat, the triathlete Chrissie Wellington's autobiography A Life Without Limits and the self-published Shot and a Ghost, by squash star James Willstrop had to be content with falling in behind The Secret Race but Inverdale was not short of compliments for them all.

That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)


That Near-Death Thing, Inverdale said, was "spellbindingly brilliant even if you are not a motorcycling fan."

"No book was actually better named because the theme that runs through the book is of people dying, or people almost dying or people dicing with death," he said.

"If you are not a motorcycling fan, the chances of you picking up a book about the Isle of Man TT are probably not very high.  But I found it absolutely captivating to the point where the first thing I did was to find out the dates of next year's Isle of Man TT because I really want to go.  The characters are so rich, the people who actually take part in the race, from such diverse backgrounds but united by this mania, almost, to put their lives on the line. Rick just captures it brilliantly."

Running With the Kenyans - Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)

Inverdale described Running With the Kenyans as "a lovely, human book" but one which enriched his knowledge in different ways.

"If you come from the part of London I live in where you are a jogger and a very slow jogger you get heartily fed up with Kenyans of various ages just hurtling past you when they are only jogging as well," he said.

"Adharanand Finn went out to Kenya as a runner himself to see if there was some magical, mystical potion they take or if it is in the blood or the genes.  But you don't just find out about Kenyan runners, you find out a lot about Kenya and you feel much more rich in terms of your knowledge about that part of Africa.  I'm not sure he reaches a conclusion but all the factors are there and it is really a lovely, human book too about moving his family out there."

Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)

About Be Careful What You Wish For, in which Simon Jordan describes how, as a young, brash and hugely successful entrepreneur he managed to lose his fortune by buying Crystal Palace Football Club, Inverdale said that the book destroyed the preconceptions of some of the judges after only a few pages.

"I would be lying if I said there were not people on the panel who did not have preconceptions about a book by Simon Jordan, a larger than life football chairman," he said. "But all I can say is that those preconceptions were banished quickly.

"If you are a football fan and you have not read this book you are missing out.  With all that has been written about football, there are not many books now in which you know by page 300 a lot, lot more about the game than you did on page one."

Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)

With Fibber in the Heat, in which the actor and comedian Miles Jupp describes how he effectively bluffed his way into the English press corps on England's 2006 cricket tour of India, Inverdale says he had preconceptions of a different kind.

"With this one you know you are going to enjoy it, because Miles is a comedian and a huge cricket fan. He set out to do what all of us would love to do, which is to go on an England cricket tour and see it from the inside, meeting the players, seeing the commentators.

"Miles bluffs his way in as the cricket correspondent of BBC Scotland and that's the premise for a book which goes from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again.  If Simon Jordan's book is compulsory reading for football fans then if you have a cricket fan in your family it is the perfect present."

A Life Without Limits – A World Champion’s Journey, by Chrissie Wellington with Michael Aylwin (Constable & Robinson)

Chrissie Wellington's A Life Without Limits, Inverdale said, is as "as good a book as she is a triathlete" in the way that the four-times Ironman World Champion charts the transformation that took place in her life after he ran her first marathon aged 25. 

"In many ways some of the great bits about this book are about Chrissie's early life, her childhood, her teenage years, her further education years and a lot of people of course can empathise with that more readily than knowing how it feels to be a supreme triathlete," he said.

"In her mid-twenties she is barely a sportsperson and yet within a few years she is on top of the world.  I know a lot of people who have read this book and found it tremendously empowering, thinking 'that could have been me in my early 20s and I did nothing about it and she did.'"  

Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash, by James Willstrop with Rod Gilmour (James Willstrop / Rod Gilmour)

Shot and a Ghost, the book that Britain's squash world number one, James Willstrop, self-published in collaboration with journalist Rod Gilmour had been likened by award co-founder John Gaustad to "like making a pop record in your garage that goes to number one". It is the first self-published title to make the shortlist, which says a good deal about the merits of the writing.

Willstrop is currently competing in Hong Kong and could not attend the awards presentation but Inverdale commented that one of the book's strengths was that it was written in "brutally honest" terms by a sportsman still at the top of his game.

"Rarely do you read a book by someone still participating in sport at the highest level that tells you what it is really like to be there, in the eye of the storm and to succeed and sometimes to fail," Inverdale said.

"When you read it you are suddenly a squash player, playing every shot.  When he is lying in his bed at night beating his fist into the pillow because he has lost a game he should have won you are sharing those emotions with him.  He is brutally honest with himself, sharing every moment as he calls himself a moron and an idiot for missing a vital shot. You are right inside the head of the world number one squash player."

Inverdale was one of six judges on the William Hill panel, the others being 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 long-lamented Sportspages bookshop.

For Rick Broadbent, the Times journalist who spent many hours with four TT riders to write That Near-Death Thing, it was a second time on the shortlist.  At least there was a consolation prize for publishers Orion in that Rich Norgate won the prize for the Best Sports Book Cover Design.

To buy 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, or 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 (Shot and a Ghost)
Tyler Hamilton and the Lance Armstrong scandal (The Secret Race)
A cheeky adventure turns into a cautionary tale (Fibber in the Heat)
Fatal attraction of the world's most dangerous race (That Near-Death Thing)
One man's quest to learn the secrets of the swiftest (Running With the Kenyans)
Buy a football club and lose a fortune - a chairman's tale (Be Careful What You Wish For)
A world champion's secret triumph (A Life Without Limits)

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20121125

Secret insecurities and how to overcome them -- a world champion's real triumph


WILLIAM HILL SHORTLIST

A Life With No Limits: A World Champion's Journey, by Chrissie Wellington



There are some uplifting stories among the shortlist for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year, the winner of which will be revealed tomorrow, but on that score this tale of triumph over adversity arguably trumps them all.

Chrissie Wellington, four times winner of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, world record holder, unbeaten in 13 competitive events in the most gruelling test of combined athletics disciplines, can be described quite reasonably as the toughest female athlete on the planet.

There are not many, after all, who could complete a 2.4-mile swim, an 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile running marathon one after the other, let alone do so in 8hrs 18min 32sec, a staggering 32 minutes faster than the record she broke in doing so.

Yet Wellington did not run a marathon until she was 25, in London, before which she had endured an adolescence so troubled by self-doubt that she suffered from bulimia and anorexia.  The disorders felt to her to be symptomatic of weakness at the time but are not uncommon in individuals with her character -- fundamentally insecure but at the same time driven by an obsessive desire for control, achievement and the approval of others.  Far from being a weakness, they were a clue to her future strength.

Her autobiography, written with the help of Guardian journalist Michael Aylwin, is a story not only of the ordinary girl from a middle class background in Norfolk who somehow transformed herself from a civil servant to a world champion athlete but one of self-discovery she hopes can inspire others to pursue their goals with new self-belief.

She sought to explain the effect her extraordinary success had had on her own outlook on life in an interview with the Guardian's Donald McRae earlier this year.

"The times and number of victories I've managed matter less than the continual surprise I feel," she said. "It's so empowering to defy your own perceptions of what is possible and to keep on opening doors within yourself that you didn't know even existed.

"We all have talents that, sometimes, we never quite fulfil. We're all scared, deep down, but maybe we just need to lay it on the line and explore our abilities and just not be afraid of failing.

"When I first started in sport I did it for purely selfish reasons – to be as good as I could be. I still have that desire but the more I do it the more I realise I can do something else. Hopefully, I can show people what is possible."

A Life Without Limits, by Chrissie Wellington, is published by Constable.  For more information and to buy visit amazon.co.uk or the William Hill 2012 page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

The full shortlist for the 2012 award is:


  • Running With the Kenyans - Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)
  • That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  • 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 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and, with a top prize of £24,000, the  most valuable literary prize for sports writing.  The 2012 winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, tomorrow.

This year's judging panel comprises 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.

More reading

James Willstrop -- Hidden star of the sport the Olympics left behind (Shot and a Ghost)
Tyler Hamilton and the Lance Armstrong scandal (The Secret Race)
A cheeky adventure turns into a cautionary tale (Fibber in the Heat)
Fatal attraction of the world's most dangerous race (That Near-Death Thing)
One man's quest to learn the secrets of the swiftest (Running With the Kenyans)
Buy a football club and lose a fortune - a chairman's tale (Be Careful What You Wish For)

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20121124

Make millions and buy a football club - a chairman's tale of how to win and lose a fortune

WILLIAM HILL SHORTLIST



Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)



When Simon Jordan bought Crystal Palace in 2000 he believed he could change football.  Just 32 years old, his bank balance swollen from the £73 million sale of the mobile phone retailer he had built up with business partner Andrew Briggs, he was ready to take on everyone he loathed in the game, from the establishment figures he felt put their own interests ahead of the game, down to the agents he saw as nothing better than leeches.

Blond-haired, perma-tanned and brashly opinionated, it was inevitable he would encounter suspicion and distrust in the world he had infiltrated.  Yet he loved Crystal Palace, the club he had supported all his life and where his father had once been a player, and was determined not only that he would turn them into a thriving Premier League club but that he would do it on his terms.

Of course, it all ended in tears.  Jordan fulfilled his promise of taking Palace into the Premier League within five years, thanks to the startling run of form generated by the appointment of Iain Dowie as manager in December 2003, but could keep them there for only one season. By 2010 they were in administration, as they had been immediately before Jordan bought the club, and Jordan's fortune had disappeared.

For all his determination not to be sucked into the whirlpool of over-spending that appeared to be a pre-requisite for any football club of ambition at the time he became involved, Jordan still wound up parting with vast sums for mediocre players, although problems might have been avoided if he had succeeded in buying the freehold for the club's Selhurst Park ground.

As it was, the worldwide recession began to make an impact at just the wrong moment and Jordan was soon chasing his losses in the hope that the club's fortunes would turn. It never happened. Frustratingly, with Palace having climbed to eighth in the Championship after Neil Warnock had inspired another unlikely transformation, a return to the Premier League was beginning to seem possible just as matters came to a head. Instead, the club were pushed into administration by one of their creditors, docked 10 points and plunged instantly into a relegation battle.

Only when a Creditors' Voluntary Agreement was accepted in the summer of 2010 was the future of the club secured under new ownership.  Under the terms of the agreement Jordan, having plunged at least £35 million of his own money into the club in his ill-starred decade, would have walked away with less than £150,000.

Jordan pulled no verbal punches either in the boardroom or during his brief stint as an Observer columnist and Be Careful What You Wish For offers more of the same, sparing few of the many in football who met with his disapproval.  Some critics have been snooty about his writing style but the combination of juicy gossip and eyebrow-raising revelations is a potent mix and most have agreed on one thing - that it makes a cracking read.

Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan, is published by Yellow Jersey. For more information and to buy, visit amazon.co.uk or the William Hill 2012 page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

The full shortlist for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award is:


  • That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  • 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)
  • Running With the Kenyans - Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)


The 2012 winner, which will receive a £24,000 prize, will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, on Monday, November 26.

More reading

James Willstrop -- Hidden star of the sport the Olympics left behind (Shot and a Ghost)
Tyler Hamilton and the Lance Armstrong scandal (The Secret Race)
A cheeky adventure turns into a cautionary tale (Fibber in the Heat)
Fatal attraction of the world's most dangerous race (That Near-Death Thing)
One man's quest to learn the secrets of the swiftest (Running With the Kenyans)

Home

20121122

How a cheeky adventure turned into a cautionary tale for the cricket writer who never was

WILLIAM HILL SHORTLIST


Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)




Nowadays, Miles Jupp could not contemplate the audacious feat he pulled off in 2006, when he managed to blag his way on to the England cricket team's tour of India as a member of the travelling press corps.  Having played the part of a press officer - ironically - in the BBC's political satire The Thick of It among a fairly lengthy list of TV appearances, as actor and stand-up comedian, there is no way on England's current excursion to the same country that he could go unrecognised.

But six years ago it was different.  Though he had taken the first steps in a television career, and though Jupp's role as Archie, the eccentric inventor in the CBeebies show Balamory, had led some people to shout at him in the in the street, the chances of his being identified for what he really was were still relatively slim.

Fibber in the Heat, shortlisted for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year, is Jupp's tale of that tour but if you suspect, as would be quite understandable, that this is a story of some wizard wheeze that a privately-educated graduate of Edinburgh University (and the Edinburgh Fringe) dreamed up in order to land a publishing deal, you'd actually be wrong.  Of course, it did ultimately become a book.  He even turned it into a one-man theatre show.  In the beginning, though, he had different intentions.

Back in 2005, Jupp was not exactly wedded to the idea of a career in children's television.  Indeed, he had no clear vision of what he wanted to do at all beyond indulging his passion for cricket, which he did at every opportunity.  He did stand-up comedy, ambitiously putting on two shows a day at the Edinburgh Festival, but with the most gripping Ashes series for decades unfolding simultaneously, he found that he would much rather be in his flat, watching the cricket on TV.

The plot begins to hatch at the Oval, scene of the final Test, where Jupp queued for tickets for the last two days of what had seemed an endless, epic drama and shared his joy with total strangers when England won.  Catching sight of the glass-fronted press box high above him, thronged with journalists,  he is taken with the notion, all too commonly held, that theirs must be the ideal job.  He sets out to become one of them.

"By the end, arrogance has given way to humility."

In that respect it is an old story.  Press boxes are infiltrated by dreamers with alarming regularity.  There is always some young man, or woman, often more than one, who believes that the cricket writer's life entails little more than turning up at a match, watching the day's play and tapping out a few paragraphs of flowery prose at the end.  Or, these days, turning their thoughts into a blog for little or no remuneration. They tend to be given short shrift.

Jupp begins his story armed with tenuous credentials and very little else and sets off on a journey that leads him quite naturally into the kind of difficult moments that might have been tailor-made for his humorous, self-deprecating style.  By the end, however, arrogance has given way to humility.

One by one, his preconceived ideas unravel, the life he aspired to turns out to be his own naive illusion and his experiences very different from the ones he imagined.  In parts the story is a raucous romp, spiced with hilarious scrapes, although not all of the characters, the real members of the travelling media, have been happy with the way they have been portrayed.  Jupp crossed a few boundaries he ought not to have breached.  Yet it is difficult not to feel a certain sympathy, particularly over the effect the adventure has on his feelings towards the game, and the people that play it.

Wittily written but with perceptive honesty, it offers a lesson that could borrow the title of another contender on the William Hill shortlist: be careful what you wish for.

Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp, is published by Ebury Press. For more information and to buy visit amazon.co.uk or go to the William Hill 2012 page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

The full shortlist for the 2012 award is:


  • Running With the Kenyans - Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)
  • That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  • 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 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and, with a top prize of £24,000, the  most valuable literary prize for sports writing.  The 2012 winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, next Monday, November 26.

This year's judging panel comprises 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.

More reading

Fatal attractions of the world's most dangerous race
One man's quest to uncover the secrets of the Kenyans
Armstrong scandal boosts The Secret Race
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'

Home








20121120

Why do they do it? The factors that drive men to risk life and limb around the world's most hazardous racetrack


THE WILLIAM HILL SHORTLIST


That Near Death Thing - Inside the TT: the World's Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)



The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy used to be the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world, the British leg of the Grand Prix world championship, contested by the biggest names on the circuit, iconic figures such as Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood and Phil Read.

But it was always the most dangerous, too.  It is an extraordinary spectacle, the sight of expensive, super-powered racing machines weaving through village streets lined by cottages, pubs and corner shops. Likewise as they accelerate to speeds of up to 200 mph with nothing between them and the telegraph poles and dry stone walls of the island's mountainous country roads. Yet it has come with a heavy price.  Since the first fatality in 1911, 239 riders have been killed.

The perennial debate over safety concerns came to a head in 1972, when the death of the 31-year-old Italian rider Gilberto Parlotti prompted Agostini, his close friend, to vow never to contest the TT again.  Others followed suit, the number of title contenders willing to take part dwindled year by year and by 1976 the event had been stripped of its world championship status.

Some 36 years on, the racing continues and is no less thrilling, no less dramatic.  What has changed is that for all but a few riders the financial rewards, at least compared with the glamorous world of Superbikes and MotoGP, are modest and their fame is largely confined to their own arena.  The riders take part, then, not for money, nor to see their names in lights, but just for the sake of competing - against the course, against the other riders, against themselves.  In a way, it has become sport in its purest form.

It was this concept that caught the imagination of Rick Broadbent, a sports writer whose day job is covering athletics for The Times but whose fascination with speed on two wheels had already led him write Ring of Fire, a gripping insight into MotoGP and the lives of seven-times world champion Valentino Rossi and the superstar of another era, the brilliant Mike Hailwood.  Ring of Fire made the William Hill shortlist in 2009.

"No one has succeeded in capturing the spirit of what I regard as the greatest motorsport event in the world with a fraction of the success that you have." - Murray Walker

Broadbent wanted to know what it was that persuaded TT riders to climb into the saddle year after year, often after suffering serious injury, despite the enormity of the risks they faced.   In pursuit of the answers, he spent two years following the careers of four competitors, interviewing them at points along the way. The four are:


  • John McGuinness, the 40-year-old cocklefisher from Morecambe in Lancashire whose record of 19 wins is bettered only by the 26 of Joey Dunlop, the Northern Irishman who died in 2000 while racing in Estonia
  • Joey's nephew Michael, 24, whose father Robert was also killed on his bike
  • Conor Cummins, born and raised on the Isle of Man and who suffered multiple injuries, including five broken bones in his back, in a crash in 2010
  • Guy Martin, a truck mechanic whose popularity has been broadened by his appearance in a number of documentary television shows but who has yet to find success in the race


Their stories make fascinating reading not only for fans of the TT but for the less committed too as Broadbent gets under the skin of his four principle characters and paints vivid, compelling pictures of their wide supporting cast.  He has an eye for detail and a grasp of human nature that enables him to present his subjects as multi-dimensional people, which is a skill not all writers possess.

Cummins commented that he "managed to tell my story better than I could myself” and Murray Walker, the veteran television commentator widely respected for his authoritative knowledge of motorsport and of the many words written about it, paid Broadbent a wonderful tribute when he said that "no one has succeeded in capturing the spirit of what I regard as the greatest motorsport event in the world with a fraction of the success that you have."

The answers Broadbent sought were eloquently if chillingly expressed by Guy Martin, who had a miraculous escape from a crash at the notoriously dangerous Ballagarey Corner in 2010, when he was engulfed in a 170mph fireball as a fellow rider's petrol tank exploded yet emerged merely with a back broken in three places, six broken ribs and a doubly punctured lung.

He knew how close he had been. “If I’d jumped off as soon as I lost the front end then I would have gone into the wall at 90 degrees and it would have been game over.” Martin says. “But because I was a little bit further round I glanced off the wall and went into the next one.

"I look back on my crash and yeah, it did hurt. I had to dig my teeth out of my nose. My chest was caving in and they put this drain in, threaded it through so you could feel it moving around your innards. Hey, hey. That’s life."

Yet even with the knowledge of how lucky he had been, he could not wait to go again.  "The buzz from that (crash) was just unbeatable,” he says. “It's that near-death thing, that moment between crashing and almost dying. That’s raised the benchmark. I want to get back to that point. Money can’t buy it.”

That Near-Death Thing - Inside the TT: the World's Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent, is published by Orion.  For more information and to buy visit amazon.co.uk or go to the William Hill 2012 page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

The full shortlist for the 2012 award is:


  • Running With the Kenyans - Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)
  • That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  • 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 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and, with a top prize of £24,000, the  most valuable literary prize for sports writing.  The 2012 winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, next Monday, November 26.

This year's judging panel comprises 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.

More reading

One man's quest to uncover the secrets of the Kenyans
Armstrong scandal boosts The Secret Race
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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20121119

What is it that makes the Kenyans such great runners? One man's quest to uncover their secrets...


THE WILLIAM HILL SHORTLIST

Running With the Kenyans, by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)


Adharanand Finn's talent for running shone through at school. As a 12-year-old growing up in Northampton, he broke a schools 800-metre record and, five minutes later, lined up for a 1500m event and won that one too.  He joined a running club and a lifelong passion began.

It is around this time that Finn begins to notice the growing numbers and frequent successes of East African runners in the world's most important long-distance races, and increasingly athletes from Kenya.  He asks himself why this might be and plants the seeds of another obsession.

As education, career, marriage and children occupy the years that follow, the need to find the answer is hardly a priority but the question still lurks in the recesses of Finn's mind.  Years later, working as a freelance contributor to Runner's World magazine, he has an assignment that involves taking part in a 10km race near his home in Devon.  To his surprise he wins, and in a personal best time.

Inspired by the realisation that his talent had not left him, and now driven by a desire to fulfil it before his own biological clock deems it too late, he wonders how he can improve his times still further and the Kenyan question resurfaces.   They have the secret, he reminds himself, and now is the time to identify it.

And so, at the beginning of 2011, at the age of 36, Finn uproots his wife, Marietta, and their three young children and transplants them in Iten, a ramshackle market town in the hills above Kenya's Rift Valley where running is such a way of life that one in every four people is a full-time athlete.   It is an adventure, one that would be too daunting for many an English family, but given his roots as a child of the hippie generation - his parents named him Adharanand after the Sanskrit word for eternal life - you suspect that adventure is in his blood as much as running.

He stays for six months, befriending the runners, training with them, learning everything he can.  He takes part in the Lewa Marathon, an event that requires the accompaniment of helicopters and armed guards to deter the interest of lions and hyenas, and while he is no match for the locals he enjoys the satisfaction of being the fastest white man, at least.
"Near the top among running books I have read" - runblogger.com

He tells the story in Running With the Kenyans, an engaging account of the life he found, the personalities he met and the lessons he learned.  It has been compared favourably with Born to Run, the tale of a similar quest, on a different continent, to unearth the secrets of distance running undertaken by the American writer, Christopher McDougall, that has been one of the best selling sports books of 2012.

Finn never really finds a secret, as such, concluding that Kenyans owe their ability to a combination of factors and circumstances, ranging from climate and diet and barefoot runs along dirt paths to school, to the simple pursuit of a better life in communities so poor that the prize money from one win can buy a cow, even build a house.

The secret he does reveal is the impact the experience has on his own form.  That comes in the final pages, in the 2011 New York Marathon, when the reader learns whether Finn fulfils his own goals as a runner.

There have been some good reviews. Runblogger.com said: "There’s a lot to like about this book. Part travelogue, part running book, Running with the Kenyans is well written and a fast read – a book that I had a hard time putting down. It is near the top among running books that I have read."

The Daily Telegraph described it as "insightful" and said that Finn's "very lack of compulsion makes him a calm, humorous presence. In unobtrusively beautiful prose, he evokes the will to run at the heart of Kenyan life."

Running With the Kenyans, by Adharanand Finn is published by Faber & Faber. For more information and to buy, visit amazon.co.ukor the William Hill 2012 page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

The other shortlisted titles for the 2012 award are:


  • That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  • 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 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and, with a top prize of £24,000, the  most valuable literary prize for sports writing.  The 2012 winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, next Monday, November 26.

This year's judging panel comprises 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.

More reading

Armstrong scandal boosts The Secret Race
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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20121108

No making tea for this new boy! Chris's first task is to ghostwrite the Fabrice Muamba story

As first assignments go, it wasn't a bad one.  Sports journalist Chris Brereton, newly recruited by publishers Trinity Mirror Sports Media and still readjusting to life back in the UK after a year in Thailand, was asked if he fancied ghosting an autobiography. 


He had never written a book before but when he learned that the subject was footballer Fabrice Muamba, there was only going to be one answer.   The schedule set out was almost impossible -- it was already August and the book was due in the shops in early November -- yet the Muamba story, of the young Bolton Wanderers player who collapsed on the field during a match at Tottenham Hotspur and was effectively brought back from the dead, was too good to turn down.

"From a journalist's point of view it has been the story of 2012," Brereton said. "I had been working on the Bangkok Post but the impact of Fabrice's story was just as big over there.

"The English Premier League is massive in Thailand and even though I was 6,000 miles away from where it was happening, for that moment, as people became aware of the drama taking place, I got the impression that the entire footballing world was as one.

"It was a story that showed how strong football can be when it decides to unite in a positive direction and it was one that transcended the game.  My mother, for example, has never watched a football match in her life but when I told her I was doing the Fabrice Muamba book she knew instantly who he was."

Having agreed to take on the project, 30-year-old Brereton quickly became glad of the tough grounding he had been given working for sports news agencies Hayters and Wardles, where reporters seldom have the benefit of time on their side.

"There have been a lot of 17-18 hour days, a lot of working weekends, but in one sense my naivety has been a good thing because I was not daunted by the task.  Having worked at Wardles, where the onus was on you to get to the nub of an issue and turn around copy very quickly, and having worked to very tight deadlines in Bangkok, I am used to working under pressure and that held me in good stead.

"From the day I met Fabrice for the first time at Mottram Hall Hotel near Wilmslow in Cheshire, to signing the book off to the printers, was 38 days.

"If had written half a dozen books that had all taken six months or more such a tight turnaround might have been a bit daunting.  But I just rolled up my sleeves and jumped in and it has been a wonderful experience."

Muamba had a compelling story to tell even without what happened last March, when he suffered his cardiac arrest during an FA Cup quarter-final at White Hart Lane.  Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the height of civil war, he was left behind in Kinshasa when his father, a government advisor, had to flee to London to escape rebel fighters who had set out to kill him.
'A tale of hard work, luck, perseverance...even fear'
He and his mother Gertrude were reunited with father Marcel only when Marcel was finally given leave to stay in London after several years living in asylum centres and the family were allowed to join him.  In the meantime, Fabrice had been more or less in hiding, moved from one home to another by his uncle, Ilunga, who eventually was killed.

"It is the kind of story that, if you walked into the office of a Hollywood studio executive and said I want to pitch you an idea and told him the story of Fabrice's life, you'd be laughed out of there because it really is a story that's stranger than fiction," Brereton said.

"His father had to leave Congo because he was under threat, because he worked for the president, and Fabrice did not see his father for five years.  He came to England when he was 11, not speaking a word of English, a young African coming to live in Walthamstow in London with all the challenges that brings.

"He gets the chance to go along to Arsenal because one of his friends is training there.  He tags along and gets spotted and before you know it he is playing in the Premier League, the best league in the world.

"It is a ludicrously implausible tale of hard work, luck, perseverance and even fear because he was terrified for a long time in Congo because of the civil war there.

"If you stop it there it is still a remarkable story, but when you add March 17 on top of that it makes a story that transcends everything.  It is not a football book but a book about a footballer with an amazing story to tell."

Central to the story is Muamba's recollection of events and his efforts to make sense of what happened, to assess the impact on his life and to convey the thoughts and feelings and emotions he has experienced, although he has no memory at all of the 78 minutes in which he was technically dead.

"When he was 'dead' he feels he wasn't there to worry about himself.  When he came round in hospital he had no idea that the world had been hanging on every medical bulletin, he had no recollection of what had happened, no memory of it, no comprehension of it

"So for the details of what happened, there are interviews with Dr Andrew Deaner, the cardiologist who came down from the stands at White Hart Lane, and with Dr Jonathan Tobin, the Bolton Wanderers club doctor, who played such a big part too.

"We have spoken also to the first paramedic on the scene, to the Bolton club chaplain, to Owen Coyle, the manager.  It is a very comprehensive account of what happened that perhaps  give people a different perspective on their own lives, knowing that if a 24-year-old can collapse face first at White Hart Lane then who knows what fate has in store for any of us."
'Fabrice feels he is in the driving seat, but God is doing the steering.'
The relationship between a subject and his ghost need not be a friendship.  In some cases, too much familiarity can be a hindrance, since there are often issues that require the kind of probing questions that a close acquaintance may feel uncomfortable about asking, and lack a little objectivity.  But it is essential that the collaborators get along.

Happily, Brereton and Muamba were soon comfortable in each other's company.

"I'd spoken to people who knew him and the general view among football folk was that, to use their expression, a 'top lad'," Brereton said. "In other words, a nice guy, and I found him to be a well-mannered, clearly well brought-up young man.

"We clicked straight away. He would come to Mottram Hall always on time, always very polite, and he'd ask for nothing more than a hot chocolate.  People would come up to him from time to time.  One day there was a wedding and the groom was having a pre-ceremony pint to calm his nerves and he spotted Fabrice and nervously came over but Fabrice was happy to have his picture taken with him and talk to the other guests.  He is a very pleasant, very intelligent guy, the polar opposite to the stereotypical image of the modern footballer.

"He was honest, straightforward, a good talker -- from my point of view a dream.  His now-wife Shauna came along sometimes and she was just as impressive, straight down the line, very unaffected by fame.

"What I learned about his character is that he is very religious and he believes that what happened in March was part of God's bigger plan.  He feels that in life he might be in the driving seat but God is doing the steering.

"There have been points, and they are chronicled in the book, when he hoped his career was not over, which is natural.  But when he was told that effectively he was finished as a footballer, he straightened his tie and got on with his life.   If you have a career-ending knee injury at 23 you might have a degree of bitterness but with Fab because of the severity of what happened, because he was to all intents dead, any thoughts about 'what if' relating to his career take second place to the feeling that every day is a bonus.

"He does not yet know what he is going to do with his life.  His health is monitored, as you would expect, and he has been fitted with an implanted defibrillator, so that if his heart rhythm is thrown out again the device would administer a shock to set it right again.   He can do some light exercise and there is no cause for concern now.

"He enjoys doing media work, which he is getting very polished at, and he wants to use his story to inspire people, perhaps disaffected youths, maybe even go into prisons, to tell people that if he could come back from the dead then anything is possible.  He believes very strongly in that.

"But in other ways he has his life ahead of him and while he assesses what to do with it he is just enjoying being alive, appreciating things that other people might regard as mundane.

"I thoroughly enjoyed working with him and I'm honoured to have played a small part in his story."

Fabrice Muamba: I'm Still Standing is published by Trinity Mirror Sport Media.

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20121103

Shelves groaning under weight of new Olympics books - none heavier than David Miller's 'magisterial' history

The sports book market has a Super Thursday of its own this week, with the memoirs of three Olympic superstars launching simultaneously on November 8, when autobiographies of Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and Lord Coe will be competing for the biggest display stands at bookstores up and down the land.


Their appearance will sound the starting gun on the pre-Christmas sales rush if it is not already under way.  Shelves are groaning a little more every day now with the release of new titles.

None more so, literally, than those stacked with the latest version of David Miller's mammoth Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC, Athens to London, 1894-2012, published by Mainstream.

This is the third - arguably the fourth - edition of the veteran journalist Miller's unrivaled tome, which first appeared in 2003 to mark the return of the Games to Athens in 2004, was updated ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2007 and has been further revised to include London 2012. Published in April this year ahead of the Games, this version includes a detailed account of how the latest medalists achieved their goals.

At 720 pages long, it weighs in at almost three kilos, which almost certainly entitles it to a line in the record books of its own as the heaviest book about the Games.  A combination of statistical records with anecdotal history, it has been described by more than one reviewer as magisterial in its authority.

Then again, Miller has few peers when it comes to first-hand acquaintance with Olympic history.   A journalist since he left  Cambridge University in 1956, former chief sports writer of both the Daily Express and The Times -- and at 79 still a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph sports pages -- he has attended 19 summer and winter Games.

While it is undoubtedly the giant among the official Olympic Games publications that have marked the London Games, it might struggle to rival London 2012: The Official Book, which served as a preview and guide to the summer spectacular. More than 36,000 copies were sold, according to Nielsen BookScan, putting it among the bestselling sports book of 2012, only just behind diving pin-up boy Tom Daley's pictorial autobiography, My Story.

Not surprisingly, the Olympic theme makes its presence strongly felt right across the list of new publications.  In the last 90 days, there have been more than 150 new sports books with a connection with the Olympics.

Noteworthy among the latest are James Cracknell's Touching Distance and Ian Thorpe's This Is Me, both of which come with deeply personal subplots to the stories of Olympic success.


Cracknell, the double Olympic gold medal-winning rower, tells the harrowing story -- with the help of his wife, the television presenter Beverley Turner -- of how his life has changed since he suffered serious brain damage while taking part in the cycling stage of an endurance event in Arizona, when the wing mirror of a petrol tanker struck his head.

Thorpe, the multi medal-winning Olympic swimmer, reveals the battle against depression and alcohol problems that he managed to keep secret during the peak years of his career but which he now feels free to discuss.

The Australian legend of the pool failed to qualify for London 2012, despite coming out of retirement with the express purpose of reaching the required standard.  But at least he was spared the necessity of revising his story to include a clutch of new medals.

Sir Chris Hoy, on the other hand, rendered his 2009 autobiography incomplete by winning two more golds on the cycling track, making him Britain's most decorated Olympian in terms of gold medals won.  Helpfully, there is a new, updated version in paperback, published by HarperSport.

On Amazon:

The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC: Athens to London 1894-2012, by David Miller  (Mainstream)
Touching Distance, by James Cracknell and Beverley Turner (Century)
This is Me: The Autobiography, by Ian Thorpe (Simon & Schuster)
Chris Hoy: The Autobiography (HarperSport)
My Story, by Tom Daley (Michael Joseph)

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