20150619

Gareth Thomas autobiography Proud is Sports Book of the Year after winning public vote

Proud, the book in which Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas describes the anguish that drove him close to suicide before he decided to end years of deceit and admit to his homosexuality, has been voted Sports Book of the Year for 2015 in an online poll.

Published by Ebury, Proud won Best Autobiography at the Cross British Sports Book Awards 2015 before all 10 category winners at the annual prizegiving event were thrown open to readers to name their choice for the overall top sports title of the last 12 months.

Written with journalist and sportswriter Michael Calvin, who also won last year’s overall prize for his book, The Nowhere Men, Proud has been described as a breathtakingly moving and inspirational story.

Thomas for many years seemed to epitomise the macho culture of rugby. Known by his nickname 'Alfie', Thomas had cultivated the image of hard-drinking hellraiser to which rugby players were almost expected to conform.  Ironically, the publicity accompanying his first biography, entitled Alfie described how he had reached the top of his profession 'simply by being himself'.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Thomas was leading a double life.  Aware of being gay from his late teens, he kept it a secret for years, even marrying Jemma, the pretty girl from a neighbouring village whose mail he would deliver when he worked as a postman. But after growing weary of the lies and cover-ups, of the moments of intolerable despair, he came out.  His bravery in doing so has led to Thomas being contacted for advice and support by many people within sport and beyond who have found themselves grappling with similar conflicts in their personal lives.

Thomas, who dedicated the award to the memory of his friend, Danny Jones, the rugby league player who died suddenly after collapsing on the field last month, said: “I’m proud, in so many ways, to win this award. The book means so much to me because I have discovered that it means so much to others.”

Co-author Calvin described winning the online vote as "a huge honour."

“It is uniquely important since it involves recognition from not just an eminent panel of judges, but also the support of our readers," he said. "Being named as Sports Book of the Year at the Cross British Sports Book Awards is a huge honour for us.

"From a personal point of view, winning for the second successive year is pretty humbling. But Gareth deserves greater credit for having the moral courage to tell his story with such fearlessness and emotional intelligence. We laughed and we cried in writing the book, and will probably do the same when we meet up to celebrate this win. Thanks to everyone involved.”

Buy Proud: My Autobiography, by Gareth Thomas from Amazon, Waterstones or WHSmith.

The other category winners announced at the awards ceremony at Lord’s earlier this month were:

Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry, by Bill Jones, (Outstanding Sports Writing)

Bobby Moore: The Man in Full, by Matt Dickinson (Biography of the Year)

Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan, by Peter Oborne, (Cricket Book of the Year)

Thirty-One Nil: On the Road With Football's Outsiders, by James Montague (Football Book of the Year)

Beyond the Horizon: Extreme Adventures at the Edge of the World, by Richard Parks with Michael Aylwin (Rugby Book of the Year)

Cheltenham et AL: The Best of Alastair Down, by Alastair Down, (Horse Racing Book of the Year).

The Race Against the Stasi: The Incredible Story of Dieter Wiedemann, the Iron Curtain and the Greatest Cycling Race on Earth, by Herbie Sykes (Cycling Book of the Year)

Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport, by Anna Krien (New Writer of the Year)

The Age of Innocence: Football in the 1970s , edited by Reuel Golden (Illustrated Book of the Year)

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