The thoughts of Chris Gurton on motorsport, his photography, his work and his life in general. The thoughts, views and opinion's expressed in this blog are those of Chris Gurton and not necessarily those of any publication that he contributes to.

Posts tagged “Dressage

Just because you can Drive a car, doesn’t mean you can ‘Drive’ a car.

So Lewis Hamilton has won Sports Personality of the year 2014. And deservedly so in my opinion. That is not to say any of the nominated sports men and women didn’t deserve to win it. They have all achieved greatness in their field.

Lewis Hamilton 2014 Sports Personality of the Year

Lewis Hamilton 2014 Sports Personality of the Year

But there are many people moaning and saying he shouldn’t have won it. Why? Firstly, it was a public vote. He received the most votes and therefore won. Which is how a vote works right? Secondly, some are saying he has no personality. I assume these people know him personally. But we all know that although it is called the ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ award, it is really down to sporting achievement. After all, Andy Murray won it last year and in the year Jenson Button, the guy who is seemingly one the nicest guys in the world, won his world championship, Ryan Giggs scooped the award. A bloke who speaks in monotone and sleeps with his Brothers wife!

Lastly though, and perhaps most frustratingly, is the people who say Lewis Hamilton only won because he had the best car. That’s just like saying Kelly Gallagher only won Paralympic gold because she had Charlotte Evans to guide her or that Charlotte Dujardin only had success because she had a good horse. Which we all know isn’t the case. Every successful sportsperson will benefit from the best tools available. But it takes someone special to use those tools to become the best in the world. Yes, we all know Mercedes provided Lewis with a great car and he probably wouldn’t have won a single race if he was in a Caterham. It would be naive to think otherwise. But it is the same in all sports. The British cycling team have people who provide them with some of the best and most technologically advanced bicycles in the world. As great as Sir Chris Hoy is, undoubtedly he wouldn’t have been so successful on a Raleigh Chopper. However, I’m certain he would still beat many of those who think it’s all down to the machine.

It’s not just sports that involve technical equipment though either. A good footballer needs a good team behind him. Gareth Bale has won major trophies with Real Madrid, but he won’t ever win the world cup with Wales. Every sportsman or woman at the top of their game have a plethora of people behind them helping them to achieve their greatness. Coaches, Nutritionists, Psychologists, Physiotherapists, Medical Personnel, the list goes on. And these people know what they are doing. I’m not just talking about Dad’s giving you encouragement or Mum’s cooking high a protein dinner before a big event. This support network are also amongst the very best in their field too. But what all great sportsmen and women have in common is natural talent. That spark, that raw potential and that natural ability that projects a good sportsperson to world beater.

A good team will always help an athlete improve.

A good team will always help an athlete improve.

I heard an argument that Rory McIlroy deserved the award more than Lewis Hamilton because he had achieved more this year. For a start, Lewis Hamilton has been at the top of his sport longer than Rory McIlroy has in his. But what people need to realise is that in a golfing calendar there are tournaments most weeks of the year and amongst that are the four ‘Majors’. There is only one Formula One world championship a year and Lewis Hamilton won 11 of the 19 races in that championship to win. Rory McIlroy may have achieved more this year but he has had more opportunity to do so. He had four attempts at a Major win this year and he won twice. Lewis had one attempt this year and won it, even with three retirements in that ‘Best’ car of his. You don’t criticise an Olympic gold medallist for ‘Only’ winning one gold medal in the last four years do you? Even McIlroy benefits from the best equipment, coaching and backroom staff. He has custom made and fitted clubs, he has golf balls design to suit his style of play, his entourage is huge and he has a lot of financial support and backing. Just as Lewis wouldn’t win the world championship in a 1960’s Ferrari, Rory wouldn’t win a major with a set of Hickory shafted golf clubs and a ‘Gutty’ ball.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

The trouble is with many sports is that the pro’s make it look easy. We sit and watch on the TV where the margins between victory and defeat can be minimal. We therefore think those who loose are rubbish and think we can do better, not thinking that the margins of defeat would then be vast chasms measured in light years and we would quickly start to look foolish. When you watch golf on TV, it looks a doddle. I used to play golf and had a relatively decent handicap of 10. But I can tell you it is extremely frustrating. Consistency is key, and whilst it’s great to see a 300 yard drive boom down the fairway, I would still stand on the tee not knowing if that was going to happen or if I would hook one into the long rough. Colin Montgomerie once said, ‘There is no difference between a good shot a pro hits and a good shot an amateur hits. The pros just hit them all the time’. And that’s the difference between the Pros who make it look easy and the millions of weekend golfers at golf clubs around the world dreaming of winning a major while the hunt for their ball in the thick stuff. I also had an ex girlfriend who was a very competent cross country and show jumping rider. I would watch as she and her horse Jeffrey would glide over fences with ease. But whilst I have ridden horses on the odd occasion, could I get Jeffrey to even trot over a pole lying on the ground on the ground? Could I heck.

So let me tell you this. Just because you have a driving license and can drive a car, doesn’t mean you can actually drive a car. Let alone try and race one. There is a reason that Formula One is timed to the nearest thousandth of a second and that’s because it is all that can separate a winner from a loser. The difference between pole position and second on the grid. The margin between a great lap time and total disaster. It looks oh so easy on the TV when drivers guide their car round a circuit for lap after lap putting in near identical lap times one after the other. How hard can it be? After all, you’ve driven on a journey that lasted two hours or more right?

People don’t seem to think about the G forces experienced inside the car the driver deals with under braking and acceleration dozens of times each lap, the alertness needed to pick the precise braking point to within the metre at each corner for the fastest possible lap time, or the knowledge needed to adjust that braking point depending on car set up, tyre wear or fuel load. They don’t think about the skill needed to guide a car inch perfectly at high speed to clip the apex or place the car in the exact spot for the perfect racing line. They don’t think about the skill involved in knowing when to defend or attack while doing all of the above. The concentration needed to do this for two hours, the ability to feed back information to the team to enable them to help make adjustments or improvements for that competitive edge, the ability needed to make fine adjustments to brake balance, gear ratio and other car set up options whilst on the move, or the supreme fitness needed and the nerves of steel to be good at it lap after lap after lap.

Being a world beater at 200mph isn't as easy as many think.

Being a world beater at 200mph isn’t as easy as many think.

If you think that is easy, go down to your local outdoor karting track, race for 2 hours and then see how you feel. See how your lap times match up with the best, see how many of your laps were within a tenth of a second of your best lap time and see how tired you are. Then think about doing that at speeds of up to 200mph rather than speeds of up to 40mph. You’ll soon realise it isn’t easy. Very few of us could do it. Very few of us could be half as good as Lewis Hamilton or any of the others at their sports.

So just think about these things before criticising anyone who has achieved something truly great. Especially someone who has spent a lifetime reaching the goal at being the best. Be pleased for them instead of shooting them down. And if you think I’m only writing this because Lewis Hamilton is getting criticised and I love motorsport so much then you are very much mistaken. I admire everyone of those nominees. In fact, I often admire many people who achieve sporting greatness and think about how I wish I was truly good at something like that.

So embrace greatness and success. Applaud it, don’t criticise it, and if you still think Lewis Hamilton didn’t deserve to win it because you don’t like him, Just think about how Ryan Giggs’ brother feels.

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Inspirational

This Sunday saw the closing ceremony of the 2012 London 2012 Olympics. I stayed up to watch despite needing to be up early the next morning. Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to. It was truly fantastic and the Athletes who treated us to some amazing moments over the previous 16 days looked to be having a great time and rightly so. The Olympics had been a huge success.

London had transformed Iconic landmarks into sporting venues during the Olympics. (Image:London 2012)

Now turn the clocks back a year or so when the Olympic tickets went on sale, I was really excited. I wanted to get a ticket for something. I wanted to see the greatest sporting event in the world. I wanted to be a part of history. I selected a number of events I wanted to see. Hoping I would be chosen for at least something. I wasn’t. Stories came through about people who got loads of tickets, MP’s and the such being given tickets yet I couldn’t get a single ticket for anything. I only live about 50 miles from the Olympic Stadium. Was one ticket too much to ask for? I was gutted. I was angry about the whole ticketing process and I had lost all interest and excitement in the Olympics.

Even when the Torch relay began I was still fed up with it all. It was all we had been hearing about for months and I still hadn’t managed to get a ticket for anything. Although it was nice to see worthy people running with the flame, people who had done a lot for charity and their community, I did get cross that minor celebrities got the chance to run with it to for no apparent reason. Remember Will.I.Am running with it in Taunton? Why? What had he done to deserve that opportunity? He didn’t even have any connection with the place and couldn’t even spell it!

But one image changed the way I thought.

Day 39 of the Torch Relay and the flame was in Doncaster. The crowds had packed the streets to see one person carry the flame. Not a celebrity, in fact a relative unknown. 27 year old Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson. Ben was the most severely wounded soldier to survive in Afghanistan and had lost both his legs. With the help of his family it took him neatly 30 minutes to cover the 300 meters whilst the thousands of onlookers cheered and spurred him on calling his name. It was heart warming stuff and made even the most cynical person such as myself feel rather emotional.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson provided one of the most memorable Torch Relay moments. (Image:London 2012)

Maybe this whole farce and waste of government money was a little less of a joke after all.

The days counted down and before long the opening ceremony was upon us. I decided to give the Olympics a chance. Still frustrated at my lack of ticket I watched the opening ceremony with some cynicism. That didn’t last. Before long I was captivated by what was happening. The ceremony was spectacular. It had turned my mood and thoughts completely. I was now really looking forward to the games to begin.

The coverage provided by the BBC was superb. Hours and hours of TV showing every event. Extra channels put on and live internet streaming. Even the commentary on Radio 5, 5 live sports extra and Olympics extra that I was listening to at work was brilliant. The days passed and incredibly the medals for Team GB were racking up. Iconic and heart warming images and stories from the games being beamed around the world. Social media was buzzing and it seemed not just me but a whole nation was captivated. Cheering on the team in every event from Swimming and Rowing to Judo and Volleyball. Crying at images of Victoria Pendleton final goodbye and Chris Hoy’s amazing sixth gold medal.

Team GB domiated the Cycling events winning 7 out of a possible 10 gold medals in the Velodrome (Image:London 2012)

It seemed as the Olympics went on and the incredible medal tally rose, so did the spirit the nation. Everyone was being treated to coverage of sports they had never seen before and introduced to new exciting events. How many people were captivated by the Dressage? How many people were cheering womens boxing? And how many want to give Handball a go? I had soon forgotten about the anger I had felt about not getting a ticket and was backing Great Britain and feeling not just proud of the athletes who have trained so hard to achieve the sporting greatness we were witnessing, but feeling proud to be British and of a nation that was really putting on the greatest show on earth. Despite all the negativity that surrounded the games in the run up, Britain really pulled it out of the bag. I was in awe of it all even with a little sadness that I couldn’t have been at witnessed this great event in person and soaked up the atmosphere.

Thanks to the Olympics Handball has generated huge interest. (Image:London 2012)

As the games end, we are given montages of the memorable moments. The highs and the lows, the tears and the joy, the euphoria and the heartbreak. You can’t help be moved by some of the images but most of all, you can’t help but be inspired by what you have witnessed.  The games may be over but the work needs to continue. Sports clubs around the country need to take advantage of the nations desire to get involved in sport. Encourage people to take part, provide opportunities to all those wanting to get a taste of it, and most of all the government need to help out. Even if you don’t think you are able to participate in any of the sports, just helping out and volunteering at a local sports club will make a huge difference to many. The British Team exceeded all expectations over the last two weeks, who’s to say with more people wanting to get involved in sport, they can’t achieve even more in four years time? Let’s hope the much hyped Olympic Legacy is here to stay and not just a flash in the pan.

Some Olympic arena’s will open to the public to enable them to take part in sports such as Canoeing at Lee Valley (Image:London 2012)

As for me? I have been inspired too. The success of the Cycling team has left me wanting to get out on my bike more often. I used to go out cycling a lot, but recently I’ve had less and less time. I need to make time though and get back out there. I know it is highly unlikely I will ever make Olympic standard and by the time Rio starts, I think 33 years old would be pushing it a bit, but one thing is for certain, I would love to be able to photograph the next Olympics and maybe I could capture some images like the once we have seen recently that have helped inspire a nation.

Thank you to everyone involved in ensuring the London 2012 Olympic games has been a fantastic event that has made the world take notice and for turning me from a grumpy cynic to a proud Brit. From the Volunteers and the organisers to the Athletes themselves, Thank you all. I’ve cheered, I’ve yelled, I’ve jumped up and down, I’ve shed a tear or two and I’ve loved every minute of it. I never thought I would be saying that a few months ago. Britain really is Great after all. Bring on the Paralympics!

The Olympic Games has bought a nation closer together. (Image:London 2012)