Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the box: Catching up with pair going for gold

By Billy Weir

I have many things in common with Bradley Wiggins - the same initials, I used to have a bike, I come from a broken home and we both look like members of some long since defunct popular beat combo.

In fairness he looks like someone from The Jam and not someone who used to eat a lot of it, and neither do I have a knighthood (surely only a matter of time?) nor am I searching for my fifth gold medal at the Olympics, but apart from that we could be brothers.

I confess I don't have just as much in common with Tom Daley, the ripped torso, the snug Speedos, the ability to hurl oneself into a swimming pool like a lemming on a pogo stick, when my only real experience of diving is throwing myself across the sofa when my Wotsits look like hitting the floor. And that has nothing to do with Speedos…

What we all have in common, though, is that after a long countdown we're as ready as we're ever going to be for Rio as the Olympic Games, which kick, throw, swim, run, row and ride off in Brazil.

It would have been hard not to notice it was coming, two of Team GB's finest the subject of much-publicised documentaries this week, with Daley getting the ball rolling on primetime UTV on Saturday night with his Diving For Gold.

Given the time it was on you half expected Ant or Dec to show up - or given the title, Henry Kelly - but I'm taking a punt here, Daley hadn't heard of Sonny and Cher when they were raised by his mum (in conversation, not literally) so there's little chance of him of having heard of Henry.

Thankfully it wasn't another series of Splash! so even if you don't like the Olympics just be grateful that their presence means that we don't have to watch Bella Emberg taking on someone from The Only Way is Geordie Chelsea Shore.

But, as Henry would have said, this was a chance to play catch up with Tom, as we followed him from London 2012 where the narrator told us that when he 'dramatically won a bronze medal the whole country celebrated with him.'

Indeed, I still remember squeezing into a pair of Speedos for a street party round our way. It took two fire crews 48 hours and many buckets of Swarfega to free me and, like Tom, 'what he didn't see was the aftershock.'

Like all good sporting documentaries there was to be drama, a harrowing back story, tears and fears and a bit of love interest, as there's only so many times you can watch a boy jump into a pool before you switch over to Casualty.

The big splash for Tom is that he came out and this filled many minutes of the programme coupled with falling out of love for the sport for a while and his eventual change of coach.

As his former coach Andy Banks, one of the judges on Splash!, explained, he was 'on the downward spiral of doom' which I think was on the promotional blurb for Splash! but now in love with everything, Tom's main focus was on conquering the dive that almost cost him bronze in London.

Indeed such was his annoyance at being cooped up in another hotel room for a meeting in Ontario he warned that 'if you leave me in this room I will jump out the window' but on the plus side he got 9.5 from the Canadian judge.

Tantrums and fears put aside, he is now ready for Rio, with a new twister dive called the Firework safely tucked into his budgie-smugglers.

My only advice is two-fold - don't light it and if it is twister aim for the big blue square or it could be time for casualty again.

Not to be outdone in the tear-jerking and trips down memory lane, Sky got in on the act on Tuesday evening as we joined Wiggins on 'The Road To Rio' which technically isn't correct as he is at the velodrome but we got the idea.

They had wheeled out Sean Bean as narrator and a local face in Orla Chennaoui, Sky's Olympic correspondent and, as a native of Draperstown, someone well used to the sort of razzmatazz we can expect in Rio.

Of course we couldn't expect to do a programme without Victoria Pendleton popping up and she told us that Wiggo had special gifts that only a few athletes have. Some would say unique. Like Chris Hoy. Or Mark Cavendish.

Like Tom, Bradley has had his own share of personal demons, although he had to come to terms with being a gold medallist just after winning the Tour de France, which slightly put the bronze in the shade.

"People were in bars, it was like we'd won the World Cup," he said, and you can picture the scene in 2062 when an 82-year-old Wiggo is wheeled out to reminisce and he'll probably still look as cool as hell.

"It is his rock and roll swagger that endears him to people," added Orla, no mean task to swagger whilst in cycling shorts but he did manage to amble down memory lane with a trip to his old stomping ground and a few words from some of his old teachers.

"I got in quite a lot of bother as a kid, pilfering mainly," he confessed.

Pilfering? Who did he grow up with, Oliver Twist? I pictured a young Bradley haring around Herne Bay Velodrome on a penny farthing.

But he came across as a top bloke, the highlight meeting an old friend and greeting him with 'I thought you'd be dead by now' while all the time putting in a ridiculous amount of work to achieve his dream of a fairytale finish.

So as we wish them both well, alas I will not be in Rio to cheer them on, I have a box set of Going for Gold and a box of Wotsits to get through, so no bronze or gold for me, but there is a silver lining, I saved the Wotsits.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: RTE pundit Colm O’Rourke was less than enamoured with the fayre on offer as Kerry treated Clare very badly at Croke Park on Saturday, the game failing to reach the heights of a duck’s ankle bracelet. “There would be more atmosphere at the blessing of the graves,” he moaned. “The game is a dead duck.” And he was right, no mention of when the wake is though.

The bad: Sky’s own Dr Evil at the golf, Butch Harmon, had highs and lows at the USPGA at the weekend as his protégé, Jimmy Walker, won his first Major but, as at all tournaments in the States, every shot was greeted with whooping and hollering usually reserved for a political get-together. “When are we going to throw these people out?” he asked but they’re clearly not all Yanks as the cretin who was following Germany’s Martin Kaymer kept yelling ‘wunderbar.’ Dummkopf.

The ugly: No contest this week and, in keeping with the Olympic theme, it has to be Rio. Not the place in Brazil, the former footballer called Ferdinand’s new acting role in an advert for a mobile phone service provider. I’ll not credit them by saying who it is, all I will say is that ‘Ee by gum, it’s rubbish.’

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph