Monday, December 31, 2012

A sports-writer's year, part 3

As the most marvellous year for British sport comes to an end, the final part of my look back at the events I was lucky enough to cover... 

All links take you to the Times paywall I'm afraid, but anyone who ventures beyond for their quid can get access to my far more talented colleagues' writings for the next 24 hours.

September Straight from a Lord's conference room to Woolwich, where my Paralympics began with watching a 70-year-old Australian grandmother reach the final, then back to Eton Dorney to see a gold medal for GB's coxed four; swimming, wheelchair basketball and the fascinating sport of boccia - bowls for those with cerebral palsy - followed, then sailing and wheelchair rugby, but already half the mind was on events later in the month as I handled the report on the US Ryder Cup wild cards.

The obligatory piece on the wives kicked off Ryder Cup week in Chicago, one of the few events where the build-up lasts longer than the competition. Among the various preview pieces, I enjoyed interviewing Dave Stockton, the American putting guru who was working with Rory McIlroy. America's God squad were more get-in-the-holier-than-thou (a line that's just occurred to me, wish I'd thought it at the time) but the spirit of Seve saw Europe to victory from 10-4 down. Just as well we binned the scheduled piece on "how Olazabal ballsed up the Ryder Cup". Writing a piece on the American media reaction was fun.

October A bitty month with lots of small pieces on things like the continuing row over Kevin Pietersen's rehabilitation, some rugby reporting and an interview with William Fox-Pitt about chickens. Spent an amusing hour with Graeme Swann talking about darts, babies and how to win in India.

Also interviewed Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Jonny Bairstow and Steven Finn ahead of England's cricket tour as their sponsors got their money's worth. Only one of them came back with reputation enhanced. The month ended with a rare dip into athletics as Charles van Commenee's successor was named.

November I wasn't sent to India but filled my boots writing about it anyway. Was quite pleased with this feature on the players who had won there before, which included some gems about security risks, playing charades and handling dodgy prawns from Graeme Fowler in particular. Tipped England to win, by the way (hurrah!), but said their fast bowlers would be the difference (less hurrah).

It was a good month for interviews. Was delighted to speak to Peter Wilson, the Olympic champion shooter, who was charming and funny, and to Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimmer, who talked about his battle with depression and his hope of returning to the form of his teenage years.

But one of my fondest memories of 2012 was interviewing Sir Chris Chataway, the former distance runner, about the Great Pea-Soup Smog of 1952, running with Roger Bannister and being the first person to win the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.

Also interviewed the three British sailors who were about to head off solo around the world in the Vendee Globe. As I write, two of them are still going and should finish in early February, but Sam Davies lost her mast early in the race. Cannot see the attraction of doing such a thing, but I admire their bravery. The month finished in Cardiff, watching Wales get spanked by the All Blacks. England were the next victims...

December I thought I was meant to be in Cardiff again for Wales v Australia. Fortunately I had misread the rota and someone corrected me before I hit the M4. Out of nowhere, England fashioned the most extraordinary win - no, thrashing - of New Zealand, with Manu Tuilagi having a hand in all three tries as they refused to buckle after the All Blacks scored two tries early in the second half. It was a real pleasure to be at Twickenham that day and as someone who has high regard for Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, it was amusing to think that some of the more negative Sunday journalists would have had to rip up their planned hatchet job on him.

The month ended with the usual bag of oddities: the Varsity rugby match, Shane Warne wanting to come out of retirement, an interview with a woman curler about her love of the bagpipes and continued monitoring of the Vendee Globe, but it was nice to end with a few happy memories: a piece-in-quotes about Katherine Grainger's Olympic gold, an interview with the head of GB Paralympics and 1,000 words on The Times's team of the year: Team GB.


Neil Harris said...

Thanks Patrick an excellent (3-part) blog.

I don't buy the times often but did for every day of London 2012 and will keep these for ever, your articles were particularly engrossing.

Keep up the good work and Happy New Year.

Paddy said...

Thanks Neil, appreciate the comment. What fun, eh!