Sportsmen are infinitely fascinating. Watching The Clare Balding Show on Saturday, it was painful to hear cyclist Victoria Pendleton’s anguish at giving up her sport after London 2012 — purging herself of the discipline completely for two years in order to be able to cope with the loss.
The look of consternation on champion jockey AP McCoy’s face at the thought of throwing out anything reminiscent of his time in the saddle does make you worry how he will cope in retirement.
How does anyone cope when, having doggedly dedicated two decades of their life to winning, overcoming countless injuries, continuing when in agony and enduring torturous treatments along the way, that goal is removed?
It was intriguing to see conversation between McCoy and Pendleton, too — McCoy on the eve of giving up racing, and Pendleton in the process of taking it up, having given up her own sport three years ago. The focus on McCoy’s numerous falls and injuries — he having broken almost every bone in his body — although no doubt deemed good television, can’t have been what Pendleton needed to hear, with Cheltenham in her sights next year. But fascinating again to fathom how top sportsmen, unlike some of us mere mortals, can reconcile themselves with those thoughts and statistics and push on. As McCoy put it, the power of the mind can’t be underestimated when it comes to overcoming physical suffering.
It’s hard to imagine we will see another who has achieved this to quite the same degree that McCoy has. Hats off to the most modest of champions who, in the end, put his achievements down to having the best horses and trainers, as if “going round in circles’’ took nothing. This was wonderful to hear.
Clearly the man is an exceptional talent — as is Charlotte Dujardin, also sharing the sofa on that TV show — but equally clearly, no rider amounts to anything without the horse.
Ref: H&H 30 May, 2015