Winning doesn’t mater? KO losing

I came across a quote earlier today from a well-established racehorse trainer:

“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, until you lose”

Winning ugly is still better than not winning at all.

Odds would indicate that jockeys should go on to the track expecting to lose. AP McCoy, the greatest of them all convinces himself that he is unbreakable so that he can ride without fear, go hell for leather and ensure the rest finish behind him, even if it is by the slimmest of margins. This has been effective for him many times, but even the 17 times champion has lost more often than he has won.

15-year-old Lydia Ko figured out at an early age how to win on the golf course. The New Zealander has just celebrated her third victory on the professional circuit by finishing top of the leader board at the Clearwater club in Christchurch. Last year she became the youngest winner, female or male of a professional event. It was surprising she took so long to do so since she made the cut in her first pro tournament when she was 12. Her talent, and position in the record books, is likely to be bridled by LPGA rules restricting her involvement on the tour because of her young age. As consolation, perhaps her competition would say, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as you lose to a protégée likely to redefine the game as a whole.

Winning ugly can be best kind of victory. The relief of grinding it out, of putting every bit of you into it, when it feels like the playing time has dragged on and on for days, is worth it for the sole purpose of not losing again. Just ask the Wales rugby union team how it felt to beat France in Paris last weekend in the 6 Nations. After eight defeats in a row including a new record for home losses, they banged out an ugly win that was met with exhausted smiles of reprieve and hope that they might finally have dug themselves up out of the rut despite many commentators and pundits digging the boot in while they laid low. For Wales, winning mattered.

For reasons unknown to millions across the world, a few hapless people don’t support Manchester United. Apparently Sir Alex Ferguson isn’t to everyone’s taste and neither is the style of player he has instructed his team to produce. United have been criticised for not being spectacular enough of the time. They can be spectacular on occasion, knowing this means ruthless fans of the game want it more and more often, or all the time since that is the job of a footballer. The thing is, Fergie’s boys can still win playing ordinary.  Scoring goals late in a match have the same weight as a score in the first minute, chalking up the W’s is what leads to silverware at the end of the season. Arsenal and Liverpool can both play attractive football but can fail to convert style into substance, particularly within the league format. Not winning really maters to their fans.

Sports Toughest Man

Over the weekend just past we saw many examples of awesome physical beings demonstrating their attributes in their chosen sporting amphitheatre.

An early instance was one that couldn’t be missed if you have got up from the sofa, left the telly buzzing, put the kettle on and whipped up your own half-time pies from scratch such is the sheer size of Everton’s Victor Anichebe. The man-mountain, who scored an equaliser against Aston Villa in the Premier league, surely must be fuelled on a diet of medium-rare prized Hereford steaks and an endless supply of spinach (although the Nigerian bears a closer resemblance to Bluto rather than Popeye!)

The 6 Nations kicked off on in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon when big men were not difficult to come by. Despite missing upwards of ten of their preferred playing squad the Welsh could still rely on front row hard man Adam Jones, who settles the scales at around 120kg. His opposite number however, Irelands Mike Ross, beat him to the pies, not the tries making the aforementioned overworked scales squeal under a daunting 127kgs.

I make no apology for pointing out that rugby players are fit. Close observation/ ogling of the Italian and French players backs up this scientific precision. Each side are a fit, strong, sculpted collection of 1st XV Erotes godliness.  And they have stamina, yes, I admire their stamina.

Then there was a whole other category of gym-moulded individuals in the form of the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. American footballers force their physicality on the world through constant posing and very nearly tighter than skin-tight lycra. Although they wear a considerable amount of body armour so it ain’t all a precious contribution from the almighty above, even if some of them believe they are Gods gift. The Super Bowl is an over the top celebration of a game that essentially only requires one man per team to have a skill while the rest either shove people out of the way or run a lot, usually in a straight line. They love to show off and the public love to see them brag.

Tonight will see the focus shift to a sportsman with immense physical capability, the ability to endure pain and agony like no other, to keep going when he has long since been written off, to get back up when he has been knocked down, beaten, bruised and trampled. All this on a diet of jelly babies and sugary tea. Champion jump jockey Tony McCoy has suffered for his sport. He has fractured his T12 vertebrae, shattered two others, has metal strips in his spine, broken both shoulder blades, ankles, cheekbones, ribs, a wrist, a leg, collar bone, fingers and teeth.

A mud splattered A P McCoy at Worcester races

McCoy at Worcester races (Photo credit: gordon2208)

A sportsman doesn’t have to be pumped, amped and ripped like a Ken doll on steroids. He doesn’t have to flaunt his physical attributes in your face like a shirtless Ronaldo. Jockeys are usually small and they have to make certain weights to get the rides on the best horse. McCoy is 5ft 10ins and around 10 stone 4lbs (he has ridden at 10 stone), although the addition of steel plates, nuts and bolts holding his joints together might add a few pounds.

A different breed – The life of a jump jockey, is on BBC radio 5 Live tonight at 7.30pm. Listen to hear the story of a sportsman who is a physical enigma.