Sport: In search of a big break

 

David Millar started out determined to cycle "clean", but became embroiled in his sport's notorious doping culture. It didn't last long, and he kept two empty syringes behind a box on his bookshelves as "a poignant souvenir".

The police found them, of course. In Racing Through the Dark (Orion, £18.99), written with Jeremy Whittle, British cycling's former golden boy recounts his loss of innocence and soured idealism. He still sounds angry, with the sport and with himself, but it makes for a compelling read.

As things stand his drug ban, though served, bars him from the British Olympic team, so he won't be riding next August in London, where the starring role will be reserved for Usain Bolt. In The Fastest Men on Earth: The Story of the Men's 100 Metres Olympic Champions (Andre Deutsch, £18.99), Neil Duncanson gives an immensely readable account of Bolt and his 24 predecessors. I don't know whether Bolt will emulate Jim Hines, who escaped from the athletes' village on the eve of the 1968 final for a night of conjugal relations with his wife, but it seemed to work for the American.

Bolt recently declared that he wants to go for four golds in London, the 100 metres, 200 metres and the two relays. They're all in How to Watch the Olympics (Profile, £10.99) by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton, the perfect event-by-event primer for sport's biggest occasion.

Had he not taken £17 expenses as a teenage boxer, John Tarrant might have run in the Olympics, though definitely not in the 100 metres. In The Ghost Runner (Mainstream, £12.99), Bill Jones tells Tarrant's astonishing story. Banned from athletics, he gatecrashed races all over Britain and became a long-distance king, breaking the world 100 mile record.

It's a story of staggering grit and determination, qualities found in abundance in Rafa: My Story (Sphere, £17.99), written with John Carlin. It reveals aspects of Nadal wholly unexpected in such a formidable tennis champion – he can't sleep in the dark, doesn't like thunder and lightning, and won't swim unless he can see the bottom.

The harsh regime administered from a very early age by his uncle and coach Toni Nadal helped instil a ferocious mental discipline. Jonny Wilkinson suffered a similarly harsh childhood, though it was almost entirely of his own making. In Jonny: My Autobiography (Headline, £20, written with Owen Slot) the England rugby union hero is frank about his incredible obsessiveness. Great sportspeople are not quite like the rest of us, a fact that this book underlines.

As sporting memoirs go, Dave Robertson's 32 Programmes (Bantam, £12.99) is the equivalent of a nouveau roman, episodically tracing his life through the football programmes he kept, from a stash of 1,134, when he emigrated to the US. A brilliant idea nicely executed, it's certainly the funniest sport-related read this Christmas.

There aren't many laughs in Tom Bower's occasionally jaw-dropping No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone (Faber, £18.99). It nails down an individual who, to his credit, gave the author a free hand, but who comes over as odious. His Formula One fiefdom, meanwhile, looks grubby rather than glamorous. The days of true motor-racing romance are long gone, but are superbly evoked in Michael Cannell's The Limit: Life and Death in Formula One's Most Dangerous Era (Atlantic, £17.99). Through the stories of the American driver Phil Hill and the German Count Wolfgang von Trips, he tells a story of heroism and carnage.

As the mesmeric Shane Warne returns to cricket, clearly reinvigorated by the love of a good woman, Twirlymen: The Unlikely History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers (Yellow Jersey, £14.99) comes along to tell you everything you need to know about sport's most mysterious art. My Independent colleague Amol Rajan has produced a beautifully written account of cricket's illusionists.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific