The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for watching too much sport on telly


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The Independent Culture

Ailment: Watching too much sport on telly

Cure: Gold by Chris Cleave

Between the World Cup, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the Test Match, it's been hard to avoid watching sport on the telly this summer. And though it can seem that, while admiring other people engage in sport, you are being sporty yourself, the truth is of course very different. The more you watch, the less you do; and while the athletes get fitter, you on your sofa, with your San Miguel or your cup of tea and biscuit, get fatter. The only sweat you break is from shouting at your screen when England miss yet another attempt at goal, or Andy Murray's second serve goes into the net.

To expedite your transition from sofa to sprinting, we prescribe Chris Cleave's Gold. The novel follows the careers of two top velodrome cyclists, Zoe and Kate, from their teens to the moment when they pit themselves against each other in the 2012 Olympics. Their intense friendship is inevitably glistening with rivalry, and complicated further by a love triangle involving Kate's husband, Jack. Neither are beneath resorting to low tricks to establish dominance. But while Zoe cashes in on her cycling fame by becoming a model for a water company, maximising her moment of glory, Kate faces a more emotional challenge to her priorities when her daughter is diagnosed with leukaemia. Will she put family first, or jeopardise everything to go for gold?

It's impossible to read about their gruelling training schedules and the way they sacrifice almost all else for their athletic ambitions, without in some way applying the rigour to one's own life, as well. Allow yourself to be infected by the rush of adrenalin as you watch Kate and Zoe race each other along the narrow country roads around Manchester. Feel your muscles tense for action, your brain start to draw in and focus. Then we defy you not to grab the Lycra, get out the WD40, and attack your own rusty two-wheeler. It's your turn to work those legs and feel the wind in your hair.