How We Met: Duncan Goodhew and Colin Moynihan

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Duncan Goodhew, MBE, is 38; he was educated at Millfield and North Carolina State University. In 1980, he won the gold medal for the 100 metres breaststroke at the Moscow Olympics. He is now involved in a number of sports-related businesses. Married with two children, he lives in London.

The Hon Colin Moynihan, 39, won a silver medal for rowing at the 1980 Olympic Games. He became an MP in 1983, and was Minister for Sport, then Energy, before losing his seat at the 1992 election. Now working as an international energy consultant, he lives in London with his wife and son.

DUNCAN GOODHEW: When Colin first made contact with me, I was swimming away like a madman before the 1980 Olympics. We shared the dilemma of being told not to go to the games by Margaret Thatcher owing to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Every athlete had the same fear, that we wouldn't be able to go, and we had to work out whether it was right to go. I was 23, just out of university.

Colin was cox for the rowing eight. He was a much more accomplished sportsman than I was, he had a world championship medal already - I had yet to prove myself. He helped me come to terms with what I personally wanted: to go, no matter what the Government said. At that time there were only two things the world freely communicated on. One was the weather, the other was sport. I feel that while you're talking there's a chance you may reconcile differences, that communication and being together is the best way to break barriers and melt ice. My agent said at the time: 'If you have a Stradivarius played by an ogre, do you destroy the violin?' It seemed to Colin and me that the Olympics should have been the last thing to be picked on, not the first. With hindsight, we were absolutely right.

I find Colin inspiring, entertaining and stimulating. He has the ability to focus on so many different things at once - the energy of the man is exhausting. But he makes everything fun, even hard work. We've both had the experience of winning and coming second, and we both understand what it takes, in terms of sport and probably other life challenges. Shortly after the Olympics we went to see Chariots of Fire. Half an hour after it finished we were still sitting there, unable to move. Being together and having experienced it all, it just hit something.

After Moscow we went skiing together. Colin had a slight fixation about competing in luge - that's a one- or two-man sled that goes down feet first. It didn't bother him that it was dangerous. Thankfully, he did come to his senses. He realised there were other things more important.

We move in slightly different circles, but we do do things together. We use each other as sounding-boards. I went out canvassing for him and quite enjoyed it. He's such an extraordinary man - a good friend of mine was having lunch in a pub and Colin walked in to grab a sandwich. While he was up at the bar he started introducing himself to people, saying: 'I'm your local MP,' and some of them were going 'Yer, yer,' giving him a hard time because they weren't of the same political persuasion. He said: 'That doesn't matter, come round to my surgery if you have any problems.' What I think was impressive - and it's so Colin - is that he has such confidence. When he takes something on he does it with such gusto.

He's married the most charming girl, Gaynor, and my wife, Anne, is godmother to their son Nicholas. Colin recently started a new business, and we meet quite often, usually over a meal. One thing we don't share is my great love of food. He, having spent a sporting career concerned with his weight, doesn't have the same fierce appetite I have. But like me he loves sitting down at a table and the conversation that results.

The question of whether he will inherit his brother's title and go to the Lords, rather than the Commons, poses a dilemma. He loves politics, and I truly believe this country would lose someone from the Commons who would have made a significant contribution, had he returned there.

Sport is like a common language, and if you have more than sport in common you almost become that cliche, soul mates. There is something so comfortable about the common experiences, the understanding of what it's like to put everything you believe in on the line and tread where no man has trod before. That's what sport is all about. It's tantamount to a religion. It's all-consuming, and Colin and I are from the same sect, as it were. When you cast free of it and have to come to terms with a different life, there's a fall-out. We went through that experience at the same time, and it further strengthened the friendship.

COLIN MOYNIHAN: We'd spoken on many occasions in the six months before the 1980 Moscow Olympics, always on the telephone. We didn't meet until we both arrived in the Olympic village.

The build-up to the games was overshadowed by the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. There was a significant lobby by the Government and certain sections of the press that sportsmen and women should not go to Moscow, in order to demonstrate the country's opposition to the Soviet invasion. As an aspirant Conservative candidate I was called into the Foreign Office and told it would not be in the national interest for the British team to take part. My view was that political battles should be debated and argued in Parliament, that there were a whole raft of measures a nation state could take - trade boycotts, withdrawing our ambassador, banning travel. I totally opposed either government or governing bodies reaching a view on behalf of sportsmen without consulting them all and allowing the competitors to decide.

I had heard that the swimmers had the same dilemma, so I contacted Duncan. We campaigned together and were successful. Phone-calls became a regular part of our lifestyle. I admired him for taking such a tough stance. The characteristic that came through very strongly was his utter commitment and I felt I knew him well by the time we arrived in Moscow. It was tremendous to meet him and find a very sympathetic and like-minded character. Our friendship has lasted ever since.

When we got back from Moscow we both went through the tremendous deflation that happens after a successful Olympics. I think it was worse for Duncan than me. At that time I didn't have a high profile, but he was instantly recognisable. It was good to get together with Duncan and make plans for the future. We both felt we had a duty to put something back into sport, and so we joined the Sports Aid Foundation which helps young sportsmen reach international status.

By 1982 we really had the itch to participate again, preferably in a different sport. We alighted on luge, two-man luge. Up till then the norm was two people of 13 stone, so that the centre of gravity was right in the middle. Our theory, which was never put to the test, was that you would have a small person and a larger person, so the centre of gravity would go further forward. It would be more dangerous, but faster. Sadly our plan never materialised, but it did lead Duncan into bobsleighing, and he became a very capable competitor in the sport. Then, somewhat to my surprise, in 1987 I was asked to be Minister for Sport. Who better to turn to than participating sportsmen? Through those years two sportsmen were very influential in my work: one was Duncan, the other Seb Coe. We had many discussions on how to tackle the problem of drugs in sport, sport for the disabled, inner-city sport - something Duncan was particularly interested in.

In recent years we've been looking at developing sport in schools. I stay fit because I enjoy sport. I'm a fairly strong adherent to 'healthy in body, healthy in mind'. Duncan and I don't ever train together, he's down in south London, I'm in the centre. We've both got children, and when we're not working they dominate our lives. We were close friends as bachelors, but as families we're even closer. Our wives are the best of friends. In my view Duncan has had two gold medals in his life, one in the Olympics and one in his wife, Anne.

Close friendship is based on respect. I respect Duncan's tenacity, his loyalty and his social conscience. He's desperately concerned about other people. Sport at an international level can mean a fairly lonely lifestyle. You have to dig deep to reach those reserves of sheer determination and strength - to train that extra hour when everyone else has finished. That often means you shut yourself off from all the normal camaraderie and entertainment. Sportsmen must be focused.

Duncan was genuinely focused. He had a hard time. He was dyslexic, so academic achievement was difficult. He had to kick hard against the odds. I admire the way he has succeeded.

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