TELEVISION / We have the technology, we can rebuild him
Saturday 09 July 1994
Or maybe you just want to run fast. This new series bills itself as a training manual that ordinary mortals can aspire to but, let's be honest, the physical specimens on show here have reached levels of fitness that are slightly less attainable than owning a pet giraffe or a palazzo on the Grand Canal. The hurdler Colin Jackson attributes his speed out of the blocks to going on the B of the bang - an easy formula to follow so long as you're not the type who falls out of bed on the M of the alarm.
In reality, The Contenders provided an insight into the way training has mutated into a science. Nowadays, unless you can do your jogging in a laboratory staffed by medical teams armed with cardiac monitors, you might as well keep your Nikes clean for the disco. Unless, that is, you can do it in a swimming-pool - the latest fad in fitness. The middle- distance runner Yvonne Murray does four miles inside a rubber ring in her local pool because it's easier on the joints. The only thing not explained here was why she always gets stuffed out of sight in major championships.
Let's put to one side the quibble that all this know-how is turning athletics into robotics. On a mental level, we're still dealing with human fallibility, and research clearly still needs to be done in this area. For example, there must be a common psychological profile of people who do essentially unnatural sports. In gymnastics, or pole-vaulting, the body has to be taught to ignore the sensible arrangements of gravity. Surely the men in white coats who pass for coaches these days could devise an IQ test to establish just how dumb you have to be to fly upside down over a stick six metres up.
While some athletes have to be stupid, their support staff have to truffle for knowledge in the most bizarre corners. The coach of the 800m runner Martin Steele has evolved a theory about biorhythms, from which he has determined that his charge runs well in summer. Luckily, the athletics season falls just at the right time. Apparently, all middle-distance runners not born at the end of September can hang up their spikes now.
The Contenders did console you with news that elements of the top fitness regimes are a doddle. 'As far as training is concerned,' muttered Bean sultrily, 'less is more. The art lies in knowing when not to train.' We could all make a start on that part right now.
The one part of the body an athlete can ignore is the face, the only area that the rest of us care about. In a bitty but lively study, The Mask (BBC 2) considered the fascism of physiognomies. An interview with the model Annabel Schofield highlighted the neurotic self-criticism of the absurdly beautiful, as a result of which she decided to submit her nose to the surgeon's knife. (Surely it's statistically proven that no one in the world likes their nose?)
It did seem a bit odd that the hospital footage was so intrusively good, and lo, when Annabel removed her bandages her nose was uncut. Conned by her looks, we had supposed her vain and stupid enough to go through with it. The credits revealed that Annabel Schofield had been acting, playing someone called 'Annabel'. If she's not as not dumb as she looks, she'll never be a pole-vaulter.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 50 books for students to read this summer: From Ernest Hemingway to Gillian Flynn
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
Hercules, review: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson takes centre stage in preposterous movie
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Game of Thrones Sansa Stark actress Sophie Turner stars in Bastille's 'Oblivion' video
50 Shades of Grey movie trailer declared sexy and sexist on Twitter
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia