Sport on TV: Big brother is watching you, Nic – thank goodness for that
Sunday 11 March 2012
If you are a fan of car-crash TV, you would like Racing with the Hamiltons (BBC1, Tuesday). This new series about disability began with Nic Hamilton, the 19-year-old brother of Formula One's Lewis, who is trying to kickstart a racing career of his own. He may be riding in the slipstream of his sibling's fame but if Lewis has blazed a path for black racing drivers his brother has begun a journey that may be even more extraordinary.
There is one problem: he tends to fly off the track rather a lot. Nic, who has cerebral palsy, is a devotee of racing video games and although he has won the race every time he has "driven" at Thruxton – the fastest track in Britain – on his console, the real thing proves rather more tricky.
He is starting in the Renault Clio series, but has never raced before. He writes off his custom-built, £70,000 car on a practice lap, then gets a new one next day, only to come off at the same corner again. Confidence is becoming an issue, but Lewis is on hand with some helpful advice – drive faster and conquer the fear – and he gets around it.
They may be a remarkable family but they are also a normal one in many ways. As Lewis goads his little brother on, mum Linda worries for his safety – not surprisingly as he keeps crashing – and dad Anthony frets about the cost of all the repairs, regularly interjecting: "He's got to get a job or go to university." But for a change Nic is not easily steered off course. "No one comes between me and my racing," he says of potential girlfriends. "They have to take a back seat." Or they could catch the bus, just to be on the safe side.
Amid all this normality, it is easy to forget what an extraordinary story this is. Nic describes how his pelvis might pop out of its joints while he is driving; the pain is "like someone's got a fist inside of you constantly". He was in a wheelchair until 2008, when he woke up one morning and decided to walk to school. A surgeon in the United States said he would have to break both Nic's legs and reset them in order for him to walk unaided but he chose to do it on his own, with the help of physiotherapy.
It's maybe the same determination in the face of a lack of confidence that sees him persevere at racing and he came a creditable ninth in the last race of the season. His father says he will back Nic for another year. And in another five, could we have the first F1 driver with disabilities? Or at least one that was disabled to start with. With an older brother like Lewis, there's a racing chance.
* One man looking for his chance to race is Dwain Chambers. While Nic Hamilton is busy signing his rather premature promotional posters, we hear on Tonight: 2012 – Pride and Punishment (ITV1, Thursday) that the sprinting drugs cheat was sent a letter by a young fan saying he had torn up his poster of Chambers. It was a sobering moment for the fan of body-bending drugs but, as has been said often enough, he should have thought about it before. Perhaps his brain was too frazzled.
He obviously did know he was putting something nasty in his body because he says: "I instantly had that bad gut feeling." He adds: "I didn't have the confidence, belief or strength to pull away from it." Rather than being performance-enhancing, the designer drugs he took seem to have left him feeling rather pathetic.
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