Sport on TV: Cold shoulder for Henson? Put your shirt back on then
Sunday 07 November 2010
No wonder Gavin Henson is finding it so hard to be loved at the moment. But let's give him a break. When he chose not to wear a shirt for the paso doble during last weekend's Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, Saturday), it wasn't because he was showing off. No, it was just so hot in the studio after all his efforts in the extreme celebrity Arctic challenge of 71 Degrees North (ITV1, Tuesday).
In the first 22 days in the frozen wastes around the North Pole, Henson had either come first or second in every challenge and only two others remained to challenge him: Footballers' Wives actress Susie Amy and some bloke called Marcus Patrick who's in Hollyoaks. The only other sporting challenger, Andrew Castle of tennis fame (well, breakfast TV fame anyway), had bowed out in an earlier round, as he used to do during his career on the courts.
The penultimate chilly challenge involved swimming under ice, and for once it was simply too cold for Henson to whip his top off. "I'm prepared to bloody die to win this, that's how competitive I get," he said. You could only admire the Welsh rugby player's commitment, but let's face it, it's hard to win if you're dead. We knew he was going to survive, anyway, because he's still strutting his stuff on Strictly. Indeed, there's only one corpse left on that show.
The contestants were required to swim to four holes bored into ice that was one metre thick, the openings being further and further apart. They had about four minutes to complete the task before they expired. And the boyo from the valley of the shadow of death was grinning as he jumped in, saying to the physio: "You'll have to drag me out, son!" He was required to give his full name every now and then, to confirm he was still compos mentis, and he did well considering that in normal circumstances it might have proved rather difficult.
Sure enough, they did have to drag him out after he missed the third hole and kept on swimming. Perhaps he had lost count. But he scraped through to the final and said: "I can't come here and lose to a bloke off Hollyoaks, a pin-up." You'd never be a pin-up, would you Gav? Patrick said: "After being so smug all the way through, it would be so sweet to beat him." He was thinking: "I can't lose to a bloke of Gavin and Stacey."
The final race involved a stretch of dog-sledding, which infuriated Henson since it wasn't about physical strength and mental bravado. His crucial error was not getting off the sled to help push it uphill. He just barked orders at the huskies, and lost by two minutes. "Laziest dogs I've ever come across," he spat, kicking snow in their faces. "It reminded me of rugby, the backs are all lined up and forwards don't turn up." He may get a chilly reception when he turns up to train with the Saracens pack.
The last section was a rope climb across a chasm 1,000m in the air. "I've always rather been a favourite than an underdog," said Henson, and there were some huskies who probably thought the same. He could not catch up on the lost time and trudged home in second place, looking every inch the inconsolable child. "It beats any moment in rugby," he said, "but you want to win everything you do. You wouldn't put your shirt on Henson to win anything at the moment, even if his pectorals were quivering with cold. In the end the ice pack beat the six-pack.
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