Sport on TV: Jonah has a whale of a time – shame about the rest of us

Chris Evans is no stranger to car crash television but Famous and Fearless (C4, Sunday to Friday) hasto go down as one of the slowest-motion wrecks of all time. The first episode was fully two hours long – 20 minutes tops would have sufficed – at the end of which Kelly Holmes performed a daredevil car-rolling stunt. She had just won a street luge contest despite being sent tumbling off the track halfway through. It was a case of the Dame meets the Dukes of Hazzard, and though she's no Daisy – more a shy, retiring violet – Evans was doing a fine impression of Boss Hogg, hogging the TV schedules for an entire week.

Perhaps it was Channel 4's answer to the Ashes: the only problem is, if you want to beat the ultimate form of sporting contest, the five-day Test, you can't make it better by simply making it last longer. This was just a Test of patience.

The "girls" team might not have known what they were letting themselves in for. While the "boys", featuring former All Black Jonah Lomu, got to enjoy a bit of BMX biking, the street luge was a different matter altogether. Invented in 1975 at Signal Hill, California, when some skateboarders found they could go faster by lying down, its aficionados can reach speeds of 100 mph.

Their instructor, Will Stephenson, said he had seen people break both legs because, you see, these tea trays on wheels don't have any brakes. Competitors have to slow down using their feet, and so they wear special boots called "hot heels". Perhaps the girls thought they were being invited to a trip to the sales to pick up some nice new shoes. Once Stephenson had shown them his bodysuit, with the arse ripped off by Tarmac and patched up with his sister's leather jacket, they may have been impressed by the "distressed" retro look but it was something they wouldn't be seen dead in – literally.

Holmes has been through the mill – and not just the run of it – in pursuit of sporting excellence, and so has Lomu, even more so in his case as he had to have a kidney transplant to save his life. So it was not just his size and strength that his opponents were up against, but a never-say-die attitude too. When a man like Lomu says, "Basically I'm trying to scare myself", then we should all be scared.

Like Gavin Henson in 71 Degrees North, the non-sporting celebrities (were they even celebrities?) must have wondered why they bothered to turn up, especially when Lomu sat down next to David Haye and made the world heavyweight champ look like Ronnie Corbett (well, almost – his jokes weren't as good).

As it happened, the oldest member of either team, 44-year-old Charley Boorman, somehow managed to beat Kelly Holmes to the title at the end of a long week. But it was great to see Lomu back in action of some sort or another – albeit in such spurious circumstances – and it was also good to see Clare Balding back in front of the cameras after she learned last week that she will require no further treatment, having contracting thyroid cancer in 2009.

One of the most versatile sports presenters, she has reportedly been miffed about her treatment by the BBC, so perhaps she is engaging in a new sporting challenge: ship-jumping. At least after Dame Kelly climbed out of her wrecked car, Balding didn't recommend a trip to the dentist.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world