Matt Butler: The price of hope can be a life sentence of surgery and pain

View from the sofa: The Price of Gold, STV

We haven’t had the flying cars or meals in pill form yet, but the present day is already pretty darn futuristic. A case in point: even though this column is written “from the sofa”, often the actual viewing is done on a train, in between tasks at the office or in bed. And also, the choices are not restricted to programmes broadcast on these shores.

Like this week for instance: the programme of choice, The Price of Gold, came from Sweden, of all places, although the subject matter was common to any country with state-funded elite athlete programmes. And in keeping with the Brave New World theme, it detailed the potions, injections and gut-churning regimes that athletes go through in search of glory.

At this juncture, it is probably worth pointing out that we don’t trawl the  internet looking for Swedish documentaries on a regular basis. This one was linked  last week on allthingsgym.com, a website largely dedicated to weightlifting and its maverick offshoots.

The documentary began with the likes of Carolina Klüft and Christian Olsson, Olympic champion heptathlete and triple jumper respectively, lifting weights, running and puking their way through training with the 2012 Olympics in mind.

It then cut to shots of them and other Swedish athletes winning gold, with the commentator’s voiceover ending with “how do they do it?” before introducing a 15-year-old hurdling hopeful.

Then, boy, did the established stars let us know the price of success. Klüft, Kelly Sotherton’s nemesis in the early 2000s, reeled off her list of injuries: torn-off hamstring, herniated disc, shin-bone fractures, sprains and strains. “I think that is about it,” she said ruefully.

Susanna Kallur, a former Olympic hurdles champion, added: “Anyone who says being an elite athlete is good for you is nuts.”

Klüft and Olsson, the man who so often denied Phillips Idowu glory, were then interviewed and it was soon obvious that there is a certain amount of obsession when it comes to fulfilling athletic dreams.

That became more evident when the focus was switched to the hopefuls, like high jumper Erik Sundlöf, who ignored his Achilles problems to the extent that a huge grotesque hole appeared in his ankle and an 11-hour operation was necessary.

There was worse to come. A segment on the lengths (and lengthy lists of pain-killing and anti-inflammatory drugs) athletes go to hide or alleviate the pain from injuries sustained just before competition, was frankly depressing, as were interviews with athletes who admitted they had spent their careers “undernourished” and unrepentant coaches who had subjected their athletes to career-threatening training exercises.

The only semblance of a happy ending came when the stars were reintroduced and every one of them said the pain, injuries and surgeries were worth it. It was a harrowing insight, one that, you suspect, is not confined to Sweden.

And as for the 15-year-old hurdling hope, she was revealed at the end to be suffering from a stress fracture and it was doubtful whether she would ever be able to compete at an elite level. What a future.

Twitter: @mattbutler503

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicHunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original  manuscripts
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
lifeAiming to show breasts in a non-sexual way for cancer awareness
New Articles
i100... while following the referendum
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
Arts and Entertainment
tvBut something’s not quite right
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week