Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Inside Lines: BOA must get to grips with this love-locked wrestlemania


There's no Olympic sport more boring than the oldest, wrestling, where the exponents of freestyle and Greco-Roman are some distance away from the grunt-and- groan antics of Big Daddy and The Undertaker.

But British Wrestling is spicing things up on the mat by importing a fistful of more accomplished grapplers from eastern Europe and attempting to fast-track them for 2012.

Indeed four of the seven-strong squad are from Ukraine, one from Bulgaria, and it would appear some of them émigrés have become more love-locked than arm-locked, with a surprising number of marriages to British citizens. All above board, insist wrestling bosses, denying this is a cynical exercise to win medals in an under-achieving sport. But the international governing body aren't happy.

"It is stupid, not good for the country," says Fila president Raphael Martinetti. "It leaves no legacy for the Games."

Doubtless the British Olympic Association are similarly uneasy.

Khan pushing for return

Although he's a devout Muslim, Amir Khan respects British traditions enough to celebrate Christmas with his family and new fiancée in Bolton.

However it will be wishful thinking if he expects Santa to bring the one present he wants – the return of his two world light-welterweight title belts snatched away by Lamont Peterson in Washington last weekend.

Khan has appealed against what he claims was a blatant home-town decision, but boxing commissions are not benevolent societies and when push comes to shove, so to speak, you can bet the WBA and IBF will back the referee who docked him points for those technical infringements which cost him the fight. Khan's best hope is that Peterson will keep his word and give him a return in Las Vegas where Khan, with his Golden Boy connections, would then be the house fighter.

But that could prove equally tough. I am a great admirer if Khan, but on that performance (I scored the fight a draw) let's hope we have not seen the best of him. Yet it wasn't only the officials who seemed biased; one British scribe likened aspects of Khan's boxing to that of Muhammad Ali. Khan would be the first to admit he's still some way from that, though he could learn from The Greatest that if you need to pull a few strokes, as that master of the dark arts often did, do so on the blind side of the ref.

I only once saw Ali warned, and that was for slapping when he fought Karl Mildenberger in Germany. "Close your glove, Ali," British referee Teddy Waltham ordered. "Which one, Mr Waltham?" Ali coolly replied.

Britain's thin ice age

It is a sad indictment of the state of British ice skating that the sport's best-known twosome, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, have been coaching Olympic prospects not in another country, but another sport – rhythmic gymnastics.

The iconic ice dance duo have spent time with GB's young gymnasts as part of a British Olympic Association progamme which also has seen another Olympic skating champion, Robin Cousins, working with synchronised swimmers.

Torvill says there are definitely things gymnastics can learn from skating. "Both are balletic and athletic, and you are doing routines to music."

So why have T&D not been asked to put their expertise on ice? The reason, I'm told by experts, is that such is the lack of talent among British skaters that most could not handle the level of moves demanded by the perfectionist pair. Or is that a load of old Bolero?

All bets off, Clare

Some time back we had a run-in with the formidable Clare Balding about boxing, a sport she deemed "dirty and corrupt".

Can't wait to hear racing's first lady defend her own beloved hobbyhorse where bans totalling 66 years have been handed out to 11 individuals, including owners, and former and current jockeys for various corrupt practices like conspiring to "pull" horses and thus cheat the punters.

Pots and kettles, Clare? And rather dirty ones at that.