Inside Lines: That's show business? No, it is sport casting its magic spell
Sunday 25 July 2010
Spelbound, the 13-strong group of young gymnasts who captivated the nation with their electrifying dexterity to win 'Britain's Got Talent', have finally kicked dust over the line which supposedly separates sport from showbiz.
Last week several of their number took time off from their nationwide roadshow to help Britain strike gold in the World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships in Wrozlaw, Poland, capturing both the men's pairs and fours titles and almost certainly clinching a place for the discipline in a future Olympics programme. A pity this cannot happen in time for 2012, when the troupe are likely to be there only as part of an opening ceremony which is two years away from Tuesday.
British gymnastics has never known such heady days, with eight golds among the 15 medals won in the European Championships and the redoubtable Beth Tweddle poised to retain her world title in October's championships. Britain's acro technical director, Neil Griffiths, who masterminded Spelbound's 'BGT' triumph, professed himself suitably spellbound by the latest result: "These kids are fabulous. What they have achieved this year is phenomenal and it will certainly help with the push to make acro part of the Olympics, where clearly it belongs."
Walking on water
Those Spelbinders are by no means alone in registering international glory for Britain recently. Fencing, modern pentathlon and archery have also seen Brits standing on the podium, yet these achievements – like that of Chrissie Wellington, who has set a new world long-distance triathlon record – seem to have slipped under the sporting radar while England's footballers were skulking their way to ignominy at the World Cup. While Capello's crew may have thought they could walk on water before they walked the plank, one squad who actually did so are Britain's ever-prolific water-skiers, who have cleaned up in the World Wakeboard Championships, winning the men's, women's, girl's, boy's and team titles in Germany. Yes indeed, British sport really does have talent.
Room at the top
The loss of UK Sport's popular chief executive, John Steele, to the Rugby Football Union – as forecast here – is a major blow to the funding body. Described by Lord Coe as "an exceptional sports leader", Steele said he is "gutted" to be missing out on the 2012 countdown, in which he would have had a pivotal role. But for the ex-Northampton Saints player, the offer from Twickers to replace Francis Baron as CEO next month was one he couldn't refuse.
UK Sport have received almost 50 applications for Steele's job, yet it seems ironic that one man who would have been ideal is no longer available. The 47-year-old former Welsh rugby international and world-class hurdler Nigel Walker, who has served on the UK Sport board, is taking over as national director of the English Institute of Sport. It makes him a much-needed black presence in sports administration. Another UK Sport old boy worthy of consideration is Howard Wells, whose successful lawsuit after his sacking last year as Irish FA CEO has cost them £500,000 in damages and costs and resulted in the departure of president Raymond Kennedy. Ex-CCPR chair Wells, 63, was the original chief executive of UK Sport back in the Nineties.
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