Matt Butler: All-round athletes prove too fit for Superstars' purpose

The View From The Sofa: Superstars/World's Strongest Man, BBC 1/Channel 5
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The Independent Online

If you are an Olympic gold medallist, you'd want to see the year out in style. Bradley Wiggins had a stab at it by getting lit up like a Christmas tree and playing guitar with Paul Weller, before accepting a knighthood.

A clutch of his fellow London 2012 champions opted to appear on Superstars. And as damp squibs go, this was a December camping holiday in Devon.

We were enticed by a few household names: Mo Farah, the 5,000 metres and 10,000m Olympic champion; Katherine Grainger, who won the same colour medal as a rower, and Christine Ohuruogu, whose last gold-standard performance was in Beijing 2008, but was still a medallist in London.

Then there were the "who is that again?" kind of 2012 Olympic champions, such as Peter Wilson (shooting), Jade Jones (tae kwon do) and Laura Bechtolsheimer (dressage) who helped round out the 16-strong line-up.

But it wasn't the brightness of the stars – let's face it, this year, of any years, any gold medallist is worthy of airtime – that rendered Superstars to the excitement category of a regional athletics meeting.

Rather it was the mediocrity of the whole thing, partly by sloppy editing – did they really need to spend 15 minutes on a one-kilometre bike ride? – and partly because the athletes were, by and large, good at the activities. Not brilliant, nor hopeless, just ... OK.

One of the hallmarks of the Superstars of old was to witness people who are at the pinnacle of their sports being monumentally useless at other disciplines. Think Kevin Keegan falling off his bike, or cricketers who end up blowing out the proverbial or falling off the gymnastics apparatus.

Sadly this time, in the modern age of cross-training, a lot of the athletes were passable at the events outside their comfort zone. In fact, when Anthony Joshua, a heavyweight boxing gold medallist, thundered down the 100m track there will have been more than one Premiership rugby coach licking his lips.

The javelin provided the best unintentional comedy moments. Wilson, by far the least athletic of the superstars, was one of many who managed to flap their way down the run-up and make the javelin land tail-first. Try it sometime, it isn't easy.

But – and it feels mean to say this, as they didn't have the most dramatic material – the presenters Iwan Thomas, Gabby Logan and Denise Lewis didn't exactly fuel the excitement with their post-event questioning. It was all a bit flat. And, dare we say, chummy.

It didn't help that the eventual winners Joshua and Helen Glover, the rower, trounced the opposition. In fact, Joshua had wrapped up the title before the gym tests had even started.

Thankfully, just as Superstars finished, the World's Strongest Man was starting on Channel Five. It had a similar atmosphere to Superstars, with a small crowd cheering enthusiastically, not to mention the same commentator in Paul Dickenson. But there was something to behold about a huge bloke called Johannes Arsjo yanking a couple of American pick-up trucks with a rope down a section of road for no reason whatsoever. Now there's a superstar. Future stars for Rio 2016, take note.