Robin Scott-Elliot: A big, bustling, bouncy backside is as useful in skeleton as it is in bowling
View From The Sofa: Skeleton World Cup/Soccer Saturday, 5 Live/Eurosport/Sky/BBC
Monday 12 December 2011
Ray Illingworth, in no particular order a cricketer, curmudgeon and Yorkshireman, knew the importance of a good bottom in sport. For him there was only one rear of the year and it belonged stoutly to fellow cricketer, curmudgeon and Yorkshireman, Fred Trueman, who had what Illingworth fondly called a "fast bowler's bottom", something of substance that could give its owner ballast tearing in with a Scarborough sea breeze at his back.
While he was chairman of selectors during some of England's darkest days, Illingworth searched for an amply posteriored quickie who could restore the nation's cricketing pride. He once tipped Michael Kapsrowicz, then a young Australian playing for Essex, for an international future on account of a heftily proportioned behind.
Skeleton is a whole different bottom game. Trueman's behind, one suspects, would not be the streamlined piece of apparatus required to succeed at a sport that would be treated with extreme suspicion by any right-thinking Yorkshire curmudgeon, like a Lancastrian offering to stand them a sea breeze in a Scarborough nightclub.
To succeed at skeleton you shouldn't have too much meat on the bones. The key suggested Adam Pengilly, a coach and competitor, is "powerful legs and bum". So he said as he watched one competitor hurl herself at a speed quicker than anything Trueman ever delivered down an ice track somewhere in France. It is not easy to keep an inquisitive eye on a bottom disappearing at 122kmh.
The winner of Saturday's skeleton was Mellisa Hollingsworth, who apparently rides and trains rodeo ponies back home in Canada during the close season, something for which a firm seat is required (programme idea for the BBC – Robbie does rodeo. Actually, how about Savage does skeleton?).
Chris Kamara was immersed in wriggly-bottom time later on Saturday. Kamara was one of the pioneers of Soccer Saturday's style of over-the-top, ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek reporting, and remains an enthusiastic fixture. Every moment of Bolton against Aston Villa was "unbelievable" or "magnificent". And throughout it all he wriggled and writhed as if either he had forgotten to go before kick-off or had an itch that there was no satisfying. Alan McInally is another of Sky's chaps (this is a man's world) who turns his match into physical theatre, heading and gesticulating throughout.
Soccer Saturday does what it does with gusto, and Jeff Stelling remains just the right side of smugness, but the best way to pass a Saturday afternoon is with 5 Live. From kick-off to final whistle, it is well narrated by Mark Pougatch and John Murray, and for anyone who has spent formative football-following years listening to the wireless it has a nostalgic link that is difficult to sever. The moment when World Service listeners are welcomed, which still conjures images of distance places, Graham Greene and pink gins, is a faithful reminder of seasons past when bottoms were sturdier and so probably less squeaky.
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