'I'd much prefer a thriller ..' : It's book-buying time again. But what are the sports books that the country's sportsmen and women read? Guy Hodgson finds out

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Olympic swimmer

THE last thing I want to do when I've been in the pool training for three to five hours is to read about sport. I'd much prefer a thriller, escapist stuff. I've read the odd swimming book but by far the most important was by Mark Spitz's coach, Jim Counsilman.

That was like a bible when I was young; my father took it with us wherever we went.


Manager, Coventry City

THE last sports book I read was On A Wing and a Prayer, by David Campese, which I enjoyed because of the man's honesty and his self-determination.

As to my favourite, it would have to be The Glory Game by Hunter Davies. He spent a year at Tottenham Hotspur in the Seventies and perfectly caught the atmosphere of being at a football club.


Ryder Cup golfer

GOLFERS have a lot of time to relax at tournaments but funnily enough very few read books. They prefer to unwind by watching television which uses less mental energy.

The most recent sports book I read was by Mike Gatting. I enjoyed it, but it would be wrong to give the impression that I read a lot of modern stuff. I prefer older books and my favourite is Great Golfers - Their Methods at a Glance, by George W Beldam, which was published in 1904. It has some wonderful photographs of the best players of the time.


Owner of Sportspages, specialist sports bookshop

I COULDN'T possibly pick my favourite sports book of all time, I'd not get down to less than 15. But the best this year is Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby.

It's about being an Arsenal supporter but it will strike a chord with anyone who is a semi-obsessional football supporter. I don't think anyone has caught the absurdities of being a follower of a club as well before. Wondering how he will get the football results when he's dead is a typical example.


Chairman of the Sports Council

THE book I'm reading at the moment is Olympic Glory, the official BOA report about the Barcelona and Albertville Games. The Olympics are the zenith of sporting achievement and to be able to relive them is marvellous. The articles in it are excellent.

I suppose I have two favourite sporting books: High in the Cold Air, by Sir Edmund Hillary and Desmond Doig, and Rugby Football, by W J A Davies. The latter was given to me by an elderly friend when I began playing rugby at 24 and is full of wonderful anecdotes and advice. I particularly like the section about the key element of forward play, taking a breather. The England pack now would love that.


British women's tennis No 1

THE last one was Tennis Workshop, by my coach Alan Jones, which I enjoyed because it wasn't as technical as others can be. He gives a more overall picture, including the player-coach relationship which obviously interested me.

I read loads of books but they are thriller, horror or spy stories, I hardly ever pick up a sports book. I can understand why other people enjoy them, but when you are in a sport you know what goes on, you've experienced the tension, the ups and downs. To read about it afterwards isn't very interesting.


Olympic ice-skater

THE last sports book I read was about sports injuries, which will probably not surprise anyone. I've had problems all year and I picked up the book because it had a reference to my problems (Achilles tendon).

My favourite sports book of all time is Skating, by Howard Bath, although I've read many books on my own sport. I've not expanded into other sports.


Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medallist

I DON'T think I've ever read a sports book; I've always been one who wants to compete rather than watch or read. I'm probably the wrong person to ask. At the moment I've got my head down in academic books in preparation for my degree studies in America in History and Theology.


Former rugby international

I'M AN AVID reader of sports books, mainly biographies, because I get bored with statistical facts and figures. The last was The Tower and The Glory, Wade Dooley's book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's always interesting to read about people you know. My favourite book of all time is Alex Vesey's biography of Colin Meads, All Black.


Chairman of England cricket selectors

THE latest I read was Chasers and Hurdlers 1992-93 while my favourite sports book of all time is Bobby Jones, by Herbert Warren Wind.


Jockey; rode 1991 Derby winner, Generous

THE last sports book I read was probably the Guinness Book of Records because I prefer horror stories and sci-fi. Racing's a high-pressure sport, it takes a lot out of you. There's not much left to read about it too.

The one book that sticks out in the memory is Willie Carson's book of racing short stories which I was given when I was about 15. A very funny book.

(Photograph omitted)