Seasonal variety to a sporting Christmas: Will they enjoy it or endure it? A selection of those closely involved in sport reveal how they will be spending the festive period this year

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The Independent Online
THE ATHLETE:

KRISS AKABUSI, the Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medallist

I WILL get up early in the morning, before my wife Monika and my girls Ashanti and Shakira, and think about the message of the birth of Christ and what it means to me to be reborn in him.

Then it will be time to unwrap the presents round the Christmas tree. Monika and myself will be seeing friends and relatives on Christmas Eve, and I'll see Roger (Black) and his family on Boxing Day. But Christmas Day is a kids' day, and I am always at home for it.

At 10.30 I will go for an hour to the church I attend in Southampton. I hope my family will come too.

We will have a big dinner, with the traditional roast turkey. My weight's pretty steady but that's because I'm pretty careful about my eating. What's my treat for this Christmas? Christmas pudding and cream. With a big cherry on top.

THE JOCKEY:

PETER SCUDAMORE, the champion National Hunt jockey

CHRISTMAS is different for us because we can't really let ourselves go too much. In the morning I'll help out in Nigel's (Twiston-Davies, his business partner) yard, ride out and help get the Boxing Day horses ready.

Nigel will be coming over to us for Christmas dinner, but I'll have to eat sensibly. It depends on what weight I have to do on Boxing Day, and if I have a light weight (he has to do the minimum weight of 10st at Kempton) I'll eat hardly anything and go for a run.

As normal, I won't stay up very late. I like to get to bed between nine and 10 o'clock. But that's part of the life. I've never known anything different because my father (Michael) trained, but I don't think it makes Christmas any less enjoyable.

THE CRICKETER:

GRAHAM GOOCH, the Essex and England captain

THERE was a time when Christmas Day meant getting togged up in fancy dress and having a virtual men-only party with the lads somewhere on the other side of the world. But with tours getting shorter and starting later, I've enjoyed the opportunity over this winter and last to spend the festivities with my family. We're due to fly out to India on the 28th, so leisure time is precious.

I operate an exercise rota of sorts, running one day, cycling the next, weights the next, and that won't stop. Apart from that I'll relax with Brenda, the kids and my parents.

Dave Roberts, the England physio, hasn't ordered any strict diets but I tend to eat less in the winter anyway so I doubt I'll gorge myself on turkey or pudding. I'll watch a bit of TV and generally take a breather. I'm really boring I'm afraid.

MIKE ATHERTON, the Lancashire and England batsman

ON Christmas Eve, tours permitting, I always try and get in a round of golf with some of my old schoolmates from Manchester. It's a rare opportunity to touch base with them.

Tomorrow I'll go to my parents in Oldham and have a normal family Christmas. We'll probably go to the local village for a drink in the evening but otherwise spend the day at home, together. As a cricketer I suppose I'm young enough - and lucky enough - to know what a normal family Christmas is. After all, until recently, most tours began well before the festivities began.

I'll check out what movies are on TV and generally slump. We have worked hard at Lilleshall over the past few weeks so the physio has told us to take it easy. I'm just getting over a heavy cold so that's just what I need before setting off for India.

THE RUGBY LEAGUE PLAYER:

GARRY SCHOFIELD, the Leeds stand-off and Great Britain captain

Not only do we have a match on Boxing Day, we have one at 11.30 in the morning, which is even worse.

It's always been the same, though. Even when I was at Hull, we used to play Hull KR in the morning, so it's something I've got used to during my career.

Like any father with young children, I'll be up at about 7.30 to see what Santa Claus has brought. After that we do the rounds. Both my family and my in-laws live within about five minutes of us. Then it's back home for Christmas dinner. I carve the turkey and pour the wine and I'll have a couple of glasses myself.

I see my brothers - both of whom played rugby league as amateurs - at tea-time. We'll be back home by 6.30 and I'll have an early night.

It's a bit of a boring day, really. But it's an important match the day after. Castleford think they're the top team in Yorkshire. Despite our results this season, we still think we are.

THE FOOTBALLER:

DAVID PLATT, the Juventus and England midfield player

I DON'T intend to do anything too strenuous. Just relaxing and opening presents will be enough for me, although I'm still building up fitness on my right knee which had minor surgery in November so at some stage I will have to do some exercises and go out for a light training run.

It's great to have a break at this time of the year. When I was playing in England at some stage on Christmas Day you would have to report to the hotel in preparation for the following day's game. People say footballers get a lot of free time, which is true, but at Christmas, when you want to be with your family, you are away from home, so there is that side to it.

I won't go to a game on Boxing Day. I have to fly back to Italy on December 27 so there isn't a lot of time. Hopefully the knee is almost right and I could be in consideration for a game next week.

Having been married in the summer, there will be two families to see over Christmas and we will be dividing our time between them. We will spend Christmas Eve at Rachel's parents' home in Cheshire and we will have our Christmas dinner there. Then at about four o'clock we will drive to my mother's house in Oldham. There will be a lot of relatives at both places to catch up with.'

ADRIAN HEATH, the Burnley striker

WHEN the fixtures are published the first thing players look for - apart from any derbies - is who they've got on Boxing Day. We're at Brighton, which is normally a 10- hour round trip. Burnley always take a big following, and the League ought to consider this before they give out such matches. Fortunately the club have chartered a flight from Manchester to Gatwick on the morning of the game, with a bus waiting to take us on.

That means I'll have some of Christmas Day at home with my wife and daughter, who's 14 months old. It'd be nice to have a big dinner and a few drinks but I'll just have a light meal because the gaffer wants us in for training at 6.30pm. After that, I'll be staying in a hotel.

As a footballer your only chance of Christmas at home or a night out on New Year's Eve is if you're injured, and nobody wants that. We've got a great living and this is one of the few drawbacks.

THE RUGBY UNION PLAYER:

BEN CLARKE, the Bath and England No 8

FOR the first time since I've been playing rugby I will go out training on Christmas Day. This isn't my idea of fun but now that I'm in the England team and we have a training weekend in Lanzarote over the new year I have all the motivation and incentive I need to do it and in any case I train more or less every other day so it won't exactly be unusual.

Actually I don't have any alternative. We've all been given a nine-day training programme building towards Lanzarote - or rather until three days beforehand, when we are all given a rest - and Christmas Day is one of the nine. So I'll be out there Christmas morning doing a run.

I wouldn't say this is the soft option but the fact is it is one of three alternatives and as both the other two involve interval training, which means sprinting, I think I'll prefer just a simple run. I'm not that daft.

I'll be at home with my parents on their farm in Hertfordshire for a traditional family Christmas. They'll have a houseful, with my grandfather, eldest sister and some close family friends, but there won't be any young children, so I'll be able to lie in until 11 o'clock without being woken up. Or so I hope. As soon as I get up, I'll go for my run - then perhaps I can get on with Christmas.

THE GROUNDSMAN:

DAVID BARBER, the head groundsman at Sheffield Wednesday

I'LL BE going to work on Christmas morning. I live in north Derbyshire and have to come into Sheffield to pick up my parents, so I'll stop off at Hillsborough at about 11 o'clock for a prod around. We play Manchester United here on Boxing Day, but even if we weren't at home I'd come in as a precaution. There's a lot of parties on Christmas Eve and you want to be sure no one's got in and done something daft to the pitch.

All the major work started on Wednesday - forking, spiking, undersoil heating - but with so much money at stake it's better to be safe than sorry. After I've left, one of the lads who lives locally will come in for a final check before it goes dark.

I might put my feet up then but I won't be having a drink - I'm a teetotaller - and I'll be listening to the weather forecast as well as making a few calls to the Leeds Weather Centre. I always say I've got one boss - the weather.

THE TRAINER

JACK BERRY, the most prolific trainer of recent years

WE'VE got about 45 yearlings in at the moment, and on Christmas morning I'll get up at about 6.30 to look after them. We'll get them out, put some on the horsewalkers and give a couple of them a canter. But by our standards it will be a quiet Christmas because in the past we've had 80 yearlings or so. That's a sign of the times I suppose.

When we get the horses finished in the morning the lads come in for a drink and there's a tradition that we always go down to the local pub, The Manor, and I get the round in.

Then we'll come back for dinner here and it's a good job we've got a big table because I think there'll be 19 of us. We'll have plenty of drink and by the time we've finished everything it's stable time again and we go out and do the horses. With animals you can always be busy. They don't know it's Christmas.

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