This book is publishing at an opportune time with the Euros, Olympics and Wimbledon all taking place this summer. Author Rick Broadbent has written a feature for the FCBG about his inspiration for Sports Legends.
The inspiration for my book, Sports Legends, actually had nothing to do with sport. It came when I went to interview an Olympic rower called Pete Reed. The last time I had met him he had just won his third gold medal, but Pete, who was only 38, had just suffered a spinal stroke that had left him paralysed in a wheelchair. You might have expected him to be bitter or miserable, but he was very upbeat and said: “I’m making a new normal.”
That made me realise how attitude is so important in sport. Yes, Lionel Messi is good at kicking a ball, but nobody would have heard of him had he not had the bravery to overcome being so small that he needed lots of treatment by a doctor. Meeting stars like this in my job as a sports writer made me realise we could all apply some of these lessons to our own lives. We only see the glittering goals and victories, but it takes courage, determination, a growth mindset and the ability to learn that failures are a really great thing to be the best that you can be.
I thought about some of the people I had seen perform live and then spoken to – Jessica Ennis-Hill, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Jonny Wilkinson, Simone Biles, Anthony Joshua and lots more – and thought it would be great to write a book for children, telling their remarkable stories not just for the sheer drama, but also to see what we could all learn from them.
The subjects in Sports Legends had all been afraid or suffered crises of one sort or another. Some had been abused for their gender, sexuality and race. Some lacked confidence. Most had been written off. Anthony Joshua, the heavyweight boxer, was mocked after a crushing defeat but came back. Usain Bolt, the sprint king, had curvature of the spine and was told he was too tall to be a sprinter. Jonny Wilkinson, England’s rugby hero, was terrified of letting his team-mates down. Adam Peaty, the world record swimmer and Olympic champion, has a huge lion tattoo on his arm, but he used to be scared of water!
Watching sport is great. It can get you in your heart and in the pit of your stomach. I am writing this from Wimbledon where I have just watched a 19-year-old win a set against Novak Djokovioc, one of the greatest tennis players of all time. It was emotional. I know fans hold sports legends in awe but I have glimpsed behind the curtain and know they are just ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I hope that if they read my book, children will see what they have been through and realise they can be legends too in their own unique way.
Rick Broadbent’s Sports Legends: 50 inspiring people to help you reach the top of your game is published by Walker Books.