Perhaps we need to revisit and re-educate our youth on what it means to be a champion, writes Anthony Tan.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

This
isn't me being supercilious or holier than thou, but often in sport, we
tend to define champions based only on athletic performances and little
else.

Yet as role models, perhaps the overriding criteria should be an athlete's ability to handle themselves in all situations.

For
us mere mortals, we may not be able to reach their athletic prowess,
but aspiring wannabes – particularly kids and teenagers – often attempt
to emulate their behaviour outside the sporting arena as well, in the
hope they may at least feel some of that greatness.

Remember the famous Nike catchline, promoting basketballer Michael Jordan's clothing and footwear range, "Be Like Mike"?

At
high school, I wasn't even a basketball player – yet as soon as I had
the money, I bought the Jordan lookalike shoes and Chicago Bulls shirt
with the famous number 23.

So it disappointed me to learn the news of Mark Jamieson's indiscretions to which he admitted
before the South Australian District Court on Monday, pleading guilty
to four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and one count of indecent
assault.

It shouldn't have to be taught, but elite athletes
must remember that while they're paid for their sporting ability first
and foremost, they also have an equally important responsibility to
demonstrate the Olympic ideal of fair play, and that their actions
inside and outside this field of fair play will not only be
representative of themselves, but their family, their club or team,
their sporting discipline, and sport itself.

A fortnight ago, I read with great sadness of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend magazine, titled 'Missing Britt'.


Still, almost 17 months after the disappearance and unsolved death of
Britt Lapthorne in Dubrovnik, Croatia, her parents Dale and Elke, and
brother Darren, are no closer to the question journalist Nikki
Barrowclough asks at the end of her story: "What happened to Britt?"

That the Lapthornes still don't have closure on what is a bizarre and conflicting set of circumstances must be excruciating.


Barrowclough writes that Darren, who was as close to Britt as a brother
and sister could be, gave her short shrift when she visited the
family's home near Whittlesea, north-east of Melbourne. Saying hello
briefly before going off on a training ride that day, he still had not
returned when she left.

Which is why I felt grateful and honoured that Darren gave me his time at last year's Herald Sun Tour.


As a journalist, we're supposed to remain impartial, but how could I
not admire this man for getting his life back together after such loss,
let alone be racing his bike?

Does simply turning the pedals over for hours on end help with the loss, I asked him?

"I
think it does. Not just cycling, but trying to move forward in any
direction. To keep busy, to keep your life going – it's easy just to
give up. Every day is a battle, really. It's an emotional battle, and
you just try to keep moving forward."

What about racing – do you look at cycling any differently now?

"I
still have the same goals and ambitions. I probably don't look at
cycling any differently but life – definitely," said the 2007 national
road champion.

"It's extremely difficult, and that's where
support comes in handy. And I've had support from all over the world.
It's not easy continuing but at the same time, I'm glad I continued
with cycling."

It was always a dream to go over to Europe, says
Darren, which is why he's currently living in Bristol in the UK and
racing for Rapha Condor-Sharp, a team managed by former British
professional, John Herety, and from my experiences, an upstanding
individual.

One day, not too long from now, Darren hopes to be
on the start-line of the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France. "I wouldn't
continue cycling if I didn't believe in myself or my qualities. I'm
going to give it everything."

I wish him all the best. But in my mind, he's already won, and already a champion.