Inverdale comments insulting? Yes. But it’s Sharapova who should be more offended

So a lot has been said about John Inverdale’s comments on Marion Bartoli after winning Wimbledon at the weekend. Inverdale’s comment was as follows:

“I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, “listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be somebody like a (Maria) Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5ft 11in, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.”

While people should be rightly upset that Inverdale is making disparaging comments about Bartoli’s appearance, the person who has really been maligned in this comment is Maria Sharapova. The insinuation is that Sharapova’s success has not come through the same level of hard work that Bartoli has had to put in. It takes no account that Sharapova left her homeland with her father at the age of 8 to move to America to train professionally, or the years of solid graft that led her to winning all four of the major Grand Slam events, or rise to World Number 1 or to 3rd on the all-time prize money list.

Sure, her looks and long legs may well have helped her make more from sponsorship deals, but just like Bartoli, the Williams sisters, Federer, Murray, Djokovic or Nadal, I sincerely doubt this was her goal growing up. Winning was, regardless of the immense sacrifices needed to do so.

And, by contrast, look at the career of Anna Kournikova, blessed with the same looks but not the same drive, focus or ability as Sharapova, and you see the difference. However good a sports star looks, it’s their passion, determination and ability which make them champions, and nothing else.

Rugby Union clubs and their MPs

Yesterday Richard Morris pointed out on Twitter that only two Conservative MPs have a Premier League football team in their constituency. I had a few minutes spare so I thought I’d check out Rugby Union’s Aviva Premiership. Not quite the same result there:

Total scores are (out of 12 clubs): Conservatives 8, Lib Dems 2, Labour 2.

Here’s the detailed list below:

Bath: Lib Dem (Bath – Don Foster)
Exeter Chiefs: Conservative (East Devon – Hugo Swire)
Gloucester: Conservative (Gloucester – Richard Graham)
Harlequins: Lib Dem (Twickenham – Vince Cable)
Leicester Tigers: Labour (Leicester South – Jon Ashworth)
London irish: Conservative (Reading West – Alok Sharma)
London Wasps: Conservative (Wycombe – Steven Baker)
London Welsh: Conservative: (Richmond Park – Zac Goldsmith)
Northampton Saints: Conservative: (Northampton South – Brian Binley)
Sale Sharks: Labour (Wythenshawe and Sale East – Paul Goggins)
Saracens: Conservative (Watford – Richard Harrington)
Worcester Warriors: Conservative (Worcester – Robin Walker)

It should be noted that this is the location of their ground, and may not represent their fanbase. For instance, Exeter Chiefs’ ground is just in the Tory East Devon constituency, but its fanbase would be Exeter, which would be Labour.

UK Tennis success does not stop with Andy Murray

So, Andy Murray finally wins a Tennis Major, a wonderful achievement. After years of British struggle, however, it is far from our only recent success. The last two years have seen:

Wimbledon Men’s Doubles Winner (Jonathan Marray)
Wimbledon Boys’ Singles Runner-up (Liam Broady)
Wimbledon Boys’ Doubles Winner (George Morgan)
Wimbledon Boys’ Doubles Runner-up (Oliver Golding)
US Open Boys’ Singles winner (Oliver Golding)

Wimbledon Men’s Singles Runner-up (Andy Murray)
Wimbledon Men’s Doubles Winner (Jonathan Marray)
US Open Men’s Singles Winner (Andy Murray)
US Open Boys’ Doubles winner (Kyle Edmund)
US Open Boys’ Singles Runner-up (Liam Broady)
Australian Open Boys’ Doubles Winners (Liam Broady & Joshua Ward-Hibbert)
Olympic Games Men’s Singles Gold Medalist (Andy Murray)
Olympics Games Mixed Doubles Silver Medalists (Andy Murray & Laura Robson)

Plus 2008 Wimbledon Girls’ Singles winner Laura Robson and 2009 US Open Girls’ Singles Winner Heather Watson are now firmly placed in the Women’s Tour.

Things ain’t looking too bad…

Arts vs Sport – the conflict of worth

Watching the Olympics over the past two weeks has reminded me of an argument I had a few years ago at university, whilst I was studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Management.

The argument (it was me versus everyone else, including the tutor) was about the value of the arts and sport in detailing the human condition, and its worth to society overall. The general feeling in the room was that sport could never give you an understanding of humanity and the inner workings of the mind in the same as a stage production could. Therefore sport was inferior and ultimately a less satisfying intellectual experience. I was aghast.

As someone who has been obsessed with sport my whole life, but who has also spent a large portion of my career in the arts (indeed, Mr Cameron, in Indian dance), I stood up firmly against this. I think the joy, pain, obsession, camaraderie, tears, despair, support, cheating and sportsmanship displayed at London 2012 has given me as much of an understanding of human behaviour and capacity as the arts ever can. But not any more.

It has always been baffling, as a fan of both the arts and sport, as to why many seem to see the two as incompatible. The disciplines and level of commitment required by both, especially the physical demands in areas such as dance, are incredibly similar. The fruits of taking part in both can be life changing. Both deserve as much credit and respect as the other.