I have admired Bradley Wiggins CBE (that’s Commander of the British Empire, he got upgraded from Officer you see) for about 8 years. Truly. He’s more ‘Come on’ than ‘Yeehaw’ if you will. My admiration morphed a little bit more towards full on adulation in Beijing in 2008 when he over celebrated post Gold medal and got in a bit of a scrape with the Chinese authorities. I voted for him for BBC Sports Personality of the year that year, sadly he came nowhere. I think it will be a different story this December though. Here was a sportsmen who stuck to his game and in so doing eschewed precisely everything that the cult of celebrity seems to demand. And that is why I think he is so important to all of us.
Born in Belgium and with an Australian father, he moved to Britain when he was 2. That is sort of irrelevant but I thought I would add it in. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Wiggo, but I hear that he is the life and soul of any party, self-deprecating and just plain funny. He loves fashion (Fred Perry over Lacoste ) always wears his hair in a Mod style and loves music, like many of us Brits, citing Pete Townshend and Paul Weller as musical icons. I can see Wiggo also is a complex character(aren’t we all darling) playing out maybe 3 of the 4 Jimmys in Quadrophenia. He is certainly a tough guy (Roger Daltrey), a romantic (John Entwistle) and at times a bloody lunatic (Keith Moon). Maybe he also sees himself as a beggar and a hypocrite (Pete Townshend), but we certainly don’t see him that way. You could see him singing away to himself ‘Cut My Hair’ or ‘Going Underground’ whilst riding like a nutter on his bike.
I suppose I like his down to earth approach. His quote about the Olympics ‘it’s great it comes around every 4 years and it’s a nice thing to do’ sums up his attitude. Upon winning the Tour de France, and in so doing, being the only British rider ever to do so, and the first person ever to win the Tour and an Olympic Gold Medal in the same year his interview with the French media is legendary. He has learned to speak French, but when asked ‘how he felt after winning’, he slipped back into English and simply answered, ‘I cannot express my emotions at winning The Tour in French, sorry.’
And so to the Olympics 2012. Wiggo and his team mates bravely rode their hearts out in the Road Race to try and get Mark Cavendish a Gold Medal. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. 3 days later, Wiggo won the Time Trial and took his 4th Olympic Gold Medal. The crowds were out in force for both races, given there were no need for tickets, over 300,000 lining the roads of London and Surrey for both races. The atmosphere was highly charged and it has to be one of the best ever events held in the UK, alongside the Opening Ceremony of course. In the hours and days following Bradley’s win, the media predictably wanted a piece of Wiggo. My mouth went dry when I read that ‘public relations guru’ Max Clifford (I must look up that four letter word ‘guru’ later) felt that Wiggo would be worth £30M in the next couple of years. Fortunately, Mr Wiggins has said that he will simply go back to Wigan, where he now lives, and get back to his family and the next chapter of his life, which hopefully will involve more cycling. He hates the ‘cult of celebrity’ and all it stands for, something that will chime with many of us I suspect.
He has been one of many Olympians for years now who have demonstrated the right way of taking part and winning or losing. Dedication, grit, humility and grounded, all of our Olympians have defined what sports people should be about. Let’s hope that the children and young people of the UK look to them as role models, rather than the overpaid and arrogant sportspeople who occupy our screens week in week out in non-Olympic years. Let’s also realise that all of us have a mad moment now and again, after all none of us are perfect are we?