Back in August of this year, the London 2012 Olympic Games came to a close. For the first time visitors to this site, you will find on this page a selection of some of my award-winning writing for the sponsors British Telecom as part of the 2012 Games. I hope all such works and the achievements of these Games will live long in the memory.
Finally, as part of this unique BT Storytellers scheme, each storyteller was asked to produce a piece of art that demonstrated the anticipation of the Games arrival. I cast my mind back to when the torch made its journey around the UK, all the way from Athens. I caught up with the torch and the emotion, right here in West Yorkshire. The challenge I had set myself was to record and produce the following film footage using nothing else but my mobile phone. No other editing software or equipment. Just me and my phone. Pretty crazy really!
(The Patron Saint of Athletes)
I have created a 'thought' for all athletes and sports fans to read, consider and be able to refer to, before, during and after competition during London 2012. Please take a look and pass on ‘Sebastian.'
A THOUGHT FOR ALL ATHLETES BEFORE COMPETITION
Sebastian - here I dare to chase,
Pushing myself beyond fate.
Toiling on this road; be with me.
Withstand the torrents,
May you ever stride beside me.
Sebastian - I have strived in these fields,
Colliding with the elements for my hunger.
Game for gain; strengthen me.
Injury and illness,
May you ever evade me.
Sebastian - this aching sport will you take,
And forever beat my heart.
My competitors in my sight; hear me.
All and for all,
May I always respect you.
Sebastian - your Centurion be it in me,
Sword’s width to separate us.
I see my finish; take me there.
Triumphant or despairing,
May you forever be within me.
A selection of three works, portraying ‘Our Greatest Team.’
‘AND, WE SHALL DREAM OF GREAT TIMES’
Me, you, them and us.
You will wonder at the beauty of the torch,
They will wonder at your might.
And, we shall dream of great times.
Throughout this isle we gather,
Us, the team,
Land, water, air and flame our judge.
The bird that soars in the skies above - it spies our bond.
And, we shall dream of great times.
The beating of our unity,
They see it in disbelief.
Red, blue and white shines,
Dare to glimpse the hope that abounds.
And, we shall dream of great times.
This great team – it is you,
You, them and us – we can soar.
Though legends too can fall,
It is me, you, them and us,
And, we shall dream of great times.
‘WE ARE US’
I didn’t know it when I ran with you.
I thought I couldn’t feel the water when I swam with you.
If I could leap one bit further it would be for you.
This is my team – I am you.
Forget what they may say, they are not us.
Believe my whisper of encouragement, they are not us.
Richer and stronger will come, but they are not us.
At a canter, I’ll bear your losses and carry you – because they are not us.
Together at the start of this, we’ll take it all, you and I.
London hears us, our gasping lungs in unison – you and I.
Place the baton in my grasp, because it’s you and I.
That adrenalin of team, so great, so strong, to the last – you and I.
Make me a dream my team forever.
That should we succeed in this, it will last forever.
This runs deep, so deep, as though it could last forever.
Because we are us - carry that with you forever.
‘I HAVE FOUND MY TEAM’
There she stood – the mother of our team.
Take me with you.
Your trident and shield; this Goddess!
Britannia – I carry them always.
Evoke my tears and sweat for you.
Great amongst great, each other and another.
My team of colour, my team with lion’s roar.
An elevation of what can be.
Gone before and aspired to – wait for me.
Run with me.
You have strived for this – strength is you.
And, we are coming London, we are coming.
I see no fear, I have found my team.
She takes me, she guides me, abides the desire to win within me.
Surrounded by nations, we await you.
I have found my team – come see, it is Britain; it is Great.
From water’s edges to shorelines across the globe, sports enthusiasts are connecting and participating in one of the greatest shows on earth. Against all the odds, across this bitter earth, we can if only for a split second, connect.
THIS BITTER EARTH
I am here to see you run.
I have toiled all day but now I need to see you run.
Across the waters, my friend, but their foe, waits to see you swim.
That split second we both await the moment, your concentration – our anticipation.
The noise of the starter gun cracks above the gunfire in the street below me.
This is our gun, a gun that connects us. You will not separate us.
Dwellers of this earth, join through great speed of a sword amongst heroic fencers.
Take on the purest form, swing from metal rings and land at our side.
Stride out on that track, steer with all your might that horse.
This is theirs, mine and your baton.
Crash amongst the waves that batter your canoe, hold aloft that weight that binds me to you.
Endurance of foot to pedal, your leap into the sand – ours into the unknown.
The boxers, eyeball to eyeball, under water dancers, their breath as one.
Make a leap of faith into the blue abyss below, tumbling at speeds whilst javelin enters soil.
Discus take flight as they fight with hammer.
Grab hold of your pride all countries and witness the hurdler before you.
Watch, unite, prepare and overcome.
Cross the finishing line of this bitter earth if you dare.
This month, it was my ambition to create a collaborative piece with a sports photographer whose work I really admire.
That photographer is Mark Pain. Mark was named Sports Photographer of The Year in 2011 at the British Press Awards. You can see more of his work here.
The London 2012 Olympics is now barely six months away and one of the events I am most looking forward to watching is the Diving which will take place at the Aquatics Centre. I’ve always found there to be something mesmerising about the sport of diving. For my latest piece of writing I have sought to encapsulate some of the mental and physical processes, the concentrated preparation and overall repetitive, if not addictive pursuit for perfection, that this sport resembles.
I approached Mark about using his photograph which accompanies my poem as it encompasses the art that is diving, albeit within that split second in which he took the picture. The first time I saw the photo I couldn’t help but notice how the residue of spray from the diver’s hair inadvertently creates the image of a circle, and, in my mind, one of the five Olympic Rings. The circular motion and resemblance we are left with is iconic of the underlying process of diving - the mental dedication of doing something over and over again, until one is perfect at it.
DIVE WITH ME
Through the blue, again and again
Fingers are raw; I can feel it, the pain
Take the impact, correct the momentum
Climb all the steps, ad infinitum
Hear the instruction, try to agree
Wipe all the remnants of water from me
Approach, then focus, be still and leap
In flight, make it right, succeed and reap
There’s a second, I feel it, isolation mid-air
Wait for it, tumble, twist and prepare
Breath holding firm, stomach held tight
Snap out, align and glide out of sight
Ears, mind and soul are blocked
Re-enter, rejoin and pray that it clocked
Look up above you and shake off the wet
We acknowledge your dive, lest you should forget
Inside the mind of the dedicated person.
You block out all the doubters - HUSH!
You’re in your soul, mind and ready for the RUSH!
You haven’t finished yet, it’s getting late yet,
You need to be a winner, concentrate, simply don’t fret.
You the incredible, the one they call irreplaceable,
There you go again, climbing up and undeniable.
I’ve seen you want to let it go, to stop, to breathe and cry,
And that’s when it’s inside of you, the part that makes you strive once more.
You didn’t stop when I said you should,
You didn’t know how ‘cos it’s in your blood.
Dedication is heavy, sometimes it hurts,
But most of all dedication is you and your incredible thirst.
This month, I have created a light-hearted piece for BT Storytellers as we head into the last six to seven months of preparation for the Olympics in London this summer. The ONE Word allows a little more insight into Olympic athletes and to discover more about the individual behind the sporting persona.
The concept? Simple:
Ten questions, all to be answered using just ONE word (or as near to as possible!) All ten questions are the same for each athlete so that readers can compare and contrast the athletes’ answers.
My hope is, that if the piece draws enough attention, then other athletes will also take part in a regular ‘The ONE Word’ piece, with the ten questions changing for each set of participants.
If other BT Storytellers and/or the general public enjoy this piece, I’d be happy to hear from you and to receive ideas for further questions, which you and the public would like to ask. The questions (as you will see below) do not necessarily have to be sport related; it’s about providing a quick glimpse into the mindset and personality of these sportsmen and women. You can contact me via this website and follow me on Twitter here.
This is the very first ‘The ONE Word’ and I’d like to thank all the athletes who agreed to take part.
Dame Kelly Holmes specialised in the 800 metres & 1500 metres and won numerous medals during her athletics career - most notably a gold medal for both events at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. In 2010, Kelly was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame. Her charity, DKH Legacy Trust works towards creating life chances for young people.
Greg Searle is an Olympic and World gold medallist rower. A steward of the Henley Royal Regatta, Greg has recently returned to international rowing, winning silver at both the 2010 and 2011 Rowing World Championships.
Nathan Stephens is a Paralympic field athlete, competing in the F57 Discus and Javelin. He is a Junior World gold medallist in both events and also in the Shot Put. Having finished fourth in the javelin in Beijing three years ago, Nathan is well on course for medal success at London 2012.
Jonathan Brownlee is the reigning World Sprint Triathlon Champion and this year finished second in the world with the conclusion of the Dextro Energy Triathlon World Championships in Beijing. Great Britain has never won a medal at the Olympics in the triathlon since the sport became a part of the Games in 2000. However, watch this space...
Alistair Brownlee is older brother to Jonathan (above) and was crowned World Champion this year in Triathlon’s season-ending Grand Final in Beijing. Britain is now the world’s leading elite triathlon nation. London 2012 is not far away and as far as Olympic medals are concerned, they may not be either!
Jemma Simpson competes in both the 800 metres and 1500 metres. She is the current and three times British champion over 800 metres. Jemma represented Great Britain at the last Olympic Games in 2008 and is recognised for her consistency - particularly so at major championships. Although she recently narrowly missed out on the renewal of her lottery funding, Jemma’s dedication and the target remain the same. London 2012 beckons...
Kelly Sotherton is a Commonwealth gold and Olympic and World bronze medallist in the heptathlon. Although this time last year Kelly announced her retirement from the event, she recently returned to heptathlon training. Having faced a career-threatening injury to her back, Kelly had, for a time, trained and competed as a 400-metre runner. However, despite losing her lottery funding, she is now back to training for the seven events of the heptathlon, with aims of making it into Team GB for London 2012.
1. What’s the one other sport you wish you competed in?
Kelly Holmes: Judo
Greg Searle: Cricket
Nathan Stephens: Sledge Hockey
Jonathan Brownlee: Football
Alistair Brownlee: Cycling
Jemma Simpson: Tennis
Kelly Sotherton: Skiing
2. Supposing there’s an emergency food shortage at the Olympic Village and you’re competing that very day. You have a choice of one food only – what do you choose?
Kelly Holmes: Pasta
Greg Searle: Shreddies
Nathan Stephens: Steak
Jonathan Brownlee: Pizza
Alistair Brownlee: Pasta
Jemma Simpson: Pasta
Kelly Sotherton: Pasta
3. You’re offered the opportunity to compete/train in any country in the world. Which country would you choose?
Kelly Holmes: South Africa
Greg Searle: Great Britain (IF THAT’S NOT ALLOWED – ITALY)
Nathan Stephens: Australia
Jonathan Brownlee: England (Yorkshire)
Alistair Brownlee: Bhutan
Jemma Simpson: America
Kelly Sotherton: South Africa
4. The powers that be decide that it would be a good idea for all athletes to have a pet bought for them that would act as a positive distraction between competition. What would your choice of pet be?
Kelly Holmes: Dog
Greg Searle: Boxer Dog
Nathan Stephens: Dog
Jonathan Brownlee: A puppy
Alistair Brownlee: Kestrel
Jemma Simpson: Dog
Kelly Sotherton: My cats
5. Which other Olympic or Paralympic sport would you be afraid of competing in?
Kelly Holmes: Swimming
Greg Searle: Show jumping
Nathan Stephens: High Dive
Jonathan Brownlee: Boxing
Alistair Brownlee: BMX
Jemma Simpson: Gymnastics
Kelly Sotherton: Skeleton bob
6. You’ve just won a medal in your event. You want to go out & celebrate, so ask someone to look after it whilst you do. Who are they?
Kelly Holmes: Friends
Greg Searle: My Kids (Josie and Adam)
Nathan Stephens: My girlfriend
Jonathan Brownlee: Dad
Alistair Brownlee: Dad
Jemma Simpson: Boyfriend (Chris Thompson)
Kelly Sotherton: My teddy
7. There’s an opportunity for you to learn another language. Which would it be?
Kelly Holmes: Spanish
Greg Searle: Of Love
Nathan Stephens: French
Jonathan Brownlee: French
Alistair Brownlee: French
Jemma Simpson: Chinese
Kelly Sotherton: Chinese (Mandarin)
8. Imagining at London 2012, that all athletes have to wear and listen to headphones whilst competing in their event, which song/singer/band/style would you listen to?
Kelly Holmes: ‘Simply the Best’ Tina Turner
Greg Searle: Billy Bragg
Nathan Stephens: Dubstep
Jonathan Brownlee: Nothing
Alistair Brownlee: Coldplay
Jemma Simpson: Michael Jackson – ‘Dangerous’
Kelly Sotherton: Kanye West/Jay-Z
9. You’re permitted to eat/drink something you’re not usually allowed to whilst training/competing. What would it be?
Kelly Holmes: Chocolate
Greg Searle: Flat White Coffee
Nathan Stephens: Dirty Kebab
Jonathan Brownlee: Chocolate
Alistair Brownlee: Guinness
Jemma Simpson: Chocolate
Kelly Sotherton: Chips & Coca-Cola
10. What are you thinking just before you are about to compete in your sporting event?
Kelly Holmes: Win!
Greg Searle: Breathe
Nathan Stephens: Smash it
Jonathan Brownlee: Training
Alistair Brownlee: I’m trying not to think!
Jemma Simpson: Win
Kelly Sotherton: Focus
In October of this year, I was invited by BT, the main partners & sponsors of London 2012, to the British Olympic Ball. Here's a short video, which captures part of the build-up to next year's Olympic Games.
'AND THERE YOU WERE, RIGHT BEHIND ME'
(My award-winning piece was written for the BT Storytellers campaign)
A montage of the mentalities of Olympic teams:
Awful, awful pain. But there you are, and you take it and are away with it, away into the distance, until I can barely see you anymore. I’m falling to my knees, the huge, luminous screen above, watching your small figure run the bend, and you’ve taken it on and you run on and you’re the last of the four of us. Run on, run!
Slowly I began to recover and I ran across and around the track, searching for my team. There was a scream of delight from behind me, which I could just make out amongst the noise of the crowd. And there you were, right behind me.
Damp face, high up high. Compose ourselves. Pause. Breathe. Step on step until the tempting edge meets us. Wait, you must wait. Everyone’s fallen silent-this is it. ‘You ready?’ ‘Yep.’ How could one say no? And the short and alarming countdown begins. Then, UP! Pike, in line, snap and out. Submerged. Silence; it’s deafening. We glance across at each other under water. ‘Did we nail it?’
As my ears adjusted to the air and I exhaled a deep breath, the audience was cheering and I could see my family waving with delight in the stands. And I was looking at the scoreboard and there it was in black and white. But then I wanted you by my side as well. I began looking for you. And there you were, right behind me.
Keep sweeping, they’re coming back at us. Keep sweeping. My body burns, it burns! It’s like pulling through treacle, I’ve nothing left to give, but we’ve only metres to go and they’re pulling behind me and one of us shouts, ‘Come on!’ And I pull, one more, another and just one more. And you’re behind me and you’re pulling with me. And you’re in front of me and you’re pulling with me, but they’re coming back at us. ‘Pull!!’
I dropped my oars and collapsed backwards in utter exhaustion. I dared to open my eyes and I saw the sky above me before seeing my fellow oarsman in front with his hands aloft. But I couldn’t see the rest of the team. I wanted to see their faces too, so I turned. And there you were, right behind me.
Swing out, my turn to take it on. Push it. Swing in, pace it. Push on. A quick glance across and they’re on to us. Watch the wheel...wait, they’re in and push it! One more circuit. Have we paced it? They’re pushing us on from the middle. We need to up it. Are the other two still with us? Keep together, keep on. The line, we can see the line and I can see the other coloured vests across from us, they’re level. ‘PUSH IT!’
And I stopped pedalling and my lungs wanted to burst. I let go of the handlebars and turned around to look for my fellow cyclists. And there you were, right behind me.
‘And I saw the torch and followed it. On into the night, it burned, day after night and we watched, you and I, me and them. You’re behind me, I know. I just need to believe that this is possible; that we can do this. Us, together, as one.’