Saturday night saw the debut of Tom Daley's Splash! on ITV: another show where celebrities try their hand at a completely foreign pursuit, get judged by a panel of quasi experts and face eviction from the public. Nothing new so far.
However, with Tom Daley as the face of the show, we are perilously close to a terrain where our Olympic generation is immersed with second-rate celebrities. Louis Smith, another who conjured heroics in the summer, recently won Strictly Come Dancing, and whilst I accept the importance for these athletes to cash in whilst they can, I cannot help but feel disappointed. Using instantly respected athletes for less reputable television shows is an affront to their achievements. At some point in the future, these 'celebrated' individual's risk becoming 'celebrities.' There is a big difference.
Part of the reason the Great British public felt such affection for the likes of Tom Daley and Louis Smith is because they seemed pure, authentic and untainted by instant celebrity. These were individuals who had dedicated their lives to achieving excellence in their respected fields. The culmination of such graft being breathtaking moments of sporting excellence and the ability to grip an entire nation: glued around televisions to witness what felt distinctly like history. With respect to the celebrities Smith and Daley now find themselves surrounded by, none could claim to have done as much.
It goes without saying that athletes must forge careers after they retire, and many flirt with the mainstream media or settle well into sports broadcasting. Gary Lineker and Sue Barker are testament to that. However, the crucial point to be made here is that departing prematurely from a sporting career, lured by the golden carrot can only be detrimental.
The solution? Continue to work, dig in and achieve success as an athlete. Garner the maximum respect you can from a fickle public that may only cheer every four years. A sporting career that has had success and longevity will almost certainly reap greater rewards in the long run.
The point is this: I fear our young Olympians may have been caught up in the euphoria that swept the nation last summer. Whilst economically they will argue that riding the wave is justifiable, I would implore them to think ahead to Rio in 2016. Being role models for us 'average Joe's' perhaps these athletes struggle to find their inspiration.
They need not look further than Lord Sebastian Coe and Sir Steve Redgrave: two men who have selflessly dedicated their lives to sporting excellence both during and after they hung up their boots. Media involvement is the least of their concerns, as they now operate on much higher levels; and rightly so. If Louis Smith and Tom Daley represent a golden generation, then these men are timeless national treasures. I know which sort I would rather be!
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