THE BLOG

The Athlete: The Next Generation's New Role Model

05/08/2014 11:26 BST | Updated 04/10/2014 10:59 BST

If you walked into a classroom full of seven-year-olds right now, and asked them what they aspire to be when they grow up, what do you think most of them would say? "A singer", "an actor", or even, "a model". Aspirations which rely on essentially having one or two things: talent, and looks. And increasingly nowadays, with the use of voice-editing technology, a number of singers don't even appear to have the former.

As a result, children are living in a world where they aspire to become Cheryl Cole (sorry, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini), Justin Bieber or a member of One Direction, with unrealistic, and at times worrying, concepts about appearance or beauty. Having lots of money to be able to spend a fortune on plastic surgery seems to be acceptable, and regardless of this surgery seeing photo-shopped pictures of these celebrities all over the internet has now become the norm.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I propose a new role model for the next generation: the athlete.

Watching the Commonwealth Games over the last couple of weeks and seeing my country top the medal table has given me a very similar feeling to that of London 2012. I just think it is incredible that the human body can push itself to the very limit to win races, gain medals and even break world records. And the point is, although of course to an extent winning sports is about talent (just look at Usain Bolt), most of it involves pure hard work, dedication and extreme commitment.

You only have to look at some of Britain's top athletes in the Games to see that. Young Matthew Dixon is only 14 and took on diving from the 10m platform, even though he knew he wouldn't come anywhere near gold medallist Tom Daley - because he was dedicated and wanted to use the competition to improve his skills. That's the thing with athletes: as a nation you watch them grow and become stronger and stronger. You only hear of singers once they've reached the top of the charts and have a number one album, yet you go through both heartbreak and victory along with your favourite sportspeople. Watching Tom Daley narrowly miss out on a medal in the 2012 Olympics was absolutely crushing, which made his landslide victory last week all the more sweet. What better example can we use for children when explaining that sometimes, you will have failures, but if you work hard enough then you will succeed eventually?

Athletes also prove too that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. Consider Jo Pavey, 40 years old and winning a bronze medal in the women's 5000m after having a child a mere ten months earlier. Absolutely amazing, and she made me feel slightly envious and in awe - being able to dedicate yourself to something that much, as well as being a great mother, is an incredible feat. Is there any better way to show children that multi-tasking certainly is possible?

And finally, with all the high definition and powerful zoom of technology these days, there is no way an athlete can hide anything from the camera, let alone edit the images. At the end of a winning sprint, the camera will zoom in on the athlete's gasping, sweating face with no inhibition. And funnily enough, hardly anyone ever comments on this. Why? Oh yeah, because they're super, mega fit, and regardless of what they've been born with they all look amazingly toned and gorgeous. Children should look up to these kinds of people because they show that you do not need to have tonnes of plastic surgery to look great, you do not need to starve yourself, and beautiful does not necessarily equate to skinny.

Don't get me wrong, I can't pretend that music artists and actors don't work hard to achieve success. But there's something undeniably more thrilling about an athlete. They don't care about how they look and they don't do it for the money (take Greg Rutherford, for example). They put in a ridiculous amount of hard work so when it pays off and the whole crowd jumps to their feet, the feeling of achievement for a country, and I would certainly imagine personally, is phenomenal. The next generation should aspire to athletes, not models and singers. Success should never be viewed as a matter of luck. It needs to be seen as something which is always achievable if you work hard enough for it; not just something you're born into.