‘A life without fame can be a good life, but fame without a life is no life at all,’ Clive James
I’m kind of ambivalent about Christmas this year, but when invited to a Melbourne book launch and a client dinner at the MCG to hear two leading sportsmen who I’ve admired from afar, I accept.
Some 16 years ago I met Neil my partner and started following the pinnacle of road cycling, the Tour de France. I could barely appreciate the intricacies of the race, but I loved salivating over the spectacular French villages, countryside and cooking with Gabriel Gate.
My interest broadened when Cadel Evans, after conquering mountain biking, came onto the scene and became the first Australian cyclist to win the 2011 Tour de France.
Hearing him speak on the publication of his autobiography, The Art of Cycling, my admiration for him soared further. He appears to have applied the same discipline, commitment and passion to writing the book that he did with his cycling and writing it became his time for reflection.
Speaking about the major influences in his life he said: ‘My mother taught me how to use my head and heart to make the most of my talents in racing and in life, while Professor Aldo Sassi was an amazing teacher in my sport, the sport that was my teacher in life’.
On teams: ‘I’ve always been a foreigner in a foreign team, therefore I had to be twice as good’.
On cycling: ‘What I put in I got back out. I never thought of quitting except once, when I was on my own in hospital in Switzerland.’
On receiving a text from a friend asking him how it felt to have won more Tour de France’s than Lance Armstrong, he replied in a self-deprecating way, ‘That actually sounds kind of good’.
On the future: ‘One of my main goals after I stopped racing was to stay busy, productive and healthy, and for me, to stay in cycling is the best way to do that.’
Meanwhile, dual Brownlow medallist, former Sydney Swans AFL footballer and 2014 Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, has certainly had his share of the limelight for good or for bad and I admire his humility, courage and tenacity.
According to Adam, he and his mother moved constantly when he was young and attended eight different primary schools and four high schools in South Australia and Victoria.
At school: ‘sport, cricket and football, broke down barriers for me…I didn’t grow up playing Aussie Rules football, I played soccer.’
On being drafted to Sydney: ‘When I first joined the Swans as a rookie at age 17, I was among other Indigenous players but I couldn’t tell them what tribe* I came from as I didn’t know….I went on to sign up for an Indigenous Studies course at TAFE and then I was able to stand up for what I believed in…I started to find my voice.’
On fitting in at Sydney Swans: ‘I had to earn respect and I learnt who to hang out with. I learnt from other rookies and to do extra training. I used to be a floater, but then I set a plan which I used to share with other people. Life goals are still more important to me and I get to make my own plans. I became a sponge. I learnt how to be a team player rather than focusing on me.’
On mental resilience: ‘I have to work on mental toughness. I played footy for 18 years and mental health is very important as footy can really eat you up. I’m not scared of getting help from psychologists.’
On his relationship with the media: ‘There are three journalists for every football player and I have a love-hate relationship with them.’
On forming the Go Foundation with former Sydney Swan, Michael O’Loughlin: ‘I cannot stress the importance of education. Educating our people is the way forward and the Foundation provides Indigenous children with scholarships to quality schools.
Interestingly, the mothers of Cadel and Adam played a large part in their lives and continue to do so. Both men seem unaffected by fame but stronger because of it. Whilst Cadel says ‘I have never lost the love of getting on my bike,’ Adam looks at the MCG oval, grins and says, ‘I would rather play cricket out there now!’
*Adam Goodes is an Andyamathanha and Norungga man