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Elite athletes: Do they become friends with their rivals?

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  • 24-04-2021 2:57pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 2,599 ✭✭✭


    I was watching some of Sonia O’Sullivan’s races from the prime of her career in the ‘90s on YouTube. All the athletes are deep in concentration on the start line and look very inscrutable. A thought occurred to me. These people race against each other month after month, season after season on the circuit. Do they ever become personal friends off the track or do they view each other strictly as rivals?

    With Sonia, I got the sense that she and Gabriella Szabo had a grudging respect for one another, but there was very little warmth there. On the other hand, reading Paula Radcliffe’s autobiography, she and Catherina McKiernan got on pretty well. In more recent times, I’ve heard that Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury are not fond of each other, to say the least.

    So what’s your take? Do rivals become friends off the track or do they remain distant so as not to blunt the competitive edge?


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 933 ✭✭✭jamule


    some do and some don't, like anything else. Sonia had issues with regina jacobs, there was no love lost there


    I don't Skah every got on to well with the kenya's after 92.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,579 ✭✭✭Ceepo


    I suppose its like all walks of life. Some people will gel and others won't. There will always personality clashes.
    While being far from elite, some of my best friends were my closest rivals, when it came to race time, the game face was on and that was that, mutual respect was given but if they wanted to beat me they had to earn it.
    They maybe some differences with elites and language barriers as well, and often we only get to see a very small snippet of elites, usually when they're on the start line and are focused on the race.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,340 ✭✭✭TFBubendorfer


    Obviously I was never at Olympic level, but at whichever level I was racing there tended to be big mutual respect between athletes, which definitely helps with creating positive vibes in general.

    Language barriers are definitely a thing when running internationally and I tended to get friendly with German and Swiss athletes talking in German and British, Irish and American athletes in English, and not much with anyone else.

    Don't get me wrong, we were very much trying to beat each other and we were trying to put as much pain as possible on the next guy if they wanted to beat us, but that did not prevent us from being friendly off the track at any time, and even the odd pep talk during a race.

    Admittedly, there's always that one guy who is a bit of a ****, though.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,834 ✭✭✭OOnegative


    Admittedly, there's always that one guy who is a bit of a ****, though.

    I’m racing a short period compared to some, but in my time I’ve only met one a$$hole while racing. He was one while racing, when I volunteered and when I was working in an official capacity(AGS) at a race so he is consistent!!!!


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,004 ✭✭✭✭titan18


    Farah and Rupp always seemed very friendly with each other. Im sure there's other examples in athletics. I can think of examples in other sports like Nadal and Federer who always seemed friendly with each other


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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,599 ✭✭✭Hamachi


    jamule wrote: »
    some do and some don't, like anything else. Sonia had issues with regina jacobs, there was no love lost there

    Yeah. I was watching that World Championships final from 1997. That was a very strange incident with Regina Jacobs.

    I know that Sonia was pushed a bit by Anita Weyermann, but it did look like she grabbed Jacob’s singlet for several seconds and yanked her back.

    Now I have no respect for Jacob’s given what we have since learned about her, but I can understand why she was enraged after the race. That clash in the tunnel after the race was pretty full on.


  • Registered Users Posts: 295 ✭✭BeginnerRunner


    Can't speak to athletics, but in lifting at national and international level there certainly is.

    There's an element that you've done all you can do up to game day, and if someone beats you they're better prepared.

    You're all suffering together anyway, so why not have a bit of craic while doing it.

    (may be different for carded athletes tho, to be fair)


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,456 ✭✭✭✭Murph_D


    The morning of the Charleville HM you’d always see the top club runners, some being internationals and/or Olympians, having breakfast together in the hotel. I’m sure it’s the same everywhere. Why wouldn’t they - they’ve more in common with each other than anyone else.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    Federer and Nadal are good friends, so no reason why an athlete can't be friends with his/her biggest rival.

    Multi event athletes seem to be mates with each other. And the pole vaulters seem to have a special bond too. I suspect there's greater friendship among field athletes than track athletes, given the nature of the events.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,695 ✭✭✭Chivito550


    Hamachi wrote: »
    Yeah. I was watching that World Championships final from 1997. That was a very strange incident with Regina Jacobs.

    I know that Sonia was pushed a bit by Anita Weyermann, but it did look like she grabbed Jacob’s singlet for several seconds and yanked her back.

    Now I have no respect for Jacob’s given what we have since learned about her, but I can understand why she was enraged after the race. That clash in the tunnel after the race was pretty full on.

    Regina Jacobs is a total ****.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,839 ✭✭✭zico10


    titan18 wrote: »
    Farah and Rupp always seemed very friendly with each other. Im sure there's other examples in athletics.

    No doubt they bonded in Oregon, under the tutelage of Alberto Salazar, which I think says a lot.

    I’d say at the core of all this is drugs. How would any clean athlete have any respect for, never mind be friendly with, someone they suspect of doping? It might be Irish bias, but I believe 100% Sonia O’ Sullivan was clean, the same is certainly not true of her rivals. It’s no wonder she didn’t get on with them. It’s for this very reason that Michelle Smith wasn’t warmly congratulated by Janet Evans back in 1996. I don’t believe all athletes are doping, but I’ve no doubt all athletes know they are sharing the start line with several who are. It’s no surprise to me there appears to be no love lost between runners when they do meet up.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,599 ✭✭✭Hamachi


    Chivito550 wrote: »
    Regina Jacobs is a total ****.

    True, but Sonia didn’t cover herself in glory in that race either..


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,599 ✭✭✭Hamachi


    zico10 wrote: »
    It might be Irish bias, but I believe 100% Sonia O’ Sullivan was clean, the same is certainly not true of her rivals. It’s no wonder she didn’t get on with them. It’s for this very reason that Michelle Smith wasn’t warmly congratulated by Janet Evans back in 1996. I don’t believe all athletes are doping, but I’ve no doubt all athletes know they are sharing the start line with several who are. It’s no surprise to me there appears to be no love lost between runners when they do meet up.

    Agreed. I’m sure Sonia felt pretty aggrieved by the presence of the Chinese, people like Svetlana Masterkova, and possibly Szabo.

    One of Sonia’s great rivals who I always believed to be clean was Fernanda Ribeiro from Portugal. Very talented athlete with a pleasing ‘bouncy’ running style. Her times were good, but never out of this world..


  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 20,366 Mod ✭✭✭✭RacoonQueen


    OOnegative wrote: »
    I’m racing a short period compared to some, but in my time I’ve only met one a$$hole while racing. He was one while racing, when I volunteered and when I was working in an official capacity(AGS) at a race so he is consistent!!!!

    Anto's not that bad!

    At elite level I'd imagine they are more likely to actually get friendly with their rivals than we are. The real pool of races but elite/international athletes is so small that they are racing the same people every time, so pre-race prep etc with literally the same other athletes all the time whereas we could have 2 or 3 races a weekend to choose from. Be hard not to become at least acquaintances I would think.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 24,096 Mod ✭✭✭✭robinph


    In my competing for some of the biggest prizes available in sport* over a nine month series and trying to do everything possible to beat each other at each monthly race, it's still perfectly possible to be entirely civil and friendly to each other at times either side of the gun and tape. Two entirely separate things and getting on with someone personally has nothing whatsoever to do with how hard you are trying to beat each other during the competition itself.




    *a bottle of cheap wine and plastic trophy.


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