What price fame? The tragedy of Ian Thorpe

IAN Thorpe is the greatest swimmer that Australia has produced. He inspired countless kids when he broke record after record during the Olympics in Sydney in 2000.

It is sad to read that he is once again in the throes of depression; reports of him having checked into rehabilitation have been denied by his management.

It is no secret that Thorpe suffers from debilitating depression. He revealed this when he released his autobiography in 2012.

His attempt to make a comeback for the 2012 London Games failed and that would have not done him much good.

From the heights he reached, breaking world records almost as a matter of course, Thorpe found the return to ordinary life very difficult to handle. He is not the first famous sportsman to face this problem; many turn to drugs, alcohol or pills to handle the change.

The 31-year-old Thorpe has won nine medals, five gold, but has dealt with depression and alcohol for a long time, well before he failed in his comeback.

“Not even my family is aware that I’ve spent a lot of my life battling what I can only describe as a crippling depression,” Thorpe wrote in his 2012 book, This is Me: The Autobiography.

Thorpe wrote that he abused alcohol on “numerous occasions,” particularly between 2002 and 2004., his final Olympics in Athens.

“I used alcohol as a means to rid my head of terrible thoughts, as a way of managing my moods — but I did it behind closed doors, where many depressed people choose to fight their demons before they realise they can’t do it without help,” he wrote. “I abused myself this way — always alone and in a mist of disgrace. It’s like a weight is pressing down on you. There are days when you just can’t get out of bed. You cannot face the world.

“You tell yourself simple things like: ‘Just get to the kitchen and get a glass of water.’ But not being able to do something so basic is frightening.”

Thorpe has spent much of the last two years in Switzerland, though he has been spotted at the last two Australian Open tennis tournaments in Melbourne.

Thorpe is not the first famous person to suffer this way.

Yet, we have people who try every day to gain their five minutes of fame and make themselves known. People will do anything and everything to grandstand and draw attention to themselves.

Writing the occasional article doesn’t make one a journalist

THE explosion of online publishing has seen a breed that knows little or nothing about journalism assume posts as editors, writers, and so on.

But when one comes to such positions without understanding the finer points of the craft – as those who have either worked for, or been trained in, full-time publishing ventures do – the danger of overstepping one’s bounds is very real.

Writing is a tricky business: English is a highly ambiguous language. That is just the beginning of the area where one can sink.

There is also the area of where one draws the line – there are very real laws against defaming and libelling people. Even veterans of journalism sometimes go a mite over the line and face problems.

There are some writers who make a habit of pushing the envelope – here, their editors have to serve as the sluice gates and reduce the chances of a legal issue arising.

In other cases, the editor should decide what is relevant to the story and not invade other areas which do not impact on the topic under consideration.

Caleb Hannan, a writer for Grantland, an online website that concerns itself with sport, and is affiliated with the ESPN sports network, appears to have made a habit of going too far, with disastrous results.

Recently, Hannan wrote a piece about the development of a golf club – and ventured into the background of the person behind the club, discovering that it was a transgender individual. A few days after publication, the transgender person committed suicide.

Hannan’s editor-in-chief (yeah, he’s that high up) Bill Simmons made a long explanation after the deed was done. And the site also ran a guest editorial detailing the problems with the piece.

The whole business is one that resembles a situation that would eventuate if a butcher was doing a tailor’s job: these people have little idea about journalism, they are just amateurs with great titles.

It’s a timely warning to all those who think they can publish and be damned.

As Australian Open winds down, where are the Americans?

THE Australian Open tennis tournament, the first of the four grand slams, is slowly coming to an end. The women’s finalists have been decided – Li Na of China will face Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia for the title.

Li went through with a victory over Canadian Eugenie Bouchard; Cibulkova thrashed Agnieska Radwanksa of Poland.

And on the men’s side, it will be Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) or Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) against Roger Federer (Switzerland) or Rafael Nadal (Spain).
Continue reading As Australian Open winds down, where are the Americans?

South Africa will be the real test for Australia

HAVING just come off a 5-0 win over England in the Ashes series Down Under, Australia must be on a high. But, no matter the margin of victory, there are several serious issues to be considered in the run-up to the tour of South Africa that begins in February.

There have been writers who have started comparing the Australian pace attack – only one man has genuine pace – to the West Indies attacks of the 1980s. This is a fanciful comparison and if anyone among those who are involved in selection swallow this myth, then they will be stripped of the illusion in South Africa. While Mitchell Johnson bowled fast and with hostility for most of the series, the other two pacemen, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, are medium-pacers who looked very good against a team that was itself suffering under some big illusions.

When England defeated Australia 3-0 in England in 2013, it began to believe that it was that much superior to Australia. In truth, the actual series outcome should have been 3-2. In the third Test, where much of the final day was lost to rain, England was 3 for 37, chasing 332 for a win. Only 20.3 overs were possible on the final day and it is highly likely that Australia would have won this Test. That would have made the margin 2-1 in favour of England at that stage and could well have meant a different outcome after the next two Tests were played.
Continue reading South Africa will be the real test for Australia