A to Z of Sport



For many years I have pounded the streets, pumped iron, punched inanimate objects, dragged tyres along, climbed ropes, watched my diet, hopped, skipped, jumped, stretched, twisted and tumbled, all in the vain hope of reaching that state of athletic nirvana where all goals have been achieved and the world takes full cognisance of my unrivalled athletic prowess.

In reality it has been a Sisyphean task, as for every Phil Taylor there are a hundred ‘arrer’ throwers like myself whose lifetime ambition is to hit the treble twenty with three consecutive darts, for every Ronnie O’Sullivan there are a thousand snooker players striving to make that elusive 50 break, and for every Tiger Woods there are myriads of golfers who eulogise over that sunny day in May when they made eagle on the par 5 second hole only to be cheated out of a sub-par round when tragically having to abort on the third hole due to lack of golf balls, when lying just four shots over par!

So what is the fascination of sport? Why do 20,000 apparently normal well-adjusted people go stir-crazy each April and feel compelled to break loose and run 26 miles through the streets of London, and why do millions of spectators line the streets of France every July to catch but a fleeting glimpse of a cyclist’s coloured jersey? To corrupt a famous observation of Karl Marx; sport is undoubtedly the opium of the people. It is a common language throughout the world and unites, and occasionally divides, nations, cities and households alike.

Sport harbours fierce passions too. The late, great Liverpool manager Bill Shankly perhaps epitomised this feeling definitively in a Sunday newspaper article in 1981 when he deliberated “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.”

Thus is the wonder, splendour and fickleness of a stage where its players are only as good as their last performance and heroes become villains in a blink of a tear-stained eye. It is this intricate cybernetic mechanism that makes sport so appealing both to the competitor and the fan. To coin a phrase from my favourite book “Many are called, but few are chosen”.

Although I salute all those many jobbing sportspeople without whom there would be no gauge of elitism, this book does of course necessarily celebrate the exploits of those who currently reside atop Mount Olympus and those who lay in the sporting halls of Valhalla.

My raison d’être for the A to Z of Sport was to encapsulate in a single volume a comprehensive coverage of as many different sports as I could possibly justify without resorting to the macabre and ridiculous and thus provide the ultimate sporting companion.

I have adhered to my ethic of not including superfluous information either in pictorial-form or narrative and to this end my biographies are by and large statistical records rather than subjective appraisals.

Although I have included quite a lot of minority sports there were some I have omitted until they become better established or prove they are more than just local oddities. Gurning, Bog-Snorkelling (both prone and on bicycle), cheese-rolling, welly throwing, shin-kicking and conkers are examples of sporting activies i deemed inappropriate for this first volume but I am prepared to be persuaded for subsequent editions.

The format is consistent throughout the book i.e. obscure sports will have an introductory page only. Minority sports will have some statistical information following the introduction and more popular sports will additionally include biographies of leading protagonists.

Result sections are fully up-to-date as at the point of going to press on September 6th, (Graeme Souness’s replacement of Sir Bobby Robson as manager of Newcastle United FC being the last item included for those interested in such things), although I have isolated all the results from the 2004 Olympics and given the Games its own section at the back of the book.

Biographical information of sporting stars who remain active are generally qualified by giving a date as to their efficacy but in other instances can be inferred. Sometimes it will be useful to check the sporting chronology for 2003 and 2004 to get a wider perspective of things, for instance, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan have both held the record for Test wickets this year so it would perhaps be more useful to check the dates in the chronology section. Similarly, Yelena Isinbayeva broke the pole vault world record several times this summer by the almost obligatory centimetre and the dates are given in this section.

This is the first A to Z of Sport. I hope you are entertained and edified by it. I have endeavoured to give it a global feel but it is the nature of some sports that they are dominated by a particular nation. Since this is a book published in Britain there may be a preponderance of British data, especially in the Athens 2004 report, I trust this is acceptable. Finally, and most importantly, although I have done my utmost to achieve 100 per cent accuracy, with a project of this magnitude covering such a wide range of sports, it seems unavoidable that mistakes will be made, for which I apologise. I would be delighted to have these pointed out to ensure that future editions are as correct as can be. If you wish to do so or wish to suggest new ideas for the book, please write to Trevor Montague c/o Time Warner Books.

THE A TO Z OF SPORT is unique: nothing as comprehensive has ever appeared before. It covers around one hundred sports, with the treatment of some of the nation's favorites, such as football, rugby, cricket and athletics, almost meriting books in themselves. The sports covered include everything you can think of: from football to fencing, cricket to croquet, motor racing to marbles, all the way from adventure racing to wrestling - no sport is too big or small for inclusion. There is an introductory essay for each sport, explaining its history and rules. These are followed by the most comprehensive lists of tournaments, champions, cups, venues and participants ever assembled. And there are further sections on Sportspeople, the Television Sports Personality of the Year, Trophies, Sporting Quotations and Sporting Current Affairs. From remarkable facts to argument-settling information, the A TO Z OF SPORT is the indispensable reference book for every sports fan.

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