Source: Team GB

Talking a good game..

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DAME KATHERINE GRAINGER, one of Britain’s top Olympians ever, brought her unique insight to the judging panel of this year’s William Hill Sports book awards.

Katherine penned her own autobiography ‘Dreams Do Come True’. It made the longlist in 2014 and stood out because the vast majority of sports books are not actually written by players, unlike her own.

She told me; ‘I was impressed by Ruqsana Begum’s biography. She tells with honesty the hurdles of being a muslim daughter and we get taken on a new an unexpected journey’.

Ruqsana Begum’s Born Fighter is an account of how she rose to become Muay Thai World Champion, fighting in secret from a young age as she navigated life as a young Muslim woman in Bethnal Green.

Grainger appreciated women getting some recognition; ‘It was good to have three women on the longlist of 15 and getting one out of five on the shortlist is probably a fair representation of the authors out there.’

However, her fellow judges did not progress two female authors onto the shortlist. Grainger voted for Catherine Spencer’s ‘Mud, Maul, Mascara’ autobiography saying; ‘I was taken by its huge honesty of a former England rugby captain, who didn’t win the world cup but had to see her successor go on and win the trophy’.

Cyclist Emily Chappell’s ‘Where there’s a will’ was the other female author not to make the shortlist.

Grainger says the covid crisis , on balance, aided her judging role. ‘In the lockdown it was lovely to have some time to disappear into. It was a joy to get to set aside a chunk of my normally busy life to read. I had to be disciplined to read fifteen titles. But the disadvantage was I normally read while travelling and that was not possible.’

‘I loved the breadth and variety. Very different things fell under the banner of sports book, from Thai boxing, Mt Everest, a journey round domestic cricket grounds and the very thought-provoking and darker side of drugs in sport of the Rodchenkov book’.

‘As a judge I look for the same things as a good fiction book with great characters and sport has its own natural drama’.

The award will be revealed on December 3rd.  Judges are; Former Chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle; five-time Olympic medallist and rower Dame Katherine Grainger; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly and journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson. Chair of Judges is author and journalist Alyson Rudd.

2020 Shortlist
Book title
Begum, Ruqsana
Born Fighter
Ellsworth, Scott
The World Beneath Their Feet
Gray, Ashley
The Unforgiven
Ridley, Ian
The Breath of Sadness: On Love, Grief & Cricket
Rodchenkov, Grigory
The Rodchenkov Affair

Lead photo shows Katherine Grainger (right) with rowing partner Vicky Thornley