I responded to an interesting internet forum question recently which really set me thinking, ‘If you could witness any sportsman/woman in history in the flesh…’ (who would you choose?) There have been countless sporting individuals over the years who I could consider for that – from my own particular passions of ice hockey, football, distance running and beyond. After five minutes of thought I came eup with these these brilliant performers in their chosen disciplines of hockey, running and cricket. Well that’s the choice for today at least. An honourable mention should go to those of my heroes who I’ve actually seen perform live. Coming to mind are football’s Denis Law, George Best and Joe Baker and cricket’s Sir Garry Sobers.
Guy LaFleur ‘Le Demon Blonde’ right-wing for the Montreal Canadiens 1960s/70s. A French Canadian with huge charisma, smooth skating, lightening fast reflexes who was a predator in front of the net. All with a staggering career points tally. Guy had a playboy lifestyle and was idolised in Quebec. He had great style and for many was the ultimate Montreal skater.
Lasse Viren ‘The Flying Finn’ a middle-distance runner who won Gold in both 5,000m and 10,000 events at the Munich Olympics in 1972 and at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. One of his gold medals was won after falling on the track, recovering and running past the field to hit the tape first. A devasting front-runner who destroyed the opposition, when it really mattered, in an era of great middle-distance runners.
Harold ‘Lol’ Larwood the Nottinghamshire and England fast bowler who destroyed Australia on the ‘Bodyline’ Ashes tour of 1932/3. The tour – where he bowled his ‘leg-theory’ to captain Jardine’s order overshadowed his career. Extreme pace – many would argue the fastest (and most accurate) of all time Harold was but 5ft 8ins tall but tellingly a former Notts pitman who was bred tough. His teammates at Notts named him ‘The Silent Killer’. They said that when Lol was on fire his run in to the wicket was completely silent. It was then that they feared for the opposition batsman’s safety.