To introduce you to the (brand new!) Sports Section for Hilary term 2021, the Sports editors offer their answers to 8 burning and definitive sporting questions. 

  1. If you could swap lives with one sportsperson for a week who would it be?

Ollie: Definitely not a footballer! They have far too much free time. I would probably go for someone that makes me look/feel as cool as possible, and I’ve recently been reading about the story of Owen Wright, who’s an Australian surfer who won bronze at Tokyo just five years after suffering a terrifying injury. Anyway, I just started following him on Instagram and there’s a scene of him barbecuing on a beach that makes me desperate to trade a week of his lifestyle for a week in the middle of an English January…

Deryn: Katie Ledecky. Firstly she’s still swimming, and calling the sport an addiction is a worryingly accurate summary of my life. Secondly, she specializes in distance freestyle, which is my preferred genre, if you will, of swimming. And thirdly, she’s really tall, and for someone not quite five foot five, that would be something I would love to experience. Sad, I know, but looking up all the time gets tiring after a while. 

Vedika: I would use the opportunity to try something different. Having recently watched a documentary on Christopher Spring’s journey in bobsleigh, I am eager to try this elegantly executed yet thrilling sport. The Australian bobsledder suffered a crash in January 2012 and was back on the track just three months after. The balance of power and speed the sport requires is terrifying but would make for an exhilarating experience! 

Ewan: I’m tempted to go with Henry Slade just so I could sort out his haircut, but I think I’ll go for Tom Brady. American Football seems like a lot of fun to play and I’m sure living in Florida has its benefits compared to the rainy England I’m writing this in.

  1. There are four spare spots round the table at your dinner party. Which sportspeople, living or dead, do you choose?

Ollie: Usain Bolt, to provide consistent entertainment, Andrea Pirlo, because he knows about wine, George Best, to drink most of that the wine, Serena Williams, and Maria Sharapova (seated at opposite ends of the table for obvious reasons)

Deryn: Mark Spitz, Ian Thorpe, Katinka Hosszu, Katie Ledecky. Ian Thorpe was a freestyle (front crawl ) legend of the early two-thousands, and a genuinely lovely guy who I really want to meet. Hosszu and Ledecky are the toughest female swimmers out there, and heroes of mine. Spitz was the first super-swimmer. ‘The OG Phelps’, if you will, and he really put swimming on the map in his time. 

Vedika: Novak Djokovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Magnus Carlsen and Phillip Noel-Baker

Ewan: Joe Marler, Usain Bolt, Keven Pieterson, and Peter O’Mahony would be an entertaining group to say the least.

  1. What is the greatest sporting comeback or underdog story?

Ollie: It’s tempting to go for the obvious: Leicester winning the Premier League at a 5000-1 outsider shot but that’s a bit dull. Instead I’ll go for the story of Vinny Pazienza, who I knew nothing about until I watched the Miles Teller film about his life, called Bleed for This. He was an American boxer who had a car accident which did almost life-threatening damage to his spine. However, he was back in the ring 13 months later even though doctors had told him he would be lucky to walk again immediately after the accident.

Deryn: Cody Simpson. Comeback stories are really rare in swimming because it’s so easy to lose the feel for the water, and most pro swimmers live and breathe the sport from about seven or eight onwards. Cody Simpson is the exception. A swimmer in his youth, he then became an internationally successful musician who dated Miley Cyrus (make of that what you will), embracing all the trappings of that lifestyle. He then gave that up and returned to his roots, giving himself a year to get back into competing. That’s insanity, and I remember reading an article about it and laughing. I think the swimming community genuinely thought “what is this guy doing?” or “this has to be a publicity stunt”. But not only did he qualify for the finals of the Olympic qualifier, he did so in Australia, which has produced legends such as Ian Thorpe, and in the 100 meters butterfly as well! For the record, butterfly is hard! It is the most incredible swimming story I have ever heard, and then found I could relate to it, being out of the water during the COVID lockdowns and scrambling to get back into shape during my final year of A levels. All in all, I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

Vedika: Bethany Hamilton’s story immediately comes to mind. She is a professional surfer who, at age 13, was attacked by a tiger shark, which resulted in the loss of her left arm. Yet, despite this incident’s psychological and physical impact, she returned to the board just 26 days after. Her tremendous dedication to the sport and ability to overcome the trauma of this accident is genuinely remarkable. 

Ewan: Has to be Japan beating South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. At the time, South Africa had won more World Cups than Japan had won World Cup matches, so the odds were hardly in favour of the Japanese. Watching fans from across the world celebrate the Japanese last minute winning try reminds me of how much we all love an underdog story, and ‘The Brighton Miracle’ has also done a lot for the sport in Japan to date.

  1. What is your favourite Olympic memory?

Ollie: It’s a slightly random one, but I vividly remember staying up in the middle of the night to watch Andy Murray beat Del Potro at the Rio Olympics in 2016. I always love watching Murray play because he completely rejects the unflustered elegance of someone like Federer and you get the sense that he works like crazy for every single point. Of course, the Olympics mean more than any other trophy/honour to those that compete in it, and Murray’s fist clenches and general screaming in the direction of his box for the whole of that 5 set epic really drummed that point home. 

Deryn: It’s got to be the 2016 women’s 800 free final. Watching Ledecky put out such an incredible performance was incredibly inspiring, and was when I decided “ I want to do that”. It instigated my love for distance lane swimming, and I haven’t looked back since. 

Vedika: Watching the 2020 women’s lightweight sculls, Helen Glover and Polly Swann’s sheer determination and collaboration was evident through form and spirit they carried throughout the race. 

Ewan: Watching team GB bring home 4 Gold Medals in Rowing at the London Olympics inspired me to get involved with the sport, and although I can’t say I’ve loved the last 7 years of early mornings, it’s had a huge impact on my life so I owe a lot to that memory.

  1. What is your favourite stadium or location to watch live sport?

Ollie: Craven Cottage. Obviously. On the pitch you are guaranteed gorgeous possession based football coupled with the certainty of catastrophic yet amusing defensive errors. Off the pitch you get the finest walk to a football stadium in the country and the charming presence of a pillar right in your line of sight if you’re sitting in the Johnny Haynes Stand because (as it’s Fulham) the whole stand is a listed building and they aren’t allowed to modify it at all. Also, the half-time chicken tikka pie is to die for. 

Deryn: The Principality  Stadium. It’s the Millennium, or will be in my mind, anyway. Cliche as it is, I watched my first rugby game here at about nine. It was a Wales vs England ‘friendly’, with Wales coming out the victors, as is proper. But my twin, my father and I were sitting next to the most wonderful group of England fans, who had no issue explaining the technicalities of rugby to an enthusiastic, albeit clueless nine year old. Songs were sung and the atmosphere was utterly electric but so friendly that it made me feel part of something monumental, but not insignificant. It’s also quite accessible, and for someone who despises any form of travel, that is a definite bonus. This stadium will forever be a symbol of how people are brought together by sport.

Vedika: Over the past few years, most of the live sport I have watched has been on the sofa at home; one of my favourite memories from the now seemingly distant past is in 2012 watching the Olympic sailing in Nothe Gardens, Weymouth. The idyllic surroundings allow you to bask in the sun, enjoy the scenery and a picnic (if the weather permits it) while you’re still at the forefront of the action. 

Ewan: I’d have to agree with Deryn and go for the Principality. The opportunity to hear some 74,000 Welsh people belt out the national anthem before playing England in the 2019 6 Nations alongside my Welsh grandad is something I’ll always cherish, and watching Josh Adams secure victory with a gorgeous try off a crossfield kick in the 78th minute is undoubtedly one of the finest sporting moments I’ve witnessed.

  1. Who is your sporting hero?

Ollie: The early career version of Stuart Broad, when he could bat as well as bowl.

Deryn: Katinka Hosszu, also known as ‘The Iron Lady’ (not to be confused with Maggie Thatcher). Now retired, she was a beast in the pool, racing the hardest events and winning them like it was nothing. An added bonus is my father’s insistence that she is in fact Keyser Söze from “The Usual Suspects”. It’s entertaining to say the least. 

Vedika: Adam Peaty 

Ewan: Alastair Cook. The sort of player England cricket could use these days…

  1. Tell us about a time when the outcome of a sporting event meant the most to you emotionally. 

Ollie: It has to be the Championship Play-off Final in 2018, when Fulham beat Aston Villa at Wembley. These days I try to remain as emotionally uninvested as possible in Fulham’s fortunes, because the result is invariably crippling sadness. However as a naïve 15-year old I hadn’t quite learned that lesson yet, and I don’t think I’ve ever invested more energy into willing a team over the line as I did that day in the glorious sunshine under the famous arch. Even though we got relegated the next season in highly ignominious and totally predictable fashion, that whole day still represents one of the rare profound moments that supporting Fulham brings. I have a poster with the words of the commentary of Fulham’s winning goal on my bedroom wall. This is really quite tragic when you think about it, but I’m never taking it down.  

Deryn:  Watching the mixed medley relay finals Tokyo 2020 on YouTube, I was incredibly invested. It was also incredible to see icons like Pellegrini, Dawson, Guy, Dressell and Peaty all acing their legs. It was an historic Olympic moment and the athletes performed to match it. I was transported back to being five years old, watching the county level swimmers train and being told by my swim teacher “you could be there”. I will never be at the Olympics, but just watching the greats, of both sexes, perform together took me out of myself for one and a bit minutes. That GB won is only the icing on the cake. As sad as it may be, I was crying by the end. Nobody ever accused me of not caring. 

Vedika: Extremely cliche, but I would have to choose the European Championships 2020 final. The tournament was undeniably a uniting force throughout the nation during a challenging time. Kane’s goal renewed hope in the English win again, but my nerves remained unsettled. The game’s final minutes perfectly summed up the experience of being an England fan, the inexplicable feeling of both unfailing optimism mixed with the looming prospect of another defeat. Whilst I wish my amateurish commentary about the 4-3-3 formation could have scored us a penalty; instead, the scenes of disappointed fans walking back in almost torrential rain remains ingrained in my mind. The rain that followed the loss was entirely appropriate, the most English way to mourn the loss…  

Ewan: Whilst I’m not the biggest football fan in the world, watching the successes of the Welsh national team in the 2016 Euros was an emotional rollercoaster. Having surpassed our English nemeses and made it all the way to the semi-final, losing to eventual winners Portugal was a crushing blow, but looking back on how far a country of only 3 million came, it makes me proud.

  1. Sum up Oxford Sport in three words. 

Ollie: Delightfully Variable Quality

Deryn: Intense, Rewarding, Friendly 

Vedika:  Made for everyone 

Ewan: No skill required

Ollie Nicholls

Outside of his degree you can find Ollie stoically supporting the ever-woeful Fulham FC and stress drinking mugs of Earl Grey as a consequence.