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The ultimate sacrifice?

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Eleanor Oldroyd Eleanor Oldroyd | 14:42 UK time, Thursday, 10 November 2011

"He left us doing what he loved to do".

The words of Clive Wheldon, father of IndyCar driver Dan, who died last month at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Dan Wheldon was just 33 years old.

But they could equally have been spoken about Marco Simoncelli, who died a week later at the Sepang MotoGP. Or Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, killed over one terrible weekend in San Marino in 1994.

Or Nodar Kumaritashvili, who lost his life in a training run for the luge competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

To reach the top at your sport demands incredible dedication and sacrifice - but should that sacrifice involve your own life?

Some sports are inherently dangerous - travelling at speed, in a car, on a bike or a horse, or down an icy slope, will never be risk-free. But the thrill involved is incredible. In the last two years, I've taken rides which left me full to the brim with adrenalin.

Before my trip to Vancouver last year, I had the privilege of a bobsleigh run at Igls in Austria, piloted by top Team GB driver John Jackson.

During the summer, I was taken on a hair-raising drive around the TT course on the Isle of Man, in a car, happily for my nerves, rather than on the back of a bike, but still at speeds reaching 150 miles an hour.

The buzz on both occasions was incredible, but I was quite relieved when they were over.

Dan Wheldon was the 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion. Picture: Getty images

For some special individuals, that buzz is like an addiction. For a BBC Radio 5 live sport special, we've spoken to some of those who've spent their lives close to the sporting edge.

When Sir Jackie Stewart was driving in Formula 1, between 1965-73, the chances of a racer who competed for five years being killed in a crash were two in three.

He lost many friends on the track, and he echoed the words of Clive Wheldon when he told me: "His father said, 'I know that Dan knew the risks and if he were to die, he said he would be dying in the circumstances that he most wanted to be part of, and that was driving a racing car. That's the excuse we all make to our families and to our close friends."

Professor Sid Watkins was a close friend of Ayrton Senna, and one of the first men on the scene after his fatal crash 17 years ago. That experience haunts him still.

"It was one of the worst weekends of my professional life. Niki Lauda said that God took his hand off Formula 1 that weekend."

Sir Jackie and Professor Watkins were both very active in campaigning for Formula 1 to be made safer, and no F1 driver has died racing since those black days in San Marino.

Safety was also hugely improved in the boxing ring following the terrible head injuries sustained by Michael Watson in his fight with Chris Eubank twenty years ago. But again, no sport which inflicts repeated blows to the head can be totally risk-free.

In 1994, Bradley Stone died despite walking away, seemingly unaffected, from a bout against Richie Wenton. A few hours later he was in a coma from which he never emerged. Wenton told me he will never escape the sense of responsibility for Stone's death.

"It's something that you've done, not anyone else, not the referee, not the corner men, not the trainers," he said.

"It was a complete and utter accident, but it never goes away - that cloud is always there. Even on my death bed that cloud will still be there."

Five-time Olympian Mary King broke her neck in 2001 while exercising horses at her home but less than a year later, she was back competing at the top in three-day eventing.

The statistics in the sport look terrifying - according to one report, between 1997 and 2008, 37 riders died as a result of injuries sustained in the cross-country phase, covering all levels of the sport from grass-roots upwards.

But for King, the love of what she does outweighs the risks, and she told me she'd be delighted if her 15-year-old daughter Emily, already a promising eventer, emulates her achievements in the future.

Emily has already had her fair share of injuries, fracturing her pelvis in a fall in May last year.

It's an intriguing question whether women - and particularly mothers - are judged differently for pursuing risky sports.

After the death of Kumaratishvili in Whistler last year, British skeleton silver medalist Shelley Rudman was asked whether her attitude to her event had changed since the birth of her daughter, Ella. She was quick to point out that no-one had asked similar questions to her partner, fellow GB slider (and Ella's father) Kristan Bromley.

So is it acceptable for athletes to put their lives at risk in the name of sport - and for the entertainment of the rest of us? If you remove the danger, do you also remove the excitement?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I've heard this stat bandied around lots :

    "When Sir Jackie Stewart was driving in Formula 1, between 1965-73, the chances of a racer who competed for five years being killed in a crash were two in three. "

    However, where is the evidence? Yes, the fatality rates were higher during that time (11 fatalities during those 9 years), but that's hardly saying 2/3 of people died..... If you consider that the number of fatalities was (approximately) 1.22 per season, that suggests that, given that there were (approx) 22 drivers, there was a 1 in 20 chance of dying.... That's still not acceptable (by current standards), but makes much less sensationalist reading than 2 in 3!

  • Comment number 2.

    You cannot remove danger from sport just as you cannot remove danger from everyday life. Thom Evans broke his neck playing rugby for Scotland, but as a rugby player I know that it was a freak accident and it in know way made me reconsider playing rugby. I know/knew a few people who died in car crashes, this does not make me reconsider driving.

  • Comment number 3.

    This is a daft article. People die doing all sorts of things. It doesn't stop them doing those things... they enjoy them! Racing drivers know there's a risk (200mph speeds etc). Luge competitors know there's risk (bombing it down on a tin tray).

    I can't imagine those involved in these risky sports are thinking, "I do wish folk would stop enjoying what we're doing...don't they know how risky this is for us?"

    I saw a bad accident on my way to work the other day, but i wouldn't start banding about phrases like; 'getting to work demands incredible dedication and sacrifice - but should that sacrifice involve your own life?'

  • Comment number 4.

    "Is it acceptable?" You make it sound like they're being forced. I've got a genius idea... if you don't want to do something dangerous, don't do it.

  • Comment number 5.

    WOW! Just look at all that bile.

    Thanks Eleanor, I enjoyed reading your blog. Clearly (as evidenced by the above comments) if nothing else, it is a provocative piece.

  • Comment number 6.

    Moot discussion....

  • Comment number 7.

    "At 16:15 10th Nov 2011, clippo wrote:
    This is a daft article. People die doing all sorts of things. It doesn't stop them doing those things... they enjoy them! Racing drivers know there's a risk (200mph speeds etc). Luge competitors know there's risk (bombing it down on a tin tray).

    I can't imagine those involved in these risky sports are thinking, "I do wish folk would stop enjoying what we're doing...don't they know how risky this is for us?"

    I saw a bad accident on my way to work the other day, but i wouldn't start banding about phrases like; 'getting to work demands incredible dedication and sacrifice - but should that sacrifice involve your own life?'"

    I couldn't agree more. What a completely pointless article.

  • Comment number 8.

    Re: Post #1

    Depends how you do the maths.

    The article says the stats are based on you driving for 5 years. Take your figure of 1.22 deaths per season, and 22 drivers. You therefore have to assume that those drivers all compete for 5 years.

    So over 5 seasons that would be (on average) 6 deaths. That is from 22 drivers so a 6 in 22 chance (1 in 3.6ish) chance. Not the 2 in 3 quoted above but still pretty harrowing!

  • Comment number 9.

    @ the first poster....The Artist formerly known as;

    I think youv'e misquoted Sir JS there, watch the documentary "Grand Prix - The Killer Years", his actual quote is along the lines of "...if I were involved in an accident, my chances of living were like 1 in 3...."

    He doesnt mean 2 out of 3 drivers if they drove for 5 years would die, only that his chances of survival in a crash during that time were that slim.

  • Comment number 10.

    The much more interesting question, is not the obvious one about the inherent dangers of motor sport,horse riding, bobsledding etc where the risks are obvious and the participants know of them, but what can be done to stop so many sportsman suffering from arthritis at a young age (50% of all Premiership rugby players retire at 30 with arthritis) and dying young(Look at the mortality rate of ex-American Footballers).

  • Comment number 11.

    #6 is correct.

    #5 it may be a provocative piece, but that doesn't make it a good one. If it provided some interesting insight...or opened an interesting debate...??? It does neither.

  • Comment number 12.

    For most sportsmen and women its a risk they are happy to take. Every time they enter the area, walk on the pitch, get in the saddle or the cockpit etc, they know there is a danger they may not come back in one piece or worse dead. Its the buzz, thrill and excitement that gets them wanting to do it over and over again. Even when they were seriously injured previously.

    Look at Massa in F1 or Steve Thompson in Rugby. Both men could easily have walked away after serious injuries, but are now back in the fold. Top sportsmen and women have a mentality that their love for their sport is so much that they are prepared to put their own well being aside to compete.

  • Comment number 13.

    ...you can tell Shelley, that the reason people asked her and not her partner, was that Mothers,especially at and around Birth, have a thing called 'Maternal Instinct' and that means they have a very strong desire to protect their child. It is known to be stronger than a man's and is something most women are proud of and thus would not take offence.

  • Comment number 14.

    #11

    'It's an intriguing question whether women - and particularly mothers - are judged differently for pursuing risky sports.

    After the death of Kumaratishvili in Whistler last year, British skeleton silver medalist Shelley Rudman was asked whether her attitude to her event had changed since the birth of her daughter, Ella. She was quick to point out that no-one had asked similar questions to her partner, fellow GB slider (and Ella's father) Kristan Bromley."

    I found this point rather interesting and worthy of debate, and that's only one example. So, dear clippo, please don't speak for me.

  • Comment number 15.

    "There is always a risk in being alive... and if you are more alive, there is more risk" (Henrik Ibsen)

    I for one would sure as hell rather die doing something I enjoy, than spend an lifetime of drudgery wrapped in bubble wrap.

  • Comment number 16.

    As long as they are not putting others directly in danger let them do as they will.

    A society where people are banned from activities that are bad for them and them alone is a frightening place, and one to which we sometimes appear headed.

  • Comment number 17.

    Following on my earlier comment about arthritis and mortaility and the comments of Clippo, here is an interesting debate. We used to have seasonal sports and now we have year round sport which makes it all a little boring. The upshot of this 'Year round' sport is that there is so much money in sport, alot of which goes to the sportsmen(and quite a bit goes to Murdock), the sportsmen don't last long until they break down and then have to suffer for the next 30-50 years unless they die early. The responsable thing to do by a caring President of all WorldSport,would be to cut right back on all sports, making them seasonal again and even within each sport, for example Football, cut back radically on the number of games. This way there would be less arthritis, less early deaths and a far more interesting product.
    But how can you persuade fans who are now used to instant gratification and players,officials and media, who are used to the money, to cut back. Perhaps the answer lies the otherside of the Eurocrises!

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh Metox

    I didn't speak for you we just simply disagree. Its seems we are a loggerheads over this issue. Good fun this, and wastes a bit of time hey?

    Right, i'm off, my tea's ready :)

  • Comment number 19.

    If we take the view that sport is purely for the entertainment of the spectators then it is potentially immoral to ask sportspeople to risk their lives for us.

    However sportspeople don't take up their sport to entertain people, they do it because they have a passion for it and they take great enjoyment from it - at the start I would imagine they couldn't care less if it is entertaining to others.

    So I believe that as long as those competing in the sports can justify the known risks involved in their sport against the feeling they get from participating then they should be free to compete.

    I myself play hockey, not a particularly dangerous sport when compared to motor racing or sled sports but I still put myself in the position of having a mass of toughened plastic propelled at high speed towards me knowing full well that people have died from being struck in the throat by a ball. I can rationalise that though as the risk is small, safety precautions are taken, I have confidence in my own ability to get my stick in the way before it hits me and the enjoyment I take from playing the game outweighs the risk in my mind.

    I wrote a blog on the value of sport in the aftermath of Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt's death in the Giro d'Italia in May of this year: http://thebigblogofsport.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/its-only-sport/

  • Comment number 20.

    While the accident that killed Dan Wheldon was a terrible one, given the strength of the cars in modern motorsport, you still feel that he was really unlucky to have been killed. Look at the other drivers involved in the accident, all escaped relatively unharmed, as is often the way in motorsport, it probably came down to fractions. Had his car gone into the fence differently, he could've walked away. Look at the accident Robert Kubica had in Canada a few years ago, a massive shunt, yet he (ableit with some help) walked away. You can go back to Webber at Valencia, that could've gone either way depending where his Red Bull landed, Brundle back in Oz all those years ago. These 3 were lucky, they could've easily been killed, and i do think when other racing drivers see these accidents and know that the drivers involved have walked away from it, you could say that they take certain liberties when it comes to safety, but none of them are going to intentionally crash are they? Push to the limits of adhesion and the ragged edge yes, crash because you know you'll walk away from it? Doubt any top drivers think like that.

  • Comment number 21.

    This isn't pointless (at least in my opinion).

    I would comment though that people don't tend to do sports for the gratification of others. We do sport that thrills us, then the lucky few that find themselves really good at it get to do it for a career and that thrills those not fortunate or talented enough to join them at their level.

    Even then I'd imagine it is still the thrill that keeps them doing it - it is for me and I'm only an ameteur. This is especially true with adrenaline sports for which we see most injuries and fatalities yet those who are injured get back up and keep doing it or finding another way to maintain the adrenaline kick they are used to (see Mark Webers post about Alex Zanardi)

  • Comment number 22.

    If you sanitise sport you take away much of the reason why people pursue them to the point of achieving excellence. The challenge and the danger is what spurs the competitive instincts of individuals on to become great.
    If you took the danger out of it all everyone would be doing it and we would not be able to differentiate those most dedicated to their sport who will push the boundaries to achieve incredible feats and greatness.
    The danger is what seperates the good with the great as it is often the difference of the person who will take things to the next level by being that 1% braver or that 2% more talented.
    In professional sport there are very fine margins which seperate the best with teh very good.

  • Comment number 23.

    Now you're just trying to get me jealous, Clippo!! I'm stil stuck at work.

    No, all is good my friend, just trying to play devil's advocate, and some people on here seem to exist only to have a pop at the author, regardless of subject, content or quality, which winds me up a bit.

    Enjoy your tea you jammy git! (Oh, and by the way, we call it dinner down here, haha!)

  • Comment number 24.

    Surely this is a badly researched and porly written piece. The sensationalisation of tragic events, just to drum up interest in a phone in discussing a none subject, is dire. It was Alistair Cooke, (Letter from America) who observed: 'The philosophy in life, that nothing is worth dying for, is somewhere near the witless end of know nothingism.' Further, discussing events of the past does not change them, it just makes those making judgement smug and those in the discussion will have no influence on future decisions on the matter, so why not just look after your own driving and make sure you do not use the roads as if they were circuits and traffic lights as if they were a grid.

  • Comment number 25.

    Thinking about the families for a moment I saw the TT 3D movie where they spoke to Bridget Dobbs whose husband Paul died in a TT race in 2010. She said "you can't love the death, you can't love the loss but you can't love the excitement and the thrill without knowing that that's part of it. It wouldn't be exciting if it didn't have the risk. That's why they do it." This is the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nna5WoAbLkI

    Conor Cummins came off his bike at the Verandah in the Senior TT in 2010 and fractured vertebrae, his pelvis, bruised lungs, a badly broken left arm and a discolated knee with ligament damage. He was competing again this year.

    I think motor racers are a breed apart in being able to take that risk and still push the limit but they see it as a calculated risk.

  • Comment number 26.

    To #1 - Jackie Stewart was talking about a very different era of driving, when F1 drivers would not only compete in the F1 World Championship, but also regularly in Formula 2, Formula 3, Sportscars, the Indy 500, BTCC etc. They would race almost every weekend in one championship or another, and there were many drivers killed in those other formulae/championships who often get forgotten, plus those killed testing cars as well (such as Bruce McLaren, Bob Anderson or Patrick Depailler).

    He also said in the "Grand Prix: The Killer Years" documentary that he and his wife had counted 53 drivers they'd known who had died during his career.

  • Comment number 27.

    @No. 20 (Typical_English_No8) "Push to the limits of adhesion and the ragged edge yes, crash because you know you'll walk away from it? Doubt any top drivers think like that."

    Tell that to Nelson Piquet Jnr who crashed his car on team orders in the Singapore GP a couple of years ago. Also re-watch some of the Prost-Senna duels and tell me that they didn't know they were taking each other out. Or some of Schumaker's more tactical escapades? Or Massa turning in on Lewis Hamilton, even though he must have known he was there?

    There are countless examples of modern F1 drivers "crashing because you know you'll walk away from it". Or at least not caring whether a risky manoeuvre caused them to crash because from a tactical standpoint getting ahead of someone or taking them out came to the same result.

  • Comment number 28.

    The question isn't whether its "right to allow people to do something dangerous" as really provided you don't endanger others then to be honest once your an adult you make that call. Nobody forces people to do these things.

    The one consideration I'd say is important is that the organisers and participants have a responsibility to each other to ensure that whatever event you are doing is as safe as possible at a given point in time without removing teh essence of teh sport.

    The tragedy with Dan Wheldons crash is that didn't really seem to be the case as tehre were too many cars running on the oval, had the sport taken on baord some of teh improvements made in F1 the last 15 years it is possibly avoidable which seems wrong.There is a possibility given the improvements in safety that had been made that teh organsiers were perhaps overly complacent in trying to increase the thrill?

    Its the same with the luge accident as compliants were being made about safety prior to the event and accident and the fact changes were made immediately after to the luge course does little to help the feeling that something was just wrong there.

    Simoncelli looked a different type of accident as it wasn't anything that could be prevented regardless of safety measures really just a awful accident that can occur when you race a bike. Equally tragic but you couldnt point the finger at any one thing that could have been different that day and prevented the crash

    Anyway the point is surelys learn what can be learnt from terrible accidents anyway to limit the risk if not remove it.

    As mentioend above F1 did this well following Senna, Boxing learnt from the errors there as well and whilst you can't say either is safe both are vastly improved from 20 and even 10 years ago.

  • Comment number 29.

    Its horrible that people die in sport, but, I saw a piece on PGA Tour weekly where a promising young college golfer was hit on the head by a golf ball and brain damaged, where does it end. People died on the M5 last week driving, people die falling down stairs. Life is life.

    I'd rather die doing something I loved doing than withering away in a hospice bed riddled with cancer like my grandad did recently.

  • Comment number 30.

    "1.
    At 15:57 10th Nov 2011, The Artist formerly known as wrote:

    I've heard this stat bandied around lots :

    "When Sir Jackie Stewart was driving in Formula 1, between 1965-73, the chances of a racer who competed for five years being killed in a crash were two in three. "

    However, where is the evidence? Yes, the fatality rates were higher during that time (11 fatalities during those 9 years), but that's hardly saying 2/3 of people died..... If you consider that the number of fatalities was (approximately) 1.22 per season, that suggests that, given that there were (approx) 22 drivers, there was a 1 in 20 chance of dying.... That's still not acceptable (by current standards), but makes much less sensationalist reading than 2 in 3!
    "
    ok your odds is only working out the chance of dieing in a single year.

    if you take a 20/1 odd chance 9 times over you have 9 20/1 chances .

    its like have 9 tickets in a rafle that only have 20 tickets- a 45% chance- that still doesnt add up- but close to a 2/1 chance.

    however thje truth is on average (for example in 1969 the first 3 races were only contested by 17,16,15 drivers) the average driving in each race could be 16 not 22.

    this changes the stats dramatically

    so it becomes 1.22 in 16 chance each year- 7.6 % times that by 9 and you get a 68% chance of dieing thats over 2 in 3

    Now on to the actual odds given out and its based on the below

    "When Sir Jackie Stewart was driving in Formula 1, between 1965-73, the chances of a racer who competed for five years being killed in a crash were two in three. "


    so they arnt talking about 9 seasons they are talking about 5

    the way worked out above gives us a 38%(7.6 times 5) chance of dieing-still not good.

    however

    the odds given also reflect the reality that drivers that drive for longer are more likly to die- more drivers died competing in 5 or more seasons in percentage terms than they didnt- that is how they are getting to 2/3 - not something that i have access to , but its probally very close to the truth

  • Comment number 31.

    "When Sir Jackie Stewart was driving in Formula 1, between 1965-73, the chances of a racer who competed for five years being killed in a crash were two in three. "

    Jim Clark and I assume quite a few others did not die in a Formula One accident but lost their lives as the result of crashes. For those doubting the quoted statistic please remember to factor this into your quick to criticise formulae.

  • Comment number 32.

    I was hoping the entire article would just be the word yes. In these modern legal, era athletes go into their sport knowing the dangers. Now if you ask me if horses should be used in dangerous sports or other animals like that, then we have a real discussion. Humans aren't forced into this unless you are talking about North Korean gymnasts or something bizarre.

  • Comment number 33.

    30 - Mystiroakey

    I see your reasoning, but I agree with The Artist's view that there's a degree of sensationalism in the statement: "When Sir Jackie Stewart was driving in Formula 1, between 1965-73, the chances of a racer who competed for five years being killed in a crash were two in three. "

    Its simply not true. Firstly what driver doesn't compete for 5 years? No-one gets into F1 without some racing experience, and most have started very young. Find me the list of F1 drivers who haven't competed in racing of some form for 5 years! So effectively we're talking about all drivers. Well, quite simply, two thirds of the F1 drivers from any year you care to examine did not die in F1, in the season in question or overall if you view their careers.

    Take a case study year at random - 1969, the exact middle of Stewart's career. The top sixteen drivers that year make a perfect sample:

    Jackie Stewart - alive; Jacky Ickx - alive; Bruce McLaren - died 1970; Jochen Rindt - died 1970; JP Beltoise - alive; Denny Hulme - died 1992; Graham Hill - died 1975; Pier Courage - died 1970; Jo Siffert - died 1971; Jack Brabham - alive; John Surtees - alive; Chris Amon - alive; Richard Attwood - alive; Vic Elford - alive; Pedro Rodriguez - died 1971; Silvio Moser - died 1974.

    50% are still alive 42 years on! Six died racing cars in some form or another. Hill died in a plane crash and Hulme of a heart attack. So from this sample you had a 38% chance of dying in a race car some point in your career as an F1 driver in 1969.

    1969 stats are fairly typical of F1 in the era, actually slightly higher in terms of racing fatalities averages. Basically if you look at a wider sample of all F1 drivers from 1965-1975, the number falls to around 32% (there's some arguments over what constitutes racing, as a couple of drivers died in car accidents on public roads in later years).

    A F1 racing driver in Jackie Stewart's era therefore had a 1 in 3 chance of dying in a race car during their career. Very high, but not 2 in 3.

  • Comment number 34.

    Everyone who participates in high risk sport - downhill ski-ing, moto gp, bobsleigh etc know exactly what the risks are and go in with their eyes fully open. They should be respected for that and allowed to compete to the max. They do it for themselves first and foremost and for those who watch second. If all the risks were removed these people would not bother to participate and we all end up being the loser.

    There is only one certainty in life and that is death, how much risk you want to add to the when not if is for the individual to decide.

  • Comment number 35.

    Once again folks, I point out you are ALL on the wrong subject!

    Motor Sport-great rewards, great glamour and yes risk but look at these stories.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/03/sports/football/03duerson.html?_r=1

    http://www.gridirongreats.org/

    http://www.nfl.com/injuries

    https://www.nflplayercare.com/

    There has been a lot reported lately about brain trauma leading to mental issues and even suicide. Former Bears player Dave Duerson committed suicide earlier this year:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/03/sports/football/03duerson.html

    Just to be in the Peleton in cycling means you have to take drugs. You have no chance of winning but you have to be able to put your man in the right position, so you risk your life for that.

    It is one thing to be a player and see the dangers but it is a totally different thing to be in the dark as a youngster and for the people that run the sports to abuse the players in their charge. The officials in the NFL, Cycling,Rugby and many other sports know what the outcomes are but keep it underwraps because it isn't sport it is business!
    When rugby added head protection and shoulder pads it increased the injuries;why? Because everyone thought they could hit people harder just like in American Football.
    Are ex-players in American Football rich;NO-75% are bankrupt when they stop playing.
    When will the first Corporate manslaughter charge come to these sports?

  • Comment number 36.

    Poorly researched trailer masquerading as an article.

    Lot of content to fill i guess

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree that people should be allowed to participate in whatever activity they choose, providing they know the risks involved and there is no danger to anyone else. But what I don't understand is the belief held by many, including on this blog, that life would somehow be boring if people didn't do dangerous, risky things. Why? Is life so fundamentally uninteresting that the only way to liven it up is by engaging in activities that threaten it? Life is short enough as it is IMO. I just don't understand this desire by some to put their well-being and their very existence in peril just for the sake of some short-lived adrenalin buzz.

  • Comment number 38.

    Also I'd the term ultimate sacrifice is hardly appropriate when we are talking about paid sportmen or women or doing it for their own personal satisfaction.

    An ultimate sacrifice is an altruistic act such as sacrifice your life for others. If I smother a grenade in my trench and die so others live, that is a sacrifice. Sports are games taken seriously but ultimately they are still games.

  • Comment number 39.

    All these people are fortunate enough to be doing what they love and they understand the risks..... that in its self is living a full life.
    I suppose its all relative to your own job and life.
    I for one would love to be in professional sports person ,the gladiators of the new world.

  • Comment number 40.

    33-

    i am struggling to work out how i can get the figure over 38% (as i sort of suggested). so in that regard i do agree. I am not 100% you or i am right mind.

    fact is its clsoer to 1 in 3 than 1 in 20- but in all probability not 2 in 3

  • Comment number 41.

    I liked the article, though I suppose the intent is to make people then listen in to the show, so fair enough.

    I'm a massive F1 Fan and so I feel it my duty to not only say "NO to SKY, why BBC were you so selfish"; but also, clearly the BBC see the sport as important (as with Moto GP), sufficien to write an article about it linked from the main page... surely then we should fight to keep it on the Beeb full time, not randomly!

    NO TO SKY!!

  • Comment number 42.

    #26 is spot on.

  • Comment number 43.

    "So is it acceptable for athletes to put their lives at risk in the name of sport"

    I'm bored of this topic (if I had a tenner for every time..). In fact I'm surprised that journalists aren't yet bored of asking it - it's done the rounds! It would be justified if somebody was dying every week or month. Rock climbing is dangerous.. so is mountain biking, motorcycling, BMX, skateboarding, boxing, martial arts, snowboarding, skiilng, rugby, F1, Nascar, IndyCar, parachuting.. should we stop all of these things because people die sometimes?

    Death is a part of life. Better we accept that fact and live our lives to the full than spend time trying to mitigate every conceivable disaster.

  • Comment number 44.

    Further to my post at #43, the safety in so many sports pursuits is often improved where it can be, and that is at least a good thing. I don't smoke, and we all know that cigarettes are patently no good for ones health, but I absolutely defend anyone's right to smoke if they choose to. That it's dangerous is immaterial. The key factor here is 'choice'. The principle is the same for those who choose to participate in dangerous sports. I met someone once who was the victim of a malicious rugby tackle that damaged his leg for life but, even with that incident, it if he could do it all again he would still have played rugby.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Boils" nails it for me at #32 - great post!

  • Comment number 46.

    These sportsmen are being paid handsomely to do what they love doing - it is the ultimate risk/reward scenario. How can it be deemed the ultimate sacrifice?

  • Comment number 47.

    There are risks in life that can teach us all a lesson, we read about people doing things that we would never dream of doing. The adventure, taken out of existence leaves us nothing as human beings, it is our nature to take risks and has put us top of the evolution chain. Without these adventurers we, as a species would be nothing. Lets applaud those that go the extra mile, just to prove that we can. If we vilify and criticise the risk takers, how do we move forward?

  • Comment number 48.

    I agree with #37. There is some truth in this article.

    If Dan Wheldon could speak from beyond the grave, what advice would he give us?

    (1) "I took some pretty big risks and got killed, leaving my children without a father and my wife without a husband. But you know what? It was worth it for the adrenaline buzz."

    (2) "You know what? If I could rewrite history, I would sacrifice my whole career if it meant I could spend fifty more years with my wife and children, instead of leaving them to cope alone for the rest of their lives."

    If you think the answer is (1), think again.

    Racing drivers take risks because they don't really think about them. They are addicted to the adrenaline, usually from well before the age of 10. They are not rationally weighing up the risks. Horrible accidents are things that happen to other people.

    The governing bodies of dangerous sports have an obligation to protect the competitors from themselves, by taking every possible safety precaution.

  • Comment number 49.

    Well, if I sit in my armchair eating my way to an early grave, there are those who say I should even be denied NHS treatment. Some of the same people would also criticise me regardless of which activity I chose to avoid that fate:

    1. Squash - heart attack
    2. Rugby - neck injury (I'm a back, though)
    3. Football - knees
    4. Running - ditto
    5. Swimming - drowning
    6. Cycling - car accident

    Some people take bigger risks. These people have discovered continents, invented flying machines and flown them beyond the speed of sound, and yes, some of them have "just" won Drivers' Championships, 3-day events or done a couple of base jumps. What a dull world it would be if we were all the same. Why can't we live and let live instead of subjecting each other to self-righteous drivel like #37 and #48 above?

  • Comment number 50.

    I'm in total agreement with the majority of people who have commented on this article. The individuals who compete in these sport do so with the view to pushing themselves to the limits, to be the best. They also realise this means risk. Take boxing for example, how can you say should they be risking their life fact its a contact sport. Its their choice, no one is forcing them to do it. I think if you actually competed in any of these sports to the level that these people do you would understand. It's a mind set. The world would be a very dull place if you didn't have people like Mohammed Ali, Senna, etc, who took the sport to another level. People like them did something they loved, knowing full well that the ultimate sacrifice could be paid.

  • Comment number 51.

    #48

    What's rationally weighing up the risks? I could potentially die so I shouldn't do it?

    Everyone has to think that horrible accidents happen to other people otherwise we would never get in a car because 30000 people died on the roads in the last decade. Millions of people fly because they believe their plane won't crash, they aren't being irrational about the risks it's just the probability that it's them will be low. Take F1, there have been no fatalities in 15 years which makes it statistically safer than walking down the street during that period.

  • Comment number 52.

    @The Artist formerly known as, because if you repeat something enough it becomes true. Stewart himself repeats this statistic over and over again. It just isn't true!

  • Comment number 53.

    This is a ridiculous article. I doubt there are many sportspersons out there who are doing their sport 'to entertain' us. You make them sound like seals (who, as a matter of fact, might actually die from being eaten by a killer whale believe it or not!).

    All of them know the risks associated, so to question whether it's acceptable for them to 'put their lives on the line' is nonsense. They know. They do. Nothing will change that.

  • Comment number 54.

    Dont an awful lot of people watch motor sports for the crashes? Surey the danger is a big part of what makes it exciting.I dont imagine anyone wants drivers/riders to die but hey it goes with the job and im sure they know that.
    Three day eventing will never be exciting even if it is dangerous,im afraid my reaction to some upper class ponce falling off his or her horse just makes me laugh,although its pretty unlikely i would be watching.
    To be honest i wouldnt even count three day eventing as a sport.We certainly didnt do it at school lol.

  • Comment number 55.

    Nos 49 & 50.

    I asked the question before and I'll ask it again. In what way would life be more duller if people didn't take risks? Like I've already said, I've no problem with people taking risks if it is their choice to do so. What I do find puzzling is the notion that life only becomes exciting if there is an element of danger attatched to it.

  • Comment number 56.

    Oh, and by the way Tim no.49. I certainly wasn't subjecting anyone to self righteous drivel as you contemptously say, I was merely asking a question in order to expand the debate. When people die as a result of activities that they have chosen to participate in I think it is not unreasonable to at least ask why they make the choices they do, particularly in the case of Dan Wheldon where now there are children without a father, parents without a son and a wife without a husband. Maybe I'm missing the point here, but deaths like Dan Wheldon's just seem needless, his family and friends will be grieving for the rest of their lives because he chose to take risks with his own.

  • Comment number 57.

    Yeah its a real sacrifice when you think about it on a day like today.

 

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