Roald Bradstock

2000 Rings by Roald Bradstock

Find out how the former Olympic javelin thrower, dubbed 'The Olympic Picasso' for his world renowned Olympic sports art, successfully combined his passion for both sport and art.

Raise Your Game: How did you first get involved in sport?

Roald Bradstock: I was diagnosed with spina bifida when I was six-years-old, and I was told at that time that the doctors didn't know why I wasn't walking and that I shouldn't play sports. However, I'm the kind of person that, even at that age, if you tell me I can't do something then I'm even more motivated to do it. Right after that happened, I saw the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City and I knew I wanted to be in the Olympics.

RYG: That must have been hard to deal with early on in your life. How do you overcome something like that?


Arne Roald Bradstock

The Olympic Picasso

24 April 1962

Hertford Heath, England



  • Winner of the International Sports Artist of the Year Award for his unique style of artwork called Athletic Abstraction (2003).
  • Winner of the United States Olympic Committee Sport Art Competition (2000)
  • The first man in the world to surpass the 80m barrier with the "New Rule" javelin with a world record throw of 81.74m (1986).
  • The first British javelin thrower to break the 90 metre barrier with the "Old Rule" javelin with a Commonwealth record of 91.40m (1985).

RB: It's a reality check for sure, but there was nothing I could do about it. It's a challenge, a hurdle if you will. The trick is recognising it for what it is and figuring out how to deal with it, to walk around it, go through it or go over it.

RYG: How did you get involved with art?

RB: Art has always been the other constant in my life, but it's always competed for my time against my sport. It's only been in the last six or seven years that I've brought the two together. I've achieved all the things I wanted to do, in terms of breaking records and going to the Olympics. Now I have the time to sit back and enjoy still being able to compete and train as well as pursuing my art career.

I started to recognise the strong correlation between sport and art before I really knew about the original concept of the Olympics and the sport, art and culture. I originally went to the United States to pursue both sport and art and to get ready for my goal of making the 1984 Olympic team. So to me, I've come full circle with London 2012. I want to come back to get involved in projects and share what I've learnt on my world travels as an artist and an athlete.

RYG: You've managed to combine two completely different disciplines in art and sport. What are the skills that can be transferred between the two?

RB: If you look at the top athletes such as Ed Moses, Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, we see the very best. There's a fluidity, a rhythm, an effortlessness to how they move and you can apply that to art.

Most people think that art is a painting in a frame on a wall in a gallery. What I'm trying to do is take art out into the stadium and sporting environments. As they did at the Tate Britain when they had the athletes running through the Tate gallery.

In 2008 at the US trials I wore hand painted outfits, used hand painted javelins and changed the javelin runway into a fashion runway. What I'm trying to do is make art more accessible, as well as break down the stereotypes that people have of art and the art world.

Basketball. Copyright: Roald Bradstock

RYG: With art you have the freedom to express yourself in any way you like. How do you apply the disciplines from your sporting background to your art?

RB: I thought it was hard as an athlete having to deal with rejection and failure, but my athletic career really prepared me for my artistic career. It's about how you get your artwork out and into galleries, how to get exposure, and it's dealing with the amount of rejection and learning to re-embrace it. I don't take it personally, my skin has really thickened up. It was my training as an athlete that taught me that and I can apply it back into my throwing. So the art is helping my throwing and my throwing is helping my art.

RYG: What sort of sacrifices have you made to get to where you are today?

RB: The biggest sacrifice I made was my decision to leave England and come to the US so that I could pursue both my sport and art. Also when I was 19-years- old I had to choose between sport or art. That's one of the things I want to help change within education, so that other people don't have to make that choice. There are more and more athlete artists out there. It takes time and commitment, but it's what I love doing and I'm still doing it.

RYG: Who are your sporting heroes and how did they influence you?

RB: Again it goes back to the Olympics in 1968. I remember hearing the excitement in BBC commentator Ron Pickering's voice, and hearing about the athletes' dreams of performing the ultimate performance on the day and then coming back time and time again to win them once again.

Did You know?

Dick Fosbury revolutionized the high jump event using a back-first technique, now known as the 'Fosbury Flop'.

I remember everyone talking about Dick Fosbury's unique jumping style and how he was laughed at. Here was a guy that combined sport and art. He's not an artist, but he created something new. To me, art is about creating something, so when you look back you did something that changed history.

A favourite moment was also when Jānis Lūsis won the javelin because I knew then that this was what I wanted to do.

RYG: Athletes, such as Vanessa Raw, have spoken of art as being an influence in their sporting careers. What can the combination of sport and art give athletes?

RB: Art teaches you how to step back and look at things rather than going straight out and running, lifting, jumping and throwing, etc. For me, it helped to put things in perspective and provided a different point of view and understanding. The more you think about sport, it's kind of fun.

RYG: What has a combination of sport and art given you?

RB: It's given me a wonderful life. I've managed to pursue both my passions and I'm living my dream. I'm doing exactly what I wanted to do. To be able to create images and get them out to other people, is just as exciting as throwing a long way or qualifying for the Olympics. It's getting a reaction from people and being able to express myself through my sport.

RYG: As an artist your goal is communicating with the audience at large through your pieces of art. How important is that communication?

RB: Communication is number one! What is more universal than sport and art? Most people are visual learners. If we look back at caveman drawings, they were the universal way of communicating stories, ideas and messages through images. It's timeless. It crosses over cultures and it crosses technologies.

Copyright: Roald Bradstock

RYG: You've mentioned your ambitions throughout your career. How important was it for you to set goals for yourself?

RB: If you focus and you have a goal, then you can take steps to reach it. Once that goal has been achieved then you create a new goal. If there's no goal, or no end, then you're just floating all over the place.

RYG: You've stated the importance of winning, but also the importance of losing. How important is it and what are the lessons we can take from learning to lose the right way?

RB: Part of the learning process is losing, failing. We can't always get everything we want and we need to learn that and accept it as part of the learning process. It ties in again with sport, art and life. If you are involved in competition or an exam, and you make a mistake or if you lose, that's fine. You move on and you try and do better next time.

RYG: What advice would you give to a young sportsperson or a young artist looking to emulate your success?

RB: It's important that you follow your passion. For some people that may be art, for others it may be business. That's the key thing. Sport is the universal factor as it combines so many different elements as a sort of foundation course if you will. Combining it with the art, technology and the education, who knows where it may take you. It's about jumping onboard for the ride, but you may end up somewhere completely different to where you expected.

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