The making of a champion is a topic that ferments much excitement, particularly at the surface level.

It promises a peek into lives that have transcended mediocrity. Delving deeper, it’s also a subject that has varied dimensions to it — each one requiring profound expression.

The panel discussion moderated by Wisden India Almanack editor Suresh Menon and featuring former world billiards champion Michael Ferreira and ESPN-Cricinfo editor Sambit Bal, held as part of The Hindu Lit for Life 2013 at Lady Andal School on Saturday, explored the fascinating layers in a champion and the media’s role in nurturing it.

“The first thing is to have a dream,” said Ferreira. “To reach the pinnacle requires tremendous focus and the willingness to pay the price. When I was 15 or 16, I wanted to be the best player in the world. I had a rage for perfection, an obsession with billiards. I used to feel a savage joy playing it.”

Future of sports writing

On whether sports writing had come to a crossroads, Bal said it had been abandoned as a craft. “It is the closest to literary form of writing with a narrative and varied emotions. I think new media has promoted good, long-form writing. Television doesn’t create context or nostalgia.”

Menon said there were two professions that one had “no business getting into without passion” — medicine and sports writing.

Making a case for coverage of all sports, Ferreira lamented the obsession with cricket had created a tremendous imbalance.

“Do we realise we have talent from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in different disciplines? Athletes who break their bones, literally, to win medals, need the support of their countrymen. Cricket has been taken to a different level but the media must play its part when it comes to other sports,” he said.

The discussion reached a climax with a question on why some champion athletes prolonged careers despite being well past their prime. Ferreira cited Sachin Tendulkar’s example. “You extract cricket from Sachin’s life and think what he’ll be? Why did I carry on when I was beaten by people who weren’t fit enough to shine my shoes? Sachin still loves to play the game. That’s the best quality.”

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