As a teenager, Emma Johns fell deeply in love. Nothing unusual there I agree, but the object of her affection was somewhat more unorthodox. The England cricket team of the '90s is not heralded as a wonderful evocation of all that is great about the game, but Emma fell head over bails for Athers, Tuffers et al. In this wonderfully witty and engaging book, Johns examines the appeal of glorious draws snatched from the jaws of defeat and the victories that seemed to offer hope only to be proved false dawns yet again. Her interviews with many of the protagonists (Stewart, Thorpe, Russell, Ramprakash to name just a few) are informative and offer an excellent insight into the team dynamics. Andy Caddick is a particularly interesting character. Following On is a great read and comparisons to books like Fever Pitch or Boys of Summer, which also tell of childhood sporting infatuations, seem inevitable. A thoroughly enjoyable and well-written book.
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Discover more as Emma John discusses her deep love of cricket and meeting her idols
Emil Zatopek was a phenomenon. He changed long distance running forever with his training techniques, his times and his achievements. He won the Olympic Gold Medals in 5000m, 10,000m & the Marathon: at the same Olympics! Incredibly he achieved all he did against the back drop of the Cold War and the cynical manipulation of sport by the Czechoslovak Communist regime. As a soldier in the Czechoslovak army, Zatopek was used as a tool to boost productivity at home and the regime's position internationally. There is an interesting internal debate in the book about how much Zatopek worked with the government actively or was simply a pawn.
It is perhaps the historical perspective which lifts this book beyond the average. Askwith, author of Feet in the Clouds & Running Free, did extensive research in the Czech Republic and interviewed many of Zatopek's contemporaries including his wife, Dana, herself an Olympic champion. The result is a wonderfully told story of individual passion and commitment amidst a complex political background.
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Read on with this fascinating article from Richard Askwith, talking about Emil Zatopek