Tuesday, July 26, 2005

GOING UP IN A BLAZE OF GLORY



The name Armstrong is something special to me. My first cricket bat had a sticker with the name 'Armstrong'. There are very fond memories attached to it. Then, of course, Neil Armstrong who was the first man on the moon.

Now, one more Armstrong has joined the list-lance Armstrong, the cycling great who ended his career on the road with a seventh consecutive victory of the Tour de France. What impressed me most was that the Texan has decided to hang up his boots while at the top. Such timing is very rare among modern sportspersons, especially with Indian cricketers. I can think of Sunil Gavaskar who called it a day after a masterly knock at Lords' in 1988.

It is truly remarkable to author such a script with rivals like Ulrich and Basso in the race for the big prize. Armstrong was the clear favourite before the tour and for a brief period in the early stages there were other pretenders to the throne. But once, he had the tour leader's yellow jersey, Armstrong never let it go off his back. Even a fall in the last stage when the road was slippery due to persistent drizzle, there was no doubt about the final outcome.

This is amazing to remember that Armstrong once had been diagnosed with cancer. Cycling had a similar hero in the past with a multiple tour winner Greg Lemmond who had a difficult time after being involved in a freak shooting accident.

In recent years, the sport of cycling-especially, the professional variety has taken quite a big knock with many riders and teams being put under the scanner for the use of banned performance enhancing substances. Almost every tour has seen some such incidents. Questions had also been asked about the involvement of Armstrong. We may never know the truth, but Armstrong never let these things to distract him.

Armstrong made it clear about his decision to leave the sport he loves the most. He seemed more than satisfied with the fame and fortune that resulted from his stupendous achievement. The finishing at the Arc de Troimphe was memorable with Armstrong having his family for company. His twin daughters were dressed in yellow.
Thanks Armstrong for the display of courage and humility that is so rare in these times.

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