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What drives Sports Personality winner Tony McCoy?


McCoy reflects on Sports Personality success

By Frank Keogh

Pain is not a word that sits easily with 15-time champion jump jockey Tony McCoy.

The Northern Irishman counters it with a steely grin as he ploughs on with his punishing diet and shrugs off heavy falls in pursuit of new landmarks.

But he knows there is a pain coming that will be a tougher hurdle. The challenge of not being a winner any more.

McCoy's landslide victory to land the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award capped a memorable 2010, which saw him end his Grand National hoodoo with victory at the 15th attempt on Don't Push It.

Yet at 36, he is closest to the exit door in the jump jockeys' weighing room, where few carry on into their 40s.

McCoy has told BBC Sport he will not continue riding if he is usurped as the man his colleagues call simply 'Champ'.

"At some stage I am going to have to retire while I am champion jockey and that is a horrible thought," said the County Antrim-born rider, who is known widely by his initials AP (Anthony Peter).

"I dread to think what I will do when I stop riding. That has never entered my head. It's difficult when you get a buzz from something you love doing.

"I'm well aware that a lot more of my career is behind me than ahead of me."


Rather than dwell on what comes next, he is determined to set new goals, one of which may well be to reach 4,000 winners.

That would be more than twice as many as previous feted champion jockeys such as John Francome and Richard Dunwoody.

"No matter how much any person wins in sport, there is always someone who will come along and do better than you," said McCoy.

"I just want to keep going long enough that whoever comes behind me as a jockey will have a very tiring life trying to get past the number of winners I've had."

It is McCoy's dedication that has brought him here. A teetotal non-smoker, he has a punishing daily schedule of baths, saunas and a meagre diet to keep his weight down.

He rides at well over a stone below his natural weight and will consume only 597 calories on Christmas Day, the equivalent of three thin slices of turkey breast, one spoonful of cabbage, three Brussels sprouts and a splash of gravy.

"In any sport you get into it because you love doing it. There are times when it's tougher, physically and mentally, than you'd like but at the same time it's a great leveller," he said.

"No matter how successful you are, how much you win or how lucky you are, you only have to look behind you in a race and realise the ambulance is always following you.

"You're never going to get above your station or get in the position to think you are any different to anyone else."

McCoy secured over 290,000 votes in the poll, more than four times that of the runner-up Phil Taylor, himself a 15-time world champion, in darts.

All the jockey's statistics have a surreal feeling to them. More than 3,300 wins and hundreds of bone-crunching falls.

Tony McCoy
What he does on horses is immense - he's a unique and brilliant talent

Ruby Walsh on McCoy

You name a part of the body and he has probably broken it. Refer to a record, and he will want to break it.

The BBC poll is recognition of his achievements and also of a concerted campaign by the horse racing community to get people to back him.

Races were renamed in his honour, while the internet and social media had regular appeals to get behind him.

You sense McCoy could have done without all the fuss, but feels he has an obligation to the sport he loves.

"Growing up all I wanted to be was a jockey and hopefully to be successful but I never thought for one moment that I would be able to accept an award with such public recognition," he said.

"I look at all the amazing jockeys that have gone before me, most notably Frankie Dettori, who is the biggest personality we have in the sport, and Lester Piggott, who is someone we all looked up to.

"To be the first jockey to win the award is something I'm very proud of."

Among all the plaudits, it should be noted that McCoy has been known to have his darker moments.

He takes losing badly and bristles at any perceived criticism of his integrity.

But the arrival of his daughter Eve, who is now three, has helped mellow the man from Moneyglass.

"Her first question at night is 'Daddy, did you fall off?' and if I say yes, she'll say: 'You're a silly billy, daddy'.

"And if I tell her where it hurts, say on my leg, she'll kiss it better and think she's cured me straight away," he said.

"Hopefully, when she's growing up she'll be proud of me."

McCoy's great rival, and friend, Ruby Walsh, was proud of him after making the journey over to the awards from Ireland on crutches.

"The respect I have for what AP McCoy has done is immense, huge," Walsh, who is sidelined with a broken leg, told me.

"I've always felt privileged to have been around him and I would hate to be trying to fill his boots when the next guy comes along.

"He has changed National Hunt racing and how jockeys approach things. He's changed how he rides, he's an unbelievable role model.

"His attitude, the way he applies himself. You will not see him bring racing into the headlines for the wrong reasons, it's for the right reasons.

"What he does on horses is immense. I ride completely differently to AP McCoy because you simply couldn't ride like him. He's a unique and brilliant talent."

McCoy has not so much broken the mould. He has made his own.

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see also
Jockey McCoy 'humbled' by award
19 Dec 10 |  Sport Homepage
McCoy wins BBC Sports Personality
19 Dec 10 |  Sport Homepage
McCoy ends wait for National win
11 Apr 10 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing

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