Someone asked me recently to name the greatest thing I had ever seen in sport. It’s an ambiguous and subjective term but I interpreted it as I pleased. I first clarified that I had to have watched the moment live, on television at least. So although I have probably watched it 100 times on YouTube, I had to forget about the seven minutes and eight seconds of perfection that Muhammad Ali displayed in the ring against Cleveland Williams in 1966. Without much further ado I offered two alternatives. The first was witnessing Usain Bolt ease up, look to his right, and beat his chest in triumph on his way to a world record time of 9.69 seconds in the final of the 100m in the Beijing Olympics. A quarter of the race still remained to be run. The second was seeing Ronnie O’Sullivan knock in a maximum 147 break in five minutes and twenty seconds in the first round of the World Championships in 1997. No one has, and no one ever will, come close to such a speedy maxi.
I can therefore see where Heather Watson was coming from when she plumped for the Rocket as her sporting role model. I clicked onto the article on the BBC website expecting to hear young Heather expand on her choice by waxing lyrical about Ronnie’s genius, flamboyance and perhaps admitting that she also simply likes a bit of rough. Heather took a different route however. Snooker’s wild (38 year old) child is the Guernsey girl’s inspiration because, and I quote here, he is “very professional and very mentally strong”. I did compile the full list of incidents from Ronnie O’s chequered career which prove he is the polar opposite of professional and mentally strong but unfortunately the document exceeded the memory capacity of the World Wide Web and I nearly broke the internet.
I can only imagine that when the interview finished and Heather was leaving the BBC studios she was heard to whisper to her agent: “Ronnie O’Sullivan is that big tall fella who won five Olympic golds rowing his boat, right?”