GRAEME OBREE: STILL A SUPERHERO
The cycling press is having a field day with this headline from The Scottish Sun. I guess I’m contributing to the hype by writing this post but for me, it doesn’t really change anything.
Though being a closeted gay man might somewhat explain Obree’s two suicide attempts, I still believe the mystique of the tormented champion is still there. Gay or not, I think Obree still would have found the inner demons which kept his pedals cranking. No matter what exactly it was that tormented him, he suffered AND he won.
For some, Obree’s coming out to the media might throw some mortality into the mythos of a mad genius superhuman. But the guy built his own bike, took the laws of physics into his own hands and broke the Hour Record twice (among plenty of other awesome accomplishments). For some, his coming out offers some kind of demystification to certain aspects of his character (“Ohhh so that’s why he was depressed”) but for me the man is still a complete legend, a Champion of the World, a super human.
So while the press is having a blast with this huge headline that says “I’M GAY”, I just sit here and think, “well that’s cool but what does that have to do with his super powers?” It’s like this one part in The Rider by Tim Krabbé (read it!) where the narrator is convinced that Charly Gaul was so good at racing under horrible weather conditions because he loves to suffer.
« I paid a visit to Gaul’s former soigneur, Gerrit Visser, to find out how that worked.
‘Did Gaul ride so well in bad weather because he liked to suffer?’
‘Well… during bad weather, a lot of oxygen is released.’
‘But lightning and hail, for example, didn’t that perk him up?’
‘Of course! Because he was able to assimilate a huge amount of oxygen.’
‘Sure, of course. But wasn’t he a person who went looking for punishment?’
‘Yes… but oxygen really played a major role. Oxygen! You see, Gaul was able to assimilate more oxygen than most people so when the weather was bad…’
‘But didn’t you ever have the impression that rain and hail and that kind of thing gave him a sort of energy?’
‘Absolutely! Because then there was more oxygen in the air!’ »
There was no convincing the narrator that oxygen was the reason. In his mind, pain and suffering was Gaul’s oxygen. That’s kinda why legends live forever. For me, Obree is a legend… gay or not — I understand that it was his own choice to “come out” but the cycling media was just all over that for no reason (and here I am contributing to it).
Having said all that, it’s still a very interesting story about how Obree struggled to come to terms with his own sexuality. Read more about his revelation on Bike Radar.