Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Jump - Worth the Risk?

Fractured vertebrae; shoulder injury; knee; shoulder and arm injuries; broken ankle; pulled hamstring; chipped bone in shoulder; ligament damage; injured knee and thumb.

This is the roll-call of injuries suffered by the contestants in last year’s The Jump, Channel 4’s celebrity winter sports show. Not the kind of track-record to make current international athletes want to take part, you might think: but you’d be wrong. Double Olympic taekwondo champion Jade Jones has signed up, along with multi Paralympic medallist Kadeena Cox and Olympic gymnastics medallist Louis Smith.

Their participation has already attracted criticism from fellow sportsmen and women, including former heptathlete Louise Hazel, who herself finished third in the show in 2015. However, she had retired from the sport by the time she took part, and she has highlighted the risks that Jones, Cox and Smith are taking. In her view it’s not a question of whether they will get hurt but of when, with potentially serious consequences for their careers.

The respective sports governing bodies have also expressed concerns, with British Athletics and British Cycling withdrawing Cox’s UK Sport funding whilst she is taking part and GB Taekwondo saying that they had “reservations” about Jones’ participation, although she is going to continue to receive her funding.

The risks involved suggest that the rewards are considerable, both in terms of immediate payments and raised profile and possibly increased sponsorship. For athletes in sports that don’t reward their stars in the way that others do this is an understandable lure, although perhaps they might be better off taking part in something a little less risky, such as I’m A Celebrity… (there was no criticism of hockey player Sam Quek’s participation in the last series) or Strictly Come Dancing (which Smith himself won in 2012). Alternatively you could host your own show, as Tom Daley did with Splash, although he was also criticised for focusing on the show rather than on his training.

Celebrities injuring themselves on TV sports shows is nothing new, as Kevin Keegan proved when he suffered severe cuts when falling from his bike on Superstars, but The Jump ups the risks to another level, and coaches and rivals alike will be watching closely when the series begins.