Takes courage to voice unpopular view

GREG FORD
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013

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OPINION: There are many reasons athletes feel as if they can't indulge in intelligent discourse about sport.

All too often conflicts of interest, loyalties (sometimes blind) or contract conditions thwart me and you from hearing the true thoughts and feelings of the movers and shakers in the sector we hold so near and dear.

That's why it was both uplifting and disappointing yesterday when gauging reaction to Richard Ussher's thoughts and views on the Coast to Coast.

The multiple champion voiced what many were too afraid to: that the entry fee for the great race is too steep and that several other multisport events had surpassed it.

He did so because he cares deeply for the race and believes something needs to be done to improve it.

He was even prepared to cross swords with owner Robin Judkins by suggesting it might be time he bring in new blood to organise things.

I can think of one man up to the job: Ussher.

His views on the race were rational, considered and I wasn't at all surprised when he disclosed he'd carefully considered how he would convey and articulate them if the opportunity arose as it did when I interviewed him on Monday.

Yesterday, Steve Gurney was clearly disappointed with Ussher and said - by telling it how it is - he'd damaged the event.

Ussher's comments may have bruised, but nothing more significant than the odd ego and Gurney, in my opinion, has missed the point.

It takes courage to voice an unpopular view in public. And sometimes a bit of not so subtle prodding can be the catalyst for change.

Ussher had the greater good in mind when he made what was, by his own admission, a carefully calculated premeditated strike and what better time to voice his views than on the eve of the event when its currency appreciates.

Next week would have been too little, too late and Ussher's great rival Dougal Allan isn't alone when he said yesterday: "We probably owe him a lot to speak about the things we have been thinking about and speaking about for a few years."

So I say 'Bravo' to Ussher. 'Bravo' to Allan. And of course 'Bravo' to Judkins.

After going into a rage on Monday, he had cooled off yesterday, and while he still disagreed with much of what Ussher said he was gracious enough to accept it in the spirit in which it was intended.

Let's hope that all parties concerned can shake hands this week on Sumner Beach knowing that they played the ball not the man.

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