Mark Gillett

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Tennis Is Suffering – Its Being Challenged By The Fringe Sports

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I wrote last week about the state of British tennis mainly because its where I have been for most of my life. It seems to me, though, that tennis in general is suffering. In Germany clubs struggle, Berlin is not the hive of activity on the court it use to be. The US cannot produce players and haven’t since the Sampras/Agassi era in the mens game, which is quite some time back. The ladies are doing ok but clinging on to the Williams sisters who really won’t be around much longer. Australia, that once massive tennis nation is just a small player now on the world circuit and still look to old faces like Hewitt. France, Spain and Eastern Europe is where it seems to be right now but even in those countries there are problems.

My question is what has happened to those nations that once dominated? There are many theories you can read about if you just google the subject. The stance in the US is the centralised programme, lack of funds coming down to coaches and so on. In the UK everyone will blame someone else. Roger Draper took the brunt of this in recent years but under his leadership there was an awful lot of good happening. Perhaps just not radical enough and a bit of overspend! But then a political figure like Roger is never going to go the whole way. Now we have someone else to blame in 5 years time.. And I can’t even tell you who it is!! One area, however, with room for massive improvement is our parks.

Steve Riley of Willtowin offering public tennis with or without membership

Steve Riley of Willtowin offering public tennis with or without membership

Steve Riley of Willtowin is making major inroads in London but not without a battle against tradition.

I believe there is much more to it than simple blaming. In recent years I have been involved in many of the fringe sports. The new sexy ones that cost little and appeal to kids. They are riskier too and with branding such a big part of our lives, these sports have flourished and kids love them.

Parkour Egypt

Parkour is played all over the world. Here in Cairo everyone can afford it.

Take surfing. If you live near the coast in the UK – and there is a whole lot of it being an island – its easy to get started, very cool and costs very little. City kids can pick up Parkour, skate boarding and BMX all relatively cheaply and become local heroes in the process. With the rise of YouTube and channels like EpicTV, video shorts are being uploaded by the thousands daily, what do you think the kids watch and aspire to?? Its certainly not a few points of Nadal, Federer or Djokovic. More likely it will be some kid hanging off a crane in Russia, skateboard videos from LA, Barcelona or London, or some crazy biker in the Scottish Highlands getting 28m views. Others doing unbelievable jumps and downhills that make Evil Knievel look like a beginner. Well, I suppose he was really, he started something that RedBull have turned into a multi billion business.. Now take a look at the Barclays ATP Tour Finals youtube views. Nothing short of embarrassing with 70-120,000 for matches and 4 or 500 for interviews. For a world sport this should not be the case.

Even Ultra running is now sexy with some achieving feats never believed to be possible. Runners doing 100 mile races over mountains keeping sub 3hr marathon times throughout and others summiting  some of the toughest world peaks with nothing other than a water pack. Yoga is also now making inroads with the young and can be found in schools and cities everywhere

Yoga is inexpensive and all you need to take part is your body!

Yoga is inexpensive and all you need to take part is your body!

The answer to making tennis this sexy or appealing is tough. In some ways it just isn’t. I even pitched it to EpicTV but they just couldn’t go there. Somehow, though, it has to change and perhaps the only way is to introduce the concept of variations. Not in the core sport but to build on the easier more accessible possibilities like paddle tennis. In Venice Beach, this sport has grown massively along side the skate boarders, and bikers. It’s competitive, tough and sexy. And you can get more people playing on your real-estate so makes better business sense.

I would love to see tennis back where it should be. Its a truly beautiful sport that teaches us so much more in terms of life skills. And we need some of the young pure talent taking it up to ensure its survival through the generations. If we don’t we run the risk of tennis becoming that sport you take up in your retirement..

Written by markgillett

January 25, 2015 at 11:46 am

Trans Atlas Marathon

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Last night I arrived in Morocco for the first time in just over a year. The last time was to shoot for the Marathon Des Sables but I am here this year for a new race, The Trans Atlas Marathon. Travelling and filming with Chris O’Conner of CojoFilms, We were greeted by Mohamad Ahansal. The last time I saw him was winning the 2013 MDS. Since then he and his brother Lahcen have set up their own race and, wow! What a course this seems to be…. Read the rest of this entry »

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June 10, 2014 at 10:21 am

Yukon Quest Reflections, “Wasting My Young Years”

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I took a flight this morning from Eagle Checkpoint to Dawson. I had been delayed a night and was quite eager to leave. Not for any good reason because Eagle was stunning and my time there very beautiful. The people, 100 in total, were all amazing too, putting on food and refreshments for the Mushers and the Quest officials. They also have their own musher in the Quest this year, the young Matt Hall.

Yukon Quest 2014The flight was carrying a vet, two drop dogs, a race marshall and myself. The plane was a tiny 4 seater with a little room for bags at the back of the plane. Gert, the pilot I met in 2009 when he took me up from an airstrip in Braeburn. About 5 minutes into the flight all the controls and electrics failed but strangely this did not phase me and he gently glided it down and my excursion was cut short.

This time the plane was fine and we took off towards Dawson with the river below us the plane rose above the turbulent winds smoothly. At this point my mind just cleared like a fog lifting. Not that I was stressed but there was this sudden clarity that led to a huge upsurge of emotion. So many things came into my mind as we crossed the beautiful landscape below. Winding rivers, mountains scattered with pine trees, sections of open water but mostly white where the snow lays peacefully on the pack ice.

My mind went to the incredible care shown to the dogs that had been dropped by their mushers. Nothing took priority over the dogs. Not us, not our bags, not even the pilot. Well maybe he did but he also looked after them like his own.

Yukon Quest 2014I was shooting out of the window brushing it clean of iced condensation every few minutes so I could see what I was doing. The soft rumble of the plane constantly singing in my ears. And suddenly, bang! Full on emotion for what I was experiencing. What my life has been about for pretty much most of my adult days. How lucky or privileged I have been to see and experience the world in such a way. I thought about how many people have told me they dream of visiting Alaska and yet here I am in a small plane flying over it. And for the rest of the time I am here I am travelling through it meeting some of the most amazing people. Then I thought of the mushers out there alone on the Quest and how their experiences must differ from mine. And how one day I might like to try. Maybe!

I hid my face in the glass of the window as tears ran down my face. I thought of my daughter back home, people I have become such good friends with here and around the world. Tom, who I travel here with. Heidi who I met here in 2009 and those who I have worked with before. Then Gabi in Cairo and the world I see there, so so different. There were so many things going through my head.

Yukon Quest 2014I took some more pictures and studied the barren but alive landscape and thought about how for most people, this sort of thing is just television. I then realised that this is the only place to take me somewhere close to what the desert does for me. It strips me right back to the real me. I Don’t have a mortgage or make huge amounts of money doing what I do but I do learn something new every day. I make enough for my daughter and me to live ok and for the adventures I experience through the work I do. I came to the conclusion that I live a really privileged life. I work extremely hard and often for little monetary reward but the rewards I receive in a real sense far outweigh everything else.

It also took me back to a few months ago when I considered selling a couple of older cameras that I no longer use. I keep everything in my loft and was having a clear out a few things. I told Emily I might sell them and she responded with “why?” I didn’t really have an answer as they aren’t worth much but what I didn’t realise is that they are to her.. She then followed with “but they are you, dad”. That really sealed it and they are still in my loft. My work and travel along with the stories I live for are important to her and maybe one day will be to her children and its these very personal stories of others that I love to hear or discover. Yukon Quest 2014

The Yukon Quest is full of stories, that date back to its beginnings in 1983. The land it covers holds stories from as far back as 14000BC and more recently since the Europeans came in the Goldrush years from 1890. I am always overwhelmed when I visit the North and I love being here. I hope I will continue to find enough to keep bringing me back.

Tom found a very apt piece of music for our first video, but more than that he then edited it sublimely. Don’t waste yours.

Written by markgillett

February 6, 2014 at 4:50 am

Yukon Quest 2014 (or #yq2014 for those who speak in hash tags…)

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It finally got underway this morning with an on-time start of 11am. Snow was trucked in for the street start which was moved from the river last minute for safety reasons.. What an exercise! And the efficiency and organisation of this race is just incredible.

Once the mushers left by noon we hopped off and edited a few shots and then drove to Pleasant Valley Stores in Two Rivers – Such great names! – and we are now at the checkpoint editing, writing and uploading more stuff… You can find us on my Facebook, The Yukon Quest Official Facebook or probably just about anywhere to do with dogs on the internet.. Just search or hash tag search #yq2014

Here is a small gallery of shots from our arrival in Fairbanks.

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February 2, 2014 at 4:16 am

The Yukon Quest

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I have never seen the moon as in I did in Yukon

I have never seen the moon as in I did in Yukon

I find myself back in the Yukon having said I would probably miss this year. Its now the 5th year I’ve ventured and more and more the North seems to suck me back into the wilderness and beauty that it exudes.

The team this year is myself, Tom Barber and Heidi McGuire. Tom has been with me the last three trips I’ve made and Heidi I met in 2009 on the YAU. I can’t imagine better people to work with and combined with the OTC team and Yukon Quest team, I am really looking forward to the next two weeks of trail, fun, tiredness and usual battles to get the job done.

Yukon Quest 2012, Day3

The Thinking Musher

Already the curveballs have started and the main one has been the weather. The heaviest snow the Yukon has seen for years has all but been discarded by the spring like temperatures of the last week or so. The roads are near clear and the trail is very different. But this does not hold the Quest back. In fact it probably enhances it. Teams will have to be at their best to win this year. Now that the temperatures have fallen again, there will be ice, and possibly overflow. All great stuff for the thinking musher!

Its these conditions or changing conditions that make this such a great race. Like some of the desert stuff I cover, it can be very unpredictable, very demanding and a great challenge. If it were the same each year, how easy that would be to calculate? How boring would it be to follow? The North will always have its say whatever.

We drive up to Fairbanks tomorrow and a few nights of functions before the action start and then we set off back to Whitehorse. We will be posting videos and images along the route and your participation is vital. Comments, posts, opinions (not to strong of course) and questions on Facebook and Twitter.

Yukon Quest

My favourite

Give us your thoughts on who you want to win, or if you don’t mind.. Our stories will be unique as they always are as the trail will, Im sure, give us plenty to talk about.  Can Hugh Neff do it again or will Allen Moore pip him to the post. Or will we have a new winner this year? Will Normand be the darling of the race? Or will that go back to Brent Sass again.. Is it Brent’s year to hold that trophy?

Well, by the 10th Feb we should know the answers to those questions so here’s to the Yukon Quest 2014. Im toasting with a glass of red in the High Country Inn, Whitehorse!

See you on the trail

Marathon Des Sables Time

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MDS Dunes

The Desert – Somewhere to Enjoy

I am sure there are many of you out there starting to get a little nervous about your last 12 weeks before the start of your MDS. I know exactly where you are at so just keep believing and training up to departure. Remember that tapering is no use, gathering calories does not work, go light, pack light and take the food you need. You have everything else to succeed and no reason to fail. You have water, shelter and food. The rest is in your head! Here is a little piece just published.. Good luck!!

http://www.sidetracked.com/marathon-des-sables/

Mark

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January 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Big Ask!

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OX1A9242

Some of you will have read about YES 2014. Its a part of what I do and I give my time for six months to hopefully make a difference to 12 young peoples lives. I can’t do it regularly because its all consuming and I do not want tomake business out of it. The cost for 12 children to go is around £40,000 and I am reaching out to anyone who might be able help. Very soon we will have a giving page but in the mean time I am looking for one or two people who might like to underwrite this in its entirety. I meet many people who could afford this but the key to wanting to help is, if you feel a connection to helping? Basically the youth today are the future and will be here long after we are gone.. They will be making decisions that will correct a lot of what we have done wrong in our time. This is why its close to me. Please read the info on our FB page, share it or send to someone who might help. If you want more information please private message me.

Or call me on +447973 690087

https://www.facebook.com/pages/YES-2014/697106353641124

Written by markgillett

December 5, 2013 at 10:45 am