Jo Pavey smiles as Tiger Woods stays jolted

A disconsolate Tiger Woods walks off a course into the sunset

Jo Pavey enjoys a golden harvest

First published in Sport
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COMPARE and contrast - those three words reminiscent of many an end of term school exam - were intensely applicable in the world of sport this week.

Professional sport is so often viewed, rightly in most physically exacting endeavours, to be the preserve of the young.

Once a certain age is reached, a certain shelf-life is exhausted, a certain drain on the body hits a tipping-point, then that most relentless and ruthless opponent, Father Time, takes his toll - the oul git.

But there are exceptions, and I don't mean switching to the ever more lucrative seniors' circuits, or even descending into the realms of dominoes, carpet bowls and bingo.

There are sportsmen and sportswomen who cock a snook at the rigours of time, who rage against the dying of all competitive light and for that they deserve our acclaim.

Two such no-quarter-spared competitors are Jo Pavey and Tiger Woods, who experienced the extremes of sporting as they reach the autumnal stages of their respective careers.

While she would probably demur at such a title, Pavey is now Britain's athletics super-woman.

Just last month, at the age of 40, she thrilled the Commonwealth Games when she claimed a bold bronze medal in the 5,000 metres.

But ten days later, the mother of two young children - her youngest was born just 11 months ago - the Devon runner produced an even more pulse-stirring performance at the European Championships currently unfolding in the Swiss city of Zurich.

Pavey, who next month celebrates her 41st birthday, stunned team-mates, rivals, pundits, spectators and television viewers when she powered to the gold medal in the 10,000 metres. Besides that marvellous medal success, Pavey seized the distinction of being the oldest female champion in European Championships history.

Pavey's renaissance - it was her first major gold medal after years of standing on the podium in silver or bronze positions - was attributed by the athlete herself to having had her two children, four-year-old Jacob and 11-month-old Emily.

Said the golden woman: "I got to a certain age in my career and thought 'what am I doing?'

"It made me start to not enjoy the sport, the fact that I hadn't got any children because ultimately becoming a mum was just such an important thing.

"It's more important than anything and to continue running without that happening. For me, I thought 'it's time to have kids'.

"Now I'm fortunate enough to have two little lovely kids it makes me feel like now I can crack on with my running."

And crack on she will. Pavey is in the line-up for this weekend's 5,000m with the incentive of becoming a dual medallist, a prospect she greeted with: "I'll go out there and give it my best. I'm excited to have another go out there."

However, while Pavey powers on and the Olympic Games in Rio in two years' time is also a target for the popular middle-distance marvel, the season has already come to a premature end for Woods, the golfing artist formerly known as the Phenom.

Woods, who missed the cut in last week;'s final major of the season, the USPGA championship at Valhalla, declared this week that he had ruled himself out of the Ryder Cup reckoning as a potential captain's pick for the American team so he can more treatment on his troublesome back and recuperate for the rest of the year.

At the age of 38, no real age for a world-class golfer, Woods is standing at the crossroads.

This particular breed of Tiger burned so bright at the outset of his career it was like gazing into a sunburst. He amassed 14 majors in less than no time. Records were tumbling like so many putts into the cup. The Phenom was poised to re-write golfing history.

But troubled off the fairways by an acrimonious marriage bust-up several years ago and now beset by injury the Woods bandwagon is creaking as well as being pressured by the new chip off the block, Ireland's Rory McIlroy, whose triumph at Valhalla brought him back-to-back major conquests and doubled his overall total to four before the age of 25.

It is to be hoped Woods can return in 2015 refreshed and revived enough to stage a rally. His is a talent that if was to disappear compeletely would be a big loss to the sport.

Should he need any more inspiration and incentive - and that could be a problem for someone who struck gold so manyu toimes, so young - then the Tiger could do worse than to heed the example of Britain's Pavey.

 

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