I’ve always found the concept of revering a celebrity or sportsman a little bit alien. There are lots of famous people I admire, look up to even, but ‘idolising’ a complete stranger – I’m not really sure it’s for me.
In my daily life I have many idols. My husband for one. What’s not to admire about someone who gets up everyday, pushes past the aches and pains and bloody well gets on with it. I couldn’t do it. To be so humble, positive and dignified takes a strong soul and a resilience that I could never possess. I also idolise my son. Why? Because he’s a bundle of fun and sunshine and wonder. That’s all. How could I not worship a three year old Stormtrooper?
It’s interesting as over time my husband’s idols have started to work their way into my admiration. One in particular has become a favourite of mine. He’s probably a millionaire. He owns a big sports team. He mixes with the world’s greatest drivers. He travels all over the world. At first glance you might think he has everything the material world has to offer. What’s not to love about this man’s life?
Granted he is a lucky fellow in many ways. But what sets this man apart is not his financial achievements. It’s actually his courage and sheer determination to succeed.
In 1986 this man, Sir Frank Williams, was injured in a tragic car accident. He lost his most valuable gift – his ability to walk. In a horrible twist of fate, the man who loved racing paid the price for his passion. He was tetraplegic.
Fast forward 30 years and this man is now in his 70s. Since that fateful day he has led his team to numerous championship wins and some of the greatest moments in Formula One history. Ask anyone in the paddock and they will doff their cap to this hero of the racing world.
My husband loves him for this very reason. A great fan, he is committed to this ever determined team and their unique competitive spirit.
But I have started to idolise him for a different reason. Six years ago I wrote to Sir Frank and asked him for some advice. Faced with the prospect of losing the love of my life I reached out to someone I thought might understand. Looking back it was a bit of a random long shot, but at that point I felt so lost and confused it seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
I sent the letter. Waited. Put it to the back of my mind.
A few days later, I received a personal response.
That letter provided hope. It provided us with a morale boost and more importantly for my husband it made him fight on. He wanted to be like him, to survive against the odds, to stay positive in the midst of a situation that could quite easily descend into darkness.
We were invited to visit the Williams factory some months after this. We viewed the private car collection and were given a tour of the factory in full swing. I remember feeling astounded at how respectfully we were treated and comforted by the kindness and humanity we were shown. The big man himself even saved a space in his diary for us!
Ever since that time I have made an idol out of the Williams team myself. I love to see them racing well again, promising us they will win and fighting for victory. That’s something that I want to do too, in my own small way. Fight this disease. Fight it and beat it.
We’ve seen the William’s team at various events over the years and we always go over to say hello. The people we meet don’t know how great their influence has been upon our little family but we know. And we’ll always be happy to see them and grateful for the non corporate, human touch they bring to racing.