Monday, April 03, 2017

Online postgraduate diplomas and degrees

When I pass my Exit Examination for the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians, I plan to take a postgraduate course to get a masters. This is not to extend the letters after my name, which we were jokingly told during our undergraduate studies. It is so I can fully understand the subject so I can put it into practice and help me to get into the fields I plan to go into the future.

With the improvement of technology, learning online has started to become the norm. Major universities are waking up to this and started to offer numerous postgraduate diplomas and degrees. Naturally you will lose the face-to-face interaction and any practical aspect which comes with the subject. However many people work full time and cannot take time off to attend a full time course. Even if the course is part-time, you have to consider travelling time and money. Some online course off an intensive teaching period, which you could attend during your annual leave.

I have been focussing on three main areas of study which I'm interested in - Family Medicine, Medical Education and Public Health. Below are the three main course I plan to take, with the other courses I took into consideration and why chose the particular course. Fees mentioned are for international students, so local students will be considerably cheaper.

I wanted to take a course which further develops my family medicine skills and knowledge. Our own college (Hong Kong College of Family Physicians) offers a certificate/diploma course. That one is primarily aimed at private doctors who are not specialising in anything, even Family Medicine, to show they have some skills in the area. Hong Kong Baptist University offers a postgraduate diploma / masters in primary care in conjunction with the University of Western Sydney. However the Baptist University doesn't have its own medical school, just a school of nursing and a private hospital, which means they don't have their own dedicated academic staff to teaching this subject. The medical teaching will likely come from private doctors or remotely from the University of Western Sydney.

There are two universities which offer online courses in this area apart from Glasgow. The University of Edinburgh has a masters of science course in Family Medicine. They have the best ranking amongst the universities here, placing 23rd in the QS World University Rankings in Medicine 2017. However the course at Edinburgh requires two periods of two weeks where they require face-to-face teaching at the university. That will require me to take annual leave and getting two weeks off is very difficult. Monash University use to offer a Masters of Family Medicine but have changed the title to Masters in Advanced Primary Health Care Practice. Monash is ranked 29th, so they aren't a bad medical school. The course details are somewhat vague but the real killer to this cost is price.

Monash will cost HKD 17,766 more than Glasgow, which is GBP 1800+ or USD ~2300 more. If Edinburgh didn't require me to attend face-to-face teaching, I would have taken their course. It is just GBP 297 than Glasgow, which is HKD ~2900 or USD 370+. I know I can afford the differences but it is not worth it. Glasgow is only ranked ten places lower than Monash, at 39th place, and I feel the University of Glasgow name carries slightly more value than Monash University's name.

2. Masters in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Public Health is a subject where the whole content can be delivered online, since the content is mostly theory or non-practical based. Since this is the case, and public health schools are quite prevalent, there are many universities which offer this course online. Below are the universities which offer the course 100% online, except the Hong Kong universities which I have included as they are possible options for me. Ranking is based on US News 2017 rankings for Best Global Universities for Social Sciences and Public Health.

This decision is no brainer. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (or LSHTM) has the best ranking and is the cheapest university with a ranking in the top 100. Sheffield is cheaper but is ranked 118 places below LSHTM. The cheapest university with a ranking is Essex, which Staffordshire offers the cheapest out of all universities. I have the option of completing the course at more leisurely pace. Most schools intend for you to complete their masters in two years, while LSHTM allows you a maximum of five years. Another point which is not displayed in the table is that I can take their course by modules alone and don't have to do a dissertation or project, which a lot of the other courses require you to perform.

I would like to take this opportunity to make my point on differences between nations. UK offers the cheapest courses by far. Hong Kong offers similarly priced courses but you have to factor in the travel time and cost. However I would get Continuous Medical Education points if I attend the Hong Kong courses.

Next comes Australia, with the cheapest course coming from the University of Tasmania and the highest ranked course coming from Monash. Yet Tasmania is HKD 29,250 (GBP 4,900+, USD ~3400) and Monash is HKD 96,215 (GBP ~9,900, USD ~12,400) more expensive than LSHTM. 

USA is much more expensive than UK. The cheapest course is Florida (Difference between LSHTM: HKD 94,030, GBP ~6,600, USD 8,200+) and the highest ranked is North Carolina (Difference between LSHTM: HKD 403,000, GBP 41,000+, USD ~52,000). Most ridiculously is Southern California (or USC as it is more famously known), which is eye-poppingly priced at USD 81,541. That would be half year's salary if I was still working full time. How would they even attract international students with that figure? 

3. Masters in Health Professions Education, University of Glasgow
I eventually would like teach in some capacity, to trainees or medical students. Some part of the reason why is to feed my ego, to feel important, but mainly I do want better trained doctors (I have a whole blog entry I could write regarding improperly trained or not trained doctors).

The degrees come under a few names: Medical Eduction, Clinical Education, Health Professions Education. I've grouped into the same category since the content will be similar, if not the same. Like Public Health most of the course knowledge and theories are non-practical based. So you wouldn't lose so much between delivering the course online or face-to-face.

This is the one course I had difficulty choosing. There were many course I could select but I narrowed the options down to four universities. The other universities were either too expensive or didn't have a good ranking in either medicine or education.

Melbourne, even though a very highly ranked medical school, isn't worth the extra added cost. Edinburgh would have been my choice since the degree has already been approved as a quotable qualification in Hong Kong. However the course is research oriented, which I rather avoid. Glasgow has the nice balance of being a well ranked medical school with a reasonable price course. 
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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Holiday plans 2017-2018

For those who know me from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I've been busy preparing and taking my Exit Examination for the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians. Basically it means I'm trying to gain the title of "Specialist in Family Medicine". I know I won't pass because I bollocked up the clinical audit part of the exam, by handing in the audit late and incomplete. Hopefully that is the only part I have failed.

Since there is nothing I can do about the outcome, my focus has turned to my holiday plans for the next two years. I am very obsessive compulsive when it comes to holiday planning, as I have prepared trips years in advance. I already scheduled a trip to Taipei this year, no matter what the outcome of my examinations were. I'm taking my mum along this time because a) she hasn't had a proper vacation for a long time and b) I need her to help me navigate the language (since I can't read Chinese or speak Putonghua). For 2018, I have two trips planned. I want to go back to the UK in May/June 2018 so I can catch up with my brother and friends. I couldn't go to Seoul last summer, so I'm heading there in October 2018 to coincide with the WONCA (World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians) conference.

All this scheduling has left me a gap in late 2017 for a small trip. I have prepared options but I'm a bit indecisive in the matter, so I'm throwing it out to the public to gather opinion. I have four options, in order of date:

1. Tokyo Game Show (23rd to 24th September 2017)
Apart from E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) and gamescom, the Tokyo Game Show is one of the most significant gaming conventions in the world. Since you need to be a member of the video game industry to gain entry to E3 and gamescom is a bit far away as it is held in Cologne, the Tokyo Game Show is a more accessible option. I want to see what games will be coming out and see if there are gaming options for smartphones and tablets, as I've gone back to gaming recently after my cousin gave me his Xbox 360. The tickets are not expensive (¥1000 for advance tickets, ¥1200 for onsite tickets and ¥3000 for VIP tickets) and I can always do a bit of sightseeing. I've been to Tokyo twice before but I can't remember anything from the previous trips.

2. Malaysian Grand Prix (29th September to 1st October 2017)
Although I'm not a enthusiastic fan of Formula 1, I enjoyed the experience of the Singapore Grand Prix in 2014. I was also intrigued by the hospitality tickets for the Grands Prix (that's the plural of 'Grand Prix'), so I looked around at the other Asian Grands Prix to see what they could offer.

There are seven Grands Prix in Asia. I've been to Singapore, so I can rule that out. The Chinese Grand Prix is held in Shanghai but the circuit is actually in the outskirts of the city, which makes travelling to and from the hotel a bit of a hassle. Also I don't feel comfortable going to Chinese countries and not being able to speak the language (hence why I'm dragging my mum with me to Taipei). The only thing putting me off going to the Bahrain Grand Prix is that there is no direct flight between Hong Kong and Bahrain. This adds to the inconvenience and travel time. The Japanese Grand Prix has the same problem as the Chinese Grand Prix. It is held at Suzuka but that's about an hour away from the nearest city, Nagoya, and there isn't much I want to see around there.

That leave me with three possibilities: Australia, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi. Melbourne hosts the Australian Grand Prix and since I've just been there last year, I won't be back anytime soon. Abu Dhabi seems intriguing, since I've just found some attractions worth visiting. However it's a bit far away and would be reasonably expensive.

That leave the Malaysian Grand Prix, held in Kuala Lumpur. To be more exact it is in Sepang, an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur. I know I'm being hypocritical, since I excluded the Chinese and Japanese Grand Prix for being too far outside the main city but I also had other reasons not to choose them. Also I have a friend who lives in Sepang, so I could bunk up with my friend and save on accommodation fees.

I've been to Kuala Lumpur twice but I can't remember the attractions I saw (my memory is failing me), so I probably want to refresh my memory. The hospitality ticket I'm eye is not that expensive at ~US$2000.

So what is putting me off going to the Malaysian Grand Prix? As I said, I'm not a big fan of Formula One and I enjoyed the experience of Singapore Grand Prix but less so of the sport. It helped that the Singapore Grand Prix also had concerts by John Legend and Robbie Williams. Also going alone (as I will be) seems a bit pathetic and I don't know why. It's going to be difficult to find somebody to go with me and fork up that amount of cash.

I have to decide soon about the Malaysian Grand Prix, since this will be the final year it will be held as the Malaysian Government is not renewing the contract.

3. WTA Finals (22nd to 29th October 2017)
Before anybody says I'm going only to perv at female tennis players - you're probably right. But I did enjoy watching the Hong Kong Tennis Open in 2015, so I want to see top level tennis again. My overall aim would be to see Andy Murray, preferably at Wimbledon, but the logistics of that seem very troublesome. As the WTA Finals are held in Singapore, this is a more convenient option. I didn't go to see many attractions the last time I went to Singapore, so I hope to rectify that with this trip. The only problems are that a) I need a tennis player to root for and the only female tennis player I would go and watch is Laura Robson, who is way off from qualifying for the WTA Finals and b) like Formula One, I'm not a big fan of tennis.

4. Tokyo Motor Show (27th October to 5th November 2017)
Like any other grown up boy, if it is not video games I like then it would be cars. As Japan is a significant producer of the automobile, the Tokyo Motor Show would definitely be a place to see what the motor industry is offering in Japan.

Again ticket prices are not that expensive (¥400-1600) and since it's held over ten days, there are plenty of days to choose from. The only downside to the Tokyo Motor Show is that it is a biennial event. So if I don't go this year, I have to wait for 2019 for the next opportunity.

At the moment, I'm leaning towards the Tokyo trips but I know this is the last year I have the option going to the Malaysian Grand Prix (and probably one of the cheapest hospitality tickets on the Formula One schedule).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Left vs Right

I'm trying to stay out of politics recently but the situation in the world makes the subject very difficult to avoid. Politics are dominating the news and social media. The events of 2016 - mainly the refugee crisis in Europe, Brexit and the election of Trump to the U.S. presidency - have left me confused as to why so many people are taking right-wing views and has lead me to re-examine my political thinking as a liberal.

Ever since I could remember, I have always been a leftie. I wanted equality for all and believed climate change + animal rights are real problems the world should face. Yet I never really examined why I take these views on these issues. So I went back to basics and looked up the definitions of right wing and left wing. On Wikipedia (where else would I have gone to?), this was the definition of right-wing politics:
Right-wing politics hold that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal or desirable, typically defending this position on the basis of natural law, economics or tradition.
Before I go on, we should really establish that when the article mentions "social orders" and when I write anything about "social", what is really meant is wealth. Social classes went out the window after the World War 2 and was on really meant for countries where nobility thrived. What differentiates us the most in today's society is how much money you have. I don't deny there is this economic hierarchy. There will be people who will be richer or poorer than others. Yet I have a problem with how this social order is established and maintained. There are many who become rich via good, hard work. I don't have a problem with these people. My bile is reserved for those who arrive into the higher echelons of the social strata by scrupulous means. The methods include nepotism, exploitation of the masses, bending or breaking of the rules. I'll go more into this when I write about the economics of the Left and Right.

My argument brings me to the definition of left-wing politics (again, retrieved from Wikipedia):
Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. It typical involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others (prioritarianism), as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished (by advocating for social justice).
Before people start to label me as a Communist or a liberal elite hippie, I'm not advocating that everybody is equal. It has long been established Communism, where everybody is seen as equals, rarely works. The main Communist state of the Soviet Union fell and the other examples of Communist states nowadays are not really Communist (China, Vietnam) or don't thrive very well without some sort of capitalism to help (Cuba, North Korea). There never will be true equality amongst. We all cannot have the same money, material possessions, intelligence or physical attributes.

What I am advocating is equal opportunities for all. A person shouldn't be more entitled to a job, just because his/her relative owns the company or has connections to other businesses. A person shouldn't be denied access to education or health care because he/she has less money (something I will go into further detail when I approach education and health care).

Another moot point I have regarding right-wing politics is the use of "tradition". The term is rather vague but in essence people want to have things the same rather than change. I argue that things cannot always stay the same. Things will always change. We, as a person and a society, cannot stand still or we will cease to exist in our current state. If we continued to have tradition, the concept of slavery and female submission would have been kept. If we didn't progress, the Dark Ages would have continued and the sciences and the arts would not be where they are today.

A lot of "tradition" has used religion as its basis, something I totally disagree on. Some of my arguments against using religion as a basis of establishing rules and views on society is that not all people will be of that religion. There are people of other religions or of no religion, who will have different rules and views on society. Either there has to be a consensus between these groups of people, or a rule where the religion isn't affected (something I will elaborate when writing about gay marriage).

Delving into the definitions of left & right wing politics has re-affirmed by belief of being liberal but maybe not as liberal as I thought I would be. There always be a hierarchy, whether there are liberals or conservatives in power. But there always will be change and the end result should be an equal opportunity for all.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Revised suggestions for BBC Sports Personality of the Year

As an obsessive compulsive person, I like making lists. Especially regarding BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Yes, I know it is not the highlight of a sportsperson's career but it does add some recognition.

The last time I did the list, it was midway through the Olympic Games. Now that the Olympics is over, that list can be revised. It is difficult to select ten nominations. The last time there was an Olympics during Sports Personality of the Year, the nomination list was extended to twelve, which included the Paralympians. Even with just the Olympians, picking fifteen would be difficult.

So with that in mind, I had to cull a few from my previous list. Out go Bradley Wiggins (his Olympic gold came in a team effort, plus he's already won before), Katherine Grainger (despite winning medals in five successive Olympics, this time was only a silver)

So in no particular order, here we go.

1. Adam Peaty
- Olympic champion in the men's 100 m breaststroke, becoming Britain's first Olympic swimming male champion since 1988 (Adrian Moorhouse, 100 m breaststroke).
- European champion in 50 m and 100 m breaststroke.
- Broke his own 100 m breaststroke world record twice during the Olympic Games.

2. Jason Kenny
- Olympic champion in the men's sprint, keirin and team sprint.
- Kenny has tied with Chris Hoy as the British Olympian with the most gold medals (six).
- World champion in the men's sprint.

3. Laura Trott
- Olympic champion in the women's ominium and team pursuit.
- Became the British female Olympian with the most gold medals (four).

4. Mo Farah
- Defended his Olympic 5000 m and 10000 m titles (only the second athlete to do so).
- Became Britain's most successful athlete in track and field.

5. Max Whitlock
- Olympic champion in men's floor exercise and pommel horse. Also won bronze in the men's all round.
- Became Britain's first Olympic gymnast to win a gold medal.

6. Andy Murray
- Became Wimbledon champion for the second time.
- Became the first British male to win multiple Wimbledon singles titles since Fred Perry in 1935.
- Olympic champion in men's singles tennis.
- The only player to win two singles gold medals and to defend a singles title.

7. Nicola Adams
- Olympic champion in women's flyweight boxing.
- First woman to defend Olympic boxing title.
- World champion in women's flyweight boxing.

Here on after, the rest are maybes.

8. Justin Rose
- Olympic champion in men's golf.
- Could also help Europe win the Ryder Cup.

9. Charlotte Dujardin
- Olympic champion in individual dressage. Olympic silver medallist in team dressage.
- Successfully defended her Olympic individual dressage title.

10. Nick Skelton
- Olympic champion in individual jumping.
- Great Britain's oldest Olympic champion since 1908.

11. Liam Health
- Olympic champion in men's K1 200 m canoe sprint. Olympic silver medallist in men's K2 200 m canoe sprint.
- Became Great Britain's most successful canoeist at the Olympics (one gold, one silver, one bronze)
- European champion in men's K1 200 m canoe sprint.

12. Alistair Brownlee
- Olympic champion in men's triathlon.
- First triathlete to win two Olympic titles and defend the Olympic title.

13. Jade Jones
- Olympic champion in women's 57 kg taekwando, defending her title.
- European champion in women's 57 kg taekwando.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Post Olympic thoughts

Since Rio 2016 finished a few weeks ago, two issues have been occupying my mind:

1. The (questionable) success of Team GB
Team GB enjoyed it's most successful overseas Olympics, winning 67 medals. Yet there were many countries questioning their success. Sportspeople from France and Australia wondered how the British cyclists performed averagely in the World Championships earlier this year but roared to success in Rio. Even I was wondering how on Earth did Team GB become so good and hoped there wasn't anything else other than hard work, discipline and the will to win - such as hidden motors or doping.

There have been articles on why Team GB has been more successful than in the last Olympics. Most of the success has down to lottery funding. The poor performance at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, with just one gold medal won, changed the way British sports was administered. UK Sport was established in order to manage the proceeds from the newly established National Lottery. It used the money to target which sports were the most successful and would benefit from funding. The funds went to sportspeople so they could dedicate themselves full time and provide the infrastructure (such as training centres, supporting staff, etc.) to help the sports people be in peak condition. UK Sport is ruthless in the funding - if you don't obtain your target, your funding will decrease. The only targets were Olympic medals, so World Championship medals wouldn't have benefited British Cycling in terms of funding.

The medal target incentive seems harsh but the evidence suggests this plan has worked. Team GB have increased on the medal count at the Olympics ever since Atlanta - a total of five Olympiads. Compare this to the French Olympic team, which has roughly the same amount of funding but even distributes the wealth amongst all sports federations. That system is fairer but not necessarily more successful.

2. Why aren't Olympics sports not covered or celebrated more?
I have been quite tired of football recently. I have been following football less as I grow older. I still follow my team, Arsenal, with their results and highlights but with less enthusiasm. A number of things have disenfranchised me from the sport.

a) The overexposure of football
Football seems to be the top story in most sports media outlets throughout the year. Most of the stories are inconsequential. They include transfer speculation, injury news, reports on the manager's job safety and so on. I reckon most of the stories are made up or at least have bent the truth.

It doesn't help that the football seems to be always on. Out of 380 games during the English Premier League 2016-17 season, 168 games (44%) will be broadcast live. How can you have an uniqueness for a match when one out of two games are shown on TV?

To ensure there is maximum coverage of all matches, fixtures are regularly moved or played at times which are ideal for TV audiences. This has alienated fans who travel to games. These fans have to re-arrange their schedule and rebook travel tickets, which can be more expensive the later the match is re-arranged. Sometimes you can't arrange travel for some matches, such as Friday night, Saturday evening and Sunday. With all this money from TV broadcasting rights, have the paying fans benefited? No, which leads me to another point...

b) The amount of money being thrown around
The TV broadcast deal, for domestic and international rights, will earn the Premier League £10.4 billion over three years. The Premier League and its clubs will also earn lots more in sponsorship. Yet this hasn't trickled down to the paying punter. Single game tickets range from about £22 to £52 for the cheapest seats. If you want luxury, that will cost you £32-97. Unfortunately, with the popularity of the English Premier League, there are people willing to spend that money and these aren't always "true" football fans, rather people who view the game as a day out or an experience, rather than the drama, theatre and emotions true football fans view the game.

In order to stay in the Premier League, or become successful in it, clubs have thrown ludicrous amounts of money into players. The latest transfer window has seen the English Premier League spend more than £1.7 billion on players. Eight figure sums have been exchange for relatively unknown and seemingly average footballers. The average Premier League footballer will earn around £32000 per week or £1.7 million per year. This is just the basic salary and doesn't include their bonuses.

The amount of hype and money thrown around has disenfranchised me from the sport. So where else can I turn to? With the new found success of Team GB, why aren't these sportspeople more revered or paid better? The media should focus on sports which actually create success. Yet they seem to put the spotlight on the England national football team, which seems to limp to the second round of every major tournament before being knocked out by lesser teams.

If the sporting federations of Olympic sports want to capitalise , there's no better time by riding the wave of success. Encourage youngsters into taking up the sports by offering free introductory lessons, offer cheap tickets to sports events and get the Olympians to turn up to promotion events. Because I rather see a medal winning Olympian rather than an average Premier League footballer.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Early suggestions for BBC Sports Personality of the Year

I know many disregard BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Since the BBC lost the coverage of significant sporting events, their end of year of review hasn't been as good as it use to be. A lot of people tend to focus on the word "personality" and seem to exclude who don't think are exciting enough to be a "personality". Remember the term "personality" has many different meanings (I remember the podcast "No Such Thing As A Fish" defined personality as a special person and used the term "TV personality" as a comparison).

However SPOTY (the acronym for Sports Personality of the Year) gives rise to the intrigue of trying to compare different sporting achievements. With Rio 2016 halfway through, most of the focus will be on athletes who have excelled at the Olympic Games. Here are just a few suggestions for names that will be in the hat in December:

1. Adam Peaty
There was a lot of pressure for Peaty coming into these Games. He was the world record holder and world champion for his marquee event - the 100 m breaststroke. He showed he can handle the pressure by breaking his world record in becoming Olympic champion and giving Team GB their first gold medal of Rio 2016. He is also contributed in the 4 x 100 medley relay, helping the British team gaining silver.

2. Jason Kenny
Kenny moved into a tie with Wiggins and Redgrave as male Olympians with five gold medals, after winning in the individual and team sprints. He was already world champion, having won the individual sprint earlier in the year in London. If Redgrave and Wiggins can get knighthoods for wining five gold medals, surely there will be a Sir Jason Kenny coming soon?

3. Bradley Wiggins
Wiggins returned to track cycling after finding success on the road in the Tour de France and the Olympics. He won the madison with Mark Cavendish in this year's world championship and he gained his fifth Olympic gold with the win in the team pursuit. With that medal he becomes the most decorated sportsperson in British Olympic history. And for the people who are fickle that the winner of SPOTY has to have personality, Wiggo has plenty in abundance.

4. Laura Trott
The other half of British cycling's celebrity couple, she is no slouch herself. Going into Rio, she had already world champion at the scratch and omnium. Trott added the team pursuit to those accolades and became the only British female Olympian with three gold medals.

5. Mo Farah
I have no idea why Farah has not won a Sports Personality of the Year award. In the non-Olympic years of 2011 and 2013, he won both the 5000 m and 10000 m world championship. He already has won the 10000 m in Rio, despite falling down and he could retain the 5000 m later in the week. Surely his time is due.

6. Max Whitlock
If Louis Smith had been Team GB's gymnastic star in 2012, Max Whitlock has been the sensation in 2016. He helped Team GB win the team bronze and then going on to win two individual gold medals (Britain's first in gymnastics) in the floor and pommel horse.

7. Katherine Grainger
By winning a medal (silver) in the double sculls, Grainger became Britain's most decorated female Olympian with five medals (one gold, four silvers) and doing this at the age of 40 years.

8. Justin Rose
There were several golfers who shied away from the Olympics. Rose fully embraced being an Olympian. He attended the opening ceremony, despite it being six days before the start of the golf tournament. He carded the first hole-in-one on the first round and it got better from there. On a thrilling last day, he edged out Henrik Stenson to win the first Olympic golf gold in 112 years. He could further improve his odds of winning SPOTY by helping Team Europe retain the Ryder Cup in September. A honourable mention should include Danny Willett for winning the Masters in April.

9. Andy Murray
I have to declare my bias as I'm an Andy Murray fan. He won last year after helping Great Britain win the Davis Cup, where he really should have been someone else and the team win just Team of the Year. However it is difficulty to ignore his achievements this year. He has reached the finals of the Australian and French Open, becoming only the tenth player to reach all Grand Slam finals. He won WImbledon again in July and now he has become the first tennis to retain the single's title and win twice in the Olympic tennis tournament. He still has the US Open, the Davis Cup and the World No. 1 spot left in his calendar. Could this be the first time SPOTY has been won in successive years?

We still have half the Olympics plus the whole of the Paralympics to look forward to. Let's hope Great Britain's sporting achievements continue.

(N.B. Team of the Year should be Leicester City, defying the odds of 5000-1 to win the Premier League title.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Haters gonna hate Andy Murray

It has been announced the flag bearer for Team GB at the 2016 Rio Olympics will be Andy Murray. Naturally there are people who thinks he deserves the honour. Nonetheless there will be other people who think the responsibility should go to another sportsperson. Both sides have their arguments for and against, and all are valid. Yet somebody has to miss out. The most compelling argument is one I read from a reporter on Twitter. Of the 26 flag bearers for the British summer Olympic team, 23 have been white males. If you had argued on that fact, I wouldn't mind the flag bearer being Nicola Adams or Jessica Ennis-Hill.

However Andy Murray does deserve to bring in the Union Jack for Team GB. He has played at two Olympics, is current Olympic men singles champion and also won a silver medal in the mixed doubles. He competed in Beijing as well and stayed in the Olympic village there.

(However he did not stay in the village in London, as did most tennis players as the complex was very far from the tennis site of Wimbledon. Andy Murray won't be staying in the village for Rio, as he will be staying with the British tennis team in an apartment. I'm slightly disappointed with the decision but I've heard many well known athletes get hassled for autographs and photographs if they stay in the village.)

There has always been detractors regarding Andy Murray. It all started in 2006, when he joked he would "support whoever England were playing against" during the World Cup. Most people thought he was serious and took the comment the wrong way. I was on the opposite end of the spectrum. As a Scotsman, Andy Murray is allowed to make that joke. It has always been a joke every Scot has made about England's participation and Scotland's lack of participation at the World Cup finals. All Brits laugh at this joke, so why would we treat Andy Murray differently? A prime example of "being Scottish/British" joke is when Alex Ferguson was asked if he would take the England manager job. Ferguson replied he would make England worse if he did. Nobody was angry at Ferguson then (probably because they all fear him).

At least Andy Murray was trying to make a joke. Most sportspeople are a vacuum for humour. That is what you get if you dedicate your life to being the most successful sportsperson - your personality seems to go. Roger Federer has his admirers but I just find him bland, along with Rafael Nadal. At least Novak Djokovic is great at doing impressions of other tennis players. Those big three tennis players may have more Grand Slams, been men singles tennis No. 1 and have other accolades but I will admire Andy Murray more.

The only other controversy I can think Andy Murray has been in was his tweet regarding the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. He tweeted "Huge day for Scotland today! (The) No campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. Excited to see the outcome. Lets do this!" He got a lot of abuse online for that and I cannot see why. He's entitled to his opinion about any affair, whether it is informed or ill informed. As a Scotsman (although not living in Scotland), he has more of vested interest in that referendum than the rest of Great Britain. And anybody thinking he can summarise his own view of Scottish independence in 140 characters is in loony land themselves.

As you can see, I'm a great supporter of Andy Murray. He may have a monotonous voice when giving speeches or interviews but that is the way he is and he's not going to change that. He hasn't done any media training and I hope he stays that way. Nobody remarks how bland footballers sound when the give post match interviews.

People often confuse his dourness for a lack of humour. That is far from the truth. He poked fun at himself at the 2015 Sports Personality of the Year Award, when he said:
“I didn’t expect this. A friend actually sent me a message the other day with an article from a newspaper which said ‘Andy Murray is duller than a weekend in Worthing’, which I thought was a bit harsh... on Worthing.”
He shows that he doesn't mind being ridiculed. He has had to bear the annoyance of the kids from "Outnumbered" for Comic Relief. He was actually funny with Richard Ayoade for "Stand Up To Cancer". Yet the best example of his humour is his appearances on "Mock the Week". He has appeared in 2012, 2013 and last month. All come after recent successes at Wimbledon. He is brave enough to face seven comedians and let them have a dig at him. The point of ridicule must been on his second appearance, where one round of Scenes We'd Like to See was dedicated to him - Unlikely Things For Andy Murray To Think. Gosh that must be excruciating for him to watch but a delight for the rest of us.

As a supporter, I naturally follow him on social media. He posts on Twitter and Instagram semi-regularly but if you really want to see him more, you should follow his Facebook page. It's the usual you get from a sportsperson - mention of sponsors and charities, behind the scenes of his preparations. He does keep a lot of his personal life private and I don't mind that.

The snippets of his personal life I do know make me love him even more. He has two dogs Rusty and Maggie May. Rusty was named after Lleyton Hewitt, while Maggie May has her own book published and her own Twitter account. He has a great wife in Kim Sears. She is an artist but she stays silent about that and doesn't use her relationship with Andy Murray to promote her work. She is always by his side at matches (and at Mock the Week - surely she gets tired of that?) and you can occasionally hear her, like in the 2015 Australian Open (look it up).

Andy Murray may not be the best tennis player in the world, or the funniest or most exciting. But he is the sportsman I relate to. He know he's dour, he love his dogs and he like watching Mock the Week - sounds familiar to you.

On a last note, he geeks out about the BBC TV show "Sherlock". After winning this year's Wimbledon, he got a chance to talk to Benedict Cumberbatch. You can see he is a fanboy of Cumberbatch, and fist pumps when he hears that Series 4 of Sherlock is being filmed. Who doesn't love that?