Wednesday 20 November 2019

End of an era as McCoy departs a true champion

Tony McCoy duly won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2010 following his memorable Grand National triumph aboard Don’t Push It
Tony McCoy duly won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2010 following his memorable Grand National triumph aboard Don’t Push It

Richard Forristal

Prior to the BBC's 2010 Sports Personality of the Year, a few analysts wondered a little sceptically how AP McCoy winning the award would do anything positive for racing plc.

It was a legitimate question born of the contrived effort by sections of the industry's niche media and marketing ranks to get him over the line. More than anything, the question was rooted in a cry for racing to be secure in its own skin and not pine for outside recognition.

McCoy duly won the BBC title following his memorable Grand National triumph aboard Don't Push It. On reflection, it is maybe fair to acknowledge that his doing so did the sport no harm.

For a long time, McCoy's heroic feats went somewhat unappreciated in the wider world. The indifference was startling, even here, given his status as arguably the country's most successful sporting figure.

The Antrim native's Aintree success and the heightened attention that he subsequently received brought him to another level. In short, he transcended the sport and took it far beyond its own insular confines.


Saturday's emotional farewell at a sold-out Sandown brimming with 18,000 people was further proof of that. The enormity of the event and the flood of affection for McCoy overwhelmed him and many others. Richard Johnson, 16 times a championship runner-up and somehow McCoy's oldest foe and closest weigh-room friend, struggled to keep it together after winning the race in which McCoy had his final mount.

It was like watching a gladiator shed a tear for the nemesis that pushed him hardest and got the best out of him as he departed the arena. On both Mr Mole and Box Office, McCoy could muster only third, but the glory of what he has achieved will last forever.

"That was always my dream," he said after receiving the champion jockey's trophy for a 20th time. "I wanted to get out while I was riding well and as champion jockey. The people here have been amazing and I have felt very touched by it all."

Crucially, McCoy's legacy is also that of an exemplary role model. The disciplined way in which he conducted himself on and off the track is an example to all. Remember, it is by deed alone that he earned his rank as racing's most distinguished exponent. Sure enough, he has personality too, but it is his character that got him to the summit of his profession. A champion to his very core.

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