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1 - Find your top athlete

Who would you like to nominate for the title of world's greatest sportsperson. Write down five facts about them.

2 - Tell the others

Tell the other students the facts about your sportsperson and see who can guess their identity first.


Student A:
  1. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1963.
  2. He starred in the hit movie 'Space Jam'.
  3. He is 2m3cm tall.
  4. He is well-known for his endorsement of many consumer products.
  5. He retired from playing basketball in 1999.

Student B:
Michael Jordan?

4 - Exam focus

Paper 1 Reading: Part 1 (multiple matching)

About the exam: Paper I Part I is a multiple-matching task. The text is generally on one topic but is sometimes divided into different sections. You are usually required to link each of I2-I8 questions with a particular section of the text.

Suggested procedure

  1. Read the instructions carefully.
  2. Read the whole text to get an idea of the content of each section.
  3. Read all of the questions, highlighting key words/phrases. Make a note of any answers you are confident about.
  4. Go back to the questions you are not sure about. Take each one in turn. Decide which sections they might refer to. Scan those sections carefully for 'parallel expressions'.
  5. Check you have answered all the questions.

Exam task

Answer questions 1-14 by referring to the article about athletes. For questions 1-14, answer by choosing from the list (A-D) on the right below. Some of the choices may be required more than once.

Which athlete
ran two long distance events in one Olympics 1_______
nearly died between winning their first and second Olympic Games? 2 _______
won oe competition despite intense suffering? 3 _______
would consciously do badly on certain occasions? 4 _______ A Daley Thompson
suffered physical injury due to the lack of a common household item? 5 _______
had a third Olympic victory which seemed almost miraculous? 6 _______ B Al Oerter
has impressed the writer by their courage as much as their continuing athletic achievement? 7 ________
won his Olympic event more than three times? 8 _______ C Ron Clarke
ignored their doctor's advice? 9 _______
was believed to be too badly injured to return to competitive athletics? 10 ______ D Ana Quirot
ran in conditions that they were quite unused to? 11 ______
in one competition thought everything depended on the first attempt? 12 ______
suffered physical injury during an opening ceremony? 13 ______
deliberately trained at an unusual time? 14 ______



There is some intangible element that separates the champion from the also-ran. Doubtless the geneticists will be able to isolate it one day and implant it, but for the time being, we can only marvel at the men and women who win whatever the odds. Like double Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson, who would train on Christmas Day, strengthened, he said, by the knowledge that none of his competitors would be doing the same. Thompson would also try to reproduce the pressure of competition by deliberately doing poorly in the first two attempts at one of his disciplines (the shot put, for example) in order to force himself to throw the best on the third attempt, since that's how many chances he would get in proper competition. And indeed, Thompson would regularly pull out a winner in exactly those circumstances, when all seemed lost.

But more remarkable still are those champions who overcome jury, tragedy, war and oppression to get to the top. Al Oerter stands in the front rank. On the face of it, Oerter's four successive Olympic gold medals in the discus mark him out as a man who transcended competition. Yet Oerter had to face setbacks which would have defied any ordinary athlete to even get to two of those Games.

Oerter lived on the East Coast of the USA, a continent away from the Californian sunshine under which the majority of his competitors trained. But that was a minor inconvenience compared with the almost fatal car crash he survived between his 'surprise' Olympic gold at the age of 20 in Melbourne 1956 and his incredible triumph in Rome four years later, where he won again. But his victory in Tokyo in 1964 after a series of grave physical injuries was the sort of comeback which is normally associated with a visit to Lourdes*. After Rome, Oerter began to suffer from chronic cervical disc injury, which required him to wear a neck brace. Undaunted, he continued to train and compete. If that wasn't bad enough, a week before Tokyo he tore a cartilage in his lower rib

Doctors advised six weeks' rest, but after a shot of Novocaine, and with an ice pack taped to his side (and his neck brace on), Oerter went out and set an Olympic record in qualifying. But in the final, he faced Ludvik Danek, who hadn't lost in 45 competitions. Oerter told a colleague, 'If I don't do it on the first throw, I won't be able to do it all.' He didn't do it on his first throw. Out of the medals after four attempts, he gave it everything he'd got on his fifth. Oerter was probably the only person in the stadium not watching the discus as it winged its way to another Olympic record - he was doubled up with pain. But he had won again as he did, albeit in less heroic circumstances, in the next Olympics.

* Lourdes: a small town in SW France considered by Roma Catholics to be a holy place. Many sick people go there to be cured.
Multiple world record holder Ron Clarke of 60 Australia was another great athlete who suffered excruciating pain in the pursuit of his goal in the Olympic 10,000 metres in Mexico in 1968. Athletes had been warned that the thin air at altitude could affect them badly; there were even fears for their lives. The Australian team doctor was moved to agree when Clarke collapsed in his arms after finishing as first non-altitude runner in fifth place, and had to be administered oxygen while unconscious for ten minutes.

It wasn't the first time that Clarke had been forced to withstand extreme pain in the pursuit of glory. When the Olympics were in Melbourne in 1956, Clarke, then the world's leading junior miler, was chosen to light the Olympic flame. But the torch had been overloaded with magnesium, and inextinguishable burning matter fell on the youngster's arm as he mounted the steps. Uncomplaining, he continued and duly lit the cauldron. He spent the rest of the ceremony having medical treatment.

In Mexico, Clarke returned later in the week to contest his other distance, the 5,000 metres. But the Aussie is convinced that the so heart condition which he now suffers so badly that he can barely jog three kilometres without stopping is a direct result of pushing himself to the limit.

But the Grand Prix for courage in the face of overwhelming adversity must go to Ana Quirot. World 800 metres silver 85 medallist in 1991 and Olympic bronze medallist the following year, Quirot was at home in Cuba a few months later, preparing to give birth to her first child when she was victim of a horrific domestic accident.

Because soap powder can be difficult to get, clothes are often boiled in an alcoholic spirit. Quirot's wash literally exploded on the stove and into her face and body. She suffered third degree burns to much of her skin, lost her child and almost died. She spent months in hospital, followed by years of skin grafts, and the odds against her returning to athletics, let alone winning anything, seemed astronomical.

There was surprise when she resumed her training in early 1994, amazement when she turned out for the Pan-American Games later that year, and incredulity when she won the silver medal.

We ran out of superlatives the following year when Quirot not only returned to the highest level of competition, but won the World 800 metres title in Goteborg, in the fastest time of the year. Quirot was already a much admired athlete. But she has won many more fans, not simply by her comeback after such adversity, nor for her victories, but by the manner in which she has comported herself. Her willingness to face up to the camera with pride and defiance has been a source of inspiration to everyone who has encountered her.
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