On July 22nd, Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France in its 99 year history. He has also won seven Olympic medals; a bronze in 2000, a gold, a silver, and a bronze, in 2004, and two gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Today, Mr Wiggins competes for his eighth medal at the London 2012 Olympics, and if he wins will overtake Sir Steve Redgrave, with whom he is currently tied, to become the most decorated British Olympian ever. Perhaps feeling bolstered by his historic Tour de France victory, Mr Wiggins recently predicted that winning a gold medal in London would be “a doddle”.
As things stand, Team GB has a total of four medals (two silver and two bronze), and is ranked 21st in terms of medal count for London 2012, behind Lithuania and Slovenia. The British Olympic Association has urged the public to “be patient”, saying that Britain’s performance is on track and there would be good things to come.
A recent nationally-representative YouGov public opinion poll found that 69% of UK adults thought that winning the Tour de France was more impressive than winning an Olympic gold medal for cycling at the London 2012 Olympics. Only 17% said winning a gold medal for cycling was more impressive.
In YouGov’s SportsLab, we invited our panellists to tell us which of the two achievements they thought was most impressive.
Q: Do you think any win by a British Olympian in the forthcoming Games would match winning the Tour de France?
Reflecting the nationally-representative public opinion poll, the largest proportion of those who took part in the Labs discussion said that Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France was more impressive than any likely British Olympic victories.
- Those who were of this view said that the sheer “endurance” and “stamina” required to compete in and win the Tour de France, which takes place over 23 days, makes winning it a more impressive athletic feat that a one-time Olympic best.
- You also said that the fact no Briton has ever won the cycling competition in its nearly century-long history also makes Mr Wiggins victory more impressive than anything Team GB might achieve at London 2012.
The second largest proportion of Labs participants said that winning the Tour de France and any victories likely to be achieved at London 2012 are equally impressive.
- Participants in this group argued that both competitions, while different, required equal “dedication”, “commitment” and “spirit”.
- You said that athletes competing in both competitions have trained equally hard – for years at a time – and therefore their achievements were equally impressive and important.
Then a rather small proportion of Labs participants took the opposite stance – that Team GB was likely to secure victories at London 2012 that would be even more impressive than winning the Tour de France.
- The small group of participants who were of this group argued that Olympic victories are more impressive because the chance to compete only comes along every four years, and because of the prestige, history, and high profile of the Olympic Games as a whole.
“Wiggins is the first ever Brit to win the Tour de France, which is one of the most gruelling sporting endurance events possible. The feat was thought of as impossible five years ago. An Olympic gold medal is a great achievement, but not unique like the Tour de France victory” Shaz, Birmingham
“The Tour de France is such an intense competition on the competitors and it must take such a physical and emotional strain on their bodies. I felt that the media tended to ignore Tour de France till the end and wouldn't have recognised the effort that British competitors put in” Charlotte, North West
“The achievement is amazing, watching cycling for years and never thought I would see the day” Anon
“No other British sportsman has ever won the event, whereas British Olympians have won gold medals in the past and a number of them will probably do so this time. The Tour de France is a gruelling two week event and only a handful of individuals within a certain time will ever win. Gold medals are impressive, but 100+ people will end up winning one during the next two weeks” Phil R, Derbyshire
“Only because you could look at just one yellow jersey as a gold medal and Wiggins kept on winning them over three weeks! The stamina and courage involved (along with his team's support) makes his achievement breath-taking” Susan C, Yorkshire
“The Tour de France is one of the world's most prestigious and physically demanding annual events, where competitors are required to be at the top of their game for a month. Whilst Olympic victory is impressive, a win at the Tour de France eclipses all other cycling competitions” Chris, Merseyside
“All of them are athletes who are the best in the world at their chosen sport and have dedicated their lives to achieve the best they can. …. Certainly some are fitter, some are faster, but would an archer win the Tour de France, or Sir Steve Redgrave win rhythmic gymnastics?” Simon, North Cornwall
“The two competitions test different attributes of the athletes. The Tour requires consistency and endurance, but this reduces the immediate pressure – there is room to recover from lapses. In contrast, the Olympics are all about the performance on the day” Alex, Edinburgh
“They have all had to train for many years and adopt lifestyles that are conducive to excelling in their sports. The commitment is an inspiration to many people throughout the world and they are terrific role models for a generation that is not encouraged to compete” Sue, Chatham
“The people competing at the Tour de France are just as well-trained and competitive as those at the Olympics, and some do both, so winning at either event is impressive. And when was the last time a Brit won at the Tour de France? People should celebrate Bradley Wiggins' achievement” Anon
“They are totally different sports. One is a crazy road race around France and the other a sporting festival with many different events. Any achievement in either is amazing” Anon
“Most sportspeople put in an awful lot of effort and training for their respective events, most have dedicated themselves entirely towards their event. They should be applauded for their efforts. Though le Tour is three weeks of constant effort and most of the riders have events all year round, whilst Olympians have to wait four years for theirs. Winning either a gold or le Tour is just very impressive” John, Leith