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John Dark, MB FRCS
Freeman Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

john darkThe big, unavoidable news story just now is the Olympics.

London 2012 has had some great performances, some wonderful moments, but also ... media overload, the razzamatazz of the opening ceremony, and tax breaks for multinationals (and I live in the UK!). There's no question why Coca-Cola is the drink of the Olympics and the burgers come from McDonalds. We can applaud the individual achievements of these champion athletes, but is the whole thing an inspiring metaphor for what we do in heart and lung transplantation, as some suggest? My answer is no!

The name Bradley Wiggins may not mean much in North America or Australia, but in Europe and particularly the UK, he is the hero of the summer. His achievement, and importantly, those of his team—to be the first Brit to win the Tour de France—is a real example for all of us.

The Tour is one of the greatest endurance challenges in sports: not a mere 100 metre dash or even a two-hour plus marathon, but three weeks of almost continuous racing covering hundreds of kilometres every day. There are flat-out speed trials, huge mountain passes, 50 mph crashes and mile after mile of effort in sun, wind and driving rain.

The Tour is won by supreme athletes, but only with the crucial support of a hugely accomplished team, keeping up the effort for weeks on end. To my mind, that's the right metaphor for the work done by members of the ISHLT. The winner rides with a group of others: pace men to set the rhythm, sprinters to burn off the opposition - and sometimes win stages of their own. They are like surgeons, showing the way but each with specialist skills. Traditionally some just carry the water—domestiques—but all contribute. Behind the riders but equally important are those in support: physiotherapists, dieticians, mechanics, organisers, nurses, coaches, logistics experts.

It's no surprise that, due to such a superb team, this year's second place cyclist was from the same outfit.

So as we are looking after our patients, rising to the challenges, going that extra kilometre, being there day after day, we should look to Wiggins and the Sky team as an inspiring example of gruelling preparation, grit and determination. Now that is a metaphor worthy of attention!

NB Since writing this piece, Wiggins added to his summer's success with a gold (his 7th Olympic medal) in the cycling time trial.

Disclosure Statement: The author has no relevant conflicts of interest to disclose.