Graeme Obree
January 31, 2011 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Earlier today, Graeme Obree revealed that he is gay, attributing his struggles with mental health in the 1990s to this. "I was brought up thinking you'd be better dead than gay."

Graeme Obree was an outsider athlete, an ordinary bloke with a feverish commitment to breaking one of cycling's most honored records, the Hour Record. He used never-before-seen techniques perfected on homemade equipment, and changed it up each time the UCI, cycling's governing body, outlawed his new techniques.

For years in the 1990s he was locked in rivalry with Chris Boardman (Documentary on youtube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), each upping the ante with new records for riding the furthest on a velodrome in one hour. Boardman responded to Obree's innovation with unusual, high-tech, super-aerodynamic bikes of his own.

Eventually, out of concerns that records were being set because of technological developments rather than a rider's own abilities, the UCI outlawed aerodynamic techniques in pursuit of the Hour Record, establishing in separate categories The UCI HOur Record and the "Best Human Effort" category. Obree and Boardman's battles were relegated to the latter, with Boardman getting the last word in September 1996 with a record of 56.375km in one hour. To translate, that's riding a bicycle at 35mph - for an hour.

Obree, defeated and embittered about a career that never took off due to his refusal to take performance enhancing drugs, attempted suicide twice. His struggles were chronicled in an autobiography and subsequent film. [Previously and previously.]
posted by entropone (15 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I know who he is and I think he's a extremely brave man in all sorts of ways.
posted by Lezzles at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2011

Obree tweets, "thanks and more thanks I had fear about today but instead I have been inspired."
posted by entropone at 12:47 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I wish him well and hope that coming out will be the beginning of a better life for him in every area of his life.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:48 PM on January 31, 2011

It's a great story, something that was really captivating to watch unfold in real time in the 1990s. I hope that this helps him to find some peace.
posted by fixedgear at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2011

Bravo for him! It has to be a huge sense of relief, although probably also a bit scary for him right now. Coming out is difficult enough without it being a national news story.

And also, bravo for him! We need more athletes coming out. Everyone knows there are gay sports people at all levels, but they remain closeted for so many reasons, macho sports culture not the least of them. But slowly the closet door is opening, and a few brave souls are stepping out. I hope soon the door opens wide and we recognize and celebrate the true diversity and brilliant physicality of all our sports heroes.
posted by hippybear at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2011

Obree's long been one of the troubled heroes of sport. I hope this helps him achieve some peace in his personal life; he deserves it.
posted by ardgedee at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I too wish him well -- he's gotten a raw deal for far too long. The summary of his cycling career reads like a farce -- the UCI literally did conspire to shut him out of the sport on a great many occasions, despite his many technical contributions to the sport and ridiculously impressive physical performance.

Go see The Flying Scotsman if you haven't already done so. It's a great film.
posted by schmod at 12:58 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Chris Boardman: @GraemeObree the man who revolutionised a sport.....twice, amazing.

The Obree - Boardman rivalry was fantastic in the mid-90's. Boardman in his wind tunnel, on his Lotus designed bike and Obree, with his home made bike and his marmalade sandwiches. It was great stuff. Thousands more people got interested in cycling through those two and the UCI treated him terribly. The outlawing of the tuck position right before the '94 world championships was an outrage. That Obree responded with the Superman position and won the title the next year was one of the greatest FU moments in sport.
posted by IanMorr at 1:36 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Had not heard of the man before but I'm glad I now have.
posted by Anything at 2:12 PM on January 31, 2011

*raises a cuppa in salute* keep pedalin' brother.
posted by Severian at 6:15 PM on January 31, 2011

Had not heard of the man before but I'm glad I now hav

My reaction too, thanks for posting his story.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:14 AM on February 1, 2011

Good for him, a brave move.
Out of interest are there any openly out cyclists in the pro ranks? The only one I can think of is Missy Giove.

Go see The Flying Scotsman if you haven't already done so. It's a great film.
It's a decent enough iteration of the 'Eccentric Outsider vs The Establishment' trope, but gave a pretty one-dimensional characterisation of a pretty complicated guy I thought.
His autobiography is a great and heart-rending read.

As I read it struck me that he was always riding in the hope of outpacing his demons, maybe he won't feel the necessity any more.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 3:41 AM on February 1, 2011

Missy Giove has had some problems since she retired in 2003. It doesn't look too good for her.
posted by fixedgear at 5:00 AM on February 1, 2011

She could be out in 2015; it would be a hell of an unlikely come-back admittedly.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 5:05 AM on February 1, 2011

If ever a man deserved some happiness, it must be Obree.
posted by Segundus at 7:27 AM on February 1, 2011

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