Sport Sport Focus The parent trap: champion offspring do it tough

The parent trap: champion offspring do it tough

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It’s hard to get out from under the shadow of a parent.

And should you decide to follow the same career path, things can get very murky.

No matter the field, if you go into the same line of work as your folks, you best be prepared for a lifetime of unfair comparisons.

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But when that parent is an elite athlete, the pressure is enough to squeeze the life out of your dream.

In the newly-released movie Creed, the illegitimate son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed fights under the name ‘Adonis Johnson’ to avoid being measured up against his father.

I’m sure many real-life athletes wish they could do the same.

Jeff Jordan played college ball, but never reached the NBA. Photo: Getty
Jeff Jordan played college ball, but never reached the NBA. Photo: Getty

So full credit to Mick Schumacher, the 16-year-old son of seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher.

Mick is embarking on a career in motor racing, and Nico Rosberg – who has so far failed to emulate the world title-winning efforts of his father Keke – says the pressure on the youngster’s shoulders is ridiculous.

“Mick had it worse than I did. It’s an incredible amount of hype,” Rosberg said.

“I never had it like that and it’s a pity as it must certainly take some of the fun of the sport away from him, but it’s something he has to accept and live with.”

History has been littered with the broken dreams of those who didn’t quite measure up.

Joe Frazier was a brilliant heavyweight champion, the first man to ever beat Muhammad Ali.

His son Marvis was a very good amateur, but his professional career is remembered only for one-round destructions at the hands of Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson.

Spare a thought for Michael Jordan’s boys Jeff and Marcus – both of whom played college basketball while never making it onto an NBA roster.

Credit to them for ever going near a court for all the times they would have heard ‘not as good as the old man’ whispered behind their backs.

Pele’s lad had a novel idea to avoid being compared to his father – he became a goalkeeper.

Edson Cholbi Nascimento played between the posts for four different Brazilian clubs: Santos, Portuguesa, Sao Caetano and Ponte Preta.

Gary Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II (the silver and bronze bear, respectively) picked up the clubs and had some success as amateurs, but little as pros.

Gary Ablett’s dad is considered the greatest footy player ever by some. But he’s no slouch himself. Photo: Getty

Heaven help Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf’s children if they decide to pick up a racquet (although at least finding a good coach won’t be difficult).

But sometimes it goes the other way too.

Like Floyd Mayweather Jr – whose own career positively outshone that of his father. (Jr’s career, to be fair, has outshone just about everybody.)

Basketball stars Stephen Curry and Kobe Bryant are two who didn’t just emerge from the shadows of their NBA-playing fathers (Dell Curry and Joe Bryant), they destroyed them, then eclipsed the sun themselves.

Ronda Rousey failed in her bid to emulate her mother’s effort of winning judo gold at the Olympics, but found fame and fortune in the UFC regardless.

Stephen Silvagni, Dustin Fletcher and Gary Ablett Jr are examples of AFL players who made it out from under, in a competition that so likes to compare offspring they have a law drawn up to make sure sons of successful players have a better shot at lining up at the same club.

So to all those athletes with recognisable surnames, who follow their dreams even though they know they might fall short, we salute you.

It takes a lot of guts to be your own man or woman.


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