1981 Grand National: Bob Champion – The Greatest Comeback

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post in my Horse Racing History series here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Today I decided to do a little research into a horse racing legend Bob Champion and how he successfully had one of the greatest comebacks within our sport, or even within sport in general and I just had to share with you all!

Robert Champion CBE was born on the 4th of June 1948 in Sussex, shortly after moving to Guisborough in Yorkshire. Known as Bob Champion, he became a very popular and successful jump jockey. However, at the height of his career, in July 1979, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, where he was treated with chemotherapeutic drugs and also had an exploratory operation to identify cancer in his lymph nodes. Luckily, Bob successfully recovered and even returned to riding racehorses again.

On the 4th of April 1981, it was the 135th renewal of the Grand National at Aintree. Bob Champion made a return to this iconic race and it was an achievement just to come back to be able to ride in one of the biggest races in the world, however, to win it would be something pretty spectactular wouldn’t it?

Bob Champion took the ride of Aldaniti who had recently recovered from chronic leg problems and was nursed back to optimum race fitness ahead of the race. So overall, seeing Bob Champion, who has recently come back from cancer win on a horse who had recently returned from a severe problem, this would be a pretty incredible thing to witness and at 10/1, it was not something many expected to happen.

However… Making the comeback of all comebacks, Bob Champion and Aldaniti won by 4 lengths to the 8/1 favourite Spartan Missile. Their victory was special and one that nobody could forget in a while. This victory also earned them the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Team Award.

In the 1982 Birthday Honours, Bob Champion was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his contribution to sport.

A year later in 1983, the Bob Champion Cancer Trust was established. They help to support and raise funds for a research laboratory which is situated in the institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Surrey and they also have a research team in the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk. You can find out more information as well as how you can support and donate to the Trust right here: https://www.bobchampion.org.uk/

Bob Champion later became a trainer based in Newmarket, his first horse being Just Martin for owner Frank Pullen who also helped to build his yard. In 1999 Bob Champion retired from training horses.

On the 22nd of December 2011, Bob Champion received the Helen Rollason award as part of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In the 2021 New Year Honours, Bob Champion was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to prostate and testicular cancer research. It is said that so far in the region of £15 million has been raised.

I wasn’t alive to see Bob win the Grand National, but my parents have spoken to be about it many times, including when we met Bob at a meeting in 2019 and my dad filled me in on the whole story and how he made the ultimate comeback so I decided I needed to look into this and write something up.

Overall, Bob Champion is exactly as his name states, a champion. He is living proof that no matter what happens to you, you can always come through it so much stronger than before. Bob had a deadly disease, but he came back to win the biggest race in the world and what a true inspiration he is to do so. I really enjoyed reading into Bob Champion and even though this is a shorter piece, I really hope you enjoyed it! I shall see you all in my next post.

One thought on “1981 Grand National: Bob Champion – The Greatest Comeback

  1. Pingback: The History of the Grand National | zoelouisesmithx

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