We are delighted to bring you an Interview with Bob Champion MBE…. Bob is a Grand National winner, who had a film made about his story, Champion!
The former National Hunt Jockey is a survivor, an author, a campaigner and a public speaker.
We talk to Bob about everything from the early days, the 1981 Grand National, meetin the Queen and the Bob Champion Cancer Trust….
Can you recall your first memory of racing and what led you to become a National Hunt jockey?
I remember watching the Grand National on Pathe News..
When did you make your NH debut and when did you ride your first winner?
I made my National Hunt debut at Folkestone & rode my first winner at Plumpton
How would you describe your career pre 1981?
I would describe my riding career as very enjoyable and I rode lots of winners
When did you know you had an issue with cancer and what were your first thoughts when you received the diagnosis?
I had an issue in 1979 and my first thoughts were that I thought I was going to die!
Compared to today’s medical research, how long was the recovery period and when did you know you would ride again?
The recovery was 7 months & I didn’t know if or when I would ride again but it was a goal to aim for….
You guys finished 3rd in the 1979 Cheltenham Gold Cup and 2nd in the Scottish Grand National prior to winning the Grand National, What was he like to ride and how was he away from the track?
He Jumped well and stayed… I never had anything to do with him off the track though…
Winning the 1981 Grand National is still viewed today as a miracle & rightly so, what were you thoughts leading up to the race ?
I thought he was well handicapped & I was sure he would win
Your story was made into a film, starring John Hurt, what input did you have into the film and how did you feel, knowing they were making a film about you?
I worked with script writer and I’m proud they made a film about me….
You also were the subject of another TV appearance in 1981, this time by Eamonn Andrews and his big red book, This is your life during your wedding…
Did you really have no idea this was going to happen?
I had absolutely no idea what was about to happen…
A year later, you and Aldaniti headed back to Aintree to try and retain the Grand National, falling at the first fence, there must have been some frustration at that?
I remember feeling very disappointed
A visit to the Palace in 1982 to meet the Queen & pick up an M.B.E, this must have been a very special moment for you, what did the day feel like & what did the Queen say to you?
The Queen loves racing and we talked about the race
You have published 2 books, the first – Champions Story with Jonathan Powell, how did this come about?
Jonathan Powell and I thought it was a good idea
In 2018 you published your second book… I’m Champion, Call me Bob… Can you tell us a little about this book?
It brought things more up to date
You founded the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, how long has this been going and roughly how much have you raised?
The Bob Champion Cancer Trust was founded 25 years ago & we have raised £15 million
In 2015 the University of East Anglia opened the Bob Champion Research & Education building, this must have been a very proud moment for you and the Trust. Can you tell us about what is done at this facility and how it will help in the future treatment of cancer…..
It has done a lot to detect the early signs of cancer so it can be treated before it’s to late
Winning the 2011 Helen Rollason Award at the Sports Personality of the year show and the 1981 Grand National being in the top 100 sporting moments, along with the Cancer Trust, just show’s how the public hold you and Aldaniti in high esteem.
What does the future hold for Bob Champion ?
Hopefully the Bob Champion Cancer Trust can get bigger and better and help save more lives…..
We would like to thank Bob for his time and wish him all the best for the future.
Interview by Rich Williams
1981 Grand National & Featured Image (Racing Post)
Book cover (Bob Champion Website) & BCCT R&E( University of East Anglia)