I Put These Celebs through Hell! Paddy Shennan Meets the Coach Behind Comic John Bishop's Sport Relief Challenge

Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), February 28, 2012 | Go to article overview

I Put These Celebs through Hell! Paddy Shennan Meets the Coach Behind Comic John Bishop's Sport Relief Challenge


HE'S the man currently pushing comedian John Bishop to Sport Relief glory - and the man who was behind successful ultra-endurance missions undertaken by the likes of David Walliams, Eddie Izzard, Cheryl Cole and Gary Barlow.

In a previous, equally-successful, life, Liverpool John Moores University Professor Greg Whyte was an international modern pentathlete - which involved the small matter of swimming, shooting, fencing, showjumping and running.

Greg, 44, competed in two Olympic Games - Barcelona 1992, when he came fourth, and Atlanta 1996 ("a disaster!") - and won a silver World Championship medal in 1994 and a bronze European Championship medal in 1991.

Today, although the married dad-of-three is based in Marlow in Buckinghamshire, he's frequently in Liverpool - working as a Professor of Applied Sport and Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University.

And since 2006, he has been closely-involved with Comic/Sport Relief, helping intrepid celebrities complete the toughest of challenges - which has now brought him together with John Bishop, who is hoping to complete his gruelling, five-day Paris to London triathlon this Friday.

Greg says: "It's been great working with John because he's an ordinary guy. He's a geninely nice bloke, which makes my life that much easier!" But so tough is his challenge, the coach reckons it will take John a long time to fully appreciate what he achieves this week.

He explains: "David Walliams said you don't really start to enjoy a challenge until two months after you've done it. When you are actually doing them they are purgatory because they're so relentless."

As is the training. Greg tells me: "After you interviewed John for the ECHO the other week I took him out to run his first marathon. When we were halfway round freezing rain started coming down and for the last six miles John didn't speak - and that would be pretty unusual for John!" The celebrities, says Greg, undoubtedly go through "dark times" - and he says: "The pressure on them is enormous because they have an incredible amount to lose.

"Cynics say they just do it because they want to be on the television, but do they really think David Walliams has to swim the Thames to get on TV?" But regarding the pressure, Greg laughs and says: "The greatest pressure is on me. When they are successful they get front pages, appearances on This Morning and BBC Breakfast and general adulation - but when something goes wrong it's my fault!" There is a lot of pressure because the challenges are always high-profile - for example, two hour-long documentaries (Walliams vs The Thames and John Bishop's Week of Hell) are due to be screened on BBC1 on March 8 and March 22.

Greg says: "In the David Walliams one, you'll see him calling me names! …

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