I had never heard of Ashima Shiraishi until the last few days. But then again I am a 42 year old bore who rock climbs twice a year and probably not the target audience for her or indeed her new sponsors.
Ashima has just been awarded a sponsorship deal by Coca Cola.
The sort of vitriol she, or more specifically (thankfully) this deal, has been subjected to by some quarters of the outdoor / climbing community is frankly mystifying!
My first reaction to the news, once I had got over my indifference, is "well done - it is shrewd business", but then again I am one of those horrible people who likes shrewd business. I don’t mean unfair business, just good old, money-making business. And I make no apology for it.
Ashima wants to be a sportswoman. I have no doubt she has worked harder than the vast majority of her critics to get to where she is at the tender age of sixteen. Based on this hard work, vision and drive she has landed a (presumably) large sponsorship deal.
Hazel Findlay has written a very interesting and balanced article on the BMC site on this subject and I urge everyone to read it. She comes from a position of knowledge that I do not on the subject of sponsorship. But, I am a parent.
I drink Coca Cola a handful of times a year - it is great for an upset stomach by the way (don’t ask me the science behind that). However, do I advocate it or indeed allow my six year old to drink it and will this change any time soon? Absolutely not. I am fairly sure its garbage.
Do I think the the nation to the dangers of excessive sugar consumption? Yes. But, do I object to the existence of products like Coke or indeed the people used to promote it? Of course not. I am not some crazed controlling totalitarian nanny (my daughter may disagree).
What I do object to in the whole "sugar / our children’s future debate" is the failure to mention parents anywhere! Where are they? Have we totally given up on them? Are they all so feckless and stupid that they cannot educate their children?
Perhaps I don’t want to know the answer to that.
I police my daughter’s life; I give her a degree of freedom and I guide her as best I know. This includes me NOT ALLOWING her to drink sugar-filled fizzy drinks. Amazingly it works!
When she is 16 she will doubtless rebel and sit behind the bike sheds drinking coke with her mates, probably imagining herself to be as cool as whoever the Ashima Shiraishi of the day is. So what? She will be aware of the dangers and will not have spent the previous 16 years trying to contract diabetes.
And she will not have the authorities to thank. It will have been her parents who did this for her. Stand up parents, it is not the full-time job of the climbing community or the government to educate and nurture our children. Stand up and take responsibility.