Grand National hero Bob Champion heads to India as part of new BBC1 series
Grand National-winning jockey Bob Champion has faced many challenges in his life. His latest is a very public one, for he stars in the new series of The Real Marigold Hotel, at 9pm on Wednesday on BBC1.
Champion achieved one of the most famous triumphs in racing history when winning the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti just two years after undergoing treatment for testicular cancer.
Fast forward to today and the 70-year-old was one of nine veteran celebrities who lived together for a month, last September, for the four-part BBC1 series.
They were based in Udaipur, India, for a series designed to enable celebrities to experience a more modest way of life and offer them a chance to see a part of the world they have yet to appreciate.
Champion, who has helped raise millions of pounds through the efforts of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, was certainly up for the experience.
He said on Tuesday: “They got in contact with me last year and asked me if I wanted to go on it and I thought, 'Why not?'
"I’d never been to India before and never really thought about it, but I jumped at the chance when offered. Going somewhere I’ve never been to see a different culture – and it was certainly that – was the appeal.”
The former jockey and trainer, who released his autobiography ‘I’m Champion, Call Me Bob’ in April, revealed it was an eye-opening month, even if he was unable to include his tales in his new book.
He said: “I think the poverty was what I’d take most away from the experience. We were very fortunate, we saw both sides of India, the rich side and poorer side, and then the very poor people.
“The traffic shocked me. They must get on better than we do because they seem to go every direction around a roundabout. I don’t think there are any laws on the road.
"I got to relive my youth a little on the back of a motorcycle. They don’t wear helmets and there’s no health and safety, so it was fun.
“Families go on holiday and they seem to argue, but we all got on very well and worked together. I made some good friends and still see plenty of them now.”
Heading to another part of the world often brings its difficulties. Food was Champion’s main one.
“The diet was horrendous," he continued. "I’m not a curry man, so when you have curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s not that pleasant, for me anyway.
"I got the Delhi Belly a couple of times as well. I think the others avoided it, but I definitely had it.”
There was, however, plenty of fun to be had by Champion and his fellow housemates Selina Scott, Susan George, Stephanie Beacham, Syd Little, Peter Dean, Stanley Johnson and the Krankies.
“It was fun, we did lots of different things," said Champion. "They got me back on a horse a couple of times. It was all right, they took me on a horse for about eight hours when we were staying overnight somewhere.
"I think people will enjoy the show because you’ll get a different insight into India in a lot of ways.”
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