Teacher’s notes for Winning

Before reading the book

  1. Compare the different versions of the same image on the front and back covers.
  • Which do you like best?  
  • Which one best conveys the impression of speed?  
  • The illustrator, Gregory Rogers, first suggested the image above as the cover. Do you think this would have worked on the bookshop shelf? 
  • If you were deciding which picture to have framed to put on the wall in your room, which of the three would you choose?
  1. Look closely at the face in the bottom left hand corner of the cover illustration. What dominant emotion is this person feeling?
  • Disappointment?  
  • Excitement?  
  • Despair?  
  • Exhaustion? 
  1. Read the blurb on the back of the book.  
  • Do you know someone who might fit that description of Pearce?
  • Do you think Pearce and Yosef will still be friends at the end of the book?

Analysis and application of knowledge

Read and discuss the novel.

  1. In the front of Winning you will find a quote from the fable ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ by Aesop. Read the fable.  
  • Can you think of any other occasions on which the statement ‘The race is not always to the swift,’ might have been true?  
  • Here are two newspaper reports of events in which the race was not won by the fastest competitor.

Chip Le Grand

The most Mark Webber had hoped for in his long-awaited Formula One debut was to see the chequered flag at the end with his motor running and wheels still turning.  

In an extraordinary afternoon touched by what now must be known as “Bradbury’s luck”, Webber not only made it to the finish at Melbourne’s Albert Park yesterday but picked up two championship points for perennial F1 cellar dweller Minardi.  

A lap or so before Webber crossed the line with both fists pumping the air, the race was actually won for the fourth consecutive year by a Ferrari, driven for the third year running by Michael Schumacher. The legion of Ferrari supporters celebrated as usual as Schumacher imperiously took the podium, but for parochial petrol heads who have waited 16 years for an Australian to claim points in any F1 race, let alone an Australian Grand Prix, this was another kind of red-letter day.  

Webber said it felt as though he had won, and given the jubilation in the Minardi pits a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that was so.  

Webber climbed onto the podium to be doused with champagne.”

“The West Australian” , Page 1 – Monday March 4 2002
The West Australian, Monday February 18 2002  
“In from the cold: Australian speedskater Steven Bradbury, his rivals sprawling in his wake, gives a disbelieving salute after grabbing gold in the 1000m short-track event at the Winter Olympics. “


 “The fickle gods of short-track speedskating smiled on Steven Bradbury as he starred in Australia’s very own Miracle on Ice.  

Bradbury won Australia’s first Winter Olympics gold medal with a win in the 1000m that beggared belief.  

He was in last place in the final with 15m to go when the other four skaters all went down in a spectacular crash.  

The Australian avoided the chaos and skated across the line in a time of 1min. 29.109sec. and with a look on his face he later described as “I can’t believe this”.  

Event favourite Apolo Anton Ohno, of the US, picked himself up off the ice, leg gashed badly, to take the silver medal and Mathieu Turcotte, of Canada, slithered across the finish line to claim the bronze.  

Brabury had won his semi-final in almost identical fashion and advanced from the quarter finals earlier in the night only when four-times World Cup overall champion Marc Gagnon, of Canada, was disqualified for impeding, which elevated the Australian to second place.  

“I just went into the semi-final planning to sit at the back and look for accidents or collisions or something so I could sneak up the inside if any accidents happened – and they all went down,” he said.  

“Same deal in the final.  

“Obviusly I’m not the fastest skater but they were my tactics and they worked like a charm.  

“Someone’s looking out for me today and I’m glad that they did.”  

Bradbury, 28, was a member of the short-track relay team which won Australia’s first Winter Olympics medal – a bronze – in 1994.  

He is the sole survivor from the 1994 team and only decided to stay in the sport for a fourth Olympics because he was unsatisfied with how he had performed in the individual races in the previous three.  

“Obviously I have the gold medal around my neck but whether I deserve to be in the same place as people who have won gold medals without the luck I had is something I’ll have to come to terms with,” he said.  

“I take it as a reward for effort in past Olympics where I think I should have been on the medal dais in individual races and wasn’t.”  

Bradbury’s previous best individual result at an Olympics was eighth in the 500m in Lillehammer eight years ago. ”


Read both reports.

  • Do you think that either or both races should have been re-run?  
  • Discuss the tactics used by Stephen Bradbury during the semi-finals and the final of the speed skating event at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. 
  • Did he expect to win?  
  • Did he deserve to win?  
  • Imagine that you were in the lead and fell, bringing down three other skaters. How would you feel? 
  1. Write a short story describing the race from the point of view of the skater who was in second place when the person ahead of him fell, bringing them both down.  
  • In most stories the main climax comes towards the end. Is this the case with Winning?  
  • Which part of the book do you think is the most exciting?  
  • How did Yosef feel when he beat Pearce for the first time?  
  • Which character in the story did you like best?  
  • Which one did you like least?  
  • If you could be one of the kids in Pearce’s gang, which one would you choose to be?  
  • Little Athletics clubs everywhere are concerned about what has become known as ‘the ugly parent syndrome’. Does Pearce’s Dad suffer from this?  

Form two teams and debate the topic:  

‘The parent’s role is to stand quietly on the sidelines at sporting events in which their children are competing.’

  1. Choose two people to act as policemen,one to interview Yosef about the school gardener’s shed robberies, one to interview Frankie and Denton.  
  • How do the two versions of the same event differ?  
  1. Draw an imaginary map of the suburban area where the two schools are situated.
  • Show the route that the three boys took to reach Woodvale School.  
  • Show the route that they took to get back to Denton’s house.
  1. Write a report for a local newspaper describing the incident at Woodvale school in the middle of the night.

Extension Activities

Select one or two students from amongst the spectators at your next Interschool Sports Carnival to act as reporters.  

Publish their articles in the school newsletter.  

Go on an excursion to the nearest newspaper office or printing press.  

Design and make the ideal sporting trophy.