South African sports legend John van Reenen (71) passed away on Tuesday at his home in Calitzdorp, South Africa. (He suffered from diabetes). He studied art right here in Seattle at the University of Washington until 1971, and was a world-class discus thrower at the time. He wanted to attend the 1972 Olympic Games, but was barred as a South African citizen. South Africans were barred by the IOC from the Games from 1964 to 1992, due to the South African government’s apartheid policies.
At an event in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 1975, Van Reenen set a world record with a throw of 68.48 m. Discus throwers studied and imitated his technique, known for a long time as ‘the South African drill’. Perfecting a good technique is notoriously difficult – which may be why the world record of German Jürgen Schult of 74.08 m, set in 1986, still stands today. It is the oldest record in all of men’s track and field.
Wow! Kevin Anderson is the first South African in almost 100 years to make it to the Wimbledon Men’s Final (Brian Norton made it in 1921).
The match ran for 6 hrs and 36 minutes, Anderson finally prevailing over American John Isner, with a monster score of 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4 and 26-24. There is no ‘tiebreaker’ (played at 6-6) in the final set. To win, a player have to lead by two games (called an advantage set).
So far, the US Open is the only major tournament that dictates that a tiebreaker be played even in the final set .. but I bet other tournament committees are now going to look into doing it as well. Long matches such as these wreak havoc on the tournament schedule, and on the eventual winner’s ability to be ready for the next match. The other semi-final between Djokovic and Nadal had to be suspended, and will only be completed on Saturday.
The Wimbledon Men’s Final and the World Cup Final are both set for Sunday. (England plays Croatia on Wednesday for a place in the World Cup Final against France). So far, Wimbledon’s management has refused to budge, and will not reschedule the traditional 2 pm (1300GMT) start time. The World Cup does start two hours later, at 4 pm (1500GMT), but there is no way the tennis final will have been completed by that time.
I guess I will have to toggle back and forth – but if Roger Federer plays on Sunday, I will have to miss some of the soccer.
It might be the last Wimbledon hurrah for Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He turns 37 in August. Are there any praises still left to sing? asks tennis.com.
Update Wed 7/11: South Africa’s Kevin Anderson beat Federer today in a tough 5-set match (13-11 in the final set). Yay! for Kevin. Aww .. Roger is out after all. And England fell to Croatia, 1-2. So it’s Croatia and France on Sunday.
England went through to the final eight in the World Cup, but they made their fans bite their nails through a penalty shoot-out against Columbia.
One has to feel sorry for the team that loses in a penalty shoot-out. It’s like the tie-breaker in tennis. A stray shot, a lucky break, a bare miss, makes the world of difference between winning and losing.
I try to watch as many World Cup matches as I can, and I just love the bit of pomp and ceremony at the start. The players come out onto the field with the kids, the giant flags are unfurled on the field, the national anthems play, and the game starts.
Cruise ship season is starting up here in Seattle. We saw the Norwegian Pearl from Norwegian Cruise Lines at the pier today. She was scheduled to leave at 4 pm.
Also departing Seattle, were a line-up of yachts taking part in the Clipper Round the World race. The yachts are heading out to Panama, and will make their way up the East Coast to New York. It will take an estimated 26 days to reach Panama, and another 12 to get to New York City from there. Bon voyage!
The Masters started in Augusta, Georgia, today. Gary Player (age 82) and Jack Niklaus (78) were on hand to perform tee shots for the ceremonial opening of the tournament.
Tiger Woods (42) is attempting a comeback, but had a rough start, finishing 7 shots behind Jordan Spieth, the talented 24-yr old Texan.
Check out South African Louis Oosthuizen’s putt on the 16th. He sank a 30-footer by standing with his back to the hole, and judging the sharp break on the putting green perfectly. Big smile and a little shrug of the shoulders afterwards.
I loved the short pairs program of Chinese figure skaters Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. Their music was k.d. lang’s dreamy, languid rendition* of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, and the skaters delivered a flawless and emotional performance. Wow.
*Lang sang it at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
It was great to see the unified Korean team come into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony. One could argue that Korea is the only divided country that remains in the world. For example, there was North and South Vietnam (united in 1975), East and West Germany (united in 1990), and South North and South Yemen (also united in 1990). And yes, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but one cannot see it become one country again.
I read that support for Korean unification is fading, though. Some 50% of young South Koreans regard North Korea as an outright enemy, that they want nothing to do with. The harsh reality is that there is a yawning chasm between the economies of the countries. The per capita income difference between the South and North is 20 to 1. For West Germany and East Germany it was 3 to 1.
Hey! The 2018 Winter Games is underway. US figure skater the ‘quad king*’ Nathan Chen (18) made his debut on Friday in Pyeongchang, but disappointed. He failed to properly execute the quad triple toe, and fell on another jump, ending up in fourth place. ‘Was it nerves? What went wrong?’ inquired an interviewer. “I wasn’t nervous,’ Chen said. ‘I felt pretty comfortable, I was relaxed and ready to go.’ He did admit that he ‘got ahead of myself. I think I was a little too excited.’
*Chen is the first figure skater to land five quadruple lutz jumps (four rotations) in one program. These jumps take a lot of energy, physically and emotionally. Chen is also the only undefeated men’s skater in the world this season.
I had to take a nap this afternoon! I watched the Australian Open Men’s Final in the wee hours of Sunday morning, from 1 am to 4 am. It was totally worth it. Roger Federer won his 20th Grand Slam* championship, at 36, which is unheard of in modern men’s pro tennis. (Both numbers: the 36 and the 20).
*A Grand Slam tournament is one of the four big ones: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon or US Open.
There’s a new kid on the (Australian Open 2018 tennis) block: South Korean Hyeon Chung. Chung is 21 yrs old, and nicknamed ‘The Wall’ for his ability to return all incoming serves.
He reached the AO Men’s semi-final by beating American Tennys Sandgren on Wednesday (Australia time). In the previous round, he took out former World No 1 Novak Djokovic in a great match.
Chung and his new coach, South African Neville Godwin, will have to pull out all the stops for his next match, though : against World No 2 – and arguably the world’s greatest tennis player ever, Roger Federer.
Update Fri 1/26: Chung had to throw in the towel and retire from his match against Federer, due to a blister on his foot.He was down 1-6 , 2-5.
Oy vey, what a disappointment! Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifying soccer match of the USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago, ended in a 1-2 loss for the Americans.
After losses of 1-2 to Mexico and 0-4 to Costa Rica as well, it meant that for the first time since 1986, the USA did not qualify for the World Cup. ‘You can’t get a draw, a tie, against Trinidad? You don’t deserve to go to the World Cup’, said an exasperated Taylor Twellman afterwards, in an epic rant on sports network ESPN.
Twitter (#USMNST) was set alight by soccer fans : video of chimpanzees kicking soccer balls; ‘well, they had to beat both Trinidad AND Tobago’; ‘dear Donald Trump, I’m getting tired of all the winning’; ‘On a side note, I’ve been to Trinidad and Tobago. It’s a lovely country’.
I see the Dutch team (called ‘Oranje’ for their orange jerseys) did not qualify, either. Aw.
The Argentinians came perilously close to the same fate, but they have superstar Lionel Messi, and he scored three goals in their critical match against Ecuador, securing their place in World Cup 2018.
South Africa’s ‘Bafana Bafana’ team is still in contention in Africa Group D, but will have to win both match-ups against Senegal in November.
Australia’s ‘Socceroos’ will travel to Honduras in a play-off match, in their quest for a fourth-consecutive World Cup appearance.
Knee osteoarthritis is much more prevalent today than it was just a few decades ago. A doctor on Wednesday morning’s show on CBS pointed to inactivity and obesity as the main culprits. So! Make sure to get enough exercise.
I got up at 6 am this morning to watch Roger Feder (Swiss, he turns 36 on Aug 8!) and Marin Čilić (Croatian, 28) play in the 2017 Wimbledon final. Federer won in what was a one-sided match with Čilić saddled with a painful blister on his toe. The best part for me to watch, was Federer’s little tour afterwards through the VIP lounge, here. His family was there, of course, and Prince William and Kate, and Rod Laver, Stefan Edberg, and many other well-wishers, saying ‘well played’.
I hope in a London that had recently suffered a spate of terrorist attacks, and the terrible Grenfell fire, the tennis brought some sense of normalcy back. I sorely appreciate Roger’s grace – in his speech on the court, and in his tour of the lounge afterwards.
American football fans and other on-lookers (me) watched the Superbowl tonight. I really thought the Atlanta Falcons had it in the pocket with their 28-0 lead in the third quarter. But no! the Boston Patriots caught up with them, and with 28-28 at full time, the game went into overtime and .. the Patriots were first to score, sealing their 5th Superbowl win with a touch-down, 34-28.
Below the surface of it all churned some ugly politics. The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reports that it all seemed like a 2016 Presidential election replay. Trump* is friends with Patriots quarterback Brady and coach Belchick. Neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer tweeted that the ‘white team’ Patriots must win over Atlanta from the South. The carefully crafted Superbowl commercial about Adolphus Busch (German-born), coming to America to brew Budweiser beer, was seen by some right-wingers as supportive of immigration – prompting them to call for a boycott of Budweiser beer. Man. Give it a rest!
*Trump left the viewing party at Mar-a-Lago in the third quarter, apparently giving up on the Patriots .. but (of course) tweeted his congratulations after the win.