Archive for the ‘sport’ Category

Anti-racing fanatics flog two dead horses for political gain

In animals, sport on November 6, 2014 at 12:20 am
This is how I'll remember Admire Rakti, thanks. Pic: Nicole Garmston

This is how I’ll remember Admire Rakti, thanks. Pic: Nicole Garmston

I’m not going to lie, I have some problems with the horse-racing industry.

I think there are definitely questions that need to be asked about how many horses are bred for racing and what happens to the ones who, inevitably, are going to win nothing. Jumps racing is an abomination and should be banned worldwide NOW. Jockeys need better protection. Horses need better protection from excited crowds. Drugs testing should be improved and ramped up.

But … there is nothing that outrages me more than watching anti-racing fanatics using the still-warm corpses of the two horses on Melbourne Cup Day as a platform for their own political purposes.

There was nothing — NOTHING — about the deaths of Admire Rakti and Araldo that was evenly vaguely related to cruelty.

Araldo’s incident was pure accident, nothing more, nothing less. An excitable, and excited, horse was spooked by an excited human doing something stupid — waving a flag in his face. He kicked out in the wrong place, breaking his hind leg when it went through a fence. Everyone at the race course, and at the equine hospital, did everything they could to not just save his life, but save his leg. He was eventually euthanised, not because it was all too much trouble, but because the life of a horse with a badly broken leg, even if he can ever stand again, is one of pain and disability. THAT would have been cruelty.

As for Admire Rakti … what a bloody tragedy. It’s clear from the preliminary autopsy and chief vet’s report, that he suffered a severe cardiac event — a heart attack, or irregular heartbeat, that he couldn’t recover from. It was completely unpredictable and from what I’ve heard and seen, there was no sign of it beforehand.

These horses are vetted, right up until the morning of the race. And again behind the barriers, they’re being watched pretty closely.

Of course, he was the favourite. Nobody wants to see the favourite scratched. So if there was a pre-race cover-up about the horse’s condition, then of course, yes, that should be investigated and dealt with.

But as far as I could see, as far as the TV experts could see, and as far as the vet behind the barriers could see, Admire Rakti was ears up, on his toes and ready and willing to race.

Human athletes drop dead for no reason. Remember Piermario Morosini? Miklos Feher? Remember Fabrice Muamba? He survived, but it was out of the blue and a damn close thing:

Yes, humans have a choice. But I truly believe racehorses love racing. They’re smart, strong, brave, beautiful creatures and I don’t for one minute think they would go as hard as they do if they didn’t enjoy it.

I was disgusted by the anti-racing lobby on Tuesday and yesterday. They have legitimate arguments to make, and plenty of support, but they did nothing but make themselves look like opportunistic extremists dancing on the graves of two horses who deserved more respect.

Shame on them.

Rest in peace Admire Rakti and Araldo.

Why @7Sport’s tennis coverage needs to grow up

In fail, feminism, media, sport on January 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm
Todd Woodbridge ... honorary vagina

Todd Woodbridge … honorary vagina

It’s hard to think of an Australian sports event that gets wider international coverage than the Australian Open tennis. You only need to spend half an hour listening to AO Radio to realise that. They’re hearing from listeners around the globe.

The Boxing Day Test might come close, i suppose, but that’s only because two-thirds of India are betting on every ball.

Otherwise it’s hard to think of any others with such a broad appeal worldwide.

It would be great if Seven could show some real commitment and sophistication in their coverage.

Let’s start, for instance, with their attitude to women.

As far as I can work out there are only three women involved in Seven’s commentary team. Rennae Stubbs is courtside and post-match interviews. But only on women’s games. Brit Sam Smith is in the box, but only for women’s games. And only as a sidekick to Todd Woodbridge or Hamish McLachlan.

And what’s with the Brit? Are there no competent Australians around? No doubt Liz Smylie and her cohorts are off earning real money with the American networks. UPDATE: Liz Smylie is earning very few bucks, I suspect, with ABC Grandstand.

And there’s Johanna Griggs who has been doing the voiceovers, mostly saying “not too far away”. Until last night she’s been heard and not seen, which is a shame as she’s a proven on-camera talent and makes a nice change from Bruce McAvaney’s increasingly quirky presence. Special.

Seven, if a woman can umpire a men’s match on centre court in a Grand Slam event, why can’t a woman commentate on it? It’s the same sport, just with uglier outfits and bigger serves. C’mon.

It’s not just the commentary box team that is telling, however. Look at the big guns commentating on the men’s matches for Seven. McAvaney, Fitzgerald, Roger Rasheed, Newcombe and of course, the big money, Jim Courier. Where’s the big spend on the women’s team, Seven? Where’s Evert or Navratilova, or Shriver, or Austin or Smylie or whoever?

Jim Courier stepped on court for a women’s match last night. Of course it was only to tell us that we only had to sit through one more set of women’s tennis before the real stuff started with the upcoming men’s match.

Seven brings in the execrable Henri Leconte every time a French player steps on court. Oh, wait. Every time a French man steps on court. Alize Cornet is going around against Sharapova this morning without the benefit of Leconte’s buffoonery. Actually, thanks for that.

Then there’s Seven’s scheduling. Yesterday, for example, there were three seeded women playing, including the fourth seed and HUGELY popular Li Na, in a cracking three-setter, but Seven chose to focus on a men’s doubles match featuring two young Aussies Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, It wasn’t until there was a delay in that match that they switched to Li Na.

There’s interest in Australian players and then there’s stubborn parochialism that sacrifices good tennis for the sake of a bit of pointless flag-waving. We missed Azarenka the other night, because you thought we wanted to watch Gael Monfils (+ Leconte) and some young American neville called Sock. Earlier in the week we got to watch Aussie neville Josh Thompson while the defending champion Novak Djokovic was going around on another court.

It’s not good enough, Seven. It’s not good enough from a tennis fan’s point of view. It’s not good enough from a woman’s point of view.

Wake up and smell the 21st century, FFS.

Tell Australian tennis players the truth

In sport on January 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm
Remember this guy? You're not alone

Remember this guy? You’re not alone

I remain baffled by the inability of Australian tennis “experts” to either see, or if they see, to tell the truth about our best tennis players.

Ignoring LLeyton Hewitt for the moment — whatever his faults, the little bugger’s in great form and is easily the best thing Australian tennis has seen since Pat Rafter and Pat Cash before him — the current crop of Aussies in action are not worldbeaters.

Samantha Stosur, easily the most likely prospect among both the women and the men — a US Open title is proof of that — has a limited style of game that most of the top echelon worked out how to combat years ago. Hit the ball deep, restrict the time she has to wind up, rush her, and Sam’s game falls apart.

On top of that, Sam has the most mentally fragile game I’ve ever seen. And that includes the early Navratilova and Jelena Dokic at her most abused. Whoever is advising Sam seems to continually tell her to gloss over whatever’s going on with her game, at least publicly. Being positive is a good thing, but there’s also an argument that says if you want to improve you have to first acknowledge the weaknesses so you can then work on them. It’s already pretty much too late for Sam.

It’s also clear to me that whatever is happening in Sam’s life off-court affects how she plays on-court. If things are going well, that’s all good. But if your private life is … well, let’s say stressful … that’s going to take its toll.

I wish Sam every happiness.

Bernard Tomic … where to begin. If i had a father like that, I’d be fucked up as well. Or I would have been at Tomic’s age, at least. That’s the good news, believe it or not.

Tomic is mentally tough — if by mentally tough you mean he continues to believe he’s the best thing to walk on to a tennis court despite having utterly no results to back that up.

He’s lazy, arrogant and has the attention span of a goldfish. Yesterday’s final against Juan Martin del Potro was a case in point. For six games, Tomic matched the big Argentinian well. It was 3-3. And then, in the seventh game of the first set, Tomic switched off. His feet stopped moving. His strength of shot dropped right off. His service speed dropped. He lost interest. And never got it back. 6-3, 6-1. Thanks for coming.

Ash Barty is fantastic. Every accolade she gets, she deserves. She is tiny, however. That’s always going to make it tough against tanks like Serena Wiliams and the tall blonde robots coming off the European conveyor belt.

And then there’s the rest. Chris Guccione, Luke Saville, Ben Mitchell, Josh Eagle, Matt Ebden, Nick Kyrgios, Marinko Matsovic … yep, all good, solid players. Woldbeaters? Nope, not a one of them. If they were they would have shown a spark of it by now.

I don’t care what the pundits say about ‘oh there’ll never be a teenage champion again’ … maybe not, but there should be a spark of it in evidence by now. And none of them have got it. That’s why we’re all slobbering over a 32-year-old called Hewitt who is grooming himself for a lucrative commentating career and Tomic. Who doesn’t give a fuck.

The last time we got excited about a tennis player, it was Richard Fromberg. Remember him? We thought he was gonna be fabby. I was part of that. I interviewed him a few times, talked him up. He won four singles titles, never made it past round 4 in a grand slam and never climbed higher than No 24.

Why do we do it? Why do we talk these players up and kid them that they’re going to be worldbeaters? Are we so desperate for a hero that we kid teenagers into thinking that trawling around the world, living on nothing, winning nowhere near enough to pay their way, is somehow going to lead to the heady world the top 20 live in?

I don’t have any answers. I just wish we wouldn’t be unrealistic about their chances. It’s not fair to them or the people paying their bills.

It’s small, and petty of me, I know …

In sport on December 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm


… but I do love watching Englishmen lose. At any sport, really, but cricket especially. This morning’s session was particularly lovely to behold. Shane Watson battering 100 off about 3 balls, George Bailey slamming James Anderson for 28 runs off one over, and Ryan Harris removing Alastair Cook’s bails with the first ball of the innings.

I got a bit teary. I did.

Even having to listen to muppets like Shane Warne and Ian Chappell is leavened by the sheer bliss of watching pale, morose Englishmen grass catches, miss stumpings and watch their pies disappearing over the long-on rope.

Having said that, Joe Root, Michael Carberry and … well, Root and Carberry … are class acts. The english commentators have been moaning about how great some of these players are, but i don’t see it. they haven’t shown it when I’ve been watching. they won the series in england just gone through luck, one dodgy DRS that saved Ian Bell and inconsistency from the Australians.

Now we’ve got our shit together, i think they’ve crumpled like a wet paper bag.

Gorgeous to behold.

Grey old day

In fail, films, media, sport, television, weather on November 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I know just how you feel P-Siddy

Why do we try and play Test cricket in Brisbane in November and December?

I’d be pretty shat off if I could only get to the Gabba today and I’d shelled out a small mortgage for tickets only for it to rain. Quelle surprise!

I’m already pretty shat off and I’m sitting on the couch at home, watching a bloody awful Gary Cooper movie (Springfield Rifle, 1952 — Major Lex Kearny becomes the North’s first counterespionage agent as he tries to discover who’s behind the theft of Union cavalry horses in Colorado during the Civil War) that Nine has plonked on while the rain comes down in Brisbane.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that Nine, with all its experience broadcasting cricket over the decades, would have thought to themselves: ‘Hmmm, November in Brisbane — we’d better have a decent Plan B for the three days of the Test it’s going to rain’.

Maybe they did and Springfield Rifle was the Plan B they came up with. Scary.

Meanwhile, I have a chest infection. It’s miserable. I am miserable. But tomorrow it will be a little better, and a little bit better again on Monday.

And who knows? By Tuesday we may even get some cricket.

Is it just me, or were the Paralympics waaaaay better than the Olympics?

In london, media, sport on September 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Colour me crazy but I found the Paralympics so much more satisfying as a spectacle than the Olympics.

I’m sure the Australian medal count has something to do with that, because I am just that shallow, but the whole enterprise was just bursting with great stories and good humour.

It took me a few nights to warm to the ABC’s panel of … what were they exactly? Comedians? … well, yes, actually. But, partly because Paralympians turn out to be a funny lot, and partly because Stephanie Brantz did a fantastic job of reigning the comics in and keeping them focused, the panel turned out to be note-perfect for the event.

The commentators at the sports were top-notch — Peter Wilkins, Peter Walsh, Quentin Hull and Gerry Collins were my picks — and a new star was born in Amanda Shalala who bounced around trackside. She knew her stuff, was bright and cheerful and conducted post-race interviews the Channel 9 clowns could learn a lot from if they ever bothered to watch the ABC.

The crowds were huge — well done the Brits.

But the athletes … damn, if you can’t see how good these people are at what they do, then you need to learn how to widen your gaze.

If Matthew Cowdrey had two good arms, he’d be pissing on James Magnussen from a great height, and I’m not just talking about from a performance point of view. He conducted himself humbly and graciously and eloquently … even when faced with the unnerving prospect of talking via Skype with his parents in front of the cameras.

Jacqui ‘Frenzy’ Freney, Ellie Cole, delightful young Maddison Elliot, Kurt Fearnly — who accepted the fact that it was arch rival David Weir’s day in the sun with a smile — the Rollers, Gliders and Steelers … all these people should be household names, and they should be gracing Nutri-Grain boxes and Telstra ads as much, if not more, frankly, than their able-bodied counterparts.

These are the athletes who throw themselves into their sports with gusto, talent, and a wondrous ability to ignore the titters and giggles and embarrassment of the able-bodied world which isn’t used to the sight of a swimmer with no arms head-butting the end of the pool just to register a time.

I can think of some able-bodied swimmers who would cruise to the wall gently for the sake of their sparkly, Aussie flag-adorned nails, for crying out loud.

It’s been a cracking couple of weeks of sport and stories and winning. Thank you, Paralympians, and thank you ABC.

Farcical men’s pole vault … tanking by another name

In fail, london, oxygen thieves, sport on August 8, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Shame, pole vaulters, shame.

What a bloody farce. For those of you avoiding the Olympic dramafest, let me fill you in. The qualifying rounds of the men’s pole vault were on tonight, including defending Olympic champion, our own Steve Hooker.

The automatic qualifying height was 5.70m, but they never got there, because despite the conditions being that only 12 were to progress to the final, with 17 competitors left and nobody yet over 5.60m, the competitors, led by Hooker, decided to tell the officials that they didn’t want to continue and that everyone left should go through to the final.

The officials resisted the first time and made some clear 5.60m until there were 14 left, but then Hooker et al did it again, packed up their spikes and poles and called it a day.

Hooker, who has been in notoriously jittery form the past year or so, only made one vault, clearing 5.50m and therefore made the final without having to risk embarrassment.

I call bullshit on the whole deal.

If this isn’t tanking, what the hell is, ladies and gents??

If you’re Joe Bloggs, forking out a small fortune for tickets to the athletics and could only afford one session and particularly wanted to see the pole vault, you’d be well jacked off about now, and rightly so.

And where the hell are the officials? Out the back trying to grow a spine, I suspect. How do a group of spoiled, entitled athletes get to dictate the rules of the game?

Jane Fleming was blatting on in commentary, wondering why on earth they would want to stop vaulting.

It’s obvious, Jane. The less they have to risk failing, the happier they are, clearly.

Never mind your higher, faster, stronger bullshit. Never mind entertaining the paying public. Never mind giving the nation’s taxpayers their money’s worth. Never mind your bloody stupid Olympic ideals.

No, no. If they can get through to the Olympic final by talking their way into it instead earning it with their athletic ability, then hell, yeah, they’re going to do it.

Pathetic, guys. Just pathetic.

The Olympic swings and roundabouts

In london, sport on August 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm

There’s already been a lot written and spoken about what’s gone wrong for the Aussies at the London Olympics and no doubt there will be much wailing and gnashing in the coming weeks as the post-mortems are wheeled out.

Just today Shaun Carney, associate editor of The Age, had his say:

The point is, Australians pay for these athletes to compete, not to ”have fun” or waste their energies on Twitter and Facebook or to buckle under the pressure and then make excuses about it. This was James Magnussen’s first Olympics and it’s not hard to see how a 21-year old can be overwhelmed by it all. But coaches, managers, administrators and older teammates are there to stop that happening. Did anyone at any point pull him aside and tell him that he was not on a free ride, that hard-up families in the outer suburbs had helped him get to London through their taxes, and that if he talked the talk he had to be able to walk the walk? Not only did Australia send its best athletic talent to London, it also shipped over some of its entitlement mentality.

Hard to argue, really. Particularly in the case of the swimming team. In fact, I think it applies almost entirely, and only, to the swimming team.

I certainly haven’t noticed such entitlement and blase attitudes from, say, the Hockeyroos, the Opals, or the cyclists. And certainly not the track and field stars or the rowers.

There’s no question it takes money to buy Olympic gold medals. You can argue left, right and centre about where that money should be spent — on the elites, or the grassroots, for example — but the fact is you have to pay to find and develop athletes capable of performing on the Olympic stage.

Team GB are doing it on the back of their lottery, which generates gazillions.

It’s unfortunate that so much of the focus in the first week of the London Games was on the swimming. They performed badly, somewhat petulantly and/or without seeming to care too much.

Steph Rice and Kobe Bryant? If that’s not King and Queen Entitlement then I’ll swim backwards to China. I rest my case.

And maybe, just quietly, it’s a generational thing. Maybe this Olympiad’s crop of Australian athletes just aren’t that good. There are the exceptions of course — Sally Pearson, Anna Meares — but isn’t that always the way.

It’s 36 years since we won no gold medals at all in Montreal. Is it really reasonable to assume that after stellar performances in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, we could maintain the high-achieving level?

Video evidence … my cat has an equestrian crush

In animals, sport, television, video on August 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Feeling a bit sorry for the Missile

In sport on August 2, 2012 at 11:48 am

… I mean the nickname alone suggests a certain explosiveness which may or may not be predictable. Just ask the North Korean space program.

Poor old James Magnussen, eh? Fancy being only an Olympic silver medallist. Shit, eh?

For the last 6-12 months the bloke’s been told he’s the next Ian Thorpe. The next Michael Phelps. And even Michael Phelps hasn’t been able to live up to that one this time around.

And not just told by his mum and his best mates. Everybody. Every media pundit, every Twitter follower, every Facebook friend, every Joe Bloggs on the street has told Magnussen the same thing. You’re going to win four gold medals at the Olympics, mate. It’s all over. Shut the gate. Turn up and it’s yours.

So when he sank like a stone in the 4x100m relay he threw a bit of a tanty. (He didn’t really — he was just a bit quiet and unhappy and unwilling to bare his soul to the world — in tabloidspeak, that’s a tanty). Who wouldn’t, frankly?

And who amongst us has not been a bit of a princess on the sporting field in our youth?

Let’s face it, that hit-and-missile Combank ad is looking a little too close to the bone right now, isn’t it? That would be enough to make anyone grumpy.

Personally, I was the embarrassment of my mother’s existence through my petulant junior tennis career — the language alone!! — and my former colleagues at the Gold Coast Bulletin still talk about the day I jumped on my Akubra after shanking off the 15th tee during the annual staff golf day.

So why wouldn’t the 21-year-old be disappointed. He’s 21.

At the risk of telling him that he only needs to turn up in Rio to win a bucket ‘o’ gold, I’m betting the lessons learned this time around will stand him in good stead come 2016, if he decides to hang in there.


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