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London 2017 World Athletics Championships Podcast

February 27, 2017 in Multimedia

This summer, the London Stadium in Stratford will host the 2017 World Athletics and ParaAthletics Championships.

These will be the biggest and most prestigious athletics events staged at the venue since the glory days of the 2012 Olympic Games.

But how many people are actually aware that the Championships are coming to the capital in August?

Crystal Davis and Lucas Chomicki visited the Queen Elizabeth Park, home of the London Stadium, to ask people there about the 2017 Worlds.

These events should be the highest-profile entries on the UK’s sporting calendar this year, but are they still flying under the radar with less than six months to go?

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Seven of the best comebacks in sports history

February 14, 2017 in News & Features

Trailing Atlanta by 25 points in the third quarter you could have been forgiven for switching off the TV as a New England Patriots fan watching the 2017 Super Bowl.

However, lead by 39-year-old Tom Brady, the Patriots launched a stunning comeback, described as the best in Super Bowl history, with Brady becoming the first quarter-back to win five Super Bowl rings.

With a great comeback always comes the turning point; Julian Edelman’s phenomenal catch for a first down, under pressure from three Atlanta players, with two minutes left on the clock proved to be exactly that, allowing James White to level the game on a two-yard run.

After that Super Bowl thriller, here are seven more of the best comebacks in sport, some you may of heard of, others maybe not.

 

Lasse Viren – 10,000m – 1972 Olympic Games, Munich

On the 12th lap, Finish runner Lasse Viren was tripped by Emiel Puttemans sending him sprawling to the surface, with Moroccan runner Mohamed Gammoudi also getting caught up in the aftermath.

Gammoudi was down and out, picking up an injury in the fall. Viren however, was straight back to his feet with a 20m deficit to make up and 12 and a half laps to go.

That might not sound like too much, but in an endurance race making up gaps that size is one of the toughest tasks. Not only do you need to have enough energy to get to the end of the race, you need to find the speed to catch up to the rest of the pack.

Incredibly, it only took at matter of seconds for Viren to find himself back in contention, with the crowd cheering him on as he recovered back to the leading pack.

Viren then produced an unprecedented last 600m to take the gold medal in a world record time – one which still stands as the fastest ever 10,000m at the Olympiastadion in Munich.

 

England – 1981 Ashes, Third Test – Headingley

With Australia up 1-0 after two Tests, the 1981 Ashes headed to Headingley, where Australia looked set to take a 2-0 series lead.

In a match where England were forced to follow one after the first innings, a victory was so unlikely that England had odds of 500-1 to win.

However, Ian Botham, who just resigned as captain due to poor performances, had other ideas, producing a total of 149 runs, giving England a small lead of 129, forcing the Australians to bat once again.

A lead which you would have expected the Australians to claw back, yet an inspired bowling display the following day from Bob Willis, saw him take eight wickets for 43 runs, as Australia fell for just 111 runs. Suitably fired up, England went on to win the series 3-1.

In what was described as Botham’s Test, it was only the second time in history a team won a test match after being forced to follow on.

 

Nick Faldo – 1996 US Masters – Augusta

Norman and FaldoHaving lead the first three rounds at the 60th US Masters, Greg Norman went into the fourth and final day with a six-shot lead over Britain’s Nick Faldo.

Norman and Faldo were paired together for the closing round, and after seven holes Australian Norman, despite have his lead reduced to four shots, still looked on course for victory.

While Faldo continued a flawless day, Norman who had never won the Masters in 14 attempts, completely collapsed over the next 11 holes, and twice found the water for double bogeys.

Faldo’s score of 67 was the best that day, while Norman’s 78 was one of the worst. It was one of the most astounding comebacks and collapses in golfing history, handing Faldo his third Masters title.

In a great show of sportsmanship, afterwards Faldo and Norman embraced, the Englishman almost seemed more upset for Norman than the Australian himself did.

Faldo told the press afterwards: “I honestly, genuinely feel sorry for him. He’s had a real rough ride today.”

 

Manchester United – 1995/96 Premier League 

In a glittering managerial career that spanned over 39 years, Sir Alex Ferguson was certainly no stranger to a comeback, a trait that defined the teams he managed.

The one that sticks in the memory are the 1999 Champions League Final where injury-time goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær completed a famous treble for United.

Their comeback to win the 1996 Premier League though is one that is overlooked. With Newcastle United 12 points ahead in January, no-one would have bet on on Fergie’s team winning the title.

Going into the season with a young squad and little spending, a 3-1 loss on the opening day to Aston Villa, saw BBC pundit Alan Hansen famously say: “You never win anything with kids.”

Newcastle, meanwhile, had a storming start after a big-spending summer. However a run of fives losses in seven games after January, while United went on a near-perfect run spurred on by the return of Eric Cantona from an eight-month suspension, saw Fergie’s men overhaul them in the title race.

This as well as Ferguson’s mind games prompted a famous quote, or rant, from Magpies manager Kevin Keegan live on Sky Sports, as United went on to win the title by four points.

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Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs – NBA, 2004

Perhaps one of the best one-man comebacks in history, with Houston Rockets 10 points down against San Antonio Spurs in the final quarter, Rockets swingman Tracy McGrady score 13 points in 33 seconds to secure a 81-80 win for the Rockets.

McGrady scored four consecutive three-pointers – one was part of a four-point play – his last one coming 1.7 seconds before the end to secure the victory.

Liverpool, UEFA Champions League Final – Istanbul, 2005

Keeper Jerzy Dudek was the hero as Liverpool fought back from 0-3 deficit at half-time to shock the giants of AC Milan, winning the Champions League on penalties in one of the most famous comebacks European Football.

Struggling in the league at the time, the Merseyside outfit produced a number of shocks against European giants, including Juventus and Chelsea, on their way to lifting the club’s fifth Champions League trophy.

Most expected an AC victory, and by the interval Milan fans were already celebrating victory, after Paolo Maldini and a double from Hernan Crespo sent them into half-time with 3-0 lead.

However, a Liverpool team with Steven Gerrard leading them could never be written off, and it was their captain fantastic who headed them back into the game.

Vladimir Smicer was an unlikely hero, really putting pressure on AC after his long-range attempt was fumbled by Dida to bring Liverpool right back into the game, before the outstanding comeback was completed when Xabi Alonso pounced on the rebound from his own penalty which had been saved by Dida.

The Italian side was totally stunned by the comeback, having completely dominated the first half, and despite golden chances to win it, Dudek produced an incredible double save from the shellshocked Andriy Shevchenko to send the game to penalties.

Liverpool’s Polish keeper then replicated Bruce Grobbelaar’s famous “spaghetti legs” to put off Milan’s usually reliable penalty takers and bring the trophy back to Merseyside.

 

Team Oracle USA – America’s Cup 2013

America's Cup 2013The 34th America’s Cup saw challengers Team Emirates New Zealand take an 8-1 lead, just one point away from victory.

That was before the defenders Team Oracle USA brought in British sailor and five-time Olympic medalist Sir Ben Ainsley as a tactician for race six.

Despite this Oracle fell 0-6 behind after eight races, due to penalties they had imposed on the, and by the twelfth race New Zealand just needed one more victory as they led 8-1.

However, with Ainslie’s presence now being felt, Team Oracle were flawless and they won the next eight races to stage an extraordinary comeback to defend the trophy.

The gruelling competition was the longest-running America’s Cup series in history.

Is video gaming a real sport?

December 6, 2016 in Features, Multimedia, Opinion

There is a grey area when it comes to determining if certain activities are a sport.

These can range from card games, chess and wrestling to fishing or pool. In recent years however, a new pastime has become part of the debate – gaming.

As with the other activities touted as sports, opinions are sharply divided. But those who argue that gaming should be considered a sport make a surprisingly strong case.

At first glance it might seem downright silly to call gaming a sport but there are a lot of commonalities between classic sports and playing on a console or PC.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of a sport is: “A game, competition, or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to the rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job”.

The key word here is, of course, ‘physical’. Gaming is not a physical activity (button-mashing Tekken doesn’t count), no matter what level you compete at.

However, I don’t think that the lack of a physical aspect to gaming completely rules it out as a sport.

Similarities

Here are a few similarities between sport and gaming:

  • There is a competitive, individual/team activity.
  • They draw crowds (and big crowds at that). The big events even take place in stadiums and arenas and are broadcast on TV with pundits, analysts and commentators.
  • Both involve a high level of strategy, especially games like Defence of the Ancients (DOTA), League of Legends and even Call of Duty.
  • There is also the classic argument made by every gamer ever that playing requires high levels of reaction times.
  • They have rules and codes of conduct.

Experiment

So now we’ve established that there are a lot of close similarities, but re-read those points with the context of TV cooking shows.

Can it be both?

Can it be both? (Image Credit Pixbay)

Done? Again, apart from the stadiums and reaction times, they seem to somewhat match the aspects of sport, but that doesn’t mean that cooking should be considered a sport.

Michal Blicharz is a former judoka who now organises events on the Intel Extreme Masters circuit, an elite global pro-gaming tour.

He told the BBC: “I’ve sweated on the judo mat enough times to have a good opinion about it.

“Judo and e-sports are not that dissimilar. In terms of training you have to put in the same amount of hours, perhaps even more in e-sports.

“You study strategy, technique and opponents. All the elements are there – the excitement, the adrenalin, players crying tears of sorrow and joy.”

Prize pool

On top of all of that, professional gaming is becoming an exponentially growing business.

The prize money on offer at major tournaments such as League of Legends World Championship, Halo World Championship, and DOTA 2 International are now reaching similar levels to those of major sporting events.

E-sports has become a big bucks pursuit (Image Credit: Flickr)

The entire prize pool for the 2016 Defence Against the Ancients Championship reached over $20m with the winning team (Wings Gaming) receiving just over $9m.

Each team consists of five people which works out as $1.8m per player. The total of the prize pool at the US Open tennis was over $36m with the singles champions getting $3.5m.

It’s also worth pointing out that each year the prize pools at major gaming events have increased so it is not unrealistic that eventually pro gamers will be earning as much as top athletes.

Gaming also has a similar format as in sport when it comes to making it to the major tournaments.

A pro-gaming team first has to get into a Secondary Pro League which is a national event by competing in local and regional events. The winners and runners up of the Pro League are then seeded into the world championship.

 Verdict

So is gaming a sport? My personal opinion is that it isn’t, even though there are undeniable similarities.

I believe that it is acceptable to call it e-sports but it should become its own establishment with its own governing body rather being approved by sporting councils.

For me, watching someone playing Fifa on an Xbox or PlayStation and calling it a sport is almost an insult to all those athletes who put in the many hours training to improve their skills.

By no means am I saying that improving skill, ability and intellect in gaming doesn’t take time and effort and dedication, but rather that there is a difference.

Just like cooking is cooking, art is art, and music is music, so should pro gaming be pro gaming, or in this case, e-sports, but not sports.

Feature image of the League of Legends tourney courtesy of Wikimedia.

Is race a credible factor for sporting success?

November 9, 2016 in Sport

When Mo Farah won double gold at the Olympics in the summer, the bluntest among us would have determined that his Somalian heritage was the key to his triumph rather than his British training.

Why? Because over time most sport fanatics have grasped as (Rodriguez, 2016) points out that “it’s no coincidence when you watch the Olympics or any other high profile track meet, the starting line is dominated by black people.”

The supremacy of black athletes has been acknowledged by a plethora of historians for decades, with some believing that biological advantages are responsible.

(Malina, 1986) advocates that “mechanically speaking, a black athlete with legs identical to those of a white athlete would have a lighter, shorter and trimmer mass to propel. This implies a greater power-to-total-weight ratio at any given size. Such a ratio would be advantageous in events in which the body is propelled-the sprints and jumps.”

Yet, the idea of superior biological factors, is dismissed abruptly in many quarters, especially by (Adesioye, 2016) who argues that, “the science behind such theories is highly questionable and, for the most part, unsubstantiated.”

However, the evidence suggests otherwise, as 494 out of the 500 best 100 metre sprint times are held by black athletes and 24 out of the 25 best 10,000 metre times are held by athletes of African descent, which rather strengthens the argument of (Malina, 1986) but also (Entine, 2016) who proffers that “the evidence of black superiority in athletics is persuasive and decisively confirmed on the playing field. Elite athletes who trace most or all of their ancestry to Africa are by and large better than the competition.”

This is further reinforced by the fact that not a single white athlete has made the eight man 100m sprint final since 1980 – when Briton Allan Wells achieved a gold medal.

Definitively, the results convey that the performance gap in favour of black athletes compared to their counterparts, comes in a sport – running – where gifted talent, rather than facilities/training, is paramount and the barometer of success, which decisively diminishes the credibility of (Adesioye, 2016) argument and fortifies the view that race and genetics play a significant role in sporting success.

Therefore, society’s distorted doctrine of political correctness should be defied, in order to comprehend this genuine evidence for a relationship between race and sport, because as (Entice, 2016) points out “stereotypes are like a mythical herd of elephants in the living room: everyone hopes that if we refuse to acknowledge their existence, maybe, just maybe, they will go away.”

In other words, perhaps we should finally acknowledge and embrace racial differences in sport rather than fear them.

 

 

Adesioye, L. (2016). Lola Adesioye: The lack of black swimmers at the Olympics doesn’t mean race determines athletic prowess. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/aug/25/race.olympics2008 [Accessed 8 Nov. 2016].

Entine, J. (2016). Taboo. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/e/entine-taboo.html [Accessed 8 Nov. 2016].

Malina, Robert M. (1986). Genetics of motor development and performance. In R. M. Malina and C. Bouchard (Eds.). Sport and Human Kinetics, Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL. pps 23 – 58.

Rodriguez, D. (2016). Why are black people generally more muscular/athletic?. [online] Quora. Available at: https://www.quora.com/Why-are-black-people-generally-more-muscular-athletic [Accessed 8 Nov. 2016].

 

Six Reasons why FIFA keeps outselling PES

November 1, 2016 in Opinion

FIFA is like the popular kid at school. It barely tries to impress, treats most people like crap but remains loved by everyone.

Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) is like one of those perfectly nice but awkward kids that resorts to giving away free sweets just for a moment of attention while always somehow remaining unnoticed.

According to analyst Daniel Ahmad’s Twitter feed, FIFA 17 has sold 40 times more copies than PES 17, having shifted more than 1.1 million units while PES couldn’t even reach 50k. It’s a pattern that been repeated in recent year. Here’s a few reasons why this might be:

Licences: While FIFA has the rights to all the official club and player names, PES has to improvise. Classic examples include: London FC (Chelsea), Hampshire Red (Southampton) and my personal favourite, Man Blue (Man City). Bonus example: back in the day Cafu’s name was Facu.

Peer pressure: If I went out and bought PES I’d have no-one to play it with because everyone else has FIFA. The EA Sports game has become the norm and it feels like this snowball is just getting bigger and bigger.

The name: I don’t have to go out and do a survey to know that about 99% of British fans call the beautiful game football, not soccer. This is a pretty serious deal. I have seen armies of keyboard warriors threaten anyone who disagrees. I think Konami would be taken more seriously if they called it Pro Evolution Football but I guess PEF doesn’t quite have the same ring as PES.

Game play: The fast pace and easy scoring always made PES feel like an arcade game while FIFA’s painstaking attention to detail, steady gameplay and genuine feeling of accomplishment after scoring  gives it more of a simulator vibe.

Barcelona: The main selling point for PES 17 is its licence for Barcelona. As great as this is, it’s a well-known fact that if you’re playing with a friend or online and you pick Barcelona you will be labelled as someone with no skill whatsoever. I know this because I quite often play as Barcelona.

Soundtracks: Both games have always had decent soundtracks but FIFA always seems to have the edge by including more songs. This is especially helpful when you’re spending hours and hours playing career mode. Listening to the same 11 songs on PES while playing a 40+ matches season can become more than tedious.

From a personal standpoint I prefer FIFA simply because it’s something that I’m more accustomed to. The last Pro Evolution Soccer instalment I owned was 14.

As mentioned in my second point, FIFA is a game that’s played by all my friends and their minds are made up as much as mine. Even if I’d want to give the new PES a try I don’t really fancy spending £55 on a game I’m sceptical about, and there’s no-one I could borrow it from. There’s always demos but I feel they never give a big enough picture and feel of the game.

Can it ever change?

I have seen a lot of people on social media who don’t think FIFA 17 is that great. The main criticisms were that player statistics don’t work properly (Messi outjumping Ibrahimović for a header or Mertesacker keeping pace with Sterling?) and set-piece play becoming unnecessarily complicated.

Even the new ‘Journey’ mode has been criticised for being only one season long.

In addition, Pro Evolution Soccer 17 has received very positive reviews overall and its overall score was lower than FIFA only by a tiny margin.

Maybe this year could be the turning point in the football gaming industry where the unnoticed kid at school finally gets their lucky break….

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