Sports Capsule February 2021
By Scott Murphy
The latest on golfer Tiger Woods, Australian Open results, women breaking through in the sports world, outdoor hockey and more this week…
Tiger Woods Recovery
Golf champion Tiger Woods is “awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room” after extensive surgery on Tuesday following a single-car accident in California. According to police the “jaws of life” had to be used in order to extract him from the vehicle.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department responded to a single-car traffic collision at 7:12am on February 23rd near Rolling Hills Estates. After being extracted, Woods was taken to nearby hospital. The 45 year old champion golfer was put under general anesthetic at the Harbor-UCLA hospital as surgeons fitted metal rods, screws and pins to his shattered right shin bone and calf bone following the crash. Doctors described the injuries as “significant”.
Woods was reportedly driving to the Rolling Hills Country Club where he was scheduled to take part in filming for Golf TV with NFL quarterback Drew Brees. While the accident is under investigation, there is no word yet on how these injuries may impact Woods’ future golf career.
World number one Novak Djokovic beat hot player Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2,6-2 last Sunday to win a record ninth Australian Open title in Melbourne, Australia. Djokovic clinched the win in under two hours to win his 18th major title. Medvedev entered the final with a 20-match winning streak.
On the women’s side, Naomi Osaka added a fourth Grand slam title — and second Australian Open title — to her trophy cabinet last weekend when she defeated 22nd ranked player Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 in the finals. On the way, she also defeated idol Serena Williams in the semi-finals, depriving the 39 year old in her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title. Osaka became only the third player after Monica Seles and Roger Federer to win their first four major finals, and has now risen to No. 2 in the world rankings. This week she even debuted a new pink hairstyle to celebrate her victory.
There were two big surprises at the Open this year in the form of Aslan Karatsev and Jessica Pegula. Karatsev was ranked 114 upon entering the tournament and became the first player in the Open era to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam on his first try. And 26 year old Jessica Pegula had never reached beyond the third round of a Grand Slam tournament. But Pegula, whose parents own the NFL team Buffalo Bills, reached the quarterfinals.
The Australian Open faced plenty of controversy this year, ranging from tournament delays and enforced quarantining to the temporary banning of fans due to a Coronavirus outbreak in the city of six million.
New Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa
New Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa says that coronavirus vaccinations wouldn’t be required to participate in this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics Games in Tokyo. This contradicts a World Anti-Doping appeal that all athletes be inoculated.
“We are putting together a number of comprehensive measures to realize a safe and secure event without needing vaccinations to be a prerequisite,” said Marukawa. It’s expected that Japan will remove the entry ban on foreign athletes soon after the country’s emergency declaration order is lifted on March 7th. They are also not expected to have two weeks quarantine upon arrival. Trial matches for wheelchair rugby and other sports are due to begin in April, while the Olympics are slated to begin on July 23rd.
Meanwhile, a former Olympic swimmer who won silver and bronze medals for Australia at the 1996 Games in Atlanta was accused this month of drug trafficking after police seized methamphetamines valued at US$1.6 million. 45 year old Scott Miller was arrested at his waterfront home in Sydney after authorities found the drug hidden in candles last month. The police also seized nearly one kilogram of heroin, over $75,000 in cash, encrypted electronic devices and other drugs. Police claim Miller’s arrest is a big coup in stopping a major drug syndicate.
And former US gymnastics coach John Geddert, who took the women’s team to the Olympics in 2012 (where they won a team gold medal), was found dead by suicide in Michigan this week, hours after he was criminally charged. Geddert had been charged with 20 counts of human trafficking and forced labor resulting in injury, as well as a series of other charges. The 63 year old had agreed to surrender to police on the day but never showed up. The people Geddert had been accused of abusing have not been identified.
The new Formula One schedule has been released with an ambitious 23 races on the cards. One of the biggest changes is the fact that Vietnam will no longer be part of the schedule due to political issues over the race. In addition, the China and Australian Grand Prix have been postponed while Imola and potentially Portugal have been scheduled to fill in the gaps. The season will get underway in Bahrain on March 28th and conclude in Abu Dhabi on December 12th.
Mainly due to the Coronavirus, it’s just been revealed that F1’s most recent income dropped by 44% for a total loss of US$386 million, compared with the previous year.
She’s not quite racing with the big boys yet, but 21 year old Toni Breidinger is well on her way. This month, she became the first Arab-American female driver to participate in a NASCAR national series. Breidinger raced in a stock car and pick-up truck competition at Daytona International Speedway in Florida, where she came in 18th place. In the process, she reached a top speed of 185 miles per hour, her all-time best. Breidinger is a 19-time United States Auto Club winner, a record for any female driver, and shows great promise.
Just call them groundbreakers. While the world may have been cheering Tom Brady’s record seventh Super Bowl ring when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in the Super Bowl held in Tampa, Florida this month, the Bucs had two more reasons to celebrate.
Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar.
The duo became the first female coaches to ever win a Super Bowl. The 30 year-old Javadifar is an assistant strength and conditioning coach while the 56 year-old Locust is an assistant defensive line coach. For both, it was their second season on the team — which is also the only NFL team to have two female coaches on their staff. “As far as the women, it was time,” said Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians. “It was time for that door to be knocked down and allow them because they’ve been putting in time, and they’re very, very qualified.”
Another ceiling was broken this month when the Washington Football Team promoted Jennifer King to assistant running backs coach this month, making her the first Black woman to become a full-time coach in the NFL. The 36 year old was a coaching intern with the team this past season and previously served as an intern with the Carolina Panthers and as an offensive assistant at Dartmouth College. “The sky is truly the limit for her,” said Washington Coach Ron Rivera.
The National Hockey League has held 30 outdoor games since 2003, but all were in stadiums. Last weekend they held two games in a rink that was built from scratch in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The other major difference was that no fans were in attendance due to the Coronavirus.
In the opener, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Boston Bruins 7-3 while in the second — which was delayed from day until night due to ice conditions — the Colorado Avalanche nipped the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2. The effort and uniqueness of the event paid off, as it became the most-watched game in NBCSN history.