Sports Capsule March 2021
By Scott Murphy
This month in sports: New Zealand sails to victory, some incredible golfing, basketball all-stars, The One Championship takes to television in a new way, the son of an F1 racing legend aims to make his own mark…and more!
The Quiet Olympics
It does appear as though the Olympics will go ahead starting July 23rd in Tokyo. But, it’s been announced that due to COVID precautions, global fans will not be able to attend the Games in person. That also means that an expected 80,000 unpaid volunteers will not be able to take part either. “I’m really sorry, but we have decided there is no other choice but to drop the plan,” said organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto in explaining the decision.
However, 500 overseas volunteers will be given a special exemption to enter the country.
The Olympics are expected to open and operate inside a bubble beginning on July 23rd with 11,000 athletes, followed by the Paralympics on August 24th. The countrywide torch relay is expected to begin this week in northeastern Japan and will last 121 days, culminating in the opening ceremony in Tokyo’s National Stadium.
Sailing To Victory
Team New Zealand defeated Italian challenger Luna Rosa 7-3 this month to win America’s Cup, sailing’s most prestigious event. Thousands of fans watched in COVID-free Auckland, New Zealand as the crew crossed the finish line and later lifted the 170 year-old silver trophy.
The victory marks New Zealand’s fourth win and second successful defense. It’s been announced that Britain’s Royal Yacht Squadron Racing will be the challenger for the next cup with an official race circuit to be announced at a later date. The two sides have already agreed that the AC75 foiling monohull, which made its debut this year, will be used in the next race.
Golfer To Watch
In golf, 27 year old Bryson DeChambeau won at this month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in Bay Hill, Florida to pick up a US$1,674,000 purse. It was his second victory this season, as he defeated Lee Westwood by one stroke. But what people are really talking about are his phenomenal, must-see-to-believe drives. Take a look…
While he is positioning himself as a player to watch on the golf circuit, he’s also making waves off of it. This month he also became the first golfer to create his own digital trading card NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. He’ll sell 73 editions of five different cards in the trendy, rapidly growing arena.
Basketball All Stars
At the 70th NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta, Team LeBron handily defeated Team Durant 170-150 as Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the Most Valuable Player. He scored 35 points on perfect 16-of-16 shooting from the field to set an All-Star record for most attempts without a miss.
Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry added 32 and 28 points, respectively. Team LeBron’s win resulted in the donation of US$1 million to charity. This was the third time that the All-Star Game was held in Atlanta, Georgia.
And while LeBron James may have lead his basketball team to victory, he only scored four points, a pre-cursor perhaps of his subsequent on and off court moves. In the days following the game, it was announced that he would be joining the Fenway Sports Group as a partner, which gives him a stake in ownership of baseball’s Boston Red Sox, the Liverpool Football Club, Roush Fenway Racing and a regional sports broadcast network. But upon returning to regular season play with his team Los Angeles Lakers, James suffered a high ankle sprain and is currently out “indefinitely”, putting the team’s playoff hopes at risk.
As the second half of the NBA season gets underway, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Utah Jazz each have the best records in their respective divisions.
In Asian football news, China’s Jiangsu FC have pulled out of the Asian Champions League as there are numerous reports and rumors that they are set to be disbanded. The team were winners of the Chinese Super League just last November for the first time ever.
The news is believed to be finance related, and coming on the heels of FA Cup winners Shandong Taishan being disqualified just last month, observers are questioning whether football needs a restart in China.
Teams from South Korea and Thailand automatically advance in the tournament, which will resume in June.
Only One Apprentice
In a bid to grow awareness of its MMA arena fights, the Singapore based ONE Championship debuted a new 13 episode TV series this month. During the inaugural season, loosely based on the original US based show, 16 global contestants take part in a series of increasingly difficult physical and business challenges. The winner will receive a US$250,000 job offer to work under ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong for a year as his protege in Singapore. The weekly series is currently airing on AXN and other Asian outlets.
F1‘s Grand Son
He just turned 22, but Mick Schumacher hopes to receive his biggest present this weekend when he makes his Formula One debut in Bahrain.
The son of one of racing’s greatest ever champions is making the jump from Formula Two to F1 after winning the former title in 2020. He‘ll be watched by many racing observers to see if he can follow in Michael Schumacher‘s footsteps, a legend who won 91 races and seven world championships. The elder Schumacher hasn’t been seen in public in more than seven years after a skiing accident left him with severe brain injuries. “I definitely look at what he achieved and I try to learn from it,” says Mick. He‘ll be racing for the Haas team.
NCAA March Madness
Both the men and women’s NCAA Division One basketball tournaments are down to 16 teams — commonly known as the “Sweet 16” — as they vie to determine who will be the best college team in the US.
Now in its 82nd year, due to COVID this is the first time ever that both the men and women‘s tournaments have been completely held in one state — Indiana and Texas, respectively.
Men‘s top seeds Gonzaga, Michigan and Baylor remain for the men, with Gonzaga going 28-0 to date so far this season. The men‘s championship game wil take place on April 5th in Indianapolis.
On the women‘s side, top seeds UConn, Stanford, NC State and South Carolina are all still in the tournament. Their championship game will take place April 4th in San Antonio, Texas.
Race To The Finish
A late sprint by jockey Joao Moreira propelled horse Sky Darci to victory over fast charging favorite Russian Emperor in the prestigious 2021 BMW Hong Kong Derby in Shatin last Sunday. “It was the longest (last) 200 metres I’ve ever seen in a race, that’s for sure,” said trainer Casper Fownes said after securing his second Hong Kong Derby triumph. The Chilean entry Panfield came in third during the 2,000 meter race, which boasted a HK$24 million purse.
See the entire race here, courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club…
There have been several notable deaths in the sports world this month. Among them, Graeme Murray Walker, who died on March 13th at the age of 98. The English motorsports commentator and journalist is best known for his 23 year run of live Formula One coverage on the BBC. He also received several lifetime achievement awards and an OBE.
In the US, basketball star Elgin Baylor passed away from natural causes at the age of 86 on March 22nd. Over the course of 14 seasons with the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers, Baylor had the following achievements: number one draft pick, Rookie of the Year, 11-time All-Star, 10-time member of the All-NBA first team and appeared in eight NBA Finals. A Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Baylor later spent 22 years as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers.
And during the 1970s and 80s, boxer Marvin Hagler was simply known as “Marvelous”. From 1980 to 1987, he was the undisputed middleweight champion of the world, making him the second longest champion holder in boxing history. A Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, he was named Fighter of the Decade at one point, and is considered to be in the conversation as one of the best boxers ever. After his career ended, Hagler later pursued a successful movie career in Italy. He died unexpectedly at his home in New Hampshire on March 13th at the age of 66. Amongst boxing fans, his 1985 fight against Tommy Hearns is considered to be one of the greatest ever, as seen here…