Sports Capsule Spring Flower Edition
By Scott Murphy
In this edition, what do a champion golfer and a white horse have in common? They both hail from Japan! Also, the All-Star switch, 100 days until the Olympics (maybe), Bball champions, the word on Federer and why a young tennis player has gone viral…
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan won the 85th Masters in Augusta, Georgia last Sunday to become the tournament’s first Asian-born champion as well as the first Japanese man to win a major golf championship.
His prize was over US$2 million for winning as he shot a one over par 73 to finish one stroke ahead of 24 year-old runner-up Will Zelatoris.
Here’s the proud moment when he was awarded the trophy and the coveted green jacket…
The win will make him a likely candidate for many commercial endorsements in Japan and comes at a time when violence against Asians and Asian-Americans is spilling over into the sports arena.
Following a Major League Baseball team loss due to his baseball throwing error, Cleveland Indians first baseman Yu Chang revealed that he received multiple racist messages on Twitter Monday night. “Exercise your freedom of speech iin a right way, I accept all comments, positive or negative but definitely not racist ones,” said Chang, a native of Taiwan. And Korean-American Chloe Kim, an Olympic gold medallist in snowboarding, revealed this month that she receives racist messages daily — as many as several hundred per month. “Just because I’m a professional athlete or won at the Olympics doesn’t exempt me from racism,” she said.
Torching The Olympics?
The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics ran through a mostly empty Osaka city park this week, yet another showcase regarding the risks of trying to hold the postponed games during a pandemic. The relay occurred on the 100 day milestone countdown, meaning there are just 100 days to go before the opening ceremony on July 23rd in Tokyo. Less than one percent of Japanese residents have been vaccinated nationwide — and with many bars and restaurants required to close daily by 8pm, it‘s no wonder that a recent survey has revealed that nearly 80 percent of the country are urging that the Games be postponed or cancelled altogether. The relay took place on the same day that new coronavirus cases reportedly hit 1,000 for the first time in Japan’s second largest metropolitan area.
All Hail The Champions!
The Baylor Bears from Texas won their first ever NCAA Division I championship in school history when they defeated heavy favorites Gonzaga Bulldogs 86-70 earlier this month in Indianapolis, Indiana. It also marked Baylor’s first ever win over Gonzaga in program history, having been 0-5 in previous meetings. The loss was Gonzaga‘s first and only of the season, as they ended the year with a 31-1 record, while Baylor finished 28-2. The game also marked Gonzaga’s lowest scoring output of the season. Baylor guard Jared Butler was named “Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
On the women‘s side, the Stanford Cardinals beat the Arizona Cardinals 54-53 in a thriller at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The win marked the first national champion from the Pac-12 conference in nearly 30 years.
And for Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, the victory marked a 29 year gap between titles, the longest in Division I history for a head coach in any sport.
A Rocky All-Star Game
Following a controversial voting bill that was recently passed in Georgia, Major League Baseball decided to pull this year‘s All-Star Game from Truist Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves — and move it to Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies. A “brave” stance perhaps by the Commissioner of Baseball, but that didn’t sit well with Atlanta. “The Atlanta Braves are deeply disappointed by the decision of MLB to move its’ 2021 All Star Game,” a statement from the club said. “This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city.” That statement caused controversy as well, as it was perceived that the team was more concerned about the potential economic benefits of the game as opposed to the ramifications of the bill.
In other baseball news, though the season has just gotten underway, the Chicago Cubs are concerned about a potential COVID-19 outbreak after two coaches tested positive for the virus and three pitchers were placed on the injured list this week.
It‘s a young season, a new season and a hopeful one for all teams. But there’s one thing some teams didn‘t expect: snow. That didn’t stop Detroit Tigers player Miguel Cabrera though.
Take a look…
Not Quite Fed Up
After 14 months off to recover from a knee operation, tennis legend Roger Federer made it as far as the quarterfinals at last month‘s Qatar Open before losing. Now, he claims, he won’t play again until the Madrid Open next month— and there‘s some speculation that he might even select an easier tournament to prepare for the delayed French Open, now scheduled for May 30th. “I want to win big tournaments and beat the best players in the world,” he told Numero Magazine last week. “I’m not coming back to play second rounds in the middle of nowhere. I feel like I know what I have to do to get there. It’s part dream and part logic, it’s a logical dream.”
Meanwhile, at the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters, Novak Djokovic lost for the first time this year when Daniel Evans upset him 6-4, 7-5. That tournament is due to conclude this weekend.
Winners All Around
Even though they lost to Porto 1-0 this week, Chelsea still made it through to the semi-finals of the Champions UEFA League due to winning on aggregate goals from their two matches. And Paris moved through even though they tied Bayern in goals scored. Paris had the greater amount of away goals. So, in the first game of the semi-finals, to be held on the 27th and 28th of this month, it will be Real Madrid against Chelsea and Paris versus Manchester City.
And on the subject of the latter, don‘t say Kevin De Bruyne is a dummy when it comes to money. The 29 year old midfielder did his own contract negotiations with Man City himself — with his Dad and a lawyer offering remote assistance. To top it off, he used collected data to show his worth to the team as its most influential player. As a result, he even gained a pay rise. Though he had two years left on his existing contract, he signed on until 2025 on a deal worth more than 83 million pounds.
The Fights Are On!
There will be three fights and a sell out crowd (COVID be damned!) at the VyStar Arena on April 24th in Jacksonville, Florida for UFC 261. One of the most anticipated matches will surely be on the women‘s side, when Lithuanian strawweight contender Rose Namajunas takes on undefeated UFC champion Zhang Weili. Namujanas has already been taken to task for making recent politically charged comments about Weili, though claims she hopes they can be friends afterwards. Weili, silent so far as the UFC’s first and only champion from China, is expected to take out her aggressions in the round.
And a full sellout crowd is expected for UFC 264 on July 24th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas when swaggering Conor McGregor returns to fight Dustin Poirier. The two have split their previous two matches, with Poirier overcoming the Irishman in a second round TKO in January.
Take a good look (or watch the clip) as this horse named Sodashi not only broke a track record in Japan last weekend, but rode into history as well. In beating favorite Satono Reinas by a neck, Sodashi became the first ever white horse to win a classic Japan Racing Association race. He performed the feat during the 81st Oka Sho (japanese 1000 Guineas) at Hanshin Racecourse in just one minute, 31 seconds. In the process, she extended her winning streak to five.
See history unfold here…
The No Backhand Wonder
Finally, he‘s only 10 years old, but this would be tennis star has already gone viral. Why? Well, Teo Davidov never hits a backhand on the court. Since he is ambidextrous, Davidov simply switches his racquet hand. At last month’s Adidas Easter Bowl in San Diego, he even made it all the way to the Under-12 quarterfinals. There‘s doubt about whether he can keep this up as he gets older, but time will tell.
Take a look…