Other Sports

New Record for Rushida, Cycling in Vuelta and Other Sports News

| by Sports Nickel
It’s funny how we can procrastinate sometimes despite having everything laid out in front of us. I started this column back on Saturday, diligently starting the process of building the news and notes of the week as I always do. The skeleton inputted online, I then went about my daily writing and slowly fleshed out the article from there. But with just this introduction and the conclusion left to write, I tabled the piece and went about my day off getting stuff done around the house.

And so here I am, midnight encroaching as the moon hangs fat over the Willamette Valley, and I have all the body and none of the bookends completed. It got me to thinking about how various athletes can see their careers affect us in different ways. Some have that one transcendent season and then fade away into obscurity, a statistic tucked into a dusty almanac on some library shelf. Others don’t even impress us with their results so much as their longevity, sticking around year after year defiantly and finding ways to make themselves useful to a team despite lacking any direct winning instinct of their own. Some are early bloomers, some are late bloomers, some deliver only when the pressure’s off and some are so clutch that you know never to leave your seat in the last two minutes of a contest when they’re on the field of battle. 

Each weekly edition is a lot like that. Sometimes I’m left scrambling on a Wednesday night to find enough material to cobble together a viable tome for the week, either a hectic work schedule or an apathetic week in sports leaving me hamstrung before I even get started. Sometimes I just fall into my own lethargy and procrastinate. And sometimes they pop right out and assert themselves, one topic falling over another to get noticed enough to make the final cut of main topics.

You might say that this week presented a combination of types two and three. I find more and more that, as I mature in my present sports interests and continue my ever-gluttonous expansion into new realms of sports by which I can be fascinated and fill the gaps in my obsessed life, there is more to write about than space to be occupied. I’ve also found the same camaraderie in the new forums here at Sports Nickel that all of us writers found in another time and place years ago and that, frankly, I’d feared might be lost forever in some elemental way as the group fractured over the years. So I guess the procrastination on this last section (even though it’s ultimately the first section) wasn’t completely unfounded.

But it should all be worth it. After all, the only thing lost in the equation are those precious few hours of sleep I would otherwise have still been awake through. As the second century begins for A Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America takes off with this week’s offering, I’ve taken the time to reevaluate how to let less slip through the cracks in the coverage of these otherwise-ignored events of each week. In response you’ll find another regular section to go alongside “Tooling Around the Net” and “On the Docket” on the back page as a solution for the present and future. After all, if you’re not growing you’re dying, as they say. And as the odometer flips to triple digits, we’ve got to expand with the times! So sit back relax and enjoy another wonderful week in the world of non-traditional sports as I guide you along the way…

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NEVER LET A WORLD RECORD SLIP YOUR ATTENTION…

When it comes to track and field, we’re usually more likely inclined to talk about the runners in the glory events — either those athletes whose sprint kicks faster than any other man or woman on earth, or those who push the human body to the limits in distances stretching from the mythical mile to the even more myth-shrouded marathon. What gets lost in the shuffle are those middle distances at 400m and 800m, the rare provenance of a truly transcendent star like Denmark’s Kenyan-born star Wilson Kipketer. Kipketer, who never did win Olympic gold (taking silver to Nils Schumann at the 2000 Sydney Games and bronze in Athens when they returned to their ancestral homeland in 2004. By then he was 32… but it was his legendary run in the summer of 1997 that set his name in the books. At successive meets in Stockholm, Zurich and Cologne in July and August of that year Kipketer first tied the 16-year-old world record of 1:41.73 held by Sebastian Coe and then lowered it by nearly half a second and ultimately down to 1:41.11.

Until Sunday, Kipketer held the record as the fastest man at 800m for thirteen years...

The record has stood ever since. Kipketer retired in August 2005, a year removed from his last futile shot at Olympic glory. Having missed his opportunity to compete for Denmark in his prime at the Atlanta Games of 1996 — the IAAF and IOC ruled that, though he had been living in his adopted homeland since moving there as an exchange student in 1990 and had even won his first world championship in Gothenburg for his new nation, he was not a full citizen and thus ineligible for Olympic competition — Kipketer was denied his greatest chance at gold. But all the medals, from his Olympic silver and bronze to his three straight world titles (not to mention a gold and two silver medals at the indoor worlds and the 2002 European championship), mean little compared to that solitary number — 1:41.11 — that made him more immortal than a championship.

A world record in any sport binds a man to the chain of events which proceeded him throughout a sports history. Kipketer was but the most recent in a chain of men stretching from Coe back through time to Cuban great Alberto Juantorena, 1972 Olympic gold medalist Dave Wottle (who set his record right here in Eugene, Oregon), and even 1930s Nazi star Rudolf Harbig (who would die on the ultimately futile march on the Eastern Front in Ukraine in 1944). It goes right on back to the first recorded name: Ted Meredith, who set the first officially recognized number of 1:51.9 as a high schooler from Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, just another day at the track as he won Olympic gold at the 1912 Games in Stockholm. His record would stand for sixteen years, one of those marks that has changed hands rapidly a few times in a short stretch and then lingers in wait for the next middle-distance great.

This we discovered that man, as Kipketer now becomes the seventeenth man in the history of track and field to know what it feels like to be a former world-record holder in the 800m. At the ISTAF meet in Berlin, one of the races not accepted to this year’s IAAF Diamond League calendar, it was another Kenyan (albeit one who chose to remain in his native land) who lowered the 800m mark as David Rushida shaved two-hundredths of a second off his expatriate compatriot’s record pace. Winner of the World Junior Championships at the distance four years ago in Beijing and the two-time defending African champion, the 21-year-old Rushida has been progressing up the sport for some time now.

Last September he set a new African record at the IAAF Grand Prix in Rieti, Italy with a time 0f 1:42.01. Earlier this year, at the Bislett Games in Stockholm (the same city where Kipketer tied Coe’s record in 1997 and Meredith set the very first official mark 98 years ago), Rushida flirted with the 1:42 barrier again as he shattered the 31-year-old meet mark (and what was at the time the world record) of 1:42.33 set by Coe in 1979 with his own 1:42.04. A month later in Belgium, he broke his own personal best by nearly half a second when he hit 1:41.54 for another victory.

It was all ultimately prologue for his arrival in Berlin for the first time since last year’s disastrous World Championships on the same famous blue track of the Olympic Stadium where his first shot at senior glory was dashed in the semifinals by seven-hundredths of a second. Running in the third heat, he had raced faster than four of the qualifiers for the finals. But due to the way the rules are set up, the then-20-year-old Rushida was left to stew on the sidelines as his chance left him by. Returning to the Olympic Stadium track this year, he set out to make amends for last year’s faltered step in his progression. And boy, did he ever do that. Already leading the Diamond League standings with just tomorrow’s Memorial van Damme in Brussels to close out the season, Rushida set out on this second-tier meet with a vengeance and claimed his just vengeance. As he told the press after his record-breaking run, “This was my first real attempt to break the world record. I knew I was good, I had trained very hard. Now that I have run that time, I can say I have the ability to improve and go faster.”

“This was my first real attempt to break the world record. I knew I was good, I had trained very hard. Now that I have run that time, I can say I have the ability to improve and go faster.”

With the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea next year as a prelude to the 2012 London Olympics, we could see Rushida gracing our news more regularly in the near future. Keep your eye out, because he could be getting ready to shave down that time even farther. Kipketer dropped his best thrice in his banner year of 1997, and he was at the prime of his career at 25. Remember that Rushida is just barely legal enough to drink a beer when he comes to this country… he still has a few more years of progression in his system. He could very well put up the first sub-1:41 time in the 800m, and Michael Johnson has to be getting at least a little uneasy about his last time still standing on the record books after Usain Bolt took the 200m away from him in Beijing. Rushida is eleven years younger than Johnson was when he set the current standard at 400m at 43.18 seconds, yet his personal best set this February in Sydney is just 2.32 seconds off Johnson’s time. Rushida is running nearly two seconds faster at the distance than Johnson was at this age. It all may just be a matter of time before Rushida grabs his mark as the most dominant middle-distance runner of the new century. Watch out and stay alert, for history is always in the making.

CYCLING’S LAST GRAND SHOWDOWN OF 2010 JUST AROUND THE CORNER…

Rabobank, the longtime Dutch team in its 27th year of operation (and 15th with its current sponsor, the longest current run of stability of any team in the sport), would love nothing more than to win on its home soil. With the ENECO Tour of the Benelux spending its time in the heart of the international banking conglomerate’s base of operations, Erik Breukink’s squad has been battling valiantly to get into the leader’s jersey. And with at least two of its riders in the top five of the overall classification during any given stage, the opportunity has been right there.

Moerenhout would celebrate the stage victory, but it would be the man in the background who would ultimately walk away from the race the biggest victor of all...

Unfortunately, though, the team has never managed to win any of the five previous editions of this race. Borne from the remnants of the Tour of the Netherlands, the race is a coordination between races in the three Northern European nations that was conceived to gain entry as one of the stage races admitted as part of the ProTour calendar then being compiled. While the ProTour has been neutered at several points in its history, the ENECO Tour has gained notoriety. In large part that has been a benefit of its ProTour status, with an international field guaranteed annually at its start.

That record has reflected in the list of champions. Bobby Julich, the American who took third in the 1998 Tour de France, won the inaugural edition in 2005. The next year it was German Stefan Schumacher who earned the victory. Ivan Gutierrez of Spain would win the next two editions back to back in 2007 and 2008. And last year it was up-and-coming Norwegian sprinter Edvald Boasson Hagen who got the jump on the field for the ENECO title.

What that has meant, of course, is a half-decade drought for the preeminent Dutch team of the past twenty years in the most prestigious stage race its maiden roads can offer. They haven’t won the general classification; they haven’t claimed a points classification; and in the two previous times mountain prizes were awarded, they were shut out there as well. Last year the team managed to take the overall team classification, its first time standing on the podium at the end of the race. Once again they had the most dominant team… and once again they faltered when it came to one or another of their riders snagging the individual glory.

Instead in 2010 it was Columbia’s Tony Martin, who broke away with Rabobank’s Koos Moerenhout on Stage 3 to climb to the top of the leaderboard and held off the Dutchman for a 31-second victory, who walked away with the main prize this year. What does this all mean for the upcoming Vuelta a España? Probably nothing at all. The 25-year-old German won’t even be racing at the Vuelta this year… nor will Moerenhout, for that matter, as the team gears up for its third Vuelta title with Denis Menchov in 2010. It has succeeded regularly on foreign soil, with riders like Menchov and Spaniard Oscar Freire garnering big results. Its cyclocross team regularly ranks top in the world, with riders like Sven Nys dominating the UCI World Cup and Superprestige circuits. And it has a hell of a good shot at taking the Vuelta this year with Menchov, who finished on the Tour de France podium for the first time in his career this season.

One result over the past weekend that did mean something in regards to Vuelta form was the one-day GP Ouest-France, run in and around Plouay for its 74th edition in the Breton countryside. Matthew Goss, an Australian racing for Columbia, gave the team two victories over the week when he beat Garmin’s Vuelta points-classification hopeful Tyler Farrar in the bunch sprint at the finish. Goss will subvert his personal goals for the most part in assistance to Mark Cavendish and the good of the team when he starts the race in Spain on Saturday. But the fact that he’s racing so well right now augurs well for the team as they try to set their British rocket up for the first green jersey of his budding career. Farrar also looks good, having won the Vattenfall Cyclassics the week before, and should be right there in contention as well…

Excited for the race? I know I sure am… there’s nothing like a grand tour to get the blood flowing in the fingertips again. I’ll be doing daily coverage of the race once it begins in Sevilla on Saturday. I also spent a little time jotting down some pre-race thoughts that you might wish to check out and get primed up before the showdown begins:

We’ve seen the big guns of cycling contest the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France already this year, but the race miles in their legs haven’t dissuaded a strong field from arriving in Sevilla for the 75th anniversary of the first Vuelta a Espana. Everyone from former champion Denis Menchov (Rabobank) to the Schleck brothers — riding in their last grand tour with Bjarne Riis before moving to take over the leadership of the Luxembourg Cycling Project next season — to former Tour de France winners Carlos Sastre and Oscar Pereiro will be in attendance with their teams when the race gets underway on 28 August.

The opening stage, a team time trial prologue in the ancient Andalusian capital city of Sevilla, will make history as the first nighttime stage in the Vuelta’s history. before setting east along the Mediterranean coast in the first week. The ride to the coast in the first three stages augur well for breakaways, with undulating routes accented with categorized climbs.

The first real opportunity for the sprinters will come on Stage 5; technically the run into Marbella on Stage 2 presents an opportunity for a stacked field of points hunters including Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar, and Tour green jersey Alessandro Petacchi. The race, though, is thoroughly a climber’s race. The one rider most notable in his absence? Defending champion Alejandro Valverde, the longtime Spanish hope who made good on his potential last year with his first grand-tour victory only to lose his long court battle and earn a suspension for his involvement in the Operacion Puerto scandal three years prior. Will a Spanish champion emerge on home soil in his absence — or will the year that saw Spain conquer the Tour de France, the French Open and Wimbledon with Rafael Nadal, and the nation’s first ever World Cup end with a sobering defeat on home soil?…

READ VUELTA PREVIEW HERE

AND TENNIS’ LAST SPECTACLE STARTS SHORTLY THEREAFTER…

I spent Monday and Tuesday evening up late into the recesses of the night, a full moon casting its glow through the window on my keyboard as I worked on being among the first writer in the world to produce comprehensive previews of the upcoming U.S. Open for both the men’s and women’s side. The draws haven’t yet been finalized, but we did learn which stars from the ATP and WTA Tours would earn the thirty-two seeds in each singles draw on Monday and Tuesday. Thus there I was, sitting up until well past 2 am reviewing each of the main competitors for the last Grand Slam titles of 2010.

There are strong contenders throughout each bracket, even with the sheer number of absences on both sides of the equation. Defending champion Juan Martin del Potro, having suffered throughout this year with wrist problems, is unable to return to Flushing Meadows this season and play to keep his crown. Female world #1 Serena Williams is likewise unable to start the tournament, a mysterious cut on her foot requiring surgery last month and leaving her recuperating on the sidelines. Justine Henin, the former #1 and one of the most prominent of the recent trend of un-retirements in sports, also cannot begin the Open in Queens. They are the three most prominent names missing from the men’s and women’s fields.

Will the women's final be a repeat of last year's victory by Kim Clijsters over Caroline Wozniacki? Can one of the other former champions step up? Or will Wozniacki or another youngster break through for her first major title? Find out starting Monday...

But even despite those withdrawals, three of the four finalists return to the scene of last year’s glory. Roger Federer, having fallen to del Potro last season in New York, is back hoping to begin his streak at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center anew after the Argentinian ended his run of five consecutive titles a September ago. His perennial foe, Rafael Nadal, returns after missing last year’s tournament with recurring knee problems with dreams of completing his career Grand Slam with the one major that’s yet eluded him. Andy Murray, recent winner over both, comes to Queens on good form and seeking his first Slam. And Novak Djokovic hungers for a second to silence his critics who argue that his 2008 Australian Open title was an aberration rather than a confirmation of his spot amongst the world’s top players.

On the women’s side, 2009 champion Kim Clijsters and her vanquished opponent in the finals, Caroline Wozniacki, lead the top of the draw into New York as both women hope to return to the final. With Serena out of the way, the road just became a little clearer for everyone — including her sister Venus, who hasn’t been to a final in Flushing Meadows since 2002, when Serena ended her elder sister’s streak of U.S. Open titles at two. The 30-year-old hopes to recapture the form of yesteryear and claim one more Slam on home soil. But it won’t be easy… in addition to Clijsters and Wozniacki, a field deep and fraught with perilous matchups will do little favors for any of the women, and the champion will ultimately be the one who does the least damage to her own chances by curbing mistakes.

So fatigued though I may be from burning the candle at both ends, I can’t help but contain my excitement over the looming final Grand Slam of 2010. We have just the warm-up in New Haven left to wrap up before the borough of Queens becomes the epicenter of the tennis world once more. Play begins Monday, so be sure to catch up with all the players who will be in the running for the championships…

TOOLING AROUND THE NET…

Vacation left me with plenty of extended chunks of time to read, and I have been voraciously plowing through magazines I’ve let piled up, books that ultimately were late to the library, and countless links across the internet. There’s nothing better than good sports writing, the culmination of physical exertion and mental acumen coming together to enlighten readers about far more than just the event at hand. These were my five favorite articles from the past week, all well worth your time:

  •  

    The bid by Riccardo Ricco, seen here in happier times putting on the climber's jersey at the 2008 Tour before getting popped with CERA in his system, just saw his ProTour bid fall by the wayside...

     Quick! Step away from Ricco (Blazin’ Saddles/Eurosport/18 August 2010) As I mentioned in last week’s column, this is the time of year when teams are clamoring for the few remaining spots in cycling’s top level… and as the longtime Yahoo! Eurosport blog, Blazin’ Saddles, points out, the stampede is accompanied by shifting loyalties amongst riders. The biggest story of the week had to be where Riccardo Ricco, the Italian cyclist booted out of the 2008 Tour de France and suspended for two years for doping, would land for 2011. The subsequent jockeying could significantly alter my predictions as to which of the 14 teams bidding for the final eight ProTour spots for next year might end up nabbing them…

  • Fairy tale has its horrors (Norman Hubbard/ESPN Soccernet/19 August 2010) Everyone loves an underdog story in sports… sportswriters and network executives alike salivate at the potential to spin yet another saga in the David-versus-Goliath mold. No story on the surface carries more feel-good undertones than the promotion of tiny Blackpool to the English Premier League this season. Their fourth promotion up the leagues in seven years, the club has been a model of overachievement. But as Hubbard points out in this Soccernet article, not all is roses and violets on England’s western coastline…
  •  NHL All-Decade Teams: 1970s (Mac Brody/Sports Nickel/20 August 2010) I often vacillate on whether or not to include hockey amongst the “non-traditional” sports amongst Americans. There are vibrant pockets where hockey is a dominant sport, but by and large the majority of casual American sports fans fail to give a second glance at the sport. It’s a real shame, given the depth of history and passion which flow through the sport. Look no further than the greats of yesteryear who played the game. If you haven’t seen it yet, my Sports Nickel colleague has been reviewing the best from each decade; they are all worth a read, including the third and most recent of the series detailing the top 23 players of the seventies…
  • It’s not all smooth water for Phelps (Mark Zeigler/San Diego Union-Tribune/21 August 2010) The Olympics can change an athlete’s life forever… for better or for worse. As Zeigler shows in this piece coinciding with the Pan-Pacific Swimming Championships in Irvine, the large blocks of time away from the sport for the man who netted eight gold medals in Beijing has been anything but kind. Phelps was forced to scratch the 200m individual medley from his program, citing exhaustion over the three days of racing and denying the racing world a chance to see him seek his vengeance for the loss in the event to Ryan Lochte at U.S. Nationals last month. Has a new top dog emerged in the pool?
  • NBA superstar Deng returns to his Sudan roots (Tim Franks/BBC Sport/24 August 2010) Now I’m not the biggest basketball guy, but there are innumerable stories of NBA athletes who have survived tempestuous formative experiences and come out on the other side stronger for their tribulations. This look into the summer vacation of Chicago Bulls starter Luol Deng by Franks is especially poignant in the face of me-first athletes like LeBron James who have taken center stage this summer in the 24/7 news cycle. Returning to the land from which he was a refugee twenty years before, the Sudanese-born British import returned home to bring a little joy and hope to his beleaguered compatriots — something we can all use when times are rough…

ON THE DOCKET…

There are a lot of things on the schedule coming up for sports fans in the United States. The NFL gets closer and closer to regular-season kickoff, the preseason in full swing and teams gearing up for the 16-game grind with hopes of playoff glory in their future still fresh in their minds. College football fanatics are also getting ready for the start of the season, as teams from coast to coast entertain dreams of crystal footballs and bowl games in their future. Baseball runs into its stretch drive and astute minds are already digging into areas of the game other than the game itself. And while all of this is fun, there is more to the sports world than just these leagues. Italy and Spain get their soccer leagues off and running this weekend, Germany started up last weekend and England heads into Week 3. The Champions League field is set for next month. And we have a quartet of big events that either culminate a long season, restart one in its own stretch drive or serve as the cornerstone monuments in their respective sports. It’s time for another big confluence on the global sports calendar, so be sure to stock up for a great week of events to come:

  • IAAF Diamond League/Brussels (Friday/27 August) The last meet on the inaugural IAAF Diamond League calendar is the Memorial van Damme at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, a meet initiated in 1977 as a tribute meet for Ivo van Damme, the Belgian Olympic double medalist who was killed in a car accident at just 22 years of age. With both Jamaican sprinters sidelined, Tyson Gay becomes the man to beat in the 100m. Record-breaking David Rushida (see page 1) will try to eclipse the 1:41 barrier at 800m. And Romain Mesnil will be pole vaulting — with his clothes on, thank you very much — in front of a capacity crowd. Be sure to watch on Universal Sports if you get the chance or check their site afterward for highlights.
  • Vuelta a España (starts Saturday/28 August) What more can I say about this race than hasn’t already been spoken earlier (see page 2)? Well, if you’d actually like to watch the daily stages, your best bet for that would be to keep yourself parked right on the internet courtesy of the fine folks at Steephill.tv. They have the feeds to the event in multiple languages, and you’ll be able to catch all the action as Andy Schleck seeks his first-ever grand tour win and Denis Menchov seeks a third Vuelta and the Spaniards hope to maintain the title for themselves. There’s tons of excitement in store in the sprints and on the mountains, so be sure to check their site every day for the latest in video coverage. And remember that I’ll be providing daily news and notes right here just as I did for the Tour de France.
  •   

    Force India will be on the line at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian GP despite their ongoing legal troubles in the Aerolab case...

    F1 Belgian Grand Prix (Sunday/29 August) After a month’s respite since Hungary, the Formula 1 circuit returns to the track at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the penultimate European event before rounding out the season in Asia, Brazil and the finale in Abu Dhabi still three months away. Kimi Räikkönen, the defending champion and winner of the race four of the last five times it has been held, won’t be back to try for a fifth after retiring from the Ferrari team after the 2009 season to focus on rally racing. So watch out for the usual suspects, Red Bull and McLaren and the retooled Ferrari lineup of Fernando Alonso and 2008 Belgian GP winner Felipe Massa. But also keep an eye on Force India, which will not see its assets seized ahead of the race in the Aerolab breach-of-contact suit. Adrian Sutil could be the spoiler here this year — the German took fourth here last year and has been consistently better in 2010. Catch the action at 4:30 am Pacific/7:30 am Eastern on Speed TV.

  • U.S. Open (starts Monday/30 August) Tennis’ last showcase event of the 2010 season is right around the corner, ready to kick off its traditional Monday start two days before the calendar flips into September. We’ve got a packed field of contenders (see page 2) and we’re due for some high-class play on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The draws should be out soon, and I’ll have one last preview to break them down before the weekend is over. But know that you can catch all the action on ESPN/ESPN2, the Tennis Channel and CBS (see full schedule here). And just like the Vuelta, I’ll be here daily with my musings on the action from Flushing Meadows!

A NICKEL’S WORTH…

There’s only so much I can cover in a given week, and there are a lot of things I’d like to write about that get left on the cutting-room floor due to space constraints and my own general time crunch. But they deserve their due notice, and I figure the second century for the column is just about the perfect time  to introduce a new regular feature for the back page. Consider the name an homage to its new home; each week I’ll be giving my quick thoughts on five other events that have been happening around the world:

  • In a match that pitted my two favorite teams in English football, Newcastle United played its home return to the Premiership at St. James’ Park in front of a raucous crowd of over 43,500. Their opponent, Aston Villa, were the team who dealt the Magpies their decisive loss that relegated them from the Premiership to the Championship for the 2009-10 season. Back in the top flight, Newcastle got their vengeance against Villa in their first chance. After his breakthrough season in the Championship last year, 21-year-old striker Andy Carroll — the local boy from across the River Tyne in Gateshead — earned the hat trick to pace the home side to the rout of their Midlands foes. The 6-0 drubbing put Newcastle up to eighth in the league table on goal differential… and relegated Aston Villa to eleventh. The two sides will both be battling for mid-table respectability this year, but this match showed Newcastle is back and a force to be reckoned with…
  • The tenth anniversary of Major League Lacrosse culminated on Sunday night with the championship matchup between the Chesapeake Bayhawks and the Long Island Lizards. The Lizards were an early dynasty in the league’s history, playing in four of the first five championship games and winning the inaugural title of 2001 and a follow-up in 2003. Chesapeake, meanwhile, started in the league in Baltimore and moved to Washington before settling in Annapolis and had never previously even reached a final. Yet on Sunday, the underdog emerged victorious. The Lizards held the lead at various points through the first three quarters, powered by the scoring of Zach Greer, Peet Poillion and Danny Glading. But Bayhawks goalie Chris Garrity was superb in net, and by the fourth saw the home side pulled away for the title. Congrats to the Bayhawks on their first MLL championship…
  • Dust off your old Beijing Olympics issue of Men's Journal, because the showdown they predicted for 2008 is brewing for the next two years in the pool...

    Well, I just had to pull out the old August 2008 Olympic preview edition of Men’s Journal after the performance Ryan Lochte put in at the Pan-Pacific Swimming Championships this past week. The contemporary of Michael Phelps has long swam in his slightly-younger competitor’s shadow… that is, until this past week, when Lochte swept all six events in which he’d entered at the year’s premier swimming competition being held in Irvine, California. The 26-year-old could very well have picked up the sport where Michael Phelps left it off following his gilded performance in the Water Cube in Beijing two summers ago. And a special shout-out is reserved as well for Kosuke Kitajima, the Japanese swimmer who for the past decade has set the gold standard in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. The swimmer has a legitimate chance at the 100m/200m sweep for a third consecutive Olympiad, but had been absent from the pool even more than Phelps since China. He returned impressively in Irvine, setting the fastest time of the year in 100m preliminaries when he touched the wall in 59.04 seconds. Next July”s FINA World Championships in Shanghai are going to be jam-packed with storylines…

  • What is going on right out here in my backyard? Just north of where I sit, up in McMinnville, nineteen members of the high school football team were hospitalized with a rare condition known as compartment syndrome that affects the levels of creatine in the bloodstream and causes muscles — in this case the triceps of the weightlifting teenagers — to swell from the elevated levels. There is a heightened risk of kidney failure, and  up until this point there has never been a documented case of so many people coming down with the syndrome in one go. The coach of the team, rookie leader Jeff Kearin, has been exonerated of any wrongdoing in the case; all signs point to this not being a case of widespread performance enhancement. So what would cause an epidemic of these proportions? The team led by Dr. Craig Winkler at the Willamette Valley Medical Center is grappling with that very question at the moment…
  • When the Chicago Marathon hits the Windy City this October, we’re going to see a showdown between the three most dominant male long-distance runners of the past two years. Defending Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru intends to be at the start in Illinois, alongside winners of two of the most prestigious races on the 2010 calendar. Boston Marathon winner Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, who broke the course record in Massachusetts this April, and Tsegaye Kebede, the Kenyan who won in London the following week, will both be in Chicago hoping to knock off Wanjiru. The trio comprises the deepest group of well-matched contenders which we’ve seen yet in 2010, so be sure to find out on October 10 which of the three was able to pull through victorious. (And if another runner wins, what an upset we’ll have on our hands!)

 

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