The laudable, lamentable and laughable in sport this year
First, what were the highlights? We have the Black Sox men’s softball team winning their 6th World Title in Auckland at the start of 2013.
Brilliant and winsome teenager, Lydia Ko, won in just her second tournament as a professional, the rather curiously named Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan. The world is her lobster, as Arthur Daley once said.
Scott Dixon won his third IndyCar Championship. It still rankles that Dixon did not win the 2008 supreme Halberg award when he won the Indy500, the learned judges opting for Valerie Vili (now Adams). Yes, I know it is comparing apples and oranges, but surely winning one of the world’s major sporting events with such a rich history is a greater achievement than the Olympic shot put title.
Lauren Boyle won three bronze medals at the World Champs in Barcelona. In 40 years NZ has won only 8 medals at these Championships. Boyle joins the great (a word used advisedly) Danyon Loader as the only other triple medallist at the World Champs.
The All Blacks went through the year unbeaten (in 14 starts), winning the Rugby Championship and retaining the Bledisloe Cup along the way. The Chiefs retained their Super 15 title despite the loss of SBW (if you do not know what this acronym is then you are not a sports fan) and injuries to key players such as Richard Kahui.
Suzie Bates was named ICC woman’s ODI cricketer of the year. Lisa Carrington added another world title to her glittering array of medals in kayaking. And finally, Otago won the shield after 53 years and held it for a full … week.
Turning to the low points, the choke to end all chokes was that by Emirates Team New Zealand. Recall that ETNZ were up by 8-1 needing just one more win to secure the Auld Mug. The collection of sporting mercenaries, which brazenly adopts the NZ moniker despite being a private syndicate, was adept at making excuses. It was the wind, the tides, the dodgy gizmo on Oracle, the alignment of the planets, etc.
In the end they were just not good enough. The eminently photogenic and handsome Dean Barker was outwitted by the shrewd but less immaculately groomed Aussie, Jimmy Spithill. In the only race I watched live I recall seeing Emirates about 500m from the finishing line prematurely celebrating, smiling and shaking hands in the race (Race 13) in which they were way ahead but were ultimately timed out. It seems no one in the multi-million dollar operation noticed that there was a 40 minute time-limit.
David Tua made a desperate attempt to climb back into world heavyweight contention. This was a sad and sorry spectacle. Talofa’e. The verdict: too old, too short, too slow, too much Burger King, too much weight loss in too brief a period. As if to confirm his sad demise, he announced his intention to enter politics. What next, will David be a presenter on Seven Sharp? No, he couldn’t slump that low.
The Kiwis made it to the World Cup final only to be walloped by the Kangaroos, 34-2. Enough said.
Jock Paget’s horse, Clifton Promise, tested positive for a banned drug in the wake of Paget winning Badminton and Burghley this year. Neither Jock nor Clifton are available for comment.
Russell Packer disgraced himself, the Warriors and rugby league by urinating through his shorts whilst on the field. The club was fined $15,000 by the NRL. Awful. Subsequently, Packer went to the Newcastle Knights, was embroiled in a late-night brawl and has now been refused registration to play in 2014 by the NRL. Adult Pampers commercials await Mr Packer.
The weird includes the nomination of Emirates Team NZ in the team category for the Halberg awards. This, after they received an official welcome home in the City of Sails. Ludicrous.
Sir Peter Snell called NZ’s attitude to sporting achievements “weird” because while champions are appreciated, the country doesn't “want to help you out professionally”. “They admire the results but they don’t want to help you out professionally. They do it all the time”. He added, “They did it to Russell Coutts, who then went to Switzerland and took the Cup away. I loved that.”
Pardon? He “loved that”? Has the relentless Texas sun taken its toll?