Today L’Equipe has posed the question as to who should carry the French flag at the forthcoming Olympics. They’ve also questioned whether France – like Great Britain and USA – should allow the athletes themselves to choose the flag-holder. In any event, it’s academic as the decision’s going to be taken by a committee (what else?), the French Olympic Committee, on 9 June. That aside, L’Equipe has been canvassing its readership to see who they feel should carry the flag and then contacting the potential candidates for their reactions.
Two candidates were equally favoured by L’Equipe’s poll: five-times world Judo champion Tenny Riner and Olympic and World Champion hand-baller, Nicola Karabatic: two good choices. They’re both big enough to carry the flag with ease and readily recognisable by the French public. In third place was the former husband of Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria, basketball player Tony Parker. A number of the candidates proposed by readers – all of the swimmers – would be ruled out simply from the timing of their events. Interestingly, while both Karabatic and Parker would be happy to fulful this honnor, Riner wants to focus exclusively on winning that elusive olympic gold medal.
Only two cyclists were proposed: double-Olympic MBT Champion, Julien Absalon and the evergreen Jeannie Longo. The latter’s participation in the event is in doubt following recent revelations in connection with her husband and training partner’s use of EPO as a recovery aid, even supposing that at only 43kg she’s capable of carrying the flag for any length of time. Absolan, competing in what will probably be his last Olympics – and gunning for a third gold – would appear to be a sounder choice. He replied that it would be immensely prestigious to be selected to perform this task. Meanwhile, Jeannie couldn’t be reached for a comment.
Potential candidates should note that carrying the flag could be something of a poisoned chalice. Only five of the forty (Winter and Summer Olympics) who have previously undertaken the task, have gone on to win gold medals. I have to confess that I do think the athletes themselves should make the choice. Nothing is nicer for an athlete than the confidence of their peers. However, I’m with Riner. In the highly improbable event of me ever being in contention at the Olympics, I know I would want to concentrate solely on winning. The opening ceremony and any associated ceremonial duties would be an unnecessary distraction. It really isn’t about taking part, it’s about winning: winning gold.
Here’s a few things, in no particular order, that have caught my eye in recent days:-
Aged 98, Keiko Fukuda is the first Japanese woman to receive a coveted red belt in Judo. The other seven holders of said belt are male. You wouldn’t want to mug this old lady, now would you? Judo obviously helps you stay youthful, in the accompanying photo she looks no more than mid-60s. So, level with us Keikisan what’s your secret?
At the other end of the age spectrum, France’s 22-year old Teddy Riner has just won his 5th world title. One of my favourite moments from this year’s Tour de France was when Teddy dropped in for a visit and everyone had to crane their necks to look up at all 2.03m of him. Teddy, weighing in at 131kgs, about the same as Joaquim Rodriguez and Tom Boonen combined, fights in the 100kg+ category and took just 11mins 16secs to dispose of the competition, roughly less than 2 mins per man. Again, someone else you really wouldn’t want to mess with.
The Beautiful Game
OGCN drew 0-0 at home to Brest, a match they should surely have won. In any event, they’re now out of the drop zone. Meanwhile, my beloved boys in claret and blue drew 0-0 at home to neighbours Wolves. Villa recorded their lowest gate since December 2006, just 30,776. One of whom was England manager Fabio Capello, no doubt checking on the form of Darren Bent. He would have left disappointed. I’m finding it more and more difficult to get enthused about football. Attendance at a live match is long overdue.
Michael Schumacher crashed in the wet, in Spa, home of the Belgian GP, and on his favourite circuit. Not, I fancy, how he wanted to celebrate his 20th anniversary in F1. He started today from the back of the field sucking everyone else’s exhaust fumes. His German compatriot took the laurels today.
Another man facing a back of the field start today, was the Doctor. Yes, Valentino Rossi, after falling in qualifying, looked to be heading for the back row but he managed to pull out a couple of reasonable laps and move up 3 places to 14th. His miserable season continues. Can anyone fix Ducati’s bikes?
Under your own steam
The World Athletics are being beamed to us from Daegu in S Korea. Either the tickets were too expensive, the Koreans don’t care for athletics or the man in charge of their distribution gave them all to sponsors. Whatever, Usain Bolt was playing to an empty stadium the other evening. He’ll have found that a bit disconcerting, but it didn’t seem to put him off his stride. I spoke too soon, the news from Daegu is of his disqualification for a false start in the 100m final, in front of a packed stadium. His countryman Yohan Blake took gold.
Hurricane Irene, currently lashing New York, has forced the postponement of the start of the UK Open where Novak Djokovic is hoping to add to his Grand Slam tally and Rafa Nadal is hoping to retain his title. In 2008, Hurricane Ike, caused the Red Bull Indiannapolis Moto2 race to be cancelled, halted the 125cc round in its tracks, while the MotoGP took place on wet tracks.
Hurricanes are given names to eliminate confusion when there are multiple systems in an area at the same time. In most cases, it retains its name throughout its life. The names are taken from alphabetical lists decided upon either by committees of the World Meteorological Organisation or by national weather offices involved in the forecasting of the storms. Each year, the names of particularly destructive storms (if there are any) are “retired” and new names are chosen to take their place. Different countries have different local conventions; for example, in Japan, storms are referred to by number (each year), such as 台風第9号 (Typhoon #9).
While my attention has been focused fair and square on the Vuelta, it’s not the only event taking place on two non-motorised wheels. Yesterday, I caught sight of the procession of the riders who had taken part in the inaugural Haute Route from Geneva to Nice, enjoying the final few
kilometers of their endeavours, as they headed towards the Promenade des Anglais. They looked in remarkably good spirits given that in just 7 sweltering days they’d ridden 730kms and climbed 17,000m up 15 legendary mountains. I’d love to have taken part but my coach felt that it might just be a wee bit too ambitious: maybe next year. Congratulations and well done to all the 234 finishers.
Staying with the amateurs, this week’s Paris-Brest-Paris premier participants took just 44h 13 mins to complete the 1,231 kms, an average speed of just under the permitted maximum average of 28km/hr. Around 57% of the entrants were non French. Following verification, the official results will be published in early September.
The neo-pros have been lighting up the Tour du Poitou Charentes which was won by Radioshack’s Kiwi, Jesse Sergent who took Stage 4’s ITT. Stages were won by, among others, Sky’s neo-pros Davide Appollonio and Alex Dowsett. Movistar bound Giovanni Visconti of the impeccably, aerodynamically, plucked eyebrows won the GP Industria e Commercio Artigianato Carnaghese. Is this the race with the longest name? Over the pond, Radioshack’s Levi Leipheimer seems to have sewn up the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, being held at altitude, in Colarado.
Spectators were out in force for today’s 248.3km, circuit race, GP de Plouay, held under a heavily overcast sky, in the heartland of French cycling. French riders were hoping to catch to the eye of team selector Laurent Jalabert and book a berth for the World Championhips in Copenhagen. We had a trade mark attack from Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler in the dying kilometers but it was all too little, too late, as Lampre’s Grega Bole had pinged off the front just before Tommy and held on to win. The first Slovenian to do so.
Meanwhile back in Spain, on the long and difficult slog up to La Covatilla, the first real summit finish of this year’s Vuelta, the Brits took charge. Sky’s Bradley Wiggins forced the pace and Garvelo’s Brummie, Dan Martin, nipped out of the leading bunch to take a well-deserved stage win. Second placed youngster, Rabobank’s Bauke Mollema lifted the red leader’s jersey from a struggling JRod, who conceded pretty much all the time he’d gained the previous day. My contact was right, Brad is in the form of his life. I await tomorrow’s time trial with interest.
CAS have announced that Contador’s hearing will take place 21-24 November. I’m assuming, rightly or wrongly, they mean November 2011.