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Sports Festivals: Double standards at play

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by Reemus Fernando

Teen athletes competed in their numbers at Divisional and Inter Divisional Athletics Championships of the National Sports Festival held around the country during the last few weekends. If not for the schools athletes the competition venues of the regional championships of the National Sports Festival would have looked lifeless. Yet, it is doubtful when these athletes will be able to compete for their schools as the Ministry of Education is yet to soften its stance on conducting schools competitions due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

The Divisional and Inter Divisional Athletics Championships of the National Sports Festival and the upcoming Youth Championships will help a small segment of young athletes and their coaches figure out where they stand after a long layoff without competitions. But for a vast majority of school athletes who do not compete in these championships nothing would be more important than the Inter School Competitions and the All Island Schools Competitions, which still remain banned.

Last week, one School Sports Association, which was looking forward to ending months of inaction, in November, received a directive from the Ministry of Education to limit their competitions to friendly practice matches. The letter issued by the Ministry of Education included number of regulations which further discourage competitions.

Undoubtedly, serious precautions should be taken in the face of the present pandemic. Student athletes’ health should not be put to risk. But aren’t they currently being exposed to the virus more at packed private tuition classes, overcrowded buses and trains and even in their own class rooms in schools.

If taking part in competitions is a risk to their health, shouldn’t the school athletes be stopped from competing at the Divisional and Inter Divisional Athletics Championships of the National Sports Festival conducted by the Sports Ministry. Certainly the Ministry of Education cannot stop teen athletes from representing clubs during weekends at the above said competitions. If what is more important is the health of young athletes, then what is considered good for them by one Sports Ministry should not be deemed harmful by the Ministry of Education.

There are some health measures like measuring temperature at some of the above-said competitions, where The Island was present. Why can’t the Ministry of Education conduct competitions adhering to health guidelines?

Schools sports suffered setbacks even before the Covid 19 pandemic hit Sri Lanka. A better part of the preceding year was characterised by uncertainty caused by the Easter Sunday bomb attacks.

Even when normalcy prevails a vast majority of country’s schools do not conduct even a sports meet annually. Sports is probably the last on the priority list of the Ministry of Education. Physical health is the key to survival during a pandemic. Ironically, physical education is neglected badly in schools in these times of ‘new normal’. Even at leading schools, both private and public, the outsourced Sports Instructors were the first to lose jobs in the education sector during the lockdown. Both public and private schools may have saved some funds by cutting on salaries but they have certainly opened new avenues for disaster. Once, Olympian turned sprint coach Sunil Gunawardena told in an interview with this newspaper that he would have become a rogue or a rebellion had he not taken to sports.

The schools have been the nurseries of country’s sports. From the two Olympic medalists the country has ever produced to the world cup winning cricketers who have become famous world over, the seeds of sporting success has been sown at schools. Hundreds of thousands of others who took part in sports enthusiastically at school level would vouch for the invaluable lessons they learnt outside the classroom and how much sports helped build their character.

The Ministry of Education has taken serious note of the number of learning hours the students have lost due to the pandemic. Private tuition masters in packed halls are going hell for leather to finish the syllabuses in time of the all important O/L, A/L and Grade five Scholarship exams. The Covid 19 pandemic has come as a blessing in disguise to the sports authorities of the Ministry of Education. Repercussions from a year without sports at schools or how to compensate for the time lost in sports seems to be things they hardly worry about. Results of exams come within months and if you fail you certainly can try again. Country’s prisons are overflowing. We can only hope that what Gunawardena said about himself wouldn’t come true as regards the thousands of young men and women giving up sports this year.



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Akebono, sumo’s first foreign-born grand champion, dies aged 54

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[File pic] Japanese sumo wrestler Akebono (right) has his opponent Kotonowaka airborne during their bout at the Australian Grand Sumo Tournament in Melbourne on June 6, 1997 (Aljazeera)

Akebono, an American-born sumo wrestler who became the first non-Japanese grand champion or “Yokozuna”, died of heart failure this month in Tokyo, the sumo association said on Thursday. He was 54.

The winner of 11 championships – the 10th most in modern sumo history – Akebono was physically imposing at 203cm (6 feet 8 inches) and 233kg (514 pounds). His fighting style relied on his immense size to thrust his foes out of the ring.

Born Chad George Ha’aheo Rowan in Hawaii, Akebono was a college basketball player who was recruited by the head of a Japanese sumo stable, who was also Hawaiian.

He entered the sumo world in 1988 and rose to its highest rank of Yokozuna in January 1993, becoming modern sumo’s 64th Yokozuna. He later became a Japanese citizen, taking the name Taro Akebono.

As a foreigner, Akebono followed in the footsteps of the even bigger Konishiki, also from Hawaii, and alongside fellow Yokozuna Musashimaru, originally from American Samoa.

“Throughout his 35 years in Japan, Akebono strengthened the cultural ties between the United States and his adopted homeland by uniting us all through sport,” US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel Emanuel posted on X.

Akebono also regularly appeared as a celebrity on Japanese TV shows, and after retiring from sumo in 2001 fought in various mixed martial arts and professional wrestling events.

“RIP to the Mighty Akebono,” posted Samoa Joe, the current world champion of AEW pro wrestling. “The epitome of a Yokozuna, both a warrior and a gentleman. A hui hou.”

Akebono is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons.

(Aljazeera)

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Bumrah five-fer, Suryakumar, Ishan blitz dismantle Royal Challengers Bangalore

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Jasprit Bumrah returned figures of 5 for 21 (Cricbuzz)

Jasprit Bumrah produced a fast-bowling clinic on a featherbed of a batting surface to take 5 for 21 before Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav led a batting onslaught to chase down Royal Challengers Bangalore’s total of 196 in just 15.3 overs. RCB, who had Faf du Plessis, Rajat Patidar and Dinesh Karthik hit brisk half-centuries, faced the worst of the conditions on a dewy Mumbai evening after losing the toss and were condemned to their fifth loss in six games while Mumbai continued to make the climb up the standings after a slow start to IPL 2024, giving their Net Run Rate a big fillip on their way up.

In his mid-match chat with the broadcasters, Bumrah said that he had seen deliveries from Mohammad Nabi’s first over of the match holding up a touch. And so, he resorted to hitting the hard lengths at pace. It took him just three balls to knock over IPL 2024’s leading run-getter. Virat Kohli, having made a scratchy beginning, backed away to the first ball and missed with an attempted swipe across the line. He wore the second ball, an inducker, on his pad. Another attempt to swing across the line sent him on his way as the inside edge was snaffled neatly by Kishan. Kohli was back in the hut for 3 (9) in the third over. His dismissal and that of IPL debutant Will Jacks – replacing big-money trade signing Cam Green – meant RCB got to a middling PowerPlay score of 44/2, despite a promising start from du Plessis.

Hardik Pandya summoned his bowling linchpin back at the end of the 10th over when RCB had staged a laudable comeback through du Plessis and Patidar. The pair plundered 45 in the four overs after the PowerPlay and the MI captain, who had leaked 13 in his only over, needed to reclaim a semblance of control. And so in came Bumrah and sent down a four-run over. There was no wicket here but the over included a pacy short ball that whizzed past Patidar before the follow-up yorker honing in on the legstump had to be frantically dug out. Control somewhat regained, MI proceeded to dismiss Patidar after his return-to-form 26-ball 50 in the following over before the returning Shreyas Gopal added to RCB’s misery by handing Glenn Maxwell a four-ball duck, extending his dreadful start to the season.

RCB recovered once more and at 149/4 with half-centurion du Plessis and Karthik in the middle, they were primed to cash in on the final four overs. But to entertain any thought of a finishing kick, they had to go through Bumrah once more. Du Plessis couldn’t. The RCB captain mistimed a low full-toss to long-on to depart for a 40-ball 61. Bumrah welcomed new batter Mahipal Lomror with a searing yorker with the batter unable to get DRS to his aid. The unexpected slide forced RCB to use their impact substitute in the first innings, but Saurav Chauhan didn’t last long with Bumrah offering him a quick short ball which the batter miscued to mid-on. Vijaykumar Vyshak was the next batter to get a first-ball duck when Bumrah served him another short ball and had him chip a simple catch to mid-off. That wicket helped Bumrah join a very select group of bowlers — James Faulkner, Jaydev Unadkat and Bhuvneshwar Kumar the others — to take two IPL five-fers. He finished with a sensational 5 for 21.

After two excellent half-centuries from du Plessis and Patidar, it took an even better effort from Karthik to take the visitors to 196. Karthik walked out to bat unusually early, in the 13th over and after nine balls had just six runs to his name. He took down Akash Madhwal in the 16th over, using the ramp to third to great effect. Four boundaries came in that over before Karthik added another four and a pair of sixes from Madhwal’s 20th over. Karthik’s unbeaten 53 off 23 made it only the 11th instance in the IPL for an innings to feature three half-centurions. His innings also powered RCB close to 200 but his innings was also a revelation of the easing batting conditions with the onset of dew.

Any hopes RCB had of defending the score was to be a function of how their bowlers fared in the powerplay. Reece Topley and Mohammed Siraj found swing in their first overs respectively and MI’s openers made a circumspect beginning. All that changed in the third over when Kishan edged Topley only to be reprieved by Maxwell, who was placed wide at first slip. Kishan proceeded to lay into the wayward RCB attack, dispatching Mohammed Siraj for two sixes and a four in a 23-run fifth over. Du Plessis turned to Maxwell’s off-spinners for some match-up advantage but saw the all-rounder leak 17 as Kishan reached a 23-ball half-century. The chase was as good as done with Mumbai Indians racing off to 72/0 after six overs.

If Kishan’s 34-ball 69 was rapid then what followed was a blitzkrieg. Suryakumar, in just his second game back from an injury, walked out in the ninth over behind a century opening stand and sent the opposition on a leather hunt. Akash Deep copped punishment to the tune of 24 runs in the 11th hour. All of the facets that make Suryakumar one of the best in the format: the wristy flicks, the slice over point for six, the walk across the crease and lap over short fine were all on display. Suryakumar proceeded to take down Reece Topley for three fours and a six and in the process completed a half-century off just 17 balls – his fastest in the tournament history and the second-fastest for the season. The only good thing at that point for RCB on the night was that their pain didn’t last too long thereafter.

Brief scores:Royal Challengers Bengaluru 196/8 in 20 overs (Faf du Plessis 61, Rajat Patidar 50, Dinesh Karthik 53*; Jasprit Bumrah 5-21, Gerald Coetze 1-42, Akash Madhwal 1-57, Shreyas Gpal 1-32 ) lost to Mumbai Indians 199/3 in 15.3 overs (Ishan Kishan 69, Suryakumar Yadav 52, Rohit Sharma 38, Hardik Pandya 21*; Vijaykumar Vyshak 1-32, Akash Deep 1-55, Will Jacks 1-24)  by seven wickets.

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OJ Simpson, NFL star cleared in ‘trial of the century’, dies aged 76

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OJ Simpson, the former American footballer who was controversially cleared of double murder, has died aged 76, his family says.

Orenthal James Simpson rose to fame as a college footballer before playing in the NFL. In 1995, he was acquitted of the murder of his former wife Nicole Brown and a friend in a trial that gripped America.

In 2008, he was sentenced to 33 years’ imprisonment on charges of armed robbery. He was released in 2017.

Simpson died of cancer on Wednesday, his family wrote on Twitter/X. “He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren,” the statement read.

In 1994, Simpson was arrested as a suspect in the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. The ensuing trial gripped the nation. In what was dubbed the “trial of the century” by US media, prosecutors argued Simpson killed Brown in a jealous fury. Evidence included blood, hair and fiber tests linking Simpson to the murders.

The defence argued Simpson had been framed by police motivated by racism.

In one of the most memorable moments in the trial, prosecutors asked Simpson to wear a pair of blood-stained gloves allegedly found at the scene of the murder, but Simpson struggled to put on the gloves. The blunder led to one of Simpson’s lawyers, Johnnie Cochrane, telling the jury in his closing arguments: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Getty Images OJ Simpson shows jury a leather glove allegedly used in the murders

During the trial, OJ Simpson tried on a leather glove allegedly used in the murders (BBC)

The jury ultimately sided with Simpson, who declared he was “absolutely 100% not guilty”. The acquittal proved hugely controversial.

In 2008, he was convicted of armed robbery. He was sentenced to 33 years in jail, but was granted parole after serving the minimum of nine years.

Before his arrest on suspicion of murder, Simpson was regarded with affection by the public, well known as a professional athlete, actor and million-dollar spokesman for several US companies.

He played football at college before being signed to the Buffalo Bills NFL team in 1969, where he played until 1977. He became one of the greatest ball carriers in NFL history. In 1973, he became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. He retired in 1979.

(BBC)

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