Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Photographers' Blog:

Dream of gold

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By Swoan Parker

Gold in Haiti should no longer be just a dream. Even before prospective mining begins in the country's northern hills, the realization of it all could be little more than one month away. Without investing millions and weighing only 52 kg (114 pounds), 21-year-old Linouse Desravines, the country’s only judoka to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics, is all it might take for Haiti to acquire gold.

Being a fan of the martial arts with secret fantasies of being a Ninja when I was a young child, I wanted to meet the country’s only athlete who is also female and would represent them in judo.  I made a few calls and was put in touch with coaches Ulrick Louis-Charles and Andres Ramos Franco, both former Olympians at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Louis-Charles returned to the Games more recently as coach in Beijing.

Linouse, who is ranked #28 in the world in her weight class, is from Haiti’s north coast where she lives and regularly trains. In preparation for the games, Linouse was scheduled to stay in the capital for a few days and train with the two coaches, before traveling to France to continue training for seven more weeks before arriving in London.

I made arrangements to meet her during a daily five-hour practice session. It was an early morning call; I arrived at the sports center at 6am and the athletes were already running wind sprints.  As I walked nearer to the group I noticed one female athlete in particular that just exuded a commanding presence in spite of being petite.  It was Linouse.

The late-night fate of Europe’s NBA fans

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By Phil O’Connor Being a fan of any team is usually a thankless task. But following the fortunes of an NBA team from Europe – especially at this time of the year – is bordering on masochism. I fell for the charms of the world’s best basketball league back in the eighties, when Magic Johnson and his “Showtime” Lakers and Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics were the two top teams it had. The duels between Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Robert “the Chief” Parrish, the scoring and rebounding of James Worthy and Kevin McHale, the deep threat of Danny Ainge – not to mention Bird and Johnson – hooked me for life on the game. The advent of Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler only added to it, and the Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 completed the NBA’s takeover of world basketball consciousness. It might seem odd that a teenager from a non-basketball nation like Ireland would fall for its charms, but given Boston’s large Irish community and the fact that there was a good likelihood I’d wind up emigrating there, it wasn’t so strange after all. I was also the tallest kid in the class all through school, which meant that if I was going to be good at any sport, I’d have a head start in basketball. Long before the internet, games and scores were followed under the covers in our Dublin home, thanks to the late-night broadcasts on the US Armed Forces Radio station. I’d often fall asleep waiting on the sports report or whatever game was on to finish. Back then, Bird was my hero, and not just for his shooting ability; his passing was breathtaking, and anyone who has ever played any ball-sport will recognise his outstanding ability and vision. I might never have become a resident of “Southie”, and I may have flirted with the greatness of His Airness when Jordan was at his peak, but the Celtics have always been my team. Nowadays it’s easier to keep up with their progress than ever before, but the advent of games streamed live on the internet has been both a pleasure and a chore. As summer begins in Europe, it means a lot of very late nights as the Celtics do battle with the Miami Heat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. As a sports reporter, I don’t have a normal working life; a lot of what we cover takes place at night or at weekends, so our working days start later than most. Unfortunately, my children have yet to show an understanding of why I have to stay up until dawn watching Rajon Rondo play out of his skin, scoring 44 points and still losing game 2 in the conference final. They still get me up at 7 am, even if I’ve only just gone to bed. Days are spent in a state of mental exhaustion, and by the time I’ve recovered from one all-nighter, it’s tip-off time again. Next week I head for the European soccer championship in Kiev, Ukraine, which will only complicate my basketball fix. Hopefully I’ll have a few more sleepless nights this summer as the Celtics beat the Heat and go all the way to another championship.

from Photographers' Blog:

Russia’s hooligans

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By Maxim Shemetov

Photographing a soccer match for the first time, I realized that shooting the fans can be more interesting than covering the game itself.

We all keep up with the destinies of football clubs and the careers of soccer players. There are many parts to soccer life, however, that rarely appear on TV and on the front pages of newspapers. It's the life of people absorbed by the game - those inspiring exciting games, TV translations, as well as the construction of new stadiums.

All is not well between the sticks in Denmark

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Phil O’Connor

Perhaps understandably, nowhere in his writings are his views on international football recorded. 

 But recent events echo the words of William Shakespeare in Hamlet - all is not well in the state of Denmark. Especially between the posts.

“Luuuke” golf beginning to win over fans

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Luke Donald’s complete dominance of Wentworth’s brutal West Course has led the world to sit up and take notice, while his chanting fans have also made their mark.

Not that people were not aware of Donald before, just that his latest victory and the fashion in which he won Europe´s PGA have raised his profile in his native England and made him the golfer to beat again.

from Photographers' Blog:

At home with Hercules

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By Peter Andrews

When asked which Polish athlete has a chance at the London Olympics I immediately thought of the shot put champion Tomasz Majewski.

For those who have never seen Tomasz in real life, it can be a bit intimidating. I have always considered myself tall at 192cm (6 feet, 3 inches), but when I first met Tomasz I suddenly felt very small. With a height of 2.4 meters (7 feet 10 inches) and weighing 140 kg (308 pounds), Tomasz is overpowering. He reminded me of Hercules with his long dark hair up in a pony tail. He also has a nice warm smile he puts on easily, so being around him is relaxed and easy right from the first handshake.

Drogba´s departure a blow for Africa

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By Mark Gleeson

Celebrations down London´s King’s Road would have been matched for fervour and passion by those in Abidjan on Saturday night as Didier Drogba delivered for Chelsea.

The pride of an African striking the decisive blow on one of world football’s biggest stages has been reflected across the continent in the post UEFA Champions League final coverage.

John Terry – dedicated follower of fashion

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By Phil O’Connor

Despite all the bling, the big watches and fast cars, the brand management and media training, there is still one thing that, without fail, can expose the true nature of soccer players.

Winning.

As Didier Drogba stroked home the winning penalty against Bayern Munich in Saturday’s Champions league final and the blue-clad parts of the stadium exploded, the studied cool of the young Chelsea millionaires went out the window.

Chelsea vanquish Moscow ghosts

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Some things are meant to be, others are not.

Frank Lampard said he never doubted Chelsea would win the penalty shootout against Bayern Munich in Saturday’s enthralling 2012 Champions League final, although they trailed in the spot kicks after Juan Mata’s early miss, while the hero of their astonishing victory Didier Drogba firmly believes it was Chelsea’s destiny to cover themselves in glory.

And rightly so one might add, having suffered an exact reverse four years ago on a rainy night in Moscow, which ended in agony for Chelsea after they were ahead in the penalty shootout against Manchester United only to see the elusive trophy snatched away by their Premier League rivals after John Terry’s barely believable miss.

Mr Chelsea enjoys a glory night but might not stay for long

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Roberto Di Matteo can now claim the title of “Mr Chelsea” with as much justification as any of the club’s great players of the past or indeed some of the players who on Saturday helped Chelsea become European champions for the first time.

The 41-year-old interim manager has transformed their season which ended with the most glorious success in their 107-year history as Chelsea became the first London club ever to lift the European Cup following their 4-3 penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich.

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