Thursday, May 29, 2014

Often in life there are opportunities available for the taking. In sport they come and, then, they dissipate just as quickly. One lost one day, another here tomorrow. Some take them, some don't. There are sights we all want to spy such as the towering twosome of the Williams sisters opposing each other in round three in Paris. But that was one opportunity they could not bring to fruition.

Whether, deep down, they would want to face each other is another matter. It is well known that neither enjoy playing the other. Never have, never will, for the two have always been close. They have gone through a lot together, their careers virtually joined at the hip. One year apart in age, and despite Venus having a wee head start on that count, Serena was the first to garner a grand slam title, in 1999 at Flushing Meadows. Only a year later Venus joined in what was to become a rampage of glutinous domination over the next four and a half years as they won twelve between them and have since gone on to win twenty-six singles slam titles during their illustrious careers.

This is before even considering the narrative of two black girls brought up the on wrong side of the tracks, not to mention encountering the well to do tennis environment of the conservative white middle class. Yeah, they've gone through some. They had a father to push them along. They more than likely have Richard Williams to thank for the position they now find themselves in life. Two of the greats of the game, more money than they know what to do with and plush homes to reside in. He protected them, as much as is possible. He pushed them, they became great.

It can't have been easy though. Dealing with the racial overtones and negative comments with which white parents of their peers often made. To feel the pain of discrimination - Nobody deserves such. And then there was their older half-sister who was brutally murdered in 2003. Shot. Coldly. Now that is life. One life cruelly disposed of and at least two others affected for life. Neither sister won a Slam title for another two years and we haven't even got to Indian Wells yet.

Indian Wells, was it racism or Venus pulling out of her match against Serena four minutes before the game was due to begin to avoid the sisters playing each other, both of or none of the above? To that, none of us will ever know. The only way to know if racism was rearing its ugly head in the form of a torrent of booing is for the same to have occurred with two white sisters. Maybe there was racism, maybe there wasn't. It could have been a simple case of a crowd upset at being denied the chance to get their money's worth. That said, both Venus and Serena have refused to play the event since. That's thirteen years and counting. They stand on principle. And the Sisters have played each other since.

Did it happen in Paris? Two sisters losing deliberately to avoid a confrontation? Well, NO. Down conspiracy theorists. Didn't happen. Quite simply, on one side we have Venus, a Woman who is a mere shadow of her former self and suffers from sjogren's syndrome. She gets tired easily. Simple as that. She will never be the same player again. And then there was Serena who competed an hour later and would have known her Sister had already lost. Go home conspiracy theorists.

We all get Venus, but what of Serena? Where to now for the Woman that many regard as the greatest female player of all time. There are five ahead of her on the all time list of Singles winners. Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Helen Wills-Moody, Steffi Graf and Margaret Court. Of those five, with the exception of Graf, she would have been too strong for the rest and she has had to compete in an era where the depth is significantly stauncher.

There will be those that say the others would adjusted to the modern game. Maybe, maybe not. Let it be said though that within a year of Graf appearing on the scene, her power quickly overwhelmed Navratilova, until then regarded as the greatest. The thing with Graf was not just her power but her mental faculties were second to none. Very rarely did she lose early in a tournament, certainly not to the extent of Williams. Very rarely did she misfire in the heat of a Final. Though she may not have won every time, she sure didn't go down without a fight.

That is not to say Williams does not fight, but inconsistencies persist. To lose 6-2,6-2 in the second round of the French Open, or any Slam event, is verging on unbecoming. What did Oscar Wilde say? Something about losing early once may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose twice looks like carelessness. Or words to that affect. The mind boggles on what it may be to lose early many more times than twice, and, for Williams, it has become a regular occurrence.

This performance was an errant vista of error strewn shot-making seeping treacherously from an over-indulgent mind. A mind clearly not on the job, there is only one person who knows where to locate the consistency of mental toughness required to bring about a legacy for the ages.

Five slams behind Graf, to be revered as the greatest, she is going to have to overtake the German wonder by some considerable margin to go down as the greatest.

Monday, May 19, 2014

There are many attributes required to succeed at the loftiest heights of sporting endeavour.

They all contribute to an all-round performance.

Courage and mental toughness, that which brings out the ability to play through pain, being amongst them. All prerequisite's to make success concur with one's wishes.

The courage to push through the pain barrier and go the extra one percent for the benefit of the team. When oxygen depleted cells are screaming for relief, mental toughness enters to give courage a gentle nudge in the right direction.

All so valuable, but one trait to bait the coming out of a dream is speed.


The agility of speeds ability to commandeer many a soul to demean. With that, the speed to take another's paradise and turn it into a searing gate of hell.

Speed, plenty of speed, fleet of foot and acute of mind, speed in all facets. Where the mind goes, speed soon follows. When speed fades, talent bids farewell. Speed, not many possess and not many does a champion make.

With such velocity goes yet another dream towards the upper echelons of the night sky. Year upon year, one success after another and finding flight from within, the wins become him. Speed, such speed, the speed to thrill and the speed to kill a contender's hope. The speed to elevate to the loftiest of heights and the speed to engrave a reputation for life and beyond. That thrill, the thrill of a goal achieved, the thrill of adoration that comes with being number one, the thrill, the thrill.

Gareth Bale has that speed. And man can he thrill.

For he had a dream. A dream to play for Real Madrid. That dream became a reality and his reality became his dream. It took something special to bring about that success though.

He was mocked for being an overpaid show pony who would offer nothing to this team. And that was before he had kicked a ball in anger, but he persevered despite the perceptions.

And what changed those perceptions? One run. One scintillating run down one narrow corridor on his side's left edge. Just one run. One run. With that one run, the world became his oyster. No longer was he open to ridicule as he scorched his way down field, kicked ahead, sprinted around a foe and outside of the left touchline, back in, cut a swath across field and scored. Speed.

To any other, not possible. To Gareth Bale, all in a day's work. For that is the intangible of speed. Have it and you will make the otherworldly appear increasingly like the normal. It constantly stuns one with the brightest of vistas.

He had taken awhile to regain his fitness after injuries and the perceptions of him as a player lingered, yet once he applied the salve of speed, all was right in his world.

As he sped his way down that left edge that defining day, there were dreams of greatness. There were dreams of becoming a hero for the club he had idolised since he was a young boy. And, of course, there were dreams of becoming not just the World's highest paid player, but one of the World's elite in every sense of the word.

To this he achieved, and why? One word, speed. The speed to speed to the speediest of speedy climax's.

Say it again; Speed. One word yet worth so much. In Gareth Bales case, eighty-five million pounds.

Again, speed: A winner's salvation and a loser's condemnation at the mercy of the ultimate power.


That is what makes one Gareth Bale and another soon forgotten.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lydia Ko is changing coaches.


As silence spreads itself around the lush green green's of a stunned golfing world, many ponder the fickle winds of professional sport's razor edge. One minute so serene . . . The next, so mean.

Such a successful pairing with Guy Wilson, her coach: together for so long. A bond so entwined within the psyche of a kindred. A Coach, a mentor and a protector all in one.

Yet after a decade of moulding the delightful Ko into a smiling assassin, that assassin turned on him. Such cruelty. A decade of dedicated service savagely blindsided in one stroke by this seriously stubborn young lady. What an ace.

She's no diva, though. What is best and what is next to be the best. It is a hard grind out there, and like all the greats she is constantly searching for ways to improve.

Friendships fray at the seams, the innocence of amateur sport is lost within the depths of a tangled forest, with those mere mortals of the Woman's tour struggling to see the wood from the trees, let alone set the World alight. They fight and they fight, but a one-off talent radiates such fright.

There was criticism, it came thick and fast. The media, golf followers and the public alike . . . they all knew best.

That is what sets our Lydia apart, the relentless pursuit of all things great. The ability to take no notice of the masses and forge ahead all-knowing in what it is she wishes to achieve. And which is the best way to accomplish this is.

It didn't end there, though. Just recently, this wonder kid was slaughtered for receiving hand-outs from Sport New Zealand. Or, at least, supposedly so. Did she really go on the hunt for more dough? Strange, when one considers the multimillion dollar sponsorships she receives. Perhaps it could be Sport New Zealand announcing a grant without Ko's knowledge. After all, why would she require such funds?

Sure enough, the barbs began before breakfast's beginning. Or a practice shot had been fired that day. But that is life in the all seeing eye of the public sphere when one is so richly endowed with talent. And money.

Destiny, it is her destiny. This is the lass that practiced day and night from the age of five. Dedicated - She knew what she wanted out of life - full of energy, a work ethic to shame second best, this lass never ran out of gas. Such sass. It is her destiny to fight with might and strike the height of night's leading light. O what a sight, and such bite to her game. To clamp the claws of petty spite and ring the rounds of change as change did charge amongst the hovering tides of titles waiting to be claimed.

She's sixteen, sweet sixteen, oh heavenly sixteen, she was a girl, just a girl, though a girl with the game of the mightiest of women. From the time of turning pro to now and all the way back into her amateur endeavours, her talent sure did glow.

Already a name and surging toward worldwide fame, now seventeen and on her game.

Number two and already a slew of opposition down to a few. Such is her dominance, and only pro for six months with a mind that is far from slow. Such is the way with the very best, a cerebral mind leads to an even sharper game. This is the girl, that as an amateur - And studying part time - scored ninety-seven percent in her math exam. Most of us would be happy to score this over eighteen holes, let alone in Math.

As an amateur, amazing feats flowed freely from her heightened talent.

Advice would come from every direction. Most knew best. Turn pro, they would say. Stay an amateur, others would bray. There is money to be made, rotate your bent into a fortune and turn pro. Fifteen is too young, live life some. You'll burn out.

Lydia Ko is turning pro.

But not all knew best.

Michelle Wie, a head so young and a head beyond her years. Such a pity she and Ko are destined to be long-term foes, for Wie is exactly the level headed type the youngster would do well to befriend.

While others thought not to mind their own business, Wie produced the most level headed response of all as to whether Ko should go pro.

*** “I have no advice for her,” Wie said. “Turning pro or not turning pro, going to college, not going to college, it’s a very personal decision. It’s not something someone can say: `I think you should turn pro. I think you should stay an amateur. I think you should do this or that.’
“It’s her life; it’s her career. When I turned pro, I really wanted to turn pro. That was a very personal decision for me. I really wanted to do that, and I have no regrets. I hope she makes the right decision for her. Whatever decision she makes, it has to really just be on her and what she wants to do.” ***

Unlike the more flatulent of egos with which the foul stench of pomposity reeks ever-more with each morally high-handed pronouncement on how others should live, here was a woman that had experienced the highs and, of course, the lows who chose to take the entirely reasonable approach of declining to tender advice that had not been requested.

This, of course, is what Ko and her hardened mind did; think for herself. Perhaps this will aid her as she goes forth into an even harder world.

Because gone is sweet sixteen, seventeen - sure to be a passing faze into the killer instinct of a ferocious will forcing itself upon the golfing world. The mind of an adult in the body of a teenager supplemented with the game of the otherworldly. With the hardened steel, rigid in its application, she is ready.

Ready to climb.

For one so slight - such might, she must take flight to her heavenly height. To make light of opposing foes through the day and celebrate long into the night.

Except that is not her way. Celebrations being the cold front of success, randomly wrecking havoc upon any future opportunity to soar to the hoary capped heights of the highest of mountains.

Hard work, hard work, this is all there is, for those mountains are sheer, no matter the bent.

February 27, 2014. A momentous day. A day the seventeen year old made us all forget the number seventeen. A day when Lydia the person blended into adulthood, but Lydia the talent left many an adult behind. A day, this day, when she won her first LPGA Tour event, in California.

You see, Lydia Ko is changing Women's golf.


Because this is what one does when one can.

This quote came from an article by Randall Mell of Golf on February 13, 2013