Category Archives: Sports

I Got Out Early…


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Source: Deccan Chronicle - Counter Point  March 27, 2015
Source: Deccan Chronicle – Counter Point March 27, 2015

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The following news appeared in the Deccan Chronicles on August 22, 2014. I wonder whether it has some relevance now.  You be the judge.

Restriction on wives, girlfriends for Indian players during tours?

DC | August 22, 2014

Mumbai: The Indian cricket board on Thursday denied the reports that they had restricted the WAGs (wives and girlfriends) of Indian cricketer during the away tours, according to reports.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India were contemplating to ban the players’ partners during the foreign tours. The rationale was that the Indian cricketers’ performance was getting affected by the presence of WAGs.

While the BCCI had allowed the wives of Ashwin, Vijay, Pujara, Binny and Gambhir to travel with them, the Indian cricket board had approved Virat Kohli’s request to allow Anushka Sharma to travel with him, reports.

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Parkour: A Holistic Training Discipline


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Last week, I came across an action video on Facebook. The participant’s smooth movements on a hazardous course - clearing obstacles, climbing walls in a jiffy faster than Spider-Man, traversing walls by jumping from one to another, jumping down from heights with ease, etc., just amazed me.

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Parkour, the art of motion, is a holistic training discipline. The term “Parkour” derives from the French phrase “parcours du combattant“, the classic obstacle-course method of military training proposed and developed by Georges Hébert, a pioneering French physical educator, theorist and instructor.

Georges Hébert (April 27, 1875 – August 2, 1957)

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Georges Hébert   (Source: ihpra.org)
Georges Hébert (Source: ihpra.org)

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Before the First World War, Georges Hébert was an officer in the French Navy. In 1902, when stationed in the town of Saint-Pierre, Martinique, a volcanic eruption occurred in Mount Pelée. Hébert coordinated the rescue of about 700 people from the catastrophe. This incident reinforced his belief that courage and altruism must go hand in hand with athletic skill.

Georges Hébert traveled far and wide throughout the world. He was impressed by the movement skills of indigenous peoples living in natural surroundings in Africa and elsewhere.

When Georges Hébert returned to France, he became a physical education tutor at the college of Reims for the French marines in Lorient. He defined the principles of his own system of physical education, the “méthode naturelle” (natural method). He created ten fundamental exercises: walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, balancing, throwing, lifting, self-defense, and swimming.

Être fort pour être utile” (“Be strong to be useful”) became his personal motto.

He wrote:

“The final goal of physical education is to make strong beings. In the purely physical sense, the Natural Method promotes the qualities of organic resistance, muscularity and speed, towards being able to walk, run, jump, move on all fours, to climb, to keep balance, to throw, lift, defend yourself and to swim.”

Here is how Georges Hébert defined the guiding principles and fundamental rules of his Natural Method:

“With regard to the development of virile qualities, this is obtained by the execution of certain difficult or dangerous exercises requiring the development of these various qualities, for example, while seeking to control the fear of falling, of jumping, of rising, of plunging, of walking on an unstable surface, etc.”

Hence Georges Hébert is considered one of the proponents of “parcours“, an obstacle course, now the standard in French military education and training. His teachings and methods of instruction spread between and during the two World Wars. This further led to the development of civilian fitness trails and confidence courses.

Georges Hébert was critical of the physical inactivity imposed upon women by the contemporary European society and was an early advocate of the benefits of exercise for women and criticized the fashion of women wearing corsets.

Modern day Parkour

Modern day Parkour, the holistic training-discipline using body movements was developed in France, primarily by Raymond Belle, David Belle, and Sébastien Foucan during the late 1980s. The name of their method was eventually changed to “le Parkour“.

Now Parkour includes running, climbing, swinging, mantling, vaulting, jumping, rolling, quadrupedal movement, and the like, depending on what movement is deemed most suitable for a given situation.

This is a set of 5 Parkour silhouettes of people doing Parkour tricks. All tricks are named. (Source: occasionallyxxx.deviantart.com)
This is a set of 5 Parkour silhouettes of people doing Parkour tricks. All tricks are named. (Source: occasionallyxxx.deviantart.com)

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A practitioner of Parkour called a traceur (feminine: traceuse) aims to move from one place to another in the most efficient way possible to using body movements and the surroundings for propulsion. The traceur trains to maintain as much momentum as possible while still remaining safe.

Raymond Belle

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Raymond Belle
Raymond Belle

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Raymond Belle, a French soldier and firefighter is considered one of the originators of Parkour. He was born on October 3, 1939 to a French doctor and a Vietnamese mother. His father died during the First Indochina War. Raymond got separated from his mother during the division of Vietnam in 1954.

The French Army in Da Lat took Raymond Belle into its care and gave him military education and training. He trained himself harder than everyone else to become strong to survive and never be a victim. At night, when others were asleep, he would sneak out of the dormitory to run, climb trees, and use the military obstacle courses without the knowledge of the officers. To test his endurance, strength and flexibility he created exercises on his own.

When the Battle of Dien Bien Phu came to an end, Raymond was repatriated to France, where he completed his military education in 1958.

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Logo of Sapeurs-pompiers.
Logo of Sapeurs-pompiers.

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At age 19, Raymond joined the Paris’ regiment of sapeurs-pompiers (military firefighters). With his unique physical fitness and athletic ability, he became the champion rope-climber of the regiment. He was inducted into its elite team composed of the unit’s fittest and most agile firefighters. The peerless elite team members were often called upon to take on the most difficult and dangerous rescue missions.

Noted for his undaunted courage and keeping cool in any circumstance Raymond was lauded for his spirit of self-sacrifice.

He played a key role in the first ever helicopter-borne operation of the regiment of sapeurs-pompiers. His many rescue exploits earned him a large number of medals and a reputation of being an exceptional pompier. He inspired the next young generation of firefighters.

Raymond Belle dedicated his life to physical well-being. He followed the teachings and the disciplines laid out in Georges Hébert’s book “Méthode Naturelle“. He used climbing, jumping, running, balancing, etc., for his personal advancement in athletics. He referred to his interpretation of Hébert’s methods as “le Parcours” to encompass all his training methods.

Raymond learned how best to overcome obstacles in a fluid manner in a natural environment. His extraordinary athleticism and physical ability, was nothing less than a ‘force of nature’. He was a role-model for athletes, especially to his son David Belle and Sébastien Foucan.

Raymond died in December 1999, but his memory and the record of his many acts of bravery live on, just as valid now as they were in his heyday. With his charisma and his human qualities, he left his mark on his comrades. Raymond Belle will forever embody the iconic ideal of the military firefighters of Paris.

Now, thanks to David Belle (son of Raymond Belle) and his friend Sébastien Foucan, Parkour as a sport has spread around the world. It has both a great number of male and female adherents in many countries, among the young generation.

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World’s Tightest Parallel Parking Records


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Myself 

 .By T.V. Antony Raj

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World’s Tightest Parallel Parking Record Broken In China on November 14, 2014  (Source: motorbeam.com)
World’s Tightest Parallel Parking Record Broken In China on November 14, 2014 (Source: motorbeam.com)

In some countries, the test for parallel parking is the hardest part of getting a license to drive a vehicle. Even for the most experienced drivers, parallel parking might not be the easiest of all manoeuvres. Now, in some cases, electronic gadgets takeover much of the work and help the drivers in parallel parking.

In recent years, one of the most popular Guinness World Record has been the hotly contested “tightest parallel parking” title. In this high-speed parking contest, the drivers accelerate their vehicle towards the space between two parked cars and veer sideways into the spot. They use only the hand-brake and the steering wheel to glide their vehicle into a space with just a few inches longer than their vehicle.

Records are set to be broken. During the last four years, the record for “tightest parallel parking” has changed hands many times.

German stunt driver Ronny Wechselberger aka Ronny C' Rock  (Source: legend.az/)
German stunt driver Ronny Wechselberger aka Ronny C’ Rock (Source: legend.az)

On April 2, 2011, German stunt driver Ronny Wechselberger aka Ronny C’ Rock achieved the tightest parallel parking record. On the set of the Guinness World Records’ TV show “Wir holen den Rekord nach Deutschland” (“We bring the record to Germany”) in Berlin, he parked a Volkswagen Polo into a space with just 26 cm (10.24 in) to spare.

On July 21, 2011 the Chinese driver Zhang Hua of the Chery Car Stunts Performance Team bettered Ronny C’ Rock’s achievement. On the set of Zheng Da Zong Yi-Guinness World Records Special TV show at Zhengzhi Driving School, Linyi City, Shandong Province, China, Zhang Hua drifted his vehicle into a tighter fit. The gap measured only 24 cm (9.45 in) longer than his vehicle.

Patrik Folco, the Italian stunt performer cum precision driver (Source: tvblog.it)
Patrik Folco, the Italian stunt performer cum precision driver (Source: tvblog.it)

In April 2012 Patrik Folco, the Italian stunt performer cum precision driver,  slid his car into a gap measuring just 22 cm (8.66 in) longer than the car he was driving.

Chinese master wheelman Han Yue (Source: shockmansion.com)
Chinese master wheelman Han Yue (Source: shockmansion.com)

A month later, during the third week in May 2012, the Chinese master wheel man Han Yue managed to shave off an incredible 7 cm (2.76 in) from the record. During an attempt at the launch in Beijing of a new special edition of the Mini called The Chinese Job, he  drifted into a space of just 15 cm (5.91 in) longer than his vehicle.

On June 18, 2012 at Flugplatz Kindel in Eisenach, Germany, Ronny C’ Rock recaptured the tightest parallel parking record from Han Yue by drifting into a space 14 cm (5.51 in) longer than his car. The feat was recorded for the Guinness World Records’ TV show “Wir holen den Rekord nach Deutschland” (“We bring the record to Germany”). It was aired on RTL2 (Germany).

Ronny used a VW Up with a length of 3.54 m (11 ft 7.37 in). He parked the vehicle into a 3.68-cm-long (12 ft 0.88 in) space, marked by two other Ups. The distance was measured electronically with a laser device as well.

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Stunt Drive UK Instructors and Gloucester based brothers Alastair Moffatt (33) and John Moffatt (31) (Source: stuntdriveuk.com)
Stunt Drive UK Instructors and Gloucester based brothers Alastair Moffatt (33) and John Moffatt (31) (Source: stuntdriveuk.com)

On December 10, 2012 the Moffatt brothers Alastair and John from Gloucester, UK, beat Ronny Wechselberger’s record measuring 14 cm (5.51 in).

The brothers compete in various forms of motorsport since the age of 8. At that time, they had a combined experience of over 47 years and had won 10 national championships. They are also Master Instructors for Stunt Drive UK, the countries first stunt driving experience day company.

The Moffatt brothers were invited to attempt the tightest parallel parking feat for Guinness World Record as part of a new children’s TV Series called “Officially Amazing.” This show features some of the funniest, most ridiculous, scariest and Amazing record attempts from around the world. It airs on the CBBC Channel and throughout the International BBC Network.

On the set of “Officially Amazing” (Lion TV) in Hereford, UK, the Moffatt brothers driving British vintage Mini Mayfairs successfully pulled off the stunt with just 13.1 cm (5.16 in) to spare between the cars – a gap about 0.72 cm (0.28 in) longer than the length of an iPhone 5 (12.38 cm long).

The younger brother John was the first of the pair to break the record. After a few failures, he drifted his Mini into a space with 13.1 cm (5.16 in) to spare, to enter the history books.

It was then up to Alastair Moffatt to match his brother’s feat. Alastair skidded his car into the same space at 2.40 and equalled his younger brother John’s feat.

The new record was held in joint names as both John and Alastair achieved the 13.1 cm (5 in) gap within 20 minutes of each other.

Alastair was obviously thrilled for John. He said:

“When I achieved the record all I felt was relief, we were running out of light, as filming had taken a huge proportion of the day and I there was only time for 1 or 2 attempts left, so the pressure was on. The fact that we now hold this record jointly is great, as we are very competitive with each other, however, John continually reminds me that he achieved it first!”

 In July 2013, Alistair Moffat reduced the gap to an impressive 8.6 cm (3.385 in) which many motoring experts thought unbeatable.

On November 14, 2014 during the “China Drift Championship” held in Chongqing, the Chinese master wheel man Han Yue did the seemingly impossible. He regained the title by setting a new tightest parallel parking record. He drifted his MINI 3-Door Hatch into a space with just 8 cm (3.1 in) to spare between two other cars just like it.

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Guinness World Record for the Fastest Vehicle Drift


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Myself 

 .By T.V. Antony Raj

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Born in 1976, Lars Verbraeken races for Team Falken sponsored by Falken Tire, a Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI) brand.

Fast vehicle drift driver Lars Verbraeken of Netherlands (Source: autosieger.de)
Fast vehicle drift driver Lars Verbraeken of Netherlands (Source: autosieger.de)

On June 19, 2012 Lars Verbraeken of Netherlands achieved the fastest vehicle drift record of 179.59 km/h (111.59 mph) at Flugplatz Kindel in Eisenach, Germany. Here is the video of the feat recorded for the TV show Guinness World Records’ “Wir holen den Rekord nach Deutschland” (“We bring the record to Germany”). It was aired on RTL2 (Germany).

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Born on March 24, 1985 in Warsaw, Poland, Jakub Przygoński started motorcycle racing at the age of thirteen. Soon after, he began competing in Polish motocross championships. His first bike was a Kawasaki KX80. Since 2008, he has taken part in Super Drift Series competitions.

Jakub Przygoński of Poland, Guinness World Record  holder for Fast vehicle drift driver (Source:  shockmansion.com)
Jakub Przygoński of Poland, Guinness World Record holder for Fast vehicle drift driver (Source: shockmansion.com)

Jakub Przygoński broke the old record of 179.59 km/h (111.59 mph) set by Lars Verbraeken.

On September 3, 2013 at a former military airport in Biała Podlaska, Poland, Jakub Przygoński sat behind the wheel of a massive Toyota GT86 with 1068 horsepower under the bonnet. On reaching the average dizzying speed of 217.973 km/h (135.44 mph), Przygoński set a new Guinness World Record in high-speed drifting with controlled skidding and the maximum slip angle of 49 degrees. Entry speed 256 km/h (159.07 mph), drift speed 217.973 km/h (135.44 mph).

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Roger Bannister: Part 3 – Running the “Miracle Mile” with John Landy


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Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

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Blue plaque recording the first sub-4-minute mile run by Roger Bannister on 6 May 1954 at Oxford University's Iffley Road Track. (Photograph by Jonathan Bowen)
Blue plaque recording the first sub-4-minute mile run by Roger Bannister on 6 May 1954 at Oxford University’s Iffley Road Track. (Photograph by Jonathan Bowen)

Forbes named the significant feat of breaking the four-minute barrier by Roger Banister as one of the greatest athletic achievements in the history of athletics.

On June 21, 1954, at an international meet in Turku, Finland, John Landy became the second man, after Roger Bannister, to achieve a sub-4-minute mile. He clocked a world record time of 3:57.9, ratified by the IAAF as 3:58.0 owing to the rounding rules then in effect. That record held for more than three years.

Though Roger Banister had already created history on May 6, 1954, some felt the flagrant pacing tainted this achievement. They felt that world records should be created through pure racing as John Landy did. They said that Banister, Brasher, and Chataway had acted within the letters of the amateur rules, but not within the spirit of those rules. The Australians argued that Landy’s 3:58 in Turku was the first legitimate sub-4. But Roger Banister did not pay any heed to his detractors.

The face of John Landy in second place in the Fifth Empire games (30 July 30 to August 7, 1954) in Vancouver, Canada (Source: thebounce.co.za)
The face of John Landy in second place in the Fifth Empire games (30 July 30 to August 7, 1954) in Vancouver, Canada (Source: thebounce.co.za)

Roger Banister was pitted against the Australian in the Fifth British Empire and Commonwealth Games held at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from July 30 – August 7, 1954.

It was at these games that the “Miracle Mile” took place between Roger Bannister and John Landy on August 7, 1954. This was the first time these two, the only sub-four-minute mile runners at that time appeared in the same race. John Landy was still holding the world record. It was also the first time two runners broke four minutes in the same race.

Landy led for most of the race, building a lead of 10 yards in the third lap. Roger showed the highly acclaimed Landy that he was still the boss by dashing on the final bend of the fourth lap and winning the event in 3:58.8 with Landy 0.8 seconds behind him. Both Bannister and Landy have pointed out that the crucial moment of the race was when Landy looked over his left shoulder to gauge Bannister’s position and Bannister burst past him on the right.

A sculpture of Roger Bannister and John Landy by Jack Harman  placed outside of the Empire Stadium to commemorate the Miracle Mile. (Photo: Paul Joseph)
A sculpture of Roger Bannister and John Landy by Jack Harman placed outside of the Empire Stadium to commemorate the Miracle Mile. (Photo: Paul Joseph)

In 1967, inspired by a photograph by Vancouver Sun photographer Charlie Warner, Vancouver sculptor Jack Harman created a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the two men. In this sculpture, Landy looks over his left shoulder to see his rival’s position and Bannister sprints past him on the right.

This sculpture stood for many years at the entrance to Empire Stadium. After the demolition of the stadium, the  sculpture was moved a short distance away to the Hastings and Renfrew entrance of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) fairgrounds. John Landy once quipped about this  sculpture:

“While Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back, I am probably the only one ever turned into bronze for looking back.”

On August 29, 1954 Roger Bannister won the 1500 metres, the so-called metric mile, at the European Championships in Bern in a time of 3:43.8, a championship record.

After the Bern meet, Roger retired from athletics to concentrate on his work as a junior doctor and pursued a career in neurology.

St. Mary’s Hospital (London), Imperial College School of Medicine have named a lecture theatre after Roger Bannister. It houses the stopwatch used to time the race on display, stopped at 3:59.

Later, Roger Banister became the first Chairman of the Sports Council, now known as Sport England. In 1975, Sir Roger Banister was knighted for this service. Under his aegis, there was a rapid increase in central and local government funding of sports centres and other sports facilities.

Sir Roger Bannister at the prize presentation of the 2009 Teddy Hall relay race. (© Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons)
Sir Roger Bannister at the prize presentation of the 2009 Teddy Hall relay race. (© Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons)

Now at the age of 85 Roger Banister suffers from Parkinson’s disease. It was one of the diseases he specialised as a neurologist.

By the end of 1957, 16 other runners also broke the four-minute mile barrier.

The International Amateur Athletics Federation, now known as the International Association of Athletics Federations recognized the first world record in the mile for men (athletics) in 1913. Since 1976, the mile is the only non-metric distance recognized by the IAAF for record purposes. Up to June 21, 2009, the IAAF has ratified 32 world records in the event.

Time Athlete Nationality Date Venue
4:14.4 John Paul Jones  USA May 31, 1913 Allston, Mass.
4:12.6 Norman Taber  USA July 16, 1915 Allston, Mass.
4:10.4 Paavo Nurmi  Finland August 23, 1923 Stockholm
4:09.2 Jules Ladoumègue  France October 4, 1931 Paris
4:07.6 Jack Lovelock  NZ
July 15, 1933 Princeton, N.J.
4:06.8 Glenn Cunningham  USA June 16, 1934 Princeton, N.J.
4:06.4 Sydney Wooderson  UK August 28, 1937 Motspur Park
4:06.2 Gunder Hägg  Sweden July 1, 1942 Gothenburg
4:06.2 Arne Andersson  Sweden July 10, 1942 Stockholm
4:04.6 Gunder Hägg  Sweden September 4, 1942 Stockholm
4:02.6 Arne Andersson  Sweden July 1, 1943 Gothenburg
4:01.6 Arne Andersson  Sweden July 18, 1944 Malmö
4:01.4 Gunder Hägg  Sweden July 17, 1945 Malmö
3:59.4 Roger Bannister  UK May 6, 1954 Oxford
3:58.0 John Landy  Australia June 21, 1954 Turku
3:57.2 Derek Ibbotson  UK July 19, 1957 London
3:54.5 Herb Elliott  Australia August 6, 1958 Dublin
3:54.4 Peter Snell  NZ January 27, 1962 Wanganui
3:54.1 Peter Snell  NZ November 17, 1964 Auckland
3:53.6 Michel Jazy  France June 9, 1965 Rennes
3:51.3 Jim Ryun  USA July 17, 1966 Berkeley, Cal.
3:51.1 Jim Ryun  USA June 23, 1967 Bakersfield, Cal.
3:51.0 Filbert Bayi  Tanzania May 17, 1975 Kingston
3:49.4 John Walker  NZ August 12, 1975 Gothenburg
3:49.0 Sebastian Coe  UK July 17, 1979 Oslo
3:48.8 Steve Ovett  UK July 1, 1980 Oslo
3:48.53 Sebastian Coe  UK August 19, 1981 Zürich
3:48.40 Steve Ovett  UK August 26, 1981 Koblenz
3:47.33 Sebastian Coe  UK August 28, 1981 Brussels
3:46.32 Steve Cram  UK July  27, 1985 Oslo
3:44.39 Noureddine Morceli  Algeria September 5, 1993 Rieti
3:43.13 Hicham El Guerrouj  Morocco July 7, 1999 Rome

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Hicham El Guerrouj is the current men’s record holder with his time of 3:43.13. And, Svetlana Masterkova has the women’s record of 4:12.56.

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← Previous: Part 2 – Breaking the Four-minute Barrier

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Roger Bannister: Part 2 – Breaking the Four-minute Barrier


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Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

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In 1948, Roger Bannister, then a 19-year-old student at Exeter College, was elected president of the Oxford University’s Athletic Club. He then wanted to replace the bumpy, uneven track with a new six-lane 440 yards (400 metres) track during his presidency. Two years later, in 1950, the new track was refurbished.

The year 1954 was Roger’s last year as a runner. He pondered on how to overcome the four-minute mile barrier. The first problem was to decide the venue for the race. He planned to break the four-minute barrier at the Oxford track he had helped build. Since the biggest gamble was the weather, he wished for a suitable day in April or May. The second problem was how to orchestrate the running.

The first problem was to decide the venue for the race. He planned to break the four-minute barrier at the Oxford track he had helped build. Since the biggest gamble was the weather, he wished for a suitable day in April or May. The second problem was how to orchestrate the running.

The second problem was how to orchestrate the running. He trained assiduously with fellow Oxbridge track mates Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway. Franz Stampfl, his Austrian coach, carefully coordinated their training. Roger realized that the two crises were the only pacemakers, he could rely on to help him.

The four of them evolved a strategy to achieve this ultimate athletic challenge. They used a mountaineering analogy. Their plan was for Brasher to take Chataway and Roger to “base camp” at the half-mile so that Chataway could then launch Roger into the attack itself on the last lap. This made both Chris Brasher’s pace judgment and Chataway’s strength and speed over the three-quarter mile equally crucial for success.

Then came the match between the university and the AAA. It was a run of the mill track meet like any other in Oxford. Yet, it was official enough to record history. Roger reckoned this event would meet their needs because there would be only six athletes in the race. Also, the small field would allow the trio to adapt the race to their needs. The Iffley Road cinder track was an ideal one. The only other factor was the weather over which they had no control.

On May 6, 1954, the wind had been blowing near gale force all day. Around 4:30 pm Roger Banister, Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway arrived at the track. At 5:15 pm there was a shower of rain. Afterwards, there was a strong gusty wind. Due to the chilly weather there were less than 1,500 spectators. As the trio warmed up, they knew the eyes of the spectators were on them.

The cinder track was wet.  There was complete silence on the ground as Roger Banister (#41) and his two running mates  Chris Brasher (#44) and Chris Chataway (#42) lined up along with other three runners from Oxford University. At that moment Roger saw the St. George’s flag on a nearby church drooping listlessly and decided that it was the moment to achieve.

The race did not start well as Brasher made a false start. After receiving a warning, when the gun fired a second time Brasher went into the lead as the first pacemaker and Roger slipped in behind him with Chataway in third place.

Roger’s legs seemed to meet no resistance as if propelled by some unknown force. He thought their pace was slow, so Roger shouted: “Faster!” But Brasher kept his head and did not change the pace.

Brasher (#44) leads Bannister (#41) upto the end of second lap . Chataway (#42) is behind (Source: racingpast.ca)
Brasher (#44) leads Bannister (#41) up to the end of the second lap . Chataway (#42) is behind (Source: racingpast.ca)

The first lap was fast enough at 57.5 seconds.

At one-and-a-half laps, Roger was still worried about the pace. Then, he heard his coach Franz Stampfl’s voice shouting “relax” above the noise of the crowd. Unconsciously, Roger obeyed.

Brasher’s halfway pace was perfect at 1:58 and Roger barely noticed the half-mile mark.

Chataway (#42) takes Bannister (#41) into the bell lap at 3:00.7 (Source: racingpast.ca)
Chataway (#42) takes Bannister (#41) into the bell lap at 3:00.7 (Source: racingpast.ca)

Sensing that Brasher was beginning to feel the strain, Bannister signalled Chataway to take over. Chataway took over on the first bend of lap three and led Bannister through the third lap in 3:07. The crowd was roaring. Roger pounced past Chataway, 300 yards from the finish.Chataway to take over. Chataway took over on the first bend of lap three and led Bannister through the third lap in 3:07. The crowd was roaring. Roger pounced past Chataway, 300 yards from the finish.Chataway took over on the first bend of lap three and led Bannister through the third lap in 3:07. The crowd was roaring. Roger pounced past Chataway, 300 yards from the finish.

The moment that changed the world of track running forever - Roger in at 3:59.4 (Source: thebounce.co.za)
The moment that changed the world of track running forever – Roger in at 3:59.4 (Source: thebounce.co.za)

Time seemed to stand still. The only reality was the next 200 yards of track under his feet. When he was just over 200 yards from the finish, Roger took the lead with a final burst of energy. The noise in his ears was that of the faithful Oxford crowd. Their hope and encouragement gave him strength. He had now turned the last bend and there were only 50 yards more. His body must have exhausted its energy, but he still went on running just the same. This was the crucial moment. His legs were strong enough to carry him over the last few yards.

Roger later recalled:

“With five yards to go, the finishing line seemed almost to recede. Those last few seconds seemed an eternity. The faint line of the finishing tape stood ahead as a haven of peace after the struggle. The arms of the world were waiting to receive me only if I reached the tape without slackening my speed. If I faltered now, there would be no arms to hold me and the world would seem a cold, forbidding place. I leapt at the tape like a man taking his last desperate spring to save himself from a chasm that threatens to engulf him.”

Roger Banister sprinted to the line in record time and fell exhausted into the arms of a friend. His vision became black and white. He existed in the most passive physical state without being quite unconscious. He knew he had beaten 4:00 before the time was even announced.

Then the announcement came from Norris McWhirter, delivered with a slow, clear diction:

“Result of Event Eight: One mile. First, R. G. Bannister of Exeter and Merton Colleges, in a time which, subject to ratification, is a new Track Record, British Native Record, British All-Comers Record, European Record, Commonwealth Record and World Record… Three minutes…”

The roar of excitement from the crowd drowned the rest of the announcement. The record time was 3:59.4 and the trio had done it! The three runners from Oxford were just specks on the track that day in 4th, 5th and 6th.

Bursting with joy Roger grabbed Brasher and Chataway and the trio scampered around the track taking a lap of honour.

Thus, Roger Banister broke the elusive four-minute mile, a barrier “like Everest – a challenge to the human spirit”.

Next → Part 3 – Running the “miracle Mile” with John Landy

← Previous: Part 1 – The Aspiring Four-minute Miler

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Roger Bannister: Part 1 – The Aspiring Four-minute Miler


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Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

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Until the early 1950s, no one believed it was possible to run a mile in under four minutes. No matter how hard athletes tried, they were not able to break the four-minute barrier. For decades, the record lingered at just a few seconds over four minutes. That was until 1954.

Roger Bannister (Source: odt.co.nz)
Roger Bannister (Source: odt.co.nz)

Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister CBE was born in Harrow, England in 1929. He went to Vaughan Primary school in Harrow and then went to the City of Bath Boys School and University College School, London. He went on to study at medical school at the University of Oxford (Exeter College and Merton College), Oxford. And then Roger went to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School (now part of Imperial College London).

Roger first enjoyed success as an athlete while at Oxford at the age of seventeen. He won several races in his teenage years. He trained lightly. After three weeks of training, he showed his intrinsic talent when he ran a mile in 4:24. Though selected to compete in the 1948 London Olympics, he declined because he did not feel he was ready to compete at that level.

Sydney Charles Wooderson MBE, dubbed “The Mighty Atom” was at the peak of his career in the 1930s and 1940s. He was one of Britain’s greatest middle-distance runners and known for his amazing sprint finish. He was slightly-built and bespectacled, but had great reserves of strength and overwhelming speed. On August 28, 1937, Wooderson set the world mile record of 4:6.4 at London’s Motspur Park.

Swedish runner Andersson finishes ahead of Wooderson inGotheburg in their second 1945 Mile race (Source: racingpast.ca)
Swedish runner Andersson finishes ahead of Wooderson in Gotheburg in their second 1945 Mile race (Source: racingpast.ca)

The great Swedish runners Arne Andersson and Gunder Hägg surpassed Wooderson’s mile record only after eight years.

The great Swedish runners Arne Andersson and Gunder Hägg surpassed his mile record only after eight years.

In 1945, Wooderson regained his old form and challenged Andersson over the distance in several races. Though Wooderson lost to Andersson, he set a British record of 4:04.2 in Gothenburg on September 9, 1945.

Wooderson’s remarkable comeback inspired Roger Bannister.

John Landy, Runner May 21, 1956 (Photo credit:  Mark Kauffman - staff)
John Landy, Runner May 21, 1956 (Photo credit: Mark Kauffman – staff)

John Michael Landy, an Australian Olympic track athlete. He was running 4:08 miles in training. On December 13, 1952, in the first race of an inter-club meet during the 1952-3 season, he made an amazing breakthrough with 4:02.1. He ran the last three laps on his own. It was the third fastest mile ever.

John Landy made two more attempts that season. On January 3, 1953 he clocked 4:02.8 and on January 24, 1953 he clocked 4:04.2.

Each time Landy raced everyone expected him to beat the four-minute barrier. However, he declared that the four-minute mark seemed a ‘physical barrier’. But the 25-year-old Roger Banister, then a full-time medical student at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School thought otherwise. He reasoned if Landy could run the mile in 4:03 then it was only a matter of time until someone could do it in 3:59.

The humiliation after the failure to win the 1,500 metres gold medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, when he had been the favourite, was a huge knock to Roger’s pride. It also shattered the hopes of his family, friends and the British public. Roger felt it necessary to restore the faith of others in him after his defeat. He resolved to be the first 4-minute-miler.

Roger followed a simple physical routine. He would go to the track, during lunchtime. Without any warm-ups, he would kick a few times to loosen his legs. After that, he would run hard for about thirty-five minutes. Then, he would shower and take his lunch and just head back to his studies.

He carried on with his training along with his medical studies. Using his medical knowledge, he trained alone. He purposely avoided the coaches and the managers.

With this simple routine, he reduced his mile time to 4:03.6.

Roger did not set any date to break the four minute mile. He was always conscious of the fact that John Landy of Australia might beat him to it. Landy made no secret of the fact that the four-minute mile was his goal.

There were four essential requirements to achieve his goal: a good track, no wind, a warm weather and even-paced running. For many years, track coaches and physiologists had scientifically plotted the method to break the four-minute barrier. They predicted that it could be achieved in Scandinavia where it was called the “Dream Mile”, in a 68°F weather; on a hard, dry clay track; with no wind; and a large, enthusiastic crowd to provide the psychological boost. According to the pundits, the first quarter would be the slowest and the final quarter the fastest. Yet, on the day Roger broke the four-minute barrier things were the exact opposite.

The year 1954 was Roger’s last year as a runner. He trained assiduously with fellow track mates Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway. He did not set any date to break the four minute mile, but he was conscious of the fact that John Landy of Australia might beat him to it since Landy made no secret of the fact that the four-minute mile was his goal.

For many years, track coaches and physiologists had scientifically plotted the method to break the four-minute barrier. They predicted that it could be achieved in Scandinavia where they called it the “Dream Mile”, in a 68°F weather; on a hard, dry clay track; with no wind; and a large, enthusiastic crowd to provide the psychological boost. According to the pundits, the first quarter would be the slowest and the final quarter the fastest. Yet, on the day Roger broke the four-minute barrier things were the exact opposite.

Next → Part 2 – Breaking the Four-minute Barrier

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Chinese Kaleidoscopic Acrobatics


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Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

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The logo for 2014 Summer Youth Olympics

In July 2007 the International Olympic Committee established the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), an international sports, education and cultural festival for teenagers.

On February 10, 2010 the IOC during their 122nd Session in Vancouver city elected Nanjing city in China, to host the second Summer Youth Olympic Games. The Games officially known as “II Summer Youth Olympic Games” were held from August 16, 2014 to August 28, 2014. In the logo for the Games, the colourful “NANJING” reflects the image of the gate of Nanjing and the features of some Jiangnan houses. The various colours symbolize the  energetic spirit of youth.

In whatever task the Chinese undertake, they exhibit their talent par excellence.

I wonder whether there is anything the Chinese cannot do!

At the opening ceremony of the II Summer Youth Olympic Games, about 500 Chinese youths performed a scintillating ingenious performance. They called the event “Dancing in the Sky.”

Nanjing Youth Olympics 2014 - 01

After forming a pyramid, 100 youths took to the air inside the immense sports stadium.

Nanjing Youth Olympics 2014 - 02

There, under the artificial stars they performed a breathtaking kaleidoscopic aerial acrobatic routine.

This is the first time a creative performance, such as this has been performed anywhere in the world.

Here is a video clip of their awe-inspiring performance.

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2014 Summer Youth Olympics  (en.wikipedia.org)

“The Light of Faith tour” – Vatican’s St. Peter’s Cricket Club in England


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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The Vatican cricket team poses with the dome of St. Peter's basilica in the background. The newly-formed team will play against the Church of England first XI and the Royal household team. (Photo: Chris Warde-Jones)
The Vatican cricket team poses with the dome of St. Peter’s basilica in the background. The newly-formed team will play against the Church of England first XI and the Royal household team. (Photo: Chris Warde-Jones)

Father Tony Currer (41) leads Vatican’s first-ever cricket team. According to a released team list, seven Indians dominate the team and Father Curer is its only Englishman. Also, in the team are two Sri Lankans and one Pakistani. All members of Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Cricket Club are young seminarians training for the priesthood, many of them aged between 24 and 41.

Preparations for the cricket club began around a year ago due to the enthusiasm of Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, who said the initiative was an example of “sporting diplomacy”.

Pope Francis with the members of Vatican's Saint Peter's Cricket Club (Photo: St. Peter's Cricket Club - Vatican Facebook page)
Pope Francis with the members of Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Cricket Club (Photo: St. Peter’s Cricket Club – Vatican Facebook page)

Pope Francis, born in Argentina is an avid football fan, but knows little about cricket. He blessed the Vatican’s “underdog” cricket team that will be facing a formidable Church of England XI during their maiden foreign tour to England dubbed “The Light of Faith tour“. The Holy Father signed a cricket bat, which the team will take with them to England.

Members of the St Peter's cricket team, from left, Deepak Anto, captain Anthony Currer, Ajeesh George, Davidson Jestus, and Pratheesh Thomas (PA)
Members of the St Peter’s cricket team, from left, Deepak Anto, captain Anthony Currer, Ajeesh George, Davidson Jestus, and Pratheesh Thomas (PA)

The papal XI will play matches against chaplains of the British armed forces at Aldershot and the Royal Household Cricket Club at Windsor Castle, as well as two other games. The climax of the tour will be a showdown with a Church of England team in Canterbury on September 19, 2014.

The manager of Papal XI Father Eamonn O’Higgins, and “spiritual director” of the team, said:

“Realistically, we are the rank underdogs with a very outside chance, but that’s OK. None of us has played first class cricket. The boys have not had a lot of time to practice. What we hope for, above all, is a good match.”

The Vatican cricketers will be praying and playing during the eight-day tour of England organized by the Anglican weekly newspaper The Church Times and Kent County Cricket Club. They will be visiting several holy sites and raising money for the Global Freedom Network, which fights against modern slavery and human trafficking.

Father Jery Njaliath (36), a priest from Kerala said:

“We’re going over there to beat them, to play to the maximum. But we’ll certainly play in the spirit of the game.”

Father Tony Currer, the captain of Saint Peter’s Cricket Club said:

“Win or lose, the first cricket match in history between the Vatican and the Church of England will be an event  to remember and to build on.”

St. Peter's team in London before moving on to Aldershot (Photo: St. Peter's Cricket Club - Vatican Facebook page
St. Peter’s team in London before moving on to Aldershot (Photo: St. Peter’s Cricket Club – Vatican Facebook page

On September 13, 2014, St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the first match of The Light of Faith Tour against the Chaplains of the armed forces played at Aldershot Army Cricket Ground. St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the match by 81 runs.

Scoreboard:
St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) 152/2 (20 overs)
Chaplains XI 71/4 (20 overs).

St. Peter's XI in Brighton (Photo: St. Peter's Cricket Club - Vatican Facebook page)
St. Peter’s XI in Brighton (Photo: St. Peter’s Cricket Club – Vatican Facebook page)

On September 14, 2014, in the 2nd match played between St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) Vs. St. Peter’s CC (Brighton), the Vatican team won the toss and chose to bowl first. St. Peter’s Vatican lost the T20 game to St. Peter’s Brighton.

Scoreboard:
St. Peter’s Brighton 168/6 (20 overs)
St. Peter’s Vatican 114/9 (20 overs)

St. Peter's XI at Ascott House (Photo: St. Peter's Cricket Club - Vatican Facebook page)
St. Peter’s XI at Ascott House (Photo: St. Peter’s Cricket Club – Vatican Facebook page)

In the third match of The Light of Faith tour played yesterday, September 14, 2014, St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) faced the Authors XI at Ascott House. It was a 30 overs match. The Authors XI won the toss and chose to bowl first. St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the match by 4 runs.

Scoreboard:
St. Peter’s 151 (29 overs)
Authors XI 147/4 (30 overs)

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Reeva Steenkamp, the Model Killed by Oscar Pistorius


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius. (Photograph: Frennie Shivambu/EPA)
Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius. (Photograph: Frennie Shivambu/EPA)

The 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp, the glamorous South African model shot dead by her lover, the 27-year-old Oscar Pistorius was a fervent tweeter. She regularly tweeted about the “amazing” Pistorius, the globally admired double-amputee, who competed against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 Olympics in London.

One of the last tweets Reeva made had a tinge of romance:

What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay“.

A few hours later on February 14, 2013, just before dawn broke, Reeva was lying dead in the bathroom of the celebrated athlete’s home in Pretoria. Reeva was killed when Oscar Pistorius fired four times through a locked toilet door in his house. Oscar claimed he thought she was an intruder.

Reeva Steenkamp
Reeva Steenkamp

Born on August 19, 1983, in Cape Town, Reeva Steenkamp spent her early years on a farm near the city. Her father was a racehorse trainer.

Later on, when her family moved south to Port Elizabeth, Reeva attended a Catholic school.

As her parents did not have the means to pay the fees for her college, her studies at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University were covered by fellowships. Reeva graduated with a degree in law and dreamt of setting up a shelter for abused women.

June and Barry Steenkamp, parents of  Reeva Steenkamp, on the beach at Maitland near Port Elizabeth
June and Barry Steenkamp, parents of Reeva Steenkamp, on the beach at Maitland near Port Elizabeth

Later, after her death Reeva’s parents said:

“Reeva, who held such a passion for women’s abuse issues and frequently spoke out against domestic violence, intended to one day open an establishment where abused women would be cared for.”

Reeva moved to Johannesburg after her graduation to pursue a career in modelling. She modelled in commercials for the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota, Italian fashion brand Zui and for the online jewelry retailer Sivana Diamonds. She was chosen to be the face of Avo Cosmetics. She also worked as a presenter for Fashion TV South Africa.

In 2011 and 2012, the FHM magazine named Reeva Steenkamp as one of the 100 Sexiest Women in the World.

Reeva’s last television appearance was on the South African celebrity reality show “Tropika Island of Treasure,” aired a few days after her death.

On September 12, 2014, Oscar Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide.

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