game of fame
Asafa Powell shot to stardom by breaking the 100m world record
All for the family
IN THE NEWS
The game of fame
Prodigious talent, charisma, luck — you need it all to become a sports celebrity, writes Ravi Dhaliwal
Who exactly is a sportstar? Daniel Boorstein, in his book ‘Images’, has defined a sports celebrity as a person whose fame is greater than the services rendered to his or her sport.
The aura surrounding these stars is awesome. However, their careers are not sustained by hype alone. A lot of things go into the making of a sports celebrity — extraordinary talent, force of personality, charisma, even luck.
The high point of any sport comes when a repetitive and predictable pattern of events is broken. Whenever this happens, a celebrity is born. Sprinter Asafa Powell, who broke the 100m world record recently, has become the new poster boy of athletics. The Jamaican, who shattered the nearly two-year-old record of Tim Montgomery, has done enough to attract multi-million dollar sponsorship deals.
Roger Federer ruled the roost in men’s tennis last year, winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. His hegemony was challenged first by Marat Safin at the Australian Open earlier this year. Then Rafael Nadal became a big star by dashing Federer’s hopes of winning the elusive French Open title.
In the women’s game, Martina Navratilova once dominated the circuit with her wins which used to come with monotonous regularity. She pocketed virtually every title that came her way, in the process annihilating opponents almost at will. That was till Steffi Graf halted Navratilova’s dream run. Then it was Graf’s turn to call the shots. Her dominance continued till she ran into Martina Hingis who, by winning the Australian Open in 1999, became an instant celebrity.
Last year, Maria Sharapova shot into the limelight at Wimbledon by stunning Serena Williams, who was aiming for her third straight title.
Some sportspersons have achieved exalted status through great rivalries, which are the essence of modern sport. Remember the remarkable contests between that flawed genius Bobby Fischer and flamboyant Russian Boris Spassky? Though both these chess masters became stars, Spassky’s fame remained hidden behind the Iron Curtain.
Intense contests in team games have also thrown up distinguished sportspersons. Take the rivalry between India-Pakistan and England-Australia in cricket. The Ashes contests in the late seventies and early eighties made Ian Botham a big star. The 1989-90 series between India and Pakistan saw the birth of an icon named Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Eccentricity is another trait that distinguishes some sportstars. Muhammad Ali went to prison for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. Once out of goal, Ali achieved instant fame by beating big-time boxers like Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier. Loud-mouthed Ali also used his utterances, which sometimes bordered on the ludicrous, to remain in the spotlight. Ali once remarked, in all seriousness, that he could fight a "grizzly bear in China" and even then could draw any number of spectators.
Tennis great Ivan Lendl failed to win a single Wimbledon title. He then came up with this unforgettable quote, "Grass is meant for cows and there is no better place for English cows to feed themselves".
Some sportspersons are famous not only for their achievements but also for their flamboyance. Florence Griffith Joyner’s two-inch-long rainbow coloured nails and flashy costumes were no less eye-catching than her exploits on the track.
While many acclaimed sports figures revel in the euphoria they generate, others are engulfed in the rarefied atmosphere of super stardom and struggle to come to terms with fame. At the age of 18, Boris Becker had already won two Wimbledon titles. So immense was the burden of being a celebrity that he once went to the extent of saying that "tennis has ruined my life".
Yet another top-drawer sportsperson who was almost lost to the sporting world when he failed to cope with his exalted status was Brian Lara. Perhaps no other player in recent times has had the ability to look like a millionaire one day and a pauper the next. There came a time when his life was a shambles and he even thought of quitting cricket. It took him considerable time to put his career back on track.
Indeed, the lives of Lara and Becker show that even the phenomenon called "sportstar" is fallible.
A repeat performance — that’s what is expected from the Indian team in the Junior Hockey World Cup beginning at Rotterdam (Netherlands) on June 29. India won the last edition of the tournament at Hobart (Australia) in 2001 under the captaincy of Gagan Ajit Singh.
Led by seasoned goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza, the squad features several players who have represented the senior team, such as drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, William Xalxo, VS Vinay, Adam Sinclair and Tushar Khandekar.
The team is upbeat after their recent victory in the four- nation tournament in Bilboe, Spain. India beat Holland 4-3 and hosts Spain 3-2, while their match against Chile ended in a 2-2 draw. The icing on the cake was that D’Souza and Sandeep Singh were declared the best goalkeeper and best player of the competition, respectively.
In the 16-nation World Cup, India have been grouped in Pool D with Egypt, Netherlands and Poland. Pool A has England, Spain, Korea and Mexico; Pool B comprises Argentina, Germany, South Africa and Malaysia; and Pool C consists of Australia, Chile, Belgium and Pakistan.
India face Egypt on June 29, Poland on June 30 and the Netherlands on July 2.
After the completion of the pool fixtures, the teams will be divided into Pools E, F and G on the basis of their performance. There will be six teams each in Pools E and F and four in Pool G. The teams in Pool G will fight it out for 13th-16th places.
The teams which take the top two places in Groups E and F will play in the semifinals on July 8. The final is scheduled for July 10.
All for the family
has always come first for Michael Campbell, even after sinking the putt
which won the 105th US Open golf title last week.
Seconds after his bogey putt dropped to secure him a two-shot victory at Pinehurst’s No. 2 course in North Carolina, the 36-year-old New Zealander immediately thought of his late grandmother Titihoya.
"My grandmother and I were very, very close when she passed away when I was 16," said Campbell, only the second New Zealander after Bob Charles at the 1963 British Open to win a major.
"She said to me: ‘Michael, you will change people’s lives.’ She instilled confidence in me and, when she passed away, my golf game just went through the roof, it skyrocketed.
"I know she’s with me right now and I’m sure when I holed that putt and looked to the sky I just thought to myself: ‘She’s there, smiling down on me’."
The journeyman professional from Hawera in New Zealand, who considered quitting the game just seven years ago, emphasised the importance of his wife Julie during his turbulent path to success.
He continually referred to his two sons, Thomas and Jordan, and spoke of how much his triumph would mean to New Zealanders in general, and to Maoris in particular.
"My schedule has changed now," he said, after earning $1.17 million and five-year exemptions for the PGA Tour and the other three majors.
"My life as a golfer will change but as a person, never. I’m a family man. You ask anybody who is close to me — all I care about is my family. Golf is always second in my life."
The golfing world appeared to be at Campbell’s feet after he led the 1995 British Open at St Andrews for three rounds before tying for third.
Aged 26, he was widely viewed as the next best thing and, with invitations to play almost anywhere flooding in, he became a globe-trotting professional. Far too late, he realised he had taken on too much.
"Maybe it was greed, maybe I wanted to expose myself too much, I just don’t know," he said. "Then all of a sudden I felt this tweak in my left wrist. I was playing the New Zealand Open in December and it just snapped on me.
"The tendon came off my bone and for two months I couldn’t even hold a pen or a spoon or a fork it was so painful."
That injury led to a desperate slump in form which, by 1998, cost Campbell his tour cards in both Europe and Australasia and forced him to contemplate another career.
Urged on by his wife, however, he stayed in the game. After receiving invitations to play on both tours the following year, he was able to regain his playing privileges. — Reuters
Collina, widely regarded as the best football referee in the world,
officiated his last major match in the Italian Serie A relegation
playoff between Bologna and Parma on June 18.
Italian referees must retire at the age of 45 and Collina reached that age in February.
Collina, a financial adviser by profession, worked as a referee since 1977, taking charge of his first Serie A match in 1991 and getting his FIFA badge four years later.
He was voted world referee of the year five times. Throughout his career Collina, instantly recognisable with his bald head and staring eyes, has been the referee turned to for high-pressure occasions.
He refereed the final of the 1996 Olympic Games between Nigeria and Argentina and then at the 1998 World Cup he was chosen to officiate a highly charged fixture — the Netherlands game against neighbours Belgium. He was in charge of the dramatic Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United in 1999 and then the Euro 2000 qualification playoff between old rivals England and Scotland.
At Euro 2000 itself he was in charge of the match between Germany and England and then two years later he crowned his career when he refereed the World Cup final between Germany and Brazil after being the man FIFA turned to for the potentially volatile England-Argentina game.
His firm display in the final, at the end of tournament which had produced plenty of controversy over refereeing standards, showed exactly why he was so widely respected among players as well as officials.
His high profile has earned him several sponsorship deals and he has even appeared in advertisements alongside the likes of Zinedine Zidane and in one of pop star George Michael’s videos.
Collina was renowned for some fearsome expressions captured on film but he has always had time for a quick pat on the back, a smile or a quiet word — even in the World Cup final.
When midway through the second half Brazilian defender Edmilson twice put a fresh shirt on the wrong way round, rather than point at his watch to remind the player of time being lost, Collina laughed and smiled, sharing in a comical moment witnessed by tens of millions on television globally.
But the ability to build relationships on the field did not stop Collina from taking decisions which were bound to provoke reaction, especially in the heated contests of Serie A.
In 1997 he disallowed an Inter Milan goal against bitter rivals Juventus at the San Siro and then ran to the Inter dugout to explain animatedly his reasoning to then Inter coach Roy Hodgson, a move which prompted huge debate in Italy.
In 1998, Argentine defender Jose Chamot was suspended for one match after Collina reported that the player, then with Lazio, shook his hand too firmly after the game. — Reuters
Indian hockey must reverse decline
Indian hockey has been on the decline for the past two decades. The reasons for this downslide are well known to the high-ups in the hockey hierarchy but unfortunately the people who matter the most remain busy in serving their own interests, leaving the game orphaned.
In modern hockey, six ‘Ss’ count — speed, strength, skill strategy, stamina, selection and sponsors. We have plenty of talent but lack in speed, strength, strategy and of course our selection is flawed.
We need to pick talent at a young age. No player should be shortlisted for further training until he has achieved the level of running the 100 metres sprint within 11 seconds. The selection of the team should be based only on merit. Region-based selection should be discarded. The tenures of the coach and the selectors should be the same and in case of failure they should be axed.
A sports intelligence cell, if created, can provide vital inputs about opponents.
Kuldip Singh Grewal
Congratulations to Brian Lara for scoring his 30th Test century. He has surpassed Don Bradman and is behind only Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar and Steve Waugh. If he goes on like this, Lara can cross the world record of 34 Test centuries.
Subhash C. Taneja
Well done, Nadal
Kudos to Rafael Nadal for winning the French Open. He was the hot favourite and he lived up to his reputation. He was on song throughout the tournament and even top seed Roger Federer couldn’t come in his way.
Kapil Mohan Pal