What else do you do on New Year’s Eve apart from heading to Helsinki, Finland for the Ringette World Championships? After accidentally stumbling into and claiming media accreditation for the Junior Ice Hockey World Championships which were taking place in the venue next door we eventually were directed to where we were supposed to be. Ringette can loosely be described as a non-contact form of ice hockey played predominantly by female participants. The stick used is an ice hockey stick without the blade and a rubber ring is used instead of puck. We got to see the titanic clash between Canada and the USA. Unfortunately for the gallant Americans, the sport was invented by the Canadians and they proved far too strong for their neighbours. The one way traffic probably didn’t show the sport in the best light unfortunately, and being possibly the coldest ice rink I have ever been in, probably prompted us to make an appropriate exit not too long after the game! #ringette #wrc2016 #teamusa #teamcanada #helsinki #finland #worldchampionship
Darts, especially the World Championship at Alexandra Palace (Ally Pally) has become one of the must see sports events on the planet. It certainly was on my bucket list and it certainly lived up to my expectations. First of all the darts on show were of such a high quality and tow of the three matches themselves went the full distance of 7 sets. The Legend that is 15 time World Champion, Phil “The Power” Taylor was beaten in a final set decider. Peter “Snakebite” Wright beat Dave Chisnall in another 7 setter. Chisnall averaged over 103 points per visit and LOST!!! The sheer quality of the darts was matched by the atmosphere of the crowd. For close to 4 hours they go non-stop. They come in fancy dress and they sing, chant, dance and most importantly they drink; but they bloody enjoy themselves to the fullest. They appreciate the darts too – that doesn’t get missed amongst the madness. What we did notice though was the amount of foreigners in the crowd. Lots of Germans, Spaniards, Poles and we even met a group of Greeks; all of whom had come specifically for the darts! I can see why. It is a sporting experience that should be everyone’s bucket list. You wont be disappointed.
This is a strange one for me. I had never been to see the sport live and was astounded at the speed and intensity that doesn’t quite come across on the TV. Of course the Brits and Australians have a love affair with the sport, for vastly different reasons. Great Britain’s Wilf O’Reilly won the sport’s first ever Olympic medal, although it was only a demonstration sport in 1988. And in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the events of the 1000m final changed Australian vernacular forever, and created the synonym for being one of the luckiest blokes on the planet.
Steven Bradbury was in the top 10 in the world for the best part of a decade, but wasn’t quite in the running for a medal in the Olympics. Short track speedskating is a cutthroat affair. In rough terms, you lose, you’re out. You have to keep getting in the top 2 of your races to progress into the quarters, semis, final etc.
Bradbury was left behind in his semi final and was a good 10 metres behind coming into the final bend of the tight 125m track, when the 2nd place skater slid under the 3rd place, slipped and took both of them out of the race allowing Bradbury to nip though and earn a walk-up spot in the final. In the final itself, coming into the last lap Bradbury was again behind, even further this time, when the unthinkable happened.
This was Australia’s first ever gold medal in the Winter Olympics. Bradbury has gone down in Australian sporting history, but people are shortsighted to not see the years and years of hard work he had to put in to put himself in that position. Sure he got lucky, but the gold medal he won he saw as just reward for those sacrificial years of training and hard work.
Anyway, Melbourne seems a strange place to hold a world championship for a winter sport, especially at the tail end of summer! I got there early to see the skaters warm up. I was a little concerned to see a rather portly Singapore skater kind of canter round in the warm up despite all the others going hell for leather, but in my mind I had given him some benefit of any doubt as it was after all only warm-up, and that one of the skaters from Chinese Taipei crashed into the boards, TWICE (remember, in warm-up!)
Any benefit of any doubt was quickly extinguished in the second race when my new found hero from Singapore was lapped in a 8 lap race which took a little under a 90 seconds. I hope he paid his own way to the Championships as any investment from the Singapore government is surely misguided! I am no skater, but I make no apologies for saying that any decent sportsperson with a week’s training would have beaten this bloke. Their women’s team, which was double the size of the male contingent in number, not girth, were no better either. In fact on a pro-rata basis they were even slower.
When it came to the kamakazi from Chinese Taipei, he was more competitive but not quite in the top echelon. At least he didn’t pummel himself into the boards during the races! At least one of the Chinese Taipei team was up there with the best and made the final.
The leading Australians were the unforgettably named Armstrong Lazenby and Pierre Boda. Boda made it to semi-final on the back of good home support, but ultimately was outgunned by the Asian powerhouses of China and Korea. Korea had a clean sweep of all 4 events on the day. Both the men’s and women’s individual 1000m and the 3000m relays. The relays are a strange beast to watch. 4 person teams rotate around the rink in a sea of skaters. When it comes to the changeovers, the new skater squats whilst on the move and the current skater literally gives them a shove from behind to get them up to speed. Its quite difficult to follow as there is a plethora of bodies on the ice all at once and the action is quite fast and furious and the laps come thick and fast.
This was a World Championship, all be it a junior one, but at the medal ceremony it was completely underwhelming to see what they actually were awarded with. Quite possibly the worst medals of all time.
Years ago, I met a Welsh girl that won an aerobics competition in Russia and the winners were given spare parts to Lada cars as their trophies. Needless to say, her trophy didn’t make it back to the Homeland. At least those were of some use I guess. The locals that day were obviously expecting a home win!!!
JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – MENS 1000m
GOLD – SE YEONG PARK (KOREA)
SILVER – DEQUAN CHEN (CHINA)
BRONZE – HYO BEEN LEE (KOREA
JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – WOMENS 500m
GOLD – SUK HEE SHIM (KOREA)
SILVER – AGNE SEREIKAITE (LITHUANIA)
BRONZE – XUE WANG (CHINA)
JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – MENS 3000m RELAY
GOLD – KOREA
SILVER – CHINA
BRONZE – USA
JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS – WOMENS 3000m RELAY
GOLD – KOREA
SILVER – CHINA
BRONZE – RUSSIA
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