It’s a shame that Britain are so dominant in sports we care so little about.
BBC Sport today published an article detailing every Olympic sport and which countries are the most likely to succeed in each one. As expected, we came out top in cycling and sailing with, perhaps unfairly, an afterthought gifted to rowing. It’s commendable and we’re likely to achieve a few medals in each event, but why those? Surrounded by the media that seems to only care for football, with a polite appreciation for the likes of rugby, tennis, cricket and golf, why is that we are so successful in the disciplines that nobody watches?
The Tour de France, one of the world’s toughest endurance races, is currently into its second week and the biggest cycling event outside of the Olympic Games is gaining a respectable amount of attention. In this edition, Britain are enjoying enormous success as Bradley Wiggins is the current yellow jersey holder and four different men (Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and, today, David Millar) have won individual stages and I imagine it won’t be the last success we’ll have this year. It’s been an enthralling event so far but it got me wondering: would we care about the Tour de France at all if we weren’t a strong cycling nation? Is anyone really interested in rowing, despite the amazing achievements Team GB have carried out over the last couple of decades. Can anyone even name another sailor apart from Ben Ainslie (and how many can actually remember him)?
These “lesser” sports need more media coverage. It’s all well and good getting hyped up about these events in an Olympic year, especially one that is going to be held in our country. What happens, though, when the Olympics finish, the crowds go home and the athletes return to their regular seasons? Who will avidly watch the Vuelta a Espana (the third of the Grand Tours of cycling) and who knows that it is the European Rowing Championships in September? It is a wicked cycle; the media do not cover these high-profile events, so the fans have no reason to care about it. Because of this apathy, the media decide that the people won’t be interested and show more reality TV. It won’t harm anyone to broadcast some domestic basketball and ice hockey matches on free-to-view, even if we stick them on the Red Button or suchlike. At least give us the chance to get excited once the medals have been won and sportsmen try to earn a living.
It’s the “highly anticipated” clown fight tomorrow night: David Haye vs Dereck Chisora. Two men who have double-handedly (?) ruined boxing and made it hard to take seriously. I remember about a decade or so ago when people still weren’t entirely sure that WWE (WWF back then) wrestling was simply entertainment, believing that the ridiculous showcases were real tussles. It seems absurd now, thinking back on the tough-guy rivalries and tangled plotlines conjured in the name of audience figures.
Boxing has become a similar farce. Should you have somehow forgotten, this fight came about because of a very public brawl in Munich. I still believe it was a fantastic publicity stunt for the pair but a very damaging one for the sport. There are people out there determined to retain the integrity of the “gentleman’s” game. Amir Khan is set to unify his division against Danny Garcia, keeping a respectable demeanour in the face of pathetic words from Garcia’s tough-talking father. Carl Froch and Kell Brook are others devoted to pleasing their loyal fans with honest boxing. Not everyone is into that, though. Some boxing nuts just want entertainment akin to the World Wrestling Entertainment franchise. They like the public spats and the trash talk, perhaps more than the boxing itself. Not for me, though, thanks. If Have v Chisora proves to be a good fight, I’ll eat my boxing gloves. (Note: I don’t have any boxing gloves).
Laura Robson is continuing to do British tennis proud by reaching the quarter-finals of the Italiacom Open. She defeated second seed Roberta Vinci to reach the last eight for the first time in a full WTA event, which is great news. Despite being on clay, it is top preparation for the Olympics, where she’ll also compete in doubles alongside fellow prospect Heather Watson.
It’s been a bad week for Welsh and Northern Irish prospects in the UEFA Europa League, with all but one team eliminated from the competition at the first hurdle. Cliftonville were the only ones to win in the first leg but were overpowered by Kalmar, eventually losing 4-1 on aggregate. The brave Cefn Druids, in the second level of Welsh football, had a goalless draw in the first leg but crumbled 5-0 to MyPa on the away visit. Bangor City also travelled away with a no-score draw but lost 2-1 to Zimbru Chisinau. Llanelli were unable to overturn a 2-1 defeat to Kuopion Palloseura, drawing 1-1 on the night. Finally, Crusaders lost again, with Rosenborg ending the tie 4-0. That leaves Portadown as the only British qualifier into the second qualifying round, ready to be joined by Scottish hopes.
Luke Donald did enough to stay in contention after the first day of the Scottish Open today. The English golfer carded several birdies but struggled with a steep green in the second nine. He is hoping to defend his title, just a week before The Open Championship.
Cal Crutchlow finished eighth in the practice for the Italian leg of the MotoGP championship. He has recently declared that he wishes to leave his team for a factory outfit and has held talks with Ducati.
Peter Ebdon defeated Shaun Murphy 5 frames to 4 in the quarter-finals of snooker’s Australian Open. He will go on to face Marco Fu, who beat Stephen Lee 5-1. Barry Hawkins will face Mark Davis, fresh from his win in the Six Red World Championships and semi-final appearance in the Wuxi Classic.
Scotland’s Alistair Casey, the only British player in badminton’s Canada Open, defeated Nyl Yakura of Canada in the first round. However, USA’s Howard Shu proved too strong, defeating Casey 21-17 21-16.
Steven Grotowski and John Garcia-Thompson failed to qualify for the men’s volleyball event in the German stage of the World Tour this week. The women’s team of Shauna Mullin and Zara Dampney crashed out to German 25th seeds of 21-18 21-16 in the first qualification round.
Britain’s Chris Melling and Karl Boyes surprisingly set the early pace in the Guinness World Series pool competition, leading the speed challenge ahead of Dennis Orcollo of The Philippines.