Rob Wood

Rob's Sports, Fitness & Science Blog

Entries Tagged as 'Sport'

50 Years Ago In Sport

June 23rd, 2016 · No Comments · Major Events, Sport

The year 1966 is a very significant one for me as it is the year I was born. A lot has changed in the world of sports since then, when I think about the sports I followed growing up and the athletes who have come and gone.

In most parts, sport in 1966 was played without the hype and celebrity mania of today’s elite sport. One exception of the day was Muhammad Ali, who only passed away very recently. Ali was at the peak of his career in 1966, both in his boxing and public life. He defended his title five times, though shortly after he was in the midst of controversy for refusing to be inducted into the armed forces to fight in the Vietnam War. Up until that time he was the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion, however he would not fight again until 1970.

Boxer Muhammad Ali

Boxer Muhammad Ali was at the peak of his career

One of the major events of the year was the FIFA World Cup tournament, one that will particularly live on in the memories of the English fans. In a hotly contested final, the host country England won their first and only World Cup title by defeating West Germany 4-2 after extra time. As time ran out, the sealer was struck to the famous words by BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now!”

The English were also involved in the Commonwealth Games (then called the British Commonwealth Games) which were held in Kingston, Jamaica. The Asian Games were in Bangkok, Thailand and the Central American and Caribbean Games held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The year saw the emergence of a young American women’s tennis star Billie Jean King who won her first grand slam title. It was the start of a career that would finish with a total of 12 grand slam titles. Margaret Court won the Australian Open for the seventh straight time, a feat that has not been achieved by any other man or women. Both of these women would years later be famously involved in the battle of the sexes matches against Bobby Riggs.

Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus successfully defended his Masters Tournament title, which was also his third win at the event. He also won The Open Championship for the first time in his career and his sixth major title. With these wins be became the fourth player to win all four major professional championships. Considering his lifetime achievements in which he would win 18 majors, the last one in 1986, this was just the beginning for The Golden Bear.

Jack Brabham won the F1 driver’s championship for the third and last time, one of 10 drivers who have achieved this feat in the history of the event. He is the only driver to win a championship in a car of his own team.

This is just a sample of the highlights from 1966. On our sports timeline you can read more details of the sporting results from 1966.

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Is Bridge A Sport?

March 8th, 2016 · No Comments · Sport

Bridge is a trick-taking card game. I had never even considered that it was a sport, until I came across the World Bridge Federation listed as an international sports federation and even more surprisingly it was also an IOC Recognised International Sports Federation. Endorsed by the International Olympic Committee? Maybe it really is a sport.

Bridge is a “mind sport”, though just because it includes the word sport in its title, it doesn’t mean it is automatically defined as a sport. Based on the commonly accepted definition of what is a sport, a sport requires physical skill and exertion, and bridge does not involve any physical activity other than sitting on a chair and moving cards around.

photo by Michal Zacharzewski / http://www.freeimages.com

playing cards is not very taxing

I’m not the only one to question if bridge is a sport. The English Bridge Union, urged on by the recognition by the IOC, challenged a decision by Sport England not to recognise bridge as a sport, and therefore not give them access to funding. It took a high court judge to tell them how it is. Bridge players, of which there are millions around the world, enjoy your game of cards, but don’t think you are playing sport.

Sorry the IOC, bridge is not going to make it to my list of all sports from around the world. The closest it will get is on my list of questionable sports.

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The (Almost) Complete List of Sports

February 24th, 2016 · No Comments · Sport

The list of all sports from around the world is a project I have been working on for quite a while. I have now listed and described over 700 sports. Once I started this project I realized that to cover every sport in the world was an impossible goal. I am confident that every major competitive sport has been covered, but there are many more minor and regional sports that I have either chosen not to include or I have not come across them as yet. If “your sport” is not listed, let me know.

As I progressed through my list, I regularly had to refer to my definition of what is a sport, and subsequently a list of questionable sports was also made. The definition I used was that it was to be a human activity involving physical skill and exertion, governed by a set of rules or customs, and undertaken competitively and capable of achieving a result. Having said that, I still included a couple of these questionable sports on the list just to be thorough. For example, e-gaming is on the list despite failing to be a physical human activity, but is included as many people still class it as a sport. I similarly included the new sport of drone racing, it seems so sporty. Activities are not left off just because a motor or an animal does most of the work. Horse racing sports are on the list as they require a human rider with skill and fitness, but other animal races such as dog (greyhound) racing is not. You may not agree with all of them being there, there is definitely a grey area about what constitutes a sport.

This list will continue to evolve. There are new sports being created every day. There is a place of visitors to this site to add their newly created sports. In order to make the main sports list, there needs to be rules drawn up, a controlling body established and organized competitions held. Most will not get that far, but all sports have to start somewhere. Other sports are fading in popularity, and may need to move to my list of ancient and extinct sports. The ancient Olympic’s sport of Pankration is making a comeback in the guise of MMA. Pankration was like a combination of boxing and wrestling, the combatants were allowed to punch and kick, though biting and gouging an opponent’s eyes, nose, or mouth with fingernails was not allowed. Sound familiar?

One thing I did learn from creating this list is that there are many very similar sports created independently around the world, and also many variations of some sports. There are many sports that have been created using just a racket and ball. The world’s most popular sport, Association football (soccer), has numerous spin-off sports, with games played on ice, sand, and in swamps, while riding unicycles, bicycles, rollerskates, wheelchairs and motorcycles (though not all at once!). Combine a couple of sports, or change the surface, ball or way of moving, and another sport is born. This list is definitely not complete.

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25 Years Ago in Sport

December 7th, 2015 · No Comments · Major Events, Sport

We have previously looked back at 50 years ago in sport. As the year is coming to an end, it is time to look back at sport just 25 years ago – 1990 – long enough for the sporting scenery to have a different look, but still alive in many of our memories.

It was a year many records tumbled and many legends were made. But this can overshadow the fact that 1990 was a year where major changes in sports were made. It was the year where at a Yankee Stadium rally, Nelson Mandela donned a NY Yankee baseball cap and proclaimed “I am a Yankee!”

Also in this year Buster Douglas defeated Mike Tyson by a knockout in round 10 to win the world’s unified Heavyweight title, in what many consider boxing’s biggest upset ever. He then later agreed to defend his title against Evander Holyfield for $24 million where he was dethroned by Holyfield in a third-round knockout in Las Vegas.

Poster from the FIFA World Cup in 1990

Poster from the FIFA World Cup in 1990

West Germany beat Argentina 1-0 for football’s 14th World Cup in Italy in 1990. The US open tennis championships crowned their youngest ever champion when 19 year old Pete Sampras who was ranked No. 81 only a year before beat Andre Agassi to win the title.

Nick Faldo won the golf masters (his second win) and went on to win the British Open and became the second man since Tom Watson in 1982 to achieve this feat.

Jari Kurri set a record for scoring in a Stanley Cup Finals game, registering three goals and two assists in game 2 against the Boston Bruins, on the way to victory for the Edmonton Oilers, winning their fifth Stanley Cup in seven years.

1990 was a year where many future legends of the game were born. Players like German world cup winner Toni Kroos (football/soccer) who scored a hat trick against Brazil in the semifinal of the 2014 soccer world cup. Former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki (tennis) was also born in 1990. The woman who has taken world cricket by storm, Australian Ellyse Perry was also born in 1990. Other notable people born were Mario Balotelli (football/soccer), John Tavares (ice hockey), and Tao Li (swimming).

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The Future of Rugby?

October 14th, 2015 · No Comments · Major Events, Rugby Union, Technology

The 2015 Rugby World Cup which is currently in progress has embraced technology with the use of the Hawk-Eye system to help the referee adjudicate decisions, as well as assist with player safety by identifying possible concussion instances and behind play incidents (see more about technology in sports). Is this a step towards the possible futuristic rugby player imagined by the team at bwin in their Alternative Guide to the 2015 Rugby World Cup. They came up with the following possible innovations that we may or may not see in Rugby World Cup competitions of the future. Some food for thought.

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Rugby players of the future Rugby players of the future

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50 Years Ago in Sport

July 24th, 2015 · 2 Comments · Major Events, Sport

50 years ago the sporting scenery was very different. Some well-known athletes were making their mark, but were not the celebrities that athletes are today. There were many legends in the making while others were reaching the twilight of their career.

It was a year where the famous “phantom punch” was dealt by Muhammad Ali who retained the world heavyweight title he had won as Cassius Clay. The rematch against Sonny Liston in May never went beyond the first round and Liston was knocked-out by a phantom punch that nobody saw in one minute and 44 seconds.

Purdue vs. SMU Program Cover (1965)

Purdue vs. SMU Program Cover (1965)

Also Jack Nicklaus shot a Masters record 271 (17 under par) to win the Golf Masters by nine strokes, his second win at that time. In other golf news, Gary Player became the third man after Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen to win the four major championships when he triumphed in the US Open at Bellerive, Missouri.

West Ham became the second British club to win a European Trophy when they beat Bayern Munich, 2 – 0 at Wembley in the European Cup-Winners Cup whereas Liverpool won the FA Cup for the first time defeating Leeds United 2-1.

Also in 1965 the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia stunned the nation with its decision to ban Olympic champion and 1964 Australian of the Year Dawn Fraser from all amateur competition for ten years.

In cricket, Australian opener Doug Walters made his maiden Test ton in his first Test appearance, and went on to make 155 runs. Baseballer Willie Mays hit over 50 home runs in 1965, repeating what he had done 10 years earlier. Marking the start of an era for the New York Jets, they signed quarterback Joe Namath. The US ABC TV network paid an unprecedented $32 million for a four-year contract with the NCAA to broadcast football games on Saturday afternoons.

In major events, the All-Africa Games, otherwise known as the “African Olympics” was first held in Congo.

1965 was the year where many great sport personalities were born

1965 was also a year where great athletes like Craig Biggio, considered being one of the best all-around position players in MLB club history was born.  Mario Lemieux, a former NHL superstar acknowledged to be one of the greatest players of all time was also one of the most notable athletes to be born in 1965. Also cricketers Steve Waugh,  Sanjay Manjrekar and Maninder Singh were born in this year. Other notable athletes born in 1965 include Lennox Lewis (Boxing), Rubén Sierra (Baseball), Scottie Pippen (basketball), Matt Biondi (Swimming).

The Freddie Mills death saga and other notable deaths

The world light heavyweight champion from 1948 to 1950 Freddie Mills’ death saga is known to all in the boxing fraternity.  Freddie Mills died from gunshot wounds in mysterious circumstances in Soho, London. It was officially described as suicide but others attempted to give Mills’ death a more sinister ring and suggested he was the victim of a gangland ‘hit’.  English cricketer of South African origin Wally Hammond and College basketball legend Wayne Estes also died in the year 1965. Other notable deaths included that of Earl Webb (baseball), Tich Freeman (cricket), and Almos Alonzo Stagg (football).

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The World’s Fittest Sport is Ironman Triathlon

July 17th, 2015 · No Comments · Fitness, Fitness Testing, Sport

Here at Topend Sports we have been through a long process to determine the World’s Fittest Sport. We used a head-to-head competition format to compare sports (similar to the ESPN World’s Greatest Athlete competition which compared athletes). Starting from an initial list of 32 sports from around the world, each sport went head to head in an online vote, until only one sport was left. After many rounds of voting (it started two years ago), the most physically demanding sport was found to be ironman triathlon!

ironman triathlon - the fittest sport

In the final, ironman triathlon beat MMA, with swimming and water polo taking up the next two places. You can see all the results here. This was not scientific research – there was no actual measure of fitness, the results are just based on the opinion of this website’s visitors. There will be bias of course, as fans and participants of a particular sport will be more inclined to vote for their sport or a sport they are familiar with, and a geographical bias as the majority of this site’s visitors come from USA, England and Australia. Despite these limitations, it was an interesting exercise nonetheless.

Although there is no doubting the extreme physical demands of ironman triathlon, the results were still unexpected. In ironman triathlon, the extreme physical demands are almost exclusively aerobic. I personally put boxing at the top of the list for its all-round fitness requirements. Previous votes and analyses have found the most demanding sports to be boxing, squash and gymnastics, and actual testing has found alpine skiing to be the fittest. So there is no consensus.

Is ironman triathlon really the world’s most physically demanding sport? To reinforce the results, we have listed all 32 of the sports in a single poll, where you can again cast your vote for “Which Sport Is The Most Physically Demanding?

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New Tests at the NHL Combine

June 12th, 2015 · No Comments · Fitness Testing, Winter

The NHL (USA National (Ice)Hockey League) annual pre-draft combine was held last week with a new format and a couple of new tests. This combine does not compare to the hype and media circus of the NFL Combine, but the NHL realise that it needed to get with the times. For a start it moved the testing to an arena offering an increased viewing area with live result monitors, which means better media coverage and publicity for them. They know that watching potential champion athletes huffing and puffing through the tests provides a pretty good spectacle.

They were not just thinking about promotion, player welfare was also on their minds. The players do not make it to the testing stage until they have passed a thorough medical conducted behind closed doors. The two exhausting fitness tests, the 30 second all out Wingate anerobic test and the VO2max cycle test have been moved to separate days this year, so that fatigue from one does not affect the results of the other.

A new test this year was the Y-balance test for assessing flexibility, core control and proprioception. They have used a few different tests of this component over the years, recently a balance board. Though it has been scientifically studied, the Y balance test is pretty new and without established norms, and with no previous results it will be interesting to see what they take from it. It might take a few years before they get a feel for what’s good and bad in this test, and how the scores relate to performance and injury rates in the recruited players.

Y Balance Test

Conner McDavid doing the Y-Balance test at the 2015 NHL Combine.

You can see the  video of Conner McDavid as he goes through each of the fitness tests, including the new Y-balance test.

In the vertical jump, instead of measuring jump height using the Vertec apparatus as they have used previously (and as used for most other combines), they have decided to go high-tech and measure jump height with a Kistler Force plate, also allowing measurement of ground reaction forces (will anyone ever look at these?). Again by changing protocols the scores from previous years may not be comparable. The best vertical jump score this year was 28.74 inches, well below the best last year of 35 inches, and one of the lowest best score ever.

Another change in equipment was to use the BodPod for body composition assessment. Again they have the issue of not being able to compare to previous results, which was based on skinfold testing and % body fat calculation using the Yuhasz equation. You would expect more accurate measures with the whole-body air-displacement plethysmography method of the BodPod, however this year’s lowest percent body fat score was an unrealistic 4%, well below the previous lowest score of 6%.

Although the test protocols using the Y-balance, force plate and BodPod are scientifically valid and reliable, and may result in the collection of good data, I just feel like they have gone with the latest gadgets without a longer term view of results that they can understand, interpret and make good use of.

Does it matter anyway? Most pundits are saying that the fitness test results are not that important in ice hockey – the medical assessment and team interviews from the combine are more important. Of yeah, another thing that may be important for potential NHL players – how they perform on the ice. Is there a test for that?

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Beer and sport, a match made in a pub

November 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Track & Field

The Beer Mile

It is common for athletes to consume beer after sporting events, and spectators to drink beer during events, but in the case of the beer mile, it is the athletes who drink beer during the event. The beer mile participants are required to run a mile, and also drink a can of beer prior to each lap.

Races similar to the beer mile run have been around for quite a while on University campuses, but it becoming mainstream with the inaugural Beer Mile World Championship to be held in Texas next month.

The current world record holder is James Nielsen, who recently became the first person in the world to break the five-minute beer mile. See the video below, showing not only his quick mile running speed, but a phenomenal beer swilling speed too. The all-round athlete.

The beer mile is not the only sport with close beer links. I found that I already had a few beer sports on my list of unusual sports.

  • Beer Pong – this is a staple game of US college parties, in which players throw a ping-pong ball across a table and try to land the ball in a cup of beer at the other end. If you can land the ball in the cup, you opponent has to drink it up.
  • Speed Beer Drinking – another popular beer related sport popular at University is beer sculling or chugging races.
  • Kastenlauf  – which translates as beer crate running. In this German sport you and a friend have to carry a crate of beer over a 10km course, and consume all of its contents along the way.
  • Real Ale Wobble & Real Ale Ramble – a fun walk or cycle around the Welsh countryside, with free beer provided at checkpoints.
  • Beer Can Regatta – this one requires you to drink the beer before the race, so you have plenty of empty cans to make the boats with.
  • Wife Carrying Competition – there is no beer involved during this race, though the winner’s prize includes the wife’s weight in beer.

Do you know of any more?

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It’s good to be king…

August 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Basketball, Fitness

LeBron James has recently added yet another title to his illustrious career of accolades, and his latest one is now World’s Most Fit Athlete according to a poll conducted by Sports Illustrated. The poll consisted of four criteria categories related to their athletic ability. LeBron scored an impressive perfect score of 40 out of 40.

Impressive to say the least, but I wonder how the rest of the NBA feels about this poll. NBA players Nate Robinson, Serge Ibaka, and Dwight Howard are all specimens to rival LeBron so here we will stack up the King against 3 other formidable opponents for the distinction of the Fittest Player currently in the NBA.

Nate Robinson (PG/SG, Nuggets)

Nate brings tremendous energy to every team he’s a part of. Can this pint-sized, fiery point guard challenge LeBron for his fit title? Don’t let the size fool you, Nate has never been one to shy away from contact.

Size: 5’8’’ 180 lbs. Ability: High flying, speedy

Evaluation: Speed: 10, Strength: 6, Agility: 10, Endurance: 10

Overall Score: 36

Serge Ibaka (PF Thunder)

Serge Ibaka is a 6’10’’ chiseled specimen who resembles a statuesque Greek God. Could he be in fact more fit than LeBron?This shot-blocking virtuoso is one of the most intimidating players in the NBA. Serge was ranked #7 on SI’s poll. How will he fare here?

Size: 6’10’’ 245 lbs. Ability: Serge is a super athletic specimen. Thrives off of thunderous shot blocking ability, and excellent ability to run the floor to get a power slam dunk.

Evaluation: Speed: 8, Strength: 8, Agility: 9, Endurance: 10

Overall Score: 37

Dwight Howard (C Rockets)

Dwight Howard strikes fear all around the NBA. His massive frame and explosive athleticism hasn’t been seen since Wilt Chamberlain at his size. Dwight is a freak of nature being that he’s 6’11 and moves and jumps like a guard. Many players are reluctant to attempt to score at the rim when they see #12 close to the area.

Size: 6’11’’ 265. Ability: Dwight has explosive athleticism and elite interior strength.

Evaluation: Speed: 7, Strength: 10, Agility: 8, Endurance: 8

Overall Score: 33

LeBron remains on top as NBA’s most fit

After the final tabulations, the winner of our fit challenge remains LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a summer of dieting and working out harder, he has been turning heads with his new slimmer and muscular physique. This spells disaster for the rest of the league in 2014, we may have only seen the tip of the iceberg from what LeBron will accomplish in his career.

Howard 33
Nate 36
Ibaka 37
LeBron 40

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