PLAY DAY: From the bog to the fields of glory
The best of the sporting day compiled by David Isaacson
SA striker goes from sleeping in toilet to Champions League — and now China
South African striker Dino Ndlovu spent three nights sheltering in a station toilet before going on to play Champions League football — and he is now embarking on the latest chapter in his career with a move to China.
The well-travelled 27-year-old has swapped European football with Azerbaijan’s Qarabag for Zhejiang Greentown, a club in China’s second tier and formerly called Hangzhou Greentown.
It is Ndlovu’s first time in China, he arrived just days ago and does not speak the language, he told AFP as he adjusts to his new life.
Ndlovu said that prior to joining the club he learnt about Hangzhou, a city near Shanghai, by looking online.
It would be a daunting prospect for many people, but Ndlovu — who has a handful of caps for South Africa — coped with much harder when he was 18.
“I was from a village 110 kilometres (70 miles) from Johannesburg, but Johannesburg is where everything happens,” he said by telephone from southwestern China’s Yunnan province, where his team is preparing for the coming season.
“When I was young my dream was to be a professional footballer and I was going for trials at the academy of Platinum Stars, one of the teams in the PSL (South Africa’s Premier Soccer League), but the trials were every day.
“So they said we will give you three days’ training with us, but you have to get yourself accommodation and food.
“But I told myself I couldn’t go back 110 km to sleep, it’s impossible.
“So I had to come up with a plan and the only way was to sleep in the toilets of the railway station.
“I am not ashamed to talk about it, I am proud. It is a risk that I took and ultimately I reached my goal, I got a contract.
“It was tough, it was cold — so cold — it was scary, but I knew what I wanted and it’s about sacrifice.” — AFPAUSTRALIAN OPEN
Steely Edmund keeps it simple
They say you can take the man out of Yorkshire but cannot take Yorkshire out of the man and while Kyle Edmund now lives in the Bahamas his no-nonsense style of tennis would have the locals back home nodding in approval.
The 23-year-old, who grew up just north of the Humber Estuary in Beverley, is two Australian Open wins away from completing an unlikely metamorphosis from the “other British player” to grand slam champion.
Even if that did happen, and it’s a big ‘if’ considering he would have to beat former US Open champion Marin Cilic then most probably 19-times grand slam great Roger Federer, his coach Fredrik Rosengren says his charge will not get cocky.
“I’m not expecting him to be running to buy the Ferrari. He is not that kind of guy,” the Swede, who has helped transform Edmund’s fortunes since being hired in October, told reporters.
Edmund is no flash Harry, on or off the court — a trait he shares with three-times grand slam champion Andy Murray, who has carried the flag for British tennis for more than a decade.
A cricket lover, Edmund admitted after his quarter-finals victory over world number three Grigor Dimitrov that one of his idols, former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, did not recognise him when they were in the same restaurant this week. — Reuters... MORE AUSSIE OPEN
Chung hits Korea high
Chung Hyeon’s trailblazing run through the Australian Open continued on Wednesday as the relentless South Korean tossed American Tennys Sandgren aside 6-4 7-6(5) 6-3 to become his nation’s first grand slam semi-finalist.
Bespectacled like Clark Kent but playing like Superman at a sunbathed Rod Laver Arena, world number 58 Chung became the lowest ranked player into the last four at Melbourne Park since Marat Safin in 2004. He faces Roger Federer in the semifinal. — Reuters
... SECOND SERVE
It’s just not Tennys
Newly-minted star Tennys Sandgren lashed out the “dehumanising” media Wednesday after wiping his Twitter account following a backlash over his political views and links to right-wing activists.
The unheralded American, a devout Christian, came from nowhere to make the Australian Open quarter-finals, where he crashed out to Chung.
His deep run at the tournament sparked scrutiny of his life, including his political stance and his seeming support of the alt-right movement in the United States.
Among his tweets was one where Sandgren appeared to back a debunked online conspiracy in 2016 which linked Hillary Clinton to a supposed child sex abuse ring at a Washington pizzeria. — AFP
Wozniacki says 2011 semi defeat to Li Na ‘still haunts’
Second seed Caroline Wozniacki says her 2011 Australian Open semi-final defeat to Li Na still haunts her as she tries to go one better this year and end her Grand Slam drought.
The Dane held match points against the Chinese great on her only previous appearance in the last four at Melbourne Park.
“That’s the one that really hurt,” Wozniacki said after reaching a semifinal again early Wednesday with a three-set victory over Spain’s gritty 39th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro.
“I had match points against Li Na. I lost it. That’s still haunting me till this day. So I’m hoping for a different result this time,” said Wozniacki, who will face unseeded Belgian debutant Elise Mertens on Thursday for a place in Saturday’s final. — AFP
Basketball film wows Russians before election
A Russian film about a Soviet Cold War sports victory over the United States has broken box office records months before a presidential election by borrowing a page from Vladimir Putin’s play book: appealing to Russian patriotism.
The film, “Going Vertical” in Russian or “Three Seconds” as it has been branded in English, mixes fact with a dose of artistic licence to tell the story of how the Soviet basketball team, in a major upset, controversially beat the US national team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
After taking more than $38.88 million at the box office in just over three weeks, the film, financed by the state, has become the country’s most successful home grown production in rouble terms, watched by over 9 million people or approximately one in 12 registered voters.
During one packed Moscow showing this week, some audience members broke into spontaneous applause and others wiped tears from their eyes at decisive moments in the narrative.
The studio behind the film is controlled by Nikita Mikhalkov, an ardent Putin supporter and nationalist whose father wrote the lyrics for the Soviet national anthem under Stalin. One of the main roles, the Soviet team coach, is played by Vladimir Mashkov, who formally nominated Putin for re-election ahead of a March 18 ballot Putin is expected to coast. — Reuters
Lions want to do it better
Just because they have a new coaching staff‚ don’t expect the Lions to abandon the fast-paced game that helped take them to consecutive Super Rugby finals.
Joey Mongalo‚ the team’s backline and breakdown coach‚ believes the Lions have to tweak in some areas but that there was no reason to reinvent the wheel after Swys de Bruin graduated from assistant coach to head coach in place of Johan Ackermann.
“It’s a bit of a Catch 22‚” Mongalo admitted.
“Top business people always say that you have to innovate when you are at the top. You also can’t change for the sake of changing.
“I think if we 100% repeat what we have been doing it would be a mistake.
“I think for us it is simply to do what we have been doing but only do it better.” — TimesLIVE
Roar branded as ‘laughing stock of Asia’
A-League side Brisbane Roar was slammed as the “laughing stock of Asia” and “truly embarrassing” Wednesday after a shock loss to Philippine minnows Ceres Negros in an AFC Champions League qualifier.
Roar, the fancied side, suffered further embarrassment when some players’ shirt numbers peeled off during the game in Brisbane late Tuesday. The club lost the game 3-2, watched by just over 1,000 fans.
Brisbane are currently mid-way through the A-league season, and languishing in eighth place out of 10 teams, while Ceres Negros are undergoing pre-season training. — AFP
Russia drugs scandal ruins homecoming for Olympic star An
He won multiple speed skating golds for South Korea and Russia, and was hailed as a corruption whistleblower along the way, but Victor An’s Olympic career has ended ignominiously in the aftermath of a doping scandal.
An, a former South Korean who switched his allegiance to Russia in 2011 after bitter disputes with Seoul’s skating authorities, has six short-track Olympic golds under his belt — three as a Korean and three as a Russian.
He hoped to compete in his birth country at next month’s Pyeongchang Winter Games under a neutral Olympic flag — which would have been his third emblem at the Games — after the Russian team was banned over a state-sponsored doping scandal.
It would have been an emotionally charged climax to the seven-times world champion’s stellar but tumultuous Olympic career.
Instead the International Olympic Committee — which required individual Russians who wanted to compete to pass a unique set of anti-doping tests — did not include him among those selected, according to Moscow sports authorities. — AFP
GAME, SET AND MATCH
Return dates for Serena and Rafael
Serena Williams, who has not played a competitive match since capturing last year’s Australian Open, will return to the court next month at a Fed Cup tie, the US Tennis Association announced Tuesday.
And world No1 Rafael Nadal faces three weeks out after being diagnosed with a torn inner hip muscle during his Australian Open quarter-final defeat, his management said Wednesday. — AFP