SPORTS DAY: Hekkie’s back after handing out a belting
Your roundup of the sporting news of the day
Triumphant Budler returns to hero’s welcome
A band played in the arrivals hall at OR Tambo on Tuesday evening as Hekkie Budler arrived after his historic victory in Japan on Sunday. His face carried the bruises of his battle with Ryoichi Taguchi for the WBA, IBF and Ring magazine junior-flyweight titles. South Africa’s most prolific champion has six different belts. He left the country a little over a week ago as a 29-year-old hungry to become a champ again and literally hungry for a decent meal as he was watching his weight to make the 48.99kg limit. He returned home a year older, having turned 30 last Friday, and waiting for him at home, according to wife Roxy, were 30 birthday presents, all wrapped. Budler will have to wait a while for his new belts to be sent to him by the sanctioning bodies, but he did return home with two massive trophies, both nearly as tall as him.
Springboks ponder defensive problems
With Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’s first Test less that a fortnight away‚ one aspect of the local game must have him worried stiff — defence. Currently‚ after round 14 of Super Rugby‚ the Sharks (352)‚ Bulls (350)‚ Stormers (356) and Lions (369) have all conceded 350 points or more, way more than New Zealand and Australian sides the Crusaders (223)‚ Hurricanes (213)‚ Chiefs (242)‚ Highlanders (289)‚ Waratahs (274) and even the Brumbies (296).
Kane named England captainStriker Harry Kane will wear the captain’s armband for England at next month’s World Cup, ending speculation about who would lead Gareth Southgate’s squad in Russia. Southgate said Tottenham Hotspur’s Kane had “outstanding leadership” qualities.
The miraculous rise of Nigeria’s Mountain Top FC
One of Nigeria’s biggest evangelical churches was on to a winner when it set up a football club — backed by millions of dollars and the power of prayer. Just over a decade later, Mountain Top FC are now in the Nigerian Professional Football League and among the best sides in the country. At the Agege Stadium in Lagos, the ritual is the same before every match: players in their all-purple strip gather round a pastor in the dressing room to be blessed. Then, trance-like on their knees and with hands turned upwards to the sky, they give themselves up to God to ensure victory. “We want this team to be the Real Madrid of Nigeria, the Chelsea of (Africa)!” said coach Geoffrey Aghogi.
Serena to miss out on French Open seedingFormer world number one Serena Williams will not be seeded at this year’s French Open, according to the organisers of the May 27-June 10 clay court grand slam. Williams, a three-times champion at Roland Garros, discovered she was pregnant after winning the 2017 Australian Open. Following her return from maternity leave in March she suffered early defeats in Indian Wells and Miami. Williams, who gave birth last September, can compete at Roland Garros under the WTA’s special ranking rule, which allows players returning from a long spells out to use their ranking at the start of their absence.
India flexes IPL muscle in hunt for more TV riches
The head of the multibillion-dollar Indian Premier League says the glitzy tournament is taking aim at football and basketball’s heartlands. Bolstered by a five-year $2.55-billion broadcast deal with Rupert Murdoch’s Star, the IPL is one of the wealthiest leagues in any sport. IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla is now eyeing viewers and earnings at the level of global broadcast giants such as football’s English Premier League. The IPL’s 60 games over seven weeks earn about $8.5 million per game in TV revenues, just in India. Each EPL football match earns more than $11-million in the UK, with millions more from foreign broadcast rights. An average EPL match is watched by more than 12 million people. The 2017 IPL final drew almost 40 million viewers. Neither can compete with the National Football League in the US which regularly tops 20 million viewers per match.
Former Olympian Ariana Kukors Smith has filed a lawsuit against USA Swimming, accusing the governing body of knowing she was being sexually abused by her coach and covering it up. Kukors Smith alleged that Sean Hutchison began grooming her for a sexual relationship at age 13, touching and kissing her when she was 16 and having sex with her when she was 17. Hutchison has denied the claims.
AFP, Reuters, TimesLIVE