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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Animal Kingdom rides to victory in Kentucky Derby 2011 before record crowd of 164,858

It was only his fifth race and his first on dirt, but Animal Kingdom unleashed a powerful stretch run for an electrifying 2¾-length victory over Nehro in Saturday's 137th Kentucky Derby.

A Churchill Downs crowd of 164,858 — largest in Derby history — saw John Velazquez maneuver Animal Kingdom from 12th, kicking into gear rounding out of the far turn and taking the lead with a little more than a sixteenth-mile to go.

It marked a stunning turn of fortune that landed Velazquez and trainer Graham Motion in the Derby winner's circle for the first time after both appeared to have seen their best hopes dashed earlier in the week.

Velazquez's scheduled mount, reigning 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo, was withdrawn from the Derby only the day before because of an illness. Motion's Toby's Corner, winner of the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and seemingly the stronger of the trainer's two Derby hopefuls, was hurt earlier in the week.

“This is the race we all want,” said Velazquez, who picked up the mount on Team Valor International's Animal Kingdom after Robby Albarado was hurt in a spill Wednesday. “… Now I can say I have a checkmark on that one.”

Though crushed to lose Toby's Corner, Motion still believed he had a big shot with Animal Kingdom.

 “This is just extraordinary,” he said on the winner's circle podium. “This horse was so powerful today. Johnny gave him an amazing ride. He's just a magnificent animal.”

Animal Kingdom, winner of Turfway Park's Vinery Racing Spiral six weeks earlier in his first stakes appearance, ran like a seasoned pro in the Derby field of 19 three-year-olds. Velazquez's instructions were to keep him out of trouble, and he followed them to perfection.
He had Animal Kingdom safe in the middle of the pack much of the way before shooting between horses with about five-sixteenths of a mile to go. He quickly surged into fifth place and was gaining on the leaders from the outside.

“He gave me that feeling, man, he was running,” Velazquez said. “I said, ‘Well, let me just save him a little bit.' When I got to the eighth pole, I asked him for everything I can. He got to the lead and kept running.”


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wounded Warriors Make First Ever All-Amputee Softball Team

By Woodrow Bellamy III
Associated Press

It wasn’t about the 35-10 lopsided score, the former major leaguers in attendance or the lightning that delayed the game by 30 minutes. Friday night was about giving wounded servicemen who put their lives on the line a chance to shine again.

"I played baseball all my life," said Saul Bosquez, a Michigan native and Army veteran who lost his leg in Baghdad in 2007. "I played baseball in college and once I got tired of college I joined the Army and got hurt, and sports was a big thing in my rehab, and once they started this team I was all over it."
The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, aptly nicknamed Body Parts, played against the FBI All Stars at George Mason University's Fairfax Campus. The GMU softball team was there to show their support as was Michael Young and Paul Blair, who both played with the Baltimore Orioles during their major league careers.
"I sort of put together what I like to do and what I do for work and I came up with the idea for the very first all-amputee softball team in the world," head coach David Van Sleet said.

Van Sleet is part of the Department of Veteran Affairs and has worked in prosthetics for more than 30 years. He obtained a congressional grant to fly the team out to Tuscon, where they practiced at the University of Arizona. The FBI All Stars team comprises FBI special agents all based in the Washington, D.C., area.
The Diamond Dream Foundation (DDF) presented the Wounded Warriors with a $5,000 donation. Louisville Slugger outfitted the team with bats and gear.
Like Bosquez, all members of the amputee team were wounded while serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
"It's awesome to see people come out and support us," said Bosquez who lost his left leg when a bomb went off by his Humvee in Afghanistan. "It's great to see that people are aware of what’s going on and wanting to see us play like this." 
For more information or to donate contact:


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Marathon great Grete Waitz dies at 57

Associated Press
OSLO, Norway — Marathon great Grete Waitz was remembered Wednesday as a modest champion and trailblazer for female runners at a tribute attended by hundreds of fans, sports officials and some of her former competitors.

Grete Waitz had never run a marathon before the New York City race in October 1978. After it, her name and New York would be forever linked. The lean Norwegian middle-distance runner, who had set two world-records in the 3,000 meters, was invited to the race as a "rabbit," someone brought in to set a fast early pace for the favorite runners.

Two-thirds through that first marathon, she suffered so hard that she cursed her husband, Jack Waitz, for talking her into it. "I was hurting. I was mad. I was angry. I told Jack: 'Never again!" she recalled in 2008, 30 years later. But in all that rage she found strength. Not only did she win the race, she set a world record -- the first of three. And "never again" turned into eight more wins in the New York City Marathon, a world championship gold medal, an Olympic silver and a place among the greatest marathon runners of all time.

Waitz died Tuesday at age 57 in a hospital in her native Oslo after a six-year battle with cancer. Her husband Jack was by her side, said Helle Aanesen, who co-founded a cancer foundation with Waitz. There was no word on what type of cancer felled the marathon legend, who disclosed no details about her condition after being diagnosed in 2005.

Setting a world record in her first marathon was revealing of Waitz's character. She always pushed boundaries for herself. And in doing so, she broke barriers for women in sports -- perhaps more than she ever imagined.

"She was the first lady of the marathon. She was such a wonderful lady, such a wonderful ambassador for women's marathon running back when it was just starting to be recognized as a serious event," said Rob de Castella, a world champion marathon runner from Australia who had trained with Waitz.
At a time when many still felt that women didn't belong in long-distance running, Waitz proved them wrong with her outstanding performances.

"It was Grete who proved that it was possible for women to compete in the longer distances," said Svein Arne Hansen, president of the Norwegian Athletics Federation.

Waitz won the marathon gold medal at the inaugural world championships in 1983. A year later in Los Angeles, she took second behind American Joan Benoit in the first women's Olympic marathon.

She won the London Marathon twice, in 1983 and '86, the Stockholm Marathon in 1988 and earned five titles at the world cross-country championships from 1978-81 and 1983. Her last victory in the New York City Marathon came in 1988.

When at 37 she finished fourth in New York in 1990, no runner got more cheers from the crowd than Waitz, easily spotted by her graceful running style and blonde hair. She retired from competition after that but returned to the New York City Marathon in 1992, crossing the finish line next to legendary race director Fred Lebow, who had been suffering from cancer and died two years later.

Grete Waitz of Norway set the women's world record in her first-ever marathon, at New York in 1978. It was just the start of a stellar marathon running career.
Marathon titles: New York City (9); London (2); Stockholm.
Olympics: Silver medal, Los Angeles Games, 1984.
Worlds: Gold medal, Helsinki, 1983.
Other: Won five world cross-country championships; held world records in marathon and 3,000 meters; still holds Norwegian records in 1,500 and 3,000 meters.

Waitz said that run with Lebow was the her most memorable New York City Marathon next to her first win in 1978.

"She will be remembered as one of the best marathon runners of her time," International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said.

Before becoming the world's top women's marathoner, Waitz competed at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics in the 1,500 meters, set world records for the 3,000 in 1975 and 1976, and was unbeaten in cross-country races for 12 years.

She missed the 1980 Moscow Games because of the American-led boycott.

In a Twitter posting, marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe of Britain remembered Waitz as "an amazing champion and more amazing person."

Retired cyclist Lance Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer to win the Tour de France seven times, called Waitz "a good friend and an incredible athlete" on his Twitter feed.

During her own struggle against cancer, Waitz was impressed and inspired by Armstrong's comeback from the disease and said what he went through was "10 times worse."

Waitz started undergoing cancer treatment in 2005 but rarely discussed her condition in public.
"That's not my personality," she said in November 2005. "I've always been a private person. ... I'll do that when I cross the finish line and win this race."

At the time she was optimistic she could conquer the disease.
"I'm crossing my fingers," she said. "I will beat it."

 In 2007, Waitz and Aanesen established the Active Against Cancer foundation in Norway, inspired by a similar organization, "Fred's Team," in New York.

"Her aim was to inspire other cancer patients to be physically active, and she worked to establish training centers at cancer hospitals," Aanesen said. "She didn't wish to put too much focus on herself and her disease, but hoped she could contribute in some way to help others."

Aanesen declined to specify which type of cancer Waitz had but said she remained actively involved in the foundation until a week before her death.

Born in Oslo as Grete Andersen on Oct. 1, 1953, she trained and raced in her youth at Oslo's Bislett stadium, which raised a bronze statue in her honor in 1984. Until the early '80s, she worked as a teacher as well as developing her running.

"If Bislett was her cradle, then New York City was her Broadway stage," Mary Wittenberg, the president of the New York Road Runners Club, said at an event honoring Waitz in Oslo in 2008. "When Grete stepped into the marathon, she changed the game. She made it a serious sport for women."

To this day, Waitz holds the Norwegian records in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters.
Wittenberg said Tuesday the Road Runners were "sad to lose a dear friend and our most decorated champion" and praised Waitz's strength and grace.
"When so many people would have crumbled, she stood strong and positive," Wittenberg said.

Waitz is survived by her husband and her two brothers, Jan and Arild. A private funeral ceremony is planned for next week, according to Waitz's wishes, Aanesen said.
Waitz received numerous other awards and honors for her achievements on and off the track.

In 2008, Norway's king bestowed the prestigious Order of St. Olav on her for being a role model for female athletes. Last year she received the International Olympic Committee's Women and Sport Award for Europe.
"Grete is in my eyes one of the greatest Norwegian athletes of all time," said Hansen.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Muhammad Ali's fight robe up for auction in Victoria

Photo by Raymond L. Tharaldson
all rights reserved 2000

A fight robe made for Muhammad Ali for the Rumble in the Jungle match against George Foreman in Zaire in 1974 is on display at Lunds Auctioneers. (May 16, 2011)
Two-tone black beads spell out Muhammad Ali on the back of the satin white fight robe on display in the window of Lunds Auction and Appraisal Specialists.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, timescolonist.com

Mystery surrounds the robe, which is said to date from the famed Rumble in the Jungle fight on October 30, 1974. It's not known if Ali ever wore the robe or even saw it — although at the fight he wore another similar robe, also showcasing African-style weaving.

In what boxing fans consider one of the greatest fights of all time, Ali beat then-world heavyweight champion George Foreman, knocking him down in the eighth round. The event was held in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 Peter Boyle, Lunds president, said Monday that it appears two robes were made, each with a black interior panel stating: "Christopher Lynch and Mr. Fish for The Greatest. Zaire — September, 21, 1974." The fight was originally scheduled for September but was postponed until the following month.

Boyle said it appears that at some point well-known U.K. designer Michael Fish gave one robe to Ali, keeping its twin for himself. It's that second robe which is coming up for auction on June 28 at Lunds on Fort Street.

In 1997, Christie's auctioneers sold the other robe from the Foreman fight for $156,500 (including the buyer's premium), the company's website states. Boyle estimates the robe in his window has a value of between $15,000 to $25,000.

"It is almost identical to this. You couldn't tell them apart," Boyle said.

The second robe is owned a Victoria man who told Boyle he was in London the day after the fight. He spotted the robe in the showroom window of a store operated by Mr. Fish and bought it. "He can't remember the exact figure (price)," Boyle said. Lunds is not releasing the name of the owner.

Ali's robe has a connection to this country. Canadian Anna Gruetzner-Robins, a professor of art history at the University of Reading in the U.K., designed and wove the tapestry panels. She was working as a weaver and living in Hammersmith in west London in 1974 when she was contacted by Fish, who paid her 200 pounds.

"It was roughly based on African textiles but only in the most general of ways," she said in an email to the Times Colonist on Monday.

The tapestry is a mixture of wool, horsehair, unspun wool, and ribbon.

Gruetzner-Robins did not have a television so went to a pub to watch the Ali-Foreman fight. "I didn't know whether he would wear it or not. I remember being very excited and saying to the man next to me that I had made it, and he replied, 'Yeh, I made his jock strap.' ... rude."

Gruetzner-Robins said she has a signed photograph of Ali wearing his robe.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Harmon Killebrew, Baseball's Humble Slugger, Dies

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - Legendary baseball player Harmon Killebrew lost his battle with esophageal cancer on Tuesday.    He was 74.

The native of Payette, Idaho, played 22 major league seasons with the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. In 2,435 career games, he hit .256 with 573 home runs and 1,584 RBI.

He led the league in home runs six times during his career, with a career-high 49 with the Twins in 1969, the same year he won the American League most valuable player award. He drove in 100 or more runs nine times during his career.

A first baseman, third baseman and left-fielder during his career, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

“Harmon Killebrew personified Hall of Fame excellence in every aspect of his dynamic life,” Jane Forbes Clark, the chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement.

“He will forever be remembered for his 573 career home runs and as the 1969 American League most valuable player, and as one of the greatest hitters of his era.”

Killebrew's cancer battle became public in December and he was undergoing treatment in Scottsdale, Arizona. He entered hospice care last Friday.

“I have exhausted all options with respect to controlling this awful disease,” he wrote in a statement when he ended treatment and began hospice care last week. “My illness has progressed beyond my doctors' expectation of cure.”

Killebrew is synonymous with the Twins, having spent 14 seasons in Minnesota.

His No. 3 was retired by the Twins in 1975 and a street in Minneapolis near the Mall of America, the former site of Metropolitan Stadium, was named Killebrew Drive.

“No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew,” said Twins president Dave St. Peter. “Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest.”

 Personal Quotes

"Look for the seams (on a knuckleball) and then hit in-between them."

"Well, I like to wash dishes, I guess." - when asked what he liked to do for fun

"My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, 'You're tearing up the grass'; 'We're not raising grass,' Dad would reply. 'We're raising boys.'"

"Life is precious and time is a key element. Let's make every moment count and help those who have a greater need than our own. I like to tell the story of my loving mother, Katie, saying, 'We're here to help each other. What other reason could there be? So get with it, son.'"

"When I watch the games today I see pitches right down the middle called balls. So I don't know where the strike zone is these days. They seem to have a wide plate and a small strike zone." [in 1998]

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