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Friday, May 16, 2008

Dreams carry Natalie Du Toit to Beijing

She is a tough character in perhaps the toughest of all Olympic sports, but as she stood on the bank of the Guadalquivir river in Seville, trying to take in what she had just achieved, Natalie du Toit could not contain her emotion.

  • Olympic Games homepage
  • "I'm sorry," she said. "I think this is the first time I've ever cried after a swim because it means so much. It's something that I've wanted to do for my whole life and I am just really, really happy."

    Dreams carry Du Toit to Beijing
    Beijing bound: Natalie Du Toit has qualified for the Olympics

    A few minutes earlier, Du Toit had touched home in fourth place in the 10km at the World Open-Water Swimming Championships, comfortably inside the top-10 finish required to qualify for the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer. But as the 50 competitors emerged from the murky water after their two-hour ordeal, the fact that Du Toit remained on the pontoon by the finish was the clue that this was no ordinary story.

    It was not until a member of her South African support team arrived with her prosthetic leg that the 24-year-old was able to join her rivals on the weary trudge back to dry land. Astonishingly, she can now look forward to lining up alongside the world's greatest long-distance swimmers in Beijing, despite the fact that her left leg was amputated above the knee seven years ago after she was knocked off her motor scooter.

    She has made history by becoming the first amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games, an achievement that defies scientific logic. While lawyers still argue over whether her compatriot, Oscar Pistorius, gains an unfair advantage on the track over his able-bodied rivals through his prosthetic blades, Du Toit's incredible feat is to have finished fourth in a two-hour race in choppy water, and with swimmers bumping and boring into each other, with only half the leg-propulsion of her rivals.

    Unlike Pistorius, Du Toit does not wear a prosthetic leg in races and is therefore free to compete in Beijing. It is akin to competing in a sculling race with one scull or a kayak race with a single-bladed paddle. Her secret? Well, there is no secret, she says, no physical or technical trick to compensate for the loss of a limb. Just hard work and obsessive determination. "There's no real compensation. You just do the hours in the swimming pool, you do the hours of racing and you do the hours of mental preparation. You just go out and give it everything. I don't even think of one leg, two legs. When you're racing in an able-bodied competition you're all equal and you go out there and try your best, and that's what counts.

    "Swimming is my passion and something that I love. Going out there in the water, it feels as if there's nothing wrong with me. I go out there and train as hard as anybody else. I have the same dreams, the same goals. It doesn't matter if you look different. You're still the same as everybody else because you have the same dream."

    The open-water event will be making its Olympic debut in China and Du Toit's presence in the starting line-up is guaranteed to be one of the stories of the Games.

    At the age of 16, and with her left leg still intact, she narrowly missed qualification for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but her accident a year later, when she was hit by a car as she returned home from a training session, looked to have ended her career. Yet only a year later she became the first disabled swimmer to compete in an able-bodied event when she raced for South Africa at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. In 2004 she failed in an attempt to qualify for the Athens Olympics but went to the Paralympics instead and won five gold medals. But still the Olympic dream burned within her.

    "I think for me it's about having the dream of going to the Olympics all my life. I've dreamed about it since I was six years old and I started swimming, and then when I just missed out on qualifying for Sydney. After the motorbike accident it was just a matter of going out there and seeing what I could do, but back then I could never have dreamed this day would come. Definitely not. For the first five years after my accident I improved a lotbut then I didn't improve much at all. To come out here and have such a good race is fantastic."

    Britain's Cassie Patten was also celebrating after she finished second behind Russia's Larisa Ilchenko in a repeat of last year's World Championships in Melbourne, while fellow Briton Keri-Anne Payne also made sure of her Olympic place in eighth position.

    It is clearly not an event for the squeamish. Patten, who has suffered from seasickness and jellyfish stings in previous races, encountered a new problem in a stretch of water normally reserved for rowing and canoeing. "On the last lap I tasted something very much like duck poo," she said. "Not that I've eaten duck poo before, but it didn't taste or smell very nice."

    Patten is a serious medal prospect in China, perhaps even a golden one, though she was happy to be upstaged by the achievement of her South African rival yesterday.

    "Natalie is an outstanding swimmer - very, very strong not only physically but mentally," said Patten. "For someone to overcome such an horrific accident and then qualify for the hardest swimming event there is, that's quite outstanding."

    Original here

    The Seven Most Bizarre Sports in the World

    In the modern world of sports, the majority of fans stick to their roots of watching only what is broadcasted on ESPN, Sports Illustrated, or any other national station. Today, we will salute the sports that receive no attention and would belong on ESPN Ocho if it existed. I present to you the seven most vile, repulsive, yet entertaining sports in the world.

    1. Bog Snorkeling:

    Imagine swimming down a disgusting ditch of stale, muddy, and often contaminated water for over a football field for . . . glory. This has become an annual contest, but one more likely to end up in infection or a tapeworm before receiving any trophy.

    The official rules:

    Course Length:

    The course consists of two lengths of a bog drain (one length for juniors). The total length of the course is 120 yards. The drain is approximately 4 feet wide and 5 feet deep.

    Restrictions: Minimum age 12 years (only by consent of parent/guardian)You must be able to swim 100m or 75m for 12 to 15 year olds.
    Please check with your doctor if you have any medical concerns.
    What To Wear: You must provide your own equipment. We recommend that you wear a wetsuit, however normal swimwear, shorts and T-shirt will suffice. In addition you should bring a mask, snorkel and fins (flippers). A towel plus a change of clothes and a bag to store wet items is advisable. Basic changing facilities and makeshift cold water shower facilities will be available on site.
    Fitness: You must be of a reasonable fitness level. If unsure of your fitness for this event please consult your doctor.
    Participants must be able to swim for this water based activity.

    2. Dwile Flonking

    You get to stand in a circle with your buds and throw dwiles soaked in beer at your buds while wearing kilts! What could be better? Maybe the fact that the most sober team technically loses in this European competition.

    The rules:

    “The team which is not flonking holds hands and dances around in a circle - known as “girting”. A member of the opposing team stands in the middle of the circle holding a “driveller” (a pole 2-3 ft long and made from hazel or yew), on the end of which is a beer-soaked dwile. 

The flonker then turns in an anti-clockwise direction and flonks his dwile at the opposing circling team. 

If the dwile misses completely it is known as a “swadger”. When this happens the team forms a line and the flonker takes hold of a pot filled with ale. 

He then has to drink the contents of the pot before the wet dwile has passed from hand to hand along the line, chanting to the ancient ceremonial mantra of “pot pot pot”. 

The team with the highest number of points wins, after deducting one point for every player still sober.”

    What does it look like in action?

    3. Elephant Polo

    Although Ralph Lauren would say otherwise, polo doesn’t have to be played on a horse. That should make for an interesting new logo for the clothing line. Anyways, the only thing more exciting than playing polo on an animal as big as a horse is playing it on an animal 10 times its size!

    The official rules:

    • The Game will be played by four players on each team. The game is played on a marked pitch of 100 metres by 70 metres, using a standard size polo ball.
    • The game will consist of two 10 minutes chukkers of playing time, with an interval of 15 minutes. The whistle blown by the referee stops and starts play.
    • The pitch will be marked with a centre line, a circle with a radius of 10 metres in the centre of the field, and a semi-circle, in front of the goals, with a radius of 20 metres, measured from the centre of the goal to form the D.
    • Elephants and ends are changed at half time.
    • The complete ball must travel over the sideline or back line, to be out, and completely across the goal line to be a goal.
    • Both men and women players may play from either side of the elephant. Women may use two hands if they so wish but men must use only one hand, either the left or right hand.Care must be taken when changing sides of play, in order to avoid injury with the stick to other players, or elephants. When the Umpire/ Referee judge dangerous play has been committed, a spot hit shall be given to the opposing team. All defending elephants and players must be 15 metres from the spot.
    • Teams may bring additional players, reserves, to interchange with other members of the team, as long as the number, names and arrangements have been agreed in advance by WEPA.Team members playing will be named the evening before a match.The changes, except in the case of injury where a replacement is needed, must be done at half-time when names will be given to the Referee, time-keepers/ commentators.


    4. Wife Carrying

    Many men complain about having to give their wife money, the credit card, access to Desperate Housewives during a Redskins game . . . but what if you had to carry her in another way? That’s right, wife carrying is actually a sport.

    The official rules:

    • The original track in the rough terrain with fences, rocks and brooks has been altered to suit modern conditions. These following rules set by the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee apply:
    • The length of the official track is 253.5 meters, and the surface of the track is partially sand, partially grass and partially gravel
    • The track has two dry obstacles and a water obstacle, about one meter deep
    • The wife to be carried may be your own, the neighbour’s or you may have found her farther afield; she must, however, be over 17 years of age
    • The minimum weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilograms. If she is less than 49 kg, the wife will be burdened with a rucksack containing additional weight such that the total load to be carried is no less than 49 kg.
    • All participants must have fun
    • If a contestant drops his wife that couple will be fined 15 seconds per drop
    • The only equipment allowed is a belt worn by the carrier, the carried must wear a helmet.
    • The contestants run the race two at a time, so each heat is a contest in itself
    • Each contestant takes care of his/her safety and, if deemed necessary, insurance
    • The contestants have to pay attention to the instructions given by the organisers of the competition
    • There is only one category in the World Championships and the winner is the couple who completes the course in the shortest time
    • Also the most entertaining couple, the best costume and the strongest carrier will be awarded a special prize

    5. Noodlin’

    Yes, there are many sports that would freak out the normal person . . . but nothing more than noodlin’. Normal people fish with rod, reels, hooks, bait, harpoons, or nets. These people fish with their hands. NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN BE MORE EXHILARATING THAN STICKING YOUR ARM IN A HOLE AND WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO BITE . . . and hopefully it is a catfish.

    The rules:

    “Although the concept, catching fish with only the use of the arm in the water, is simple enough, the process of noodling is more complicated. The choice of catfish as the prey is not arbitrary, but comes from the circumstances of their habitat. Flathead catfish live in holes or under brush in rivers and lakes and thus are easy to capture due to the static nature of their dwelling. To begin, a noodler goes underwater to depths ranging from only a few feet to up to twenty feet, placing his hand inside a discovered catfish hole. If all goes as planned, the catfish will swim forward and latch onto the fisherman’s hand, usually as a defensive maneuver in order to try to escape the hole. If the fish is particularly large, the noodler can hook the head around its gills.
    Most noodlers have spotters who help them bring the catfish in, either to shore or to their boat. When a catfish bites onto a noodler, it holds on for quite a while.
    With some of the biggest fish caught weighing in at up to 50-60 pounds, very few noodlers are strong enough to attempt noodling by themselves. Although carrying the fish after they have been subdued is not difficult, trying to secure a fish and remove it from one’s hand at the same time can be a challenge.”

    6. Lawn Mower Racing

    Yes, the very machine you use to cut your grass can also be modified into racecar status. Could this potentially rival Nascar one day? Time can only tell, but these machines can fly.

    The Rules

    • Drivers must be members of the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association. Drivers must be 18 years of age. Drivers 16 and 17 years of age parental permission.
    • All drivers must sign a release discharging the USLMRA from liability.
    • The mower must originally have been designed and sold commercially to mow lawns.
    • It must remain suitable for lawn cutting, apart from the modifications permitted in the Handbook
    • Every mower entered in any USLMRA event must be approved for competition by Technical Inspection.
    • Any mower may be re-inspected at any time by the Chief Steward or Chief Technical Inspector
    • CUTTING BLADES MUST BE REMOVED COMPLETELY FROM ALL MOWERS.
    • Non-stock mowers must be equipped with an automatic throttle closing device.
    • All mowers must be equipped with an engine safety cut-off switch.
    • Mower brakes must be in good condition, operating on at least 2 wheels.
    • Fuel must be pump gas. The only additive allowed is STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer.

    7. Camel Wrestling

    When you think of camels the last word you think of is aggression. Camels are meant to ride, live in the desert, be fed casserole by Napoleon Dynamite, store water, and chew things. However, an acient sport has found them useful as entertaining in wrestling. I present to you the WWCF (World Wrestling Camel Federation).

    The Rules:

    “Each camel wrestles with a tülü in its class. The camels wrestling from right are matched with the ones wrestling from the right, and left ones with left ones, the ones hooking with the ones hooking etc. The winner camel bring its four feet together and salutes the spectator with boasting. As a reward it gets its carpet and leaves the field. Defeated camel shows silence and embarrassment.
    Each camel wrestles only once a day. The duration of the wrestling is about 10 to 15 minutes. The rules are set out in order to prevent reduction in number of wrestling camels and damage of them.
    All of them are carried out within a disciplinary manner and traditionally. When wrestling is ended, the owners and the winner camels return home with proud and happiness while spectators are delighted of having an exciting day.
    The camel wrestling usually held in winter months in Aegean region has become winter festivals of Aegean region.”

    If you know about or come across any other bizarre sports in this world, please feel free to comment. However, I don’t think you’ll come across anything more strange than these.

    Original here

    The Top Child Sports Prospects in the World . . . Can You Even Compete?

    Childhood prodigies come and go throughout the media, however, these four children are the real deal. If they have not received professional offers yet, they surely will in the coming future. It is hard for children to stand out in team sports, but hard work and determination will get the attention of scouts and the media. These are the top child athletes of the world:

    BASKETBALL and TRACK:

    Jashaun Agosto is an 11 year old child that is simply unbelievable. Not only does he complete 200 push ups, 200 sit ups, and 150 squats every night before bed, but he also runs a sub 4:50 mile and practices basketball 4 hours a day, seven days a week. This 5th grader competes against older opponents and is completely self motivated. He is easily the youngest child prospect in the sport of basketball . . . any bets on when will Kentucky send him an offer?

    TENNIS:

    Jan Kristian Silva is a tennis pro and he is only 5 years old. His parents pay nearly $140,000 a year to send him to a French tennis complex where he strives to improve his game. At a whopping 4-foot tall and 60 pounds, this kid can slam and return serves with many adults. He can also play the net like a 6 footer.

    FUTBOL:

    Rhain Davis is a 9-year-old Australian “whiz kid” who has been snatched up by Manchester United. The child moved 11,000 miles to Britain to join the Red Devils Academy and compete in the beautiful game. There he excelled and caught the eyes of Man U, where they offered him a scholarship. Under the contract he will train with Manchester daily and cannot sign a professional contract until the age of 16 years.

    GOLF:

    Kyle Logrosso is more than your typical 5 year old boy. Shortly after birth, it was discovered that he had cancer in both eyes, requiring months of chemotherapy and his left eye to be removed. Since then Kyle has fell in love with the game of golf. Like many child prodigy golfers before his time (i.e. Tiger Woods), Kyle enjoys being in the spotlight and showcasing his skills. And get this, his best game in 9 holes is a 46 . . . how many adults can claim this in their golf game?



    Original here

    CCTV shows fans attacking police

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    CCTV footage of Rangers fans and Manchester police clashes

    Police in Manchester have released CCTV images showing up to 200 football fans chasing officers and attacking one of them after the Uefa Cup final.

    The footage shows Rangers supporters tripping up the Greater Manchester Police officer and jumping on him after the match with Zenit St Petersburg.

    Assistant Chief Constable Justine Curran described the fans as being "like a pack of baying wolves".

    Eleven supporters have been charged with criminal offences.

    The charges include public order offences, assault and throwing a missile.

    A further 11 Rangers fans who were arrested have been bailed pending further inquiries.

    Twelve Rangers fans arrested were cautioned, and seven men, including one Zenit St Petersburg fan, were released without charge.

    Scottish Labour, Tories and Lib Dems have called for an inquiry.

    A Rangers fan throwing a bottle in Piccadilly Gardens (Pic: Jeevandra Sivarajah)
    Trouble flared in Piccadilly Gardens (Pic: Jeevandra Sivarajah)

    Scottish Conservative deputy leader Murdo Fraser initially said the decision to deploy riot police was an "over-reaction" which may have inflamed the situation.

    But he was later forced to temper his comments after viewing the CCTV footage.

    Ambulance crews dealt with 52 cases of assault after the match, in which Rangers were beaten 2-0 by Zenit St Petersburg.

    Assistant Chief Constable Curran said violent clashes were sparked when police officers came under a "severe level of attack".

    Riot police were deployed after a city centre big screen failed and several arrests were made, including six men who were held after a Russian fan was stabbed inside the City of Manchester stadium.

    The police officer whose attack was captured on CCTV footage suffered bad bruising to his arms and body and hurt his elbow.

    Screen inquiry

    Greater Manchester Police said a total of 15 officers suffered minor injuries and a police dog cut its paw after treading on broken glass.

    Despite the scenes, council leader Sir Richard Leese said the city would not be put off hosting future international sporting events.

    Sir Richard said it was one of the biggest movements of people ever seen for such an event, and paid tribute to the authorities for the handling of the crowds.

    He also said there would be an inquiry into the failure of the screen in Piccadilly Gardens.

    The company behind the five screens erected in the city centre, Lightmedia Display, said the failure was due to a technical signalling problem.

    Fan being bitten by police dog
    Police used dogs during the clashes

    The city council said next week's Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea, in Moscow, would not now be shown on big screens in Manchester.

    Uefa said Manchester did a "fantastic job" in staging the final despite the trouble.

    Communications director William Gaillard said: "Both the municipal government and Manchester police have done a fantastic job given they were faced with well over 100,000 fans coming from Scotland.

    "I can't believe that any other city would have done anything better."

    The general secretary of the Rangers' Supporters Association, John MacMillan, said he was disappointed with the behaviour of some fans.

    He added: "There is no excuse for it to be honest. From what I saw before the game there was no need for attacking paramedics and the police, it is indefensible."

    But Rangers Football Club said many of those causing trouble had no history of following the team.

    Rangers chief executive Martin Bain said: "Those scenes obviously are dreadful and I've seen them myself and we have been informed...that those scenes were caused by supporters that don't normally attach themselves to our support.

    "We're extremely disappointed and we'll do everything we possibly can to help police find out who those perpetrators are."

    Rangers security chief Kenny Scott said the club would take "appropriate action" against those responsible.
    Original here

    Magic Carpet Golf, Tucson AZ

    This mini golf course closed after about 50 years in Tucson on Speedway Blvd. Members of the group Vanishing Tucson got permission to visit it one last time to photo document the statues before they are razed.
    Bill Kaplin Jr
    Tiki and cell tower
    Tiki and cell tower
    The Magic World
    Arachnid
    Monkey 1
    Magic Carpet Golf sign
    Northeast corner
    Children's side
    Northeast corner 2
    Acorn? house
    Speedway Blvd side
    Inside the Tiki Head
    Entrance
    Octopus
    Blue boat 1
    Blue boat 2
    Alien twins
    Buddha's sign
    Gator mouth
    Gator
    Arachnid 2
    Ostrich and giant fish
    Giant fish 1
    Giant fish 2
    Unique hole
    Snake hole
    Bull 1
    Unique hole 2
    Little shack and mystery object
    Children's course
    Fallen arrow
    Magic Carpet Golf sign 2
    Magic Carpet Golf sign 3
    Entrance 2
    Bull 2
    Flowers
    Carlos and castle
    Flowers 2
    Draped snake
    Tiki head
    Bull 3
    Castle from above
    Old flowers
    Buddha
    Sphinx and sun
    Sun
    Sphinx
    Monkey 2
    Skull
    Octopus 2
    Red flower hole
    Castle closeup
    Carlos and tiki head
    Acorn? house from front
    Castle from west
    Photo of the dino
    Dino eating clubs
    Odd little man
    T-Rex!
    T-Rex 2
    Green alien
    Monkey 3
    Colored lights


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