Weekend Edition: Delhi disaster, River Plate in danger, that other UFC story, and much more.

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Argentinian tennis player Gisele Dulko getting a tad close to a sword at the Ninja experience at a reception for the Pan Pacific tennis tournament in Tokyo.Our lead-off image shows Argentina’s Gisele Dulko in a precarious position as she helped to launch the Pan-Pacific Open in Tennis but the real dangers posed to some athletes in India are of a more serious concern.

There’s always a panic but this is ridiculous

Before every major tournament, even the recent World Cup in South Africa, there are always concerns about the standard of facilities and preparations in general. Usually these are over-hyped and the major event passes off with relatively few hitches. Unfortunately the organisers of the Commonwealth Games, which are being held in Delhi, didn’t get the memo.

There was a footbridge collapsed near the main stadium on Tuesday, followed by a partial roof collapse at the Weightlifting venue on Wednesday, and then there’s the issue of the athletes’ village. These photos published by the BBC show the extent of the issues with the village as it stands.  It comes as little surprise then that many athletes have used these incidents as an excuse to pull out of the games. It is time for a little perspective here however as many athletes in contention for medals at next year’s World Athletics Championships or in any event at the 2012 Olympics will see the Commonwealth Games as a burden. There was no shortage of withdrawals before this week’s string of embarrassments for Delhi. These incidents are compounding a pre-existing problem and leading to more withdrawals than the games.

Greatness of St Galls

St Galls of Belfast retained the Antrim Senior Football Championship a mere 7 days after winning the Kilmacud Crokes All Ireland Football 7s. Clearly taking inspiration from the saint they’re named for, St Galls showed tremendous stamina to win the county final against Erin’s Own Cargin by 2-13 to 0-10 on Saturday night. The win was St Galls fourth title in a row and ninth in 10 years.

The tournament in Kilmacud is particular gruelling and the core of the St Galls team that beat Cargin on Saturday had to play six games in the 7s just a week before their county final. Recording two victories of this calibre within a week is a remarkable achievement and bodes well for St Galls chances of retaining the All Ireland Club Championship they won on St Patrick’s day.

River Plate might win a title and get relegated

Argentina’s complicated promotion and relegation system could claim a notable victim next summer. River Plate has amassed a record 33 championships over the years and the Buenos Aires club is once again challenging for the title this season. For all their success Los Millonarios are in relegation trouble due to Argentina’s unusual league system.

Unlike European leagues, Argentina plays two seasons every year with a champion awarded for each of the single-round Apertura and Clausura seasons. The twenty team Primera Division uses an averaging system which sees the two teams with the worst three-year averages relegated while the next two worst teams are forced into relegation playoffs with the third and fourth best teams from the second flight. This format helps big clubs compensate for the high rate of transfers from Argentina to Europe. With teams unable to consistently keep players, the chances of a bad season following a good campaign are high. Indeed the last eight championships, over the course of four years, have produced eight different champions. At the time of writing River Plate is in 18th position on the averaging system despite being 6th in the current campaign. This would force the Buenos Aires club into a playoff should they fail to make a significant move. River has time on its side however as it has the rest of the current Apertura campaign and the Clausura to get out of the current rut.

Cronin claims British Rally crown

Cork’s Keith Cronin won the British Rally Championship for the second straight year. Cronin secured the title with a third place finish in the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, his fifth podium finish of the year. The Corkman’s only serious challenger for the title entering this round was Jonny Greer but he crashed out, ending his chances and likely calming Cronin’s nerves. There’s no news yet on whether Cronin will get a chance to move up to either the IRC or WRC Championships. Dungannon’s Kris Meeke, who won the IRC title in 2009, has secured a move to drive for Mini in the WRC next year.

Sonnen’s rapid descent

Saturday’s UFC 119 was not the biggest event on the organisation’s calendar but Dana White and friends will hope it deflects some of the attention from Chael Sonnen’s positive drug test. Sonnen dominated Anderson Silva at UFC 117 up until the final round when he fell victim to a submission by the Spider. It’s a sad twist to an exciting story. Sonnen had spent the guts of six months trash-talking Silva, describing how he would physically dominate the UFC Middleweight Champion. Prior to the submission it went exactly as Sonnen planned and a re-match was set for Super Bowl weekend. That is over and Sonnen’s future in the sport is now in serious doubt. Dana White has been aggressive in his efforts to generate positive publicity for the UFC brand and will show little mercy to any fighter that fails a drug test.

More than mistaken identity

We hear plenty of tales about Footballers faking their ages before making it to the big European leagues but the same problem occurs across the Atlantic in other sports. The Washington Nationals paid Dominican Baseball player Carlos Alvarez a $1.4 million signing bonus in 2006, thinking the 20 year-old was in fact 16 year-old prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez. Alvarez is now a key witness in a dispute between the Nationals and Jose Baez, who was Washington’s Dominican academy coordinator. The case has reached the courts in the Dominican Republic as Baez was fired by the Nationals over the incident.

In June, Alvarez told the court that Baez and another Nationals’ employee, Jose Rijo, were aware that he was not Gonzalez. Rijo was also fired by Washington. The testimony came to light in a report by Sports Illustrated earlier this week. A judgement in November awarded Baez $75,000 in a wrongful termination suit but Washington has launched an aggressive and costly appeal. The case is ongoing but the whole incident sheds light on the dark side to the progress of players from the Dominican Republic to the big leagues, where shady handlers are all too often have a role in making a killing off the ascension of talent.

Wear and tear

Finally this morning we look at some research by The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk into American Football. Lisk challenges a notion that 370 carries or more in a single season is a recipe for running backs to get injured in the NFL and that single games instead are more to blame. The research is interesting as it shows that there clearly is an optimal range of giving running backs 21 to 23 carries in games so as to avoid injury, with the potential for injury increasing at a massive rate right up into the mid-30s. That said it fails to adequately address the 370 issue. Over a 16 game NFL season a back with 370 carries would average 23.125 carries, which is within Lisk’s range. While eye-opening and insightful in his analysis of the impact of single-game load, a lack of comparison to how it compares to player injuries based on total-season load means we only get part of the answer.

Have a great Sunday.