Sporting Heaven, Armchair International
Monday 29th August 2011
Well, what a perfect weekend for a bank holiday - no plans & a smorgasbord of international sport to be absorbed televisually.  I did have plans to hot foot it to Old Trafford for the Manchester United vs Arsenal game but I gave my tickets to a worthy cause & given my next few weekends will see me in Bruges, Zurich, Brussels & Edinburgh, I decided a quiet weekend was actually quite appealing.

Saturday morning began in Spa for the F1 Grand Prix final practice on the BBC.  Now, in my opinion, Spa is the greatest circuit on the Formula 1 has everything, high speed corners, flat-out straights & its very own weather system that can see rain at one end of the circuit & sun at the other.  Given the way the season is turning out with the majority of circuits tamed at the steering wheel & pedals of Herr Vettel, this track did seem to offer hope for Messrs Hamilton & Button in the McLarens.

Before I knew it, the Channel 4 coverage from Daegu was being beamed into the lounge & the World Champs were underway.  Some great races ensued with my attention being grabbed early on with the women's 10km final being dominated by the Kenyans in a great race that saw Sally Kipyego hang on to silver in a dramatic finish.  Sally is one of the OTC racers that was out training with us in Font Romeu last month, so it was great to see her do so well on the world stage.  The other drama was provided in a rather more unfortunate manner by Chrissie (Ohuruogu) who inexplicably false started in her 400m heat...Chrissie was at a loss to explain what happened & was understandably shell-shocked when interviewed minutes later.  Lee McConnell & Nic (Sanders) did manage to lift British spirits by qualifying for the semi-finals in the subsequent heats but Chrissie's poor run of misfortune undoubtedly took the headlines.  

Then in no time at all F1 qualifying took centre stage & again, drama was not long in coming.  Michael Schumacher crashed out in Q1 after losing a rear wheel, Jenson & his race team seemed to suffer a misunderstanding, which saw him talking to the media at the end of Q2, whilst Lewis & Maldonado seemed to have a difference of opinion that they then tried to settle Dukes of Hazard style with Maldonado swiping into Lewis further down the track.  Lewis recovered in time just to see Sebastian (Vettel) snatch his 9th pole of the season on his last lap of Q3. 

After all that excitement, I needed some time to recover before the promise of further sporting high jinx on taking advantage of the Monday bank holiday, I let my good friend Donough (Holohan) include me in his Saturday night plans!  Needless to say, I managed to include an impromptu cardio session into my Saturday night, dancing til the early hours in some club I had never heard of!

Still, come Sunday morning, I was ready for the action, with Daegu providing the first drama of the day.  Mo (Farah) was looking to cap a fantastic season with a performance in the men's 10km & the race certainly didn't disappoint.  Unfortunately, Mo lost out in the sprint finish to Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan but did himself proud & I'm sure will be even more hungry come London next year & there is still a possibility that he will compete in the 5km later in the week.  Then the "Big One" - Jamaica a "Bolt"-on certainty for the 100m?  Of course...but hold on, true to form on this bank holiday weekend, it's not what you were expecting.  Usain false started, which in championship athletics means an instant DQ & his team mate, Yohan Blake took full advantage of his compatriot's misfortune to beat Walter Dix into second place in a gold medal-winning time of 9.92 seconds.  

Athletics coverage had to be curtailed though as the action from Spa was ready & as the lights went out, mayhem saw crashes & near misses galore at the first corner.  That saw Jenson drop even further down the race order but recovered with a sensational drive to take the bottom step on the podium as Red Bull pulled out one of their less-likely one-twos of the season.  Michael (Schumacher) also put his qualifying woes to the back of his mind to record fifth place on the 20th anniversary of his first race in Formula 1...a remarkable achievement.  Lewis unfortunately crashed out in a controversial collision with Sauber's Kobayashi, whilst he was still in contention for a place on the podium.

So, with my favourite race of the F1 calendar put to bed, it was off to watch the big match that I had intended travelling to Manchester to see.  Following hot on the heels of Tottenham's convincing home defeat to a rather impressive looking Manchester City side, 5 - 1, Manchester was again taking on North London in the Man Utd vs Arsenal encounter at the Theatre of Dreams.  Always a good battle & with lots of debate in the build up to the game, United continued their early season promise with a truly devastating attacking performance to blitz the Gunners 8 - 2.  Absolutely other word for it & in all honesty it could have reached double figures, such was their dominance.

And, yet the weekend was not even close to being finished.  This morning controversy raised it's roguish head once more in Daegu, as Cuban Dayron Robles powered home to take gold in the 110m hurdles, only to be DQ'd by the race steward for obstructing the Chinese golden boy Xiang Liu over the last 20 metres.  Replays do clearly show their arms tangling on two occasions, but as I understand it, that does tend to happen in sprint hurdles & I personally felt the DQ was harsh.  On the plus side though, the DQ of Robles elevated Andy (Turner) into the bronze medal position.  I have heard that the Cubans have appealed the ruling, so it's not cut & dried but it certainly seems likely that GB may have another medal to add to Mo's silver.  

In the women's 100m, Jeanette (Kwayke) was disappointed not to make it out of the semi-final but it has been a positive season generally for JK after last year's injury setbacks, so hopefully she can build on that for next year's main event.  The final was won by Carmelita Jeiter of the USA in 10.90 on a track that is gaining a reputation as a fairly slow surface.  Meanwhile in the women's 400m final, another great race ensued & Amantle Montsho secured Botswana's first World Championships gold with a fantastic performance, beating American Allyson Felix into second & dashing her hopes of a gold in both the 400m & 200m events.

& so the weekend comes to a close  - so much excitement experienced in one armchair over a lazy bank holiday weekend!  I feel thoroughly exhausted for doing absolutely nothing...bring on the week ahead!!!!!

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