23 February 2011

The Sports Page

In the States, we pay attention to our Olympic athletes, inasmuch as NBC gives us reason to.  We know of the swimmer most likely to earn gold in multiple events; we know of the Dream Team's anticipated double-digit average margin of victory; we know of the fastest American competing in the 100m sprint.  In fact, if I asked you to name the fastest man in the world circa 2000, many of you could probably tell me.  (If you said this man, you are right!)  But there are still a lot of other world athletes that we Americans, understandably, don't have the need or interest to follow.  And that's the inspiration for this deviation: an introduction to one of St. Kitts and Nevis's most successful international competitive athletes, Mr. Kim Collins.  A timely post, considering his success at a recent qualifying meet.

Mr. Collins, a short distance sprinter who attended TCU, set his personal best time of 6.53 seconds in the 60m race in a meet at the University of Arkansas when he was 23 years old.  Mind you, the 60m is not a medalling event at the Summer Olympics, though it is at the World Indoor Championships.  Even so, Collins saw success in the 100m and 200m sprints in international competition, medalling in three World Championships (held in Olympic off-years) in those events.  This included one fateful sprint in Paris in 2003: Collins, in his prime, had advanced to the 100m finals.  The favorite, world record holder and previous gold medalist Maurice Greene, had already been eliminated, opening up the field for a new champion.  Collins, running his personal best sub-10 second sprint, clinched his first and only Gold Medal at the World Championships, and second gold in international competitions.  Thus, for a year, the World's Fastest Man designation was bestowed upon a great athlete from the smallest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Fast forward to this month.  Collins, all of 34 and well past his prime, is still in superior condition and competes regularly.  A World Indoor Championships qualifying meet held in Germany was the venue.  To nobody's surprise, Collins performed well in the 60m heat, managing to win and beat fellow competitors Mike Rodgers (USA) and Marc Burns (Trinidad & Tobago).  To everyone's surprise, however, Collins ran a new personal best time of 6.52 seconds, outrunning his previous best set eleven years earlier.  Feel free to check out the press release for yourself.  A sincere congratulations to Mr. Collins, whose efforts have managed to inspire even those of us just visiting his country for a few years.

In other news, I am proud to report a breakthrough in my soccer "trials," as it were.  Through a combination of switching teams from Light Jerseys to Dark Jerseys, and playing a higher percentage of the match up front, and shedding a heavy portion of nerves, I had a much more successful evening last night on the pitch.  I did make a few mistakes, of course, but I made up for it with many more clean passes, some solid shots on goal, and a little luck to help.  I may have angered a teammate or two when I nearly tripped over the ball at one point, but I definitely angered the other team when I put two passes, at different times, between the legs of the same defenseman.

Also, I kind of made a new friend.  The flashy striker on our side (every team's got one, pretty much) goes by the name of Justin, and he seems to have taken to me faster than some of the others.  And while I am relieved that I can, indeed, make personal connections out on the pitch, I am not surprised in this case.  You see, I know the hidden truth about strikers, and I'll let you in on that now.  [whispers] Down deep, we're all secretly Prima Donnas.  It's true; ask anyone that has played on a team.  If they argue or say that's not entirely the case, Congratulations!  You just met that team's striker.  So what does this mean?  Justin has some talent, as it were, and often I found I could feed him the ball pretty effectively, to varying degrees of success.  (Early on, I did have my first semi-assist: I struck a shot on-goal, which was defended, and Justin relayed the ricochet to a gentleman named Hilton who dove to put the ball in the net.)  And, as Prima Donna's, all we want is to be fed the ball over and over, like guinea pigs at the water tube.  So the best way to get on a striker's good side is, quite simply, feed him the ball.  Over and over again.  Keep doing it.  Even when he's ostensibly covered and there are other options, and at the expense of all your other teammate's opinions of your able-mindedness, keep feeding him the ball.  It doesn't matter how ill-advised or awry the pass is, in his mind, you have just earned a brownie point.  Several brownie points later, I had a guy who was giving me thumbs-up, high-fives, and fist bumps even when I hadn't really done anything.

That's something I didn't know I had been missing.

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