sport

The Olympics and National Pride

So the news came in today. Joseph Schooling of Singapore beat Michael Phelps at the 100m butterfly event at Rio 2016 for Singapore’s first gold medal and Olympic record to boot. Hurray! Majulah Singapura!

Good for him. I’m not too fussed though.

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Sports Blogging, or Lack Thereof

Well, in the earlier days of my new blogging life, I found myself doing quite a few football or F1 reports. Obviously they are just random collections of my thoughts on the events, discussing individual drivers or footballers and how they did. It was fun, but recently I haven’t written one of those things.

I suppose in some ways, it’s because there’s not much of a point. Sure, it consolidates my views on that particular race or match, but then life moves on and there’s another match, another race to watch. I commentate on Twitter during these sporting events too, so it’s not like I’m not airing my views out there for no one to care about. I’m not even monetising it like sports journalists are, and I write far lengthier reports, albeit I ramble quite a bit and come from a biased viewpoint. Maybe that’s why I can’t be a journalist? Eh.

Then there is the fact that football matches tend to be at night, and when the match is done, I’m pooped and just about ready to crash in bed, drowning in the emotions of the moment (be it anger or elation). F1 has very different air times due to the international nature of the races, but blogging about it isn’t a job; just a desire to rant. So like anything that interests me, that interest fades.

I’ve kept up with the sports blogging for much longer than, say, the politics or the disaster blogging. Mainly because sports can be fun at times, while politics frustrates all the time. And disasters are a dime a dozen; I’m not a one-man newspaper, just an almost-adult who procrastinates too much and has too many opinions on everything. Still keeping up on the film and anime reviews, along with ranting on manga. I guess that’s where my passion lies? I do love entertainment, but then who doesn’t?

(And I barely blog about my life, since the very beginning actually. Not much to say I guess. It’s a pretty typical life of a college student in a middle-class family who has everything he needs, and isn’t doing anything groundbreaking or amazing or contributing to society in a super meaningful way. I save my short, pretty first-world complaints for Twitter, and I just don’t have that much happening in my life to rant at length about. I’m pretty #blessed.)

Finally, football really frustrated me for the past two years. Under Rodgers, it just got stale and awful to the point where I even avoided watching matches. Under Klopp, there were so many magical moments, and so many inconsistent, terrible performances. As a fan, it can be hard to muster up the energy after a roller-coaster of emotions to write a report that I won’t even look back on. My emotional investment in F1 is far less than in Liverpool F.C., but that also means I care less about most of the drivers. All I have is a strong admiration for their skills, horror at the crashes, and a wish to see more overtaking.

So yea, that’s why I’ve really dropped off on sports blogging. I’ll probably write something if Klopp brings us our first European trophy in more than a decade. Maybe later in the year, I’ll complain about how Lewis Hamilton lost the championship to Nico Rosberg because of mechanical unreliability, or marvel at his capacity to win races and make up that enormous deficit. But for now, I’ll rather just stay a fan and pay attention to the matches/races instead of thinking of what to say later.

Malaysian Grand Prix 2014

Qualifying

Well, that was a bit of an anti-climatic end, with Hamilton bagging pole with his earlier time. Vettel came agonisingly close, but didn’t make the checkered flag for one last flying lap. He was trying to hang back to get some space from Rosberg, who had first backed off him, then came charging up to get track position. Vettel’s fault for misjudging the time? Maybe, but it was by maybe a second or less. Intentional from Rosberg? That’s conspiracy theory stuff, but amusing to consider.

Of course, well done to both Vettel and Hamilton, who showed their class in the wet. The conditions made a great equaliser for Red Bull, who did bring a lot of parts and probably performance too, so it’s probably even closer in the dry now. I still expect the Mercedes to have upwards of 0.5s a lap on Red Bull though, but they look like they are comfortably the 2nd fastest car on the grid. They have the aero and thus the grip; if they had Mercedes engines, they’ll probably be on top again.

Alonso had a coming-together with Kvyat, and I’m amazed Ferrari managed to fix his broken wishbone, which was crucial for steering. And then he went on to get a P4 behind Rosberg with a car that doesn’t steer properly. That’s brilliant from probably the best driver on the grid. And he outqualified Raikkonen again, despite Kimi seemingly having the upper hand in Q1 (as was Rosberg with Hamilton). Well, as they might say, the best drivers shine when the pressure’s on…

McLaren’s gamble, or rather Button’s, to go on inters didn’t pay off, but they didn’t lose that much in the end. Magnussen had a decent qualifying given the speed of the McLaren, as did Hulkenberg who always outperforms his car. Williams was nowhere in the wet, mirroring Melbourne, and if it pours again tomorrow, I don’t expect them anywhere near fighting for the podium as Bottas was in the early parts of the Aussie GP.

Ericsson had a BIG crash in Q1, where he basically spun off and onto the track two corners later, nearly hitting Gutierrez. Every driver had their moments off track, including wet-weather specialists like Hamilton. The torque-y nature of the 2014 cars probably made it even worse.

Can’t wait for the race tomorrow!

Race

The rain threatened to come down, but in the end, it never did, allowing for a good race to unfold. Well, from P2 onwards anyway. Hamilton had a faultless race, hammering out a 17s gap on his own teammate, using less fuel to do so, and avoiding the tyre wear issues that Rosberg seemed to have. That’s mind-bogglingly good, and lays down a huge marker for Rosberg.

Rosberg did a good start to leapfrog Vettel, and from then on was uncomfortably ahead. He pulled out a max of 4s on Vettel in various parts of the race, but it got really close at the pit stops, and it dipped under 1s at points. He just couldn’t seem to pull away from Vettel like Hamilton could pull away from him, but a good race nonetheless.

Vettel outlined the potential in that RB10 with a great race, hanging on to Rosberg all through the race. He dropped to P4 at the start, but managed to get pas Ricciardo again to get P3 and stayed there all the way. Formula 1 is indeed an engine formula now; if that RB10 had a Merc engine, Vettel would probably have been challenging Hamilton for the win.

Ricciardo inherited his Australian predecessor’s bad luck, as crap poured down on him. First it was a poorly fitted front left that cost him a lap, then his wing failed, then he got a drive-through for the bad pitstop. In the end, he had to retire. But he was showing decent pace and was on for a 4th place finish, so Red Bull will be pleased with that.

Alonso drove a typical fighting race in 4th, and Hulkenberg managed a very good 5th on a 2-stop strategy. It’s amazing how his talent can be overlooked for his weight, but all the better for Force India. Perez, his teammate, couldn’t even start due to some issues, which is a pity given the pace of that car.

Button cruised to a 6th for McLaren, probably not where they want to be at the moment. But they managed to keep ahead of the squabbling Williams, who had their own ‘multi-21’ moment, coincidentally at Malaysia as well. Massa was asked to move over for Bottas, and was probably fed up after having to do that at Ferrari more than his fair share. So he kept ahead of Bottas and prevented him from chasing down Button, which is bad for the team but good for him personally.

Behind them was Magnussen, who made a mistake and came into contact with Raikkonen at the start of the race. That damaged his front wing and gave him a 5s stop-go penalty, and he made a great recovery drive for 9th. Raikkonen, sadly due to the puncture from that contact, could only come 12th.

Kvyat drove to an impressive 10th, a 2nd consecutive points-scoring race for him. Grosjean actually finished the race, keeping just ahead of Raikkonen and showing that the Lotus has pace despite all their reliability issues. Maldonado had a damaged floor due to contact with Bianchi on the first lap though, and unfortunately had to retire. Bianchi retired too, though I’m not too sure as to why.

Kobayashi drove a fighting race too, and managed a great 13th for Caterham. Behind him was his teammate Ericsson and then Chilton, who finished yet another race and kept up his consecutive finishes. Finally, Sauber had a nightmare race where both cars retired.

That’s race 2 over. Bring on Bahrain!

Australian Grand Prix 2014

Qualifying

Well, well, well. The rain certainly made things even more interesting. Williams didn’t exactly show their pre-season form, but the rain could have been a factor. Lotus are in dire straits, but what a recovery by Red Bull. Vettel may be nowhere in 12th, but Ricciardo on the front row must have been a fantastic surprise. In the dry, I’ll bet the Mercs are still at least 0.5s faster in qualifying trim, but in the wet, the RB10 can hold its own. It didn’t do so bad in the practice sessions either, running pretty reliably all things considered.

But what a lap by Hamilton. He had a few mistakes in his pole lap, but still made 0.3s on Ricciardo with the final lap of the session. Rosberg must feel hard done by to get dropped to the 2nd row, but his mistake in his first hot lap effectively prevented him from doing another lap, and you could say it’s his own fault.

Magnussen is doing pretty darn well in that McLaren, as is Kvyat in the Toro Rosso. Both rookies, yet both into Q3. Magnussen even outqualified Alonso, and in P4 is the highest qualifying rookie for the first race since Hamilton himself. Could he pull off that epic first season that Hamilton did? With the McLaren a bit behind Mercedes, I don’t think so. But he can definitely score a few podiums, and I’m guessing he’ll probably outpoint Button over the course of the season.

Alonso is his usual battling self, of course, with a decent P5. Raikkonen, on the other hand, still can’t get on top of the torque of the new cars. He basically screwed over Button and Vettel’s hot laps, though judging by their performances in FP1-3 and Q1, they weren’t going to beat their teammates.

Kobayashi somehow wrestled that horrid Caterham (both in terms of looks and pace) into Q2, which is no mean feat. Chilton outqualified Bianchi and just missed Q2, so he must be feeling quite happy.

Looking forward to a very interesting race tomorrow, especially with possible rain again. If I’m a betting man, my money will be on Hamilton. An outside punt? Ricciardo: in P2 at his home race, he will be extra pumped.

Race

What a race. Vettel retired due to ERS problems, Hamilton with a misfiring cylinder (what? lol). Both Lotuses somehow survived longer than them, but still retired eventually. Bottas did a great job up to 5th, then hit the wall and lost a wheel. He then did a fantastic recovery drive that got him 6th, but if not for that wall, he could have been on the podium. Ricciardo in 2nd, which is great for Red Bull and himself at his home race, while Rosberg pulled out a mighty gap on him like how Vettel did it all the time for the past 4 years.

Magnussen and Hulkenberg did great too, although the McLaren isn’t so speedy. Button did great to get up to 4th. Kudos to McLaren for their strategy, which makes them top the constructors’. Hulkenberg held up Alonso for quite a while as he did last year with Sauber, and it makes me wonder why his weight can’t be overlooked for his talent.

Raikkonen really can’t handle his car, as he locked up practically every other corner and was in a dogfight with the Toro Rossos. The Ferraris did have some electrical problems that kept their overall power down, but Alonso made 5th, so Raikkonen doesn’t really have that many excuses.

At the back, Chilton finished another full race, so all credit to him for never having retired so far in his F1 career. Kobayashi took out Massa in the 1st corner, and given how Bottas did in the sister car, it makes me wonder how Massa might have done in that Williams. Ericsson’s Caterham did eventually die too, while Bianchi finished the race despite being a few laps down on everyone.

Sauber looks pretty bad on race pace, with Sutil and Gutierrez nowhere. Not sure what happened to Perez, but the Hulk finished comfortably ahead. Fuel saving didn’t seem that big of an issue, and the tougher Pirelli tyres this year meant no tyre troubles.

So, all in all, a thrilling race from start to finish, and the pre-race favourites are showing that they do indeed deserve their tag, with the caveat that even they can meet reliability issues. Red Bull recover to show that they do have the best chassis, and this is already turning into an epic season.

Liverpool 3-0 Southampton 01/03/14

YES!!!

I didn’t catch the match, but what a win! Given that Arsenal lost, it was a great opportunity to leapfrog them into 2nd place (with City having two games in hand). If we wanted to have any chance of winning the league, we would need to keep pace with Chelsea too.

And keep pace we did. It was going to be our hardest away game left (and yes, that includes Old Trafford), especially because Southampton is a bogey team of ours. Their game is so similar to ours, and there are many parallels between the sides. Both young teams, playing fast-paced matches, full of energy and pressing. Also with young managers filled with big ideas, and improving the team dramatically from the previous season.

But as we did with Arsenal, Spurs, Stoke and other bogey teams this season, we beat them. And kept a clean sheet too, with a superb one-handed save from Mignolet. That sort of shot can break an arm; he kept it out with a single hand, after appearing to have dived the wrong way initially.

And Suarez, oh, what a way to break your goalscoring drought. A super finish to kick off our game, and a brilliant assist that got past three Soton players. He’s been on an insane run to prove himself, and his assist rate has skyrocketed in recent games, some of them really, really sublime. Now top scorer, top assister, top CCC creator. If Arsenal had bought him, they would be top of the league, no question.

Having not watched the match, I can’t say for sure what sort of things happened. But I do know that we played a diamond midfield, and that shows Rodgers’ flexibility, which is one of his traits. He likes to experiment at times with formations. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But it gives us options, and that’s always a good thing.

He also learns from mistakes pretty well. Naive tactics often frustrate even the best of fans, but he picks up the cues and doesn’t do the same stupid things again. And his man-management, woah. Look at the progress of Suarez, Sturridge, Coutinho, Sterling, Henderson, and tell me this man hasn’t been working wonders. And Gerrard; he’s proving me wrong, that he can play deep. But of course, not as a destroyer, but as a regista. Not the best regista in the world; Pirlo won’t be surpassed by anyone, any time soon. But for us? Good enough.

This string of games and our brilliant goalscoring form means that 2 of the 3 main criticisms I have for Rodgers – playing Gerrard all the time despite how ill-fitting he looks to the team, and being too naive and gung-ho with his tactics – are irrelevant. Gerrard being deep reduces the protection we have in front of the back four, but his passing gives us added range and penetration to score. The gung-ho attitude has been tweaked to allow for more solidity despite having the same players on the pitch. So we still concede goals; big deal. We’ll just score one more. According to a stats analysis, we aren’t just similar to Keegan’s Newcastle; we’re more bonkers than them!

So the last criticism I have is the use of subs. Rodgers seems reluctant to use his subs, and while at times I can see why (given the thin bench we have), sometimes I don’t understand it. Tiredness needs to be managed; players like Alberto and Aspas need minutes to prove themselves, and could give different dimensions. He usually subs too late for any impact, and doesn’t use up all his subs either.

But even now, I can’t criticise his use of subs too. Allen came on against Swansea and gave us much needed midfield solidity, plus a whole lot of pressing and ball retention that effectively won the game. Sterling came on (early!) this game, and promptly scored with his first touch.

Genius.

And here at the start of the season I was thinking, we can challenge for Top 4.

Now? Nonsense.

Title, here we come.

2014 F1 Test 3 – Bahrain

Day 1-2

So far, it hasn’t been plain sailing even for the most reliable front-running teams like McLaren and Mercedes. Even they had their share of problems. But they still got in plenty of running, which is more of what could be said for Red Bull (who admittedly did have a decent 2nd day).

The Williams and Force India look pretty handy, and while their times are off the pace of the Mercs, they have reliability by the spades. No such luck for the Renault-powered teams. Ferrari-powered teams are kind of hovering in between, with Ferrari having their own problems (particularly for Raikkonen, who can’t seem to get on top of the torque), and Marussia having a poor time (although, as the times indicate, they could be quite far ahead of Caterham). Sauber is also behind the Mercedes-powered teams, and they have been plodding along quietly.

There’s a view that McLaren and Mercedes are seeing more issues this test because they are testing performance, and pushing the cars to the limit far more than the other teams. That’s sounds quite plausible to me, and the problems do seem minor in comparison to Red Bull’s (and the Renault teams in general). It will be interesting to see Williams win at Melbourne though, just by lasting the race 😀

As for Red Bull, my goodness. Having to cut temporary vents to help cooling isn’t a solution. Packaging at the rear is as tight as ever, and coupled with Renault having only just solved the major battery issue (with many other issues yet to be discovered, let alone solved) and the engine specs to be frozen, things look pretty grim at the moment. At this point, I really wouldn’t be surprised if they do bring a B-spec car to Spain.

Day 3

What a horrid day for Red Bull. They were delayed by some issues in the morning, and when they finally got out, it took 4 corners for the car to break down. Not even on a timed lap, no; it was only the installation lap. Then they tried to fix it, and out came Vettel again. Not even out of the pitlane, bam! The car broke down. They are seriously behind at this point.

Mercedes also had their own problems, but once they did their precautionary engine change, Rosberg went on to do quite a lot of laps, which is good. McLaren and Ferrari, the other two big teams, had their own problems as well.

Then comes Williams. Boy, oh boy. Not only did they have race pace and reliability, Massa set the fastest lap time yet, which was faster than Mercedes’ qualifying sim time from the first Bahrain test. I’m sure Mercedes have been sandbagging a little, but that’s a great return to form from Williams. Force India too, have been impressing.

For the Ferrari teams, Marussia had a good day of running I believe. Whereas the Sauber caught fire. Which was unexpected, given how small the cooling requirements that Ferrari engine seems to have.

And of course, the Renaults. Only Caterham got in any decent running. Lotus was hamstrung by more problems yet again, leaving them with even less mileage run than Red Bull. Toro Rosso had some good running too, which can only mean that Red Bull’s breakdowns are down mostly to them now. Renault can easily point to those other cars and ask; we gave you these engines, other cars can do it, why can’t you?

Day 4

Well, well, well. Williams look like they have the pace, and then Mercedes pop up with the day’s fastest time. Then they go out again, Lewis sets the fastest 1st sector, and backs off. Sandbagging? Maybe. Ominous? Quite.

Red Bull had a better day of testing, but still ended up losing a lot of time due to some front-end mechanical problem. Mercedes have had their issues in the morning too, but recovered to throw a warning out to the rest of the paddock. McLaren had little running, while Williams seemed to be bulletproof at a very crucial time. And fast. Although they did end up with engine failure near the end of the day…

Force India too, have proved reliable and quick, and Ferrari seem to be at that sort of level now. An engine judged to be thirstier is no good for an era of fuel-saving, and the car still can’t put the power on the track stably. Sauber? My goodness. 177 laps in a day. That must be a record.

Lotus continue to have problems, and ended testing with the least number of laps. Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia I didn’t pay much attention to, but they haven’t been as unreliable and making as many headlines as Red Bull have, so that’s that.

Thoughts

Given that I support Hamilton and the Brit teams/drivers, I’m hoping for a Lewis win in Melbourne. Williams, with their troubles last season, would also be a fan favourite to pick up a podium. My guess will be a Merc 1-2 with Williams snatching a podium. But given the reliability gremlins everyone, yes, even Williams has, Melbourne is going to be a thriller.

Edit: Yikes. Apparently, from news released by Pirelli, Mercedes were using used soft tyres when they set the 2nd and 3rd fastest times from the two Bahrain tests. Williams was on new supersofts. That’s a good 1sec performance gap in the tyres. If the Mercedes has 1sec up on the fastest car besides them…new era of domination? Melbourne is going to be VERY interesting.

Female Olympians

Recently, I read an article about how female athletes had to do sexy shoots in order to capitalise on the limited window of exposure that the Olympics brings. That they needed sponsorship, and the only way to do so in a sporting world dominated by men is to play on their attractiveness.

I think that in this scenario, it’s less about female empowerment through sexuality, and more about making enough money to make ends meet. In the material world we live in, we can’t always aspire towards post-materialistic ideals. Feminism is great in theory, but in practice, it’s difficult to overcome centuries of patriarchy.

It’s not the best endorsement for the feminist movement, but they are still Olympians, competing in a global sporting event. That they need money to live and train for the quadrennial event, and earn that through photo-shoots shouldn’t be condemned. It should be lauded in a way; that these people find the means, making use of whatever they have in hand to pursue their Olympic dreams.

So what if it plays on the fact that attractiveness is important? Talent is talent, and good looks is a form of talent in and of itself. David Beckham sold his looks so many times over, and Cristiano Ronaldo has followed suit. Even the male athletes who get regular exposure exploit their looks to sell their brand. Why shouldn’t female Olympians do the same? Just because they are female, they should be held to a different standard? That’s anti-feminist.

Winter Olympics 2014 – Sochi

I didn’t catch anything from the Winter Olympics, mainly because I have little interest in the sports played. The only thing that stood out were the commentaries about Russian anti-gay laws, and Sochi’s terrible facilities.

In the end, though, what did I learn from the event that I didn’t even pay attention to?

USA has to keep Bieber

Because they lost to Canada in men’s ice hockey. Hah!

Russia does have a sense of humour

As proven by their closing ceremony, where they purposely let the last Olympic ring open later than the others, referring to the failure from the opening ceremony.

The world loves Kim Yu-na

They crashed change.org trying to petition to give her the gold medal instead of the Russian figure skater who won. People involved in the sport claim it was given to the rightful sportswoman.

I don’t care for the Winter Olympics

The regular Olympics have larger-than-life characters that I can recall after the Olympics have ended. The only athlete I remember from this Sochi Olympics is Jackie Chamoun, and that’s because of the controversy back in Lebanon when pictures from her topless photoshoot surfaced. And the Lebanese people don’t even care; it’s the government that’s criticising her for giving the country a bad image. When every other country with attractive athletes do racy shoots all the time, especially to take advantage of the limited window of exposure.

Jackie Chamoun is very, very attractive

I’m not ashamed to admit that. I am a hot-blooded male. And I’m pretty sure that objectively, most of my female friends will agree too.

2014 F1 Test 2 – Bahrain

The test has been over since three days ago, and from the looks of it, the general accepted view that Mercedes have a super chance of winning the championships this season are not unfounded. They have been building towards this season after all, with the signing of Lewis Hamilton and the switch to 2014 development earlier than Red Bull. It will be good for the sport to finally see a team break the recent Red Bull monopoly.

And even better still, McLaren seem to be back on form. I do pity Martin Whitmarsh, who is nowhere to be seen, but Eric Boullier is a fantastic signing for them, and Magnussen looks like the real deal. Could he be the second coming of Hamilton? We’ll find out in a couple of weeks’ time.

I have a fondness for the British teams/drivers, mainly because I usually peruse BBC Sport for my daily updates, and the bias has gotten to me too. Not to mention I do follow the EPL, and there’s the former British colonial rule to consider. That aside, I do hope to see Ferrari compete at the higher echelons again. They’ve had their problems with the wind tunnel for years now, but this year looks decent for them.

Lotus has the funkiest nose in the paddock, which I admire. And they look to be the best Renault-powered car at the moment, which is good, because I do enjoy seeing Lotus do well. They are not a big budget team, and supporting the underdogs is always cool. Not to mention their Twitter feed is one of the funniest.

Red Bull, oh Red Bull. I wish I could sympathise with their problems, but they have plenty of resources to claw back into the game. And while it’s amazing in hindsight to see them break records like Michael Schumacher did with Ferrari, it gets boring when you’re in the moment of their dominance. So nope, no sympathy for Red Bull.

As for the midfield teams, like any casual-turn-semi-pro follower of any sport, I generally don’t pay much attention to them. Toro Rosso have their issues like their sister team, and along with Force India have the ugliest, phallic-shaped anteater noses I’ve seen. Sauber have looked decent, and so do Williams, and I do hope they can challenge the big boys for points, especially now that reliability will win races, not outright speed.

As for the backmarkers, Marussia are in deep trouble, and Caterham are looking good (and terrible at the same time…goodness, that nose) so far.

I enjoy watching Kobayashi Kamui race; he’s quite the overtaker. I’m glad he’s back in the sport, having raised funds himself to get the drive (and doing that for free). Paul Di Resta is a decent driver too, which makes me wonder why any team wants Adrian Sutil over him (I’m looking at you, Sauber). Of course, Sutil has his strengths, but Di Resta looks a better racer, and while he does throw some tantrums, he’s been better overall than Sutil IMO.

I do hope Hamilton wins the championship. He’s someone I really enjoy watching race, along with Alonso’s never-say-die attitude to Sundays. Vettel and his finger annoys me greatly, and his win-at-all-costs mentality in Sepang last year didn’t endear him to Webber or any fans of F1. His and Red Bull’s strategy of getting pole and pulling out an unbridgeable gap in front is too clinical at times, and their domination isn’t really that exciting. This year’s struggles (and Vettel’s tantrums) should be fun to watch.

Finally, a word on Schumi. Legend of the sport. Keep fighting, Michael.

2014 F1 Cars Gallery