CREATING ANOMALOUS BODIES IN SPORT

Technology has paved the way for the modern sport to soar to greater heights, but is sport willing to embrace this change?

Sport is a balancing act between pushing boundaries to the maximum within the confines of the law. But on the field, court, or pool, athletes are forced to push boundaries while fighting limitations.

Sporting governing bodies are designed to regulate and uphold integrity. These regulations mean that athletes and external stakeholders have to focus on the next repetition of the same fundamental product, rather than being able to take a more open viewpoint to a challenge.

Chris Froome
British road racing cyclist, Chris Froome is one of the most decorated cyclists of his generation with four Tour de France titles.

It’s known that pro cyclists experiment with legal substances to push their physical limits without breaking the laws. From a design perspective, we have seen how F1 engineers are constantly manipulating regulations to find that extra one-hundredth of a second over the competition.

This begs the question, what if we got rid of the restrictions and removed the boundaries altogether? What if tech experts can come up with innovative ways to help athletes perform at their optimal levels and redefine the ways we understand our bodies.

Technology knows no bounds and could create an ecosystem for a new breed of athletes. Integrating data-driven designs for enhanced capabilities that improve individual performance, range of movement, pace, stamina, just to name a few. This could further be achieved by redefining the tools available from apparel, footwear, and training equipment. The more we can customise products, the more we can support athletes’ individual traits, and increase their overall performance.

Jurgen 3
Jurgen Klopp has formed a side known for its fast-paced, attacking football and high energy style of play.

English Premier League coach, Jurgen Klopp, speaks countless times about his “machine” full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. The pair is widely known for their unrelenting runs from the back to join the team when attacking. Last season Liverpool completed more sprints than any other team in the league. They are well known for their pressing game off the ball. Their ability to outwork their opponents has been their biggest weapon, almost “machine-like” and it has yielded results with the team winning the league for the first time in 30 years. What Klopp subtly notes is that in order to be the best, players have to be operating at their peak every single time, almost as flawless as a machine.

What if engineers come up with a way for athletes to play past their hydration levels? A field of non-tiring players going the full distance of a match without breaking a sweat. This would obviously require body modification to achieve.

The NBA boasts with some of the world’s most physically accomplished athletes, with the likes of Zach Lavine, Zion Williamson, and Russell Westbrook. All of these players are renowned for their sporting prowess. How much better would they be if we can modify their body limbs to produce better speed, agility, power, and handling among other traits? Technology seemingly holds the key to unlocking all of these features. It sounds far-fetched but is it really? The operations that are performed in theatres worldwide suggest that we might not be far away from this manifestation.

Westbrook
Power personified — Russell Westbrook is one of the most feared point guards in the NBA due to his robustness and explosive power.

In a profession where age plays a dynamic role in performance, athletes can increase the longevity of their careers by replacing and replenishing flailing body parts. The result of this would not only benefit athletes but fans alike. Imagine watching sporting greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Dale Steyn, and many others surpass the peak of an average player. Also, affording those once-in-a-generation athletes an opportunity to extend their playing career, can only add to the commercial success for leveraging brands, sponsors, and rights holders.

I’m only scratching the surface of a complex and intricate topic. People will debate what it means for the future, in terms of ethics and the purity of sport. Everything else is evolving and soon enough sport will have to confront this pending reality.

A CHALLENGING SEASON AWAITS FORMULA 1 TEAMS

We are just days away from the start of the 2020 Formula One season. It will be remembered as one of the most unusual championships since its inception in 1950 due to the current coronavirus pandemic.

However, progress has been made around the world and things are slowly phasing back to normal with the restart of several sporting codes already at the forefront. The new season is set to get underway on the first weekend of July at the famous Spielberg racing circuit in Austria.

Japanese Formula One Grand Prix
Will it be business as usual for the Silver Arrows?

So, what are the challenges that teams will be facing in this peculiar season? Will the Mercedes dominance continue? Toto Wolff has moulded the Brackley team into a ruthlessly efficient group that has improved year-on-year staying ahead of the pack for most of his eminent tenure. Can they keep it up for this season and keep their ever-improving rivals at bay? One does get the sense that their coherence will be heightened with British driver, Lewis Hamilton gunning for a record-equaling seventh championship. Wolff will know that this will be no easy task in an aberrant season filled with uncertainties.

Formula One pre-season testing
Everybody will be looking at Ferrari this season. Sebastian Vettel’s last season with the red team.

Ferrari, where does one even begin here? Last month Italian motorsport giants, Ferrari announced the joint decision not to renew German driver Sebastian Vettel’s contract beyond the 2020 season. The decision came after prolonged negotiations between the two parties broke down.

Vettel was tasked with the job of bringing back the glory days to the Prancing Horse team which ultimately didn’t happen with Mercedes comfortably outpacing them. Vettel undeniably made some high-profile errors that cost him valuable points in his championship battles against arch-rival Lewis Hamilton. His misery was further intensified by the arrival of racing prodigy, Charles Leclerc who added more pressure to the four-time world champion. The 2020 season is now somewhat of a throwaway season and with Vettel leaving the team we could see a very combustible relationship between the German and Monacan. How will team principal, Mattia Binotto handle the sticky situation should tension arise? Only time will tell…

Red Bull

Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil
Dutch driver, Max Verstappen will be hoping for a more consistent car to be involved in the championship battle.

Red Bull has been on the up since their switch to the Honda engines. Spearheaded by Dutch sensation, Max Verstappen the team will be looking to really take it to their rivals this season. It has become a very common pattern for them to show teeth but no bite, can they finally deliver the ultimate package that will keep them in a championship fight? Ferrari showed last season that they can match the bar set by Mercedes, and it’s time Red Bull did too. We have become accustomed to seeing flashes of speed, but flashes of speed don’t win you titles. Christian Horner has a massive job of getting the team to consistently deliver a package that will make rivals look over their shoulders.

The midfield battle is shaping up to be the most exciting of them all, the resurgence of Zak Brown’s McLaren team has forced teams to step it up. Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were given an adequate car that bested the chasing pack, the Surrey team is certainly on the up but will they continue to close the gap or will it be another case of ‘maybe next season’?

Colorful World: Fifty Shades of Orange
Spanish driver Carlos Sainz during pre-season testing in Barcelona

Diabolical, the only word that springs to mind when you think of Williams’s 2019 season. From the outset, the team was seemingly doomed when they arrived late for their pre-season testing in Barcelona which proved telling as the team limped through the season. Claire Williams knows they have their work cut out for them if they are to re-join the midfield battle which most fans would like to see. Pre-season showed that maybe, just maybe they could haul themselves back into contention, but most fans will know by now that a lot can happen between testing and lights out.

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A beauty! Williams’s new livery for the 2020 season, but looks don’t matter in Formula 1

THE RESURGENCE OF THE SPRINGBOKS

The gong sounded and Herchel Jantjies placed his hands on the ball, gave a quick glance and pinged it to Handre Pollard to boot out. A moment South Africans will never forget, we were going to lift the Webb Ellis trophy once more, a record-equaling third time tied with our fiercest rivals New Zealand.

So how exactly did we climb a mountain that 18 months ago seemed beyond our capabilities? It started when Rassie Erasmus took over Allister Coetzee in March 2018. His first match in charge was against Wales in Washington DC, in which he gave thirteen players their first test cap. It was a narrow 22-20 defeat but from there it was a journey heading straight to the top.

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South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus at a press conference. Image from @SuperSportTV

Erasmus was prepared to scuffle the old structures set in place by his predecessors – outdated and fragile blueprints that crippled a team that had the potential to go toe-to-toe with anyone in World Rugby but just couldn’t. Erasmus manifested a whole new philosophy that would ultimately take us back to the summit of World Rugby. His new style of play, fusing power with speed was an indication of what was to come. England was the experiment job that proved successful and would lay the foundation for something special, the appointment of our first-ever black captain part of the masonry. A comprehensive victory over the Red Roses was the shift in the paradigm, and a spark to a fire that would burn on the biggest stage of them all.

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Say gold! Captain Siya Kolisi holding the Webb Ellis trophy at the World Rugby Awards. Image from @WorldRugby

Que the 2019 Rugby Championship, the Springboks were totally a different team. The team was playing with a certain swagger that was missing since the days of Kitch Christie and Jake White. Suddenly a team that looked like it was on the brink of vaporizing into thin air, was rejuvenated and signalling ominous signs. Maybe it was a case of be careful what you wish for to then New Zealand coach Steve Hansen who before the Championship started said: “rugby needs a strong Springbok team.”

Spearheaded by the likes of Kolisi, Marx, and Etzebeth the Springboks proved to be a force to be reckoned with, playing a brand of rugby that only Erasmus can pioneer. Springbok teams are renowned for their gutsiness and ruthlessness but this time it was different, they had taken it to another level. Erasmus created the perfect team, investing time in the likes of Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am who at the time were maybe good enough to play against an Italy or Georgia side. The shenanigans of Aphiwe Dyantyi proved to be a blessing in disguise as Mapimpi would go on to become one of the best finishers in modern rugby together with mercurial winger Cheslin Kolbe.

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Magical feet! Cheslin Kolbe dotting the ball down in a 49-3 victory over Italy. Image from @SuperSportTV

I can’t imagine the Boks playing a test match without Lukhanyo Am who in many respects has become an integral part of the defence structure that we so heavily rely on. Erasmus’ right arm man Jacques Nienaber who is responsible for the defence operation turned Am into a defence general alongside marauder and 2019 Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit. (Donald Trump maybe needs to consult with Nienaber on that wall situation)

Essentially what it boils down to is that Erasmus knew what he wanted and crafted the players he knew could do the job. A lot of players copped a lot of flack, the likes of Willie le Roux, Damian de Allende, Mapimpi, etc but he saw the bigger picture and finally after a gold medal and a Webb Ellis trophy we see it too. Have a clear vision and stick to your guns is the key lesson, his predecessors were quick to drop players upon public outcry but he did what he believed would work.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit scores the Springboks’ only try against rivals New Zealand in their opening match. Image from @SuperSportTV

South Africa is in desperate need of minds like Erasmus to sustain what we have accomplished this year, and maybe him stepping into the directors’ role is another step towards greatness and taking our rugby to unprecedented heights.

Only time will tell, but there’s a lot to be excited about.

WHY THE NBA IS CLOSE TO BEING THE BENCHMARK LEAGUE

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, the other three being the MLB, NFL, and NHL. The league, now 73 years old has captivated fans not only in the United States but across the globe.

It is one of the most recognizable leagues in the world and seemingly on the upward curve which will continue for some time before it stagnates. The sheer influence of the teams and personalities make it a sought-after entertainment commodity. The league revenue for the 2017/18 season was a staggering $8.01bn, double the figure of the 2011/2012 season. Now, what makes the league so special?

Russell Westbrook

SUPERSTARS

The NBA boasts some of the best players the league has ever seen and it is partially due to the exclusivity of the sport. There is a lot of international players plying their trade in this esteemed league, take for instance the two biggest winners of the 2018/2019 season MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is from Greece. Rookie of the year was Dallas Maverick sensation Luka Doncic hailing from the land of caves Slovenia. All the best players in the world jumping under one umbrella can only have one outcome. Just imagine if all football stars the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Harry Kane all played in the same league? Pretty much what’s happening in the NBA. This coupled with the regular endorsement of A-list celebrities make it a notoriously famous league and where there’s fame there’s interest.

Kawhi Leonard

MONEY MONEY MONEY

NBA franchises are at their most profitable than they have ever been. The average franchise valuation is at $1.9 billion almost 14% up over the last three years, yes that is ridiculous considering there are 30 teams in the league. As of 30 May 2019, Juventus, the most successful club in Italy has been valued at $1.51 billion. The startling aspect of these two comparisons is that the gap will continue to widen, the growing TV audience means the NBA will be even bigger in the coming years. The NBA’s logo patch sponsorship has already made a significant impact with teams reaping the financial rewards of the sport’s popularity. The excitement and star-studded rosters are bringing new people to the game. According to Sports Retriever, there has been a significant spike in audiences between the 18-49 age group resulting in the NBA selling 95% of its entire ticket allocation with a total of 741 stadium sellouts. Football can’t even begin to challenge these numbers.

Steph Curry

SOCIAL MEDIA

Embracing the outreach of social media has become a gamechanger for sporting teams around the world. The NBA has more followers than the world’s richest league the NFL. It is easy to upload real-time footage such as pre-match training, behind the scenes and exclusive player interviews. Players are major assets and a leveraging opportunity to promote the franchise. In some odd instances’ players are contractually bound to use social media to engage with fans, somewhat odd but anything that makes the brand look good.

We’re heading into another polarising season and coming off the back of a trading frenzy, fans can be sure to witness the sport blaze to new heights on the court and on the Forbes list.

Top 10 Most Valuable Teams

  1. Dallas Cowboys – $5bn
  2. New York Yankees – $4.6bn
  3. Real Madrid – $4.2bn
  4. FC Barcelona – $4.02bn
  5. New York Knicks – $4bn
  6. Manchester United – $3.81bn
  7. New England Patriots – $3.8bn
  8. Los Angeles Lakers – $3.7bn
  9. Golden State Warriors – $3.5bn
  10. Los Angeles Dodgers – $3.3bn

Photo Credits:

https://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/nba/report-thunder-receptive-toward-trade-calls-russell-westbrook/

We Asked a FOX Sports Host Why American Networks Keep Ignoring the Toronto Raptors

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/06/golden-state-warriors-historical-greatness/

SPRINGBOKS: A CREAKING MACHINE RARING TO GO

For the first time in a long time, we have South Africans singing to the same tune. Rassie Erasmus and Mzwandile Stick have done an incredible turnaround job in the aftermath of Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee’s humdrum tenures.

The Springboks are well known for their brute style of play and uncompromising defence structure, we saw glimpses of that during Meyer’s term as a coach and it was almost non-existent with Coetzee at the helm. The All Blacks laid the gauntlet for the rest of the world with exquisite, easy-on-the-eye gameplay which most teams tried to emulate and inevitably failed to master.

South Africa v New Zealand - The Rugby Championship

There were unsurprising calls from the South African public to also try and play this expansive trade and one would argue and say this led to Coetzee’s lacklustre tenure, trying hard to play a style very much foreign to the South African blueprint.

What is the South African blueprint? Well, the blueprint is what we have witnessed in the Springboks successful Rugby Championship campaign this year. Direct, incisive play and an unforgiving work rate, a trade which has been established in the Kobus Wiese era, followed up by the Os du Randt and Bakkies Botha of this world and is now being manifested by Kolisi & co.

Bakkies Botha

Erasmus reverted back to this blueprint which set the Boks up for a merry-way starting with the demolition of the England team during the June Test Internationals in 2018. Eddie Jones’ team were the hot favourites having dominated Europe in the Six Nations tournament and boasted a talented squad featuring the likes of Saracens duo Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje.

England went on to claim one over the Boks at the end of year tour which ultimately served as a fine-tuning platform against Europe’s elite and now the Springbok machine has been oiled up and is ready to go on a collision course.

Springboks 1

The Boks are not a polished product yet, the team is idling at 80% and is already bruising the opposition, a very good sign if you’re a South African if not the signs are very ominous. The Springboks pack is dominating teams which allow the backline to flourish under the stewardship of Blue Bulls maverick Handre Pollard. Some might say we don’t have the strongest backline but playing with a forward pack that gives you go-forward momentum and defends like Trojans dilute the existing frailties.

The Springboks in their nature were never built to play expansive rugby like their Southern Hemisphere counterparts New Zealand. It has always been about outmuscling and wearing down the opposition physically. This is evident with the Bok scrum dominating the All Blacks and Wallabies Wellington and Johannesburg respectively, in the match against Argentina, there were 10 scrums of which 6 resulted in penalties for the Springboks.

The Springboks are once again major World Cup contenders and a threat for any opposition and maybe, just maybe South Africans can get their hopes up of lifting another Webb Ellis trophy at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.

Rassie

Photo Credits:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rassie-erasmus-determined-to-keep-tourists-on-track-to-show-true-colours-85vwqb7nc

Analysis: All Blacks’ multi-threat attack

Springboks seal series over England with one game left to play

Springboks seal series over England with one game left to play

 

RED MIST TO DESCEND ON SILVER ARROWS PARADE

We are weeks away, in fact 13 days until lights out in Melbourne, Australia. Testing has concluded in Catalunya with teams critically analyzing every detail to gain whichever advantage over their rivals.

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This is arguably the biggest season for Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari career. He joined the Italian team back in 2015 and has been in the shadow of now five-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton and his constructors’ amalgamates Mercedes ever since.

It has now been 12 years since Scuderia last won a driver’s championship and 11 years the constructors’ title – something which is bewildering in hindsight considering the team’s history and contribution to the sport.

Ferrari approached Vettel in 2014 when he was still at Austrian team Red Bull and was struggling with then new arrival Daniel Ricciardo outracing him in several. Scuderia was also on the charge to rival the Silver Arrows, having significantly fallen behind the German powerhouse.

2015 and 2016 were experimental seasons for Vettel and the team, playing mostly second fiddle to Hamilton and his cohorts who by then had established themselves as the track sheriffs. They dominated so much that it became a frosty title challenge between their two drivers Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who would later go on to win the Championship in 2016.

Ferrari did eventually close the gap on Mercedes in 2017 with a series of stellar track performances, finding a makeshift balance between pace and reliability. It was however Mercedes who managed to deliver better performance packages in the second half of the season to leave their rivals red in the face. Hamilton claimed a seemingly comfortable fourth Champion by 46 points over Vettel.

Lewis Ham.JPG

If there was ever a season that inflicted pain on the Scuderia faithful, it is undoubtedly the 2018 season where things came apart by the seams. It would be hard to argue that it wasn’t the reason former team principal Maurizio Arrivabene got sacked.

A series of driver errors from Vettel himself and questionable strategic approaches the plight of a dreadful second half season. The consequences? Another Driver’s Championship for Hamilton and the Silver Arrows.

Last season will be firmly etched in the back of the men in red, but there’s a renewed sense of optimism. Contributing to that might be the arrival of French prodigy Charles Leclerc who showed his class and skill in the Sauber producing some outstanding performances throughout the 2018 season.

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Leclerc will have a good car and judging by what he did with the Sauber, it’s hard not place him in the frame for the Championship battle. Early signs show the SF90 might be the car to bring an end to the title drought.

Ferrari last won a constructors’ championship in 2008 when Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen finished second and third respectively – Hamilton winning it with McLaren that season. If Vettel and Leclerc can perform at their peak, it would take something special to prevent them from winning the constructors’ with all respect to Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton.

Mattia Binotto will look to rally his charges to give Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda something to think about. It’s an all but familiar everything-to-gain and everything-to-lose situation for the Prancing Horse team, but early signs show they are ready to throw everything at Mercedes. Also not forgetting the threat posed by Christian Horner’s Red Bulls, who are the dark horses and could throw a spanner in the works.

Red Bull

The countdown to Melbourne has begun and we’ll have a more definite consensus when the checkered flag waves after 58 laps. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be a riveting ride until Yas Marina and we cannot wait.

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Images Supplied:

https://www.formula1.com/

https://www.wsupercars.com

https://www.independent.co.uk/