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Soup of This Day #223: Flip And Bust Them

August 4, 2012

Ring-tailed lemurs
The 3 Ring-tailed lemurs were all set for the Olympic track cycling team sprint when Bob got his tail stuck in a wheel – Photo: Chris Gin, 2008. Chris Gin is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I have 3 snapshots of sport for consideration today. They are worlds apart but I’ve tried to find a common thread running through them.

Lemurs.

Yep, the primates that are endemic to 1 island off the coast of Africa. It’s not a metaphor.

The 1st snapshot comes from the 2012 London Olympics, specifically the track cycling and the men’s team sprint. The favourites going into the event were the hosts, Great Britain. Their trio of riders consisted of proven veterans, Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny, plus young gun Philip Hindes.

Hindes, who had joined the British program from Germany 2 years ago, was the leadoff man – The guy who could get his team off to a flying start.

If he could stay on his bike.

In an early qualifying round he struggled with that bit, crashing out against Germany after a less than glorious start. Fortunately for Hindes the crash was ruled a mechanical incident and the heat was restarted. The 2nd time around his start was magnificent and the Brits were able to account for the Germans.

In fact Hindes, Kenny and Hoy were able to knock off everyone they met on the night, eventually taking the gold after victory against France.

Well done to the British then, who triumphed in a masterly fashion on their home track with just a little bit of luck to thank in getting through that early crash of Hindes. Who explained it perfectly for the local press:

‘We were saying if we have a bad start we need to crash to get a restart. I just crashed. I did it on purpose to get a restart. It was all planned really.’

Say what now?

Philip Hindes appears to have admitted to crashing because his start wasn’t great. It was apparently a plan they had. To crash if things weren’t going as well as they could have. To deliberately hit the deck so that the event would have to be restarted.

Interesting.

I’m not a cycling expert but ethical dilemmas aside, and there is a moral doozy buried in all of this, surely the very last thing any cyclist would want to do is to fall off their bike. I could be wrong here, but I think that history has shown us that cyclists are much quicker if they are actually riding a bicycle. I’d even go so far as to say that when they’re not on a bicycle they are somewhat less than cyclists.

Ahhh, but it turns out that young Philip’s grasp of cycling fundamentals isn’t the problem here – It is more that he is not so hot on the English language. The lad you see is still learning his new country’s native tongue and this has led to his comments being ‘lost in translation.’

Putting aside the fact that, since he gave the comments in English, there wasn’t much in the way of translating going on, it’s just a little bit curious that he said almost exactly the opposite of what he apparently meant.

In hindsight.

What he meant to say was that he did not crash on purpose and that his coming a cropper after a bad start was not at all planned. Complete accident it was.

Quite why he felt the need to clarify that it was an unplanned accident when it had already been adjudged to have been just that is passing strange – That he then went on to explain in unambiguous language that he crashed on purpose and according to a pre-determined plan is more than a stretch to write off as a translation error.

I’d have an easier time believing that a lemur can ride a bicycle. Although they do by-and-large have 5 digits on each foot, 1 of which functions as an opposable thumb.

A good grip for tree branches and the like – Probably no use in track cycling.

The good news for the British trio is that crashing on purpose doesn’t appear to be illegal so Hindes and co are not under threat of sanction. Coming in the wake of badminton players being booted from the Olympics for trying less hard than they might have it is though an unfortunate look to be deliberately crashing your wheels.

That taking a fall strategy wouldn’t work for Australian gymnast Blake Gaudry. Blake was competing in the 2012 London Olympic men’s individual trampoline overnight and after the 1st round was doing rather well. He’d notched a personal best score of 49.260, good enough for 9th out of 16.

Sadly his 2nd routine went awry – As he worked through his array of tricks he got closer and closer to the edge of the trampoline, before dramatically crashing out. The lad emerged physically unscathed but his score was battered down to a lowly 34.995, meaning that he missed out on qualification for the final round.

There’s no ‘do-overs’ in trampolining.

In spite of this Blake deserves some serious kudos – The trampoliners bounce to heights around the 12m mark, roughly 4 stories high. That kind of altitude alone is impressive but to make it more merit-worthy the competitors don’t just hang around up there – They flip, twist, somersault and contort, all with the agility of a lemur acrobatically traversing a rainforest canopy.

Moving on to the 3rd sporting snapshot and this 1 is not related to the Olympics. It is in fact quite some distance from London, although the ultimate aim of it’s competitors is to get to that British city, albeit in 2015, 3 years from now.

That is when the Rugby World Cup returns to England and so qualifying has begun among the sport’s lesser lights.

In Madagascar.

Madagascar is an island nation, located in the Indian Ocean, a hop and a step from the African coast. Madagascar is not best known for its rugby. Instead, it’s relative isolation and wild climate have led to a pretty unique ecology, celebrated throughout the world. The flagship of their natural history has to be the lemurs. There are 99 species and subspecies of these primates and the cute little buggers are found only in this wonderful country.

A wonderful country that hasn’t really done spectacularly well at rugby, despite it being considered to be the national sport. Madagascar played their 1st international game in 1970.

17 years later they they scored their 1st international win.

They’re persistent.

And they need to be – Madagascar has never qualified for a World Cup. Indeed, some 10 years ago, in an attempt to qualify for the 2003 World Cup, they played African rivals Namibia and lost by over 100 points. In rugby that is the kind of score that makes you give up the sport.

Not in Madagascar.

And so in July of this year they hosted Group 1B of the 2012 African Cup, part of the qualification process for 2015.

Perhaps spurred on by a fanatical home crowd the Madagascans made it through to the final against old foes Namibia, an experienced outfit that saw action in the 2011 World Cup. While spirited the Madagascans were outclassed on paper and whilst capable of a score or 2 would surely be overrun by the technically superior Namibians.

Yeah, not so much.

The 56th ranked Madagascans got off to the kind of flyer that would make a British track cyclist stay in the saddle, leading the 21st ranked Namibians by 19-0 early on. Namibia did notch up 2 tries before the main break but still trailed 14-29 with a half to play.

30 minutes after the restart and normal service was resumed – Namibia had taken control and stormed to a 43-29 lead. The 40,000 faithful in the Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo were flagging and it looked for all the world like the bookies had it right.

Somehow though the supporters found a few more decibels and roared on by the crowd Madagascar dug deep for 2 more tries to level the scores and send the match to extra time.

Namibia blunted that Madagascan momentum and again edged clear, with a successful penalty 2 minutes from time taking them to a seemingly insurmountable 54-50 break.

What happened next is best seen rather than read. Take a few minutes to enjoy a truly astonishing game of rugby:

Those fans who left early must be kicking themselves.

The final score was Madagascar 57, Namibia 54. The hosts have been promoted to Group 1A and continue their quest to prove themselves on World Rugby’s biggest stage.

1 final fact about Madagascan rugby. The national team are known as Les Makis. Maki is a Madagascan word for what we know scientifically as Lemur catta and more commonly as the Ring-tailed lemur.

I doff my cap to lemurs, trampoliners who move through the air like them and rugby players who bear their name.

Flip And Bust Them

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