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July 23, 2017

Sport Sunday: Tour, Sumo, Golf, Aquatics, 日本, 中华人民共和国

Tour de France:  

Each year France's grand festival of cycling kicks off in grand style, and keeps the French at home to welcome the Tour as it passes through their village. This year the Tour began in Dusseldorf, Germany, on July 1st, to the great acclaim of the Germans.  The second stage also began in Dusseldorf, before a slow journey back to France via Belgium and Luxembourg.  La Grande Boucle, as it is called, is a chase for the overall champions yellow jersey, but also a chase for glory. Sadly, this year's Tour has again been tainted by scandal. This year the scandal was on the part of the organizers and judges, not on the cyclists, and had nothing to do with cycling.  Instead, in the first two weeks they made boneheaded decisions, time after time, starting with the ejection of champion sprinter fan favorite Peter Sagan. The UCI said that should never have taken place.

African born English cyclist Chris Froome, riding for the SKY team,  all but wrapped up a third consecutive Tour de France triumph as he outpaced his rivals in the penultimate day time trial won by Polish cyclist Maciej Bodnar, riding for Bora,  on Saturday.  Last to go, the Team Sky rider was the third quickest of the 167 to tackle the 22.5 kilometre course that started and finished in Marseille's Orange Velodrome soccer stadium, extending his lead to 54 seconds going into Sunday's ceremonial ride into Paris. Incidentally, the Orange Velodrome started as a velodrome, and continued that way as it was retrofitted for soccer and rugby, the wooden velodrome track was ultimately removed in the 1980s. 

Chris Froome will not be removed, though, and if he avoids any calamities on the 103km trek from Montgeron to the Arche de Triomphe on Sunday's last stage, he will take his overall Tour wins to four in the last five years, one behind cycling greats Miguel Indurain of Spain, Belgian's Eddy Merckx and Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil, and three behind American Lance Armstrong.  In Saturday's stage, another Polish cyclist, Michal Kwiatkowski of Team Sky was second.    If, indeed,  the ceremonial ride remains ceremonial on Sunday, and every indication is that it is, Froome will win the Tour, Colombia's Rigoberto Uran will come second, and Frenchman Romain Bardet third. 

Budapest, Hungary:  Aquatic Worlds

FINA Swimming Worlds provides the best in action for the aquatic sports every other Summer, and this year is no exception!  Week one has featured the open water swims, and more of interest to our readers, the Diving competition, and the Water Polo tournament, week one. 

Group play in the water polo tournament has certainly provided lots of action, and lots of ups and downs this week, and is a week which shall be remembered.  With the riotous crowds and fantastic atmosphere at the Alfred Hajos Pool, the days ahead promise wonderful water polo.
The leaders of each group will next play on Tuesday.  Today features play ins for the second and third placed teams in each group, and it promises much excitement.  Today's headline match is Spain, behind Serbia and Greece in Group D, against Russia, second in Group B. In other play-in matches, Brazil, which took second in Group A on the strength of a 6-6 tie with Canada, will face Australia, third in Group B. Kazakhstan, with a win over the Canadians on Wednesday, will face Italy, Group B’s second place team. In the fourth match Japan, which has only advanced once in FINA Worlds (2011), will play Greece, the second-place team in Group C.
The winners of Sunday’s matches will face four rested teams on Tuesday; either Brazil or Australia will earn the dubious honor of a match against Serbia. Hungary will draw the winner of the Spain vs. Russia winner; Croatia will face the Italy vs. Kazakhstan winner, and whomever wins the Greece vs. Japan match will play Montenegro.
The men's diving competition concluded on in  stellar way on Saturday night, with a stirring competition which resulted in a win by Tom Daley of England, The final day of diving from Danube Arena in Budapest saw Great Britain’s Tom Daley prevail over 2016 Olympic champion Chen Aisen for the gold medal in the men’s 10m platform.  Last year, in the Olympics, Daley failed to reach the finals competition.  This year he made it through to the final in 2nd position, and once he got there he performed perfectly.  Daley received a total of 12 perfect-10 scores over the course of his six dives, and twice scored over 100 on a dive. He totalled 590.95 points, beating out masterful Chinese diver Chen by a slim margin (585.25). The 23-year-old regains the world title after winning it eight years ago in Rome.  Yang Jian won bronze for China, giving them two medals in the final event to cap an incredible meet that saw China win eight of the thirteen events. Russian Aleksandr Bondar took 4th after qualifying 1st from the semis, and Ukrainian Maksym Dolgov moved up to 5th after being the last qualifier (12th) for the final in the semis.

Just a few hours prior to this performance in the 10m, Daley won a silver medal in the mixed 3m synchro with teammate Grace Reid. China won gold, as Li Zheng and Wang Han combined for a score of 323.70, and the Canadian pair of Jennifer Abel and Francois Imbeau-Dulac won bronze.

China’s 8 gold medals in this year's diving competition is down from the 10 won in Kazan, as this year five other countries won one gold each. Russia finishes 2nd on the medal table with 1 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze.

British Open

South Africa's Branden Grace moved into contention at the British Open on Saturday with his record-breaking third round of 62.  Grace's round is the lowest in the history of the majors.  He incredibly moved from four over par to four-under par overnight, just two behind leader Jordan Spieth of the United States, and level with Matt Kuchar. England's Ian Poulter, and current US Open champion Brooks Koepka were both three-under overnight.  Earlier, Australia's Jason Day was one of a number of players to score 65 in the benign conditions that contrasted sharply with the miserable weather late on Friday.  The British Open wraps up today in what promises to be a nail biting final round. 

Japan:  Sumo Wrestling

Mongolian Hakuho has smashed the sumo wrestling record with his 1,048th win.  The grand champion, took down Takayasu yesterday in a frenetic bout, to deafening cheers at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.  He is now the "yokozuna", or grand champion.  With his 1,048th win, Hakuho surpassed former wrestler Kaio's record, in place since 2011.  The 32-year-old Mongolian was so small when he arrived in Japan at age 15 that only a minor sumo "stable" would take him. 

"I'm glad that I was able to show this victory to the fans," the now 6'3" (almost two meter) wrestler said, struggling to catch his breath after the historic win against his "ozeki"-ranked rival.

Hakuho's success comes as foreign wrestlers increasingly dominate Japan's 15-century-old sport.  The sumo association, though,  forbids foreign nationals from becoming sumo master, or "oyakata" - a title that successful wrestlers often seek after they retire. Since Japan continues to forbid dual citizenship, Hakuho may renounce his Mongolian citizenship in order to become oyakata, but that will be when his competition career is over.  Hakuho's father is regarded as a national hero in Mongolia,  as the country's first Olympic medalist, a silver for wrestling in 1968.

Soccer certainly continues somewhere in the world.

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