Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It’s alright with the world again – Mimitig

Oh how short is a week in sport? Last week I was in despair, now I am in joy and in between have been the mad days of Newcastle.

First to deal with the madness – and I don’t think I can. The soap opera of St James’s Park is so unutterably weird that even I can’t try and explain why Joe Kinnear is there. He was appointed as caretaker, said that before long Shearer and Kev would be back and then we remembered, and it’s a long memory this, that he still has touchline bans going back to his days at Nottingham Forest!

How does that play out?

Just as well that the weekend held other sporting moments really. When the Premiership sinks to such depths, it has to be right to seek out other highs. And boy, oh boyo did we get them this weekend.

I don’t have many opportunities to metaphorically wrap myself in my nation’s flag and crow. 2005 was a good moment and earlier this year my boys did it again in the rugby. When Nicole Cooke stood on the top step of the podium in China, I thought that was about as good as it got.

No. She did it again in Varese. Just utter talent and self-belief, and a strong team around her, and Nicole stood, smiling more than ever, and took the Rainbow jersey.

I cried with tears of joy to celebrate her win. So hard fought, so deserved, but so unexpected. No-one has done the double of Olympic Gold and World Champion before.

Could the weekend get better? There was one opportunity to bring more joy.

Formula One is very keen to be accessible to European audiences when it crosses time zones. Everything was in place for the first ever night race from Singapore. A showdown between McLaren and Ferrari. What they forgot was that earlier in the day the hottest show in motorsport was on the box.

Waking at 5.30am to see the World Championship up for grabs – two wheels, no compromise, no circus. Just Rossi doing what he does the best.

Motegi is a spectacular track – always has been. Fast, technical and this year bound to be a battle of tyres. Rossi wasn’t on the front row – but that never matters. He rides like a god and I knew, I just knew that however hard Casey Stoner fought, it wouldn’t be enough.

What a fight! Wheel to wheel, rubber against rubber and legs all over the place. When Vale took the lead on lap 14, we knew it was all over.

The Doctor did it. In style. From the front. He didn’t have to do this. He could have cruised to the bottom step of the podium and still have taken the spoils. But that’s not Rossi’s way.

Scusate – written on his winner’s T-shirt. Vale apologises for the delay in winning his sixth, record-breaking title. His celebration involved getting an office desk to the track and the cameras watching as Rossi signed a new deal with his helmet suppliers. It was so Rossi, so Valentino and so enjoyable.

For those of us who care a lot about our sport, to see Vale winning like this was worth getting up at 5.45am to do. When many hours later we watched the four-wheeled racers in Singapore, it just didn’t have the edge.

I am glad Alonso got a win, and I’m glad that Hamilton and McLaren take the lead in the Championship, but it couldn’t compare to the raw emotion and utter joy of Rossi.

And even Valentino’s joy is edged out this weekend by Nicole. A Welshwoman at the absolute peak of her powers winning the title all road-racers dream of. Way to go Nicole! And way to go Vale – my joy of sport is back.

Scusate – my friends. I am tearful now.

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