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Major challenge as South Africa looks to relive glory days

Illustration: michaelmucci南京夜网The last time South Africa won a series against Australia on home soil, Bill Lawry was the visiting skipper, primary school kids were still working on their decimal currency conversions and humankind’s representative had just landed on the moon.
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That 4-0 hammering in the opening months of 1970 came immediately after Australia’s arduous five-Test series in India, the players were sick and tired and South Africa had some fresh geniuses in Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock.

After 10 weeks in India, Australia then played four Tests in South Africa through to mid-March.

There were no business-class flights and no WAGS paid to visit. In fact, there was very little salary. If modern millionaire players complain about bulging schedules, they should have a chat to some of the guys from that sojourn.

There has never been much between the two teams since the new era of the republic. In 1994, Allan Border’s men drew the series 1-1. The third Test at Kingsmead completed the career of Australia’s most resilient captain.

It is not completely edifying to label two Test matches in a row a series, but that was all that could be managed three years ago. The spoils were shared with two very different results, although Australia’s two-wicket win to level the series could have easily gone the home team’s way but for half-centuries to Brad Haddin and Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson’s rapid 40 in pursuit of 300 on a cracking fifth-day pitch.

Neither side would have been completely happy with its performances, although the Australian comeback at Johannesburg after the Cape Town debacle was admirable. The South Africans acutely felt the sting of that loss as they thought the series was all but won going into the last day. The local media had talked up the fact that they could have the first series win in the new era and South Africa had only won 12 times against Australia since the Boer War.

History will again be challenged over the next five weeks.

Australia has made changes to the touring party due to injury, but at least these alterations have come early enough to allow Moises Henriques and Phil Hughes to get their heads around Test cricket again. The loss, once again to injury, of Shaun Marsh looks inconsequential. His selection was as mysterious as the fallacious reasoning of chairman of selectors John Inverarity – ”he was in a good head space”.

It would be much better if he was in a deep, dark, diabolical head space if it meant he could make more first-class runs and average better than 30-odd. I always thought runs were the currency that bought selection rather than amateur psychoanalysis.

Hughes has been minting runs this Sheffield Shield season despite the misleading veneer of his idiosyncratic technique and unpublished head space. He is the direct replacement for Marsh.

Henriques goes in for the all-rounder James Faulkner, yet they are not peas from the same pod. The leftie Faulkner is more a bowler who bats, and Henriques a genuine top-six batsmen who bowls usefully.

Will Henriques find himself pressing for Shane Watson’s role? Watson is under pressure after a modest Ashes and is even-money to pull any one of a dozen muscles.

Henriques’ disciplined batting in the Indian debacle and good form in shield cricket has seen him recognised. Alex Doolan usually bats high in the order so maybe a trip down to six in a direct swap with his Tasmanian captain, the dropped George Bailey, is unlikely.

Michael Clarke has an opportunity to slip Watto down to six, giving him more R&R after an innings in the field rather than getting him padded up and potentially back at the crease and stressing the body.

So Doolan at three, Watson at six and Henriques breathing down his neck. There is an opportunity for sea change after the eclectic top-order batting performances of the home summer.

Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel aren’t going to bowl as poorly as the English bowlers did. Haddin is due to fail and it would be nice if he could do so with 400 or more on the board.

The immediate challenge is for batsmen to move out of the mode of playing a shot at anything within swinging range and damning the consequences into red-ball discipline and patience mode. That is not as simple as hitting the reset button. The bowlers need to have enough miles in their legs to get through five days rather than 1½ hours.

As is the way in contemporary schedules, there is time for only one tour match before the Test. Bowlers may get the quantity of overs without necessarily achieving quality, but batsmen who get an unplayable one early or a poor decision will be severely underdone.

It will be two months since the last Sheffield Shield match and five weeks since the end of the Sydney Test. The modern player has to adapt or be rotated, something Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle have grown unaccustomed to.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

From the cheap seats

The stunner
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Manchester City victimises another EPL opponent (Spurs) by a crushing margin (5-1), and butters up to post even more amazing figures – a loss of $284 million from 2011-2013. Presumably that isn’t just loose change that rolled under the soft drink machine. Admittedly, within the modern “big club” financial parameters, this is probably considered standard “lunch, clean towels and office stationery” type money. In stark contrast, City’s goal difference is so ridiculously in the black that the players could probably knock off early and go visit the remaining ownership money in Abu Dhabi for a few months without any of the rival clubs approaching that figure.

The snoozer

This column may be tap-dancing out of time with public opinion on this issue, but quite frankly any mention of the Mumbai Mumblers, the Punjab Palookas, the Rajasthan Ringadings or any other IPL reference is, for certain individuals, a cast-iron guarantee of an instant, slumped sideways in the armchair, full blown, power snore-athon.

The yak attack

Leigh Matthews proposed a congestion-fighting method of restricting a certain number of players to within the 50m arcs during centre bounces. And, while he readily admitted that the pitfalls might be in the administration, it’s not, on the surface of it, such a bad idea. The league agrees to trial player names on the back of guernseys. Some clubs and officials indicate at least tentative agreement that football department spending is out of hand, and needs to be monitored. This is all extremely disconcerting. All of these stories seem to make sense. Normally by this time of year, you’ve had at least half a dozen truly crackpot proposals and rule changes. It tends to promote a fair old case of the shudders about what we might have to endure when the other shoe finally drops.

How far the cherry?

Contrary to a fair amount of general screaming panic in the media during the lead-up months, Sochi Olympics CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko has described the Games’ setting as “the most secure venue at the moment on the planet”. Compared to what – a major department store during Boxing Day sales? Incidentally, define “at the moment”. The chief added that the security procedures would be “very gentle and smooth”. Those are more qualities you expect to find in yoghurt.

Bozo of the week

After his team was eliminated by Sunderland in its League Cup semi, Manchester United fan Martin Davies, 56, conceived of a plan that possibly only he, out of billions of people on the planet, could have thought was just a dandy idea. Mr Davies decided that it would be timely to personally inform Alex Ferguson that he needed to once again take over the coaching reins at United. Additionally, he determined that the best way to get in touch with Ferguson would be to call the UK police emergency number 999. It is perhaps both germane and unnecessary to mention that Mr Davies had been drinking to some degree when he conceived of this foolproof master plan. His initial defence for calling the police was that Man U had “…become so erratic, it’s almost criminal.” He later generously conceded, “I guess I made an error.” Oh, at least.

Reader feedback

Greg Carpenter pointed out that Black Caviar was confirmed as ‘the greatest female equine athlete world racing has seen in the modern era.’ Call me old fashioned, but I call her a horse. – BJ COYLE, East Ballina

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Winners flow for Gerald Ryan stable as Rubick mission looms

Big finish: Red Excitement wins narrowly at Rosehill on Saturday. Photo: Jenny EvansRed Excitement one week, Rubick excitement the next. Gerald Ryan’s week-long build-up to the Blue Diamond Prelude started in the Rosehill mounting yard as he fielded questions about his star colt on Saturday.
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”I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of handy two-year-olds and I know where he [Rubick] sits among them,” Ryan said. ”I don’t think there’s any Pierro around [in the ranks of two-year-olds] this year.

”He’ll work the reverse way on Monday morning and he’ll travel down [to Melbourne] on Monday night and he’ll get used to his surroundings [at Caulfield].”

Ryan warned not to expect Rubick to have a spin on the course proper, citing the fact he would only be ”working 15 metres out and all you’re doing is teaching them to run out there”.

It seemed to work pretty well for his older stablemate Red Excitement, though, which again traversed a wide course in thundering to back-to-back wins this campaign. Posted three wide at the tail for most of his run, Brenton Avdulla and Red Excitement came with a hurry to wear down the consistent Limes in the February Handicap (1400m).

”He seems to appreciate racing wide and three of his four wins for me he’s been close to three and four wide the whole way,” said Ryan, who also revealed he was leaning towards aiming smart sprinter Snitzerland at the Lightning Stakes over the Oakleigh Plate.

”I wasn’t really worried, but at the top of the straight towards the 200-metre mark he seemed to hit a flat spot and he wasn’t quickening. I was happy Brenton didn’t let up on him because the harder you ride him the better he goes.

”As I’ve said all the way along, he eats his feed and you work him and he’s no hassle. I’ve always doubted him at 1600m, but I reckon he’s dead-set racing like a horse who needs 1600m now.”

That may mean Ryan will shelve plans to nurse Red Excitement ($6) towards the group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) later this month.

Avdulla ended up on the right side of a busy finish, which included Limes ($2.70 favourite) clocking in just a neck away and Charing Cross ($61) running a bottler on the speed a short neck further back in third.

”When the tempo dropped out I just got going,” Avdulla said.

Limes’ jockey Hugh Bowman lamented the Darley gelding’s luckless run, which now includes runner-up finishes in his past three starts. Trainer Peter Snowden switched him back to Sydney after two attempts in listed company in Melbourne. ”He’s just getting a few seconds beside his name,” Bowman said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Time’s right for Jefferson Park in Walcha Cup

Tamworth trainer Craig Martin is eyeing Friday’s $30,000 Walcha Cup (1440m) with Jefferson Park. The four-year-old gelding scored an impressive win second up over 1300m at Armidale on Monday when ridden by Peter Graham, who is likely to have the mount at Walcha. A winner of seven from 15 starts, Jefferson Park had returned this campaign bigger and stronger, said Martin, the brother of Sydney trainer Tim Martin. “It took a while but he’s matured a lot,” Martin added. Jefferson Park was bred and is owned by Jill Nivison. Nivison also bred Jefferson Park’s sire Dream Ballad and his dam, Tacoma. “He’s a pretty special horse to Jill,” Martin said. “I’ve trained a lot of the family. They generally take a bit of time to come to hand.” Graham rode a treble on the day also winning aboard Amber Alert and Yambaah.
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Locally owned and bred Kwilas Law, trained by Luke Griffith, is being readied for his fourth attempt at the $35,000 Quirindi Cup (1600m) on February 21. Kwilas Law, a veteran of 104 starts, didn’t compete last year but contested the event in 2012 and 2011 and ran second in 2010. Akubra Hats will sponsor the cup for the 27th occasion. The major support race is the $25,000 Lightning Hcp (1100m).


Next Sunday the annual Dubbo yearling sale takes place. The sale is noted for producing bargain buys. Two leading sires represented are Mutawaajib and Bon Hoffa. Fourteen of the Dubbo Bon Hoffas are from his home, John North’s Bowness Stud in central western NSW, and seven by Mutawaajib from his base, the prominent Hunter Valley Emirates Park Stud. The Mutawaajibs are progeny of mares by Fasliyev (USA), Danewin, Nashwan (USA), Sir Cat (USA), Dolphin Street (Fr), Galileo (Ire) and Johannesburg (USA). The Bon Hoffa yearlings include progeny of mares by Encosta de Lago (2), Canny Lad, Zeditave, Luskin Star, Fusaichi Pegasus (USA), Falvelon, Bite The Bullet (USA), Lake Coniston (Ire) and King Of Kings (Ire). More than 80 lots are due to go under the hammer.


The Mick Miladinovic-trained Micalong will be out to give the Tumut-based Groves family their second cup win in three starts in Sunday’s $35,000 Bega Cup (1600m). Micalong scored what to the owners was like a Melbourne Cup win in the Tumut Cup (1400m) on January 11. The gelding since finished fifth over 1550m at Canterbury on January 24. Miladinovic has a close relationship with the Groves family, his son Peter engaged to syndicate head Andrew Groves’ daughter, Kate, also a part-owner. Micalong is aiming for the $200,000 Canberra Cup (2000m) on March 9.

TAB meetings: Sunday – Sapphire Coast, Mudgee. Monday – Grafton. Tuesday – Taree. Friday – Canberra, Walcha. Saturday – Cowra.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

InterDominion runners to go into their own Big Brother house

The runners in next month’s InterDominion final will be locked away in a retention barn in the days before the $750,000 group 1 feature in a first for Australian racing.
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The purpose-built facility at Menangle has 16 boxes, with attached feed and tack rooms, vet bays and more than 50 cameras to detail every movement in the centre.

The retention of runners has been in the conditions and rules of the InterDominion since its move to a permanent home at Menangle last year.

”It is something we have been working on for quite a while and we understand that it might upset a few people but the aim is to have a level playing field,” Harness Racing NSW integrity manager Reid Sanders said.

”Horses will be under 24-hour surveillance and everyone entering and leaving the centre will have to sign in and out. The horses will have access to everything they need, including the two tracks at Menangle, the training track and main track, a walker and a private hole while in the retention barn. However, it will all be under supervision. The facility has 16 boxes and no two horses are boxed next to each other, with feed and tack rooms separating each box.”

Sanders would not be drawn on how long the runners would be required to be in the retention barn but it is believed this will be between three and five days before the final.

The conversion of existing stables at Menangle was a joint project between HRNSW and the NSW Harness Racing Club.

It was modelled on similar facilities in North America and cost more than $200,000.

HRNSW has traditionally placed guards on runners in the 24 hours before major races such as the InterDominion and Miracle Mile, but the new centre takes it to another level.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Boo-boys could use a touch of the Yabba … or even Wolfie

Sharp calls: Yabba was a legend on the SCG Hill. Photo: Fairfax archiveThree Blind Mice greeted Australian Jockey Club stewards in a booming chant from racegoers as they walked back into the mounting enclosure after a savage form reversal.
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In those days horse players took punting seriously. Alas by comparison, their modern-day counterparts, the few left trackside, wouldn’t know a dead’un if it bit them on the backside.

But it has always been the Australian and democratic way to demonstrate, heckle and boo, even if, at times, it is misplaced.

”You’d hold a red-hot stove,” often greeted a jockey beaten on a favourite.

Going back to the good old days a session on the Hill at the SCG for the humour was more than worthwhile even if you were a member.

The immortal ”Yabba”, Stephen Gascoigne (1878-1942), on his home ground, had a following due to his chiacking of cricketers. ”I wish you were a statue and I were a pigeon,” Yabba would boom.

Still his epic line was directed at the fly-swatting English cricket captain Douglas Jardine, architect of Bodyline.

”Leave our flies alone,” he called in a tone developed as a rabbitoh, his line of work. ”They’re the only friends you’ve got.”

And for a batsman adjusting his protector: ”Those are the only balls you’ve touched all day.”

Of course, Yabba’s comments were laced with judgment and humour, unlike the booing for the injured tennis champion Rafa Nadal in the recent Australian Open final in Melbourne.

Perhaps he was entitled to the benefit of the doubt, often the case when a rugby league player took a dive in a delicate situation, more to stem the flow of the game than because of pain. As the zambuk (St John’s first-aid applicator) ran on to the field to assist he would be advised: ”Give his heart a massage.”

Personal attacks, too, came from the stands, on one occasion upsetting Michael Cleary, the outstanding South Sydney and Kangaroos winger. Subsequently The Sun ran a headline: ”Don’t call me Michelle.”

However, racing brought out the best and worst in hecklers, and, in many instances, there were mistakes in identifying the guilty party.

Like the 1946 Epsom featuring Shannon and Darby Munro in one of the great saddle performances equalled by hostility from the crowd. Munro had just been responsible for probably the best ride of his illustrious career but Shannon went down in a photo finish after a slow start from the open barrier.

”The scene turned ugly,” Turf Monthly reported. ”Racegoers near the fence called to stewards to ‘rub out’ Munro. One irate spectator clashed so violently with police that he was arrested and charged with indecent language. Another was apprehended when he jumped the fence and attempted to get to the jockeys’ room”.

Later, starter Jack Gaxieu accepted the blame: he didn’t see Shannon standing out of line.

Maurice Logue, now the driving force behind apprentice jockeys in NSW, was a target at Canterbury after a defeat. Verbal abuse was followed by a beer can chaser that struck his mount returning following the defeat.

Tommy Smith often had to dodge a mouthful from punters as well as his stable jockey George Moore.

A female in the Rosehill members’ stand once unleashed language unbecoming to the degree he took cover under an awning in case something stronger followed.

Moore, beaten by a Smith stablemate handled by Athol Mulley, jibed at the champion trainer, pointing his whip on dismounting: ”You’ve done it again, Tommy.”

To which the master of Tulloch Lodge quipped: ”Don’t be a bad sport, George.” Moore fumed back to the jockeys’ room, giving the impression more than a winning ride fee was involved.

John Singleton came closest to an old-fashioned demonstration over the More Joyous debacle around the All Aged Stakes at Randwick last year. No doubt if he had a re-run Singo would have been more diplomatic rather than going live over the media, probably to a bigger audience than Yabba.

Outbursts are brought on by the feeling of being assaulted in a vital spot, bringing about a spontaneous reaction.

Maybe racegoers of yesteryear didn’t have the advantage of modern aids, such as video replays, to take the fire out of anger. But the racecourse was a happier place for Wolfie Grunthal, the turf’s answer to Yabba for enthusiasm if not wit.

Wolfie would cheer home every winner coming back to be unsaddled without a zac being involved but was particularly joyful when it concerned a Moore, George or his son Gary.

After Gary returned home from Hong Kong and won the 1985 Silver Slipper at Rosehill on Pre Catelan he presented the whip to Wolfie.

They built a statue for Yabba at the SCG. Even a picture of Wolfie, exuding his special brand of pleasure, inspiring the tune Don’t Worry, Be Happy, hung with prominence, would do wonders for Royal Randwick.

It sure beats Three Blind Mice.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Winter Olympics: The superstars of Sochi 2014

Shaun White (USA)  Snowboarding
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If the X-Games are viewed as the great threat to the Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, then Shaun White has proved to be the perfect bridge between the clash of the two cultures — the non-conformism of the freestyle sports versus the conservative European values of the IOC.

White is a different beast to the 19-year-old  that burst on the scene in the halfpipe at the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006.

Gone are the long red locks that earned White the nickname the Flying Tomato. Gone is the goofy teen who asked figure skating star Sasha Cohen out on a date on American TV. Still ever-present though is the hunger for success.

White is not just a two-time Olympic snowboard champion. He is now a businessman with estimated earnings of up to $20 million a year, a champion skateboarder and burgeoning rock star with his band Bad Things.

No expense is spared in his quest for success. Before the Vancouver Olympics, his sponsor Red Bull built White his own halfpipe in Colorado that could only be accessed by helicopter. They have done the same before Sochi, this time at Perisher in the Snowy Mountains.

Stephen SamuelsonMikaela Shiffrin (USA)  Alpine skiing

With a knee injury ruling Lindsey Vonn out of the US squad, the golden girl hopes have fallen on the shoulders of an 18-year-old from New Hampshire and Colorado who just finished high school in December.

Not that slalom specialist Mikaela Shiffrin is feeling the pressure. She was on the World Cup circuit when she was 15 and by 17 was a world champion. She was recently named alongside NFL quarterback Peyton Manning as Colorado’s Athlete of the Year.

Her domination of the slalom circuit has earned her the tag as the Mozart of alpine skiing. It’s not just that she is a child prodigy, it is the technical expertise she displays, making the most treacherous course seem like an effortless ski down the slopes.

When she won the opening World Cup slalom race this season in Levi, Finland, Shiffrin was given a special prize: a reindeer, which she named Rudolph.

Stephen SamuelsonViktor Ahn (Russia)  Speed skating

It’s a match made in heaven. Russia has never won a short-track speed skating medal, Ahn Hyun-soo won four at one Olympics, including three gold medals.

Ahn should be well known to Australian audiences. When he was 16 at Salt Lake City, he was part of the crash that cleared the path for Steven Bradbury’s stunning gold medal in the 1000m. Four years later, in Turin, he dominated for South Korea, with four medals.

Two years ago, embittered by his omission from the Vancouver Olympics, the Seoul-born champion changed his first name to Viktor and declared his allegiance to Russia where he now trains full-time near Moscow. For Ahn, adopting the name Viktor was more than just a simple case of Russification, it was a statement of intent.

The four-time world champion heads into Sochi on the back of winning five titles at the European Championships in January, leaving one competitor, Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands, so incensed that he flipped him the bird as he crossed the finish line.

Stephen SamuelsonPetter Northug (Norway) Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is the Winter Olympics’ most traditional sport and Petter Northug is its least conventional star. Northug, who is a top cross-country skier has rock star status in Norway, and lives up to the hype.

He has a reputation as a bad winner and sore loser. But with four Olympic medals — including two gold — and a record-equalling nine world championship titles,   Northug can walk the walk.

And, he is versatile. At the Vancouver Olympics he finished third in the sport’s shortest event, the sprint, but managed to win gold in its longest, the blue ribbon 50km race. But its Northug’s style that sets him apart. The Norwegian is a champagne-class stirrer, particularly of cross-border rivals Sweden.

At the 2011 World Championships, Northug anchored Norway to a gold-medal performance in the relay but not before mocking the Swedes in the home straight and slowing down to tease his rivals near the finish line.

His antics led one Swedish commentator to say that Northug ”is a wolf in the ski tracks and a pig at the finish line”. ”If they [Swedes] get sour, that’s just a double victory for me,” Northug said after the event.

Stephen SamuelsonKim Yu-na (South Korea) Figure skating

The spotlight shines no brighter at the Winter Olympics than on the sport of figure skating, and Kim Yu-na is its brightest star. The Ice Queen from South Korea has never missed a podium place at any championship she entered, culminating in record scores and a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics.

That victory gave Kim unprecedented fame and fortune for a female athlete in South Korea.

Forbes magazine ranked her in the top 10 highest-paid female  sport stars in the world. An instantly recognisable celebrity at home and abroad, Kim became an endorsement magnet, promoting major brands such as Hyundai, Nike, Samsung and Kookmin Bank (which reportedly paid her $US1 million for her world-record score in Vancouver). She even recorded a song with pop star Lee Seung-gi for South Korea’s FIFA World Cup campaign in 2010.

Kim enters the Sochi Olympics as the reigning world champion in figure skating, and should she succeed in winning gold she will be the first back-to-back ladies’  singles champion in the event since Katerina Witt of East Germany in 1984 and 1988.

South Korea has won 45 medals at the Winter Olympics, and 44 of them have been   for speed skating (both short and long track). Kim is the exception, as she so often is.

Stephen SamuelsonAlex Ovechkin (Russia) – Ice hockey

As the best player in the host nation’s most popular team, Alex Ovechkin could be the face of the Sochi Games.

Fame and fortune have come easily to the Russian. He is engaged to tennis star Maria Kirilenko and is one of the top five paid players in the National Hockey League where he is the skipper of the Washington Capitals. But despite being consistently one of the league’s leading scorers, Ovechkin is yet to win the Stanley Cup, with the Caps crashing out in the playoffs in each of the past six seasons. His Olympic record is bleaker, with a fourth and sixth place finish at the past two Games.

The Soviet Union won seven out of nine Olympic tournaments from 1960 to 1992 but since its break-up Russia is yet to win one.

The pressure will be on Ovechkin to match Sidney Crosby’s efforts in Vancouver four years ago where the host nation won the gold medal.

If he does, he will match his mother Tatyana Ovechkina who won a gold medal at a home Olympics in basketball at the Moscow 1980 Games.

Stephen SamuelsonFelix Loch (Germany)  Luge

It was no surprise when Felix Loch won the gold medal in the men’s luge in Vancouver in 2010. After all, every champion in the Olympic history of the event had been German speakers. Even the two Italian winners, Armin Zoggeler and Paul Hildgartner, came from  towns near the Austrian border where sprechen Deutsch was more often heard than parla Italiano. What separated Loch from his predecessors was his age. He was just 20, the youngest Olympic champion in luge —  a crowning glory to go with his world championship win as an 18-year-old.

In between both events, Loch produced the fastest speed recorded on a luge track when he rocketed down the Whistler course at 153.9 km/h during an Olympic test event in 2009.

In a sport renowned for the longevity of its champions, it was a phenomenal beginning. He has now won four world titles, and with the introduction of the luge relay, Loch could leave Sochi with another two Olympic gold medals.

Stephen SamuelsonIreen Wust (Netherlands)  Speed skating

Speed skating may have lost some of its Olympic lustre to its brasher short-track cousin, but not in The Netherlands. They treat short-track with the sort of sneer Test cricket watchers give the Twenty20 game.

Since 1928, the Dutch have won 86 medals at the Winter Olympics, and 82 of them have been in the speed skating oval. And like Australia’s passion for the 1500m freestyle, it’s the longer events that capture the hearts of the Dutch.

Ireen Wust burst on the scene at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, where she became the  youngest Dutch Winter Olympics champion in the 3000m. She followed that up with victory in the 1500m at the Vancouver Games. Since then Wust has won three all-round world titles and she could take up to four gold medals in Sochi.

Stephen SamuelsonEmil Svendsen (Norway)  Biathlon

Biathlon is a discipline that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The origins of the sport date back to the late 18th century and it has been part of the Olympic program since 1960, with women’s biathlon part of the program since the 1992 Games in Albertville.

Modern Olympic biathlon comprises five events for men and five for women — individual race, sprint, pursuit, mass start race, and relay, and there is also a mixed relay. In each event, athletes ski a number of loops, which vary in distance and are interspersed with shooting at targets, alternating between a prone and standing position. Time or penalty loops are added for missed shots, and the athlete with the fastest time is the winner.

The event has traditionally been dominated by Europeans, with Magdalena Neuner of Germany and Norwegian Ole Einar Bjorndalen widely considered the sport’s greatest. After winning two gold medals and a silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games, along with a number of world championships, Norway’s Emil Svendsen is considered one of the front-runners in both the individual and relay biathlon events in Sochi.

Alex NicholsonSara Takanashi (Japan)  Ski jump

Men’s ski jumping is one of the most popular sports at the Winter Olympics and has been a feature since the inaugural 1924 Games, but the women will make their debut in Sochi. What better way to start the event than with a 17-year-old superstar leading the way.

Japan’s Sara Takanashi is the red-hot favourite to claim gold. Takanashi has won seven of the eight World Cup events this season, well clear of  Germany’s Carina Vogt. The concept for this sport is a simple one — jump as far as possible while maintaining form. Athletes ski down a steep ramp and jump until reaching a landing zone, with the skiers attempting to land smoothly and within the critical (or construction) point, or even exceed it, in order to get the highest number of points.

While distance is the main component when the judges award points, other considerations include length of in-run attempt, steadiness of the skis mid-flight, body balance, smoothness of landing, and wind condition. Despite a string of public scandals, a failed pop career and run-ins with the law, Matti Nykanen of Finland is the undisputed king of ski jumping, having won four Olympic gold medals, including three at the 1988 Calgary Games.

Alex Nicholson

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Jubilee Oval lobbies to host Thunder

Jubilee Oval, the Sydney home ground of the St George Illawarra NRL team, is believed to be among several stadiums keen to host the Sydney Thunder Big Bash League team next summer.
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The Thunder will be locked out of their headquarters for most of the new season because ANZ Stadium is a venue for football’s Asia Cup – one of the sport’s major international events outside of the FIFA World Cup – which kicks off on January 9 next year.

The Thunder will officially open the tender process for stadiums to host matches this week but Fairfax Media understands representatives of the Sydney Showground, Manuka Oval in Canberra, Blacktown International Sportspark and Jubilee Oval have expressed interest.

It was not the first time Jubilee Oval, the Dragons’ home ground since 1950, has been positioned to stage cricket matches. A few years ago, when former NSW opening batsman Steve Small worked for the St George group, a plan was developed to establish the ground as the Twenty20 base for the NSW Breakers women’s cricket team.

”We looked into drop-in pitches and it would’ve been ideal,” said Small, who now coaches the Penrith first-grade team. ”It’s similar in its dimensions to North Sydney Oval and I think it’d be great for T20.”

In recent times, Jubilee Oval has also been used by Sydney FC to host trials for their men’s A-League team and matches involving their women’s side, while the World Cup-bound Socceroos adopted it as a training venue. However, cricket would open a new frontier for the stadium, which was redeveloped over the last decade through multimillion-dollar grants provided by the federal and state governments.

Sydney Thunder chief executive Nick Cummins would not confirm which organisations were jockeying for the home ground rights when contacted by Fairfax Media.

Picking the new Thunderdome would not be an easy decision after the franchise recently revealed most of its supporter base is in the north-west suburbs of the city, including Kellyville, Castle Hill and Baulkham Hills.

The franchise’s management is mindful the Thunder could lose that support if they play at a ground deemed too far for the ”heartland” to travel.

”We will be making the decision on the basis of three criteria,” Cummins said. ”Financial, the interests of our fans, and cricket facilities and suitability.”

He said that looking after the team’s ”heartland” would be a priority and that this included ensuring the winning venue was easily accessible by public transport.

Other venues that could bid to become the Thunderdome in 2014-15 include North Sydney Oval, the Sydney Cricket Ground and perhaps even Drummoyne Oval.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Jets share spoils as Griffiths sees red on return, gallery 

JOEL Griffiths was red-carded for dissent on his homecoming as the Newcastle Jets snatched athrilling 2-all draw with Western Sydney Wanderers at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.
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Joel Griffiths shows his frustration. PICTURE: JONATHAN CARROLL

An Adam Taggart stunner opened the scoring for the Jets. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

The Wanderers celebrate after hitting the front against the Jets. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Wanderers player Matthew Spiranovic wins the header ahead of his opponent. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Picture shows Wanderers player Matthew Spiranovic, left, and Jets player Zenon Caravella, right. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Western Sydney Wanderers fans celebrate. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Adam Taggart celebrates after opening the scoring. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Adam Taggart celebrates after opening the scoring. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Western Sydney Wanderers fans celebrate. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Western Sydney Wanderers fans celebrate. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Picture shows Wanderers player Nikolai Topor-Stanley, left, and Jets player Nicholas Ward, right. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Adam Taggart was involved in a controversial decision in the final seconds of the match, where he was taken out by Ante Covic. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Adam Taggart was involved in a controversial decision in the final seconds of the match, where he was taken out by Ante Covic. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

The Squadron show their support in their new location in bay 60. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Picture shows Wanderers player , from left, Dean Heffernan, Aaron Mooy, and Shinji Ono. Aaron Mooy has just equalised for the Wanderers: Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Aaron Mooy celebrates his equaliser. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

In a dramatic incident in the dying seconds, Griffiths received his marching orders for verbally abusing referee Ben Williams. He is now expected to serve at least a one-game suspension.

In between the brain snap from Griffiths and a pre-match injury to Emile Heskey, Jets striker Adam Taggart scored two goals – his seventh and eighth of the season – to earn interim coach Clayton Zane his first competition point since replacing the sacked Gary van Egmond last week.

Newcastle led 1-0 after a sensational Taggart solo goal but conceded twice totrail 2-1 before Taggart equalised in stoppage time.

Griffiths, playing in his first game for Newcastle in almost five years after stints in China and with Sydney FC, was introduced as a 64th-minute replacement and received a rousing reception from the 15,924-strong crowd.

The 34-year-old had been on the pitch less than two minutes when the visitors grabbed the lead, after a pinball-like scramble that ended with the ball rebounding into the net off Wanderers Michael Beachamp when Josh Brillante attempted a clearance.

In his 26 minutes of game time the best scoring chance Griffiths had was a 76th-minute free kick that passed harmlessly over the cross-bar.The Jets were dealt a significant setback before the match had even kicked off, when marquee striker Heskey suffered back spasms in the warm-up.Heskey was unable to take his place in the starting line-up and his last-minute withdrawal prompted a promotion for versatile substitute Nick Ward, in his third appearance since joining the Jets.

Ward was preferred to coach Clayton Zane’s other striking options, English veteran Michael Bridges and Griffiths.Ward came close to opening the scoring in the 13th minute, prompting a diving save from Wanderers keeper Ante Covic.

Thirteen minutes later, Covic was left with no chance when Taggart unleashed a right-foot screamer from 25 metres out.Taggart’s shot curled perfectly into the top left-hand corner for his seventh goal of the season and first since his memorable hat-trick against Melbourne Heart on November 24.

The home side looked set to take a deserved lead into the half-time break before Wanderers midfielder Aaron Mooy equalised with a pinpoint free kick in the 45th minute.It is now six games since Newcastle’s last win and they have slipped to ninth position, a point behind the top six.

There are 10 rounds remaining in the regular season, which leaves the Jets with ample time to turn their faltering campaign around.But there are increasingly worrying signs that they will miss the finals for the fourth successive season.

Rumours were circulating on Saturday that Newcastle officials hope to bolster their squad by signing former Socceroo David Carney, who is a free agent after parting company with the New York Red Bulls.

Joel Griffiths and Adam Taggart celebrate the Jets late equaliser. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Joel Griffiths and Adam Taggart celebrate the Jets late equaliser. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Joel Griffiths would be shown a red card for dissent, after fulltime. Picture: JONATHAN CARROLL

Barbs fly, police called in as house swap gets dirty

House Exchange: Andrea Moczarski with Jack, six, India, three, and Jane Konrad. Photo: Danielle SmithFor the English mother, it was the house swap from hell. When Andrea Moczarski swapped her four-bedroom home in Britain for an Aussie family’s three-bedroom home on NSW’s central coast, she was expecting a relaxed Christmas with her two young children.
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Arriving in the dark, the English family stumbled around in search of a light – and stepped in one of seven piles of dog poo left by an untended dog. And once they gained entry to the Australian home owned by the Browns (not their real name), it was dirty and had cockroaches, Ms Moczarski said.

From then, the house swap descended into threats, insults on social media and calls to the police. Within a week, the Brown family had left Ms Moczarski’s home near Manchester and gave the British family three hours to vacate theirs.

For families such as the Moczarskis and the Browns, house swaps have become an increasingly popular and cheap way to travel.

But, as one home-exchange veteran said: ”One person’s clean isn’t always another person’s clean.”

The site used by the two families, HomeForExchange南京夜网, says it has organised more than 500,000 swaps but fielded only 200 complaints. Most of these were about ”broken cup” issues or varying standards of cleanliness, the site’s owner, Ans Lammers, said.

”Once we received a complaint from a member that she found dust on top of a kitchen cupboard when she stood up a stair to reach the top,” Ms Lammers said.

Ms Moczarski said the NSW home did not appear to have been cleaned, although it was tidied. A gift was left for the two children. But there was little space for the family to hang their clothes during their three-week stay. An earlier agreement to swap cars had not worked out because the Australians could not get British insurance.

The British family spent $200 on cleaning products.

”We had the attitude that we are here now, let’s just sort it out,” Ms Moczarski said. ”We were cleaning the carpet, cleaning the chairs, buying air freshener.”

When she contacted the Browns for advice after the vacuum cleaner broke, the Aussies were so offended by the suggestion their house was dirty that they quit the British home in protest. As the English family returned from church on the Sunday before Christmas, a relative of the Browns told them to get out, prompting Ms Moczarski to call the police. After consulting two police officers, the family refused to vacate the NSW home.

When Mrs Brown told friends on Facebook the swap was going badly, she added: ”Unbelievably, they think our house is the house from hell.”

The Browns contacted HomeForExchange南京夜网 for advice.

”I tend to see the reaction of Andrea on the dog poo and cockroaches issue [as] a bit exaggerated,” Ms Lammers said.

Bee Cogger, a spokeswoman for houseswapholidays南京夜网.au, said she had not heard of such a case and cleanliness should be discussed in depth before a swap.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.