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Science at the Winter Olympics and homosexuality in sport: Some of the week’s best sportswriting

Also featuring articles on Nemanja Vidic’s impending Man United exit and Shane McNaughton’s life as a young GAA star.

Top NFL prospect Michael Sam recently announced that he was gay.
Top NFL prospect Michael Sam recently announced that he was gay.

1. “Every advance in the ever-accelerating juggernaut of sports technology threatens to widen the divide between Olympic haves and have-nots. Well-sponsored teams and rich governments pay top-end scientists and engineers to shape their skis, perfect their skates, tighten their suits, measure their gravitational pull. That brings home medals, which in turn brings home new attention, new sponsors, new money to invest in the next race.”

This AP piece on the increasing influence of science at the Winter Olympics is one of the most fascinating articles we’ve read so far on the event.

2. “In every team growing up you always had the lads who didn’t really care much and these were the ones smoking half an hour before u-16 and minor games. I was in that group, smoking since I was about 14. But the thing that separated me from them was that I actually cared and wanted to play for Antrim one day. They were just there to say to the girls they were on the hurling team, or to get out of class. Every night before I go to sleep I lie in bed and think about all these things I want to do and achieve, every night it’s always the same things. Win an All-Ireland with my club and county. Win an All-star and score the winning point in an All-Ireland final.”

Writing for Gaelic Life, Shane McNaughton provides an intriguing insight into life as a young GAA star.

3. “Sam’s life has transformed overnight. His announcement this week prompted a state senator in Missouri to seek legislation to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. His courage has been hailed by teammates, famous athletes, countless football fans and President Obama and the first lady.

“But to get a sense of the challenges awaiting Sam, look no further than his father.”

After Michael Sam came out last week, The New York Times give a comprehensive analysis of the impact of his decision and the player’s troubled background.

4. You’re a pro now, remember that. You did not “get new clubs this offseason” – rather, you’re “going through an equipment change.” Yes, those 6 year old Mizuno’s you bought at Golf Galaxy count as an equipment change. And don’t forget to throw in some fabricated stat like “I got them bent so my traj is 1.5 degrees lower than last year” or “My ball speed is up 6 miles an hour.”Want to be a golfing hipster?
This nolayingup.com article tells you everything you need to know.

5. “Nyman’s tuck is his biggest strength, a move he has honed more than any of his competitors, like Beckham’s swerving free kick or Nadal’s blistering forehand. But unlike many other athletic maneuvers, perfected through thousands of attempts against fluid, ever-changing opponents, Nyman developed his tuck with data, the mathematical truths of aerodynamic physics.”

Another science-related Winter Olympics article, this time from wired.com, looking at how a skater improbably went from being a no-hoper to an Olympic contender.

6. “Martin Keown has accused him of “running away” and, though that kind of terminology misjudges everything we know about Vidic, the former Arsenal player makes some relevant points. “Vidic is not old, he is 32, so he should be rolling up his sleeves and fighting for the club that allowed him to win five Premier League titles, the Champions League, three League Cups and one Club World Cup. When I was at Arsenal, I clung on with my fingernails, staying until I really had nothing left to offer at 37 years old. So why is Vidic running away? He has been a fantastic player for them – one of the best defenders in Premier League history – but he is turning his back on them.”

Daniel Taylor of The Observer writes engagingly on Nemanja Vidic’s looming United exit, as well as Joe Kinnear’s ill-fated reign as Newcastle’s Director of Football.

7. “As for what reflections the Sam story might cast on our own shores, and football in particular, I found it offered a useful shift in perspective. When discussing the possibility of high-profile footballers coming out, it has become conventional – not to the exclusion of all else, but conventional – to frame it as a matter of what sort of abuse they’d get from the fans or on the pitch, when the Sports Illustrated story does something far cannier and follows the money. Never mind what might happen to a gay player should they get picked away against Chelsea or whoever: isn’t the far more engrossing question whether a gay player would get signed?”

Writing for The Guardian, Marina Hyde provides a perceptive analysis on the issue of homosexuality in sport, in the wake of Michael Sam coming out.

Paralympic skier Kelly Gallagher banking on hard work paying off in Sochi>

VIDEO: The Dallas sportscaster’s brilliant speech in support of openly gay footballer Michael Sam>

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Paul Fennessy

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