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Dublin: 8°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Roberto Baggio's career, the dangers of being a jockey and the week's best sportswriting

Plus, the greatness of Roger Federer.

Image: EMPICS Sport

1. “IT WAS ALMOST 6,000 miles from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and almost four years since the final of USA 94, but one of those moments that sport manages to so fully imbue with almost fictional thematic importance – and so much consequence.

Having missed Euro 96 through injury that derailed his career, and having missed what was perhaps the most famous penalty ever taken in that California stadium against Brazil, Roberto Baggio was back up front for Italy in their next World Cup match and back in a familiar situation. His side were 2-1 down to Chile with six minutes to go of their opening France 98 group match in Bordeaux, and the then 31-year-old was stepping up for a penalty.

So simple an action, such stark potential consequences, as he knew all too well. Baggio needed to score, but for reasons much greater than just Italy claiming a draw.”

Miguel Delaney of the Independent chats to Roberto Baggio about his career, USA 94 and the playing through the pain.

2. “If NBC’s broadcast of the Tour de France isn’t making the three-week race must-see TV for you, there’s an online recap show that might be a perfect alternative.

It’s a podcast called “Stages,” and its host is a former Tour rider with years of experience in the race — and an intimate, insider’s knowledge of what unfolds behind the Tour’s closed doors. His analysis is informed and honest and sometimes witty. Often, it is self-deprecating, which might come as a surprise.

The host is Lance Armstrong.”

In the New York Times this week, Juliet Macur on Lance Armstrong’s return to the Tour de France as a commentator.

3. “Dear Maya, It’s June 25, 2032 and it’s your 18th birthday. I don’t have anything profound to give you except for this thumb drive about an unusual man. Roger Federer didn’t fight for peace or solve world hunger, but he did what most could not. In an era of athletic conceit and inflated skill, he lived for roughly 20 years at the unique intersection of art, accomplishment and decency.

On the move and at standstill he found balance as a human and I wonder if your generation has such a person. The thumb drive contains a compilation of his Grand Slam titles and please don’t toss it away in the box that has your mother’s romance novels. It’s better than that.

I’m writing this letter on July 17th, 2017, the day after Federer won his 19th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. He played a lovely and lofty Croat called Marin Cilic, who wore Fila, had a beard but all resemblances to Borg ended there. You don’t know Borg? Sigh, never mind.”

After Roger Federer’s record eighth victory at Wimbledon, Rohit Brijnath wrote a letter to his granddaughter.

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4. “It’s a gorgeous summer day in Seattle, with the afternoon sun shining on Sue Bird as she sips organic coffee outside a shop in her Queen Anne neighborhood. She wears a “Femme Forever” T-shirt, jeans and white Chucks. Dressed up or dressed down — even in her practice togs — her look is effortless.

Bird might be in the fourth quarter of her basketball career — at 36, she is the oldest player in the WNBA and is in her 15th season with the Seattle Storm — but she is expertly managing the clock. She has never been in better shape and isn’t talking about retirement anytime soon.

Her accolades are already legendary: two NCAA titles at UConn when the Huskies were establishing their dynasty in the early 2000s; two WNBA championships with the Storm; four Olympic gold medals with Team USA; three world championship golds; and four EuroLeague titles while competing in Russia.

Now an All-Star for a record-tying 10th time, she’ll start for the West squad before an adoring KeyArena crowd on Saturday in Seattle. She is a revered teammate, the center of every huddle, a fan favorite from coast to coast; the ponytailed point guard always has looked the part of the girl next door as much as the face of a franchise. Yeah, everybody loves Bird.

But few outside her family and friends truly know her. She has thoroughly and thoughtfully answered countless questions from reporters since she was a teenager, but Bird usually demonstrated a default mode: cautious.”

Basketball player Sue Bird opened up about her career, her relationships off the court and why it’s important to talk.

5. “In a somewhat similar way, jump jockeys know that it is inevitable. They are used to it, they expect it, they generally deal with it. On the Flat, there is no hurdle, no fence – and being catapulted off a horse is so rare that it is next to impossible to prepare, a bit like reading the paper in the passenger’s seat of a car going 40 miles an hour and being chucked out onto the road unprovoked.

So when Ana O’Brien’s mount, the ill-fated Druids Cross, lost his footing after being impeded on Tuesday evening in a mile race at Killarney, the apprentice was at the whim of the gods. Apparently unable to move, she was eventually airlifted to hospital, as a summer meet at Ireland’s most scenic track became enveloped in a sick feeling.”

In the Irish Independent, Johnny Ward writes of the dangers jockeys live with following Ana O’Brien’s fall.

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