The Big Read

Jewel in the pool - how the team UK Sport does not think is worth funding beat the world champions in Manchester

By David Owen

David OwenThere was more than one sports story in Manchester on Tuesday.

At the city's Aquatics Centre, a couple of miles down the Stretford Road from the Old Trafford stadium where David Moyes, the Manchester United football manager, had just finished clearing out his desk, Great Britain's women's water polo team recorded a noteworthy - and, who knows, possibly life-changing - victory.

Through 32 minutes of supreme collaborative effort, no little skill and bucket-loads of guts and bloody-mindedness, the 13 white-capped dervishes succeeded in upsetting world champions Spain by a 9-7 scoreline.

Glasgow 2014 will be "acid test" for new-look Commonwealth Games England, says chief executive Paker

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomWith 100 days to go tomorrow until the start of Glasgow 2014, Adam Paker, chief executive of Commonwealth Games England, has described the impending Games in Scotland as the "acid test" for his organisation's wide-ranging regeneration in the wake of Delhi 2010.

And one of the key elements for Paker will be to ensure that new sponsors attracted via the joint marketing initiative between Commonwealth Games England and Glasgow 2014 will have a sufficiently positive experience at the Games to want to extend their contracts with the body.

Commonwealth Games England's Stepping Up strategy has sought to upgrade the organisation in four key areas - developing improved relations with other sports governing bodies, renewing the management structure, building their brand with new sponsors, and, critically, making a success of Glasgow 2014.

Triathlon President Casado outlines her new Olympic targets

By Mike Rowbottom

mike rowbottomAs the 2014 World Triathlon Series (WTS) opens in Auckland, New Zealand this weekend the sport is clearly benefiting from changes targeted at broadening and strengthening its appeal worldwide - as International Triathlon Union (ITU) President Marisol Casado has explained to insidethegames.

This year's WTS, for example, will be contested more widely than ever before - in eight cities across five continents, with Cape Town and Chicago making their debut on the calendar ahead of the Edmonton Grand Final on August 26 to September 1 where the champions will claim their titles.

There is more prize money on offer this year too. This year, the ITU has increased the bonus pool by $177,000 (£106,000/€129,000), making it the biggest ever with a total of $755,000 (£455,000/€551,000) available to the top men and women.

Pistorius is just latest in long line of top sportsmen tried for murder or attempted murder

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomIt is not fair and it is not just, but when people who are very well known, including famous sportsmen or women, face serious criminal charges, the focus of public attention upon them is the more intense.

This is particularly true in the ongoing case - due to resume on April 7 - involving Oscar Pistorius, South Africa's multiple Paralympic champion, who is charged with deliberately shooting dead his girlfriend, the fashion model Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day last year. Pistorius says he thought he was shooting at an intruder in his home.

As one of the many media representatives who have spoken to this double amputee on occasions over the last ten years, during which time he has established himself first as an outstanding Paralympic sprinter and then as a ground-breaking challenger taking on able-bodied runners at World Championship and Olympic level, I can attest that the shock of witnessing him in his current circumstances is all the more acute.

Will Rio 2016 be a success?

Nick Butler
People are going to have to accept that in some ways Rio 2016 is going to be different from Olympic and Paralympic Games of recent times.

For there will undoubtedly be technical deficiencies, organisational problems and repeated delays - and it will be incomparable in terms of efficiency with London and Sochi.

But it must not be forgotten that Rio was not awarded the Games for technical reasons and the first to be held in South America should also contain unique, beneficial and thrilling elements. The trick will be avoiding allowing the negative aspects to taint and overwhelm the positives.

FISA's new screening for potentially fatal heart conditions is vital, but so is correct interpretation

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckLast week's decision by the International Rowing Federation (FISA) to introduce health screening to check for potentially fatal heart conditions among international competitors is a profoundly important step.

The system is based on the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Pre-Competition Health Screening which follows on from the finding that the leading cause (more than 90 per cent) of non-traumatic sudden death in athletes is related to pre-existing heart problems.

The statistics relating to this subject are stark. More young athletes between 14 and 24 die of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) than from any other cause.

Bouzou's vision of Peace through Sport lives in Sochi, and Haiti...

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomThe day after he has returned to France from the Sochi Winter Games, I ask Joël Bouzou - four times an Olympian in the modern pentathlon, and now President both of the World Olympians Association (WOA) and the global Peace and Sport initiative he founded in 2007 - what he would like the Olympics to look like in 30 years' time.

The response, as with all others from this idealistic and yet practical man, is considered and cogent.

"I would like to see the leaders of all the countries at the Opening Ceremony," he says. "I would like them to see the marching of the athletes all together.  I would like them to have the opportunity to visit the Olympic Village. I would like to have them watch some of the competitions to see what is the power of sport and how they can use it in their countries.

For Gröbler, gold is the one true goal for British rowing at the Olympics

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomJürgen Gröbler has just made a strange noise. It's a bit muffled, as if someone has attempted to smother him. But there is pain there too. A definite touch of "aarghh!"

The man who has earned such golden success as British Rowing's head coach since 1992 is responding in his own slightly alarming way to an alternative London 2012 scenario - one where he had not taken the hard decision to switch his two top men from the pair to the four after three vain years of trying to beat the New Zealanders in a move that was designed to make a home gold for the men's team more of a banker.

History records that Gröbler's decision paid off. Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed, having had to give best to the omnipotent pairing of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, returned to the boat in which they had won gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and helped defend that title for the home nation.

Lillehammer 1994 showed that size isn't everything in the Olympic world

By David Owen

david owen 2014Size isn't everything - even in the Olympic world.

Arguably the best illustration of this came 20 years ago this month, when the Olympic cauldron was lit closer to the Arctic circle than ever before in a small Norwegian town of 22,000 people.

Over the next 16 days, little Lillehammer laid on one of the most atmospheric and efficient Olympic Games - Summer or Winter - of the modern era. Sports Illustrated called them "the fairy-tale Games...They could not exist. Reality cannot be this good."
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