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3 International Finals, 1 glorious Sunday! – Commentary Box

The Final of Euro 2020, Copa America and Wimbledon are on the same day! What a Sunday it will be…

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Tokyo Olympics 2020 have begun, but at what cost?

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The long-awaited Tokyo 2020 Olympics have now begun, a year after their scheduled start date of 23rd July 2020.

The 2020 Olympic games were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and then met with scandal after scandal causing four organisers to be dismissed from their positions. A composer left the team responsible for the creation of the opening ceremony as it came to light that he had bullied children in school who had disabilities. Hiroshi Sasaki, who is the Olympic Creative Chief, resigned in March for making a comment that a plus-sized comedian could be an ‘Olympig”. Sasaki apologised afterwards. Yoshiro Mori quit in February as the Head of the Organising Committee after making inappropriate comments about women.  The latest dismissal was issued to opening ceremony Director Kentaro Kobayashi one day before the Olympic games were scheduled to begin. Kobayashi was discharged due to the emergence of a 1990’s video in which he appears to joke about the Holocaust.

Beyond organisational changes, Tokyo 2020 was also destabilized by the rapid uptake in Coronavirus cases. At least 18 Olympic athletes have publicly dropped out of the global event due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this includes athletes from the US, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Mexico, South Africa, Chile, Australia, the Netherlands and Russia. 

Despite these setbacks Tokyo 2021 has persevered, giving athletes a chance to showcase their hard work and talent in front of a global audience. Fans have been prohibited from entering the stadium due to precautions in place to combat the unprecedented emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular the Delta variant which has caused case numbers to surge in Japan. 800 international VIP guests and 150 Japanese guests are reported to be the only dignitaries to attend the ceremony. 

This grand event also allows athletes to express their beliefs to an audience of billions. Several athletes have already taken this chance to take the knee ahead of their matches to protest racial inequality. This comes after the International Olympic Committee made an amendment to rule 50 by adding in section 50.2. This gave athletes the freedom of expression in mixed zones, news conferences, during interviews, as well as prior to the start of competition. However, in a letter penned by over 150 athletes, it is claimed that the amendment does not “reflect a commitment to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right nor to racial and social justice in global sport.”

So much has already happened before the opening ceremony has even begun. Let’s hope that the rest of the games are smooth running and Tokyo doesn’t get enveloped in another scandal.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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First ever hijabi referee, Sara Gamal, makes Olympic history

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Sara Gamal from Egypt becomes the first ever hijab-wearing Muslim woman to referee at the Olympic Games. 

32-year-old Gamal, who made the transition from a basketball player to referee, will be umpiring the 3×3 basketball, which itself is making a debut in the Olympics in Tokyo this July. This also makes Sara the first ever Arab and African woman to officiate 3×3 basketball at the Olympics. 

It is estimated that around 182 countries and over 430,000 players around the world play 3×3 basketball. The sport is known to be the world’s most-played urban team sport. 

Gamal’s breakthrough in the sport industry first happened back in 2017 when she effectively ended the ban on Islamic headscarves in the International Basketball Federation as they changed their rules regarding headgear on the court.

This season the 32-year-old took her accomplishments even further, when she refereed in the men’s final of the Egypt Cup as well as in the Basketball Africa League for Men.

“Those were big steps for me, and all the other female referees in Egypt, because it was the first time a female referee officiated a men’s final in the country,” states Sara

Before becoming a referee, Sara Gamal, who is also a civil engineer, studied for five years at college whilst pursuing her basketball dreams on the side. Today, she still works as an engineer. 

Gamal stated “In the past, many thought they would never be able to take charge of international games, and that they would only be restricted to local matches…But now I’m happy to have played a part in making the difference…Veiled referees now have every reason to believe that they can take their careers to the international level. Many have called me to say they were encouraged to follow suit.”

Sara also stated that her family is very proud of her, and that she is aware of the fact that with great success, expectations also increase. She says, “Representing not only myself but also Africa and the Arab world is a big responsibility”.

Alongside Gamal’s worldly success, she has maintained her faith. She states she “took [her] faith as a guide” and that throughout the process, her faith in God gave her strength.

Sara mentioned that she prays after each of her games: “I pray to God to help the game or tournament go great.” 

Gamal’s accomplishments and successes make Muslims around the world proud, while also helping give hijab-wearing Muslim women confidence. The representation makes them believe that they too can pursue their dreams whilst remaining true to their faith.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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The expectation of loyalty within the NBA

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In the 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Playoff, Isaiah Thomas, a 5’9 guard who was having an incredible season, exploded for 53 points in an overtime win against the Washington Wizards. This game was significant in a few regards. Firstly, Isaiah Thomas, one of the shortest players in NBA history, was coming off of an incredible season, finishing within the top five in most valuable player voting. Further, Isaiah Thomas was playing through a hip injury which he did not get treated so that he could have an opportunity to play in the playoffs; he would go on to get surgery after the season. Finally, just days earlier, Isaiah Thomas’s younger sister, Chyna Thomas, died in a car accident. During the series, there were scenes of Isaiah’s teammates consoling him while he sat on the bench in tears. Thomas did not miss a single game due to the death of his sister, and played through both physical and emotional trauma for his team. That summer, Thomas was due for a major contract extension but to the surprise of many, the Boston Celtics traded him while Thomas was rehabbing his hip. Future reports would reveal that Thomas was extremely disappointed by the trade. When he was informed of the trade, Thomas reacted by saying, “After everything I went through… You’re not supposed to do that.”

NBA players are expected to be loyal to their teams. Many players are attacked by the media and fan bases when they leave a team who drafts them to go to a team that can accommodate them better, whether it be financially or through better prospects of winning. Lebron James and Kevin Durant are two  players who received a lot of media backlash when they left the teams who drafted them for a better chance at winning. But this expectation of loyalty appears to be one sided. 

Damian Lillard, one of the best players in the NBA, is known for his loyalty to his small market team, the Portland Trailblazers. The media and NBA fans alike recognise and respect his talents. Unfortunately, the Trailblazers have not been able to put Lillard in a position to really contend for a championship by failing to surround him with adequate talent. It seems that Lillard is wasting his best basketball years on a team that is not giving him a real chance at success. If Lillard demands a trade today, in order to be put in a position to where he could compete for a championship, history shows sports media will flip the narrative on him, calling him a loser who could not win where he was drafted, and as someone who “quit” on his team. But if Portland trades him for a “better piece”, after his years of loyalty, there is virtually no backlash on the franchise for quitting on their star player.

When watching sports, one thing that is often overlooked is these star athletes are normal people just like us. They ultimately want to do what is best for them, just like we do. If I get offered a job with more benefits and pay compared to my current job, or one that puts me in a better position to achieve my personal goals, nobody will blame me for taking the new job. As fans of the game, it will be more enjoyable for us to appreciate the awesome talent these players have, rather than hold them to unreal standards of loyalty to business organisations that will trade them in a heartbeat.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Do the Group Stages Still Matter in Euro 2020? – Commentary Box

An exciting tournament so far is approaching its final stages, but has the expansion of the Euros to 24 teams rendered the group stages meaningless? In this episode ‘Commentary Box’, we look back and review all the action from Euro 2020 and look ahead to the eagerly anticipated semi-finals. We also discuss the finale of the World Test Championship which saw New Zealand crowned champions of cricket’s latest tournament.

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Laurel Hubbard: First transgender athlete to compete at Olympics

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In a controversial decision, New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard will become the first ever transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics. Laurel used to compete in men’s weight lifting before she came out as transgender in 2013. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed its rules allowing transgender athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold. 

This decision has faced a lot of backlash. The very purpose of women’s sports is to give women an opportunity to compete with other women, who do not possess biological advantages that men have. In fact, Laurel is taking the place of a woman lifter who has worked her entire life to compete in the Olympics and surpass all the other women in her country to earn that opportunity. Laurel wasn’t just an average weight lifter, she set New Zealand’s junior records competing as a male. Now women are expected to compete against a record holding weightlifter, assigned as male at birth, for an opportunity to represent their country. 

This decision can set some dangerous and inconsistent precedents in rules for competing in the Olympics. Critics of the decision argue that although her testosterone levels post therapy do allow her to qualify, Laurel has an unfair advantage due to the fact that she went through puberty as a male, from which she has denser bones amongst other advantages. This same concern was raised when Fallon Fox, a transgender MMA fighter, who was born male, was fighting and beating women fighters. UFC color commentator Joe Rogan mentioned how although she had gone through gender reassignment, the surgery doesn’t change aspects of anatomy such as bone density, the size of wrists, hands, and joints, which give major advantages in competition. After her fight with Fallon Fox, Tamikka Brents suffered a concussion, and orbital bone fracture, and seven staples to the head in the first round. Brents later shared that: “I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right… Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch …” For many people, this victory was not celebrated and highlighted some dangers of allowing people who grew up as men compete against women. 

Some may argue that Fox’s situation is distinguished from Laurel’s in that Fox was taking part in a combat sport while Laurel is only weight lifting. The fact is that the Olympics include a variety of contact and combat sports including boxing, Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do. If the IOC follows this precedent, they are creating risks for woman athletes and defeating the purpose of women’s sports: creating a safe space for women to compete with other women. In non-combat sports this precedent can also create an unfair advantage. For example, if a 7’4 athlete who wasn’t quite good enough to compete in men’s Olympic basketball undergoes therapy to reduce his testosterone levels, he still has a major advantage in height that no woman basketball player has ever reached. Only one women’s basketball player ever was taller than 6’9. This hypothetical situation undeniably proves there are physical advantages to going through puberty as a male. The same concept applies to a person who went through puberty as a male, having more suitable hands, wrists, and joints for weight lifting.

Another potential issue that rises with the IOC’s decision is the precedent set with regulating testosterone levels. Many athletes have been stripped of medals for taking substances like testosterone to enhance their performance artificially. If a born male is allowed to take measures to lower testosterone levels, are born females who classify as men allowed to take measures to increase testosterone levels? Testosterone is a chemical which can increase muscle growth and strength which men naturally produce more than women. If the born female who classifies as a man is allowed to take testosterone to compete with men, do they have an unfair advantage? Are they limited to a specific amount which will at best, keep them competitive? If the IOC only allows athletes to lower their testosterone levels, is it fair to transgender people who were born female and classify as male to not be able to undergo a testosterone therapy which allows them to compete as their ‘new gender’? They will not be able to compete against men without the additional testosterone. 

The IOC should have considered these issues and the greater purpose of women sports. Women work their whole lives to get to perfect their craft and potentially honor their countries by winning a medal. By allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports after testosterone therapy, the IOC has set a dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly compromise opportunities for women athletes in the future. The IOC should consider alternatives to include all athletes but inclusion should not compromise the sanctity of women’s sports.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Red Bull’s bittersweet race: Verstappen crashes but Perez takes the win

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It seemed like a definite victory – and a first for Max Verstappen at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – until to the dismay of Red Bull and his fans alike, he crashed with only five laps to go! This, as well as some pretty good racing, allowed his Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez to take his second career victory. Surprisingly, championship contender and seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton only managed to finish 15th.

After the unexpected race at the Monaco GP two weeks ago, hardly anyone could have expected such an unpredictable race on the Baku City circuit. The championship leader, Max Verstappen, crashed and was out of the race with only five laps left at lap 47 – due to some tyre issues. A safety car was dispatched which eventually ended with a red flag, meaning that the race was restarted with a standing start almost 35 minutes later, on lap 50, leaving the drivers with two laps to the finish.

The Mercedes championship contender Lewis Hamilton did not manage to make up for his P7 (7th Place) at Monaco two weeks ago which resulted in Max Verstappen winning the race and getting ahead of Hamilton in the championships by four points. Baku proved frustrating for Mercedes and Hamilton, as traffic in the pit lanes meant he had a slower stop than usual. This was all before Verstappen’s crash, so all seemed well with Hamilton almost taking the lead after the race resumed on lap 50. However, frustratingly for the Mercedes team, he locked-up heavily and ended up in the run-off of Turn 1. Although he held pole position at the beginning of the race and almost again after Verstappen’s crash, he ended the race in an unfortunate P15, taking no points for Mercedes nor for himself.

Valterri Bottas managed to beat his teammate in this race but due to finishing P11 no points were awarded to Mercedes or Bottas for either championship either.

These unfortunate events for the top drivers along with some excellent driving and strategies allowed others to stand in the limelight. Sergio Perez made Red Bull proud with pole position, securing constructor’s championship points as well as driver’s championship points. 

Sebastian Vettel, to many people’s delight, proved his championship standard skills by moving up from P11 to finish in P2, giving Aston Martin their first podium as a newly branded team. His pit stop, 18 laps later than anyone else, proved to be an extremely successful strategy in this instance.

Pierre Gasly also secured a podium for AlphaTauri by finishing P3 due to some excellent racing, even beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who for the second time in a row managed to secure pole position during qualifying but wasn’t able to hold on to it in the race. Still, P4 was a great result for Ferrari and Leclerc.

McLaren driver Lando Norris faced a three-place penalty but beautifully shrugged it off by finishing P5 ahead of Fernando Alonso, undercutting his rivals from where he started at the beginning of the race in P9.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri’s second driver in the race kept a consistent result by starting and ending in P7, pitting early on in the race on lap nine.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also performed admirably as he bounced back on hard tyres from P15, due to a massive lock-up in lap 11, and managed to secure P8 at the end of the race. Daniel Ricciardo moved up from P13 at the beginning of the race to P9 by the end, whilst Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen closed up the top 10 championship earning points positions by finishing in P10.

An intensely unpredictable race naturally resulted in a very unusual scoreboard. This was mainly due to championship leader Max Verstappen’s crash costing him the lead in the race and Lewis Hamilton’s costly late lock-up which, if avoided, would have allowed him to comfortably reclaim the championship lead from Verstappen.  However, as it stands, the two are still battling at the top of the driver’s championship leader board. Fans and teams alike will be eager to see next week’s Canadian Grand Prix as well as a few more races after that for some clarity on who might just win the title this year.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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