Joe DeCapua and the Mind-Body Connection

Posted November 9th, 2013 at 3:04 pm (UTC-4)
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Joe DeCapua

My Voice of America colleague Joe DeCapua is one of the most hardworking guys I’ve ever met, but trust me, sports fans, Joe knows how to relax and he does have a softer side.

Over the years, Joe has given me some great tips about broadcast journalism as well as maintaining and improving your health.

A fourth degree black belt and instructor in Aikido, Joe recently wrote an article for Be Well World titled, “Mind & Body in Harmony.”

While Joe wrote it with Aikido in mind, I’ve applied this passage recently to my running:

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Joe with some of his Aikido students

“Some liken it to an athlete ‘in the zone,’ a state of flow. Intuition and action happen simultaneously. However, our natural state is often under attack in the modern world by stress, technology, responsibility, etc.”

“We strive to be in that natural state as we practice and as we live each day. Tension originates in the mind. To help cope with this, think of two words: ‘relax’ and ‘softer.'”

For a runner who aims for that “zone” or “state of flow,” a tightening of the legs or upper body usually spells trouble. So in addition to a series of daily stretches, I’ve added Joe’s “relax” and “softer” mantra during especially challenging sections of my runs.

NIH LogoThis morning’s skullcap 8-miler in freezing temperatures found me running up Cedar Lane by the National Institutes of Health.

It’s a long, gradual hill and I’ve struggled on it in the past. But I kept repeating those magical words, “Relax. Softer. Relax. Softer. Relax. Softer,” trying to keep them in sync with my arm swing. It worked. I didn’t lock up and I finished strongly.

Now my wife, Suzanne, wants me to start saying “relax” and “softer” more around the house. I will, and I’m also starting to say it more and more at my VOA cubicle: “Relax. Softer. Relax. Softer.” I know if I lock up in the office, Joe will be there with the key.

 

 

 

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Nigeria’s Iheanacho: From Small Poles to Four Goals

Posted October 23rd, 2013 at 10:43 am (UTC-4)
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“I’ve scored four goals in a game many times, but only in the streets with my friends. But never in an international match, never for my country. The feeling is amazing,” said Kelechi Iheanacho, after an impressive performance in Nigeria’s opening match of the Under 17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Kelechi gave the Mexicans a big whooping which sent them running back to their strategy boards. Just imagine it, four goals from a single player and two more from his teammates as Nigeria routed Mexico, 6-1. No amount of ice cream and gummy bears would cure the sunken hearts of these U17 players from Mexico who went through the ordeal.

We here at the Sonny Side of Sports are very sure the scouts at the games certainly have Kelechi jotted down as a player to look at. The 17-year-old plays for Taye Academy Club in Nigeria and still remains humble to the T after proving his worth.

Will Kelechi follow in the footsteps of greats like Eto’o and Messi who all started their careers this good and this early? Has a star been born? Let’s keep our eyes on the ball as Nigeria and the other countries push forward towards winning the U17 World Cup.

Here’s a look at Kelechi’s four goals.

Kelechi Iheanacho is playing for a Nigerian team with a proud pedigree at this U17 tournament. The Golden Eaglets of Nigeria have won the trophy three times (1985, 1993 and 2007) and finished runners-up three times (1987, 2001 and 2009).

***This blog post was written by Voice of America Intern Kwame Asante Ofori for the Sonny Side of Sports.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

The Olympic Torch Takes a Spacewalk

Posted October 5th, 2013 at 6:45 am (UTC-4)
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Yes you read right! The Sochi 2014 Olympic torch will make a historic appearance in space as part of its relay from Greece to Russia for the Winter Olympics next year.

I’m sure like me, some of you are wondering how this is going to work. I’m no rocket scientist, but the little Einstein in my head tells me the Olympic torch will certainly not be burning way up there in space.

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov (L) and Sergie Ryazansky
Photo: Reuters

The torch is due to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) on the Soyuz TMA-11M manned spaceship in November. Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergie Ryazansky have been tasked with the Olympic assignment.

For safety reasons, the torch will not be lit during the spacewalk, according to Dmitry Chernyshenko, the President of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee. Yes, I’m breathing easier, Olympic fans! Whew!!!

The captain of the spacecraft, Mikhail Tyurin, who received the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch at a ceremony in June, will be responsible for passing it over to cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, who is currently based on the ISS. He will then deliver the torch back to Earth.

The spacewalk by the two Russians will be a great moment in Olympic Torch Relay history. The Sonny Side of Sports is looking forward to more fantastic feats during the winter sports festival, which officially opens February 7th in Sochi.

***This blog post was written by VOA Intern Kwame Asante Ofori for the Sonny Side of Sports.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Yaya Toure on Target for Man City and Ivory Coast

Posted October 2nd, 2013 at 4:02 pm (UTC-4)
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Yaya Toure celebrates a goal against Manchester United on September 22, 2013. Man City beat Man U, 4-1. Photo: Reuters

Will Yaya Toure win a third straight African Footballer of the Year award?

Based on his recent performances, the 30-year-old Toure has to be considered a strong contender once again for the trophy.

African football analyst David Legge in Johannesburg says the rugged midfielder for Manchester City and Ivory Coast is doing very well early in the English Premier League season.

Yaya Toure scores against Manchester United on September 22, 2013. Photo: Reuters

Heading into Saturday’s (October 5) home match against Everton, Toure has scored in four straight games to put him near the top of the EPL scoring table.

Toure’s first two goals of the EPL season came off free kicks against Newcastle United and Hull City.

Manchester City’s Chilean manager, Manuel Pellegrini, says the Ivorian star often stays late after club training sessions to improve his free kick technique.

Yaya Toure jumps for joy after scoring against Hull City August 31, 2013. Photo: Reuters

In addition to his Man City duties, Toure is a key player for the Elephants of Ivory Coast, Africa’s highest-ranked football team.

He and the Elephants are bidding for a third straight World Cup appearance, and only west African rival Senegal stands between Toure and Ivory Coast going to Brazil 2014.

Ivory Coast will host Senegal October 12 in Abidjan in the first leg of their two-match play-off series. The winner of the series, on aggregate, will be one of five African teams to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

With three goals so far in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Yaya Toure will surely be trying to find the net against the Senegalese and help Ivory Coast return to football’s premier event next year in Brazil.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Parker and France Win First EuroBasket Title

Posted September 23rd, 2013 at 1:43 pm (UTC-4)
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Tony Parker reacts after winning the European basketball championship. Photo: Reuters

French star Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs says the road to a first European basketball title was an unbelievable journey and he wouldn’t change anything in how the successful script was written.

Parker and the French team won their first major basketball trophy Sunday with an 80-66 victory over Lithuania in the final of the European championship in Slovenia.

Parker was named tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring 32 points in a 75-72 overtime victory over defending champion Spain in the semifinals.

Two years ago, France lost to Spain in the EuroBasket final, 98-85, in Lithuania. Parker says he had much support in winning the gold medal this time around.

France’s Florent Pietrus and Tony Parker are delighted with their European championship basketball gold medals. Photo: Reuters

He gave special credit to France’s coaching staff led by Vincent Collet. The 31-year-old Parker lifted the EuroBasket trophy about three months after the Spurs lost to the defending champion Miami Heat in a hard-fought, seven game NBA Finals.

Tony Parker hugs head coach Vincent Collet after France’s gold medal victory. Photo: Reuters

In Parker’s words, “Coach Collet takes care of my body. He doesn’t kill me with two practices a day. He knows that I’ll show up when it’s a big game.”

Tony Parker definitely showed up for EuroBasket 2013. He averaged almost 20 points a game during the tournament, tops among all scorers.

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Jim Fixx and My Joy of Running

Posted September 14th, 2013 at 1:22 pm (UTC-4)
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I thought of Jim Fixx during my 7-mile run this morning around the neighborhood.

It was a beautiful fall day with brilliant blue skies and cool temperatures.

Fixx, the author of the 1977 best-seller, The Complete Book of Running, died of a heart attack in 1984 during one of his daily runs in Vermont. He was 52 – my age.

Fixx’s family had a history of heart disease, and before the author began running at age 36 he was overweight and a heavy smoker.

Exercise physiologist Kenneth Cooper, “the pioneer of aerobics,” studied Fixx’s death and concluded he was genetically predisposed to the heart attack.

Jim Fixx Memorial in Hardwick, Vermont, where he died in 1984.

Fixx, like most of us, didn’t get to decide how he said his final goodbye, but I’ve told a few friends if I die the same way Fixx did, well, I’ll go doing something I truly enjoy.

I still have a couple more races lined up in 2013, but this year I’ve been enjoying the social aspects of running.

Team Doumar gets ready to run!

In June, an elementary school classmate, George Doumar, invited me to run with his team in a 10K race in Washington, D.C.

George’s two sons and one of his daughters also ran on the team.

I hadn’t seen George in about 40 years, and when he introduced me to one of his sons, there were more than a few flashback memories. Good memories.

Jesse and Sonny

Another good memory was running a half marathon last weekend with my oldest son, Jesse. I couldn’t keep up with him on the course, but Jesse did stick around for the post-race buffet, which, yes, included bananas.

Much of the half marathon course was run through scenic Rock Creek Park, described on its website as “truly a gem in our nation’s capital. It offers visitors a chance to reflect and soothe their spirits through the beauty of nature.”

I reflected a few times during the race, “It’s good to be running at 52. And I’ll keep going – because I’m in it for the long run.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Althea Gibson Stamp

Posted August 24th, 2013 at 11:58 am (UTC-4)
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The new Althea Gibson U.S. postage stamp gets the official Sonny Side of Sports seal of approval.

The United States Postal Service says the stamp of the tennis champion, who died in 2003 at age 76, emphasizes two of her notable characteristics: grace and athleticism.

The art is based on a photograph taken at Wimbledon, a tournament Gibson won in 1957 and 1958.

Althea Gibson in 1956, the year she won the French Open.

In 1956, Gibson won the French Open, becoming the first African-American player to win a Grand Slam tennis title.

Althea Gibson on the cover of TIME magazine in 1957.

In all, she won 11 major titles, and is credited with breaking racial barriers in the sport.

At the stamp dedication ceremony, on the grounds of the U.S. Open in New York, another tennis legend, Billie Jean King, said Althea Gibson’s achievements served as a catalyst for equality in sports and in life.

Gibson was also a pioneer in women’s golf. After retiring from tennis, she became the first African-American to qualify for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour and played many LPGA tournaments in the 1960s.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

FIFA Supports Somalia Football

Posted August 21st, 2013 at 11:40 am (UTC-4)
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Somali boys play football at Mogadishu’s popular Lido Beach.
Photo: Reuters

World football’s governing body, FIFA, recently organized a five-day training program to help develop the sport in Somalia.

The football festival in the capital, Mogadishu, was attended by more than 30 coaches and 300 children.

During the clinic, local coaches learned basic training techniques with the hope of improving the skills of young Somali footballers.

Football is a popular sport in Somalia and throughout Africa.
Photo: AP

Ulric Mathiot, a FIFA instructor from Seychelles, says “The Beautiful Game” can grow in Somalia.

“Now we hope that the Somali Football Federation, they can have a long time vision or long time program, where they can bring this sort of activity all around the country,” says Mathiot, “in fact in as many regions as possible. So touching as many kids as possible from six to 12 years old.”

FIFA is again kicking off training programs in Somalia after suspending them for two decades because of war.

Awil Ismail, the technical director of the Somali Football Federation, says the conflict stunted soccer development.

Somali players in action during a training session in the capital, Mogadishu.
Photo: Reuters

“Somali youth are good in technique, but the problem that we have is we have been at war for a long time,” says Ismail. “There has been a gap. I hope that the coming years will be better. Because we now have some stability and we have grassroots courses that FIFA has helped us with. So in the future, I hope that we will be one of the best in east Africa.”

For now, though, Somalia has one of the weakest teams in Africa.

The Ocean Stars of Somalia are ranked 52nd out of 54 African teams in the August FIFA rankings.

Somali players and officials are hopeful these type of FIFA training programs are laying the groundwork for a brighter football future.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

USA Men’s Soccer Team Aims For Another World Cup Berth

Posted July 29th, 2013 at 11:52 am (UTC-4)
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USA players celebrate their victory over Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. Photo: Reuters

The U.S. men’s national soccer team is on a record winning streak as it aims for its seventh consecutive World Cup berth next year in Brazil.

The Americans beat Panama Sunday, 1-0, in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, which was played before almost 58,000 fans at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Brek Shea scores for the USA in the 69th minute in the Gold Cup final. Photo: Reuters

Substitute Brek Shea, who plays for Stoke City in the English Premier League, came off the bench and just 42 seconds later tapped the ball into the net in the 69th minute to become the hero in the USA’s 11th straight victory.

It was the second goal of the Gold Cup tournament for the 23-year-old Shea, one of several young players who has made a positive impression on head coach Juergen Klinsmann ahead of the next round of World Cup qualifying in September.

Landon Donovan in action in the Gold Cup final. Photo: AP

Landon Donovan, the all-time leader in scoring and assists for the USA men’s team, has also made a positive impact since returning to the national squad after a four-month, self-imposed soccer sabbatical.

Donovan was named the Gold Cup’s Most Valuable Player after finishing with five goals and seven assists in the tournament.

“In terms of just having fun, it’s up there,” says Donovan. “I’m just enjoying being part of it. I really am.”

Before the Gold Cup competition kicked off, Coach Klinsmann had been criticized

U.S. soccer fan at Gold Cup final in Chicago. Photo: Reuters

for his handling of the U.S. team.

But that criticism has waned in the wake of the record winning streak and the USA’s first Gold Cup trophy since 2007, which has given Klinsmann and American soccer fans a lot to smile about.

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Somalia Basketball Bounces Back

Posted July 14th, 2013 at 12:48 pm (UTC-4)
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I grew up playing basketball with my brothers on a cement court my father built in our backyard. It was a safe environment and we had lots of fun playing one of the world’s most popular sports.

In Somalia, where there has been decades of war, basketball is being used as a peace-building tool in an area of the capital, Mogadishu, that previously was off-limits to the sport.

Somali boys and girls are getting a chance to learn the game through daily clinics.

Check out this video report I did for the Voice of America’s Africa 54 television program.

Somali basketball coach Hassan Ahmed Gelleh says, “We’ve come through very difficult times. Al Shabaab wanted people to participate in Jihad rather than play or even wear shorts. We still managed to hold some competitions, but girls weren’t even allowed to come to the court. We’ve had a lot of problems, but there’s a huge change now. Both men and women can come and play. Somalia used to be one of the leading teams in Africa.”

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

About

Sonny Side of Sports is an energetic and action-packed look at both world and African sports, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet. Since the show’s creation in 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

The Sonny Side of Sports is broadcast Monday through Friday at 1630 and 1830 UTC/GMT. And on Fridays at 1730 UTC/GMT, Sonny has an expanded 30-minute sports show.

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