Harrison Barnes Aims For Big College Basketball Season

Posted November 11th, 2011 at 5:37 pm (UTC-4)
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ESPN and Sports Illustrated magazines both recently published U.S. college basketball preview issues, and both put North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes on their cover.

The 19-year-old from Ames, Iowa, is expected to be the centerpiece for a North Carolina team that is rated a strong contender to win its sixth national championship.

Last year, the 2.03 meters tall (6’8″) Barnes became the first freshman ever named a preseason first-team All-America. The high expectations negatively affected his play during his first few months with “The Tar Heels” of North Carolina, and Barnes struggled with his shot.

But by the end of the season, Barnes became much more confident on the court, averaging nearly 16 points and six rebounds a game, and he led “The Tar Heels” to the final eight in the NCAA championship tournament.

“Between the beginning and end of last year there were a lot of inconsistencies,” Barnes told ESPN. “Playing at the level where I finished, for a whole year, that’s what I’d like to shoot for.”

Some basketball analysts thought Barnes would be shooting for a professional career this season, opting for the National Basketball Association, like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and other college stars did after their freshman seasons. But with the NBA still embroiled in a labor dispute between owners and players, Barnes’s decision to return to North Carolina is looking like a smart one.

Perhaps his biggest fan is his mother, Shirley, who cheered for basketball great Michael Jordan during his playing days. Her son’s full name is even a tribute to Jordan: Harrison Bryce Jordan Barnes. In 1982, Jordan clinched North Carolina’s second national title with a dramatic jump shot in the closing seconds against Georgetown.

In 2012, 30 years after Jordan’s heroics, Harrison Barnes would like nothing better than to follow in the footsteps of his mother’s idol and help raise another championship banner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Then, like Jordan, I think we can look for Barnes to launch his own NBA career.

 

 

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.

Remembering Smokin’ Joe Frazier

Posted November 8th, 2011 at 3:11 pm (UTC-4)
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Sonny & Smokin' Joe Frazier

Smokin’ Joe Frazier will be remembered as one of the great boxing champions of all time, a stocky fighter who overcame bigger opponents with tremendous heart and a tremendous left hook. Frazier died November 7 at a hospice in Philadelphia after a short fight with liver cancer. He was 67.

I’ll also remember Smokin’ Joe for his visit to our Voice of

VOA's Rod Thomas

America headquarters in 2004, a visit he clearly enjoyed, because a few months later he invited me and my VOA colleagues Rod Thomas and Dwayne Collins to visit him at his boxing gym in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Marvis & Joe Frazier, 1981 Sports Illustrated cover

I brought along my two sons, Jesse and Alex, for the trip to Philly. I wanted them to get a chance to meet a boxing legend. Joining us at Joe Frazier’s Gym was his 51-year-old son, Marvis, who Smokin’ Joe once trained during his own prizefighting career.

After retiring from boxing, Marvis became a minister, and he told us, “My father was my motivation. The word of God says, ‘The glory of children are their fathers.’ I love my father more than anything in the world. My father has a special place in my heart.”

Smokin’ Joe Frazier also has a special place in the hearts of boxing fans, who remember his three epic fights against Muhammad Ali. Their bout on October 1, 1975, in the Philippines, was nicknamed “The Thrilla In Manila,” and it’s regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight bouts in history.

Muhammad Ali would describe his victory in Manila as his toughest ever fight, saying, “it’s the closest I’ve ever come to death.” Ali’s longtime trainer, Angelo Dundee, told me the two fighters needed each other to cement their legacies. “Boxers blend with each other,” said Dundee. “The perfect blend was Frazier. Whenever you threw those two guys (Ali and Frazier) into a situation, there had to be excitement.”

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.

German Silva: 2011 Abebe Bikila Award Winner

Posted November 4th, 2011 at 3:52 pm (UTC-4)
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German Silva

In New York City’s Central Park Friday, German Silva was presented with the Abebe Bikila Award, an annual prize named for the great Ethiopian runner who won gold medals in the marathon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Abebe Bikila

Central Park is an appropriate place for the 43-year-old Silva to receive the honor. It’s near the finish of two of his greatest triumphs, at the 1994 and 1995 New York City Marathons. During the ’94 race, he recovered from a wrong turn in the final mile that left him behind fellow Mexican Benjamin Paredes. Silva rallied to beat Paredes by two seconds, an incident that earned him the nickname “Wrong Way Silva.”

But Silva is known for much more than making a wrong turn on the marathon course. The Abebe Bikila Award, handed out by the New York Road Runners

Paul Tergat at VOA

club, is given to people who have made outstanding contributions to long distance running. The 2010 winner was Kenyan star Paul Tergat, who won the 2005 New York City Marathon and then a few days later visited our Voice of America headquarters here in Washington, D.C.

In his acceptance speech, Tergat said, “The history of marathon running is incomplete without the solid and indelible mark of the late Abebe Bikila’s contribution, and I am so proud to be associated with this award.”

German Silva says he’s dedicating the award to his family and all his Mexican friends, and he has a lot of them. During his career, Silva has organized running events in small rural communities, encouraged children to run and distributed running shoes to local groups throughout Mexico.

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.

Great Year For Kenyan Marathoners

Posted November 1st, 2011 at 3:19 pm (UTC-4)
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I recently received an email from Ralph Okhiria, an engineer in Kano, Nigeria, in which he asked me what I thought about the year Kenya is having on the international marathon circuit. Well, Ralph, I know Kenya has always had a very proud pedigree in distance running, but 2011 has been an extra special year for the east African country at the classic 42-kilometer distance.

Kenyans Abel Kirui and Edna Kiplagat swept the gold medals in the men’s and women’s marathon at this year’s world championships in Daegu, South Korea. In fact, of the six medals at stake in those two races, Kenyans won five.

Patrick Makau Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

Kenya made more headlines in September and October during marathons in Germany. At the Berlin Marathon September 25, Kenya’s Patrick Makau crossed the finish line in a world record time of 2:03:38.

Five weeks later, at the Frankfurt Marathon October 30, another Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang, made an assault on Makau’s record, but fell four seconds shy, hitting the tape in 2:03:42. Let’s check out some video highlights of that race:

The great performances by Wilson Kipsang and Patrick Makau followed course records earlier in the year by fellow-Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02) at the Boston Marathon; Emmanuel Mutai (2:04:40) at the London Marathon; and Moses Mosop (2:05:38) at the Chicago Marathon. In recognizing Geoffrey Mutai’s time as the “fastest marathon ever run,” the International Association of Athletics Federations said it was not eligible for world record status because of the elevation drop and point-to-point course in Boston.

All these Kenyan men are hoping to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, but this great year by Kenyan marathoners has made things difficult for Kenyan selectors, who can choose only three athletes for the Olympic men’s marathon. Kenyan officials say they will wait until after the London Marathon April 22 before naming their team.

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.

Sad Times For Cameroon And Nigeria Football

Posted October 28th, 2011 at 2:55 pm (UTC-4)
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With Africa’s premier football tournament kicking off in less than three months in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, these are sad times in nearby Nigeria and Cameroon. The Super Eagles of Nigeria and The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, two of the traditional giants in African football, both failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Nigeria has won the Nations Cup twice, while Cameroon has been crowned African champion four times. In addition, Nigeria and Cameroon are the only African teams to win the gold medal in Olympic men’s football.

In response, the Nigeria Football Federation fired head coach Samson Siasia on Friday. Siasia

Samson Siasia

had been on the chopping block since October 8, when the Super Eagles drew 2-2 with Guinea in Abuja. The result clinched a 2012 Nations Cup berth for Guinea, and eliminated Nigeria from the Nations Cup for the first time in 25 years.

The 44-year-old Siasia, a former striker for the Super Eagles, was in charge of the team less than a year. And Cameroon took a similar tack with its Spanish coach, Javier Clemente, giving him the boot after a 14-month stint guiding the team and replacing him with Frenchman Denis Lavagne.

While the many football fans in Cameroon and Nigeria lick their wounds, they can take some solace in knowing that after a new Nations Cup champion lifts the trophy on February 12 in Libreville, Gabon, attention will shift to qualifying for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Cameroon has qualified for the World Cup an African record six times, while Nigeria has made four appearances in football’s biggest event. If the teams can book tickets to Brazil 2014, that should go a long way towards making this current low point in their football fortunes a distant memory.

 

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.

Dikembe Mutombo In South Sudan

Posted October 25th, 2011 at 2:01 pm (UTC-4)
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Dikembe Mutombo and Sonny in Washington

For a man who’s traveled all over the world, Dikembe Mutombo sounds a bit surprised about his first visit to South Sudan, which borders his homeland in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Speaking by phone from Juba, the capital of Africa’s newest country, Dikembe tells me South Sudan is “his next door neighbor and it’s very strange” that he’s finally made it to the fledgling nation.

With the backing of the U.S. government and the National Basketball Association, Mutombo and another longtime NBA player, Sam Perkins, traveled to Juba as

Sam Perkins

“sports envoys.”

Mutombo and Perkins have been leading basketball clinics for South Sudanese youth, as well as teaching them basic life skills. “I think they learn a lot of lessons, just by seeing our presence here,” says Mutombo. “You have two NBA players who competed in the league for more than 35 seasons combined. We’ve been talking with them about not just basketball, but also education, peace and reconciliation and staying away from deadly diseases like AIDS.”

Mutombo has been described as perhaps the NBA’s greatest ever humanitarian. He’s been an international sports ambassador in the fight against AIDS, polio and malaria in Africa, and in 2007, he opened the 300-bed Biamba Marie Mutombo hospital in his birthplace of Kinshasa, a hospital named after his late mother.

“When you take the elevator to the top,” says Dikembe Mutombo, “please don’t forget to send it down, so that someone else can take it to the top.” Mutombo’s trip this week to South Sudan is proof again he’ll continue to send that elevator down to lift up the less fortunate.

 

 

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.

Sharif Bogere: The Ugandan Lion Roars in Boxing Ring

Posted October 14th, 2011 at 3:48 pm (UTC-4)
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Unbeaten Ugandan lightweight prizefighter Sharif Bogere is getting attention for his boxing skills inside the ring and his showmanship outside the ropes. ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael had this to say: “When you see him, you’ll remember him because of his over-the-top ring entrance. He wears a lion’s head and skin and is brought to the ring inside a cage. Hey, if he wanted to get noticed, he has. Once inside the ring, Bogere also makes things interesting. He looks like he has good power.”

Bogere (21-0, 13 KOs) showed off that power October 7, on the eve of his 23rd birthday, scoring a third round knockout of previously unbeaten Francisco Contreras (16-1, 13 KOs) of the Dominican Republic. Let’s check out some of the video highlights.

In the amateur ranks, Sharif Bogere was a five-time African champion and captain of the Ugandan national team. He made his professional debut in 2008 and now could be headed for a possible world title shot and even more publicity, and The Ugandan Lion clearly loves the attention. “I know that boxing is about entertaining and that people who pay to watch boxing want to be entertained,” says Bogere. “They want to have fun. I’ll have the lion’s head and the skin brought in again. It’s all part of the show.”

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.

Big Engine & Big Payday For Kenya’s Moses Mosop

Posted October 10th, 2011 at 2:29 pm (UTC-4)
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Moses Mosop crosses the finish line in Chicago. Photo Credit: Nam Y. Huh, AP

Moses Mosop is nicknamed The Big Engine for his powerful endurance and running technique, and on Sunday, with his motor apparently not even at full throttle, the 26-year-old Kenyan cruised to a course record at the Chicago Marathon, clocking two hours, five minutes and 37 seconds.

Mosop said he wasn’t even at full strength in the race, running at about 85% of optimal because of an Achilles tendon injury.  What could The Big Engine do at 100%?  “Maybe I would run 2:02,” said Mosop, who ran a spectacular 2:03:06 in his marathon debut in Boston in April. Mosop finished four seconds behind fellow-Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai in Boston. Their times were the fastest ever recorded for the marathon, but because of Boston’s point-to-point course and overall downhill slope, they were not officially recognized.

Another Kenyan, Patrick Makau, set the current world record of 2:03:38 at last month’s Berlin Marathon. If Mosop’s comments about his conditioning are true, Makau might not have the record for long.

The Big Engine also earned a big payday in Chicago, winning $150,000 in prize money and bonuses. Mosop was only 19 years old when he competed for Kenya at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where he finished seventh in the men’s 10,000 meters. Based on his performances in Chicago and Boston this year, Mosop is now a strong candidate to run the marathon for Kenya’s 2012 Olympic team in London.

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.

Do The Right Thing: Mares vs. Agbeko II

Posted October 2nd, 2011 at 6:12 pm (UTC-4)
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Agbeko and Mares trade punches in their first fight

It’s nice to see Ghanaian fighter Joseph King Kong Agbeko getting a rematch against Mexico’s Abner Mares. Their first fight on August 13 in Las Vegas may have been the most controversial bout of the year. Nnamdi Hollywood Moweta, VOA’s undisputed, Reigning Prince of Pugilistics, says Mares stole King Kong’s International Boxing Federation bantamweight title, and I can’t agree more. Referee Russell Mora allowed Mares to throw numerous low blows throughout the 12 round bout, without deducting any points.

Nnamdi had big doubts a Mares-Agbeko rematch would happen, but it’s set for December 3 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Vinny Scolpino, King Kong’s manager, told me the IBF, Mares and Showtime television, which will broadcast the rematch, all “did the right thing” by setting up another encounter.

With a large Hispanic population in southern California, the unbeaten Mexican Mares (22-0-1, 13 KOs) will undoubtedly be the crowd favorite. But Nnamdi says he hopes to rally some African support for Agbeko (28-3, 22 KOs) ahead of the fight. Another nice thing to see will be a new referee on December 3. Russell Mora’s performance on August 13 rates as the worst I’ve ever witnessed in a championship fight.

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.

Kenya’s Record-Breaking Patrick Makau

Posted September 26th, 2011 at 3:10 pm (UTC-4)
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Patrick Makau shows off his world record time in Berlin

Patrick Makau has reason to smile after successfully defending his Berlin Marathon title in record-breaking fashion. The 26-year-old Kenyan clocked 2:03:38, smashing Ethiopian star Haile Gebrselassie’s previous world record by 21 seconds. Haile set his record three years ago on the same Berlin course, regarded as one of the fastest on the international marathon circuit.

And Haile’s presence in this year’s race helped spur Makau on. The 38-year-old Ethiopian great looked ready to challenge Makau, with the two running with the lead pack through 25-kilometers. But at that point, Makau began to push the pace. Shortly after 35-kilometers, Haile stopped with breathing problems and withdrew from the race. Haile also dropped out of his previous marathon in New York last November, and it now raises questions about his readiness for next year’s London Olympics.

For his part, Patrick Makau says he would be very happy to represent Kenya at the 2012 Games in London. The women’s winner in Berlin, Florence Kiplagat, also has hopes of wearing Kenyan colors at the Olympics next year. Kenya swept the medals in the women’s marathon at the recent IAAF world championships in South Korea, and the results in Berlin show this proud distance running nation is ready to win more medals in the marathon at London 2012.

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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