Le Tour de Promise
The greatness of a champion is often measured by the greatness of those they defeat. When Jonas Vingegaard, 25, defeated Tadej Pogacar, 23, to win the Tour de France this month, it showed signs of becoming one of the sport’s greatest rivalries. After two consecutive wins at the pinnacle of the sport, Pogacar was aiming to match some of the sport’s all-time greats with a third consecutive Tour de France victory. But Dane had other plans, and that will continue to fuel the Slovenian’s fire for many years to come. After his defeat, Pogacar revealed that “Vingegaard gives me the motivation to be better. The battle with him was very nice.” Because of the youth and strength of both these riders, the cycling world is hoping that the Pogacar-Vingegaard rivalry will eventually go down as one of the sport’s signature rivalries a la Coppi-Bartali, Anquetil-Poulidor, or Lemond-Hinault.
Going out on Top
Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian chess grandmaster and widely considered to be one of the best players of all time, announced last week that he would not defend his world championship next year. A typical first reaction is shock. Carlsen has the highest chess rating in history, even above greats such as Kasparov and Fischer, and he is arguably near the peak of his powers. He also has a very strong chance to win a sixth world title in 2023. But on the other hand, the great has hinted on various occasions that he had played his last world championship match the year before. Other greats have walked away from the sport at their peaks – Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, and Ashleigh Barty – but each time it happens, it always seems so shocking. But maybe it should not be so surprising; there really are diminishing incentives for athletes to try to remain at the top. In Carlsen’s case, it is really difficult for him to increase his chess rating since he is the favourite in every match he enters. Wins bring him few points, and losses hurt him. Moreover, the man has nothing left to prove to anyone else, and at some point, he realised that he has nothing to prove to himself. After winning his fifth world championship, Carlsen was happy, of course, but not especially so. “[Going from] four championships to five, it didn’t mean anything to me. It was nothing. I was satisfied with the job that I’d done.”
About a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, American basketball star Britney Griner was quietly detained on her way to Moscow after authorities had discovered marijuana cartridges in her luggage. Unfortunately for her, smuggling drugs into Russia carries with it the penalty of 10 years in prison. Speaking for the first time since her arrest, Griner testified that she had packed hurriedly and had absolutely no intention of bringing drugs into the country. She stated that following her arrest on the 17th of February, she was denied a proper translator, wasn’t read her rights, was denied access to a lawyer and was strongarmed by her interpreter into signing papers she couldn’t understand. Her testimony marked a strong shift from her previous strategy, which was to stay absolutely quiet and keep her head down. Shortly after her testimony, US Secretary of States Anthony Blinken stated that the US had made an offer for a prisoner swap for Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, another supposedly wrongful detainee of the Russian State. It is thought that the US has floated Viktor Bout, the notorious Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US, as a prisoner exchange candidate.