Strange Geography

Review of the week: 16 – 22 November 2015

Grégory Gaultier with US Open Trophy

Men’s World Open Squash

Gregory Gaultier of France won his first title at the age of 32, having lost in the final on three previous occasions. He had won the British Open and the US Open (above) but the global title was the one which he needed in order to properly reflect a successful career.

In a sense, therefore, it was a poor tournament for Egypt. Ramy Ashour failed to retain the trophy, Omar Mosaad was beaten by Gaultier in the final, and No 1 seed, Mohamed El Shorbagy, was shocked at the quarter-final stage by James Willstrop of Great Britain.

On the other hand, of 16 Egyptians in the draw, 12 reached the second round, 8 reached the last 16, and 4 reached the quarter-finals. Egypt’s success at the posh English sport of squash never ceases to amaze but the reign of the men from Africa looks set to continue.

Premier 12 Baseball

Squash was beaten by baseball in its bid to be included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and, this week, baseball tried to strengthen its claim, with a brand new 12-team tournament.

South Korea, which won the last Olympic gold medal, in 2008, claimed another victory. The crucial game was the semi-final against Japan, which hosted the final stages of the tournament. South Korea came back from 3-0 down in the very last inning, to win 4-3.

As usual, the major leagues in the United States and Japan did not release their players, a problem which affected the outcome, and could continue to plague Olympic baseball.

Novak Djokovic O2

ATP World Tour Finals

Novak Djokovic (above) just keeps making history. He became the first person to win the final event of the season four years in a row, on top of his three grand slam titles in 2015.

The tournament also saw a mini revival for Rafael Nadal, who finished a disappointing year on a high by beating Murray and Wawrinka, before a semi-final defeat to Djokovic.

World Weightlifting Championships

The first weekend of the world championships featured the lower weight classes which, in recent years, have been the domain of North Korea. Om yun-chol did not disappoint in the 56kg class, setting a world record in the clean and jerk and taking the overall title.

Om’s fellow Olympic and world champion, Kim un-guk, was less successful, and had to settle for overall silver, but he did claim a victory in the snatch component of the event.

There’s something exotic about North Korea and it is tempting to reach for explanations like genetics or doping to explain its success. The latter is plausible – it is exactly the sort of heavily controlled regime where state-doping might take place – but genetics is very unlikely to be the answer. The short stature of North Koreans is the result of a poor diet.

But the Egyptian example offers another possibility. Few people suggest that there is a squash gene, and doping is not a widespread problem in the sport. Egypt may even have room for improvement, as squash is a rich man’s game, but it still succeeds through hard work. If Egypt is doing it, then maybe others, including North Korea, are doing the same.

Next week: The European Curling Championships, more weightlifting, and trampoline

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