Females and Feelin’ Good

That’s why the lady…is a champ. Sorry, gentlemen. As it turns out women are better drivers, can play thrilling basketball, and can whip your butts. Why?

  • Danica Patrick finished eighth in Sunday’s Daytona 500, the highest finish ever for a woman. She was also the first female to lead (five laps) under the green (“all-clear”) flag.
  • Baylor 6-8 center Britney Griner is nearing the NCAA all-time women’s scoring record.
  • Ronda Rousey (known for model looks and a mean armbar) defeated Liz Carmouche Saturday in the first female fight in the UFC’s (Ultimate Fighting Championship) 20-year history.
  • Cheerleader Ashlee Arnau hit a basketball trick shot that has gone viral as the best play of the week. The William Carey University (Hattiesburg, Miss.) senior tumbled into a front-handspring, picked up the ball, and…oh trust me, just watch it.

I feel so good, let’s keep it going with some more feel-good sports stories, followed by a quick summary of this week’s other important headlines.

Kami Wolk clears a jump with "Hurricane Bay." (Kami Wolk/Brant Gamma)

Kami Wolk clears a jump with “Hurricane Bay.” (Kami Wolk/Brant Gamma)

Howard Versus the Hurricane
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Howard, a two-year-old pinto “carriage horse,” was abandoned. Stranded in five feet of water, many of his friends did not survive, despite efforts to float hay to them on boats. Enter Kami Wolk, a professional trainer who drove from New Hampshire to help. She rescued and relocated Howard, who now “events” (jumping and dressage) around the U.S. at one of the sport’s highest levels, under the name (of course) “Hurricane Bay.” Are the Olympics in his future? Who knows? But for now he is safe, sound, and a survivor.

Pint-Sized Point Guard
Julian Newman can dribble two balls simultaneously in and out of his legs. He can lead an offense and averages 12 points, 11 assists and 4 steals per game. He is also 11. The 4-foot-5 fifth grader starts for the varsity basketball team at Downey Christian in Orlando. His dad is his coach, but no nepotism here. Newman earns his keep by draining three’s—and making straight A’s. Check out this video of the basketball boy wonder.

The Sound of Success
Seven-foot-three Andrew del Piero came to LSU on a tuba scholarship, but decided to join the basketball team as a “walk-on.” But he eventually earned a scholarship, despite having played only a small amount of basketball at Westlake (Austin, Texas) High School (Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ alma mater). Now a senior, his stats aren’t all-star, but he certainly has options for future careers. Scroll to the end of this Youtube video to see del Piero in the marching band—and one fan’s prophetic astonishment.

Steven Camara (bottom right) on "Signing Day." (Mark Brock)

Steven Camara (bottom right) on “Signing Day.” (Mark Brock)

Conquering Cancer and College
Steven Camara had big plans for his future—until the Dunwoody High School (Ga.) football and lacrosse player was stricken with lymphoma at age 13. He tried to play while enduring chemotherapy, at times unable to do a pushup or even climb stairs. But cleared to play as a senior, the 6-2, 225-pound defensive end started all 10 games and finished with 30 tackles and a 3.3 grade point average. He has signed to play with (my awesome alma mater) Centre College (Ky.).

Taking on the Taliban
Death threats have not stopped Maria Toor Pakay, a Pakistani squash player now ranked 52nd in the world. Encouraged by her father, the 22-year-old once played sports, even weightlifting, as a boy–until authorities demanded her birth certificate. As her squash prowess grew, so did the danger of the Taliban. She worried for her family, playing in a room by herself while being educated by her father who, along with his wife, taught young women in an underground school. Her efforts paid off, and she was eventually brought to Canada by former world champion Jonathan Power. Now residing in Toronto, Pakay speaks out for women’s rights and aims to be world champion.

Centenarian Runner Retires
101-year-old marathon runner Fauja Singh, also known as the “Turbaned Tornado,” ran his final race this weekend, a 10K in Hong Kong. The British Sikh, known for his turbans and flowing white beard, is a great-grandfather who began running at age 89 to overcome grief over losing his wife and son in quick succession. He could hold the Guinness record for oldest marathon runner (Toronto, 2011), but does not have proof of his 1911 birth. He finished the race in 1:32:28.

Wrestler Respect in Iran
Perhaps more thrilling than “Argo’s” win, last week, Iran welcomed Team USA in wrestling—a sport both countries fear will be eliminated from the Olympics. The Iranians cheered the Americans (mostly—some media interviews were confiscated) with no animosity reported. In fact, Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs was the star attraction. Iran won, but the respect shown by fans and men from both teams truly demonstrated the power of sports to unite, if just temporarily, even the deepest of enemies.

Finally…

Need-to-Know Basis
If you follow nothing else sports-wise, here are just some of the basics from this past week:
• The Miami Heat are really, really, really good.
• The Lakers…not so much. But a funny Kobe Bryant tweet in response to Dallas owner Mark Cuban’s suggestion Bryant be released was “retweeted” more than 50,000 times.
• At least 28 people were injured, none critically, on Saturday during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona after a multi-car crash took down a spectator fence.
Indiana is the #1 men’s college basketball team; Baylor is the women’s.
#11 Georgetown defeated #8 Syracuse 57-46 in what could be (due to conference realignments) the last meeting of one of basketball’s greatest rivalries. The Hoyas’ Otto Porter scored a career high 33 points.
Oscar Pistorius posted bail.
• A pitch broke Yankees heavy hitter Curtis Granderson’s forearm in a spring training game; he is out for 10 weeks.
• The “NFL Combine” invites college football players (including Manti Te’o of the fake-Facebook-girlfriend scandal) to perform Mighty Feats of Strength and Speed for coaches and scouts. (Oh, they wear spandex and not much else—it’s a women’s version of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Check highlights on daytime ESPN through Tuesday.)
• Washington Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg returned to the mound after a controversial decision to bench him last season to protect his shoulder after surgery.

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