Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday Winners

At 8 that morning, fight fans gathered around tv sets and hi-def screens. 3 hours later, Antonio "Tornado" Margarito, the naturally bigger man that day, quizzically looked at himself. Reduced to a tropical depression, the Mexican 3-time world champion, who climbed into the ring 15 pounds heavier than his opponent, his head covered in a white towel, stood tall and proud for his country after standing up, toe to toe, with the "midget" from the Pacific they call the "Pacman". His Mexican fans barely recognize their champion.

Why do they always look the same?
In the days leading to the fight, fighter and trainer made fun of Coach Roach, mimicking his Parkinson movements in a video uploaded in the internet (fighter and trainer have since apologized). But the 8-division champ, instead of inflicting punishment on his opponent, showed compassion in the latter part of the fight, his concerned look from fighter to referee seen by millions across the globe, silently pleading a stoppage to an already bruised and battered Mexican, reminiscent of his similar gesture in a fight against the bleeding David Diaz a lightweight (135 lbs) division ago.

Another victory for the Filipino people.

Later that evening, in the setting sun of Abu Dhabi, young German driver Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, gripped his steering wheel in preparation for the 5 red lights that would go out heralding the start of the race. This was the last race of the season, a race that would vindicate him. 3rd in the standings behind points leader and twice World Champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari in P3 and teammate Mark Webber in P5, the German needed to win Abu Dhabi and hope Alonso and Webber finish below 5th to secure the title. Not to mention the former World Champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren in P2 who also needed to win.

But mid-race, Alonso and Webber were already down to 8th and 9th, their race ruined by a faulty team strategy of an early tire change. Vettel's engineer kept mouthing encouraging words to his ear. Hamilton and fellow teammate Jenson Button were hot on his heels. But as the final laps came to a close, Sebastian Vettel notched up his 5th win of the season and more importantly, the 2010 Driver's Title in his hands. Strong vindication indeed from fellow drivers and sportswriters who claimed he should have been helping Webber already in the last 3 races of the season.

Youngest Driver's Champion at 23. At the chequered flag, the German was unusually quiet, his words in a mixture of German and English barely audible on the team radio. He was sobbing. And for the first time, I knew it was a much deserved win (although I have been rooting for the Spanish guy). His first win with sister company Toro Rosso Ferrari in the wet tracks of Monza in 2008 was the turning point in his career. He was superb in the wet that day and he was impeccable in the dry today.

Qualifying hero... and now race day Hero.

What an end to 2010!