COO, FANCY THAT
The fastest sporting animal is the racing pigeon. With a following wind, pigeons have been clocked at speeds of up to 177 km/h in races ranging from 161 km to 1610 km. the most famous pigeon fancier is Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who keeps a loft of about 150 birds near her Sandringham home.
Table tennis was first played with balls made from champagne corks and bats made from cigar-box lids. It was invented in the late 1880s by James Gibb, an English runner and engineer, as a diversion for wet weekends and was first marketed, with celluloid balls replacing the corks, under the name Gossima. Its popularity soared in 1901 after the British manufacturer of the equipment, John Jacques, renamed the game Ping Pong.
BEATEN TO BASE
The all-American game of base ball usually said to have been adopted from an old children’s game by a New Yorker named Abner Doubleday in 1839- could be English in origin. A Kent vicar wrote disparagingly in 1700 about baseball being played on Sundays.
The English author Jane Austen refers to ‘base ball’ in her novel Northanger Abbey, published in 1798. and the diamond shaped pitch and the rule which says that a batter is out if he misses the ball three times are similar to those set out in a boy’s book which was published in England in 1829 and reprinted in the United States soon afterwards.
Modern basketball was invented in 1891 by a Canadian born teacher, Dr. James Naismith, at a school in the US state of Massachusetts. In four years it had swept across the USA and it is now played in 150 countries by 100 million people. Early players had to wait after a score while the ball was retrieved by ladder from the pitch baskets then used- until an unknown genius had the simple idea of cutting off the basket bottoms.
The most expensive and rule-ridden sporting event in the world must be the America’s Cup yacht race. The event was inspired by yacht America which won a British Trophy called the hundred Guinea Cup for a race round the Isle of Wight in 1851. Six years later the cup was given to the New York Yacht Club, whose members beat off 21 challenges- the first in 1870- by a succession of millionaire racers.
In 1983, however, Australia II won the trophy series off Rhode Island with a finned keel which the Americans tried for a time to ban as illegal. The challenge cost the boat’s Australian owner Alan Bond 3.5 million pounds, but at least he did not have to put up with one rule that had handicapped earlier challengers. Until 1958 competitors’ boats had to cross the ocean to the United States under their own sail.