Wednesday 23 January 2019

Weekend Takeaways: Cycling mourns star Goolaerts

Michael Goolaerts
Michael Goolaerts

Cliona Foley

Belgian cyclist Michael Goolaerts has died aged 23 after a crash in the Paris-Roubaix cycle race in northern France.

The Veranda's Willems-Crelan rider suffered a cardiac arrest after falling on the second set of cobbles with just over 150km of the 256km race remaining.

He was airlifted to hospital in Lille but died at 10.40 local time last night.

"It is with unimaginable sadness that we have to communicate the passing of our rider and friend Michael Goolaerts," read a team statement.

Goolaerts' crash completely overshadowed the win by Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan, who became the first rider since Bernard Hinault in 1981 to triumph in the Hell of the North while wearing the rainbow jersey of the reigning world road champion.

The Slovakian accelerated 55km from the finish line at the Roubaix Velodrome to catch the day's breakaway riders and get rid of the strongest of them, Swiss Silvan Dillier, in a sprint finish.

Rhys lightning wins true gold

Wendy swings, flairs, spindles and The 'Wu'.

You might never have heard of those before but get used to hearing them after Rhys McClenaghan's sensational gold medal in the pommel horse at the Commonwealth Games.

The Bangor 18-year-old's virtually flawless pommel routine earned him 15.1 points which was the exact same score as Britain's Max Whitlock but McClenaghan took gold because he got a higher 'execution' score (8.6) than Whitlock (8.3).

Commonwealth Games medals are deemed less prestigious than their Olympic or World Championship equivalent because the superstars of some sports are often not involved.

But McClenaghan's gold is 24-carat because Whitlock (25) is the reigning Olympic champion at both pommel and floor.

McClenaghan has long been regarded as the rising star of Irish gymnastics and this marks him down as a serious medal contender now for Tokyo 2020.

Getting hard to believe in UFC

It's got ever harder not to be cynical about 'Dollygate' or certainly some of the rhetoric spouted by some of UFC's protagonists after the weekend.

Khabib Nurmagomedov went on to win at UFC 223, effectively replacing Conor McGregor as its lightweight champion and, needless to say, he challenged McGregor afterwards.

UFC president Dana White, who just a few days ago called McGregor "disgusting", now says, "we talked yesterday, it's good. I think there's a mutual respect between us," indicating UFC will not take any legal action for last week's conduct.

White's post-fight comments noticeably included: "We're in way better shape, we broke records...the PPVs (pay-per-views) were great. We blew it (ticket sales records) out of the water by almost a $1million."

You can't argue the UFC has a huge market. Twitter trends at one point read: Khabib 73.3k, Manchester Derby 117k, The Masters 51.7k.

But that doesn't mean the rest of us should swallow half of its nonsense.

Soccer bust-up as bad as GAA

It's super to see the interest and competitiveness in the Airtricity League this season, including Waterford's unexpected rise to joint top of the Premier League table.

But the league doesn't need the scenes at the end of the Blues' 2-1 defeat of Cork City, which descended into a mass brawl.

It was largely dumb pushing and shoving but six red cards were shown, including one to each manager.

Will this incident attract the sort of public umbrage that the GAA usually attracts whenever there is a similar bust-up in its games?

These are now much fewer but usually attract a queue of naysayers happy to 'phone Joe' and vent.

Will the same people do the same now that it's happened in domestic soccer? And if not, why not?

Sport never really safe

There's been increased concern about head injuries in sport recently and it's good to see them being taken seriously to make things safer for athletes.

But the past weekend underlined that a lot of sports have inherent dangers from which no one is inured.

The death of Michael Goolaerts in the Paris-Roubaix race yesterday at the age of just 23 will cast a shadow across the entire cycling season and beyond.

And the second Formula One race of the season saw another man rushed to hospital who wasn't even driving.

Kimi Raikonnen was prematurely given the green light in his second pit-stop when the left rear wheel of his car was still being removed. It smashed into a mechanic, reportedly breaking his leg.

Tweaking sports' rules to make them safer is necessary sometimes but the bottom line is that anything can happen and everyone involved is usually happy to risk it.

Irish Independent

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