Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s impact on sports

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Nelson Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after spending 27 years in prison during an era of racial oppression, died at age 95 on Thursday.

Mandela’s reach was global, in many aspects. Some of his most enduring images came with a backdrop of sports.

He grew up an amateur boxer who admired the U.S. heavyweight champion Joe Louis.

“Mandela was a heavyweight boxer himself,” said artist Harold Riley, for whom Mandela sat for a portrait, to the Manchester Evening News in Great Britain in 2008. “He boxed while on Robben Island. It helped him to keep sane and fit.”

Mandela was also a reported cricket fan. He also famously encouraged a South African nation long divided by race to back a national rugby team. The Springboks, as they were known, had one black player on the roster at the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa.

The team made a surprising run to the title, beating New Zealand in the final, as portrayed in the 2009 film “Invictus.”

In a famous image, Mandela presented the trophy (William Webb Ellis Cup) to Sprinboks captain Francois Pienaar. He did it in a Springboks shirt and ballcap as a crowd of some 65,000 chanted his name.

“Sport has the power to change the world,” Mandela said. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else can.”

source: AP
AP

Mandela impacted the Olympic movement, too. He pushed Cape Town’s bid for the 2004 Games, eventually given to Athens.

“The Games have been staged in the four other continents,” Mandela said in a 1996 speech as Cape Town’s bid was in motion. “Now is the time for Africa to complete the five Olympic rings.”

Though Cape Town lost to Athens in bid city voting, Mandela still participated as a torchbearer during the 2004 Olympic torch relay, which visited Robben Island, where he had been imprisoned for opposing apartheid.

“I have been here for a very long time and to a very large extent Robben Island is a place with which I identify,” Mandela said in 2004. “I am very happy and honored that this honor has been given to Robben Island.”

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

An African nation has yet to host an Olympics, but they are expanding with Rio de Janeiro set to be the first South American host city in 2016.

South Africa did become the first African nation to host the World Cup in 2010.

His 13-year-old granddaughter, Zenani, was killed in a car accident while returning from an opening-day concert, and Mandela canceled his plans to attending opening-day festivities.

His appearance at the 2010 World Cup final, one of his last in public, was celebrated. Beaming, he smiled and waved while wrapped up during cold winter conditions.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Mandela was beloved by South Africa’s star Olympians, including swimmers from the 2004 Olympic 4x100m freestyle relay gold medal-winning team, like Roland Schoeman.

Lindsey Vonn shows how to win bronze

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JEONGSEON, South Korea — The United States has a fixation at the Olympics on winning gold. Lindsey Vonn showed Wednesday how to win bronze.

“I skied a great race today,” Vonn also said. “Sofia [Goggia] just skied better than I did.”

NBCOlympics.com: Lindsey Vonn oldest woman to win Olympic Alpine medal

She also said she hoped she had made her grandfather proud. Dabbing away tears, she said: “It’s sad. This is my last [Olympic] downhill. I wish I could keep going, you know? I had so much fun. I love what I do. My body just can’t — probably can’t — take another four years. But — I don’t know, I’m proud. I’m proud to have competed for my country. Proud to have given it my all. I’m proud to have … come away with a medal.”

Meyers-Taylor and Gibbs claim silver in women’s bobsled

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Pilot Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz won Germany’s latest gold in a sliding sport in PyeongChang, defeating Team USA’s Elana Meyers Taylor sled by 0.07 seconds. Meyers Taylor, along with brakeman Lauren Gibbs, matched the silver she won in Sochi.

NBCOlympics.com: Nigerian bobsled team makes first Olympic appearance

Jamanka led after two runs, and delivered in Run 3, setting a track record with a phenomenal run down the course. She hit the lines perfectly to put the pressure on Meyers Taylor — and Meyers Taylor, who has dealt with an achilles injury in PyeongChang, delivered with a course record of her own. She was 0.07 seconds back after two runs, but closed the gap to 0.04 heading into the final run.

The stage was set for a thrilling final leg. It, too, did not disappoint. Elana Meyers had her best run of the Games, but Jamanka matched it, to give Germany yet another win on the PyeongChang sliding course.

To read the full recap, click here 

Final Standings: 

Gold: Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz (GER) – 3:22.45

Silver: Elana Meyers-Taylor and Lauren Gibbs (USA) – 3:22.52

Bronze: Kaillee Humphries and Phylicia George (CAN) – 3:22.89

4. Annika Drazek and Stephanie Schneider (GER) – 3:22.97

5. Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans (USA) – 3:23.02