David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes —Firsts, Food

Firsts

• Great Britain’s Madge Syers struck a blow for women’s liberation when she applied to skate in the world figure skating championship of 1902. Because the rules did not state that a woman couldn’t enter the competition, in which only men customarily competed, the judges allowed her to skate. She finished second to Sweden’s Ulrich Salchow, and defeated the male skaters from Germany and Great Britain. Because of Ms. Syers, the first women’s figure skating championship was held in 1906.

• In 1912, Fanny Sperry Steele entered the Calgary Stampede bucking horse contest. Competing against men, she won first place — and she was the first woman to become the event’s bucking horse champion. Wanting to show that her win wasn’t a fluke, she entered the bucking horse contest again in 1913 — and again she won first place.

Food

• While playing basketball at Auburn University, Charles Barkley weighed 300 pounds. Although he played basketball extremely well, Auburn fans and the fans of opposing teams thought that Mr. Barkley was fat, and they gave him such nicknames as the Round Mound of Rebound, Bread Truck, and Boy Gorge. Once, someone even sent a meal for Mr. Barkley to the Auburn bench during a game. His coach attempted to get Mr. Barkley to lose weight by having him run a mile with a pail of water in each hand and by having him run with heavy cinder blocks tied to his back, but he kept gaining weight. Eventually, after becoming a professional basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers, Mr. Barkley decided to lose weight. He lost 10 pounds of fat through such dieting techniques as eating one pizza for supper instead of three.

• The best gymnasts in the world are supposed to stay on healthy diets. At the ranch of world-class women’s gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, elite gymnasts eat chicken, rice, salad, and fruit, with no-fat salad dressing and no-fat milk. Once, Kerri Strug and Kim Zmeskal had to leave the ranch to get medical care, and instead of eating something like low-fat yoghurt for lunch, they ordered a deep-dish pizza and pigged out. As they were stuffing their faces, a local sportswriter they knew told them hello. They figured that the sportswriter would tell Mr. Karolyi that they were breaking training by eating pizza, but they found out later that the sportswriter had not. When Ms. Strug thanked the sportswriter for not telling on them, he replied, “Don’t worry about it. Sportswriters train on pizza, too.”

• Dominique Moceanu was trained almost from infancy to be a world-class gymnast. The first time that she attended an out-of-state meet, the other gymnasts she trained with were surprised that she didn’t know what salad dressing, bacon bits, and other high-fat food items were. Don’t feel sorry for Dominique — her mother fed her such foods as homemade bread. Still, young Dominique sometimes went to other kids’ houses to eat things that were not available in her own house. Once, she went to Becky Wildgen’s house, whose mother had just made cupcakes. Becky says that Dominique “had like twelve of them.”

• Ice skating coach Frank Carroll once explained to a mischievous young skater named Christopher Bowman — at the request of the young boy’s mother, who felt that Christopher was growing pudgy — the importance of a good, healthy diet. The very next day, Christopher’s mother came to Mr. Carroll, bringing young Christopher with her — and the four boxes of doughnuts he had been eating. Mr. Carroll decided to teach the boy a lesson. He said, “Christopher, you sit down here. You are going to eat every one of those doughnuts before you get on the ice. And you’re not moving from here until every one is gone.” After the boy had eaten the doughnuts, Mr. Carroll made him practice spins until finally young Christopher exited the ice and vomited.

• In 1977, when she was 14 years old, tennis star Tracy Austin played Holland’s Betty Stove in the quarterfinals of the United States Open. The older, bigger, heavier, and stronger Ms. Stove defeated her, then joked that young Tracy needed to drink more milk. Apparently, Tracy followed her advice. The following year, in the final match of a Stuttgart, West Germany, tournament, Tracy defeated Ms. Stove to win her first tournament as a professional tennis player.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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