FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: GOATS Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers live up to the hype and Saints shine

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Two quarterbacks who have a very good idea about what they are doing — Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. (AFP)
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Updated 06 November 2018
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FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: GOATS Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers live up to the hype and Saints shine

  • Classy quarterbacks do not let their fans down.
  • Saints show why they are genuine Super Bowl contenders.

LONDON: With only half the regular season left the countdown to the playoffs is underway. The time to shine is now — here is what we learned from the latest clashes in Gridiron.

GOAT MATCH-UP LIVED UP TO THE HYPE

The way the NFL season works means a team does not play every other team each season, which also means mouthwatering match-ups such as Sunday’s Patriots led by Tom Brady against Aaron Rodgers’ Packers are a rare treat for the fans. And the two future Hall-of- Famers gave us exactly what we wanted to see — both putting on differing, but dazzling, displays of quarterback virtuosity. It was a shame that the “Battle of the 12s” was decided not by a piece of their brilliance, but rather by a game-losing fumble by Aaron Jones with Rodgers driving the Packers for the lead. The Patriots did not fumble on their game-winning drive and it was game over. If both “GOATs” are still playing, we will have to wait until 2022 to see them face off again. More’s the pity.



GAME OF THE SEASON (SO FAR)...

Given their positions at the top of the NFC, the New Orleans Saints against the unbeaten LA Rams had huge potential, and both teams did not disappoint. Points flowed as the Saints raced into a 35-14 lead, before being pegged back by the Rams, who responded with 21 straight points to level the game in the fourth quarter. It needed Saints kicker Wil Lutz, and Drew Brees to connect with Michael Thomas on a 72-yard touchdown pass to finally seal the win for New Orleans. These two are likely to face each other in a post-season game — if that one is anywhere near as good as this, we are in for a playoff classic.



PHILIP RIVERS IS HIGLY UNDERRATED

All the talk in Los Angeles this season has been about the all-conquering Rams, but after their defeat in The Big Easy, it is time to give the Chargers some love. Getting a win at Seattle with their raucous fans and challenging conditions is never easy, but in Philip Rivers the Chargers have an extremely talented and seemingly underrated quarterback — his 228 yards and two touchdowns sealed the deal and sent LA’s “other team” to 6-2 for the season. He also became the fourth QB in history to make 200 consecutive starts. It all bodes well for a second-half of the season run at the playoffs for the Chargers, and with Rivers at the helm, who knows?



STEELERS STAYING UNDER THE RADER

After a very shaky start, Pittsburgh have been creeping into playoff contention week by week very much under the radar. Now after a fourth win in a row, this weekend over the sinking-fast Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are hot on the heels of the Chiefs, Patriots and Chargers in the AFC. James Conner has been their break-out star this season, and we would love to see him tearing it up come the post-season. The good times are back at Heinz Field. 

 


Refugee swimmer Mardini rising fast after fleeing war

Updated 21 July 2019
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Refugee swimmer Mardini rising fast after fleeing war

  • Mardini’s time was more than 12 seconds slower than that of reigning champion Sarah Sjostrom and 47th overall
  • Mardini famously competed at the Rio Olympics under the refugee flag

GWANGJU, South Korea: Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who almost drowned at sea fleeing her war-torn country four years ago, heaved a deep sigh after failing to set a personal best at the world swimming championships on Sunday.
Representing FINA’s independent athletes team, the 21-year-old looked up at the giant scoreboard and winced at her time of 1min 8.79sec in the 100 meters butterfly heats in South Korea.
“I’m not very happy actually,” Mardini told AFP.
“I had some problems with my shoulder but I’m back in training. I still have the 100m freestyle and I’m looking forward to that.”
Mardini’s time was more than 12 seconds slower than that of reigning champion Sarah Sjostrom and 47th overall, but she has come a long way since risking her life crossing from Izmir in Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos in the summer of 2015.
Thirty minutes into that treacherous journey, the motor on their dinghy cut out and the tiny vessel, carrying 20 people rather than the six or seven it was designed for, threatened to capsize.
As the only people who could swim, Mardini and her sister Sarah jumped into the water to push and pull the stricken dinghy for over three hours until they finally reached the shore.
“I arrived in Greece in only jeans and a T-shirt,” said Mardini, who also swims in the 100m freestyle later this week. “Even my shoes were gone.”
Mardini famously competed at the Rio Olympics a year later under the refugee flag.
“In the beginning I refused to be in a refugee team because I was afraid people would think I got the chance because of my story,” said Mardini, who now lives with her family in Berlin.
“I wanted to earn it. But then I realized I had a big opportunity to represent those people — so I took the chance and I never regretted it,” she added.
“Rio was amazing. It was really exciting to see the reaction of people to the team. Now I’m representing millions of displaced people around the world and it really makes me proud.”
It is a far cry from life back in Syria, where rocket strikes would often shake the pool she trained at in Damascus.
“There were bomb attacks sometimes that would crack the windows around the pool,” said Mardini, who has addressed the United Nations general assembly and whose story is set to be told in a Hollywood movie.
“We were scared the whole time.”
Fellow Syrian Ayman Kelzieh was also forced to flee the country before competing at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
Returning to Korea five years later, the 26-year-old now owns a fistful of national swim records, including the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly.
“When the war started I had just moved to Damascus and I couldn’t get back home to Aleppo,” said Kelzieh, who now lives on the Thai island of Phuket.
“But even in Damascus bombs sometimes even went off at the swimming pool we trained at,” he added after taking a poolside selfie with his idol, South African star Chad le Clos.
“There were even attacks at the hotel I stayed in — I was lucky.”