For a bit of scenery change, I’m going to look outside of these borders. Yes, my friends, let’s head over to Europe. Because apparently France is a global sports authority. (I must have missed the memo).
First, and closest to my heart, is the World Cup. Yes, it’s France vs. Italy in the Finals on Sunday in Berlin. Zinedine Zidane has lead his country through their 12th World Cup appearance (out of 18 possible since the tournament’s inception in 1930). And not only is France competing in its 2nd finals appearance (one of only 11 teams to make it to the final round in history), but it’s looking to become a 2-time champion (following the 1998 blow-out 3-0 over Brazil; holding down a championship position only among 6 other nations). In other ancient World Cup statistics, France’s Just Fontaine holds the tournament record for most goals scored by a single player throughout the tournament (13 goals, 1958).
Then Wimbledon kicked off. Nearing two weeks of the ultimate in grass court play, France has key people playing for major titles. The Women’s finals for this weekend will be a spotlight between: Amelie Mauresmo (Fra) vs. Justine Henin-Hardenne (Bel). The Men’s dubs semi’s play Friday featuring the Court 3 match between: Fabrice Santoro (Fra)/Nenad Zimonjic (Scg) vs. Martin Damm (Cze)/Leander Paes (Ind).
And what better showcase of the country than the Tour de France? (Or, as they prefer, le Tour). Granted, currently the best French cyclist in stage 5, Laurent Brochard, sits in 12th position, and overall Christophe Moreau is riding high in 13th. But not many other countries can boast such an internationally recognized cycling competition (sorry Switzerland, they don’t air yours on this side of the ocean).
I lied earlier when I said the World Cup was closest to my heart. It may actually be tied there with Formula 1. Next Sunday is the French Grand Prix, run at the historical Circuit de Nevers Magny Cours, redesigned in 1991 to officially host the French Grand Prix. And while France’s only current driver, Franck Montagny, is piloting a last-position Super Aguri, you can’t overlook the fact that Renault is on pace to take the 2nd consecutive coveted constructor’s championship in this 18-race series. And despite the fact that the one of the team’s bases is in England, Renault is a decidely French team, and has had a major impact on the sport with its 1977 introduction of the turbo engine debut at Silverstone (the British Grand Prix).
The only major things recently that France didn’t compete seriously in were the US Opens! In the Women’s Open, the highest finishing French player was Karine Icher, finishing 19 to hold down 55th position. No Frenchman played in the Men’s Open. And apparently there are no Frenchmen playing in this week’s Western Open [do any French men play golf?].
I never thought I’d be proclaiming these kudos, but félicitations to France for its sporting feats so far this year! It really is a shame that it lost the 2012 bid for the Olympics. …but it’s only the Olympics. No big deal, right?