Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In 2013, Expect Familiar Faces to Return as Champs

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In 2013, Expect Familiar Faces to Return as Champs

Article excerpt

Some familiar teams -- Manchester United in the Premier League, and the Miami Heat in the N.B.A. -- will win titles, but expect a newcomer to triumph at the Tour de France.

Luckily for all of us, 2012 was a bad year for big predictions.

The world, despite Mayan soothsaying to the contrary, did not come screeching to a halt. That included the sports world, which gives eternal optimists like me another chance to improve their own soothsaying in 2013.

Mine was up and down last time around.

The downs for 2012: picking the Texas Rangers to win the World Series, the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup, Germany to win the Euro, the defensively challenged Packers to win the Super Bowl and Andy Schleck to win a Tour de France in which he ultimately did not take part at all because of a cracked pelvis.

The ups? Predicting correctly that Dwight Howard would become a Los Angeles Laker, that LeBron James and Miami would win the National Basketball Association championship in style; that Manchester City would win its first Premiership since 1968; and that London would stage a smash-hit Olympics in which the United States would finish ahead of China in the medal counts.

Onward to 2013, with no Olympics or Mayan doomsdays on the calendar:

January After vowing to restrict all further fighting to the ice, the National Hockey League begins a reduced 48-game regular season, which, come to think of it, is just about right considering that more than half the league makes the playoffs anyway. Down Under in Melbourne, the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year begins without Kim Clijsters, who is retired, and without Rafael Nadal, who only appears to be retired. Serena Williams wins the title and becomes, at age 31, the oldest No. 1 player in women's history. Novak Djokovic, still the best hard-court player in the world, defends his title despite a time violation or two and remains standing for the victory ceremony. In Europe, France's 29-year-old Francois Gabart wins one of the toughest events in sports -- the nonstop, single-handed round-the-world Vendee Globe sailing race -- in a record time. No sooner is Gabart back on dry land than Vladimir Putin offers him Russian citizenship in case the price of celebrity is too high at home.

February South Africa's World Cup stadiums get a respite from white-elephant duty for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is won by Ghana and not by talent-rich Ivory Coast or the reigning champion, Zambia. The final is decided without penalty kicks, which is great news for Ghana's star striker Asamoah Gyan, who has already missed two too many penalties in major tournaments. Far away in New Orleans, quarterback Peyton Manning caps his comeback from a career- threatening neck injury by leading his new team, the Denver Broncos, to a Super Bowl victory. That gives Manning as many Super Bowl rings (two) as his younger brother Eli, who didn't make the playoffs this year with the New York Giants. In the Alps, Austria's Marcel Hirscher wins two gold medals and Lindsey Vonn just one, but the best winter's tale at the world alpine skiing championships in Schladming is Mikaela Shiffrin, the precocious American who wins the women's slalom at age 17.

March FIFA makes a formal apology to Frank Lampard for dragging its feet for years and finally announces that Hawk-Eye -- the camera- based system already being used in cricket and tennis -- will be its goal-line technology for the 2014 World Cup. FINA simultaneously announces that it will introduce underwater cameras to crack down on illegal kicks and other forms of cheating at major swimming events. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, announces that it will be testing hidden cameras in pharmacies, biotechnology laboratories, every square inch of Austin, Texas, and any other locations frequented by professional cyclists.

April After searching repeatedly on Google for "Current time in Georgia," Rory McIlroy ends up waking up nine hours early for his first-round tee time at the Masters after setting his alarm clock to the current time in the nation of Georgia. …

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