|Originally Aired: July 24, 2006
Americans Win Two European Championships
|The United States won two important European championships this weekend: the British Open and Tour de France. A sports writer and commentator for NPR discusses the two American wins.|
JEFFREY BROWN: Two Americans, two countries, two sports, and
two big victories. We begin in France.
After years of cycling domination by Lance Armstrong, there
was a new American in Paris,
when Floyd Landis crossed the finish line yesterday to win his first Tour de
FLOYD LANDIS, Tour de France Champion: Thank you, everybody
who kept believing. And most of all, my team, when things weren't going so
well, they kept fighting and never stopped believing.
JEFFREY BROWN: It was a victory that almost wasn't. After a
disastrous ride on Wednesday dropped Landis to 11th place, eight minutes behind
Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, he made most of the time back with a remarkable climb
through the Alps on Thursday.
ANNOUNCER: Floyd Landis will win the Tour de France.
JEFFREY BROWN: In the end, Landis won the grueling tour,
three weeks and 2,257 miles, by a mere 57 seconds and brought a more positive
kind of excitement to a race that began with a doping scandal that eliminated
several top contenders.
Adding to the feat, the 30-year-old Pennsylvania native had suffered a hip
injury from a crash several years ago and will undergo replacement surgery this
FLOYD LANDIS: I don't feel like my life was a failure if I
didn't win a race, but it was a dream. And I would be extremely disappointed if
that was taken away by an unfortunate accident.
JEFFREY BROWN: Landis became the third American to win the
The comeback kid
JEFFREY BROWN: And with us is Ron Rapoport, sportswriter and
regular commentator for National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition."
Ron, the tour's director called Landis' big comeback ride on
Thursday "the best performance in the modern history of the tour." That's
pretty high praise.
RON RAPOPORT, Sports Writer: Kind of gets your attention,
Jeffrey, doesn't it, I imagine, saying a thing like that?
You know what I think though, part of it has to do with the
fact that Landis had done so badly on one day and then he has one of this great,
great days that they're calling the greatest in the history of circling the
very next. Now, that's the kind of performance everybody can get behind, being
awful one day and great the next. It's sort of instant redemption.
And I've got to tell you that I think there's another reason
they're so excited, and that was, before the race began, there was this
incredible indictment of drug use in that sport. And here is a sport that
people really only pay attention to one week a year, and they're just getting
ready for their big moment, and all of a sudden all anybody wants to talk about
Along comes Landis. He has this wonderful victory, very
exciting, and all of a sudden everybody is feeling good about bicycle racing
again. So no wonder they're a little excited, I think.
JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us a little bit more about Floyd Landis
and his background?
RON RAPOPORT: Well, he comes from Farmersburg, Pennsylvania,
a Mennonite upbringing, no radio, no television, no alcohol, no caffeine. Jeffrey,
when he first started riding, his parents had him ride in sweat pants because
they thought shorts were unbecoming.
And to get into this kind of level, he literally had to run
away from home, go to California, and start riding seriously. Now, his parents
weren't very happy about it. They've gotten back together, and they're all one
big, happy family now.
But not everybody in the community where he grew up is
excited about it. They think that there's too much emphasis on the individual
nature of the victory. It's not the kind of thing that he's been taught, and so
there is a lot of getting used to what this all means in Farmersburg.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, doing all this with this hip injury that
I mentioned seems all the more remarkable. Do you know to what extent, if any,
it affects his riding? And what's the talk about whether he's going to be able
to come back after this and compete at this level?
RON RAPOPORT: Well, I think he put off the hip replacement
surgery that he needs so he could ride in this race, so obviously he made a
calculated decision. But you're right: He's had three four-inch screws inserted
into his hip after the crash.
And he told his mother that lately -- he told reporters --
that he told his mother lately the screws are pushing against bone and muscle. So
this is a young man in need of a serious operation. And it's a real testament
to his ability to ride this way with that kind of injury, you bet.
JEFFREY BROWN: And what about another American winning there
in Paris in France's great race? Is there any, oh, I don't know, resentment
RON RAPOPORT: I don't think so. You know, this is something
different. Lance Armstrong was such a machine when he won these races, it was
sort of a given, where as Norris (sic), you know, had this bad time and this
good time. And everybody kind of really is enjoying the way he won the race.
But, Jeffrey, I've got to tell you that this is the most
drug-addled sport there is, and it's not going to be long before somebody
accuses Floyd Norris (sic) of having taken drugs just the way they accuse Lance
Armstrong and everybody else who's ever won the Tour de France.
You wait and see. He's going to be facing some of the same
charges, too. It's just the nature of bicycle racing at this level, I'm afraid.
An emotional win on the greens
JEFFREY BROWN: All right. Well, let's now move to our other
big sports story. This one was just across the English
With this last short putt for par, Tiger Woods won his third
British Open Sunday.
ANNOUNCER: Tiger Woods is back in the winner's circle at the
JEFFREY BROWN: It was his 11th major golf championship, but
an especially emotional one for the 30-year-old, his first since the death of
his father, Earl Woods, to cancer nearly three months ago.
TIGER WOODS, Golfer: I guess it's a bunch of emotions that
came pouring out from what we've had to deal with as a family. And some of
those things, I just wish, you know, Dad could have been here.
JEFFREY BROWN: Just last month, Woods had suffered an
embarrassing elimination at the U.S. Open. But in Britain,
on a course just outside Liverpool, Woods led
most of the way, playing steadily with few mistakes and brilliant shots along
Woods became the first golfer in nearly a quarter-century to
win back-to-back British Opens.
Winning for his father and himself
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Ron, Tiger Woods is a famously cool
customer, so a little unusual to see him break down like that.
RON RAPOPORT: Well, Jeffrey, we saw something we've seen
many times before, Tiger Woods winning a major golf tournament in just a
ruthless, relentless fashion. And we've seen something we never saw before: breaking
down and crying.
Not shedding a tear, not at the emotion of it all, not just,
"You know, thank you, Dad, and so on," but wracking, relentless kinds
of sobs as he collapsed into the arms of, first, his caddy and then his wife. That's
something we've never seen before, because Tiger has always been in such
control of his game on the golf course and his emotions off it, and to see him
react this way was really quite a remarkable sight, I think.
JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us about this relentless nature of his
game. Because that is the one, that is the way he won this one, the way he's
won others, with that steady kind of wearing-everybody-down approach, right?
RON RAPOPORT: Well, it's more than that, really. I mean, on
the 13th hole, Chris DiMarco made a birdie to get within one hole of -- within
one shot of Tiger. And now we're on the back nine of a major golf tournament,
which is a time when champions famously come undone, when championships are
lost as often as they are won.
We only have to think back to what Phil Mickelson did at the
Masters, the way he simply just blew it on the last few holes. Tiger's response
to DiMarco's birdie coming within one stroke? He just birdied the 14th, birdied
the 15th, had a three-shot lead with three holes to go, and said, "See you
I mean, it was just vintage Tiger. Remarkable that he could
just turn it on at that moment and turn a close golf tournament into a victory
march for himself.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, in fact, it was, as we said in our
set-up, it was just a month ago that he failed to make the cut at the U.S.
Open, which was remarkable in itself. Every golfer I know talks as much about
the psychology as anything else of the game. How does he turn it around so
RON RAPOPORT: Well, Tiger's just a very, very focused
individual. I haven't seen anybody since Michael Jordan who could exert that
kind of force of will, determine what needed to be done, and then just go out
and do it.
And, yes, he didn't make the cut at the Open, and he didn't
win the Masters, but golf is a game of losing. Golf is a game that the greatest
champions, Tiger included, lose more often than they win. And yet here he is. He
just came back a month later after not making the cut at the Open, and he just
made this tournament his own.
It was just a remarkable expression of that force of will
that he exhibits like no other athlete on the stage today.
A good month for American athletes
JEFFREY BROWN: So two victories yesterday, put them
together. Do you see any common thread or is it just a nice July coincidence?
RON RAPOPORT: Well, it's a nice July coincidence, but
they're certainly very different, aren't they? Here you have Floyd Norris
(sic), who I would wager that very few people outside of the sport of cycling
knew his name a couple of weeks ago.
And he comes up with this very exciting, up and down,
thrilling coming back from the brink with this wonderful one-day performance victory.
And here you have Tiger doing what he's done so many times, in the same
relentless, ruthless fashion, and just taking another tournament and making it
his own. It was a remarkable thing to see.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right. Ron Rapoport, thanks for walking
us through it.
RON RAPOPORT: Thank you, Jeffrey. Good to be with you.