A.M. Costa Rica
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Fishing Costa Rica

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 22, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 144
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Twitter wins auction for rights to air Thursday night NFL games
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday morning on Twitter that the social media platform outbid several other companies for the rights to stream Thursday Night NFL games.

"This fall Thursday Night Football will be streamed live . . . so fans will see more of this," Goodell said in a Tweet.

Twitter was in a hotly contested bidding war with other media giants like Facebook, Amazon and Verizon, which is in the final year of a sponsorship deal with the NFL that pays the league about $250 million per year. But Twitter proved the victor in the battle for NFL streaming rights, the terms of which were not disclosed.

"Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world live NFL football," Goodell said in a statement. "There is a massive amount of NFL-related conversation happening on Twitter during our games and tapping into that audience, in addition to our viewers on broadcast and cable, will ensure Thursday Night Football is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season.”

The deal comes at a pivotal moment for Twitter, which has seen its user base plateau at around 320 million users and advertising revenue that falls well short of competitors like Facebook and Instagram.

Investors have been putting pressure on Twitter to raise revenue after the company’s stock dropped in value by more than 66 percent over the past year. After news of the deal broke early Tuesday morning, Twitter shares rose by more than 3.5 percent.

With the move, the NFL joins a growing trend in entertainment of moving away from traditional cable and broadcast television in favor of Internet platforms.

With more people turning to Internet and mobile-based media for their video content, the NFL is hoping to capitalize on the potential to reach new advertisers and viewers.

"This is about transforming the fan experience with football. People watch NFL games with Twitter today," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement. "Now they'll be able to watch right on Twitter Thursday nights."
— April 6, 2016

Spanish skills help Utah man manage top soccer team
By Rommel Téllez
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nearly every Tico  who follows soccer loves David J. Patey.

Patey happens to be the president of Club Sport Herediano, one of the oldest and most cherished soccer teams of the country.

However, it's not just because of his position that he's even been called a savior by the local media. His success recipe also includes an impressive command of  the Spanish language and a chunk of good luck.

Born in Jerusalem and raised in Utah by Canadian parents, the loan broker is a devout Mormon and father of five.  In 2003, he and his wife decided to move to Costa Rica to master the language of Cervantes, with which he got in touch for the first time when he was 13.

“Back then, I could count from 1 to 17 and say ‘Hola, como estas.’” he remembered.

For two years the couple lived in Escazú and then returned to the U.S. After a few months they noticed their children were losing the language they had learned.

“At that point we decided to return to Costa Rica and stay permanently. We were lucky enough to sell our property in the U.S. just a little before the housing crisis started. That was a blessing.” said Patey.

Once settled, Patey continued his business of “marrying lenders and borrowers,” as he put it. He cared little about soccer, a sport that would change his life.

Oct. 27, 2012, a rumor spread in media outlets. A Gringo investor would come to the rescue of the Club Sport Herediano, a 92-year-old team struggling to survive under a pile of debt and legal battles.

“Two friends and business partners had asked me to be the administrative manager of the team,” recalled Patey. “I said yes as long as it would not hurt my privacy. That shows how naive I was at the time. I expected privacy in a country where soccer is a religion.”

Less than 24 hours later he held his first press conference and found himself overwhelmed by dozens of reporters, photographers and sports personalities. His Spanish and people skills impressed some reporters who believed that someone had trained him before the event.

“A few days later, those reporter put me to the test. They gave me a paper with several Costa Rica slang sentences. Not only did I answer them all right, but gave them examples of
synonyms for those same sentences” Patey said with a big 
David Patey
A.M. Costa Rica/Rommel Téllez                         
David J. Patey in the Heredia stadium.

smile. Sopa de muneca (Knuckle sandwich), sopapo en la jupa (a strike on the head) and no me chingue mae (don't bother me) are some examples of the pachuco, slang Spanish, they asked him, he recalled.

After that, his stardom broke loose. Everybody liked him and, as Patey himself confirms, the appropriation of the Costa Rican culture smoothed things out.

Under his administration the team attained financial stability and was able to pay its players decent wages. He also decided that, whenever possible, weekly games would be played on Saturday nights, so he and the team could have Sundays off.

“A priest came to me and said that because of the move, the Mass attendance had considerably increased,” Patey adds.

Nowadays, Patey still isn't a soccer super fan,  but at least understands how it works and actually enjoys watching the games. He encourages other foreigners to pick a team, buy the correct T-shirt and go to the stadium. “That's all it takes for you to start liking it,”

Patey is also in the car dealership business. He works with the french company Peugeot and likes to mediate among conflicts. That's in part because he does not consider soccer a profitable activity. Rather he said he is in this industry inspired by the passion of players and fans.

“I am very happy. I am the popular Gringo and I live in the best country in the world. I am not planning to change this” he said.

— April 4, 2016

World cricket stars will promote sport by bringing teams to United States
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two teams of cricket players will compete in three U.S. cities in November. Organizers hope Americans will learn more about the sport and begin watching it and even playing it.

The first match will be played Nov. 7 in New York at Citi Field, followed by matches Nov. 11 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, and Nov. 14 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angles.

Two famous cricket stars, Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne, will captain the teams, which will include some of the best international players from the past 25 years.

Tendulkar and Warne are known by millions throughout the world, but almost no one in the United States has heard of them.

In 2012 Tendulkar was on the cover of Time magazine, which called him The God of Cricket and said he was “the world’s most famous sportsman” and “the world’s best athlete.”

Both Tendulkar and Warne retired from professional cricket in 2013.

Tendulkar recently told the magazine he believes Americans will become fans once they see cricket played.

“You’ll only learn things if you give them a try,” he said. “Americans are used to watching baseball, and it’s very similar to that. If Americans can start coming to the stadium, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them” begin to watch cricket.

Warne said he hopes the exhibitions will answer such questions as: “What’s all the fuss about? Why is it the second-most-popular game in the world? What’s so special about this game?”

At the games, players will teach Americans how to play, and spectators will receive small books telling them about the sport.

Football, what Americans call soccer,  has for many years been the most popular sport in the world. Cricket is the second-most
 popular sport. From Harare to London to Islamabad, many people follow cricket like a religion. Players gain fame and launch political careers in Pakistan and India.

The International Cricket Council, the sport’s ruling organization, said its Web site had more than 26 million visitors, the highest ever, during the World Cup world tournament earlier this year. The council says more than 1.5 billion people watched the World Cup on television.

Cricket officials believe the sport could become more popular in the United States. With an increasing number of immigrants to the country from South Asia, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, cricket is becoming better known. But it still competes with basketball, American football, ice hockey and baseball.

(Costa Rica has it  own cricket league, thansk in part ot immigrants to the Caribbean from Jamaica.)

It is believed cricket began in England. The sport is similar to baseball: Both are played with a bat and a ball, for example, and there are batters, outs and pitches. A pitcher in baseball is called a bowler in cricket.

But baseball and cricket are also very different from one another. In baseball, when the batter hits a home run, they touch all of the bases and return to the team’s bench. In cricket, when a batsman hits a home run they continue to bat until they are out or until a set number of pitches are completed.

Like baseball, the team that scores the most runs wins the game.

For many years, cricket matches lasted for days. But now, most games are played in one day. In India, the game is sometimes played in just three to four hours. This popular version of the game is known as Twenty20.

That is the version of the game that the two teams will be playing in cities throughout the United States.
— Oct. 26, 2015

Tennis world mourns Mike Davies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The tennis world is mourning the loss of Mike Davies, a former British Davis Cup player-turned-administrator who died Tuesday at 79. The International Tennis Federation said Davies died after a battle with illness.

Davies was the top-ranked British player in the 1950s and had a career record in Davis Cup play of 24-13 from 1955 to 1960. He also was a significant figure in ushering the sport into the professional era in the 1960s and 70s.

Born in Wales in the mid-1930s, Davies reached the fourth round at Wimbledon as an 18-year-old and was men's doubles runner-up in 1960. But then he turned professional, which at the time meant he couldn't play at any of tennis' traditional tournaments.

As tennis commercialized in the late 1960s, Davies played a major role in running the rebel World Championship Tennis circuit, funded by the oil magnate Lamar Hunt, which challenged the traditional tour. He became one of those dynamic characters the tennis establishment hated.

In his time, he headed both the Association of Tennis Professionals and the International Tennis Federation. But perhaps his greatest claim to fame is as the man who cemented the 90-second time limit for players to change ends after every two games, and the replacement of the white tennis ball by the more TV-friendly yellow ball. He also introduced the 30-second time limit between points.
— Nov. 4, 2015
U.S. baseball highlights

Bike race start
ties up traffic

The Vuelta a Costa Rica came to the downtown Tuesday, Dec. 23, and the traffic tieup was spectacular.  This is the bike race in nine stages.

Tuesday was number eight, and the athletes had to travel from San José to  San Isidro del General, some 126.8 kilometers. As the racers started, Avenidas 7 and 8 as well as adjacent calles were closed to traffic for two hours. Motorists were directed to Calle Blancos.

The first stage was Dec. 14. There are eight national teams and six international ones. The final race is Christmas Day.
A.M. Costa Rica/Gabriela Vega Barrantes

Italian cyclist Nibali, as expected, is the winner of the Tour de France
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Italian cyclist Vincenzo Nibali is the winner of this year's Tour de France.

The 29-year-old Sicilian held on to the yellow jersey as the overall leader for 19 of the 21 stages, winning four of them, and finished in the main pack of racers Sunday down the Champs Elysées in Paris.

His margin of victory over runner-up Jean-Christophe Peraud of France was 7:37.  Frenchman Thibaut Pinot was third, 8:15 behind the winner, meaning two French riders made the podium for the first time since 1984.
This year's three-week race began with three stages in Britain and covered more than 3,600 kilometers.

Nibali is the first Italian to win the Tour de France in 16 years, and only the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours, in France, Italy and Spain. After widespread scandals in the sport involving illegal drug doping, Nibali called himself a flag-bearer of anti-doping.

Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos won a separate, one-day women's Tour de France on an 89-kilometer course on the Champs Elysées.

The top finishing American in the men's race was Tejay Van Garderen in fifth place, 11:44 behind Nibali.

Little paca gets a great role in the national sports games
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's favorite rodent has been selected to be the official mascot of the  Juegos Deportivos Nacionales this year.  The sports events are being held in the southern zone, which is a break with tradition.

The mascot is the paca (Cuniculus paca) or, as they are called in Spanish, tepezcuintles, They are a gentle, fruit and nut munching forest animal, But the mascot looks a bit more active. He is called Terpez. The games will be in San Vito, Ciudad Neily and Golfito this year.

The mascot was unveiled Monday at the legislature by  Jorge Angulo Mora, who represents that area. The designer was identified as  Pablo Castillo.

Next year the games, which involve many high schoolers, will be in San Carlos,  Los Chiles, Upala, Guatuso and Zarcero.

— July 23, 2013
Mascot will be presented officially in August

Hockey is alive and well in Parque la Sabana despite lack of ice
By Cody Gear
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

On any Saturday or Sunday passersby can’t help but to notice the abundance of activities taking place in La Sabana Park. Soccer takes a front row seat, but a closer look reveals sporting activities that are novel for Costa Rica. 

None is more novel than the group that plays hockey every Sunday morning. Who would think hockey in Costa Rica?

Although there has been a league that has played the sport on ice, this league is for roller hockey. Don Mora, the president of the Asociación de Deportivo Hockey Costa Rica, said that the sport took roots in 1993 and teams played in the Parque de Paz. After losing that venue to a bicycle club, the association obtained another site in Parque de Paz only to lose that to a tennis club.

Finally, in 2010 players were able to acquire a new site in La Sabana when a new skating facility was constructed. They have been there ever since. Mora said that it has taken time to rebuild interest in hockey and now have as many as 30 to 40 show up each Sunday to play.

Mora also said that on Saturdays at the same location they have a hockey clinic to teach children and other newcomers the game.  The clinic begins at 9:30 a.m. and is free of charge. Mora said that participants need to have only a pair of skates and a helmet to participate in the clinic.

The league officials are planning the upcoming season which is scheduled to start in late July or early August. They plan to have a rainy season and a dry season, which will begin in January. Mora said the league plan to have five or six teams by January. The upcoming season will be comprised of three teams. Anyone interested in playing or learning hockey should contact Don Mora at info@morabriceno.com. 

La Sabana Hocky
A.M. Costa Rica/Cody Gear
New rink is perfect for the game

Flag football continues to grow as a youth sport with limited contact
By Cody Gear
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A big week in youth flag football concluded Sunday as the Spartans won a round robin tournament held in La Sabana Park. The tournament, which was hosted and sponsored by the Federation of American Football in Costa Rica, held the tournament to honor the National Sports Day in Costa Rica.

Preparation for the tournament began last week and was held adjacent to the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana. 

Paolo Vincenzi, who is a federation commissioner and the coach of the Spartans said it was a great opportunity for the curious to see what this sport looks like. Vincenzi said many are familiar with traditional tackle football but that flag football is a relatively non-contact sport.

The game is played using rules similar to tackle football with some minor exceptions. Instead of tackling the opponent, the removal of a “flag” from his flag belt signals the end of the play. Instead of the traditional 10 yards to gain a first down with four attempts, flag football only allows three attempts to make a first down with a longer yard to gain standard.

Expats living here know that children are playing tackle football at a very early age. Vincenzi said in the United States children are exposed to American football at a very young age. Through organizations such as Pop Warner as well as local community-based programs such as Grey Y (sponsored by the YMCA) and local governments via city or county recreation departments, kids in the States have opportunities that Costa Rican youngsters do not.

By the time youngsters in the States reach Junior high school they have received an excellent foundation in position techniques and a good understanding of the game, the coach said.
Photo by Cody Gear
Tournament was held in the shadow of the Estadio Nacional

Many go on to play high school and college football. For those who excel, universities in the United States offer scholarships which pay for a complete college education. Vincenzi said that with the sport spreading to other countries, the universities are now looking at talent in other places beside the United States.

Several major universities have given scholarships to players from Mexico, Germany, Haiti, and Great Britain. When asked if this could be a glimpse into the future where flag football could lead to a college scholarship, he said he didn’t know but his hope is that some deserving young man would be one day.

Vincenzi said there are currently seven flag football teams within the league. Flag football began here in 2009 with just four teams, he noted, adding that he hoped, the sport will continue to grow and that he encourages anyone who wants to participate with a current team or by forming a team is welcomed. Vincenzi can be reached through the federation Web site:  www.fefacr.org.
—April 9, 2013

El Salvador prevails in three-way U.S.-style football tourney
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three teams from Costa Rica and El Salvador challenged each other in a football tournament in Cartago Saturday.

Yes, that’s American football, a sport that has been gradually gaining traction in Costa Rica and Central America for the past decade.

Although the El Salvador Caimenes triumphed over the two Costa Rican teams, the Costa Rican league looks forward to sending the best of its five teams to Nicaragua, next month for another international tournament.

Paolo Vincenzi, president of the American football federation of Costa Rica, said that many Costa Ricans enjoy watching and playing football.

However, unlike soccer where a ball is the only item necessary to play, football requires extra gear that is both expensive and hard to come by in Costa Rica. Vincenzi attributes these expenses as to what football has been slow to become popular.

“Everybody watches, but it’s complicated to get equipment, so not that many people play,” he said.

Football leagues began appearing in Central America about 10 years ago, but Costa Rica only began its league four years ago. Now, there are five major league teams, 10 minor league teams and the federation is now trying to get football in schools by training physical education teachers in the rules of the sport.

 Also to bring attention to the sport, the federation’s leagues play their seasons throughout the year and hold international tournaments, like the one in Cartago over the weekend. The major league season runs from February until May, and the minor league has two seasons in summer and winter.

This tournament was supposed to include other teams, including one from Nicaragua, but only El Salvador’s Caimenes, the Santo Domingo Saints and the hosts, the Cartago Dragons.

Jason Honey coaches the Dragons and has been a part of the team as a player and a coach for four years, ever since he heard an advertisement to play football on the radio one day while he was driving.

“I pulled the car over, I made the call, and I’ve been involved with federation ever since,” he said.

Although the Dragons are not the best team in the league, finishing in last place this season, Honey is confident that more experience will make his young, fast team a force to be reckoned with in the coming seasons. In addition he is building the program by getting younger people involved in the sport earlier.

“We have a lot of young players, very fast and very skilled,” he said. “We’re really working on the program for the youth.”

Costa Rica and El Salvador will meet each other again the last weekend of September in Managua, Nicaragua.

— Aug.27, 2012

 Seven surfers are candidates to win the nation's 2012 title
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's best surfers and most avid surfing enthusiasts will descend on Playa Hermosa, Aug. 24 to 26, for the Federación de Surf de Costa Rica's 12th annual championships, which will decide who wins the national title for the year.

The main event of the Gran Reef Final is the open division championship, which pits 48 male surfers against each other. Some will be regulars looking for the title. They have been competing in the past six federation events this year, but the majority will be lesser-known surfers that come out  for $2,000 prize only awarded for winning the championship.

The federation expects the competition for the title at this final to be unprecedented, because unlike in previous years, seven competitors in the open division can potentially win the title if they win the championship.

“For the first time in history, if you want to win the national title you have to win the final,” said Carlos Enrique Brenes, federation spokesman.

Brenes explained that the federation awards points at each competition throughout the year, and which ever surfer has the most points at the end of the final wins the national title, as long as they have surfed in four federation events. Winning one of the six regular competitions in the national circuit earns a surfer 1,500 points and winning the championship earns 2,000.

One result of using this system is that a surfer can win several regular competitions and accumulate a lead in points that is too high for anyone to beat, ensuring that surfer will win the title regardless of their performance in the final.

This has been the case for every previous final, and would have been the case this year if the leader in points had not dropped out to participate in another competition in the United States.

This leaves seven surfers eligible to win the title, all of whom are less than 500 points apart, according to a press release for the event.

“This is the first time that seven people have the same chances of winning the title,” said Brenes.

These seven surfers are: Anthony Fillingim, Noe Mar McGonagle, Gilbert Brown, Ramón Taliani, Jefferson Tascón, Diego Naranjo and Maykol Torres.

In all there will be seven divisions all with heats and championships over the course of the weekend from the 24th until the 26th. These include the five competitions for men including the open (with 48 competitors at least 18 years old), the longboard (eight competitors), the junior (32 men ages 15 to 17), the boys (24 boys ages 12 to 15) and the groms, which is slang for young surfer (12 boys younger than 12 years old). There will also be two competitions for women, which include the women's open division (12 women over 18) and the women's junior (12 women ages 15 to 17).

All competitions will take place at Playa Hermosa, near Jacó, and anyone can watch from the beach free of charge.

Although the final matches will be Sunday, the federation will hold an end of the season party  Saturday night at the Hotel Morgan's Cove in Jacó, starting at 8 p.m. This party will feature live music by Sonámbulo Psicotropical and Pierre Monney, and costs 5,000 colons to attend, about $10

In other surfing news, the International Surfing Association has selected Venezuela to host this year's World Bodyboarding Championships Nov. 24 to Dec. 2, the first international surfing competition held there since 2002. The event will be on Margarita Island at Playa Parguito. The last association event in Costa Rica was in 2009, when it held the World Surfing Games also at Playa Hermosa.

— Aug. 10, 2012

 Costa Rica's runners fail to make the cut at Olympics
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s hopes for medals in track and field competitions were dashed this weekend as the country’s three competitors failed to place well.

Nery Brenes, the Tico with the perceived best chance of bringing home Costa Rica’s first medal since 2000, was eliminated in the first round of the 400-meter sprint competition.

Additionally, Sharolyn Scott was eliminated in the first round of the 400-meter sprint with hurdles, and Gabriela Traña took 91st place in the women’s marathon on Sunday.

“I am a man of challenges, that when I fall I get up with more strength, and if you ask me if I will be in the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, I say yes, I'll be there,” said Brenes on his Facebook page Saturday.

Costa Rica has not won any Olympic medals before or since sisters Silvia and Claudia Poll  won medals in swimming at the 1988, 1996 and 2000 games.

Brenes placed 10th at the 2008 games, and many Costa Ricans had high hopes for Brenes after he took first place in the 400-meter competition at the World Indoor Championships in athletics in March. However, Brenes came fourth place in his heat and barely missed doing so in a time that would qualify him to move on to the semifinals.

Placing in the top three in an individual heat guarantees that the runner will move on to the semifinals, but three runners with the next best times who did not automatically qualify can move on as well.

In the end, Brenes had the fourth best time of those who did not automatically qualify, and finishing .04 seconds slower than the last qualifier.

In her first Olympic appearance, Ms. Scott competed in the 400-meter hurdles competition, for which the elimination rules are largely the same as Brenes’ competition, except that the top four finishers move on along with the four next best times.

Ms. Scott came in sixth in her hear and missed qualifying for the semifinals through time by three places and little more than half of a second.

Although Ms. Traña took 91st place, 23 people behind where she finished in the Beijing Olympic Marathon, approximately 40 more women competed this year, and she actually ran her it 10 minutes faster than she did four years ago.

Four of Costa Rica’s 11 Olympians still have yet to compete before the games conclude next Sunday. Leonardo Chacón, 28, will compete in the triathlon on Tuesday at 4:30 a.m. Costa Rican time. Heiner Oviedo, 23, will compete in Taekwondo Wednesday at 2 a.m. César Lizano, 30, will run the men’s marathon at 4 a.m.  Sunday, and Paolo Montoya will ride in the mountain biking competition at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

— Aug.6, 2012

 Sunday provides a local warmup and the Euro Cup final
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Central Valley soccer fans were treated to back-to-back games Sunday morning and afternoon – first a local soccer match between Deportivo Saprissa and the Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, which was quickly followed by the Euro Cup final between Italy and Spain.

Although the game took place in Tibás in a stadium that was not even half-full, the far more numerous Alajuela fans rejoiced when La Liga took a 2-1 victory.

However aside from falling on the same day, the two games were markedly different in both importance and in the quality of the teams on the field.

fans at soccer game
A.M. Costa Rica/Aaron Knapp
Exuberance is the tradition at a fútbol match

Especially to an international audience, the first game served more as a warm up, as both La Liga and Saprissa seemed to struggle man to man for the ball with little team coordination. 

Both teams were rarely able to organize group attacks on the goal or effectively keep control of the ball.

“There just aren’t any tactics or strategies,” observed one American spectator, named Jayden, who aspires to soon join a European league. “They’re just making decisions that I wouldn’t make,” she added, trying to make sense of some decisions made by players on the field.

Additionally, this game was a friendly, pre-season match between the two arch rivals. And, consequently, the game has no effect on either team’s regular season record.

Despite the lackluster performances by both teams, the half-empty stadium and the low stakes of the match, fans of both sides came with more energy than is usually seen at any kind of sports game in the United States.

While the more relaxed fans gathered along the eastern side of the field where they could watch in the shade, the more loyal fans gathered behind opposite goals where there was no protection from beating sun.

On the north end of the stadium gathered the most boisterous La Liga fans who carried banners and came close to filling up their entire section of the stadium; on the south side were the Saprissa fans, notably smaller in number but making up for it by occasionally unraveling a giant Saprissa jersey.

Even though La Liga led most of the second half, neither team was able to take a comfortable position over the other.

“They’re okay… but if these teams played a professional team in Europe like Manchester…” said Ms. Jayden, trailing off. “Just wait until after,” added another nearby tourist on what good soccer-playing looks like.

However, the ineffective ball handling by both sides kept the fans watching until the end despite missing at least the first-half of the Euro-cup, in which every Spanish goal in the second half became a nail in Italy’s coffin.

Despite the bitter local rivalry, both sides quickly filed out of the stadium to watch the Euro Cup final, which was already well underway, and overall, fans of both local teams united to celebrate Spain’s decisive, 4-0 shutout over Italy.

—posted July 3, 2012

Weekend sports event tests systems of London's Olympic Park
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

London’s Olympic Park got its first major test last week when nearly 150,000 fans came out to see competitions in several sports. They were part of the final stages of preparations for the games, now fewer than 80 days away. The Olympic Stadium was opened with a flight of balloons, flashes of light and the cheers of its first large crowd, .

Crowds of enthusiastic sports fans streamed into the park for a series of events in the stadium and other venues.  They were treated to top level competition in several sports, ranging from water polo to field hockey.

But even as the events were going on, workers continued to put the finishing touches on the main stadium and other buildings in the Olympic Park.

One worker from Romania, who identified himself only as Vlad, says working on the Olympic Stadium is different from any other construction job he has had.

“The feeling is different.  I don’t know.  It’s something which I can’t explain.   The feeling is great, especially now before the test event.  Everyone is training. It can be like a one-time opportunity, once in a lifetime,” he said.

In less than three months, athletes from Vlad’s home country

 and from all over the world will be competing in the stadium, but for this test event there were only British university athletes.  

Still, some hope to make the Olympic team, including runner David Bishop. "That was the whole reason why I came.  I just wanted to get a feel of what it was like to run in here (to) give me the help and motivation for a couple more months to push on so I can get my time down and nail this trial," Bishop said.

For the London Organizing Committee Chairman and four-time British Olympic medalist Sebastian Coe, the test events were a chance to mingle with young athletes and to show off the fruits of seven years of work.

“We’re making sure that no stone is left unturned.  And that testing is across everything from security, through to our venues, tickets, spectator flows, mobility, our ability to test some of our park-wide operations, workforce, logistics, pretty important.  So a big moment for us,” Coe said.

Saturday’s friendly competition and celebrations were marred somewhat on Sunday, when a tabloid newspaper revealed it had helped a construction worker smuggle a fake bomb into the Olympic Park.  That provided evidence there is still work to be done, as officials hope to keep the focus during the games on images like a military wives choir, which helped get the stadium’s opening ceremony going.

Nicoya fish
Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura photos
These are just a small part of the many species that can be found in the Gulf of Nicoya.
Fishing institute provides a guide to the many fish in the ocean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ever run into a fish and no matter how deep you dig, you just cannot come up with a name?

Well, the government's Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura has a cheat sheet.

There is a very low likelihood of running into a fish at a neighborhood cocktail party unless it is on a plate. But fishing fans have the problem all the time.

The institute has been the subject of a lot of criticism, in part because of an apparent blind eye to shark finning.

However, the institute Web site had row after row of fish that might be raised commercially, like tilapia or that can be found in the Gulf of Nicoya.

Who knew that there were so many species there? Who knew that there were so many named corvina?
dream rainbow
Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura photo
This rainbow trout is one of the commercially raised species.

The institute site also has a number of useful links for fishing captains and others who know the regional fishing news, including red tides. The site also has a link to a NASA contractor that provides satellite shots. Such information is vital for predicting the weather.
— Originally published May 3, 2012

Nery Brenes led all the way to take home gold for Costa Rica
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
Published March 12, 2012
Nery Brenes led every step of the journey on his way to Costa Rica’s first medal at a World Indoor Championships,  and a championship record 45.11 seconds.

That took 0.15 off the previous 400-meter record set by Harry ‘Butch’ Reynolds, also the outdoor record holder at the time, in Toronto in 1993.

So a memorable day Saturday all round for the 26-year-old Brenes, who now has his country’s three best performances at a World Indoor Championships. The previous two were fourth-place finishes in the men’s 400 in 2008 and 2010.

The 400 meter contest at a world indoors is a race of attrition. Two rounds on the first day of competition tests everyone’s strength, especially as the semi-final results determine the lane draw and, with it, the favorable outside lanes on the banked track.

Kirani James, Grenada’s first outdoor World champion and the youngest-ever in Olympic and World Championships history, fared worst in this. For losing a gruelling semi-final battle with Brenes, James wound up in lane one, down the hill from his toughest rivals.

James was never in the hunt for the gold medal, unable to get into a good position with a lap to go and having to work hard
Brenes winning
International Association of Athletics Federations photo
Nery Brenes sets a record and gets the gold.

in the second lap to no avail. He finished a tired last in 46.21.

At least Brenes had the good grace to relieve him of the world lead as well (previously, James’s 45.19), thus leaving James with the consolation that his best might not have been good enough in any case.

Brenes can now turn his attention to outdoor championships where his best results are to have reached the semi-finals at the 2007 and 2011 World Championships and the 2008 Olympic Games. He also won the Continental Cup 400 in 2010, so perhaps he can garner further honors for Costa Rica in the Olympic arena.

American football league

features two games Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Supporters of American football in Costa Rica say that the sport is growing. The American Football Federation of Costa Rica has released a scheduled of games that lead up to Costa Rica's own Super Bowl in April.

The sport is definitely gaining growth and interest in Costa Rica and throughout Central America, supporters say.

The season started Feb. 4 at Estadio Cuty Mong, Desamparados, with a doubleheader.

Saturday the Bulldogs face the Raptors at 2 p.m., and the Rhynos face the Toros at Estadio Cuty Monge. This is the fourth week of competitions.

The league, which has mainly Costa Rican players, has been active since July 2009. The Bulldogs are the reigning champions.

The games are the real deal with full football gear and the hard hitting that has made the sport of great interest in latin America.

Daily postings with some in English can be found here:
— Feb. 24, 2012

football scvhedule

Costa Rica again sweeps Central American surfing tournament
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For the sixth year in a row Costa Rica was crowned king of the Reef Centroamérica Surfing Games this weekend in front of the Hotel Backyard at Playa Hermosa in Jacó.

Dozens of surfers from Panamá, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala came to compete at Playa Hermosa on the central Pacific Coast.

Costa Rican surfers finished first in all major surf competition categories including open, open women, junior, boys, longboard and a sub-16 boys category that was new to this year's event.

The country’s surf team as a whole finished with over 13,000

points, ahead of second place El Salvador which had just over 8,000 points. The following standings, in order, were teams from Guatemala, Panamá and Nicaragua.

Apart from medals and the prestige of representing their own countries, winners from the different categories of competition received $5,000 in prize money (2.5 million colons). José Ureña, presIdent of the Federación de Surf de Costa Rica, said that aN olympic-style event usually doesn't give monetary prizes to the surfers, only medals and trophies, but that it adds an individual incentive for the surfers.

The annual competition began in Costa Rica in 2006. Next year for the first time it will be held in Guatemala.

— Dec. 4, 2011

Trans-Atlantic boat race winner sets new course record
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Originally published Nov. 21
The Virbac-Paprec 3, as expected, arrived in Limón early Friday, completing the trans-Atlantic sailboat race first out of the field of competitors and breaking the standing record.

The two-man crew of Jean-Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou sailed for precisely 15 days, 18 hours and 15 minutes from the Le Havre, France, to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, a distance of more than 4,000 miles. They beat the previous course record set in 2009 by just more than one hour.

It is the third time Dick has won the trans-Atlantic race. His team finished as the overall winners as well as the first in their
 class of racing boats, defined by the International Monohull Open Class Association.

But boats continued to filter in during the weekend, their crews competing for first place positions in their respective categories. Sunday the first multi-hull boat, Actual, arrived to take the top spot in its much diminished field which began with six boats and finished with only two due to inclement weather in the early stages which forced many to leave the race.

As racers docked in Limón, they were awaited by festival-goers attending the Wa’apin gathering, which showcased Caribbean arts, crafts, music, food and culture. 

Olympic hopeful visits to give pointers to other gymnasts
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Originally published Nov. 2
On a rare break from her rigorous routine, Costa Rican gymnast Mariana Sánchez was able to leave her training grounds in the United States for a brief sojourn in her home country to visit family, friends and young, aspiring gymnasts.

Though her past is highlighted with an ever-growing list of accomplishments and her future aspirations are to be a world-class athlete, Ms. Sánchez' demeanor was everything but braggadocios as she performed a routine with younger girl gymnasts Tuesday in Parque la Sabana. The 15-year-old even seemed a little nervous in the glaring spotlight before the media cameras.

But all the nerves disappear when she is focused on her gymnastics routine. Ms. Sánchez excels on the bars, although she said she prefers the floor routines, and her talent has brought herself and Costa Rica plenty of status in the gymnastics world with a career marked by top finishes in junior competitions.

Now Ms. Sánchez is focused on competing at the elite level. On a typical day she said she trains roughly eight hours total with school crammed in between workout sessions. Her gym is in Ohio where she lives with the family of another gymnast.

Her training is sponsored in part by Banco Nacional. The bank's marketing director, Mario Roa, said his organization would like to see her achieve her dreams and help put Costa Rica on the world map.

And one of the primary goals of her strict regimen is just that: an Olympic appearance, either in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro or next year in London. To compete in 2012 before she is 16, Ms. Sánchez needs a special exemption from Olympic officials.

“I'm preparing for London,” she said. “But I always have 2016 in Brazil to fall back on.”

She also is anxiously anticipating the opportunity to represent her country at the 2013 Central American games to be held in San José, where the taste of a home-soil victory would be sweeter than most.

Yet her taste for success has been a long-time coming. Ms. Sánchez has been training stateside for approximately two and a half years, but her desire to compete came long  before with her first competition at the age of 4.
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
Ms. Sánchez balances a younger gymnast.

However, she claims her progression actually started in the womb and laughed that her mother, who owns a gymnasium and was a gymnast herself, was performing the sport while pregnant with her.

“She is impressive,” said one girl in the group of predominantly elementary school children as Ms. Sánchez performed a solo floor routine complete with flips and spins. And when the group of girls was asked if they wanted to be like Sánchez they all nodded their heads enthusiastically.

Ms. Sánchez offered them this piece of advice.

“Never give up and just follow your dreams, even if it's not gymnastics.”

Costa Rican
surfer wins
a gold medal

By the A.M. Costa rica staff

Costa Rican senior surfer  Craig  Schieber took first place Sunday, Oct. 23,  in the World Masters Surfing Championship  in El Salvador.

He won in the 50 and older class. The event is sponsored by the International Surfing Association. The gold medal was the first for Costa Rica in the 21 years the country has been participating in the event.

he overall winner was the United States with Brazil a close second. Costa Rica was in seventh place.

Schieber took costa Rican citizenship 20 years ago, said the surfing organization.

Fishing tourney will begin research race for tagged marlin
 Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Marlin are some of the most magnificent fish in the ocean, but several species are sadly in serious decline. That’s why the International Game Fish Association has partnered with leading scientists from Stanford University to create the Great Marlin Race – a conservation research program which combines the excitement of tournament angling with cutting-edge marine bio-logging science. The part-competition, part-research race has anglers and scientists alike waiting for the 58th annual International Billfish Tournament Sept. 4 to 11 in Puerto Rico.

In the days leading up to a billfish tournament, angling teams are invited to sponsor pop-up archival satellite tags to be placed on fish caught and released during the event.  Exactly 120 days after each tag is deployed, it automatically releases itself from the fish, and its exact location is determined by earth-orbiting ARGOS satellites.  

In a given tournament, the tag that surfaces furthest from where it was initially deployed wins the race for that tournament. The Great Marlin Race will last 12 months, encompass several tournaments, and deploy at least 50 tags on a variety of billfish species in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The marlin whose tag travels the furthest of all will be recognized at the annual auction and banquet.

“The goal of the program is to learn more about the migration patterns of these magnificent fishes, and how they utilize th

open ocean habitat,” said Jason Schratwieser, Game fish Association research director, adding:

“We also envision giving open access to the tagging data so that it can be utilized by scientists around the world.”

Tags record information about depth, temperature and light levels, which can be used to study fish migrations and behaviors over the course of several months after they have been tagged.  These data, in turn, will help scientists to identify key habitat areas where large numbers of fish spend significant portions of time as well as the migratory corridors they use when they travel from place to place. Data from the tags will be processed and disseminated via Barbara Block’s lab at Stanford University in California.

Ms. Block pioneered the use of electronic tags on open ocean fishes in the early 1990’s. She was also one of the founders of the initial Great Marlin Race program, which was launched in 2009 in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in Kona, Hawaii .
“We are really excited about this new partnership between our organization and Stanford University,” explains Paxson Offield, chairman of the IGFA and long-term supporter of the Great Marlin Race. “By pairing top-notch science with tournament angling, we hope not only to learn more about the biology of the animals, but also to engage our constituents – billfish anglers around the world – in helping to conserve them for future generations.”

 Six new events added for 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia will have six new events, including women's ski jumping.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge announced in London Tuesday that the board also approved the addition of men's and women's ski halfpipe, mixed relay in biathlon and team events in luge and figure skating.  That means an extra 150 athletes will compete in the Russian Black Sea resort city.

Women's ski jumping had long campaigned to be in the Winter Games and even lost a legal battle for inclusion at last year's Vancouver Olympics. Rogge said the newest additions "are exciting, entertaining events that perfectly complement the

existing events on the sports program" and they "bring added appeal and increase the number of women participating at the games.''

Proposals for inclusion of slopestyle events in snowboard and freestyle skiing and a team Alpine skiing event were put on hold for further review.

In the new event of ski halfpipe, skiers score points for performing tricks and jumps on the same course used for the snowboard halfpipe.

The only remaining Winter Olympics event that does not have both male and female representation is Nordic combined, which features ski jumping followed by a cross country ski race.

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