Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Honourable Mentions

"Arise Sir Beefy" acclaimed the tabloids as English cricket's erstwhile swashbuckling hero and charity walker was revealed as the latest sportsperson to receive a knighthood. The Queen's birthday honours list also rewarded Ryan Giggs with an OBE, for "services to sport" and granted an MBE to Teddy Sheringham, though merely for "services to football".

Quite how Sheringham was allowed the honour after his disgraceful recent behaviour is a mystery. The integrity of the institution of Miss Great Britain was heinously compromised by his clandestine voting for girlfriend Danielle Lloyd while judging last year's prize. And there was the speeding thing too.

Aside from high profile gongees like the aforementioned, Mrs Windsor also confers recognition on the 'little people' among her sporting subjects. 'Mighty' Madge Morgan of Carterton, Oxfordshire, got the MBE for services to lawn bowls for visually impaired people.

And what services! Madge took up lawn bowls in 1967, as she began to lose her sight. Blind bowls players use the help of a sighted assistant, who describes where the bowls should go using the numbers on a clock. With husband Max as her trusty aide, Madge proceeded to storm the blind bowls world, representing England on countless occasions, sweeping all before her in disabled World Championships and making the final round of the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta.

She marked her retirement in 2000 at the age of 75 by engaging in a Bobby Riggs v Billie Jean King-style battle with fully sighted England international Les Gillett, which, according to the Oxford Mail, Gillett only came through after a 'stern' test.

Also honoured with an MBE was Mitsusuke Harada, or Sensei as he is known to thousands of British karate enthusiasts. Born in Manchuria in 1928, he grew up in Tokyo, where he attended the famous Shotokan dojo. Shotokan was one of the original forms of karate, developed by Master Gichin Funakoshi and his son, Yoshitaka, the former of whom is credited with bringing karate to Japan from Okinawa.

Harada studied under these masters in Tokyo, even engaging the elderly Gichin to teach him personally after the Shotokan dojo burned down during an American bombing raid in 1945, and is effectively a living link to the martial art's progenitors. After studying commerce at university, he entered banking, and was eventually posted to Brazil. He is credited with introducing karate to South America, founding the Karate-do Shotokan Brazileo with the blessing of Master Funakoshi.

Subsequently he travelled to Europe, first to Paris and then to Britain, where he established the Karate-Do Shotokai in 1966 to develop and teach the new martial art in Britain.

In 1998 he was invited back to Japan to demonstrate with his students at the joint celebration of the 130th anniversary of Funakoshi's birth and the 60th anniversary of the creation of Shotokan Karate. The KDS demonstration proved to be an enormous success and Harada gained acceptance in his own country as a master of Shotokan, almost 60 years after his karate life had begun in Funakoshi's original Shotokan dojo.

With Harada Sensei and 'Mighty' Madge being joined by the likes of Margaret Borley, coach of Tonbridge Bobcats youth baseball team, Eric Hardwick (services to the Hastings Half Marathon), Terry Griffiths, Sir Beefy and the rest, what a fine tapestry of sporting subjects you have, ma'am.

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