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Sports Shorts: Superfan dies with unfulfilled Tokyo 2020 dream

Last updated on: March 18, 2019 23:40 IST

Tokyo Olympics

IMAGE:  Naotoshi Yamada poses for a photo at his office in Tokyo. Photograph: Toru Hanai/Reuters

Superfan Naotoshi Yamada, famous in Japan for having been to every Summer Games since 1964, has died aged 92 with an unfulfilled dream of watching the Olympics when it returns to Tokyo next year.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Monday that he died last week following heart failure.

Yamada, known to his Japanese compatriots as "Olympic Ojisan", or "Olympics Grandad", first experienced the Games when Tokyo last hosted the gathering in 1964.

He had been a colourful presence at every Summer Games since, in his distinctive gold top hat and red jacket to pair with his beaming smile.

 

In an interview with Reuters in October, Yamada had expressed his desire to live long enough to see the Tokyo 2020 Games.

"It will be the culmination of all my years cheering the Olympics," Yamada had said.

Yamada’s haul of flags, stamps, photographs and other items collected on his Olympic travels are on display at a gallery in his hometown of Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture.

McIlroy wins Players Championship by one stroke in Florida

Rory MiIlroy

IMAGE: Rory McIlroy celebrate winning THE PLAYERS Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass. Photograph: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Rory McIlroy celebrated St Patrick's Day in style by becoming the first player from Northern Ireland to win the Players Championship, emerging as the last man standing to beat Jim Furyk by one stroke in Ponte Vedra, Florida on Sunday.

On a day when 15 players at one stage were within two shots of the lead, McIlroy eventually emerged from the pack, overcoming an early double-bogey by displaying enough maturity to hang tough before moving in for the proverbial kill.

McIlroy carded two-under-par 70 at the famous TPC Sawgrass course in Ponte Vedra Beach to win a championship that was first held in 1974, when it was won by Jack Nicklaus.

McIlroy finished at 16-under 272 to edge American Furyk, who with a gimme birdie at the final hole threatened to become the event's oldest winner at the age of 48.

"Sawgrass and I didn't have the greatest relationship starting off," McIlroy told reporters, referring to missed cuts in his first three appearances from 2009-11.

"It's a massive win on a course (where) I've had mixed results. I had to show a lot of character out there. Any time I looked at the leaderboard I was pleasantly surprised I hadn't fallen two or three shots behind.

"That gave me a little bit of encouragement to keep going and play a great back nine. I am just thankful that it was my turn this week."

With Furyk already in the clubhouse, the 29-year-old McIlroy knew what he had to do as he played the final three holes.

After a birdie at the par-four 15th, he used his power to reach the par-five 16th in two shots and a two-putt birdie gave him the lead.

McIlroy then safely negotiated the water-lined final two holes with tap-in pars to clinch the most prestigious tournament outside the four majors.

Furyk shot 67 to finish alone on 15-under.

"There's a little disappointment, thinking maybe I played well enough to win," said the American. "Rory obviously felt differently."

It was Furyk's 31st runner-up finish on the PGA Tour, the same number as Tiger Woods who has also won 80 times compared to his compatriot's 17.

Englishman Eddie Pepperell (66) and Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas (66) finished two strokes behind McIlroy in a tie for third.

Pepperrell and Vegas sank monster birdies at the par-three 17th, Pepperell sinking a rollercoaster 50-footer before Vegas one-upped him with a 70-footer.

Overnight leader Jon Rahm floundered, the Spaniard making three bogeys in the first four holes and compounding his misery by dunking his tee shot into the water at the par-three 17th.

He shot 76 and finished equal 12th on 11-under.

McIlroy's win came after close calls at all five of his previous starts this year.

He will head to the Masters next month brimming with confidence, needing a victory at Augusta National to complete the grand slam of all four modern majors.

Del Potro to miss Miami Open, may need surgery on knee - source

Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro will miss the upcoming Miami Open because of a knee injury, with a source close to the player telling Reuters he may have to undergo surgery.

Del Potro, ranked fifth in the world, was unable to defend his BNP Paribas Open title in Indian Wells this week as he underwent treatment on the injured right knee.

It has not recovered sufficiently to allow him to play in Miami, which begins next week.

"Unfortunately I won’t be able to play in Miami this year," Del Potro said on Twitter. "Looking forward to coming back in 2020!"

A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the 30-year-old might have to have surgery on the fractured kneecap that has kept his appearances to a bare minimum since October when he withdrew from the Shanghai Masters.

The injury came at the tail-end of Del Potro’s best season in years. He won titles in Indian Wells and Acapulco and reached the final of the U.S. Open to climb to a career high No. 3 in the world.

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