Number's up as sextet of super athletes smash frontiers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 12:00am

It was one of those weeks when all the lottery numbers came up resulting in a jackpot of records. The numbers in question were 6, 48, 59, 500, 650 and 1,000. The personalities in question were Michael Schumacher, Des Smyth, Annika Sorenstam, Courtney Walsh, Mark Messier and Neil Jenkins. A disparate bunch to be sure but every one of them reached an amazing milestone in their particular sport.

The super six went beyond the frontiers of their respective sports and, call it coincidence or fate, achieved the improbable within a couple of days. Kind of spooky, what?

Spooky is certainly a good word to describe Schumacher's triumph in the Malaysian Grand Prix which made him the most successful Formula One driver of the modern era.

The triumph saw him become the only living driver to win six successive races. It was spooky how he escaped being rammed by Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello after they both slid off the track; spooky how his car seemed to have 10 times more traction than the others on the circuit; and spookier still that Schumacher greeted the win as if it was his destiny.

The strange thing about Smyth's victory in the Madeira Island Open was that he still had a spring in his step after playing 72 holes of competitive golf. Smyth, you see, was aged 48 years and 34 days on Sunday and became the oldest winner of a European Tour title. He unseated Neil Coles from the golden oldie rocking chair - Coles was 22 days younger when he won the Sanyo Open in 1982.

Sorenstam's 59 had nothing to do with age and everything to do with golf at the highest level. The Swede became the first player on the LPGA Tour to dip below 60, in the Standard Register Ping tournament.

Shooting 59 is the holy grail for golfers and only Al Geiberger, David Duval and Chip Beck have achieved the feat on the US PGA Tour. Revealingly, Sorenstam was pictured holding the super-duper Callaway ball after her win and armed with those fliers, and the new range of 'springy' drivers, the world's professionals may soon be shooting pitch-and-putt scores with absurd regularity.

The humble cricket ball has not acquired any magic properties since Walsh played his first Test match for the West Indies in 1984 as a 22-year-old.

Since that Test against Australia, the fast bowler has bowled 28,833 deliveries in internationals and earlier this week became the first player to take 500 Test wickets. As he was trapping South Africa's Jacques Kallis lbw to make history, the man who he eclipsed as the world's most successful bowler was competing in another sport, in another continent.

The gifted Kapil Dev, who held the old world mark of 434, was playing in the Wills Indian Open on the Davidoff Tour as an amateur. He missed the cut.

The New York Rangers' Mark Messier does not miss that often and his 650th goal, scored against the Washington Capitals, put him third on ice hockey's career points list. He has 1,773 points (goals and assists) and trails the legendary duo of Wayne Gretzky with 2,857 and Gordie Howe on 1,850.

Welsh rugby union flyhalf Neil Jenkins also has a remarkable strike rate and the 28 points he scored against France last weekend saw him reach 1,000 international points for his country.

Jenkins was the first player to achieve the mammoth target and points may well translate into prizes for the flyhalf as he boosted his chances of being chosen for the British Lions this summer with his heroic display.

Now what lottery numbers do you think will come in next week?


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