The Layup Drill — Asians represent in the ring, on the screen, and abroad

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill.  It’s the dog days of summer, and we’re going to take a look at the return of Michelle Kwan, the Korean Zombie, a female MMA’s YouTube KO and the ups and downs of women golfers.

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Michelle Kwan (Photo by Kevin Rushforth)

Michelle Kwan to cover Winter Olympics in Sochi

Two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan will serve as a television analyst for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Kwan will be a part of the Fox Sports team in its upcoming coverage this February.  Kwan served as a correspondent at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. and will rely on her Olympic experience to deliver compelling stories for Fox.

You may recall that Kwan was one of the most successful figure skaters in American history, having won nine U.S. championship titles, five world titles, and two Olympic medals.  Kwan, 33, currently serves as a senior adviser for public diplomacy and public affairs for the State Department. Look for Kwan to be as graceful in front of the camera as she was on the ice.

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Chan-Sung “Korean Zombie” Jung

Korean Zombie battles despite shoulder injury

UFC Fighter Chan Sung Jung is nicknamed the “Korean Zombie” because of his ability to seemingly ignore pain and continue fighting. His last fight was a startling example of his ability to fight off pain despite severe injury. Jung fought featherweight champion Jose Aldo for his championship.

In the third round of a five round fight, Jung’s shoulder separated while throwing a punch.  Instead of giving up, Jung attempted to pop his shoulder back into place to continue to fight. Unfortunately, Jung’s heart didn’t help his separated shoulder as he was forced to give up after succumbing to Aldo’s attack on his injured shoulder. Bad luck for Jung who will be out several months from this injury.

KO by woman MMA fighter goes viral

Aspiring mixed martial arts fighter Jinh Yu Frey is an Internet star. The Texas-based, 105-pound fighter was in her second-ever professional fight against Darla Harris at a small show in Oklahoma. After 24 seconds, it was over. Frey had delivered one of the best knockouts of 2013, and the year isn’t even over.  Frey utilized a kick to the face of Harris followed by a left hand that knocked out Harris even before she fell to the ground. Although it was a small show in Oklahoma, the impressive nature of the knockout caught fire on the Internet.  Whether this means that Frey will be on her way to the UFC in the future is yet to be seen.

Park comes up short in quest for fourth straight major

Last month we took a look at the best women’s professional golfer in the world, Inbee Park. The South Korean was on a hot streak, having won three straight major championships this year and was attempting for her fourth at the women’s British Open earlier this month. However, this time, she fell behind on the leaderboard the final day of the tournament and lost her chance to win. Rather than disappointment, Park expressed relief that the scrutiny to win a fourth tournament in a row was over. She indicated that she had never experienced so much pressure during each round of play of the tournament.

The 25-year-old Park is still the best women’s golfer on the LPGA tour despite not winning a fourth title. Three in a row is an impressive feat and a fourth would have made her an all-time great even in her 20s.  Park was refreshingly truthful in her post-tournament interview in admitting that the pressure may have impacted her golf game. Many times, an athlete not wanting to show weakness will not tell the media why they didn’t win a tournament. Park let it be known that she realized that winning the tournament was a big deal and that may have caused her game to suffer. Despite the setback, we can expect Park to be back on top of the leader board very soon.

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Michelle Wie (Photo by Keith Allison)

Wie represents U.S. in Solheim Cup

Golfer Michelle Wie was a controversial choice as a representative for the Solheim Cup, an annual competition between U.S. and European women golfers. Although she received a lot of attention for playing in men’s tournaments as a teenager, Wie has not been impressive as a pro on the women’s tour. At 23, the Korean American is still a work in progress. Her play is mediocre and her antics on and off the course betray her immaturity. She hasn’t won a tournament since 2010 and has only finished in the top 10 in tournaments three times in the past two years.

She has been criticized for being more style than substance as sponsors like Nike have gravitated toward her despite a lack of results on the golf course. Wie has taken the criticism in stride. “The one thing that I do religiously is just stay away from everything,” Wie told USA Today.

“I don’t read anything. I don’t watch anything. But when I do come across (some criticism), it’s hard sometimes.”

In her defense she did play well for the United States in 2009 at the same tournament. But she was the spotlight for further criticism this year at the Solheim Cup as she committed an error in golf courtesy by leaving the golf green early before the other golfers in her group had finished. A group usually consists of four players and it’s standard that all players wait until all in the group are finished. While it’s not an issue with the rules, it’s considered rude and unsportsmanlike to leave the group for the next hole.

Wie is still young, and it’s hopeful that she will mature and live up to the lofty expectations.

Loneliness chronicled on LPGA tour

The pressure of a golf tournament is just one of the many issues facing some of the Asian golfers on the Asian tour. The New York Times recently featured Japanese LPGA golfer Chie Arimura. At 25, Arimura lives in a rented three-bedroom condo by herself as friends and family are back in Japan. A stranger in a foreign land, when she is not on the golf course, Arimura spends her time learning English. Her struggles in communicating is sometimes harder than hitting a drive straight.

Arimura’s struggles are indicative of what the LPGA faces as many Asian players have come to play golf. The success of Asian golfers is amazing considering their focus on the course and their need to adjust to a different language and culture off the course. Arimura’s story is a reminder that with the sacrifices some golfers make to be the best on the course, there are some unseen sacrifices that they must make off it.

Here, they have to work just as hard in learning English as they do in perfecting their golf stroke. (end)

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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