On the weekend I was watching an English Premier League match between Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers. Stoke City has an Irish midfielder named Rory Delap, and he has a particular talent. From Wikipedia:
Delap, a former schoolboy javelin champion, is renowned for having one of the longest and most-feared throw-ins in football; his throws, noted by Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill as equivalent to “a corner or a free kick”, often range 30Ã¢â‚¬â€œ40 metres (98Ã¢â‚¬â€œ130 ft) (averaging 38 m (120 ft)), and can reach the speed of 60 km/h (37 mph). They have served as an assist in more than one case before 2008. Numerous experts, including his manager Tony Pulis, have commented on the technique Delap employs, the length and flatness undoing many a defence.
Other players can execute long throw-ins, but clearly Delap is something special. In this video, he accidentally puts the ball over the crossbar:
That got me thinking about what I’ll call freakish outliers in sports. I’m not talking about the Gretzkys or Jordans or even the Fosburys. Rather, it’s those athletes who, by fluke of evolution or sudden insight, just do things differently. Sometimes the innovation is effective, sometimes it’s just weird.
Lucinda Ruh is, by any measure, a decent figure skater. She hasn’t won much beyond becoming Switzerland’s national champion a couple of times, but that still puts her among the top 1% in the world. She is, however, a ridiculously good spinner. Here she is apparently executing a world record spin, in which she rotates 115 times:
Chad Bradford is a relief pitcher with very unusual way of delivering the ball. The ball leaves his hand very close to the ground–something called a submarine delivery. He pitches so low, in fact, that sometimes his knuckles brush the pitching mound. I couldn’t find a decent embeddable video (the MLB has apparently been aggressive with the takedown notices), but here’s a clip. And here’s a nice photo, courtesy of Linda Thomas. Click for a much larger version:
On an unrelated note, there’s a charming non sequitur in the introduction to Bradford’s Wikipedia article: “Chadwick L Bradford (born in Mississippi) is also the name of a storied bioanalytical chemist.”. Storied, eh?
Then there’s Mike Legg, who, during a US college hockey game, devises a very unorthodox way to score:
I don’t think anybody has ever scored this goal in the NHL, though several players have tried.
Speaking of hockey, BjÃƒÂ¶rn Borg’s famous two-handed backhand was apparently adapted from ice hockey’s slapshot. I don’t know a lot about tennis, but he appears to have a very peculiar style:
Who else is there? Who played their game a little differently?