By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In this month’s Layup Drill, we look back at an unlikely hero in the NCAA Football National Championship game, a surprise at the Australian Open, and a local runner places in an ultra-marathon.
Samoan backup quarterback saves day for Bama
Freshman Tua Tagovailoa did not start for the Alabama Crimson Tide at the National Championship game against the Clemson Tigers, but he finished it with a game winning touchdown pass in overtime.
Tagovailoa, playing a long way from his hometown in Hawaii, chose to play at the top college football program in the country. Tagovailoa came from a high school that produces quarterbacks. Timmy Chang, a standout at University of Hawaii, and current Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota are alums of the school. Tagovailoa was playing behind starting quarterback Jalen Hurts. After Hurts was ineffective in the first half of the game and Alabama down 13-0, head coach Nick Saban put Tagovailoa in the game. Despite a shaky start, Tagovailoa guided the Crimson Tide back to force an overtime. Down 3 points in overtime, Tagovailoa threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to earn the victory and win the National Championship for Alabama.
Tagovailoa was a fan of football at a very early age, as his grandfather and father both played the game. He was a standout in high school and was the number 1 high school prospect in the state of Hawaii in 2017.
He chose Alabama from a list of top football schools. The 6-foot-1, 219-pound quarterback is of Samoan heritage. His younger brother is following in his footsteps as a football standout in Hawaii. There is talk that he may follow Tua to Alabama to play as well. As for now, Alabama may have a new starting quarterback from Hawaii.
South Korean surprises at Australian Open
Chung Hyeon made a surprising run to his first Grand Slam tennis semifinal at the Australian Open. He became the first South Korean player to advance past the fourth round of a Grand Slam. It was a breakthrough tournament for the 21-year-old, who secured his first win over a top 10 ranked opponent during his path to the Final Four of the men’s bracket. In addition, he upset former world number one Novak Djokovic in straight sets. It was the first time that Djokovic had lost in straight sets at the Australian Open. The win was a huge one for Chung, who recalled pretending to be Djokovic when playing tennis with his brother as a kid. He was the lowest ranked semi-finalist since 2004 to reach the semifinals.
Aside from being one of the few Asians on tour, Chung stands out on the tennis court for his framed glasses. His poor eyesight was one of the reasons why he began playing tennis. According to his mother, who attended the Australian Open to watch his son, a doctor once informed them that the sport might help. Chung’s older brother already played, so he decided to take it up as a hobby.
Chung lost in the semifinal to the eventual winner, Roger Federer.
As a result of his great play at the Australian Open, he will be the highest-ranked Korean tennis player ever. In a country where tennis is a minor sport, Chung has the chance to be the next face of Asian tennis.
The Australian Open itself is catering to the Asian countries, as it’s finding its identity through the Asia Pacific Region. It has Kia Motors of South Korea as the tournament’s sponsor and a Chinese company is supplying the bottled water for the concession stands this year. There was more of an Asian presence at this year’s event, including more ball boys and girls. Many of the Asian fans are coming from China, where tennis is a popular sport.
Local distance runner finishes 3rd in HURT 100
Congratulations to ultra-distance runner Masazumi Fujioka for placing third in the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team’s 100-Mile Trail Endurance Run (also known as the “HURT 100”). The event took place in the mountains above the city of Honolulu, Hawaii in January. The course involved running through rain forests and single-track paths. It includes 24,500 feet of cumulative elevation gain over the course of 100 miles. In total, there are 20 stream crossings, and narrow trails through forest terrain including exposed roots, rocks, puddles, and mud wallows. There is a 36-hour time limit to complete the 100 miles.
Fujioka completed the run in 24 hours and 3 minutes. This means he had to stay up and run day and night to complete the race.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.