IT SEEMS Australians are only interested in sailing when we're winning the America's Cup and the prime minister calls for a public holiday. That changed when our biggest rivals, New Zealand, suffered one of sport's biggest all-time chokes, squandering an 8-1 lead in the first-to-nine series against the US. South Sydney added to the choke-athon when they let slip a 14-0 lead to lose to Manly in Friday's NRL preliminary final. Here is Locker Room's top chokes of all time.
Gold medal: Greg Norman at 1996 US Masters: A choking list is never complete without the Great White Shark. Norman had a six-shot lead heading into the final round, but imploded by finishing with a 78, allowing Nick Faldo (68) to pip him at the post. Memories of that day were revived when countryman Adam Scott finished with four straight bogeys in last year's British Open, throwing away a seemingly insurmountable lead.
Silver medal: Jana Novotna at 1993 Wimbledon: Novotna looked set to register a huge upset leading 4-1 in the third set against German legend Steffi Graf. But she conceded five straight games to lose the match, and broke down in tears. Fortunately this choke had a happy ending, the Czech won the title five years later.
Bronze medal: AC Milan in 2005 Champions League final: The Italians looked unstoppable in the decider of Europe's most prestigious competition, leading Liverpool 3-0 at half-time. It seemed a matter of how much Milan would win by, but their English rivals had other ideas. Three goals in six minutes levelled the scores and the Reds sealed the trophy in the shootout.
Honourable mention: Australia in 1991 Ashes Test: Dubbed the ''Headingley Miracle'', Australia were cruising. The visitors declared on 401, skittled England for 174 and looked to have the game in their keeping with the Poms 5-137 in their second innings. However, a brutal, unbeaten 149 from Ian Botham and eight wickets from Bob Willis propelled England to an 18-run win.
Get Y'ass up there
GREAT marketing ploy by organisers of the Yass running festival, calling it Run Y'ass Off. If it piques your interest, sign up at eliteenergy.com.au/runyass/. Distances are from 2km to a 21km half-marathon, for those of you who really want to bust Y'ass.
Get ya skates on
NOT SOLD as much on the name of this one, but Belcopalooza's $18,000 prize purse has certainly attracted interest. Some 40 of Australia's leading skateboarders will be at Belconnen Skatepark on October 4-5.
Raiders bounce back
STILL on marketing, it's not exactly Skywhale proportions but we're hearing kids can look forward to an inflatable feature at Canberra Raiders' games next season. The Raiders marketing department is remaining tight-lipped, perhaps in training to purse their lips and blow up the 14-metre jumping castle in their possession. We're hearing the castle, in the shape of a Viking ship, was a five-figure investment. The previous inflatable ship that used to sit at the southern end of the stadium was decorative only and used to be the tunnel that Raiders players entered the ground from during Super League days. But it sprung a leak and the club has let it sink. Locker Room only hopes Raiders youngster and failed trampolinist Jack Wighton will avoid the castle.
IT'S BEEN a bugbear at Canberra Raiders HQ for a while, but it's understood they're not the only NRL club with reservations about alleged tactics used by Brisbane in their recruitment strategy. Following the Anthony Milford saga, there's a perception the Broncos are encouraging Queensland talent at interstate clubs to cite compassionate grounds to return home. Broncos great Gorden Tallis and Raiders assistant Brett Kimmorley had a vigorous debate on the subject on Fox Sports panel show NRL360 on Wednesday. ''It's not the Broncos, it's probably the managers and players,'' Tallis said. ''You can't blame the Broncos for wanting the best blokes to play for their clubs''. Kimmorley hit back with, ''Seeing a part of what Milford went through last year there's no way he was homesick, but all of a sudden there was a reason to be homesick and some of the other juniors at the club. It's a fair argument.'' Tallis wrapped up the exchange with ''Take your green eye out, Noddy. They were blue before we started.'' The tug-of-war between Brisbane and Canberra for Milford still looks a couple of weeks from a resolution. Milford's manager Sam Ayoub told Locker Room they will sit down with the Raiders again shortly after the NRL grand final to discuss the situation further. ''It's honestly still status quo,'' Ayoub said. ''Stick [new Raiders coach Ricky Stuart] is still finding his feet down there and it was good to spend a bit of time with him in Brisbane last week. It's something we'll probably progress the week after the grand final, sit down and have a chat and go from there. It's in everybody's best interests to have it resolved before pre-season.''
Mantelli's Italian job
CANBERRA Raiders under-20s coach Mick Mantelli will be Italy's assistant coach at the World Cup, and his contacts within the Azzurri camp gave him the inside running for the job. Mantelli played front row for Italy at the Emerging Nations tournament in 2000, and invited teammate Carlo Napolitano to play for Queanbeyan Blues when he was coach there the following year. Now Italy head coach, Napolitano didn't make it out of reserve grade under Mantelli at the Blues, despite staying at Mantelli's house for two months.
Webber makes haste
F1 ACE Mark Webber made a lightning pit stop in Queanbeyan last week to launch the book City of Champions.