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Category Archives: Sports
There are only 25 official Heritage Competition horse shows in the US.
This week’s Fairfield County Hunt Club benefit is one of them.
The designation is reserved for long-established competitions that have also made substantial contributions toward the sport, while raising money for charity.
Over 700 international riders participate, at the 97-year-old Hunt Club on Long Lots Road.
It’s a big deal. But despite the elite-sounding name — and of horse shows in general — this one welcomes all of us riff-raff as spectators.
Even better: It’s family-friendly. And free!
In addition to horses and riders, local and national vendors offer home goods, antiques, jewelry and food. (That stuff is not free. Sorry.)
The show — a fundraiser for the Equus Foundation, a Westport-based national non-profit that protects horses while fostering horse-human bonds — begins at 8 a.m. every day this week, and Saturday. There’s action on 3 rings, simultaneously.
The 2 biggest events are the Welcome Stake (Thursday, June 21, 4 p.m.) and Grand Prix (Saturday, June 23, 1:30 p.m.).
If you’ve never been to a horse show, here are a couple of things to know:
During judging, the rider and horse should appear relaxed. The riding should seem effortless.
Riders may be faulted or eliminated for knocking down any part of a jump, exceeding the time limit, “poor presentation of horse or rider,” bucking, stopping in front of a fence, going off course or jumping in the wrong order.
Those are the basics. To learn more, just trot on down to the Hunt Club.
Earlier this month, Saugatuck Rowing Club’s junior women won the US youth 8+ championship in California. It was a remarkable 4th straight national title for the local club.
Two other boats medaled: the women’s youth lightweight 4+ earned a silver, and the men’s pair a bronze.
Nine of SRC’s champion rowers are from Westport.
Saugatuck Rowing is part of an area-wide hotbed of success. In fact, Rowing Magazine recently profiled 8 clubs on the I-95 corridor from Rye to Westport (and one in New Milford), with the headline “Connecticut Rules.”
The secret to their success, the story says, is “good water, good coaches and great athletes.”
“Fairfield County is an area of excellence,” notes Sharon Kriz, SRC’s director of rowing. “Everyone strives for the best, in everything they do.”
Rowing is a natural extension of that. But simply having “great kids, supportive parents and excellent facilities” is not all.
Since arriving in 2007, Kriz has developed an all-encompassing culture of sportsmanship and leadership. It filters down, from one group of rowers to the next. The boat that captured the 4th national title this month is completely different than the first winners in 2015.
Alumni return often, to pass along the lessons they’ve learned. All 7 summer staffers are former SRC rowers. Some are still in college. Others plan to be full-time coaches — hopefully, at the handsome Riverside Avenue club.
A mentorship program has moved from the girls to the boys, and now to the parents. Every new rower and adult is pared with an experienced one. The result is twofold, Kriz says: support and relationships.
In a high-powered, hard-driving area like Fairfield County, managing expectations can be hard, Kriz admits.
“We have 60 boys and 60 girls. Not all of them will be star rowers. That’s the nature of a competitive team.
“But if they’re passionate and work hard, they’ll get results. Good communication can alleviate some issues.”
Winning is not the main goal of the club, she says. But it flows from the SRC culture. And, she notes, “You have to learn how to lose in order to win.”
Saugatuck Rowing has plenty to offer, besides top-notch coaching, a clear and cohesive philosophy, and excellent equipment.
The facility itself is a draw. Parents — who come from several towns, besides Westport — can drop off their youngsters, go upstairs and work out themselves.
They can have a drink or meal at the restaurant, or just sit on the patio and gaze at the water. “It’s a special place,” Kriz says proudly.
Of course, the Saugatuck is also a tidal river.
“We’ve learned to adapt,” Kriz says. “Sometimes it’s pretty low. We make the best of it.”
But in the end, Saugatuck Rowing Club’s success — and draw — comes down to the people in the boats. And on land.
“We’ve got a great group of hardworking kids, coaches and support staff,” Kriz says. “I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.”
Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup.
Rebecca Russo and the Metropolitan Riveters captured the Isobel Cup.
And Westport’s got Rebecca Russo.
Yesterday, the National Women’s Hockey League champion brought her prize to her alma mater: Saugatuck Elementary School.
She held the cup while posing for photos with students — and former teachers like Peter van Euler and Amy Howland.
Then she headed off to Bedford Middle School.
No word on whether the Riveters are headed to the White House too.
In 2015, Westport resident Kate Pollock was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer. She was not yet 40 years old. Her children were 4 years old, and 5 months.
Just a few months earlier, her twin sister Eliza had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Twenty-five years before that, it was their mother. None have the BCRA gene.
Kate underwent 4 biopsies, 1 lumpectomy and 33 rounds of radiation. For the next 5 to 10 years, she’ll take medication to help prevent metastasis. She practices integrative cancer care, and balances nutrition, exercise and mindfulness to prevent a recurrence.
In 2017 — a year out of radiation — she was hit with full body, debilitating joint pain. She could not walk or hold her toddler. After months of blood work and specialists, she was found to have an autoimmune disease — separate from cancer.
Recovery — through medication and holistic care — has been an uphill climb.
Kate believes the hard part is over. She feels stronger now, in every way. The unconditional love of friends and family — especially her husband — have helped immeasurably.
Kate’s twin Eliza has endured multiple surgeries, treatments and a recurrence. She is now experiencing complications from radiation.
Next Saturday (June 23), Kate tells those stories — and more — to over 300 swimmers, 100 volunteers and hundreds of spectators, at the Swim Across America Greenwich-Stamford Swim. The Long Island Sound event, with 1/2-mile, 1.5-mile and 3-mile options, is open to all.
Funds raised will support the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy.
In her speech, Kate will inspire the crowd before they jump in the water. Her message is: “Make waves in the fight against cancer.”
To make your own waves — as a swimmer, or boat, kayak, paddle board or land volunteer — click here. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-570-9195.
Westport is saying goodbye to Perrin Delorey, the 10-year-old Greens Farms Elementary School student who died this week in an automobile accident.
The Delorey family will receive friends at St. Luke Church on Monday (June 18, 4 to 8 p.m.).
Friends are also invited to Perrin’s mass of Christian burial on Tuesday (June 19, 10 a.m., St. Luke Church). Interment will be private.
In addition, Westport Little League Baseball has announced plans for a tribute tomorrow (Saturday, June 16, 1:30 p.m. at Kowalsky Field).
Perrin’s baseball and hockey teammates, and his Boy Scout troop, will participate.
Perrin loved baseball — particularly the Boston Red Sox. Less than an hour before the automobile accident, he had visited the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
His parents and grandparents have been very active Little League supporters. “We grieve with them,” says Westport Little League Baseball and Softball president Jeffrey Brill.
The World Cup began yesterday in Russia. Americans are watching wistfully. For the first time since 1986, we failed to qualify for the biggest sports event on the planet. (Let’s go, Iceland!).
But we’ll be there in 2026.
On Wednesday, FIFA announced that — after 2022 in Qatar — the World Cup will be hosted jointly by the US, Canada and Mexico.
We beat back a bid by Morocco — and ran up the score, 134 votes to 65 — thanks in part to a Westport native.
Brian Reich grew up here, playing goalkeeper on local travel teams and for Greens Farms Academy.
A huge fan, he sat several rows away from Pele at the opening match of the 1999 Women’s World Cup. He and his wife Karen Dahl — a former standout player at Danbury High School — took their 2 soccer-playing kids to the Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver in 2015.
Brian blogged every day about the 2014 World Cup. He loves the game’s simplicity, beauty and accessibility — and the excitement that comes every 4 years, when the entire globe stops for a month, to share the sport.
But for years, he made his living in politics. He worked as a speechwriter in the Clinton White House, and served as Vice President Al Gore’s briefing director.
He formed a digital strategy company that consulted on political campaigns around the country, then branched out to areas like global branding, media, startups and non-profits.
Brian wrote for the New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, Tech Crunch, Vice, Wired and AdAge, and appeared on NPR and Fox News.
Yet the pull of soccer remained strong. Brian analyzed and developed data to push groups like US Soccer and Major League Soccer to think differently about fan engagement.
Last August, he began a new gig: communications director for what was called the “United Bid.”
His primary responsibility was writing the Bid Book. Submitted to FIFA, it laid out the vision and strategy for how the 3 North American countries would host the 2026 World Cup.
He also helped shape the message and media strategy, and worked wth all cities involved in the bid. The small team — 6 full-time staffers — communicated not only with FIFA, but 3 very different national soccer federations.
Since signing on last summer, Brian says, “it’s been a sprint to the finish.” He and his colleagues hosted FIFA officials for visits, and answered countless questions.
A week ago, he flew to Moscow for bid rehearsals and final preparations. On the final day he was the first person in the building, running one last set of technical checks.
Six hours later, United Bid officials delivered their final argument. Brian had slept only 3 to 4 hours a night for 10 days. But he was not tired.
“I was excited,” he recalls. “I knew we had done everything possible to put ourselves in a position to win. The rest was out of our hands.”
He was careful not to be too confident. He’d been in war rooms on election nights — and was on Gore’s campaign during the long 2000 recount.
Some members of his group had been part of the American bid 7 years ago, when Russia and Qatar pulled the rug out from under us.
Still, FIFA’s general secretary showed a giant slide, comparing the United and Morocco bids. It was clear to all that the North American one was vastly superior.
Suddenly, the announcement came. Hugs were shared. Tears flowed. It was, Brian says, “an incredible moment.”
He’s already looking forward to 2026. First though, there’s the little matter of the current World Cup.
The US is not playing. But like most soccer fans, Brian loves the international game.
Spain could contend for the title this year, he says. France is interesting. It’s hard to bet against the Germans. Iceland could shock the world, and go deep.
He has no favorite team this year. Instead, he headed to the opening match — Saudi Arabia versus host Russia — and then flew home.
He’ll watch the rest of the games with his family on TV.
The entire world will do the same 8 years from now. Except for those of us lucky enough to watch in person, when — thanks in part to Brian Reich — the World Cup comes to North America.
Two games into the 1987 NFL season, the Players Association struck. The issue was free agency.
To break the union, team owners hired replacements. For 3 weeks, they played.
One of those substitute athletes — derisively called “scabs,” though “replacement player” is the preferred term — was Skip Lane.
He was well known in Westport. Lane was a 1979 graduate of Staples High School — where he starred at quarterback for his father, legendary coach Paul Lane — and then at the University of Mississippi.
Yet with only 5 Canadian Football League games behind him – and brief stints with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, after college — he was unknown to much of the football-loving American public.
In 1987 Lane was out of the game, working in commercial real estate in Fairfield County — a job he still holds.
But he excelled as a safety with the replacement Washington Redskins. They went 3-0 during the strike, culminating with a Monday Night Football win over a Dallas Cowboys team filled with veterans who had crossed the picket line.
When the 3-game strike was over, the Redskins released Lane. They went on to win the Super Bowl — but neither Lane nor his fellow replacements received a championship ring.
That story was part of an ESPN “30 For 30” documentary that aired in September. “Year of the Scab” explored the lives of the 1500 replacement players. They were “caught in the crosshairs of media fueled controversy between owners, players and fans alike,” the network said.
Lane was featured frequently in the video. He mentioned his “buddies from Westport” who attended the game against the Giants. There were only 9,000 fans that day.
Over the years, Lane had no contact at all with the Redskins.
But the ESPN documentary created a groundswell of support for righting a wrong: getting rings for the replacement players. Washington probably would not have reached the Super Bowl without them.
Yesterday — in a brief ceremony at the Redskins’ practice facility — Lane and his former teammates got their rings.
It took 31 years.
But it sure looks good.
Jeffrey Brill — president of Westport Baseball and Softball — sent this very sad statement tonight:
As many of you in the Little League community learned today, Perrin Delorey, a 10-year-old Westport Little League player, passed away tragically following a car accident on Sunday afternoon after visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Perrin passed with his Little League glove beside him. I will always remember him, as he appears in this photo after receiving a game ball this Spring season on May 5.
On behalf of Westport Little League, we offer our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the Delorey family and friends.
I am sending this note not only as the President of Westport Little League Baseball and Softball, but also as a coach of his AA team, the Cubs. I have gotten to know Perrin very well over the years while coaching him in baseball, basketball and soccer.
Wearing #5 on the Cubs this season, Perrin embodied the ethos and spirit of Little League. He exuded the team player concept and was committed to working hard to help his team.
Awarding him a game ball earlier in the season, and seeing his face in the moment, was a highlight of the coaches’ and players’ season. He was the most improved player on the team this season, and a joy to coach. My co-coaches and his prior coaches all echo this sentiment. He will deeply missed by his teammates, coaches and friends.
This news hits the Westport Little League community especially hard in these circumstances. Perrin’s first cousin, Phillip Sullivan, plays on the AA Brewers team and his grandfather, Bill Ryan, is a longtime friend and supporter of Westport Little League. Please join me in supporting the Delorey, Ryan and Sullivan families during this incredibly difficult time.
When Perrin’s mother mentioned to me that Perrin would miss the Cubs playoff game this past Saturday, I promised her that Perrin would play another game with the Cubs after Saturday — no matter what happened this past Saturday on the field as a function of the double elimination nature of the playoffs — and reassured her that he should not miss out on a trip with his family and a visit to Cooperstown.
While the latter was certainly true about spending precious time with his family, I could not have been more wrong about the former, as events off the baseball field dictated the tragic course of events.
If we can take anything away from this senseless tragedy, it is that life can be transient and fragile, and one should relish every moment with one’s loved ones on the field and off the field.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with Perrin’s family and friends.
The Levitt Pavilion was packed yesterday — with push-up people.
Hundreds of men, women and kids — from super-jacked to usually sedentary — did as many push-ups as they could in an hour.
First Selectman Jim Marpe banged out his. So did Chief of Police Foti Koskinas. And Paul Newman’s grandson.
Which was fitting, because all the money raised goes to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the fantastic getaway for boys and girls with cancer and other serious diseases. It was founded, of course, by Westport’s own Paul Newman.
The 9th annual Push Against Cancer raised well over $120,000 — a record. That makes nearly $500,000 since the event began.
Congrats to founder and mastermind Andy Berman. To the many police and firefighters who helped make it happen.
And, of course, to everyone who participated — and feels very, very sore today.
(Hat tip: photographers Sabine Foreman, Andrew Kindt, Adam Vengrow)