Ashe and grab
Jul 5 2008 by Andrew Baldwin, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
AMERICAN tennis player Arthur Ashe made history on July 5, 1975, when he became the first black man to win the Wimbledon singles title.
Ashe, the son of a policeman from Virginia, beat defending champion Jimmy Connors three sets to one to lift the coveted trophy.
At the age of 31, he was the oldest champion in the modern era of the game.
Speaking after the game, he said: “I always thought I would win because I was playing so well and was so confident.”
Later in 1975, Ashe was ranked number one in the world, but he suffered a heart attack four years later and retired as a professional player in 1980.
In 1992, Ashe announced he had contracted Aids from a tainted blood transfusion, probably from heart surgery a decade earlier.
He became an active campaigner for Aids charities and anti-apartheid movements.
Although Ashe won the US Open in 1968, his 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 victory at Wimbledon surprised many.
New Yorker Althea Gibson had been the first black woman to take the Wimbledon title in 1957.
Ashe quickly broke his opponent’s serve in the first set.
Connors, 22, began to show the pressure, angrily throwing his towel under the umpire’s chair and letting loose with a string of expletives.
He later admitted: “I couldn’t find an opening. Whether I served wide balls or kicks, he was there. Everything he did was good: fine returns, short and long, and hard serves and volleys.”
Ashe took the first set in just 19 minutes and secured a second 6-1 rout almost as quickly. Connors found his rhythm to take the third set after trailing 3-1.
But Ashe kept his cool and broke his opponent’s serve in the ninth game of what was to be the final set.
Ashe punched home a winning volley after a weak two-handed return by Connors and secured his place in sporting history.
Off the court, he was a prominent civil rights campaigner, being arrested in 1985 for protesting outside the South African embassy in Washington DC during an anti-apartheid rally.
He was arrested again in 1992 outside the White House for protesting against a crackdown on Haitian refugees.
Ashe also started a number of charities and established the Institute for Urban Health just months before his death in February 1993.
The Arthur Ashe Stadium and Commemorative Garden was opened in Flushing Meadow in the US in 1997.
A fire on the Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea claimed the lives of 167 men on July 6, 1988.
Most of the victims suffocated in toxic fumes after a gas leak set off a series of explosions.
Pilots reported seeing an inferno up to 350ft high and a platform wrenched apart.
Those that survived – 61 of them – did so by ignoring safety instructions and jumping 100ft into the sea below.
Many were seriously injured and were airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for treatment.
Famed firefighter Red Adair led a team which eventually extinguished the flames, battling against 70mph winds and 8ft waves.
To this day, Piper Alpha remains the world’s worst offshore oil disaster.
A subsequent inquiry led by Lord Cullen found Occidental Petroleum, the operator of the platform, guilty of having inadequate maintenance procedures and made far-reaching safety recommendations.
The industry say that accidents have fallen by 50% since the Piper Alpha disaster and that workers and unions are consulted on matters of safety.
All offshore installations within the United Kingdom’s continental shelf have been asked to observe a minute’s silence tomorrow in memory of those who perished.
It will be among three onshore and offshore events organised by the UK Oil and Gas Chaplaincy to mark the disaster’s 20th anniversary.