From rags to nags to riches. Jan Vokes, 56, who gets up at 4am to clean her local ASDA store in order to fund her horseracing ambitions, saw her first foal, Dream Alliance, win the Welsh National last week. Brought up on an allotment on an old slagheap in Cefn Forest, Gwent, the nine-year-old is owned by a syndicate from the village's working man's club, including a bailiff, a car washer and a noodle factory worker, who each pay £10 per week for his training and have picked up £124,000 in prizemoney. Jan has the knack; she won the Welsh South Road National with her racing pigeon Will's Dream two decades ago. Her hopes of winning the Grand National are no flight of fancy.
Funding provided by the British government to Jamaica last year for convicts who are returning from prison in the UK to enrol on a cricket course run by fast-bowling legend Courtney Walsh. Protective headgear not included.
Space cadet of the week
Takuo Toda has some lofty ambitions. The President of the Origami Airplane Association in Japan has broken the world record for the longest flight by a paper dart, 26.1sec in duration. "I felt a lot of pressure," he said. "It's really a sport, the throwing technique is very delicate." His advice is to aim high, and he certainly does. Toda wants to send 100 paper planes up to the International Space Station, treated with silicon so that they can withstand 250C and Mach seven winds, and have them released 250 miles above the surface. But they would take a week to descend, apparently, and his plans are on hold because he won't know where they land. Who knows what will unfold?
Good week for
Neville Crichton, whose Alfa Romeo broke Wild Oats XI's four-year reign to win the Sydney to Hobart yacht race... Michael Owen's old helicopter, sold to the Great North Ambulance Service to be used as an air ambulance... and Negro Leagues Baseball, which ran from 1920 to 1960, honoured on latest issue by US Stamps.
Bad week for
Lindsey Vonn, US skier whose build-up to the Winter Olympics was hampered by a hand injury in the giant slalom at Linz... Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in Delhi, host of four World Cup matches next year, sees a one-day international between India and Sri Lanka abandoned because of a dangerous pitch... and Tiger Woods' sponsors, losing an estimated £8.35 billion because of his transgressions with a 2.3 per cent drop in share prices.
Busy body of the week
The title of King of the Hyphen for 2009 goes to veteran fund-raiser Joel Hicks, who claims to have won world titles in six different disciplines during last year: gravy-wrestling, cold-water swimming, wife-carrying, pea-shooting, egg-throwing and bath-racing. He's a trainee barrister from Hinckley in Leicestershire, and perhaps not surprisingly he's single, so he won the wife-carrying with someone else's spouse. However, he only came second in the World Coal-Carrying Championships, so there's still work to be done. But it's hard to check up on his claims, not least because the World's Biggest Liar Contest in November had to be cancelled due to flash floods. Or so they say.
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