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How A Dream Died And Lived Again

In his mid-twenties, David Hudson should have gone to the Olympics, but world politics got in the way. It took 20 years before the 46-year-old got his chance in Barcelona; it wasn’t quite what he expected.

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It was a day he will never forget. July 25, 1991. The day sailor David Hudson heard that South Africa would be allowed back in the Olympics. At the time, he was on the Mediterranean Sea just off Barcelona, Spain, the very place where the next Olympics were to take place. He was there to watch the world’s best sailors compete, 12 months before the Olympics, to give them a taste of sailing in Mediterranean waters.

“It was something else. When our readmission looked likely, I intended coaching. My intention was to help as a volunteer,” he says.

“It was after Nelson Mandela was released. It was at this stage when the drafting of the Constitution was under way. There was an eminent persons group, three African heavyweights, they came out in April 1991 and did a trip around South Africa to see where things were. “

Hudson was jibing sails and skimming across the water with the best of them from the age of 20. If it wasn’t for apartheid he was a sure bet for the Olympics.

“My Olympic chance would have been 1971, when I competed in the World Championships in the pre-Olympic season. We were very strong then, but that was when I was in my twenties.”

The veteran Hudson, now 70-years-old, says it can take as long as seven years to build an Olympic team, South Africa had 17 weeks in 1991. Hudson, who was by now forging a career as an assistant general manager at Old Mutual, thought he was long past his sell-by date. How wrong he was.

In that December, Hudson got a phone call from David Kitchen, his Olympic sailing partner, who changed everything.

“I knew him, but not very well. He said he was stuck, his helmsman had dropped out, and he’d bought a secondhand boat for the trials. He wanted to sail with me. I said I am 45, I’m not interested,” says Hudson.

“He phoned and phoned and badgered me. I said I wasn’t interested. I was only interested in coaching, I’m not sailing. I’m in the middle of my business career I’m not doing it.”

The tipping point was a doorstep meeting at a swimming gala in Saldanha Bay, in the Western Cape.

“I get a tap on my shoulder and here is this guy. He has flown all the way from Johannesburg. He said I have come to take you to train for the Olympics, I said you’re bloody insane.”

Hudson gave in. He phoned his business and asked for special leave. The sailors met up in Durban four days ahead of the trials which were set for neutral waters off Umhlanga, North of Durban. With five races to go, Hudson says their chances were slim. They needed to place first in the last five races to qualify. They did it.

“Compared to the professional way things are done today, and compared to the fairly professional way things were done in those days, it was a real scramble,” says Hudson.

“My standard gym routine was three days a week. That was just for local sailing. From the moment we got in, we went onto a hectic program through sports science. It was properly guided, dietary and gym. In six months my body changed remarkably.”

Caught up in the excitement, Hudson took a flight to Italy to check out his competition.

“On very short notice I booked a flight, packed a backpack and flew to Italy. I went straight to the event with no accommodation, with nothing organized and I went around talking to all the sailors. I was this unknown guy from Africa, they talked to me as if I was just a tourist. I got the most amazing information, about their boats, how they set up their gear. I hitched up with a journalist who had a spare bed in an apartment. I got myself accredited through a sailing magazine as a journalist. I got on the media boat, was able to watch all of the racing close up. Four days later, I upped on the plane, flew back and was back at work. It was the kind of thing a kid would do, but here I was 45,” says Hudson.

The Olympics drew nearer and the sailors needed to get their boat in the water. The pair joined the European sailing circuit for practice.

“We did it on a shoestring. We camped out in the truck. Kitchen stayed inside. On good weather I slept on the roof and in bad under the truck.”

In Holland it was too expensive to camp, so the two South Africans drove into the countryside, down a country lane and found a quiet place to squat, illegally.

“It was beautiful weather. At about 1AM we heard voices and flashlights and there I was naked in my sleeping bag on the roof of this truck and this beautiful blonde Dutch policewoman is shining her light saying ‘what are you doing here?’ I looked at this and said ‘am I dreaming?’”

“She said ‘where are you from?’. We said Africa. I said ‘why can’t you camp here, are there tigers?’ They burst out laughing and said disappear don’t be here tomorrow.”

En route to the Olympics they also picked up a 400 Deutsche Mark fine for going over the speed limit with a trailer on the autobahn.

“Kitchen was forever losing stuff. That could have been a real issue. So I decided to budget myself and say if David only misplaced three things in a day, it was a good day. It sounds silly. It could have become a big issue. Here it is, you are on a boat and its pissing with rain, its bloody cold and about to get dark and you can’t find the tools because he hasn’t put them back where they belong.”

Hudson arrived in Barcelona a month before the games.

“They gave us an arbitrary anthem and a neutral flag. There was a huge welcome. There was a greater applause for us going into the stadium than even for the host nation.”

For the first time, the Olympic village was built around the marina.

“It was a rundown grotty area, we had been there in 1971. That part of the coast was shambolic. But they turned this pretty worthless area into the great big marina with a great sailing center. In the evenings, the other sportsmen would come ambling down to the marina when they were doing their relaxation.”

The racing went better than Hudson expected.

“On paper we shouldn’t have been able to beat anybody. We had 17 weeks against seven years of training. We ended up struggling with lighter wind and finished 19th out of 23 countries.”

They were the only team on the water without a coach, but at least they were there. Hudson had lived an Olympian dream he thought he’d left behind. On the day he arrived back in South Africa, it was straight back to work.

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Ronaldo’s $105 Million Year Tops Messi And Crowns Him Soccer’s First Billion-Dollar Man

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Add another zero to soccer’s most expensive rivalry.

Cristiano Ronaldo earned $105 million before taxes and fees in the past year, landing him at No. 4 on the 2020 Forbes Celebrity 100, one spot above his top rival in the sport, Lionel Messi, and making him the first soccer player in history to earn $1 billion.  

The 35-year-old striker is only the third athlete to hit mark while still playing following Tiger Woods, who did it in 2009 on the back of his long term endorsement deal with Nike NKE, and Floyd Mayweather in 2017, who’s made most of his income from a cut of pay-per-view sales for his boxing matches. 

Ronaldo, the first to do it in a team sport, has made $650 million during his 17 years on the pitch, and is expected to reach $765 million in career salary after his current contract ends in June 2022. Messi, who began playing at the senior level three years after Ronaldo, has earned a total of $605 million in salary since 2005. The only team athlete to even come within striking distance of those figures was former New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who retired in 2016 after 22 years in MLB having earned $450 million in salary. Not even soccer legend David Beckham came close, ending his career with total earnings of $500 million, half of which came from off-pitch endorsements. 

“Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all time, in the world’s most popular sport, in an era when football has never been so rich,” said Sporting Intelligence’s Nick Harris, whose Global Sports Salaries Survey ranks teams worldwide based on total salary expense. “He’s box office.”

Ronaldo and Messi’s head-to-heads heated up in Spain’s La Liga in 2009, where Ronaldo played for Real Madrid and Messi for Barcelona. Their faceoffs on the pitch ignited a nine-year battle for bragging rights as the best — and top-paid — in the sport, a highly personal tit-for-tat that had them re-negotiating contracts in lockstep and monopolizing the game’s highlight reel. 

The rivalry was as entertaining as it was profitable, coming just as clubs around the world were seeing soaring attendance and an influx of television money. The two were perfectly matched for battle, on and off the pitch: Ronaldo perfected a shirtless, stylized showmanship while Messi played the quiet game, always a tad unkempt and as prolific a scorer as he was a wingman. Ronaldo strutted after every goal. Messi was a master at thanking his teammates. 

Both backed it up. Barcelona won the La Liga title six times and two Champions Leagues trophies with Messi on the squad. Real Madrid won the Spanish title twice and the Champions League four times with Ronaldo. During their years in the league, each player nabbed four Ballon d’Ors (soccer’s MVP) and their El Classicos, the nickname for their clubs fierce clashes, were record-setting television events worldwide. 

But when it came to leveraging celebrity, it has been no contest. Guided by Jorge Mendes of Gestifute, one of the world’s most powerful agents, Ronaldo has amassed an ever-growing following of fans and consumers drawn to his poster-boy good looks, trend-setting hair styles, impeccable fashion sense and, lately, his softer side as a family man whose toddlers pop up on his social media posts. In January he became the first person with 200 million followers on Instagram, part of a social media army of 427 million across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that makes him the most popular athlete on the planet. 

Nike pays him upwards of $20 million annually and signed him to a lifetime deal in 2016, making him just the third athlete after Michael Jordan and LeBron James hitched to the Swoosh for eternity. In May, the footwear maker announced the release of a 10-year anniversary edition of his first signature Mercurial Superfly and a child’s version to celebrate his son’s 10th birthday, complete with his famous celebration stance, signature and logo. Pitches for Clear shampoo, Herbalife HLF, and pharmaceutical maker Abbott help raise his endorsement tally to $45 million.

Ronaldo, Inc. even has a trademark — CR7, a mix of his initials and jersey number — part of a lifestyle brand that Forbes estimates accounts for a quarter of his annual endorsement income, including branded underwear that debuted in 2013 that was followed by a line of shoes, fragrances and denim wear. He partnered with Pestana Hotel Group in 2015 to open his first property a year later in his hometown of Funchal, Madeira, right above Museu CR7, a shrine for his trophies and a retail outlet for his merchandise. He’s since added CR7 clubs with Crunch Fitness, posts workout routines on YouTube and has attached his name to a social media influencing degree offered by Italian online university eCampus.

And the rivalry is far from done.

Ronaldo’s 2020 earnings include a salary of $60 million, slightly less than last year due to a 30% pay cut he agreed to take this April as a result of the pandemic. Messi, who earned $104 million in the past year after taking a 70% pay cut while coronavirus sidelined play, is poised to surpass $1 billion in all-time earnings as soon as next year, before his current Barca contract ends.

Christina Settimi, Forbes Staff, SportsMoney

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Roger Federer Tops World’s Highest-Paid Athletes: Tennis Ace Scores First No. 1 Payday With $106 Million

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Roger Federer has landed the top spot on the annual Forbes list of the highest-paid athletes for the first time this year with $106.3 million in pre-tax earnings. The Swiss ace is the first tennis player to take the No. 1 rank since the list debuted in 1990.

Federer’s haul includes $6.3 million in prize money and $100 million from endorsements and appearance fees, lifting him from the No. 5 spot he held in 2019 and beating his previous high of second place in 2013.

“His brand is pristine,” says David Carter, a sports business professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, “which is why those that can afford to align with him clamor to do so.”

Federer’s endorsement portfolio is unmatched among active athletes, with 13 brands including Barilla, Moet & Chandon and Rimowa paying between $3 million and $30 million to associate themselves with the 20-time Grand Slam champ. The 38-year-old and golfer Tiger Woods are the only two active athletes to have hit $100 million in a single year from sponsorships alone.

Federer’s on-court résumé is the stuff of legend, with the men’s records for most Slam titles and most weeks ranked No. 1 (310). The consistency is staggering. He ranked in the top three for 750 straight weeks—almost 15 years—and qualified for 18 out of 19 Slam finals between 2005 and 2010.

Call it the Jordan playbook, the blueprint for global domination chronicled in ESPN’s ten-part documentary on the basketball great, The Last Dance: command a sport with a global audience for years; appeal to both men and women; stay out of trouble; add in a dose of swagger and a dash of charisma. It made Michael Jordan the richest athlete on the planet and the first billionaire athlete. Even in retirement, he continues to collect endorsement checks rivaling those of Federer and Woods thanks to his massive cut of Nike Jordan Brand sneaker sales.

The three breathe a rarefied air, reserved for the most elite competitors. Jordan had the No. 1 spot on the Forbes list six times during his 13-year career with the Chicago Bulls, eventually giving up the mantle to Woods after he retired from the Bulls in 1998. (Formula One’s Michael Schumacher held the crown for two years between Woods and Jordan.) Woods went on to collect more than $100 million annually off the course at his peak, landing at the top of Forbes’ highest-paid athlete ranking a record 12 times until he broke stride, landing in hot water over an infidelity scandal while injuries contributed to a decade-long majors title drought on the links.

Federer, while seizing the top spot late in his career, is showing no signs of slowing down. His latest partnership is with Swiss startup running shoe On, whose headquarters sit close to the new home the tennis star is building on Lake Zurich. A renowned sneakerhead, Federer will endorse the brand, whose sales have been doubling annually since its 2010 launch, and also invested in the company in return for an equity stake that one source called “significant,” a partnership that could have serious upside for Federer.

Another sign of his command of the off-court side hustle: Once companies align themselves with him, they almost never leave. Rolex, Credit Suisse, Mercedes-Benz and Wilson have all been on Team Fed for more than a decade. The exception? Jordan’s Nike.

Federer stunned the tennis world in 2018 when he split from the sneaker giant after 20 years and joined with apparel brand Uniqlo. The chain, part of Fast Retailing, made an offer he couldn’t turn down, promising $300 million over ten years whether he was playing tennis or not and leaving open a slot for a shoe deal like the one with On since the Japanese giant doesn’t make sneakers.

The length and terms of the deal raised eyebrows given that Federer was about to turn 37 when he signed it. At that age, almost all tennis players have long since retired—a detail that meant little to the long game the retailer is eyeing.

“We feel the greatest impact of Roger Federer is yet to come,” says Uniqlo’s head of global creative John Jay. “Of course, it will be fueled by his status as the greatest of all time, but Roger’s ability to bring positive change to the world is his future and ours.”

The company hopes Federer can hold the same kind of appeal Jordan still has long after he launched his last jump shot. Already, tennis clubs in Europe are flooded with kids wearing “RF” hats, the logo that Nike controlled for two years after the split but is back in Federer’s hands and is the foundation for future licensing deals.

It wasn’t his only shrewd move. Federer took more control of his brand when he left the IMG sports firm with longtime agent Tony Godsick to launch their own operation in 2013, dubbed TEAM8. Current clients include male tennis pros Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev, 16-year-old rising star Coco Gauff and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. TEAM8 also found success with the creation of a new annual event, the Laver Cup, which matches a team from Europe versus the rest of the world in a competition that is comparable to golf’s Ryder Cup.

Federer has other levers in the sport that even Jordan doesn’t have. He is a hot commodity for organizers of smaller tournaments that pay appearance fees for top players to show up; a men’s event without one of the Big Three—Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic—is a tough sell. Federer commands the top rate of more than $1 million per stop. Then there are the exhibition tours—a mix of tennis and show business—in places that have no major event to offer. He did a five-stop swing through Latin America in November that added more than $15 million to his bank account, including a match versus Zverev in a bullfighting stadium in Mexico City that attracted 42,517 fans, a record to watch a tennis match.

Federer has used his platform and cash to focus on educating children in Africa, with his namesake foundation spending $52 million to aid 1.5 million kids. He’s teamed with Bill Gates in charity matches three times; the latest “Match for Africa” featured Gates and Federer versus Nadal and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah in South Africa, where Federer’s mother was born. The February event raised $3.7 million.

Federer is the GOAT, both on and off the court.

Kurt Badenhausen, Forbes Staff, SportsMoney

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Making South Africa Proud And His Inspiration Outside The Pool

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Chad le Clos; image by Gian Mattia D'Alberto LaPresse

Swimming sensation Chad le Clos had planned on returning from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with gold but with the games postponed, he’s for now focusing on family, fitness and his foundation.

For many athletes, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to 2021 has meant stalled training regimes. South Africa’s 28-year-old Olympic gold medalist swimmer Chad le Clos, at home in the coastal town of Durban while in lockdown in South Africa, says this year, he had hoped to return from the Olympics with another gold medal.

“I planned on hopefully winning a gold medal and coming back home and celebrating with the country. I was planning on doing a lot of great things this year. It is quite sad but I am looking at the bigger picture. There are a lot of things I want to achieve inside and outside of the pool. The Olympics is the biggest goal I will ever have. And hopefully, I can make South Africa proud next year.”

Posing in front of his haul of medals at home in Durban, in a Zoom interview with FORBES AFRICA, Le Clos, who was also one of FORBES AFRICA’s 30 Under 30 list-makers in 2019, says he is waiting to get back into the pool.

“Before the lockdown in South Africa, I was away in Europe training. For the last five weeks, I have not been able to train but I was very lucky to spend time with a family friend on his farm on 36 acres of land with horses and dogs, so I was mostly training outdoors.”

The sports star, who is also recovering from two recent surgeries, says swimming is different from any other sport.

“As a runner or athlete, you can run, but as a swimmer, you need to have that feel of the water. It’s a very different fitness. I am a terrible runner, I can’t run at all. But when I am in the pool, I can be as fit as I can… So focus is important, once you lose that feel, it will take weeks to get back to that fitness.”

Le Clos, who has been swimming competitively from the age of 10 and is a 17-time Commonwealth Games medalist, speaks about the Chad le Clos Foundation and the special projects coming up in the townships also serving underprivileged communities.

How about becoming an entrepreneur at some point, we ask in this interview.

“I don’t want to close any doors. I want to dive into everything head on. Right now, my big focus is the Olympics. I am in a great mental head space. My family is the most important thing and they are safe. Once swimming has firmly shut, I will focus on the next chapter and it will be some sort of business. I have a lot of passion projects like I have said with my foundation…”

Le Clos says he has looked up to swimmer Michael Phelps his whole life (and even beat him at the age of 20 by 0.05 seconds at the 2012 Olympics in London in the men’s 200meters butterfly), but the iconic boxer Muhammad Ali is his “ultimate idol”.

“For what he stood for, the greatest boxer of all time, he was the people’s champion. I am not as outspoken as he was, but I have always seen myself too as a people’s champion, I have seen myself swimming for my family, my people and my country. Muhammad Ali is my hero and icon. And my big inspiration outside of the pool.”

During the lockdown, besides “playing a lot of poker with my family and losing”, it has also been a good time to reflect.

“I like to visualize positive things. As a kid, I always visualized success, the Olympics, the gold medal, you create that moment, and let that percolate. The more positives you put out are the positives you will get back. Focus on the positives. During this time, make yourself stronger mentally. You can come out of this stronger, and it will help you going forward.”

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