Essay One: Cause and Effect


A few seasons back, Tiger Woods seemed unbeatable. On the most superficial level, the reason that no one seemed to be able to touch him was that he was simply better than anyone else. He made hitting an eagle seems as natural as walking. But of course playing golf isn’t inherently natural. The reason that he was able to play better than anyone else on the tour on such a consistent level was that he put in longer hours practicing as well as the fact that he practiced in well-thought out and focused ways than his opponents. This added to his natural talent to make him the player to beat in every tournament in which he appeared (http://www.setanta.com/story.jsp?story=WCContent;id-51264).


For the past year, however, he has been dogged by questions about his playing, with many reports calling his recent performance a “slump”. We may thus ask what is the cause for Tiger’s recent losses in so many tournaments to different players. In fact there seems to be not just one reason but at least two distinct ones. The first is that he isn’t playing as well as he did two years ago: Such fluctuations do occur in the career of nearly every athlete. But the cause of Tiger’s slump appears not to be so much his own playing – which is still superb – but the fact that his previous years’ performances were so stupendous that every other player in the game has had to improve to meet Woods’s challenge. By raising the standard of the entire game, Woods has prompted his opponents to work as hard as himself.



Essay Two: Comparison and Contrast


Even if they weren’t sisters, tennis fans would probably still set about comparing the playing of Venus and Serena Williams. But because they are sisters the comparisons have been ubiquitous. This fact has tended to obscure the real differences in the playing styles of the two. They do share a number of playing stylistic points, including their signature powerful serves and their intense focus on the court.


However, there are also important differences between the two, with Serena generally making fewer unforced errors than her sister, while Venus’s footwork is usually somewhat more graceful than that of her sister. The two women also have very different personal styles and personalities, something that tends to get lost in coverage of them as “the Williams sisters”. Serena is generally considered to be more outgoing, more ebullient, more able to shake off the stresses of being on tour and playing at such a high level (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/25/1053801282591.html). She has also been less prone to injury than her older sister.


The two tennis stars do share talent, ambition, a willingness to flaunt their sense of personal style. But there are at least as many differences between them as there are similarities.



Essay Three: Descriptive


All figure-skaters have to be graceful: Grace is a sine qua non of the sport, although as it has become increasingly athletic over the last year the importance of artistry and grace has arguably lessened. But watching a skater like Oksana Baiul – the Ukrainian orphan who in 1994 edged out Nancy Kerrigan to win the Olympic Gold Medal – makes one understand that the heart of this sport is the ability to fly, not to spin.


Baiul’s gold-medal winning performance was an interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s dying swan, and in her expression, her movements across the ice and her flowing arm movements she embodied the grace that ballerinas have brought to the same role. But while her interpretation was as elegant and refined as that which you might see on the Kirov stage, it was endowed with an unearthly quality that even the most skilled ballerinas cannot obtain. Baiul, gliding on the wafer-thin layer of water that floats above the ice and is responsible for every step in iceskating, seemed to be divorced from the pull of gravity, from the constraints of earth. Rather than a human athlete, she appeared to have been transformed – like the maidens in so many Russian fairytales – into a bird and to be skimming across the ice with the same freedom, the same nonchalant loveliness as a bird riding a thermal. It was only when the music ended and she stopped that