Arab history-maker Samir Azzimani carries fellow skier over line for 'moment of the Games'

Tonga's Pita Taufatofua (L) and Morocco's Samir Azzimani (R) lift Mexico's German Madrazo onto their shoulders as they celebrate at the finish line in the men's 15km cross country freestyle at the Alpensia cross country ski centre during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN
Updated 20 February 2018
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Arab history-maker Samir Azzimani carries fellow skier over line for 'moment of the Games'

PYEONGCHANG: Morocco’s Samir Azzimani was involved in what might just be the defining image of this year's Winter Olympics.
Mexico’s German Madrazo was heroically skiing last to the line, proudly brandishing the flag of his country and smiling jubilantly. After crossing the finish after 15 kilometers of gruelling freestyle cross-country racing on Friday, he was lifted high into the air and onto the shoulders of two other athletes, including Azzimani, for whom just getting to the end was an achievement in itself.
The 43-year-old Madrazo came 116th out of the 116 who made it home, fully 25 minutes 51.5 secondss behind the winner Dario Cologna of Switzerland.
Two other competitors failed to finish and one was disqualified, underlining the achievement of even ending the race.
So as Madrazo, who had never even worn skis until a year ago, approached the finishing line in just shy of an hour, a large Mexican flag was thrust into his hand and a beaming smile formed on his exhausted face.
Spectators and athletes cheered and applauded him on his lone race to the finish.
There, Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua, who finished 114th, and Azzimani (111th) hoisted Madrazo into the air, all three smiling and laughing.
Azzimani made history by becoming the Arab world’s first dual-sport Olympian after competing in the alpine skiing event
at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Taufatofua, famous for peeling off and baring his chest at the Olympics, hoped he wouldn’t ski into a tree in his Winter Games debut. He also wanted to finish before it got dark.
Well, Taufatofua kept this clothes on for once and ticked both boxes, finishing 114th — almost 23 minutes behind the gold medallist, Swiss legend Cologna, but crucially avoiding the wooden spoon.
“I’m just happy I finished,” the 34-year-old told reporters. “Relieved. I mean, that was a long race. I’d rather finish toward the end of the pack with all my friends than be somewhere in the middle by myself,” said the Tongan beefcake, who competed in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Games but lost in the first round. “We fought together, we finished together.”
Taufatofua laughed off suggestions he might be the most popular man at the Games after entering the stadium for the opening ceremony like a gladiator and brandishing the Tongan flag as if it were a spear.
“I don’t know about popular but I’m the coldest man,” said the self-confessed beach bum, teeth chattering.
Taufatofua, born in Brisbane but fiercely proud of his Tongan heritage, turned to cross-country skiing after Rio to make an unlikely Olympic return.
His sense of relief was palpable when he finished in one piece.
“I didn’t fall,” said Taufatofua, who revealed that he ate some “fiery kimchi” before the race to help keep warm.
“I was coming into the last lap thinking ‘please God, not in front of everyone, let me finish strong’.
“But I finished with the guys and that was important for me.”
Taufatofua, who used to strap planks of wood to his feet to mimic skis in sweltering Australia, was looking forward to sharing race tales with Madrazo and Azzimani.
“Everyone was at the front racing to come first,” said Taufatofua. We were racing not to come last but we’ll have a good laugh over it over dinner.”


Pep Guardiola urges title calm after Manchester City edge closer after beating sorry United

Updated 25 April 2019
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Pep Guardiola urges title calm after Manchester City edge closer after beating sorry United

  • Guardiola’s City have 89 points after 35 games
  • Title rivals Liverpool are just one point behind

MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola said both Manchester City and Liverpool deserve to win the Premier League title after his side brushed aside Manchester United 2-0 on Wednesday to top the table again.
Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane struck for the visitors in 12 second-half minutes at Old Trafford to inflict a seventh defeat in nine games on United, who remain three points adrift of the top four.
Guardiola’s City have 89 points after 35 games, with Liverpool a point behind. Both sides have just three games remaining.
“I understand the pressure we have and obviously here at Old Trafford with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard running behind,” the City boss told Sky Sports. “I told them we needed to play to win, it doesn’t matter if we concede.
“Now we go to Burnley and we know how tough it will be. It’s important to be calm. We are still not champions with three gaurgesmes left — it’s incredible with the points we have and Liverpool have.
“I told the players don’t read tomorrow, don’t watch the television, just rest and sleep a lot and go in there against Burnley.”
“Both teams deserve the title,” he added. “But it can be just one. The team that is going to lose can’t have regrets because they have given everything. Normally with this kind of victory you can it enjoy it the most but we have to be calm.”