‘Future of tennis’ Marta Kostyuk to face fourth seed next

‘Future of tennis’ Marta Kostyuk to face fourth seed next
Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk makes a forehand return to Australia's Olivia Rogowska during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (AP)
Updated 17 January 2018

‘Future of tennis’ Marta Kostyuk to face fourth seed next

‘Future of tennis’ Marta Kostyuk to face fourth seed next

MELBOURNE: Teenage sensation Marta Kostyuk was hailed as the “future of tennis” Wednesday after she became the youngest Australian Open second-round winner since “Swiss Miss” Martina Hingis in 1996.
The 15-year-old was rewarded with an all-Ukrainian clash against fourth seed Elina Svitolina as her fairytale run at the year’s first Grand Slam continued with a win over local wildcard Olivia Rogowska 6-3, 7-5.
It had commentators gushing that Kostyuk was “the future of tennis” as she extended her win streak at Melbourne Park to an incredible 11 matches after lifting the Australian Open girls’ title in 2017 and coming through qualifying this year.
“This is the future, ladies and gentlemen. Fifteen years of age,” said former British number one Sam Smith on Australia’s Channel 7. “This is an incredible story. This is the future of tennis on your screen.”
Before the start of this week Kostyuk’s total career prize money was $6,733, but she already has plans for the bumper $142,500 pay day she will earn even if she loses to Svitolina in the third round.
“Maybe I will get presents for my family, first of all, of course, because I have big family,” she said. “And then for myself a bit. Yeah.”
Playing since the age of five and watched by tennis-playing mum and coach Talina Beyko, who once reached 391st in the world, in her player’s box on Margaret Court Arena, Kostyuk said she had been used to setting new standards.
“I think I broke some records every year so I feel OK about it,” she said.
In the first round she had dismantled Chinese number one and 25th seed Peng Shuai in straight sets in just 57 minutes.
The talented Kostyuk continued in the same vein against Rogowska, taking the first set in 39 minutes.
“I didn’t feel like she was 15 at all,” said Rogowska. “I feel she’s going to be a dangerous player when she grows up. Obviously she had some silly errors, I think with experience she’ll clean that up.”
Svitolina clearly knows what to expect when she faces her young compatriot on Friday.
“I little bit watched her first round,” said the world number four after coming through a three-set battle against Katerina Siniakova.
“You know, she has nothing to lose, she goes just for everything. You know, a little bit like a headless chicken.”
The youngster is managed by former player Ivan Ljubicic, Roger Federer’s coach, and said she was pleased to have such experience in her corner.
“He is always helping me, telling me what was wrong, even when I win,” she said laughing. “I am lucky to have his experience.”
And long hours of practice, she said, was the key to her success.
“Well, I heard a lot of times that I’m talented, and I know that,” she told reporters with all the swagger of confident youth.
“But I know that only talent will not help me to play good. So I can say that I’m working pretty hard.”


American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition

American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition
Updated 23 min 16 sec ago

American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition

American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition
  • She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders
TOKYO: Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title.
The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.
Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.
The organization said Biles will be evaluated daily before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. Biles qualified for the finals on all four apparatuses, something she didn’t even do during her five-medal haul in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
The 24-year-old came to Tokyo as arguably the face of the Games following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. She topped qualifying on Sunday despite piling up mandatory deductions on vault, floor and beam following shaky dismounts.
She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. The weight became too heavy after vaulting during team finals. She lost herself in mid-air and completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. She consulted with US team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play.
When she returned, she took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles and turned into the team’s head cheerleader as the US claimed silver behind the Russian Olympic Committee.
“Once I came out here (to compete), I was like, ‘No mental is, not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,’” Biles said following the medal ceremony.
The decision opens the door wide open for the all-around, a title that was long considered a foregone conclusion. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished second to Biles during qualifying, followed by Lee and Russians Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova. The four were separated by three-tenths of a point on Sunday.
Carey now finds herself in the final, capping a remarkable journey for the 21-year-old from Phoenix. She spent two years traveling the globe in an effort to pile up enough points on the World Cup circuit to earn an individual nominative spot, meaning she would be in the Olympics but technically not be part of the four-woman US team.
Carey posted the second-best score on vault and the third-best on floor during qualifying, earning trips to the event finals in the process. Now she finds herself competing for an all-around medal while replacing the athlete considered the greatest of all-time in the sport.

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm
Updated 28 July 2021

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm
  • The tie-up puts the All Blacks into the high-performing Ineos sports stable along with the Mercedes F1 team

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Rugby confirmed a deal Wednesday for petrochemical giant Ineos to sponsor the All Blacks, in an agreement slammed by environmental watchdog Greenpeace.
Ineos has signed a six-year deal which will put its logo on the shorts of the 15- and seven-a-side men’s and women’s All Blacks teams as well as the Maori All Blacks and the New Zealand under-20 side.
The tie-up, reported in local media to be worth NZ$8.0 million ($5.6 million), puts the All Blacks into the high-performing Ineos sports stable along with the Mercedes F1 team, Grenadiers cycling team and Team UK sailing, as well as the Nice and Lausanne-Sport football clubs.
However, Greenpeace campaigner Juressa Lee said it was “gutting” to see New Zealand Rugby sign a sponsorship deal with the oil and gas conglomerate.
“Many of our rugby players are of Maori and Pacific descent, and come from communities which are on the frontline of sea level rise and extreme storm events, and they shouldn’t be expected to wear the brand of a climate polluter like Ineos,” she said.
“We also want to see our people living their dreams donning the black jersey, but now they will carry the Ineos brand, and Ineos is one of the world’s worst oil and plastic polluters.”
Announcing the deal, New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson had said: “We are committed to nurturing the development of rugby over the next six years with Ineos Sport and are looking forward to working alongside some of the best sports teams in the world.
“Ineos will bring an innovative approach and dedication to the partnership with our Teams in Black, qualities we see across all aspects of their business, particularly around sustainability with their commitment to deliver a zero-carbon emission future in line with the Paris Agreement.”
The 2015 Paris climate accord aims to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2.0 Celsius above pre-industrial levels and try to limit them to 1.5C.
All Blacks Captain Sam Whitelock said he welcomed being involved in the Ineos high-performance sport group.
“The All Blacks are looking forward to being part of this performance partnership and learning from some of their incredible sporting partnerships as well,” he said.


‘Pride and glory’ as Filipina brings home country’s first Olympic gold

Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
Updated 27 July 2021

‘Pride and glory’ as Filipina brings home country’s first Olympic gold

Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
  • Hidilyn Diaz won in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category, ending the Philippines’ 97-year drought since entering the Olympics in 1924

MANILA: Airwoman Sgt. Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” on Tuesday, a day after securing a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a first for the Philippines after nearly a century of waiting.

On Monday night, Filipinos took to social media to celebrate their “pride and glory” after Diaz snatched the elusive Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category, ending the Philippines’ 97-year drought in the arena since entering the Olympics in 1924.

Malacañang Palace, government, defense and military officials, lawmakers, and fellow athletes also sent congratulatory messages to Diaz, who is set to receive a “hero’s welcome” after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) checks from the Philippine Sports Commission.

“The Palace congratulates Hidilyn Diaz for bringing pride and glory to the Philippines for winning the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal,” Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Twitter post.

“Congratulations, Hidilyn. The entire Filipino nation is proud of you. Laban, Pilipinas (Fight, Philippines)!” he added.

Another Malacañang official, Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communication Communications Office, said that Diaz’s win “showcased Filipinos’ talent as world-class athletes.”  

Diaz will return to the Philippines on Wednesday, following which she, along with her team, will be hotel quarantined for seven days. All athletes, coaches, and officials are required to leave Japan within 48 hours of completing their set events or tasks.

“Hidilyn wants to be with her family, who she hasn’t seen for more than one and a half years now,” Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham Tolentino said.

Diaz is set to receive a cash windfall of over 35 million pesos, a house and many other rewards from the government, private sector and well-wishers for her “epic Olympic performance.”

It is a sentiment echoed by the Department of National Defense and ranking military officials who lauded Diaz for bringing “glory” and “pride” to the country, while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Diaz’s success was a “testament to the unwavering spirit of the Filipino to rise above all odds.

“Your One Defense Team is proud of you, Sergeant Diaz!” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.

Diaz, who hails from Zamboanga, joined the Philippines Air Force (PAF) in 2013 and is currently working with the Civil-Military Operations Group.

“The men and women of the PAF join the country in celebrating this historic event ... Congratulations and Mabuhay, Sgt Diaz!” said the PAF’s commander, Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, while Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana added that the military is “now more than ever inspired by her exceptional hard work, perseverance, and dedication.”

On Tuesday, Senator Pia Cayetano, sponsoring Senate resolution no. 805 commending Diaz, said that “a ticket to the Olympics is very rare, but the Olympic gold is reserved only for the best.

“I’d like to believe that when she took her first step and was on the Olympic stage in 2008, at the tender age of 17, that gold was already hung around her neck. Because we do not see all the preparation, the discipline, the perseverance, the daily struggles that go on every day, and that went on in the first few years leading to her first Olympics,” Cayetano said.

“She persevered … And (as) we all know, (with) very limited support. To believe in herself, and for the few people who believed in her, we need to honor them as well because she could not have done this alone.”

The lawmaker said Diaz’s win was commendable amid the pandemic and considering “her main competitor, whom she beat, is from China.

“Unlike in the Philippines, China’s been pretty much back to normal with its residents living a fairly normal life, being able to go out and move around. And this is what this woman has been able to achieve in the year 2021, in the time of COVID-19 … It takes a lot to do that,” Cayetano said, adding Diaz had also broken the glass ceiling for other female athletes.

“She never made excuses for her sex, despite being in a sport that is dominated by men. I can just imagine the kind of discriminatory remarks that she has had to endure as a female athlete … Hidilyn, you break the glass for all the young girls that follow.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Diaz deserved to be commissioned as an officer of the AFP.

“As chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, I would strongly recommend to the AFP leadership that she be given a rank as a commissioned officer of the PAF. It’s the least the service can give her,” Lacson said during a TV interview.

“Such a commission — either as a reserve or regular officer — is not just in recognition of her extraordinary feat, but also in recognition of her great potential to provide a good example to her fellow soldiers both as an athlete and as a leader,” he added.

Lacson said Diaz’s win gave 110 million Filipinos a significant reason to celebrate amid the “problems they now face” due to the pandemic.

“She makes us Filipinos very, very proud,” he said, saying Diaz’s saluting the Philippine flag and singing the national anthem at the Olympics “was the most touching moment that will be relived in our memories for a long, long time.”


Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane
Updated 27 July 2021

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane
  • Varane will undergo a medical until next week because of current UK coronavirus restrictions
  • British media reported value the deal at £34 million ($47 million) rising to £48 million with add-ons

LONDON: Manchester United have agreed a deal with Real Madrid to sign France center-back Raphael Varane, the Premier League giants announced Tuesday.
“Manchester United is delighted to announce the club has reached agreement with Real Madrid for the transfer of French international defender and World Cup winner, Raphael Varane, subject to a medical and to player terms being finalized,” said a club statement.
It is not expected, however, that Varane will be able to undergo a medical until next week because of current UK coronavirus restrictions.
No fee has been disclosed but British media reported value the deal at £34 million ($47 million) rising to £48 million with add-ons.
The 28-year-old Varane, a 2018 World Cup winner, has one season left on his contact at the Santiago Bernabeu.
He moved from French club Lens to Madrid in 2011 and has since made 360 appearances across all competitions for Madrid, winning 18 major honors — including four Champions League titles.
In a statement, Real — confirming they had agreed a fee with United — acknowledged Varane’s time in the Spanish capital by saying: “Our club thanks the player for his professionalism and exemplary conduct throughout his ten seasons representing our colors, during which time he has won 18 titles: 4 Champions Leagues, 4 Club World Cups, 3 European Super Cups, 3 LaLiga titles, 1 Copa del Rey and 3 Spanish Super Cups.
“Real Madrid would like to express their gratitude to Raphaël Varane and his family and wish him the best of luck in this new stage of his career.”
Should his move to Old Trafford be completed, Varane would find himself vying for a place in the center of United’s defense with club captain Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.
United finished second in last season’s Premier League but were a huge 12 points adrift of title-winners and local rivals Manchester City in the race to be crowned champions of England.
The Red Devils have not won a major trophy since the 2017 Europa League, with United’s last Premier League title success coming in celebrated manager Alex Ferguson’s final season before retirement eight years ago.


Sudanese judoka sent home from Olympics for not facing Israeli athlete

Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
Updated 27 July 2021

Sudanese judoka sent home from Olympics for not facing Israeli athlete

Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
  • The International Judo Foundation didn’t immediately announce a reason why Abdalrasool didn’t compete

TOKYO: A second judo athlete has dropped out of the Olympics before facing Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the 73-kilogram division.

Olympic officials say Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool didn’t show up to face Butbul in their round of 32 bout Monday despite weighing in for the bout earlier.

The International Judo Foundation didn’t immediately announce a reason why Abdalrasool didn’t compete, and the governing body didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Sudanese Olympic officials also didn’t immediately comment.

Algeria’s Fethi Nourine was sent home from the Tokyo Games and suspended by the IJF on Saturday after he withdrew to avoid a potential round of 32 matchup with Butbul. Nourine was supposed to face Abdalrasool for the right to meet Butbul.

Nourine later said his actions were a protest against Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Abdalrasool is the world’s 469th-ranked judoka in his weight class, while the accomplished Butbul is seventh.

Nourine also quit the World Judo Championships in 2019 right before he was scheduled to face Butbul.