Carlos Sainz takes Dakar Rally lead following 33rd career stage win in deserts of Neom

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Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team's Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz during stage 3 in the deserts of Neom. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 January 2020

Carlos Sainz takes Dakar Rally lead following 33rd career stage win in deserts of Neom

  • After struggling Monday, Attiyah’s teammate and ex-Formula One driver Fernando Alonso came in fifth
  • Overnight leader Orlando Terranova of Argentina and second stage winner Giniel de Villiers of South Africa both fell back

NEOM: Spain’s two-time champion Carlos Sainz, driving a Mini, shot into the overall lead after winning Tuesday’s third stage of the Dakar Rally, his 33rd stage victory in the race being held this year in Saudi Arabia.

Sainz clocked 3hr 48.01sec around the loop-shaped 404km route setting out from the future megalopolis of Neom, in the north of the kingdom close to the Jordanian border.

Racing over a sequence of canyons and mountains on sandy terrain, climbing to this year’s summit at 1,400 meters (4,593ft) in altitude, the 57-year-old Sainz beat home Qatar’s defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, in his Toyota, by 3:31.

“We finished the stage and today was a big day. We finished second,” said Attiyah, who suffered one flat tire and described navigation as “difficult.”

“It was a good day and we’re second in the general standings overall. Tomorrow, I hope it will be a good day because I will start behind Carlos and we can get a good time.

“We just need to finish this week and then next week we can decide to push because there are a lot of dunes.”

After struggling Monday, Attiyah’s teammate and ex-Formula One driver Fernando Alonso came in fifth.

Two Saudi drivers finished in the top 6 of a stage for the firt time in the history of the Dakar Rally after fine drives from Yasir Seaidan and Yazeed Al-Rajhi.

However, it was bad news for Emirati pilot Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al-Qassimi who crashed out and saw his Dakar Rally come to an abrupt end after wrecking his Peugeot vehicle.

Overnight leader Orlando Terranova of Argentina and second stage winner Giniel de Villiers of South Africa both trailed in behind Sainz.

Mini’s Terranova not only lost the lead in the general standings but finished 12:52 behind the stage winner, while De Villiers was 16:21 off the pace in his Toyota.

“It was really tricky navigation once more, but I managed to follow them quite easily, though, for sure, Nasser and Carlos were going really fast today,” the South African said.

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CHECK OUT PHOTOS OF STAGE 3'S ACTION

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In the motorbike category, American Honda rider Ricky Brabec dominated the stage to storm into overall lead.

Brabec finished almost 10 minutes ahead of teammate Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, in second, with a third Honda rider, Joan Barreda Bort, rounding out the stage’s podium.

Defending champion Toby Price of Australia, finished 35 minutes off the pace on his KTM.

The stage was marked by several falls, the most dramatic arguably by Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren, who lost control of his Yamaha and was pitched violently over the handlebars into the sand after just three kilometers. He received medical treatment on site, but was forced to withdraw from the rest of the race.

Wednesday’s fourth stage sees the rally leave northwestern Saudi Arabia, a 453km special on a mix of sandy stretches and gravel sections, mostly on tracks, past Nabaetean temples toward the historic walled city of AlUla.


Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

Updated 08 July 2020

Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

  • The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded

SHANGHAI: The retirement of two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan signals the end of a golden era of Chinese sporting superstars, state media said on Tuesday.

Arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, the 36-year-old said on Saturday that he was bringing the curtain down on a career that also brought five world titles.

NBA All-Star Yao Ming, Olympic gold-medal hurdler Liu Xiang and two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na have all retired in the last decade.

“With the ‘Super Dan’ curtain call, people cannot help but sigh,” Xinhua news agency said.

“The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded.

“When will the next Lin Dan appear? Or when will the next Yao Ming, Liu Xiang and Li Na appear?

“Where is the next Chinese sports superstar who will create a collective memory for us?”

The quartet were not just world leaders in their sport and popular in China, but also had “considerable influence in the international arena and became a window for the world to understand China,” Xinhua said.

Of prominent Chinese athletes left, women’s volleyball player Zhu Ting has the potential to rise to superstar level, Xinhua said, while disgraced swimmer Sun Yang “enjoys high popularity (in China), but unfortunately he is banned.” 

The 28-year-old is appealing against an 8-year ban for refusing to give a doping sample. The three-time Olympic freestyle champion’s career will effectively be over if he loses his appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

China has world champions in other sports, and finished third behind the US and Britain in the medal table at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but they are not generally well-known even inside the country, Xinhua said.

Table tennis player Zhang Jike, another three-time Olympic gold medalist, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lin, said the Oriental Sports Daily.

But at 32 his best days are behind him and as far back as 2016 he signaled his intention to retire, before having a change of heart.

“When will the next Lin Dan and China’s next sports superstar appear again?” asked the newspaper.

“This question may not be answered in a short space of time.”