Spanish veteran Carlos Sainz bosses Dakar Rally Stage 5 in Ha’ail

Driver Carlos Sainz, of Spain, and co-driver Lucas Cruz, of Spain, race their Mini during stage five of the Dakar Rally between AlUla and Ha'il. (AP)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Spanish veteran Carlos Sainz bosses Dakar Rally Stage 5 in Ha’ail

  • 57-year-old Mini driver clocked 3hr 52min 01sec around the 563km (353km special) route from Al Ula to Ha'il
  • Britain’s Sam Sunderland, the 2017 winner and sixth overall at the start of the day, was forced to withdraw

HA’IL, Saudi Arabia: Spanish veteran Carlos Sainz, the 2010 and 2018 champion, consolidated his overall lead of the Dakar Rally after winning Thursday’s fifth stage, his 34th stage victory in the race being held this year in Saudi Arabia.
The 57-year-old Mini driver clocked 3hr 52min 01sec around the 563km (353km special) route from Al Ula to Ha'il through boulder-strewn, sandy surroundings including hills occasionally scattered with desert grass.
Sainz finished 2min 56sec ahead of his main rival, defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar in his Toyota.
“We gained three minutes and pushed really hard at the end,” said Sainz.

“I’m very happy because the car is working well. I had a flat tire at the start of the special, but I managed to make up the time.”
Sainz added: “I’m doing the best I can, but tomorrow when we open the route, maybe it will be completely different.”
Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, nicknamed ‘Mr Dakar’ for his 13 victories in the marathon rally, followed up on his victory in Wednesday’s fourth stage with a third-placed finish, 6:11 off Sainz’s pace.
“It was a completely different kind of stage today. For us it was not really perfect because we had two punctures,” bemoaned Peterhansel.
“One at the beginning on a rock, but also one slow puncture on the dunes. I don’t know why, maybe just a small piece of bush.


“So we had to stop two times and the second time Carlos overtook me and I tried to follow him on the dunes and the camel grass, but he was really fast.”
Peterhansel’s multiple victories in the Dakar have come seven times in a car and six times on a motorbike, and he likened the final run-in to this stage as being on two wheels.
“Carlos pushed a lot and I was really at my limit to stay within reach of him. After that, we overtook Nasser and took three minutes from him before finishing all three cars together, like a final in motocross,” the Frenchman said.
There was a second stage victory in the motorbike category for Australian KTM rider Toby Price.

The defending champion came through the finish line 1:12 ahead of Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla, with his Husqvarna teammate Andrew Short of the United States in third (+2:31).
American Ricky Brabec (Honda) finished fourth to retain his lead of the overall standings, 9:06 ahead of Price.
“The race is really close,” Brabec conceded. “Toby made a few minutes on me, I caught (third-placed) Kevin (Benavides) today.
“Tomorrow could be tricky. We’ll have to see what happens.”
There was drama, however, as Britain’s Sam Sunderland, the 2017 winner and sixth overall at the start of the day, was forced to withdraw from the Dakar after what organizers called a “severe fall” halfway through the stage that left him with back and left shoulder injuries.
Friday sees the cavalcade take on a 830km sixth stage (477km special) from Hail to the Saudi capital of Riyadh before a rest day on Saturday.

 

 


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.”