Alonso second on Dakar stage eight, behind Serradori

Toyota’s Hilux Overdrive driver Peter Van Merksteijn of the Netherlands and co-driver Michael Orr of Britain compete in the Stage 8 of the Dakar 2020 around Wadi Ad-Dawasir. (AFP)
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Updated 13 January 2020

Alonso second on Dakar stage eight, behind Serradori

  • Serradori finished 4min 4sec ahead of Toyota’s Alonso, with Argentinean Mini driver Orlando Terranova in third, at 6:19
  • Alonso, who had finished four times in the top 10 without having made the podium in a stage, was quick to heap praise on his co-driver/navigator Marc Coma

WADI AD-DAWASIR, Saudi Arabia: Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso recorded his best result of the Dakar Rally on Monday, finishing second behind Frenchman Mathieu Serradori on stage eight.
The stage was shrouded in mourning after the death on Sunday of Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves.
The motorbike and quadbike categories were canceled for the stage, a 477km loop incorporating straight sections with several chains of dunes to test handling skills.
“I’d like to dedicate this victory to Paulo because I’m a former biker,” said Serradori, an amateur who drives an SRT.
“It’s not easy to get motivated after a day like that and my co-pilot Fabien was there as well. But there are two fighters in the car and I’m very happy with this result.”
Serradori finished 4min 4sec ahead of Toyota’s Alonso, with Argentinean Mini driver Orlando Terranova in third, at 6:19.
Alonso, who had finished four times in the top 10 without having made the podium in a stage, was quick to heap praise on his co-driver/navigator Marc Coma, a five-time Dakar champion on a motorbike.
“Today we had an amazing day,” said Alonso. “We had one puncture unfortunately and we lost a little bit of momentum there, but otherwise the stage was nearly perfect and Marc was unbelievable, you know — the dunes, the navigation.
In his first Dakar Alonso had limited ambitions ruled out winning a stage but now he believes it is within his grasp.
“Initially I thought it was impossible,” he said. “But after today, obviously when you are second maybe there is a chance, so we will try.”
He said not having motorbikes setting the route had upset the rhythm of the stage.
“Having no bikes changed a lot, especially for the first two or three cars,” he said.
“I benefitted from starting from the back... I’m happy to complete the day without any issues. It was a beautiful stage, quite fast with a lot of dunes, so it was good. I think the dunes are harder than tracks, but for whatever reason I feel more comfortable.
“I’m not coming from the dunes at all but it seems that I can get a good rhythm and a good flow in the dunes and I’m enjoying so far this second week of the Dakar.”
His second place sees him consolidate his 13th place in the overall standings, more than 3hr 10min off the pace set by Carlos Sainz.
The battle continues atop the general classification between the leading trio of two-time winner Sainz, defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stephane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner (seven in cars, six on bikes).
Sainz had to open the way on the stage and was swiftly caught by Al-Attiyah and Peterhansel. But the veteran Spaniard then drove his Mini to keep pace with his rivals, meaning he retains the rally lead, 6:40 ahead of the Qatari and 13:09 in front of the Frenchman.
Tuesday’s 9th stage sees the cavalcade travel to the eastern town of Haradh on a 410km special.


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.”