April date set for Riyadh Baja

The inaugural event which was won by Yazeed Al-Rajhi — after a close fight with French legend Stephane Peterhansel — used desert terrain in Saad National Park. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 March 2020

April date set for Riyadh Baja

  • Racing is becoming popular in the Kingdom following the successful hosting of Dakar Rally

RIYADH: The Riyadh Baja, the second round of the 2020 Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, will take place on April 8-11, the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) has confirmed.

The series was launched successfully in 2019 and continues to attract the cream of the region’s off-road racers, with interest in the sport burgeoning since the Kingdom hosted the Dakar Rally for the first time in January.

The city of Hail hosted the opening round at the start of February, which was won by Saleh Alabdelali in a Hummer. The rookie driver currently leads the series after winning that round.

The three-day Riyadh Baja took place for the first time at the end of November last year, but has switched to the earlier April date in 2020.

It will be based at the Green Halls stadium complex in Riyadh, and will run under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of Lebanese consultant Ziad Jamous.

The terrain available to rally officials is extensive, and the inaugural event which was won by Yazeed Al-Rajhi — after a close fight with French legend Stephane Peterhansel — used desert terrain in Saad National Park. Diriyah hosted the ceremonial finish.

Yousef Al-Dhaif came out on top in the UTV category last year, with Emirati Mohammed Al-Balooshi winning the motorcycles and Sufyan Al-Omar topping the times in the quads.

After the opening round of this year’s series in Hail, Al-Balooshi leads the Saudi series on two wheels, with Riyadh Al-Oraifan on top in the quads and Saleh Alabdelali taking that surprise early lead in the cars.

The calendar for the season has now been confirmed, with the Aseer Baja taking place on June 18-20 and three further rounds — Al-Qassim, Sharqiya and the Tabuk Cross-Country Rally — rounding off the series in the autumn.

Officials at the SAMF are finalizing details and regulations for the event, which will run with the support of the new Sports Ministry, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. The new Sports Minister is Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.

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.”