Dane dominant as Saudi Ladies Team International heats up

Dane dominant as Saudi Ladies Team International heats up
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Luna Sobron of Spain during the second round.
Dane dominant as Saudi Ladies Team International heats up
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Michele Thomson of Scotland during the second round.
Dane dominant as Saudi Ladies Team International heats up
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Emily Kristine Pedersen.
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Updated 18 November 2020

Dane dominant as Saudi Ladies Team International heats up

Dane dominant as Saudi Ladies Team International heats up
  • Team Pedersen lead Team Nuutinen with one round to go

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Danish star Emily Kristine Pedersen has shown she isn’t done yet, threatening to pull off a Saudi sweep following another sparkling display on Wednesday in the Saudi Teams International golf tournament individual race.

Fresh off her victory in a tense playoff with England’s Georgia Hall in the $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International at the weekend, the talented Pedersen shot a 6-under 66 in glorious sunshine at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

Pedersen’s second-round effort to go with a first round 69 gave her a two-day total of 135 to sit one back of Spain’s Luna Sobron Galmes.

The Spaniard charged to the top of the leaderboard after matching the women’s course record of 65 that Hall and Caroline Hedwall of Sweden registered in succession during the first two days of the SLI.

More importantly, the 24-year-old Pedersen and her team of Michele Thomson (Scotland) and Cassandra Hall (RSA) are the leaders (-27) with one round to go at the 54-hole Ladies European Tour event.

The event has a prize fund of $500,000, with $300,000 up for grabs in the four-team two-to-count competition and $200,000 in the individual section.

“We are loving playing together and having a good time,” said Thomson.

“It’s a great new event. We’re here for Emily to make all the birdies and us to make all the pars. It gives us a confidence boost that she (Pedersen) picked us, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

Two shots back are Team Nuutinen (-25), with Team De Roey, Team Engstrom and Team Henry all firmly in contention at 23-under after taking advantage of some rare favorable afternoon scoring conditions.

Sustaining her strong performance, Galmes leads the individual contest by one shot on 10-under 134 total. The 26-year-old had a pitched-in eagle from 73 yards on 17, while also posting seven birdies with a red-hot putter.

“I’m very happy with my round,” she said.”The key was my putter, but you also have to be accurate with your long game on this course. I’m not thinking if I can win either event or not — I’m just playing my game.”

Pedersen said: “My focus is on the team this week and I am going to do my best regardless, for the team or the individual, and I hope I can keep making birdies and we can get it done as a team tomorrow.”

Long-hitting Dutchwoman Anne van Dam and first-round leader Sanna Nuutinen of  Finland are within striking distance of the leaders on 7-under and 6-under, with English star Charley Hull on -5.

On a drama-filled day, SLI runner-up Hall recovered from a poor opening day with a superb ball striking to match her own course record of 65 and finish on 4-under.

“I found putting the disappointment of last week behind me hard, especially with such a quick turnaround,” said Hall.

“It’s obviously quite a different format of things and to be honest my head really wasn’t quite in it yesterday. I did play very well today, so it was good to get a very low round in. I kind of needed it after yesterday.”


Saudi Arabia and Egypt look to keep hopes of Olympic football glory alive against powerhouses Germany and Argentina

Despite an encouraging performance in its opening Group D match on Thursday, Saudi Arabia still lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast and now face a strong German team. (AFP)
Despite an encouraging performance in its opening Group D match on Thursday, Saudi Arabia still lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast and now face a strong German team. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2021

Saudi Arabia and Egypt look to keep hopes of Olympic football glory alive against powerhouses Germany and Argentina

Despite an encouraging performance in its opening Group D match on Thursday, Saudi Arabia still lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast and now face a strong German team. (AFP)
  • The Young Falcons cannot afford another defeat against Rio 2016 silver medalists in their clash at Yokohama International Stadium on Sunday morning

DUBAI: The U-23 teams of Saudi Arabia and Egypt on Sunday go into the second round of matches at the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Football competition with their dreams of progress to the quarterfinals very much alive.

But both will know that against two of the competition’s most formidable teams in Germany and Argentina there will be little margin for error if they are to go into their last group matches later this week with their fates still in their hands.

Despite an encouraging performance in its opening Group D match on Thursday, Saudi Arabia still lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast and now face a strong German team that will be looking to make amends for their 4-2 loss to reigning Olympic champions Brazil.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri has been carrying out training sessions at Mitsuzawa Stadium in Tokyo and will welcome the addition of Firas Al-Buraikan to the squad ahead of the match with the Rio 2016 silver medalists, which will take place in Yokohama International Stadium on Sunday morning (2.30am KSA)

For the Saudi team’s three overage players — Yasser Al-Shahrani, Salman Al-Faraj and Salem Al-Dossary — the clash with Germany will bring back memories of the time they represented the senior national team against the then World champions just six days before the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

In the friendly match at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, Argentinian coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, then in charge of the Saudi national team, started Al-Shahrani at left-back, Al-Dossary as a winger and Salman Al-Faraj in midfield.

The match finished in a 2-1 loss for the Saudis, with Tayseer Al-Jassem scoring a a consolation goal six minutes from the end after the Germans had taken a two-goal lead in the first half through goals by Timo Werner after eight minutes and an own goal by Omar Hawsawi before the break.

Saudi Arabia will play their third and final group match against Brazil on Wednesday, July 28, while Ivory Coast and Germany face off on the same day.

Egypt claimed a priceless point from a scoreless draw with Group C favorites Spain, and will now look for a similar, or even better, outcome against Argentina at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday morning (10.30am KSA).

The Pharaohs have given themselves a real chance of progress to the quarterfinals and could still achieve that with a win against Australia in their final match on Wednesday, even if their match against Argentina should end in defeat. The South Americans will face Spain on the group’s final day.


Tunisia’s Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi wins first Arab Tokyo 2020 medal in Taekwondo

Tunisia's Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won the first Arab medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday - a silver in the Taekwondo competition. (AFP)
Tunisia's Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won the first Arab medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday - a silver in the Taekwondo competition. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2021

Tunisia’s Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi wins first Arab Tokyo 2020 medal in Taekwondo

Tunisia's Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won the first Arab medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday - a silver in the Taekwondo competition. (AFP)
  • The final was another thriller that was tied 10-10 with about 15 seconds left

LONDON: Tunisia's Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won the first Arab medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday after reaching the final of the men's Taekwondo 58kg category.

He secured the silver after being beaten by Italy's Vito Dell'Aquila, who secured the gold medal, the Italian's first Olympic medal.

The final was another thriller that was tied 10-10 with about 15 seconds left before Dell’Aquila won with a flurry of scoring strikes.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Saudi rower Husein Alireza finished second in Repechage 3 on Saturday morning to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Men’s Single Sculls competition.

It was dissapointment for Saudi Ali Al-Khadrawi in the Table Tennis Men’s Singles competition at Tokyo 2020, as he made an early exit after going down in straight games to Lubomir Jancarik of Czech Republic.


Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US

Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US
Updated 43 min 46 sec ago

Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US

Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US
  • The gap between USA Basketball and the rest of the world has tightened
  • Americans are the only team in Tokyo with 12 NBA players

SAITAMA, Japan: When the Dream Team era started in 1992, most of the NBA players in the Olympics represented the United States.
David Stern knew what would happen from there.
“In time,” the former NBA commissioner predicted in 1995, “that will change.”
Stern was right. The number of international players in the NBA has steadily risen since — and the gap between USA Basketball and the rest of the world has tightened as well. There will be more players in this tournament with NBA experience than ever before, with nearly 70 players in the Tokyo Olympics either current or former players in the league. More than four dozen of them played in the league this past season.
And only 12 of that group are in Japan to compete with “USA” across their chests.
That’s why, when this men’s Olympic tournament opens Sunday, the medal possibilities may be as wide open as they have been since that first team of NBA stars took the court in Barcelona. That group — which featured 11 future Hall of Famers on a 12-man roster — showed the rest of the world how much they had to do to catch the red, white and blue.
“The gap is smaller and smaller every year as far as talent is concerned,” US coach Gregg Popovich said.
The US is seeking a fourth consecutive gold medal and is the big favorite to do just that according to FanDuel, The Americans are the only team in Tokyo with 12 NBA players. But like Popovich said and Stern anticipated years ago, the talent gap has drastically dwindled.
Nigeria, which beat the Americans in an exhibition, has eight NBA players. Australia, which also defeated the US in a warm-up game, has seven. So does France, the first US opponent in this tournament on Sunday and the nation that knocked the Americans out of contention at the Basketball World Cup two years ago. That setback sent the team spiraling to a seventh-place finish, the worst showing in any tournament ever for an American roster composed of NBA players.
“I think every team wants to beat us,” US forward Kevin Durant said. “Everybody wants to see us lose, so every game has a little bit more pressure to it.”
There’s only one current All-NBA first team player in these Olympics. He doesn’t play for the US.
Slovenia’s Luka Doncic garnered more first-team votes in the All-NBA voting this season, 55, than the entire US Olympic roster got combined. This is Slovenia’s first time in the Olympics, but with Doncic leading the way, medal talk doesn’t seem misguided.
“Slovenians, we know how to fight, man,” Doncic said. “We’re not going to go down easy.”
Doncic willed Slovenia to a win in the Olympic qualifying tournament that ended on July 4 and gave the tiny nation a spot in the Tokyo field. And what he’s done in his NBA tenure with Dallas has only shown the world that the buzz he arrived with was more than appropriate.
“He’s a spectacular player, as we all know,” Popovich said. “He’s one of the best players in the world. And I emphasize, in the world. He showed himself early on in Europe, and he was a fast study in the NBA for sure. He’s fun to watch. His skills, his competitiveness, his size, his innate basketball IQ is so impressive. You put four hardworking people around him and you’ve got a hell of a team.”
There are 12 teams in the field; four will have to wait until Monday for their Olympic openers. Sunday’s schedule has Iran vs. the Czech Republic, Germany vs. Italy, Australia vs. Nigeria and then the US vs. France. The Monday men’s openers are Argentina vs. Slovenia and host Japan vs. reigning World Cup champion Spain.
The Miami Heat have four players at the Olympics, but only one plays for the US. The Heat have three players on Nigeria’s roster (KZ Okpala, Precious Achiuwa and Gabe Vincent Nnamdi), with Bam Adebayo playing for the US.
The only men’s team in the Olympic field without a current NBA player is Iran. That roster does, however, have a former NBA player — Hamed Haddadi, who appeared in 151 games over parts of five NBA seasons for Memphis and Phoenix. He last appeared in the NBA in 2013.
The women’s game is going on the same trajectory as the men’s when it comes to having more international players with WNBA experience in these Olympics than in any previous games. The US has 12 WNBA players on its roster, while Australia has nine current or former WNBA players and Canada has eight.
Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulić, on what Doncic does for a team: “Everything looks way easier and he’s making other players good. Also, me, myself.”


Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020

Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020
Updated 24 July 2021

Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020

Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020
  • Despite the turmoil in the country, the delegation will represent Yemen in its 10th Olympic Games

DUBAI: Five athletes will represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020 despite the country’s continuing war and political and economic turmoil.
The country’s 12-strong delegation at the opening ceremony in the Japanese capital included the athletes and their coaches, and was headed by the Yemeni ambassador to Germany, Yahya Al-Shuaibi, who is also a vice president of the Yemen National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The five athletes are Yasmine Al-Rimi in the Women’s Shooting, Ahmad Salem in the Men’s Judo, swimmers Mukhtar Ali Al-Yamani in the Men’s 100 and 200 meters freestyle and Noran Bamatraf in the Women’s 100 meters freestyle, and athlete Ahmed Al-Yari in the men’s 400 meters.
The is the 10th time that Yemen has participated at the Olympics since its NOC was established in 1974 and recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1981.


Paulinho capture could prove a masterstroke for Al-Ahli in quest for Saudi Pro League glory

Paulinho capture could prove a masterstroke for Al-Ahli in quest for Saudi Pro League glory
Updated 24 July 2021

Paulinho capture could prove a masterstroke for Al-Ahli in quest for Saudi Pro League glory

Paulinho capture could prove a masterstroke for Al-Ahli in quest for Saudi Pro League glory
  • The former Brazilian international joins the Jeddah giants after considerable successful spell at Chinese club Guangzhou FC

If Al-Ahli go on to have a great season when the Saudi Professional League (SPL) kicks off next month, its fans may well look back on the signing of Paulinho as a turning point.

The three year-deal was announced on Friday and it is a big one for many reasons, not least because the Brazilian has been perhaps the best foreign player that the Chinese Super League has ever seen and if he can replicate that form in Jeddah then fans have much to look forward to. China’s loss is Saudi Arabia’s gain.

Those supporters will, of course, remember the midfielder more for his time with Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and Brazil than for his exploits with Guangzhou Evergrande (now known just as Guangzhou FC) but his time in China is as instructive, not just because it is the most recent, but because it is so impressive.

As has been the case in Saudi Arabia over the years, plenty of big-name and expensive players have also arrived in China in recent times. Some have succeeded — such as Oscar and Hulk at Shanghai SIPG — and some have not, with Carlos Tevez’s time at Shanghai Shenhua a particular low. None have been as good, consistent or as influential as the 32-year-old who cost Barcelona more than $50 million just three years ago.

After a tough spell with Tottenham Hotspur, the former Corinthians star arrived in southern China in 2015, signed by Luiz Felipe Scolari just days after he had taken the job. Paulinho settled quickly and helped the team to the Asian title that year, defeating the Al-Ahli of the UAE in the final. In his first spell at Guangzhou, he scored 25 goals in 95 appearances from midfield, with set pieces a speciality, but his influence ran wider than that. He helped to organize the team, was a steady presence in the middle and, in short, was a leader on the pitch in a league where too many foreign players are happy to do “just enough.”

“As a coach, he is everything you want in a player,” said Scolari after the Asian title win. “He is a fantastic all-round talent, a great professional. I can trust him completely and I know all the players do too.”

His form earned a recall to the Brazilian national team in 2016, again not an easy feat when you are playing so far away. With the Selecao struggling in qualification for the 2018 World Cup, Paulinho returned and helped the team to win the next eight qualifiers. On a personal level, the high point came with a hat-trick against Uruguay in Montevideo, never the easiest place to go. Such form tempted Barcelona to spend big in 2017 and he helped deliver a league and cup double. There was a return to China in 2019 and, in his second spell, he played a little further up the pitch and subsequently scored 45 goals in 81 games, with an added 29 assists in total.

The fact that he is a free agent and cost Al-Ahli nothing does not reflect on Guangzhou’s desire to keep their star. Simply, he has been — like Talisca now at Al-Nassr — unable to return to the East Asian country from Brazil due to China’s strict entry requirements in the middle of a global pandemic. As he has been unable to play football since last November, Guangzhou reluctantly agreed to let him go and fans are sorry to see him leave but have been resigned to his departure for months.

That inaction means that it may take him time to find his feet in Saudi Arabia, but it is only a matter of time before the class starts to show. It is true that, at 32, he is no spring chicken and is not quite as box-to-box as he has been in his career, but the tempo in the SPL is also slower than it is in China.

It will be up to new Al-Ahli coach Besnik Hasi to decide how to use Brazilian star Paulinho

 in a deeper role where he can protect the defense, as an outlet for balls from the back that start attacks or deploy him further up the pitch where he can use his considerable shooting skills and also create chances for others. Omar Al-Somah should be rubbing his hands in anticipation.

There were rumors of player discontent at Al-Ahli last season, a reason perhaps for the disappointing eighth-place finish, a performance not good enough for an Asian powerhouse. Paulinho is a consummate professional, a team player and a leader. His presence alone should give everyone a lift and while it may take a little time to shake off the rustiness, Al-Ahli will see the best of Paulinho sooner rather than later, and if he is half as influential in Saudi Arabia as he was in China then fans will be in for a treat.