Japan says Olympics must not burden medical systems

Athletes warm up before the FINA Diving World Cup, which doubles as a test event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on May 1, 2021. (AFP / Charly Triballeau)
Athletes warm up before the FINA Diving World Cup, which doubles as a test event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on May 1, 2021. (AFP / Charly Triballeau)
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Updated 01 May 2021

Japan says Olympics must not burden medical systems

Japan says Olympics must not burden medical systems

TOKYO: The Olympics must not be a burden on medical systems, Japan’s chief government spokesman said on Friday, amid worries that daily athlete testing will tax health resources already stressed in fighting a rebound of COVID-19 cases.

The Games will be held in a manner that makes everyone feel safe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters, responding to concerns raised by a nurses’ union that the world’s biggest sporting event will sap medical resources needed by the public.

Tokyo 2020 organizers this week issued the second edition of “playbooks” that lay out infection prevention standards for the Summer Games, which are due to start in less than three months after a one-year delay because of the pandemic.

The rules require daily testing of athletes and restrict their use of public transportation, complicating logistics in more remote locations.

The venue for surfing in the Tokyo Olympics refused to set up COVID-19 testing and treatment facilities for athletes, citing a lack of medical facilities, NHK reported on Friday.

The town of Ichinomiya, about 96 km (60 miles) east of Tokyo, had been asked to set up a testing facility by the Brazilian national team, NHK said.

Brazilian surfers, expected to be among the medals at the sport’s Olympic debut, had wanted to base themselves near the beach instead of the Olympic Village some two hours away, NHK said.

A representative of the town’s Olympic planning office denied the report when contacted by Reuters. Representatives for the Tokyo Olympics did not immediately respond when contacted for comment, and the Brazilian team could not immediately be reached.

Japan is struggling to tame a coronavirus resurgence and its immunisation drive, dependent so far on imports of Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, is lagging all other wealthy nations.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura confirmed on Friday that the first doses of Moderna Inc’s vaccine, expected to be approved in May, had arrived in Japan.

Japan has inoculated only 1.8% of its population, too little to blunt a fourth wave of cases driven by more infectious strains of the virus.

Seeking to slow the spread, Tokyo and Osaka remain under a state of emergency, set to last until May 11.

“If we don’t move forward with mass vaccination, we’ll end up with an endless loop of emergency declarations forever,” Hiroshi Mikitani, the chief executive office of e-commerce company Rakuten, told TV Asahi.

Tokyo reported 1,027 new cases on Thursday, the highest since Jan. 28 during the previous emergency declaration, and 698 on Friday.


Al-Nassr find hiring right coach at right time becoming more difficult

Al-Nassr find hiring right coach at right time becoming more difficult
Updated 20 min 57 sec ago

Al-Nassr find hiring right coach at right time becoming more difficult

Al-Nassr find hiring right coach at right time becoming more difficult
  • Riyadh club recently fired Mano Menezes, but lack of job security may make possible replacements Marcelo Gallardo, Rudi Garcia think twice

RIYADH: Firing a coach is one thing but hiring the right man is another entirely. Al-Nassr relieved Mano Menezes of his duties on Sept. 19 and want to appoint a new manager in the coming days.

It may not happen before the next league game against Abha on Thursday but there is a desire to get the next boss in place before the quarterfinal of the AFC Champions League against Al-Wahda on Oct. 15.

As usual, there are a number of names floating around in the mix and most of them are familiar.

Every time a big job in Saudi Arabia becomes available then Cosmin Olaroiu’s name comes up. The Romanian has a proven track record of success in the region winning league titles with Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia and in the UAE with Al-Ain and Al-Ahli. If that was not enough, the 52-year-old led Jiangsu Suning to the Chinese championship last year.

Seen as a safe pair of hands and thought to be open to a move to Al-Nassr if the conditions are right, Olaroiu also knows the AFC Champions League after leading Al-Ahli to the final of the 2015 tournament.

A slightly more left-field name is that of Matias Almeyda with reports in the US that the Riyadh club are interested in the San Jose Earthquakes boss. The former Lazio, Parma, and Inter midfielder has had success with River Plate and Banfield in his homeland of Argentina and took Guadalajara to the Mexico title and the 2018 Concacaf Champions League.

Lucien Favre, dismissed as boss of Borussia Dortmund in December, and Paulo Fonseca, the former Roma coach who almost joined Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, have also been mentioned. There are more names such as former Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas and former Al-Ahly coach Rene Weiler in the mix.

Then there is Rudi Garcia, available after leaving Lyon in May. The 57-year-old is on the list as he is thought to be at the right age for a move to Saudi Arabia. All his managerial career has been spent in France, except for a three-year spell with Roma, and it could be the right time to take a break from Europe.

Taking Lille to the title in 2011 was an impressive achievement and he has been named as the French manager of the year on three occasions. With spells at Marseille, Lyon, and Roma, the pressures of managing Al-Nassr would not be a problem.

With victories over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Champions League, Garcia could implement the kind of fast-paced possession football that not only appeals to Al-Nassr fans but would suit the kind of players at the club.

The Yellows would not be the first to try and tempt Marcelo Gallardo from Argentina. The 45-year-old has been named as South American coach of the year on the last three occasions but has stayed with River Plate since 2014. Reports from Buenos Aires claim that Al-Nassr officials have been in the city since last week but while the club is staying quiet on this, it looks as if Gallardo wants to stay where he is until the end of the year at least.

Finding a good coach may not be that difficult for one of the biggest clubs in Asia but finding the right one is a different question altogether. With three coaches departing Riyadh in the last nine months, it is obvious that job security is precarious, and it is not just Riyadh. Even at this early stage of the season, Menezes was not the first to lose his job, but the fourth.

Such a carousel can make it more difficult to attract a certain kind of coach. Those who want to build a team and a philosophy are unlikely to be tempted as they know that after a couple of defeats, the pressure is on. Menezes led the team through the group stage of the Champions League, past the second round and into the last eight. And yet, after two defeats in the first four games of the season, he was out.

It means that clubs have to offer silly money to tempt coaches or stick to those who do not mind taking the risk. The likes of Garcia and Gallardo may be open to working in Saudi Arabia as even a short and failed spell on their resume would not detract from the successes they have had. Alternatively, they may just decide that it is not worth the risk.

Even if a top target does decide to come, the shadow of dismissal that is never far away surely means that he is not going to do the best work. Why build a team and style when a couple of bad results means that you could be out?

The focus is only on winning the next game. If that is all that matters, then such high-level coaches are probably not necessary; there are plenty of available tacticians in Europe who could do a job and set a team up to get results.

But if a club is chasing the likes of Gallardo, an internationally renowned coach who has turned down offers from prestigious clubs, then surely it makes sense to give them the time and atmosphere needed to do the best work that they can.


Plenty of intrigue left in unique 2021 tennis calendar as Daniil Medvedev eyes top spot

Plenty of intrigue left in unique 2021 tennis calendar as Daniil Medvedev eyes top spot
Updated 34 min ago

Plenty of intrigue left in unique 2021 tennis calendar as Daniil Medvedev eyes top spot

Plenty of intrigue left in unique 2021 tennis calendar as Daniil Medvedev eyes top spot
  • Pandemic leaves the rest of the season a mash-up of events in locations stretching from Chicago to Turin

The tennis grand slam season may be over, but the calendar is far from finished, with several storylines to keep an eye on over the next couple of months.

Post-US Open action typically revolves around Asia, but since tournaments in China and Japan have been canceled due to the pandemic, the upcoming schedule on both the women’s and men’s tours is a unique and possibly confusing mash-up of big and small events taking place at any location prepared to host them.

If you are experiencing tennis withdrawal symptoms since the US Open and are not sure what to follow, here is a guide to help you through the next few weeks.

WTA Finals back on the calendar

The WTA Finals were canceled last year, but the tournament has found a new and temporary home in Guadalajara, Mexico, for this season and will return to its original host city of Shenzhen in China from 2022.

The top eight women in the race will qualify for the prestigious season finale, which will be a held in a later-than-usual slot on the schedule, from Nov. 10-17.

Three players — Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova — have already booked their tickets to Guadalajara, and the fight for the five remaining spots might go down to the wire, with just 1,000 points separating the players ranked between 7 and 24 in the race.

Tunisian Ons Jabeur is looking to become the first Arab in history to qualify for the WTA Finals. Ranked No.9 in the race, the 27-year-old will ignite her campaign to secure a place in Guadalajara when she takes to the court at the WTA 500 tournament in Chicago this week. She is also entered in Indian Wells and Moscow.

Others in the running for qualification spots include Karolina Pliskova, Maria Sakkari, Iga Swiatek, Naomi Osaka, Garbine Muguruza and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

ATP Finals set for Turin debut

After 12 successful years at London’s O2 Arena between 2009 and 2020, the ATP Finals will move to Turin, which will host the men’s season-closer from 2021 to 2025.

With the exception of last year when the event was held behind closed doors due to the pandemic, the ATP Finals witnessed near sellout crowds for every single session during its tenure in London, and it will be interesting to see whether Turin will be able to attract similar attention for the top-eight showpiece.

A trio of ATP Finals champions has already qualified for Turin, in the form of Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, with five places yet to be scooped up. Rafael Nadal is No.7 in the race but the Spaniard has ended his season prematurely to rehab his ailing foot.

Italian Matteo Berrettini is looking to qualify on home soil, while Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz and Felix Auger-Aliassime are hoping to make their ATP Finals debut.

Tennis returns to Indian Wells

Arguably everyone’s favorite destination on the tennis calendar, Indian Wells is back on the schedule following a lengthy absence. The tournament was the first to get the axe in March last year when the world went into lockdown, and it was moved from its regular spring slot to Oct. 6-17 this season, much to the delight of both players and fans.

Notable absentees from the field include Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and defending champion Dominic Thiem.

With 1,000 points on the line in the California desert, Indian Wells might prove crucial in the race to Turin and Guadalajara.

Medvedev’s bid for the top ranking

It is a long shot, and will require Daniil Medvedev to win the majority of his matches until the end of the season, but the Russian has a chance of becoming the first player outside the “Big Four” to be ranked No.1 on the ATP tour since Andy Roddick in 2003.

Medvedev is currently just over 1,500 points behind Novak Djokovic in the rankings and the reigning US Open champion can unseat the Serb if he successfully defends his Paris Masters and ATP Finals titles, while also enjoying a strong run at Indian Wells.

The world No.2 has the option to add the St. Petersburg tournament to his schedule (starts Oct. 25) should he feel he has a legitimate chance of ending the season at the summit of the rankings.

Djokovic has around 500 points to defend for the rest of the season, and has more opportunities to add to his tally, compared with Medvedev.

Legends on the comeback trail

Four-time major champion Kim Clijsters kicked off her comeback attempt in Dubai in February 2020, shortly before the tour was suspended due to the pandemic. The Belgian had spent nearly eight years off tour before returning to competition last season, but ended up just playing three matches in total in 2020.

The 38-year-old will resume her comeback this week in Chicago, where she opens her campaign against Hsieh Su-Wei, with the winner of that clash taking on Ons Jabeur in round two.

Meanwhile, on the men’s side, former world No.1 Andy Murray continues his search for form and is edging closer to a place in the top 100, thanks to his recent quarterfinal run in Metz.

The Scot, who has undergone multiple hip surgeries, is playing in San Diego this week, where he faces Kei Nishikori in his opening round.

“I’ve not played this many tournaments in a while and my body feels good. I’m gaining confidence and seeing the points develop and how I want to play them again. The results are coming and my tennis is getting better,” Murray said after reaching his first quarterfinal in two years.

National duty beckons

Both the Billie Jean King Cup Finals (formerly Fed Cup) and the Davis Cup finals have been confirmed on the calendar, with the former taking place in Prague from Nov. 1-6 and the latter being staged across three cities — Madrid, Turin and Innsbruck — from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5.

The BJK Cup Finals will follow the single-venue format for the first time, as 12 teams, split among four round-robin groups, will gather in the Czech capital.

Considering how hectic and long this season has been, especially factoring in the Olympics, it is hard to imagine too many teams turning up to these events with full-strength squads.

Winter action in the Gulf

Before we bid farewell to 2021, tennis will come to the UAE in various forms over the next couple of months.

Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena will host a fun Tie Break Tens event on Oct. 22, featuring Gael Monfils and Dan Evans among others.

The Habtoor Tennis Challenge, a popular $100,000 women’s ITF tournament, is scheduled for Nov. 22-28 in Dubai, while the Mubadala World Tennis Championship returns to Abu Dhabi from Dec. 16-18.


Maxwell, Patel hat-trick help Bangalore thrash Mumbai Indians in IPL

Maxwell, Patel hat-trick help Bangalore thrash Mumbai Indians in IPL
Updated 46 sec ago

Maxwell, Patel hat-trick help Bangalore thrash Mumbai Indians in IPL

Maxwell, Patel hat-trick help Bangalore thrash Mumbai Indians in IPL
  • Harshal Patel flattened Mumbai’s batting with his medium-pace bowling

DUBAI: Glenn Maxwell’s all-round show and a hat-trick by Harshal Patel helped Royal Challengers Bangalore hammer holders Mumbai Indians by 54 runs in the Indian Premier league on Sunday.
In the first match of the day, M.S. Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings beat Kolkata Knight Riders by two wickets in a last-ball thriller to move top of the eight-team table.
Australia’s Maxwell held center-stage in game two with a quickfire 56 guiding Bangalore to 165-6 and then his off-spin got two key wickets including skipper Rohit Sharma, for 43, to bowl out Mumbai for 111 in 18.1 overs in Dubai.
Patel flattened Mumbai’s batting with his medium-pace bowling as he sent back Hardik Pandya (3), Kieron Pollard (7) and Rahul Chahar (0) to get his first IPL hat-trick and return figures of 4-17.
Skipper Virat Kohli also played a key part as he went past 10,000 runs in T20 cricket with a six off Mumbai quick Jasprit Bumrah and become the fifth international batsman to achieve the feat.
Kohli has been under the spotlight since announcing this month that he would step down as India’s T20 captain after the World Cup and the Bangalore captaincy after this IPL tournament.
Kohli’s team are still searching for an IPL title as they revived their campaign with a win after three straight losses this pandemic-hit season
The star batsman (51) came all guns blazing after Bangalore were invited to bat first and took apart the bowlers, albeit with some luck through dropped catches on nought and 37.
He put on key partnerships including a 68-run second-wicket stand with Srikar Bharat and then put on 51 runs with Maxwell.
Maxwell used the reverse sweep to good effect and hit six fours and three sixes in his 37-ball knock.
Bumrah took three wickets including Maxwell and AB de Villiers off successive deliveries to check the opposition but Bangalore’s total proved enough.
In reply, Sharma and Quinton de Kock, who made 23, started strongly but the duo’s departure saw five-time champions Mumbai lose momentum and sink to their third straight loss.
Earlier in Abu Dhabi, Ravindra Jadeja’s crucial cameo and 43 by Faf du Plessis helped Chennai Super Kings topple Delhi Capitals from the top of the table.
Needing 26 off 12 deliveries while chasing 172 for victory, Chennai reached their target on the final ball to record their third straight win.
The left-handed Jadeja, who made 22 off eight balls, smashed fast bowler Prasidh Krishna for two sixes and two fours in the 19th over to leave Chennai needing four to win off the final six balls.
Spinner Sunil Narine bowled the 20th over and tried to defend four runs. He took two key wickets including Sam Curran, for four, and Jadeja to take the match to the final ball with the scores level.
New man Deepak Chahar kept his calm to hit the winning run.


Americans win back Ryder Cup with a record margin of victory

Americans win back Ryder Cup with a record margin of victory
Updated 27 September 2021

Americans win back Ryder Cup with a record margin of victory

Americans win back Ryder Cup with a record margin of victory
  • Sends a strong message with their youngest team by giving Europe its worst loss ever

SHEBOYGAN, Wisconsin: The Americans won back the Ryder Cup and perhaps a whole lot more Sunday, sending a strong message to Europe with a powerful performance from their youngest team in history.
The Americans won back the Ryder Cup and perhaps a whole lot more Sunday, sending a strong message with their youngest team by giving Europe its worst loss ever.
They never lost a session. They rode the experience of Dustin Johnson, who won all five of his matches and leaned on six Ryder Cup newcomers who combined for a 14-4-3 record.
Daniel Berger won the final hole in the final match for the final point and a 19-9 victory, breaking by a half-point the record margin since Europe became part of the Ryder Cup in 1979.
Scottie Scheffler, one of six Ryder Cup newcomers for the Americans, took down the No. 1 player in the world with a 4-and-3 victory over Jon Rahm as the scoreboards around Whistling Straits quickly filled with American red.
The final blow came from Collin Morikawa, at 24 the youngest player on the team and already a two-time major champion. He holed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that assured the Americans at least the 14 1/2 points they needed.
The Americans had an 11-5 advantage going into singles and needed only to win three matches and halve another.
Europe’s Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick and Bernd Wiesberger all failed to win a point. Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, part of the backbone of European experience, did not win a match until singles, and by then it was too late.
The next step is winning on the road, which the Americans haven’t done since 1993. Europe still has an 11-9-1 advantage since the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include the continent.


Choi wins at Pebble Beach for 1st PGA Tour Champions victory

Choi wins at Pebble Beach for 1st PGA Tour Champions victory
Updated 27 September 2021

Choi wins at Pebble Beach for 1st PGA Tour Champions victory

Choi wins at Pebble Beach for 1st PGA Tour Champions victory
  • Bernhard Langer, who has 41 PGA Tour Champions wins, had an uneven final round of 4-under 68 that included seven birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey

PEBBLE BEACH, California: K.J. Choi shot a closing 4-under 68 Sunday for a two-shot victory over Bernhard Langer and Alex Cejka at the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach for his first PGA Tour Champions win.
The 51-year-old Choi reeled off four consecutive birdies from Nos. 5-8 and played the front nine in 5 under. The South Korean had eight pars and a bogey on the back nine for a 13-under 203 total in his first victory since 2011, at The Players Championship.
“So very special ... my dream is winning,” Choi said.
The 64-year-old Langer, who has 41 PGA Tour Champions wins, had an uneven final round of 4-under 68 that included seven birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey.
The 50-year-old Cejka, who has two victories on the over-50 tour, started quickly, opening with three straight birdies, and four in the first five holes. He went on to bogey Nos. 6 and 8 and played the back nine in 2 under for a 68.
Choi, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, had a previous best finish on the senior circuit of tie for second at the 2020 Sanford International, where he lost in three-man playoff.
Ending the long winless run made this victory more special for Choi.
“The first win is exciting,” he said. “It’s a not easy still.”
With his second-place finish, Langer, the event’s 2017 champion, moved past Jim Furyk and Jerry Kelly into first place atop the Charles Schwab Cup standings as the season winds down.
“It’s fun,” said Langer, who last won at the Cologuard Classic in March 2020. “It’s fun to be in contention for the Schwab Cup once more. That’s what really everybody wants to be at here, I think. And especially we didn’t have one last year. If we had, I would have won that one, maybe. But we didn’t.”
“So it’s a very tight race, considering we’re having a two-year season, and there’s like eight guys in the running, or seven, or whatever. That’s pretty unusual. So it will be interesting the next few weeks and see who’s going to end up on top.”
Scott Dunlap finished fourth at 10 under after a final round of 6-under 66. Steven Alker (67) and Paul Stankowski (68) tied for fifth another stroke back.