FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer

FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer
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The world’s best swimmers will head to Abu Dhabi for the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) after taking part in the Tokyo Olympics. (ADSC)
FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer
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The Etihad Arena on Yas Island will host the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in December 2021. (ADSC)
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Updated 17 June 2021

FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer

FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer
  • Abu Dhabi Sports Council director hopes December competition at Etihad Arena will raise profile of swimming in UAE
  • The centerpiece of the event will be Yas Island’s Etihad Arena, which was launched with UFC Fight Island 3 in January

ABU DHABI: At a time when holding international events had become practically impossible in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island emerged as an example of how a safe environment could be provided for the return of major sporting competitions.

First came three UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Fight Island events in 2020 and earlier this year, and then the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (ADWPJJC) was staged in April.

Next up for the UAE capital is the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), which will run from Dec. 16 to 21.

The fighting mats at the new Etihad Arena will be replaced by a retractable swimming pool with an adjoining warm-up pool as the world’s best short-course swimmers head to the city for a competition initially scheduled for last year.

“We expect over 160 countries to be represented and registration has already been opened by Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), led by (secretary-general) Aref Al-Awani,” ADSC event director, Abdulla Al-Wheibi, told Arab News.

“It’s important to note that we are in daily contact with government agencies to ensure safety measures, this is a new aspect for us.

“The safety precautions are updated from time to time. Whether it is health and safety information regarding vaccines or PCRs (polymerase chain reaction tests), we make sure they are taken on board. Also, any updates covering accommodation and transport,” he said.

The success of the previous competitions has encouraged ADSC and its partner organizations to expand the program of events. Crucially, thanks to the strict safety precautions, Abu Dhabi has become a destination that athletes feel comfortable travelling to.

“Without doubt, Abu Dhabi is one of the most popular cities to hold tournaments. It has succeeded in the past in holding big tournaments.

“What has helped is the outstanding logistics that we have here, the facilities, the capacities to host, all of these things helped in successfully hosting previous tournaments and hopefully the coming ones as well,” Al-Wheibi added.

The competition’s organization and facilities were recently given the seal of approval by the visiting Taha Al-Kishri, director of the Asia Swimming Federation, member of the executive board at FINA, and chairman of the Arabian and Oman Swimming Association.

“His feedback was very positive, and he was confident that Abu Dhabi will put on a world-class event,” said Al-Wheibi, adding that in terms of numbers and quality of swimmers, the competition could rival the standards of the Olympics.

“The total number present if you include participants, teams, and organizers will be more than 2,000. In terms of quality, this will be the highest-ranking world tournament.

“It takes place every four years, similar to the Olympics. The next one takes place in Kazan (Russia) in 2025. In terms of numbers and quality of athletes, it is the same caliber as the Olympics. The swimmers are preparing this season to take in two competitions, the Olympics, and then this one,” he added.

Al-Wheibi pointed out that having the world’s best athletes at the event would help to further raise the profile of swimming in the UAE, and he hoped it would encourage more Emiratis to take up the sport.

“We are working on several development programs, one of which is for the UAE national team which over the last two years has been overseen by an Australian technical director. This program is not just during the tournaments but an ongoing one, because our target is to produce a talented group over the coming years.

“Swimming in particular requires long-term planning if you are to produce world champions. Abu Dhabi Sports Council will continue to strongly back these swimmers,” he said.

Other initiatives will involve schools and academies as ADSC looks to create a community ahead of the competition, which will also see the three-day FINA World Aquatics Convention take place on the sidelines.

“It will be attended by international entities that will display products that are related to swimming. There will also be clinics and workshops, and the subjects of the latest training methods will be discussed, and doping will be tackled. It will be a sporting festival,” he added.

The centerpiece of the event will be Yas Island’s Etihad Arena, which was launched with UFC Fight Island 3 in January.

Al-Wheibi said: “It’s a wonderful arena with world-class specifications. It’s one of the most beautiful locations you could hold this tournament in. Having the Etihad Arena has massively aided in holding sporting events because it has the capabilities to hold any event in ideal circumstances.

“The facilities it has, such as seating, offices, VIP sections, entrances, athlete facilities, media centers, and the compound, make it complete.

“Add to that its location on Yas Island, a beautiful island that includes top-class hotels and facilities. We recently inspected the new Hilton Yas hotel adjacent to the arena. It has over 500 rooms and will act at the official headquarters for the tournament. Then there are the W Hotel, Crown Plaza, and others which will be used by the athletes and technical staff,” he added.

Having all these facilities in close proximity would, according to Al-Wheibi, make it easier to host competitions by reducing the need for transportation, similar to an Olympic village.

While UFC Fight Island allowed a maximum of 2,000 fans into Etihad Arena in January, it has not yet been decided if the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) will have a live audience. Either way, fans will have an opportunity to catch the action.

“As things stand there is no final decision on the attendance of fans, but if a live audience was to be allowed, it will be at 30 percent of the total capacity, in accordance with safety restrictions.

“We have to consider those coming from abroad as well, it will be limited, and an announcement will be made ahead of the tournament. We will be using our sports television channels to ensure the live broadcast of the tournament,” Al-Wheibi said.


Saudi Arabian runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 Olympics semi-final

Saudi Arabian runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 Olympics semi-final
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi Arabian runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 Olympics semi-final

Saudi Arabian runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 Olympics semi-final
  • The 25-year-old’s result represents one of the Kingdom’s best performances at the Olympics

Runner Mazen Al-Yassin has produced off one of the Saudi Arabian delegation’s best performances at Tokyo 2020 by winning his race in the Men’s 400m competition at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday morning.

A personal best time of 45.16 in  saw him finish ahead of Kevin Borlee of Belgium and Ricky Petrucciani of Switzerland.

The 25-year-old will now be aiming for what would be a glorious appearance at Thursday’s final when he takes part in Monday morning semifinals, starting from 2.05am Saudi Arabian time.

Al-Yassin received the call up to the Olympics on July 2, and headed to Tokyo after eight years of consistent participation at 400m behind him.

He represented Saudi Arabia at the 2013 World Youth Championships in Ukraine, and that same year he won gold at the 4x400m relay at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia, and silver at in the individual 400m at the Asian Junior Games in Taiwan.

In 2015 another silver followed with Saudi in the 4x400m relay at the Asian Games in China.

In 2017, Al-Yassin’s personal best would show rapid improvement as shown with silver in the individual 400m race at the Arab Championships in Tunisia, and bronze in the relay. The same year grabbed another silver at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan.


Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics
Updated 01 August 2021

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics
  • Britain’s Pat McCormack advances to the gold medal bout by walkover
  • Walsh, who beat Merven Clair of Mauritius 4:1 on Friday, gets a bronze medal

TOKYO: Aidan Walsh has been forced out of his semifinal bout at the Tokyo Olympics after the Irish welterweight injured his ankle while celebrating his quarterfinal victory.
Boxing officials announced Sunday that Walsh did not attend the medical check and weigh-in before his scheduled bout with Britain’s Pat McCormack, who advances to the gold medal bout by walkover.
Walsh, who is from Belfast, will still win a bronze medal. But he appeared to cost himself a chance at gold by celebrating overzealously after he beat Merven Clair of Mauritius 4:1 on Friday to advance to the medal bouts.
Walsh wildly jumped up and down after the verdict was announced, and he landed awkwardly on his ankle. The Irish team said Walsh sprained his ankle, and he was spotted by Irish media leaving the Kokugikan Arena in a wheelchair later Friday.
The Irish team confirmed Walsh is out of the Olympics due to an ankle injury, saying only that it occurred during his bout. Walsh clearly was healthy and mobile throughout his fight until he came up in pain from his celebration.
“What Aidan did this week is an incredible achievement,” said Bernard Dunne, Ireland team leader for boxing. “His performance throughout the tournament has been outstanding, and it is great to see him write his name in the annals of Irish sport.”
The top-seeded McCormack was favored to beat Walsh. McCormack now will face the winner of the other welterweight semifinal between Roniel Iglesias of Cuba and the Russian team’s Andrei Zamkovoy.
Ireland has two other boxers still fighting for medals. Walsh’s bronze is his nation’s 17th medal in boxing, representing roughly half of all the medals won by the Irish team in its Olympic history.
 


Japan’s Matsuyama ‘can’t believe’ gold in sight after Covid scare

Japan’s Matsuyama ‘can’t believe’ gold in sight after Covid scare
Updated 01 August 2021

Japan’s Matsuyama ‘can’t believe’ gold in sight after Covid scare

Japan’s Matsuyama ‘can’t believe’ gold in sight after Covid scare
  • Schauffele said you wouldn't have known Matsuyama had suffered from coronavirus after playing alongside him on Saturday

KAWAGOE, Japan: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan "can't believe" that he could be on the brink of winning Tokyo 2020 golfing gold after contracting coronavirus only four weeks ago.
The US Masters champion returned a positive Covid-19 test on July 3 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, forcing him to pull out and then miss the British Open a fortnight ago.
He feared his dream of playing and winning a medal at a home Olympics might be gone and admitted he hadn't fully recovered his fitness after being tired at the end of his first round of 69 at The Kasumigaseki Country Club on Thursday.
But on Friday he bounced back with a brilliant 64 on the par-71 course, where he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2010, and will tee off in the final group on Sunday with Xander Schauffele and Paul Casey after a 67 on Saturday.
"I definitely could not have believed I would be playing the final group with a chance to win after having Covid," Matsuyama told reporters after finishing his third round a shot behind leader Schauffele.
"To be honest, the endurance part of my game has been struggling a little bit. Thankfully it's held up the last few days, so hopefully it's going to hold up tomorrow as well."
Schauffele said you wouldn't have known Matsuyama had suffered from coronavirus after playing alongside him on Saturday.
"He seems to be fine," said Schauffele, who leads on 14-under-par 199 after a third-round 68.
"I forgot that he had Covid, but teeing it up out here he seemed strong, seems normal and seems himself. So luckily he wasn't hit too hard by it."
Schauffele was in the final group with Matsuyama when he won at Augusta National in April and said Japan's number one was playing better then, but would still be a big threat when the two battle for Olympic glory.
"He obviously was firing on a lot of cylinders when he won the Masters," said Schauffele.
"I think he's maybe not as in his realm of perfection, maybe he's not hitting it as good as he would like to, but he's only one (shot) back."
Asia's first US Masters champion is revered in Japan and -- under huge pressure to deliver gold -- would normally be followed by huge galleries.
But even with no spectators at these Olympics, Matsuyama still had every birdie putt roared on by hundreds of Japanese volunteers and support staff.
"It does not feel like we don't have fans out here," he said.


Brave Egyptian footballers exit Tokyo 2020 after narrow loss to Brazil

Brave Egyptian footballers exit Tokyo 2020 after narrow loss to Brazil
Updated 31 July 2021

Brave Egyptian footballers exit Tokyo 2020 after narrow loss to Brazil

Brave Egyptian footballers exit Tokyo 2020 after narrow loss to Brazil
  • Led superbly by Ahmed Hegazi, Egypt performed with great spirit, but once again let down by a lack of scoring power

Egypt’s U-23 team has been eliminated from the men’s Olympic football tournament after narrowly losing 1-0 to reigning champions Brazil at Saitama Stadium.

The Pharaohs reached the quarterfinals after finishing second in Group C with a 0-0 draw against Spain, a 1-0 loss to Argentina and a fine  2-0 win over Australia. 

Brazil’s final group match was a 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia, which ensured they finished on top ahead of Ivory Coast.

Egypt showed little fear in the face of the Rio 2016 gold medalists, and put pressure on the Brazilian defence in the opening 15 minutes.

On 20 minutes, Egypt had a major scare when goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy, a standout performer at Tokyo, looked to have injured his thigh. However after some on-pitch treatment he was able to continue.

Seven minutes later, El-Shenawy was called into action when he saved a stinging left footed shot from Richarlison, the tournament’s top scorer with five goals.

But Egypt, led superbly by Ahmed Hegazi, continued to look dangerous on the break with 21-year-old Amar Hamdi in particular causing the Brazilian midfield problems with his penetrating runs.

The deadlock was broken in the 37th minute when a sharp Brazil counterattack saw Richarlison find Matheus Cunha, who scored with a precise shot past El-Shenawy.

As hard as Egypt tried to get back on terms in the second half, they rarely troubled Santos in the Brazil goal, while El-Shenawy kept his team in the game with several good saves.

At the final whistle, the dejected Egyptians and joyous Brazilians showed just how well the African team had performed. But in the end, with their attacking prowess, few could argue that the South Americans did not deserve to progress to the semifinal.

On Tuesday, Brazil will face the winner of the last quarterfinal between South Korea and Mexico.


Personal best followed by elimination for UAE’s Mohamed Al-Hammadi in Men’s 100m at Tokyo 2020

Personal best followed by elimination for UAE’s Mohamed Al-Hammadi in Men’s 100m at Tokyo 2020
Updated 31 July 2021

Personal best followed by elimination for UAE’s Mohamed Al-Hammadi in Men’s 100m at Tokyo 2020

Personal best followed by elimination for UAE’s Mohamed Al-Hammadi in Men’s 100m at Tokyo 2020
  • The 29-year-old Emirati sprinter finished third in Saturday morning’s preliminary heats but faced a tough field in the afternoon’s Round 1

Sprinter Mohamed Hassan Al-Noobi Al-Hammadi became the last member of the UAE’s five-athlete delegation to depart Tokyo 2020 when he failed to progress from Saturday afternoon’s Men’s 100m Round 1 — Heat 5 in the Olympic Stadium.

Earlier in the day, the 29-year-old Emirati had posted a personal best time of 10.59 seconds, finishing third in the Preliminary Round — Heat 2 behind Barakat Al-Harthi of Oman and Emanuel Archibald of Guyana.

Racing against a much tougher field in the second race of the day, Al-Hammadi managed a time of 10.64, 0.63 seconds behind the third of the qualifiers, Ferdinand Omurwa of Kenya.