Max Verstappen, Red Bull deny Lewis Hamilton in French Grand Prix thriller

Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives ahead of Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton during the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul-Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on June 20, 2021. (AFP)
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives ahead of Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton during the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul-Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on June 20, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2021

Max Verstappen, Red Bull deny Lewis Hamilton in French Grand Prix thriller

Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives ahead of Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton during the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul-Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on June 20, 2021. (AFP)
  • The Red Bull driver hunted down and overtook the world champion with over a lap to go
  • Christian Horner, the architect of Red Bull's revival, hailed “a great race”

LE CASTELLET, France: Max Verstappen won the French Grand Prix on Sunday to extend his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' title race and leave the world champion's Mercedes team “with a big fight” to retain control of their Formula One fiefdom.
The Red Bull driver hunted down and overtook the world champion with over a lap to go at a gusty Le Castellet to claim his third win out of seven races this season.
“Towards the end I enjoyed it! At the beginning it was super difficult out there with the wind,” said Verstappen.
This was a massive statement by the Dutch driver and his resurgent Red Bull team who won their third successive race after Monaco and Baku.
It pushed Verstappen 12 points clear of Hamilton ahead of back-to-back races on Red Bull turf in Austria.
Mercedes, for so long used to ruling the roost, are relishing the two-team title battle.
“We're in for a big fight this season and we'll have to dig deep as a team. We are up for it!” they tweeted.
Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull came in third with Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes finishing fourth at the circuit where the mesmerising light blue and red striped contours evoked a trippy psychedelic 1960s album cover.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had said before the race “if we can beat them here we can beat them anywhere” of Mercedes, who were itching to get back onto a regular track like the circuit Paul Ricard after getting lost on the streets of Monaco and Baku.
But things got off to a bumpy beginning for pole sitter Verstappen, who went off the track in a horror start coming out of turn one, Hamilton accepting the unexpected gift to take the lead.
“I couldn't keep the car under control,” complained Verstappen.
Hamilton had led 105 of the 106 laps for his wins here in 2018 and 2019, and he set about extending his near total stranglehold at the Provencal track.
Approaching a third of the 53-lap race Hamilton had established a near three second gap back to Verstappen, with Bottas and Perez in pursuit.
With drivers starting to complain of tyre wear Charles Leclerc was the first to come into the pits for a change of footwear for his Ferrari.
Verstappen wasn't far behind, with Hamilton coming in for a slick stop on lap 20, coming out as Verstappen flashed past with Perez, still to pit, the new leader.
The Mexican, winner in Baku last time out, was hauled in on lap 25, leaving Verstappen in the lead and Hamilton half a second behind.
“We can't keep this up until the end of the race that's for sure” Verstappen told his pits over the team radio referring to tyres on lap 29.
And on lap 32 in he came in again, resuming in fourth, 25sec behind Hamilton, but with better grip he was only seven seconds behind in third by lap 40.
With nine laps to go Verstappen muscled past Bottas, the gap ahead to Hamilton just five seconds.
Hunting his prey down it made for an epic end for the 15,000 fans allowed in due to the easing of coronavirus restrictions in France.
And he duly picked off the Silver Arrows on the penultimate lap to trigger wild celebrations in the Red Bull garage.
“The whole race me and Lewis were fighting each other, so it will be like this the rest of the season,” Verstappen said.
Horner, the architect of Red Bull's revival, hailed “a great race.”
“You only having to look how close it is between the teams. It's nip and tuck for the championship.”
He added that “today was payback for Barcelona!” in reference to how Mercedes had hoodwinked them with a two-stop strategy at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton was generous in his praise for Verstappen.
“Congrats to Max he did a great job today, they had the better strength all weekend.”
The Briton, stuck on 98 career wins, added: “Considering we had such a difficult Friday I am really happy with today's result of course we didn't win and we was in the lead but I had no tyres left at the end so unfortunately lost the position but still it was a good race.”


Tokyo logs record 5,042 cases as infections surge amid Games

Tokyo logs record 5,042 cases as infections surge amid Games
Updated 26 min 13 sec ago

Tokyo logs record 5,042 cases as infections surge amid Games

Tokyo logs record 5,042 cases as infections surge amid Games
  • Tokyo has been under a state of emergency since mid-July
  • Suga says there is no evidence linking the increase in cases to the July 23-Aug. 8 Games

TOKYO: Tokyo reported 5,042 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its most since the pandemic began as infections surge in the Japanese capital hosting the Olympics.
Tokyo has been under a state of emergency since mid-July, and four other areas of the country have since been added. But the measures, basically shorter opening hours and a ban on alcohol for restaurants and bars are increasingly ignored by the public, which has become tired of restrictions.
“We need to tackle the situation now that we have a stronger sense of urgency," Prime Minister Yosihide Suga told reporters, referring to Tokyo exceeding 5,000 new daily cases for the first time. “The infections are expanding at a pace we have never experienced before."
Suga, who has been criticized for insisting on hosting the Olympics despite the coronavirus's surge, says there is no evidence linking the increase in cases to the July 23-Aug. 8 Games. He urged people to firmly stick to the emergency requests and stay at home during summer vacation.
The new cases brought Tokyo's reported total to 236,138. The entire country registered more than 14,000 new cases on Wednesday, for a 970,460 total.
Alarmed by the pace of the spread, some experts have called for the state of emergency to be expanded nationwide.
Instead, Suga on Thursday announced a milder version of the emergency measures in eight prefectures, including Fukushima in the east and Kumamoto in the south, beginning Monday. The less-stringent measures allow prefectural heads to target specific towns but do not allow them to order business closures.
Suga also pledged to “prevent the further spread of the virus by firmly carrying out vaccinations.”
Experts say people are not cooperating because many feel less of a sense of urgency about the pandemic while the Olympics are going ahead and the government's repeats of the same requests for people to stay at home.
Experts on a Tokyo metropolitan government panel cautioned that infections propelled by the more contagious delta variant have become “explosive” and could exceed 10,000 cases a day in two weeks.
Measures targeting business owners begin with requests and increase to orders, and violators can be fined, though this rarely happens. Those who comply can receive compensation, but thousands of eateries still stay open after the requested 8 p.m. closing time. Measures for the general public are only voluntary requests, including staying at home, wearing a mask outside and avoiding nonessential trips.
Japan has managed to keep its cases and deaths lower than much of the world, but testing is still insufficient and Tokyo’s positivity rate stands at 20%, indicating widespread infections. Japan has 8.9 new confirmed cases per 100,000, compared to 8.5 in Vietnam and 28.4 in the United States.
In Tokyo, nearly 17,000 patients with mild symptoms are currently isolating at home — more than a tenfold increase from a month ago — and more than 10,000 others are waiting for beds in hospitals or special hotels.
As hospital beds fill, Suga's government introduced a new policy this week in which coronavirus patients with moderate symptoms will isolate at home instead of in hospitals, an attempt to save hospital beds almost exclusively for seriously ill patients.
Opposition lawmakers criticized Suga for not increasing hospital capacity sufficiently despite warnings about the delta variant. Coronavirus treatment in Japan is limited to public and university hospitals that have adequate facilities and expertise.
Dr. Masataka Inokuchi, the vice chair of the Tokyo Medical Association, said he hopes to establish a system that allows patients to isolate safely at home. “This system, however, will collapse if the number of patients at home keeps rising,” he said.


Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa claims Olympic karate bronze for Jordan after semifinal loss to Turkey’s Eray Samdan

Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa claims Olympic karate bronze for Jordan after semifinal loss to Turkey’s Eray Samdan
Updated 55 min 16 sec ago

Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa claims Olympic karate bronze for Jordan after semifinal loss to Turkey’s Eray Samdan

Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa claims Olympic karate bronze for Jordan after semifinal loss to Turkey’s Eray Samdan
  • After four straight wins, the 25-year-old from Amman lost 2-0, but still won a place on the podium
  • Al-Masatfa and Assadilov were guaranteed their third place prizes without the bronze medal match that other Olympic disciplines require

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa has claimed an Olympic bronze medal after losing the semifinal of the karate kumite 67-kg competition against Eray Samdan of Turkey at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo.

The 2-0 win meant Samdan progressed to the final against Frenchman Steven da Costa, who had beaten Darkhan Assadilov 5-3 in the earlier semifinal.

Da Costa went on to win gold by beating Samdan 5-0 in the final.

Al-Masafta did not hit the heights he had reached on Thursday morning when he won four matches in a row, including against da Costa. With 20 seconds left, the Jordanian found himself 2-0 down against Samdan, and needing a three-point ippon if he was to produce a late turnaround.

He will now contend himself with claiming a bronze for Jordan.

While the winners of the semifinals met in the gold medal match, the two losers — Al-Masatfa and Assadilov — were guaranteed their third place prizes without the bronze medal match that other Olympic disciplines require.

The 25-year-old Al-Masatfa had started Thursday’s participation in Pool B with an 8-3 win over Kalvis Kalnins of Latvia, before defeating da Costa 7-4.

After his bout against Angelo Crescenzo was cancelled due to the Italian pulling out of the competition, Al-Masatfa continued his winning run by beating Hamoon Derafshipour of the Refugee Olympic Team 3-0.

The Jordanian rounded up his Pool B matches with a 4-1 win over Andres Eduardo Madera Delgado of Venezuela to secure his semi-final spot.


UAE record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout extends contract at champions Al Jazira until 2026

UAE record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout extends contract at champions Al Jazira until 2026
Updated 05 August 2021

UAE record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout extends contract at champions Al Jazira until 2026

UAE record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout extends contract at champions Al Jazira until 2026
  • Mabkhout has appeared in 289 domestic matches, scoring 199 goals along the way, and won three league championships with the Abu Dhabi club

ABU DHABI: Ali Mabkhout, the Al Jazira FC and UAE national team all-time top scorer, has signed a new contract with the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) champions until at least 2026.

The 30-year-old has been a constant presence in the club’s recent history, and is a graduate of its youth academy. During his 17 years at the “Pride of Abu Dhabi,” Mabkhout has appeared in 289 domestic matches, scoring an astonishing 199 goals along the way.

“Al Jazira has always been my second home and my big football family,” said Mabkhout. “It is the club that gave me everything I could have wished for as a professional footballer. I want to thank everyone at the club for their continuous trust and support in me over the past years. Thanks to our esteemed leadership, the club has a clear vision and a great squad for great success in the upcoming years.

“I am very grateful to the ‘Pride of Abu Dhabi’s’ loyal fans for showing me unconditional support every single day,” he added. “I am very thankful for the opportunity to play for them for many years to come. They are one of the biggest reasons I train my hardest every day to live up to their high expectations on the pitch. My focus now lies on working with the rest of team to build on the great achievements of last year and fight for all titles next season.”

Having scored 171 goals in 234 AGL matches, the striker now sits just four goals away from becoming the all-time top scorer of the UAE’s top-flight league.

Lat season, Al Jazira’s vice-captain led the club to its third AGL title by playing every single minute of the campaign. Mabkhout’s exceptional turnout was topped by being crowned the league’s top scorer, with 25 goals in 26 matches, as well as leading the assists standings with 10, alongside fellow midfielder Khalfan Al-Mubarak.

“Mabkhout is one of the symbols of Al Jazira and Emirati football,” Mohammed Saif Al-Suwaidi, chair of Al-Jazira’s sporting committee, said. “We cannot measure the sheer importance of his technical ability to our team. He is also one of the best players to embody Al Jazira’s values and principles in the best way possible both on and off the pitch. Therefore, it was our top priority to renew his contract during this transfer window and to keep him at his second home for years to come.

“Many young players consider Ali an inspiration because of his efforts, commitment, spirit and high professionalism which he has showcased since the start of his footballing career,” he added. “All these qualities made him compete against some of the best and most famous international players in our league and enabled him to top them both on an individual and team basis. We are all happy and proud of everything he does and will continue to do for Al Jazira and the national team. We have high hopes in his ability to achieve even greater individual and team success in the future.”

During his tenure at the club, Mabkhout cemented himself as one of Asia’s most prolific strikers, winning the AGL on three occasions (2010-11, 2016-17, 2020-21), UAE President’s Cup three times (2010-11, 2011-12, 2015-16) and the Arabian Gulf Cup once. On the world stage, he has represented Al Jazira 12 times in the AFC Asian Champions League, scoring 13 goals along the way. He also featured in the 2017 Club World Cup, which saw Al Jazira secure fourth place.

“Ali is an influential member of the Al Jazira family, he has been proudly with us every step of the way of his distinguished career and has written his name in the history books of our club,” Al Jazira CEO Ali Youssef Al Hammadi said. “There was only one decision we always had in mind when it came to his future, and that was to pen down a long-term deal. Ali is respected and loved across the country and the wider global football community, and we take great pride that he actively gives back to our local community.”

The player’s collection of individual accolades with the Abu Dhabi club includes winning the AGL golden boot twice (2016-17, 2020-21) and being crowned player of the season in the title-winning 2016-17 season.

Mabkhout’s renewal follows a string of contract extensions by the club over the past few months to secure the services of its stars for the upcoming seasons, which include Ali Khaseif, Miloš Kosanović, Thulani Serrero, Khalifa Al Hammadi, in addition to Dutch head coach Marcel Keizer.


Egypt’s gold medal quest in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020 ended by France in semifinal

Egypt’s gold medal quest in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020 ended by France in semifinal
Updated 05 August 2021

Egypt’s gold medal quest in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020 ended by France in semifinal

Egypt’s gold medal quest in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020 ended by France in semifinal
  • Egyptians will face loser of 2nd semifinal between Norway, Russian Olympic Committee in Saturday’s bronze medal match

RIYADH: Egypt’s excellent run in the men’s handball contest at Tokyo 2020 on Thursday came to an end in the semifinals with a 27-23 loss to France at Yoyogi National Stadium.

The North African team once again put on a performance full of desire, but some careless finishing proved costly against a strong French outfit that now advances to Saturday’s final — its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal match — against the winner of the other semifinal between Norway and the Russian Olympic Committee.

Egypt will face the loser of that match in the bronze medal game on the same day.

The teams could not be separated at the break, the first half finishing 13-13, with the Egyptians well placed to advance if they could have maintained the form they had shown throughout the tournament.

The second half, however, was disappointing for Egypt with only 10 goals scored, and the lack of scoring power dogged them through a period in which France took a lead they would not relinquish.

With five minutes left to play, the Egyptians were 24-21 down and fast running out of time to save the match.

French keeper Vincent Gerard pulled off a number of priceless saves which could have cut the deficit, while the visibly tiring Egyptian attackers missed several presentable chances as the clock ticked down.

Despite obvious disappointment at the final whistle, Egypt’s players will now turn their attentions toward salvaging a bronze medal from what has been an outstanding competition for them.


Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition
Updated 05 August 2021

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition
  • The 25-year-old will face Eray Samdan of Turkey on Thursday afternoon knowing at least a bronze medal is now guaranteed

A four-match winning streak has seen Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa of Jordan confirm a semifinal place, and a Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal, in the Karate Kumite -67kg competition on Thursday morning at the Nippon Budokan arena in the Japanese capital.

He will now fight Eray Samdan of Turkey in their last four match (from 3pm KSA). While the winners of the semifinals meet in the gold medal match, the losers will each receive a bronze medal.

The 25-year-old Al-Masatfa kicked of his participation in Pool B with an 8-3 win over  Kalvis Kalnins  of Latvia, and followed that up with 7-4 win over the Frenchman Steven da Costa.

After his bout against Angelo Crescenzo was cancelled due to the Italian pulling out of the competition, Al-Masatfa continued his winning run by beating Hamoon Derafshipour of the Refugee Olympic Team 3-0.

The Jordanian rounded up his Pool B matches with 4-1 win over Andres Eduardo Madera Delgado of Venezuela to secure his semi-final spot.

Meanwhile, Ali Elsawy of Egypt, fighting in the Kumite -67 Pool A, lost his opening bout 4-3 to Japan’s Naoto Sago, before losing his second match 4-1 to eventual semifinalist Samdan.

The 26-year-old Egyptian got back to winning way when he narrowly overcame Firdovsi Farzaliyev of Azerbaijan 1-0.

However, Elsawy lost his last Pool A match 3-1 to Darkhan Assadilov of Kazakhstan to exit the competition.