American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition

American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition
Simone Biles to Tokyo as arguably the face of the Games following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. (AFP)
Updated 28 July 2021

American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition

American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition
  • She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders

TOKYO: Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title.
The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.
Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.
The organization said Biles will be evaluated daily before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. Biles qualified for the finals on all four apparatuses, something she didn’t even do during her five-medal haul in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
The 24-year-old came to Tokyo as arguably the face of the Games following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. She topped qualifying on Sunday despite piling up mandatory deductions on vault, floor and beam following shaky dismounts.
She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. The weight became too heavy after vaulting during team finals. She lost herself in mid-air and completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. She consulted with US team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play.
When she returned, she took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles and turned into the team’s head cheerleader as the US claimed silver behind the Russian Olympic Committee.
“Once I came out here (to compete), I was like, ‘No mental is, not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,’” Biles said following the medal ceremony.
The decision opens the door wide open for the all-around, a title that was long considered a foregone conclusion. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished second to Biles during qualifying, followed by Lee and Russians Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova. The four were separated by three-tenths of a point on Sunday.
Carey now finds herself in the final, capping a remarkable journey for the 21-year-old from Phoenix. She spent two years traveling the globe in an effort to pile up enough points on the World Cup circuit to earn an individual nominative spot, meaning she would be in the Olympics but technically not be part of the four-woman US team.
Carey posted the second-best score on vault and the third-best on floor during qualifying, earning trips to the event finals in the process. Now she finds herself competing for an all-around medal while replacing the athlete considered the greatest of all-time in the sport.


Cancelled final Test between England and India the latest in history of controversies in cricket

Cancelled final Test between England and India the latest in history of controversies in cricket
Updated 48 min 30 sec ago

Cancelled final Test between England and India the latest in history of controversies in cricket

Cancelled final Test between England and India the latest in history of controversies in cricket
  • Minutes before its scheduled start, the highly anticipated match was called off because of COVID-19 concerns in Indian camp
  • Cricket, politics and money have shared some uneasy partnerships, occasionally erupting into controversy, testing the game’s laws and culture – now, COVID-19’s impact has been added to the mix

Last week’s column set the scene for the final Test match of the England-India series at Old Trafford, in Manchester. With India 2-1 up, expectations rode high. These were cruelly dashed by the extraordinary revelation that the match was being cancelled minutes before the gates were due to open at 9 a.m., because the Indian team was concerned about COVID-19 spreading through its camp.

The repercussions will cast a long shadow, as have past controversies, some of which I will explore to place the current one in context.

The “bodyline” series between Australia and England in 1932-33 was infamous. A plan had been devised by England’s captain, Douglas Jardine, to curb the prodigious run-scoring ability of Australia’s captain, Don Bradman, whereby his fast bowlers directed short-pitched deliveries at the Australian batmen’s upper body, with fielders placed strategically close to take advantage.

At that time, there was no law to limit the number of close fielders behind the batsman on his legside. Such was the outcry against these “bodyline” tactics that the law was subsequently changed to restrict the number of fielders positioned in this way to two. Apart from this change, the political ramifications were immense, exacerbating decades of tensions on the cricket field.

During the third Test, after an Australian batsman suffered a fractured skull, the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket cabled its counterpart in England, describing England’s tactics as “unsportsmanlike.” The situation spiralled and only intervention by Australia’s prime minister saved the series. On their return to England, both Jardine and Larwood, his main exponent of “bodyline,” were disowned by the English cricketing establishment and Larwood was never picked again for England. Ironically, he later emigrated to Australia.

Another controversy that led to a change of law occurred in 1981. Greg Chappell, Australia’s captain, ordered his brother, Trevor, to bowl the last ball of a one-day international against New Zealand, who needed six runs to tie the match, as an underarm delivery. This was allowed under the Laws of the game but rarely, if ever invoked, considered to be against the spirit of the game. There was universal outrage within the cricketing world. Law 21 was revised to state that “Underarm bowling shall not be permitted except by special agreement before the match.”

A practice that some consider to be in the same vein is what has come to be termed “Mankading.” The non-striking bat should remain within the bowling crease until the instant that the bowler would normally be expected to release the ball. If the non-striker moves out of this area prior to that instant the bowler is entitled to break the wicket and appeal for the non-striker to be dismissed. The first person recorded to have taken this action was Vinoo Mankad in a match between Indian and Australia in 1947.

There are conflicting opinions about the propriety of the action. Some say that, by advancing in this manner, the non-striker is taking unfair advantage and is, in effect, cheating. Others say that a polite warning should be issued by the bowler on the first occasion, with the implication that action will be taken if the non-striker repeats the act. As if to prove that Law 41.16 is still in existence, a 16-year-old Cameroon bowler dismissed four non-strikers in a T20 women’s World Cup qualifying match in Botswana this week.

As discussed in previous columns, cricket has been associated with gambling since the 18th century. It has re-surfaced in more recent times. In a rain affected match in January 2000, Hansie Cronje, South Africa’s highly respected captain, offered a surprisingly generous target to England who took advantage to win the match. Later, it emerged that Cronje had accepted payments from bookmakers in a match-fixing scandal. The cricket world was stunned. Cronje was banned for life in 2000, dying in a plane crash in 2002.

South Africa has also been the scene of other controversies. Basil D’Oliveira was defined as “coloured” under the rules of apartheid and was barred from representing the country of his birth. In 1960, he emigrated to England and was selected to play for England in 1966, with whom he performed with distinction. An England tour of South Africa was scheduled for 1968-69. At this time, the England touring parties were selected by the Marylebone Cricket Club.

It is rumoured that pressure was put upon it by the South African government to omit D’Oliveira from the party. Despite scoring 158 in the final Test of 1968, he was omitted. This unleashed a furious backlash generally, and particularly from anti-apartheid campaigners. When, due to injury, one of the originally selected party dropped out, D’Oliveira was re-instated and, once the South African government made it clear that he was not welcome, the tour was cancelled. Thus began the exclusion of South Africa from international cricket, just when its cricket team was laying claim to be the best in the world.

In the wilderness, its government sought to find ways, within the restraints of its own policy, to ameliorate its isolation. One approach was to allow “rebel” tours between 1982 and 1990. These comprised top-class cricketers from England, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia but, as the tours were organised and played despite the open disapproval of national cricket boards and governments, many of the players were subsequently banned from playing for their national teams.

Cricket, politics and money have shared some uneasy partnerships, occasionally erupting into controversy, testing the game’s laws and culture. Now, COVID-19’s impact has been added to the mix. Within Law 16.3, it is stated that a match shall be lost by a side which, in the opinion of the umpires, refuses to play. Will the argument prevail that COVID-19 induced conditions transcend the Laws of the game, determining that the match was cancelled rather than forfeited? Upon the outcome depends the recovery or loss of substantial sums of money for English cricket, plus reputational damage. The situation has the potential to erupt, as tensions run high.


25th Gulf Cup in Iraq to be postponed beyond 2022 World Cup

25th Gulf Cup in Iraq to be postponed beyond 2022 World Cup
Updated 16 September 2021

25th Gulf Cup in Iraq to be postponed beyond 2022 World Cup

25th Gulf Cup in Iraq to be postponed beyond 2022 World Cup
  • The football tournament was to kick off in Basra on Dec. 24, 2021

The 25th Gulf Cup is to be postponed from December until after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah has reported.

The Gulf’s oldest international football competition was meant to kick off in Basra, Iraq, on Dec. 24, but has now been pushed back, following a remote meeting of the Executive Office of the Arab Gulf Cup Federation chaired by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

The recommendation for the postponement will be submitted to the heads of the individual Gulf football federations at a general assembly meeting on Sept. 20.

Sources told Arriyadiyah that the delay was to allow Basra time to complete its preparations for the tournament. Consideration was also being given to the commitments of Gulf teams in an increasingly the crowded football calendar that includes participation in the Asian World Cup qualifiers and the 2021 Arab Cup, in addition to the domestic leagues and the AFC Champions League.

The Iraq Federation hopes that a date will be fixed for the delayed tournament soon. It has been forced to abandon hosting the previous four competitions for varying reasons — a lack of readiness, suspension of Iraq by FIFA and security concerns.


UAE talent shines at 5th Asian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi

UAE talent shines at 5th Asian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi
Updated 16 September 2021

UAE talent shines at 5th Asian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi

UAE talent shines at 5th Asian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi
  • Emirati female and male athletes topped championship table with 18 medals

ABU DHABI: The UAE national team has dominated the 5th Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championships in Abu Dhabi to finish top of the medal table.

The UAE national team, which included several international debutantes, had undergone an intensive training programme in the lead-up to the championship. This included a strong performance from the men’s team at the Miami Grand Slam back in July, where they captured 13 medals.

“The UAE national team is the winner, and we are proud of what the sport of jiu-jitsu has reached in the UAE,” Theyab Al-Nuaimi, who captured gold for the UAE, said. “The qualifying matches were difficult, especially as they included varying weights and physical differences between the players, but I was able to use my skills to bypass them and take the gold medal.”

The Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championship attracted the continent’s best athletes at Abu Dhabi’s Jiu-Jitsu Arena and the UAE reveled on their home mats. They finished first in the overall medal table with 18 medals — four gold, four silver and 10 bronze — ahead of Kazakhstan, who finished second with two gold, three silver and three bronze.

“The UAE is at the forefront of Asian countries in leading the recovery of sports from the pandemic, and holding the fifth Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championship is a true testament of Abu Dhabi’s readiness to host world-class events,” Mohammed Salem Al-Dhaheri, Vice President of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), said. “Welcoming the championships also confirmed Abu Dhabi’s stature as the global capital of jiu-jitsu.”

This championship will also have helped the national team players to prepare for the upcoming World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, from Oct. 28 to Nov.7, and the 13th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

UAE jiu-jitsu national team head coach Ramon Lemos praised his team's performance, saying: “We have chosen some new names to participate in this championship and we are confident that these talents will be the mainstay of the team in the coming years.

“The female players performed outstandingly, despite their bouts with more experienced players. They were brilliant on the mat, and they have a promising future in the sport.”

One of those athletes was Shamsa Al-Ketbi, who took the bronze medal in the women’s under-70kg category.

“I aimed at the gold, but the difference in experience between me and the players I faced was enormous,” she said. “However, it’s all a learning curve and simply participating in the continental championship is a gain.”


Al-Nassr fear no one in AFC Champions League last 8: Mano Menezes

Al-Nassr fear no one in AFC Champions League last 8: Mano Menezes
Updated 16 September 2021

Al-Nassr fear no one in AFC Champions League last 8: Mano Menezes

Al-Nassr fear no one in AFC Champions League last 8: Mano Menezes
  • Saudi Arabia represented by Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal in Friday’s draw for quarterfinal of Asian continent competition

RIYADH: Al-Nassr coach Mano Menezes is not worried about which opponent his team draw on Friday for the quarterfinals of the 2021 AFC Champions League and said his players were ready to take any of the sides left in the competition.

The Riyadh club qualified for the quarterfinals of the continent’s premier club competition on Tuesday after beating Tractor of Iran 1-0 with a goal scored by Cameroonian forward Vincent Aboubakar in the game at Hamad bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha.

“We are not thinking about our opponent in the next round of the tournament, we will be ready for any team. The performance was good after the long international break, and we could have settled the match in the first half, but we did not take advantage of our opportunities. But the most important thing is victory in such matches,” Menezes added.

Al-Nassr will face either Saudi rival Al-Hilal, Al-Wahda of the UAE, or Iran’s Persepolis from the AFC Western Zone in the quarterfinal. The semifinals will also be an all-West affair before the final pits together the best of the Western and Eastern zones.


Saudi Arabia’s Fay Al-Juaid wins gold at Arab Judo Championship for the Blind

Saudi Arabia’s Fay Al-Juaid wins gold at Arab Judo Championship for the Blind
Updated 16 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Fay Al-Juaid wins gold at Arab Judo Championship for the Blind

Saudi Arabia’s Fay Al-Juaid wins gold at Arab Judo Championship for the Blind
  • The competition was part of the Arab Judo Championship Open, which concluded on Wednesday

Fay Al-Juaid of the Saudi Arabian women’s judo team has won gold at the first Arab Open Championship for the Blind at the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt.

Al-Juaid finished first in the 48kg category after beating Egyptian opponent Zahwa Mahmoud in the final on Sunday.

The competition concluded on Wednesday night, with 35 participants from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Kuwait taking part.

The competition for blind athletes was part of the Arab Judo Championship Open, which saw 600 judokas representing 12 Arab countries — hosts Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya and Morocco — take part.