Top 10 moments for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020

Top 10 moments for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020
Ahmed Hafnaoui after winning gold in the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Tokyo, Japan, July 25, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 August 2021

Top 10 moments for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020

Top 10 moments for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020
  • From carrying flags to winning 18 medals, it has been an emotional Olympic Games in the Japanese capital

RIYADH: An incredible fortnight of sporting action in Tokyo has ended, with 18 medals scooped by Arab athletes. Here are the top 10 Arab moments witnessed at the Olympic Games.

1. Hafnaoui stuns the world

He was the slowest to make it through to the 400 meters freestyle final, but the fastest to touch the wall in the final and secure a stunning gold medal – 18-year-old Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui provided one of the biggest surprises of Tokyo 2020 when he won the race from lane eight.

He shaved nearly three seconds off his personal best during the Games and earned praise from the legendary American swimmer Michael Phelps.

2. Barshim’s gracious act of sportsmanship

After claiming high jump bronze in London 2012 and silver in Rio 2016, Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim finally topped the podium in Tokyo.

But even more memorable than his victory was how he and Italian Gianmarco Tamberi agreed to share the gold medal instead of going through a jump-off.

The two competitors and good friends helped each other through difficult times when they suffered the very same ankle injury that threatened their careers. So, when the pair each cleared 2.37 meters at the Tokyo Games and found themselves on the verge of entering a jump-off, Barshim looked to an official and asked: “Can we have two golds?” Seconds later, he and Tamberi shared a warm embrace, without even needing to vocalize what they were both thinking; that sharing gold was the perfect way for them to conclude their Tokyo experience.

It was an incredible act of sportsmanship and one of the most heart-warming moments of the Games.

3. Arab women shine in opening ceremony

When Yasmine Al-Dabbagh carried the flag alongside her compatriot Husein Alireza during the opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020, the track sprinter became Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female flagbearer at an Olympic Games. But she was not alone as the only Arab woman given the honor.

Arab women athletes were front and center during this year’s opening ceremony as many nations from the region took advantage of the newly introduced initiative from the International Olympic Committee that allowed countries to nominate a man and a woman to carry the flag together to kick off proceedings in Tokyo.

Other Arab women flagbearers in the Japanese capital during the opening ceremony include Lebanese shooter Ray Bassil, Egyptian two-time taekwondo Olympic medalist Hedaya Malak, Tunisian fencer Ines Boubakri, Moroccan boxer Oumaima Bel Habib, Jordan’s Asian Games taekwondo champion Julyana Al-Sadeq, Qatari rower Tala Abujbara, 15-year-old Bahraini swimmer Noor Yusuf Abdulla, Algerian swimmer Amel Melih, 12-year-old table tennis player Hend Zaza of Syria, Sudanese rower Esraa Khogali, Yemeni shooter Yasameen Al-Raimi, 17-year-old Kuwaiti swimmer Lara Dashti, 17-year-old Palestinian swimmer Dania Nour, and Iraqi shooter Fatimah Al-Kaabi.

4. Asaad’s gift to Syria

Man Asaad brought some much-needed joy to his war-torn nation during Tokyo 2020. The 27-year-old weightlifter claimed Syria’s first Olympic medal in 17 years, and fourth in the Games, by taking bronze in the plus-109-kilogram competition in Tokyo.

Asaad overcame a right shoulder injury in the build-up to the Olympics and gave Syria only its second Olympic gold medal.

5. Hamedi’s dramatic silver medal

Saudi Arabian karateka Tareg Hamedi was leading 4-1 when his final kick sent his Iranian opponent Sajjad Ganjzadeh to the tatami in their kumite plus-75-kilogram gold-medal bout in Tokyo. But his high kick was later deemed illegal, and the 23-year-old had to settle for silver behind the multiple-time world champion.

Despite the heartbreaking finish, Hamedi can take huge pride from his strong campaign in the Japanese capital, which earned Saudi Arabia its fourth-ever Olympic medal.

In a tweet, Saudi minister of sport and president of the Saudi Olympic Committee, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, said: “Because he is the hero in the eyes of all of us, our Olympic champion Tareq Hamedi will be honored with the gold medal award, worth 5 million riyals, for his excellence, creativity, and honorable representation of the homeland in front of the world’s biggest stars in Tokyo 2020. You deserve it, hero, and the future is in front of you.”

6. Feryal’s historic gold for Egypt

Karate’s introduction to the Tokyo 2020 Games spelled great news for Egypt, as Feryal Abdelaziz’s heroics in the kumite plus-61-kilogram class gifted the north African nation its first gold medal since 2004.

And Abdelaziz’s triumph made her Egypt’s first-ever female Olympic gold medalist.

“This is the result of four years of hard work, not just one or two. I was under a lot of pressure, mentally and physically, but it was all worth it to make something special for Egypt,” said the 22-year-old.

Fellow Egyptian Giana Farouk – a multiple-time world champion – claimed bronze in 61-kg action a day earlier.

7. El-Bakkali snaps Kenya’s streak

Moroccan track athlete Soufiane El-Bakkali ended Kenya’s 37-year dominance of the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Olympics to take gold in Tokyo.

Kenyans had won every single gold in the event since Los Angeles 1984 before El-Bakkali’s triumph last week.

The runner’s victory was Morocco’s sole medal at the Japanese Games, and its first gold since 2004.

8. Zaza’s message of hope

At 12 years old, Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza was not only her nation’s flagbearer, but the youngest competitor in the entire Tokyo 2020 Games.

Although her campaign was short-lived, having lost her opener to Austria’s 39-year-old Liu Jia, Zaza sent out an inspirational message after making her Olympics debut.

She said: “For the last five years I’ve been through many different experiences, especially when there was the war happening around the country, with the postponement with funding for the Olympics, and it was very tough.

“But I had to fight for it, and this is my message to everyone who wishes to have the same situation. Fight for your dreams, try hard, regardless of the difficulties that you’re having, and you will reach your goal.”

9. Malak doubles up

After claiming bronze in the below-57-kilogram category in taekwondo in Rio 2016, Hedaya Malak moved up a weight class, to below 67 kilograms, spent 18 months living in Serbia in order to have access to better training conditions, and qualified for Tokyo 2020 while competing with an injured ankle.

In Tokyo, Malak made history as Egypt’s first-ever female flagbearer then claimed a second Olympic bronze to become just the fifth athlete from her country to win multiple medals at the Games.

Egypt ended up with six medals in total, the nation’s highest ever tally at a single Games.

10. El-Bakh sets Olympic records

Egyptian-born weightlifter Fares El-Bakh did not just claim Qatar’s first-ever Olympic gold medal, he set two Olympic records in the process with 225 kilograms in the clean and jerk and a combined score of 402.

The 23-year-old said: “I feel great, incredible. We worked hard for it. We went so far to get this, and it feels better than ever. I am literally speechless about that (getting the first gold for Qatar). I hope that they are proud of me.

“I promise this is not the end, we still have more and more coming soon. We will do our best to make it even better,” he added.


Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets
Updated 22 sec ago

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets
  • Hyderabad fast bowler Thangarasu Natarajan tested positive for COVID-19 and was put in isolation hours before the game
DUBAI: Delhi Capitals notched their seventh win in the Indian Premier League with a thumping eight-wicket victory over virus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday.
Hyderabad fast bowler Thangarasu Natarajan tested positive for COVID-19 and was put in isolation hours before the game. The team was also without all-rounder Vijay Shankar, who also went into isolation after being identified as a close contact of Natarajan.
Without two key players, Hyderabad was limited to 134-9 by Delhi’s seamers and spinners.
Shreyas Iyer (47 not out) and captain Rishabh Pant (35 not out) led the run-chase with a clinical unbroken 67-run stand as Delhi went atop the leaderboard with 14 points by reaching 139-2 in 17.5 overs.
“Our bowlers did a pretty good job to restrict them,” Pant said. “We have one of the quickest bowlers in the world (and) pretty happy as the skipper.”
Shreyas raised the victory by hammering West Indies fast bowler Jason Holder to long-on boundary for six to hand Hyderabad its seventh loss in the tournament.
Shikhar Dhawan, who was left out by India for next month’s Twenty20 World Cup, continued his rich form in this season’s IPL by scoring 42 off 37 balls before Shreyas and Pant combined in a 42-ball stand and led the chase.
Earlier, Hyderabad struggled to put up partnerships after it won the toss and opted to bat. David Warner fell to Anrich Nortje (2-12) in the first over without scoring as the South African paceman didn’t allow the top order to score freely off his four overs.
Captain Kane Williamson (18) couldn’t capitalize on two dropped catches before finally holing out in the deep halfway into the innings off left-arm spinner Axar Patel (2-21).
Kagiso Rabada (3-37), who earlier had removed Wriddhiman Saha inside the batting powerplay, restricted Hyderabad to a below-par total with the wickets of Manish Pandey (17) and Abdul Samad (28).
“Didn’t get off to the start we would have liked,” Williamson said. “They put us under pressure and that is what you expect … for us, it is focusing on our cricket and trying to improve.”

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal
Updated 23 min 5 sec ago

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal
  • Club’s Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca feeling the heat after inconsistent start to season

Al-Shabab will be looking to break one of Saudi Arabian football’s longest jinxes when they attempt to beat league champions Al-Hilal for the first time in seven years at King Fahd International Stadium on Thursday night.

The club’s last league win over Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League was way back on Oct. 17, 2014 — a 1-0 triumph thanks to a stoppage-time goal by South Korean player Park Chu-young.

The results since then highlight Al-Hilal’s dominance, with nine wins from the 13 league matches between the two clubs, with the other four ending in draws.

Al-Shabab go into the match sitting in 11th place in the SPL with five points from one win, two draws and two losses, while Al-Hilal are in second spot with 10 points from four matches, having had their match against Al-Fayha postponed.

Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca took over at Al-Shabab at the start of the season but he is already feeling the heat after the inconsistent start, especially as the club finished second last season. A match against the champions might not be the fairest way to judge his team, but many predict that he could follow compatriot Mano Menezes — sacked by Al-Nassr earlier this week — out of the door if there is no immediate improvement.

There is some good news for Al-Shabab, however, with the return to fitness of several players. Chamusca will be able to call on Argentine playmaker Ever Banega, Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo, Senegalese defensive midfielder Alfred N’Diaye and Saudi keeper Fawaz Al-Qarni for the match against Al-Hilal.

Al-Hilal, meanwhile, will welcome back Salman Al-Faraj after his recent injury.


DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers
Updated 23 September 2021

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers
  • Winner of The Luckiest Ball on Earth competition will join professionals at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Nov. 16

DUBAI: The Luckiest Ball on Earth series is set to tee off with golfers throughout the UAE vying for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play alongside some of the game’s biggest names in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai Pro-Am.

The annual competition, which has proven a big hit with the UAE’s amateur golfers since the initiative was launched in 2011, is open to all players who hold an official club handicap recognized by the Emirates Golf Federation (maximum 28 for men and juniors, and 36 for women).

Qualifying tournaments will be held at 20 UAE golf clubs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 22, with the triumphant players booking their spot in the grand final at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Oct. 29.

Prizes worth more than 300,000 UAE dirhams ($82,000) are up for grabs including premium hospitality tickets and merchandise for the DP World Tour Championship. The overall male, female, and junior winner will receive a coveted place in the DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am taking place on Nov. 16.

Tom Phillips, European Tour head of Middle East, said: “We are thrilled to announce the return of the Luckiest Ball on Earth competition, offering UAE golfers a unique opportunity to mix with some of the world’s best players.

“We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of the Emirates Golf Federation and the 20 qualifying clubs, which makes this wonderful local golf initiative possible. We urge golfers across the region to get down to their local qualifier, you never know when it might be your day.”

The DP World Tour Championship will see the top 50 players on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai compete for a prize fund of $9 million. This year’s tournament will take place from Nov. 18 to 21 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.


Al-Ahli and Besnik Hasi in crisis mode as wins become distant memory

Al-Ahli's players gather in a huddle ahead of their AFC Champions League match against Al-Duhail on April 18, 2021, at the King Abdullah Sport City stadium. (AFP/File Photo)
Al-Ahli's players gather in a huddle ahead of their AFC Champions League match against Al-Duhail on April 18, 2021, at the King Abdullah Sport City stadium. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 23 September 2021

Al-Ahli and Besnik Hasi in crisis mode as wins become distant memory

Al-Ahli's players gather in a huddle ahead of their AFC Champions League match against Al-Duhail on April 18, 2021, at the King Abdullah Sport City stadium. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Jeddah club’s last victory in any competition came in April making Thursday’s clash with Al-Fayah a must-win match

JEDDAH: This season was supposed to be different to the last, but after just five games in the Saudi Professional League, Al-Ahli are in crisis mode.

Management at the four-time champions must have been thankful that at least Al-Nassr’s dismissal of Mano Menezes last weekend took the bulk of the attention, but now the focus is very much moving westwards towards Jeddah. 

There are must-win games and then there are must-win games and Thursday’s league meeting with Al-Fayha is crucial for the club and especially the boss.

Al-Ahli have drawn seven matches in a row in all competitions, and their last win came in April against Iraq’s Al-Shorta in the AFC Champions League group stages.

With only five points this season, the club now sits 10th in the Saudi pro League table.

If the five-time champions do not return from Al Majma’ah with three points, then coach Besnik Hasi is in line to become coaching casualty number five this season. With the Jeddah Derby against league leaders Al-Ittihad looming eight days later, it is likely the bullet will be fired if there is no victory. Al-Ahli and Hasi know well that after Al-Ittihad fired their coach with just one league game played, they have won every game since.

Al-Ahli finished eighth last season, just four points above the relegation zone, in a season dominated by reports of problems in the team and salaries that came late. Whatever happened off the pitch, what happened on it — the club’s worst finish since 2008 — was not good enough for a genuine Saudi Arabian giant.

Hasi was not the biggest name coach available, but boasts a solid European CV in charge of Anderlecht, Legia Warsaw and Olympiacos. He impressed in the Saudi Professional League with Al-Raed. It was no surprise then that the management felt in June that the 49-year-old was the right man to build something more substantial. 

His recruitment seemed decent. The addition of Ezgjan Alioski from Leeds United was a solid move. Star striker Omar Al-Somah, who often cut a forlorn figure last season, seemed happier. After former Barcelona star and Brazilian international Paulinho arrived, the signs were promising.

But after five games, Al-Ahli have just five points from five draws, their second-worst start to the season ever. There looks to be a distinct lack of leadership on the pitch. There has been major possession in most of those games but the team have been guilty of not taking their chances and switching off at the back. This is something that Hasi knows needs to stop against Al-Fayha who have said that they will let fans in for free in a bid to create that all-important 12th man. 

To make matters worse for Al-Ahli, on paper it has been a fairly gentle start and they have yet to play one of the big boys. The pressure is well and truly on — and now Paulinho has gone. The star player departed suddenly last weekend and Al-Ahli have been trying this week to show that the 33-year-old leaving had nothing to do with any issue at the club or anything related to football at all. The player said that it was due to “emergency circumstances” and the official line is the same.

“Paulinho showed us a picture of his family house two weeks ago,” said an Al-Ahli board member. “We met with him and confirmed that he needed to return home and we offered him the chance to have leave but he insisted that he needed to stay a long time. The player was happy here and had ambition and his departure was down to family circumstances only and nothing else.”

The football family in Brazil expects that he will be playing back in South America before too long. “It's up to Paulinho whether he wants to play for Corinthians or not,” said former Corinthians president Andres Sanchez. “He knows everything about Corinthians and how much he can be paid, it is up to him.” That is no longer an issue for Hasi, who may turn to powerful Saudi international midfielder Ali Al-Asmari to play the Paulinho role. 

The European coach is not the only manager under pressure.

Al-Shabab finished second last season but have been struggling so far this year under new boss Pericles Chamusca. Like Al-Ahli, Shabab have five points, though a win and a draw in the last two games has kept the Brazilian in the Riyadh hotseat so far. Defeat against Al-Hilal — the champions are not the team you want to face in such a situation — on Thursday could see Shabab drop into the relegation zone and Chamusca drop out of a job.

Al-Nassr have just fired Menezes and know that a failure to defeat Al-Batin will increase pressure on the board. Assistant Marcelo, also a Brazilian, will take temporary charge of the Riyadh club. That coaching change in Riyadh was not the first this season and will not be the last, but Besnik Hasi needs a result to avoid being the next.


Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season

Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season
Updated 22 September 2021

Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season

Juventus finally gets 1st win of Serie A season
  • De Ligt scored the winner in the 72nd minute to complete a comeback after Juventus fell behind four minutes after the break
  • Juventus moved up to 12th place, eight points behind leader Inter Milan

ROME: Critics had been demanding that Juventus use its younger players more during a horrendous start to Serie A.
They had to be appeased after Moise Kean, Federico Chiesa and Matthijs De Ligt each scored in a 3-2 win at Spezia for the Bianconeri’s first Italian league win of the season on Wednesday.
De Ligt scored the winner in the 72nd minute to complete a comeback after Juventus fell behind four minutes after the break.
Playing in place of Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini, the 22-year-old De Ligt coolly redirected in a loose ball that was being knocked around following a corner.
The 23-year-old Chiesa had equalized six minutes earlier with a typical goal for the Italy winger: he darted straight to the goal by dribbling through the legs of a defender then just barely got his shot off as he was sliding toward the ball.
The 21-year-old Kean — like coach Massimiliano Allegri in his second stint at Juventus — had given the visitors an early lead with a long shot after Adrien Rabiot knocked down a ball over the top from Leonardo Bonucci.
Spezia had struck back with goals both sides of halftime, the first coming with a solo effort from Emmanuel Gyasi, who dribbled by Danilo on the left flank and looped a long shot into the far corner.
Gyasi celebrated like Cristiano Ronaldo, his idol and the recently departed Juventus player, by leaping into the air and pumping his arms down toward his body.
Janis Antiste, a 19-year-old French forward, put Spezia ahead by beating De Ligt on a counterattack with the help of his shot being deflected by Bonucci.
Spezia nearly made it 3-1 but another effort minutes later was cleared off the line by Manuel Locatelli.
Juventus moved up to 12th place, eight points behind leader Inter Milan.
Hellas Verona has four points from two matches since hiring Igor Tudor to replace Eusebio Di Francesco as coach after three straight losses to open the season.
Nikola Kalinic scored twice in a 2-2 draw at promoted Salernitana three days after Verona handed Jose Mourinho his first defeat as Roma coach.
Mamadou Coulibaly equalized midway through the second half for Salernitana.