Saudi, GCC entrants set to dominate in Hail

Saudi, GCC entrants set to dominate in Hail
Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi is a six-time quad category champion. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 December 2021

Saudi, GCC entrants set to dominate in Hail

Saudi, GCC entrants set to dominate in Hail
  • Twenty-six bikes and 10 quads will tackle the four desert sections laid on by the Saudi Arabian Motor and Motorcycle Federation

HAIL: Saudi Arabian and Gulf Cooperation Council country riders dominate the motorcycle and quad entry for this week’s Hail Cross-Country Rally, the four-day finale to the world’s 2021 off-road season.

While most attention this week in the north-central region of Saudi Arabia turns to the battle for FIA World Cup glory and the duel between Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez for the drivers’ title, the two-wheel protagonists will be looking for their own success in the absence of the world’s top cross-country riders.

Austria’s Matthias Walkner clinched the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship on a KTM and, as teams such as Honda, KTM, Sherco, Husqvarna, Yamaha and GasGas make their final preparations for the Dakar Rally, the stage is left open for regional riders to shine. 

Twenty-six bikes and 10 quads will tackle the four desert sections laid on by the Saudi Arabian Motor and Motorcycle Federation. 

The 2019 Sharqiya Baja winner Mishal Al-Ghuneim heads the two-wheel section on his Husqvarna FR 450 Rally and faces competition from the likes of fellow countrymen Fawaz Al-Toimi, Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera and Mohammed Al-Khater. 

Qatar is represented by Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani (Honda), Mohammed Al-Kaabi (Beta), Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb (Beta) and Ali Mubarak Al-Badi (Yamaha). 

Sarah Khuraibet finished fourth in the women’s category of the FIM Bajas World Cup and represents Kuwait on her Husqvarna, while Salman Farhan is the sole representative from Bahrain, also on a Husqvarna. 

With Mohammed Al-Balooshi missing the Hail event to finalize his Dakar preparations, Othman Al-Ghefeli leads the Emirati challenge on a Honda CRF. He is joined by Hamdan Al-Ali and Abdullah Lanjawi. Lebanon’s Ehab Al-Hakeem and Italy’s Mauro Torrini round off the international two-wheel contingent. 

Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi won the quad category in Hail on six occasions between 2014 and 2019 and the Yamaha Raptor 700 rider heads nine Saudi rivals that include Sultan Al-Masoud, 2021 Sharqiya Baja winner Hani Al-Noumesi, and Haitham Al-Tuwaijri, the 2021 FIM Bajas World Cup quad champion. 

Scrutineering and technical checks take place at the rally headquarters in Hail on Monday and Tuesday in advance of the ceremonial start at Maghwat, scheduled from 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Competitors will then tackle four desert stages from Dec. 8 to 11.


Ex-US envoy Richardson ‘optimistic’ Griner will be freed

Ex-US envoy Richardson ‘optimistic’ Griner will be freed
Updated 6 sec ago

Ex-US envoy Richardson ‘optimistic’ Griner will be freed

Ex-US envoy Richardson ‘optimistic’ Griner will be freed
  • Bill Richardson: ‘I think she’s going to be freed, I think she has the right strategy of contrition, there’s going to be a prisoner swap — though I think it will be two for two, involving Paul Whelan’
  • Some Americans have asked why Marc Fogel, a US citizen serving a 14-year sentence in Russia on marijuana charges — which he said he had for medicinal purposes — has not been mentioned
WASHINGTON: Former US diplomat Bill Richardson said Sunday that he was “optimistic” about efforts to negotiate a “two for two” prisoner swap with Russia that would free US basketball star Brittney Griner and another American.
Richardson, a former ambassador to the UN, has negotiated the release of several Americans held in other countries. Reports last month said he was expected to travel to Russia for talks over Griner, who on Thursday was sentenced to nine years in prison on a drug charge.
While insisting Sunday that he is only a “catalyst” in any negotiations, Richardson’s mention of a “two-for-two” swap including Griner suggested inside knowledge.
“My view is, I’m optimistic,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”
“I think she’s going to be freed, I think she has the right strategy of contrition, there’s going to be a prisoner swap — though I think it will be two for two, involving Paul Whelan.”
Whelan is a former US Marine who was convicted of espionage in June 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He has insisted on his innocence.
His case and Griner’s have been enmeshed in the deep US-Russia tensions since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February.
But recent comments from both sides — including from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov — have suggested signs of movement, and US President Joe Biden has faced repeated calls to arrange a deal.
Reports suggested that Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” might be freed in exchange for Griner and Whelan. The Kremlin has long sought his release.
But Richardson’s mention of a “two for two” swap raises questions about who the second Russian in the equation might be.
And some Americans have asked why Marc Fogel, a US citizen serving a 14-year sentence in Russia on marijuana charges — which he said he had for medicinal purposes — has not been mentioned.
Griner was sentenced Thursday to nine years in a Russian penal colony and ordered to pay a fine of one million rubles ($16,590) for smuggling narcotics.
She was arrested at a Moscow airport for possessing vape cartridges with a small amount of cannabis oil.
The 31-year-old, who was in Russia to play for the professional Yekaterinburg team during her off-season from the Phoenix Mercury, said the substance was prescribed by a US doctor to relieve pain.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and Women’s NBA champion pleaded guilty but said she did not intend to break the law.
Richardson is a prominent Democrat, having served in the US Congress, as governor of New Mexico, and both as UN envoy and energy secretary in the Bill Clinton administration.
Since then, he has worked as a discreet go-between in several sensitive hostage talks with foreign countries, including North Korea. In November 2021 he helped secure the release of US journalist Danny Fenster from a prison in Myanmar.

Haaland scores twice in Man City’s 2-0 win at West Ham

Haaland scores twice in Man City’s 2-0 win at West Ham
Updated 07 August 2022

Haaland scores twice in Man City’s 2-0 win at West Ham

Haaland scores twice in Man City’s 2-0 win at West Ham
  • Haaland lived up to the hype since his transfer from Borussia Dortmund to give the champions a perfect start to the season
  • Kevin De Bruyne split open the West Ham defense for Haaland to gallop clear on goal and slot low past Areola for his second

LONDON: Erling Haaland scored twice on his Premier League debut as Manchester City opened their defense of the title with a 2-0 win at West Ham on Sunday.
Haaland lived up to the hype since his transfer from Borussia Dortmund to give the champions a perfect start to the season in the searing heat of East London.
West Ham nearly derailed City’s title chances when they led 2-0 at half-time in the penultimate game of last season before Pep Guardiola’s men battled back for the point that ultimately edged out Liverpool at the top of the table.
But they were no match this time as Haaland immediately proved the value of City adding a proven goalscorer to their arsenal.
The Norwegian has been signed as the long-term successor to Sergio Aguero and started his City career just like the club’s all time record goalscorer with a double on his league debut.
Haaland had missed chances in City’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool in the Community Shield, but Guardiola’s warning that the goals would soon flow proved to be correct.
City’s patient possession game wore the Hammers down as temperatures in the English capital soared above 30 degrees celsius on Sunday.
Haaland took responsibility from the penalty spot to open his Premier League account after he had been brought down by Alphonse Areola.
West Ham started the second half with more attacking intent but that simply played into the hands of City’s new weapon as Kevin De Bruyne split open their defense with one pass on the counter-attack for Haaland to gallop clear on goal and slot low past Areola.


Ten Hag loses first game as Man Utd manager to Brighton

Ten Hag loses first game as Man Utd manager to Brighton
Updated 07 August 2022

Ten Hag loses first game as Man Utd manager to Brighton

Ten Hag loses first game as Man Utd manager to Brighton
  • Pascal Gross struck twice to put the Seagulls in command
  • Boos rang out around Old Trafford at the half-time whistle

MANCHESTER: Erik ten Hag said Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence will improve Manchester United after a dismal start to his reign in charge as Brighton recorded their first ever victory at Old Trafford with a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Any hope of a fresh start for United after a miserable 2021/22 season was wiped away within 45 minutes as Pascal Gross struck twice to put the Seagulls in command.
Alexis Mac Allister’s own goal gave United a foothold in the game, but they rarely looked like getting back on level terms, showing the scale of the task lying ahead for Ten Hag.
The former Ajax boss left Ronaldo on the bench after he only returned to pre-season training last week.
Ronaldo is reportedly seeking an exit from Old Trafford to play Champions League football this season.
But without the five time Ballon d’Or winner, United had no focal point to their attack as Christian Eriksen started in an unfamiliar role as a false nine.
“It’s clear to see we were better in the middle with Eriksen back and Ronaldo up front,” said Ten Hag after Ronaldo came on eight minutes into the second half.
“If he was available, I would’ve played him. Cristiano is now 10 days in team training. That’s too short for 90 minutes. That’s the reason we didn’t start him.”
The outcome could have been very different had Bruno Fernandes not blazed over a glorious chance on six minutes.
But Brighton, who beat United 4-0 when the sides last met in May, quickly settled into their passing rhythm.
Graham Potter’s men have lost two of their best players during the transfer window, as Yves Bissouma joined Spurs and Marc Cucurella moved to Chelsea this week for a club record fee in excess of £60 million ($72 million).
But it did not show as Brighton exposed the same flaws in United’s wide open midfield to pick apart Ten Hag’s men with ease.
“It’s not easy because as the transfer fees suggests they were two really key players,” said Potter.
“In any team you miss good players. We have got a good group, they are ambitious, they are not perfect, but they give everything and when you’re a coach it gives you a chance.”
Danny Welbeck, who United discarded back in 2014, was a constant threat in behind the vulnerable defensive pairing of Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez.
Welbeck created the opener as he ran off Maguire and laid the ball across goal for Gross to slot into an unguarded net at the back post.
The German midfielder now has six goals in 12 appearances against United, as he was again in the right place to take advantage when David de Gea could only parry Solly March’s shot across goal.
Boos rang out around Old Trafford at the half-time whistle, with the home fans not only restless about the state of their side on the pitch.
The club shop was forced to close before kick-off by a protest against United’s owners, the Glazer family, on the day Avram Glazer made a rare appearance in the directors’ box.
Ronaldo’s introduction early in the second half at least lifted the noise levels inside Old Trafford, which in turn roused United into a response.
Marcus Rashford failed to build on his encouraging pre-season form as Robert Sanchez produced a stunning save to block the England international’s effort from Ronaldo’s pinpoint cross.
Sanchez quickly undid that good work to give United a lifeline 22 minutes from time.
The Spanish international flapped at a corner under pressure from Diogo Dalot and then slapped the ball into his own net off the unfortunate Mac Allister.
But an expected siege on the Brighton goal never materialized as the visitors comfortably saw out the closing stages for a famous win.


Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022
Updated 34 min 30 sec ago

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022
  • In unified sports, players with and without intellectual disabilities compete on the same team

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian team made history by winning the gold medal in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022 on Saturday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

In the final match, Saudi Arabia defeated Romania 3-1.

The Saudi team competed in the Special Olympics Unified Cup for the first time, along with 22 other teams from around the world, from July 31 to Aug. 6 in Detroit, Michigan.

In unified sports, players with and without intellectual disabilities compete on the same team.

The UAE, Egypt and Morocco were among the Arab teams that competed in the cup.

Other teams included Brazil, the US, Jamaica, South Korea, Nigeria, Paraguay, Romania, and Singapore.

Chairman of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors Dr. Timothy Shriver congratulated the Saudi team on their gold medal win.

Director of the Saudi Special Olympics Abdulrahman Al-Quraishi also congratulated the players, technical and administrative staff, and members of the Saudi Mission for their outstanding achievement.


Hooked: Riyadh boxing exhibition shows sport’s growth

Hooked: Riyadh boxing exhibition shows sport’s growth
Updated 07 August 2022

Hooked: Riyadh boxing exhibition shows sport’s growth

Hooked: Riyadh boxing exhibition shows sport’s growth
  • Supported by Princess Nouf bint Mohammed Al-Saud and TKO Fighters gym, the event included 11 male and female amateurs and six male professional fighters from the region

RIYADH: Boxing in Saudi Arabia continues to raise its profile, with an international exhibition featuring several international fighters showcasing the sport’s potential in the Kingdom.

The “Beasts of the Middle East” event took place at Riyadh’s Radisson Blu Airport Hotel on July 29, bringing in boxers from around the region, with 11 female and male amateurs — as well as six male professionals — taking part in the exhibition bouts.

“Beasts of the Middle East” was supported by Princess Nouf bint Mohammed Al-Saud and TKO Fighters in the Al-Wadi suburb of Riyadh.

The exhibition is the latest event held by the gym and its American founder, coach Lee Starks.

In 2021, Starks established TKO Fighters as the first ever women’s boxing team in Saudi Arabia, starting with just four young female fighters. Since then, more and more women, and men, have embraced the sport across the Kingdom.

“I would like to support Saudi women in all sports. Without the help of the crown prince and the Ministry of Sport, this would not have been possible. I hope we can make every Saudi man and woman proud with this great goal,” Princess Nouf said.

These initiatives provide a platform for the Kingdom’s youth to empower themselves and improve their skills alongside international competitors, and showing their support among the show’s over 100 attendees were President Abdullah Alharbi and Vice President Rasha Alkhamis of the Saudi Boxing Federation.

Extra safety precautions were taken for the fights involving the amateur boxers, who took part in match-ups made up of three rounds, each lasting a minute. Meanwhile, the main events involving the professionals saw fights between four to six rounds.

The bouts were for exhibition purposes only, with no winners or losers declared, and all participants received cash prizes from Princess Nouf for taking part.

Several of the boxers disclosed to Arab News that boxing had transformed them mentally and physically when they were enduring difficult periods in their lives. They also revealed that their love for challenges inspired them to pick up the sport and continue to improve in it.

Renowned Kuwaiti boxer, Noura Al-Mutairi, showed her pride in fellow GCC boxers: “I came to Saudi Arabia because this is an opportunity that a female (fighter) cannot miss. I want to participate in this large event that represents us Khaleeji women.”

“Saudi Arabia has taken the lead in empowering women in sports in the GCC region. We are proud to know we Khaleeji and Arab women can do whatever anyone else can do, and we can build something very big. I didn’t choose boxing, boxing chose me,” she said.

Saudi boxing and MMA champion, Abdullah Al-Qahtani, known as “The Ripper”, displayed his fighting spirit prior to his bout.

“You have to suffer to make it. Nothing is easy. I can’t blame anyone for saying this sport is dangerous, and that’s why this sport is made for me,” Al-Qahtani told Arab News. “I’m also a fighter in my regular life. As a child, you already know where you’re heading to. Any Saudi can reach any heights in this sport as long as you train and dedicate yourself to it.”

Saudi boxing champion Sara Al-Shahrani has been boxing from a very young age and she expressed her gratitude to TKO Fighters for the opportunity she was given before entering the ring.

“I’m good at this, it’s natural, “ she said. “Coach Lee has helped with training, and I’m gonna crush this. I’m going to give 200 percent of myself into making my fight the best fight of the entire night.”

UAE’s national boxing champion, Austine Nnamdi, nicknamed “The Magnificent Dancer”, also revealed his excitement at being in Riyadh and predicted a bright future for the young Saudis taking up the sport.

“I’m going to be dancing on that stage. It’s not fake, it’s what I do every day,” Nnamdi said. “Seeing the Saudi amateur fighters, since I was once an amateur myself, I can see that they’re going to go very far and be as happy and as successful in their careers as I am.”