Al-Attiyah fastest as Przygonski loses time on third Saudi desert stage

Al-Attiyah fastest as Przygonski loses time on third Saudi desert stage
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah on his way to victory in Friday’s third 249 kilometer selective section of the Hail Cross-Country Rally. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 December 2021

Al-Attiyah fastest as Przygonski loses time on third Saudi desert stage

Al-Attiyah fastest as Przygonski loses time on third Saudi desert stage
  • Gearbox woes for Michal Goczal, Saleh Al-Saif extends T3 advantage

HAIL: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah started second on the road and managed to pass Poland’s Jakub Przygonski to claim victory on the third 249 kilometer selective section of the Hail Cross-Country Rally on Friday.
Assuming that the Qatari’s Toyota Hilux passes all post-event checks, he has already done enough to secure a fifth FIA World Cup title. He and co-driver Matthieu Baumel managed to beat stage runner-up Vladimir Vasilyev by 3 minutes, 57 seconds, and will take a lead of 18 minutes, 18 seconds over Russia’s Denis Krotov into the final day.
Al-Attiyah said: “A good day for us and another stage win under our belts. Now we need to bring the car safely to the finish tomorrow.”
Przygonski had been challenging Krotov for second place, but the Pole suffered a broken drive shaft on the day’s stage and finished 39 minutes, 26 seconds behind Al-Attiyah, the time loss dropping the Mini John Cooper Works Buggy driver to sixth overall.
Krotov’s co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov said: “It was so fast. The dunes were not so difficult. We tried to cross with more pressure in the tires. It was good, only we stopped after 20 kilometers to help our friends (Przygonski) in a Buggy. We gave them a drive shaft and we lost maybe six or seven minutes. Now we need to finish this race, say goodbye to the World Cup and prepare for Dakar.”
The Argentine duo of Sebastien Halpern and Lucio Alvarez completed the day’s timed section with the third and fourth quickest times and now hold fourth and fifth in the overall classification. Spaniard Laia Sanz bounced back from second day delays and now holds 10th.
Various time penalties were imposed on several T3 and T4 competitors before the restart, but the Polish duo of Michal and Marek Goczal actually benefited from time deductions after rally officials had further examined their paths through the first stage on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Ievgen Kovalevych had rolled in the dunes on Thursday and plummeted to the foot of the T4 standings when time penalties were imposed.
Gearbox issues cost Michal Goczal his T4 lead, however, and his brother Marek set the fastest time on the day’s stage and moved 25 minutes, 37 seconds in front of Australia’s Molly Taylor. Thomas Bell climbed to third overall and Levgen Kovalevych bounced back with the third quickest time on the special.
Saleh Al-Saif was again the dominant force in T3 and the Saudi increased his lead over Mashael Al-Obaidan to 44 minutes, 37 seconds with another stage win. Al-Obaidan edged 42 seconds further away from Germany’s Annett Fischer in the battle for second place.
Dania Akeel held fourth after a couple of navigational issues and Esraa Aldkheil recovered from her roll in the dunes on Thursday to finish the stage in fifth. Pavel Lebedev again sat out the stage after his first day problems.
“It was fun today,” said Akeel. “We had a couple of navigation issues and went from second to fourth and back to second and then to fourth again. I kept it steady and safe but I was faster than fourth. I am a little disappointed. In cross-country, so many other things matter.”
Abdullah Lanjawi claimed the motorcycle stage win but seventh place on the day for Othman Al-Ghfeli meant that the Saudi maintained an advantage of 11 minutes, 21 seconds over Mishal Al-Ghuneim to take into the final day. Ahmed Al-Jaber climbed to third and Yasir Al-Khuraif pushed Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera and Italy’s Mauro Torrini down to fifth and sixth overall.
Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi extended his advantage in the quad category to 66 minutes, 2 seconds with a comfortable stage win over Haitham Al-Tuwaijri and Hani Al-Noumesi, although both his Saudi rivals retained second and third places.
Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri clocked the unofficial quickest time in the national category from Aliyyah Koloc and gained the lead when Saeed Al-Mouri ceded 14 minutes to his fellow countryman and slipped to fifth place. Two-time Hail International Rally winner Essa Al-Dossary was third on the day in his Nissan Navara.
Japan’s Teruhito Sugawara (Hino) won his second stage in the truck category from Saudi Arabia’s Ibrahim Al-Muhanna. Overnight leader Teo Calvet suffered technical issues at the start of the stage.
On Saturday, competitors will tackle the final stage of the event and the last competitive cross-country special of 2021. After a run out of 56 kilometers, the stage only runs for 148 kilometers and features passage controls after 65, 82, 87, 129 and 142 kilometers. A road section of 132 kilometers takes the remaining drivers back to Parc Ferme in Hail.


Saudi national golf trio to feature in International Series England

Saudi national golf trio to feature in International Series England
Updated 11 sec ago

Saudi national golf trio to feature in International Series England

Saudi national golf trio to feature in International Series England
  • Local stars Othman Almulla, Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif join line-up in Newcastle as Asian Tour hosts debut event in the UK next month

Saudi national golf team’s Othman Almulla, Faisal Salhab, and Saud Al-Sharif will join a world-class line-up at next month’s International Series England at Slaley Hall Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, near Newcastle, from June 2-5.

The trio will compete alongside American Sihwan Kim, currently ranked first on the Asian Tour Order of Merit; Korean Joohyung Kim, last season’s number one; former US Open champion Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland and Thailand’s 15-year-old wonderkid Ratchanon “TK” Chantananuwat.

All of the players currently ranked in the top 10 on the Asian Tour Merit list will compete in the $2 million tournament, which breaks new ground as it will be the first time the Asian Tour has sanctioned a tournament in the UK. The opportunity will mean a full turnout of the Tour’s membership for the ninth event of the 2022-23 season and the second International Series event.

Following their respective 2021 triumphs — a year that also saw Saudi national team golfers clinch the title at the 40th edition of the Arab Golf Championship, beating more than 10 countries by a comfortable nine-shot margin — Almulla, Salhab and Al-Sharif will head to Slaley Hall for their second big appearance in an Asian Tour tournament after their participation in the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

Almulla, the Kingdom’s first-ever professional golfer, said: “I’m excited to be competing in the international series event being held at Slaley hall. To have these opportunities to compete on the world stage against some of the best players in the world is a privilege I cherish. I’m lucky to have the support and guidance of Golf Saudi to help me succeed in my professional golfing career.”

Salhab said: “I’m proud to be competing against some of the best golfers in the world, participating in such tournaments will only make my game better.

“Golf Saudi has done an amazing job in growing the game of golf within the Kingdom and being in this tournament reflects their massive support for us as players. Representing my country internationally means a lot to me and I hope I can do it in the best way.”

Al-Sharif said that he is looking forward to competing alongside his countrymen. “I’m really excited. Playing against top players on a world-class course and in a competitive atmosphere is a huge boost for our confidence and will help us become better golfers. We’ll be making the most out of this experience and showcase a positive side of Saudi golfers to the world.”

Sihwan Kim is leading the way on the Tour thanks to two victories, including a win at the first-ever International Series event, played in Thailand in March, and has earned close to half a million dollars, but Slaley Hall will also see a host of other in-form players competing.

Korean Bio Kim, who is second on the Merit list, and third-ranked Phachara Khongwatmai from Thailand will compete after recently recording their first wins on the Asian Tour following its restart in November last year after a two-year break because of the global pandemic.

Joohyung Kim, who at 19 became the second-youngest winner of the Merit title in January, has picked up where he left off from last season, with top-10 finishes in his last three events to sit in fourth place on the rankings.

Kim will make his way to the UK after competing in this week’s US PGA Championship in Oklahoma. Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana and South Africa’s Justin Harding, also in action at the season’s second Major Championship, will also be making the trip across the Atlantic. 

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, the 2019 Merit champion and six-time winner on Tour; Malaysian Gavin Green, the 2017 number one; and Australian Scott Hend, the most successful international player on the Tour with 10 victories and the 2016 Merit list winner will also be looking for strong performances in England.

Chinese-Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang, a two-time winner on the Tour since last year’s restart, and Thailand’s Nitithorn Thippong, also a winner this season, will add to a stellar line-up.

“The International Series England is a landmark event for the Asian Tour which provides our members with a great opportunity to compete internationally in an exciting, new location,” said Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and CEO, Asian Tour.

“An incredibly strong field with assemble for the tournament, which is a reflection of the appetite our members have for the International Series and will also allow us to showcase the Asian Tour’s depth in world-class talent to European fans. We have also received enormous interest from international players wanting to be part of the Asian Tour having seen our steady growth over the past few months.”

The International Series England is promoted by LIV Golf and will be followed by eight more International Series events this season.


Saudi racer Juffali delighted as Theeba Motorsport triumphs on International GT Open debut in France

Saudi racer Juffali delighted as Theeba Motorsport triumphs on International GT Open debut in France
Updated 20 min 25 sec ago

Saudi racer Juffali delighted as Theeba Motorsport triumphs on International GT Open debut in France

Saudi racer Juffali delighted as Theeba Motorsport triumphs on International GT Open debut in France
  • Juffali and teammate Adam Christodoulou impressed at Paul Ricard by finishing first in the Pro-Am class in the second race and taking fifth spot in the opening race

RIYADH: Theeba Motorsport founder and Saudi driver Reema Juffali said “she couldn’t be happier” after her team clinched its first victory in the Pro-Am class in the second round of the International GT Open in France.

At the Circuit Paul Ricard, Juffali and British teammate Adam Christodoulou capped off the weekend on a high as they battled to first place, and third overall, in race two after qualifying in 13th.

A day earlier, the pair had finished fifth in their class and seventh overall in race one, scoring their first solid points having taken pole position. Juffali was thrilled with how the weekend went for her team, which only launched last week.

“It’s a first overall podium for the team and first in class, so I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “I’m really proud of what we have achieved as a team in such a short space of time.

“It’s very different being purely a driver compared to a driver who manages her own team, but I think it makes it more exciting,” she added.

“Adam did an amazing job today, keeping it clean and getting us across the line despite the handicap. Now it’s about getting our head down and building on what we have achieved this weekend. I’m already ready for the next race.”

Christodoulou described the victory as the “cherry on top” of the weekend.

“As far as races go, they don’t get much better than that. We had a third overall and a win in class, so a brilliant weekend overall,” he said.

“Reema drove really well, the team were great and the car felt perfect all weekend. To fight for the win was the cherry on top.”

In race two, Juffali made short work of her rivals at the rolling start of the hour-long contest, gaining two places to move into 11th.

Opting for an early pitstop, Juffali switched with Christodoulou on lap 11, who, despite rejoining in 15th, began a superb charge up the order.

The timing of the pitstop proved perfect when the leading seven made their later stops, with the team’s undercut pushing Christodoulou up to 10th, and sixth in the Pro-Am class.

Christodoulou then moved up to fifth in class before a late push saw him complete the job to take the lead.

In the opening race, after Christodoulou managed to put the Mercedes AMG GT3 EVO onto the front row, the Briton continued his rapid pace into the start swiftly, pulling away and establishing a commanding lead over the field.

His solid work was undone by a safety car when Dino Steiner stopped on track, just several minutes before the pit window opened.

Despite the setback, he re-established a solid lead before handing over to Juffali. Having served a 20-second success penalty as a result of victory in Estoril last time out, Juffali battled hard to hold on to fifth in class and seventh overall after holding off Alain Valente.

Juffali and Christodoulou will next be in action June 18-19, when the third round of the International GT Open moves to Belgium at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.


16th edition of Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon announced for February 2023

16th edition of Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon announced for February 2023
Updated 29 min 54 sec ago

16th edition of Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon announced for February 2023

16th edition of Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon announced for February 2023
  • Under Armour named as the race’s new technical partner for the world’s fastest half marathon.

RAS AL-KHAIMAH: The Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority announced that the 16th edition of the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon will take place on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, with leading sportswear brand Under Armour named as the new technical partner.

Al-Marjan Island will again host the world’s fastest half marathon, which will see some of the best long-distance athletes, running enthusiasts and amateurs from across the globe compete in one of the key sporting events on the UAE calendar. Registration for next year’s race is now open.

Iyad Rasbey, executive director, Destination Tourism Development & MICE at RAKTDA, said: “We are thrilled to announce the 16th edition of the world’s fastest half marathon to our nature emirate. The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon has gone from strength to strength with each passing year and I am confident that the 2023 edition of the race will be no different.

“The standard of high-level performances along with the number of records broken that we witnessed in February truly demonstrates how popular the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is, attracting some of the world’s best elite runners and participants from across the world as well as the local community,” he added.

RAKTDA also announced that Under Armour will sponsor the half marathon as technical partner. The sports brand will provide all participants with its latest, top-of-line apparel to help ensure comfort while improving performance as runners take to the fast and flat course track.

“We are incredibly proud and excited to partner with the Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority and the RCS Sports & Events organization for what is one of the world’s leading running events,” said Lee Devon, vice president of Under Armour. “At Under Armour, it is our mission to make all athletes better and we do this through the lens of great product, innovation and by providing opportunities for all athletes to take part in sport. We recently opened our first store in Ras Al-Khaimah. This and our other stores across the emirates will become hubs for all athletes as they prepare for this event.”

The announcement comes only a few months after world half marathon record holder Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda (57:56) and Ethiopia’s Girmawit Gebrzihair (1:04:14) set new course records in the men’s and women’s elite categories respectively. Their triumphs were among the highlights of the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon, which saw a number of new records being set on the day, as well as some impressive performances and times across the categories.

As well as Kiplimo producing a 15-km world best time of 40:43 on his way to victory, the event also featured a new British record by Eilish McColgan. In just her second competitive half marathon, she smashed Paula Radcliffe’s British 21-year-old half marathon record, clocking an incredible total time of 1:06:26.


5 things we learned from Al-Hilal’s 3-1 win over Al-Ittihad in Saudi Classico

5 things we learned from Al-Hilal’s 3-1 win over Al-Ittihad in Saudi Classico
Updated 24 May 2022

5 things we learned from Al-Hilal’s 3-1 win over Al-Ittihad in Saudi Classico

5 things we learned from Al-Hilal’s 3-1 win over Al-Ittihad in Saudi Classico
  • Reigning Saudi and Asian champions developing into mentality monsters while leaders Al-Ittihad lacked the firepower to put the Saudi Pro League title to bed

Al-Hilal won the Classico against Al-Ittihad 3-1 on Monday night, coming back from a goal down in Jeddah. Romarinho opened the scoring for the hosts with a first-half penalty with Michael equalizing for the visitors just before the break. The Brazilian scored his second later in the game after Salem Al-Dawsari had put Al-Hilal ahead. The result means that Al-Ittihad are now just three points ahead of Al-Hilal with just three games to go. 

Here are five things we learned.

1. Forget Liverpool, Al-Hilal are the real mentality monsters

Jurgen Klopp has used the phrase more than once to describe his almost all-conquering Liverpool team, but Al-Hilal deserve similar praise. They are a team that have been playing big game after big game for the last few weeks. The last one was painful, a defeat in the King’s Cup final against Al-Feiha last Thursday. Even worse, it came after two hours of football and a penalty shootout.

Yet somehow Al-Hilal seemed full of energy. This was a game that they had to win; if they didn’t, then their title was going to Jeddah, but they seemed to relish the pressure. The Blues have a knack for pulling out a result in a big game. Before Monday, the Tigers had lost just one league game since October — a period of seven months — and that loss was also against Al-Hilal in March. This is what champions do, produce something special when they have to. There could have been many excuses for Al-Hilal had they failed to win, but they were not needed as the holders showed they are not giving up without a fight.

2. Al-Ittihad not clinical enough

The major difference between the two teams was that Al-Hilal had seven attempts on goal and scored three while the hosts had 13 but managed to find the back of the net on just one occasion. The likes of Romarinho, Abderrazak Hamdallah and Igor Coronado have all had great seasons in the yellow and black but could not make a difference in attack this time.

Perhaps the banned winger Fahad Al-Muwallad could have made a difference as the chances came and went. One that sticks in the mind came early in the second half when Hamdallah took the ball past goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf outside the area. His goal-bound shot was cleared in impressive fashion by Al-Hilal defender Ali Al-Bulaihi.

Perhaps the Moroccan could have taken the ball a little further, and he will look back and think that he should have scored. Other chances came and went, but not long after Hamdallah missed that opportunity, Al-Hilal took the lead and were soon 3-1 ahead. It was a major turning point in the game and perhaps the title race.

3. Al-Ittihad now have to fight for the title

There are two major positives for Al-Ittihad to take from this game. The first is that they are still three points clear at the top of the table with three games remaining, and that is a position they would have loved if it had been offered at the start of the season.

Then there is the fact that they don’t have to play Al-Hilal again this season. The Tigers’ remaining opponents are all in the bottom half of the table, and there is no reason why they can’t get the required seven points to get their hands on that trophy. But it remains to be seen how the team bounce back from this defeat.

A first title in 13 years was within their reach. Now, it is likely to go down to the wire, and that is when the pressure can produce strange outcomes. The Jeddah giants have yet to really be placed under any serious pressure since moving into pole position, and now they can feel Al-Hilal just behind them. Now Al-Ittihad are going to have to fight for the title.

4. Al-Dawsari and Michael rise above

Salman Al-Faraj and Abdullah Otayf offered a cool presence in the middle for Al-Hilal but as often happens, the headlines go to the people who scored.

Michael had his best game since making his debut in February. The Brazilian forward from Flamengo was a lively presence in attack with his running and pace causing all kinds of problems for the Al-Ittihad defense, not allowing them to get a moment’s rest. His two goals were both extremely well-taken. The first was a volley from the edge of the area, and the second was a low shot from a similar distance in the second half.

And there was Al-Dawsari. His goal that gave Al-Hilal the lead was a thing of beauty. It could almost be described as a running semi-bicycle kick from the edge of the area. The celebration upset the home fans, but they could not deny that they had seen a moment of real quality.

5. The result is great for the neutral

If Al-Ittihad had won, the title race would have been over a month early. Attention would have had to switch to the fierce relegation battle. Now, however, there is the promise of more drama to come, and the talk from both sides after Monday’s game has been about three cup finals left in the season.

Fans around the world watched the final day of the English Premier League action with Manchester City and Liverpool providing plenty of action and excitement. On June 23, there could be something similar in the Saudi Professional League.

The focus now switches to next weekend when Al-Hilal take on Abha and Al-Ittihad travel to Al-Tai. Both sets of fans will be keeping an eye on what happens in the other game, and the country will also be watching. Whatever happens, Saudi Arabia now has a genuine title race after for so long it looked as if the trophy was going to Jeddah. It probably still will be now there is doubt, and where there is doubt there is excitement and drama.


Tatum, Celtics blow away Heat to square series at 2-2

Tatum, Celtics blow away Heat to square series at 2-2
Updated 24 May 2022

Tatum, Celtics blow away Heat to square series at 2-2

Tatum, Celtics blow away Heat to square series at 2-2
  • Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said his team had never been able to recover from a poor start
  • The series now swings back to Florida, with top seeds Miami hosting Game 5 on Wednesday

BOSTON: Jayson Tatum rediscovered his scoring touch with 31 points as the Boston Celtics thrashed the Miami Heat 102-82 to level their NBA Eastern Conference finals series on Monday.

Two days after dropping their opening home game of the best-of-seven finals, Boston came roaring back at the TD Garden with a one-sided Game 4 blowout that squares the series at 2-2.

Tatum also finished with eight rebounds and five assists, with support coming from Payton Pritchard (14 points) and Derrick White (13). Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams added 12 points apiece.

Al Horford led a hard-nosed Boston defensive effort with 13 rebounds and four blocks.

Victor Oladipo led the scoring for Miami with 23 points from the bench.

None of Miami’s starting lineup made double figures, making a paltry 18 points in total.

“We just came and redeemed ourselves,” Tatum said.

“We knew this was a game that we really needed, to protect home court. After the last game we were just ready to play, to get back out here and play better.

“It’s been a back and forth series so far. It’s best of three now, we’ll just go away now for game five and get ready.”

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said his team had never been able to recover from a poor start.

“They came out and jumped on us,” Spoelstra said. “I think more than anything our offense hurt us at the beginning. We just weren’t purposeful.

“But we’re not making any excuses. They outplayed us tonight for sure. We never could get any kind of a grip on the game.”

Spoelstra insisted that his team would mount a response in Game 5.

“This is part of the playoffs. There’s a lot of extreme highs and extreme lows, and a lot of emotion,” said Spoelstra. “You just have to stay the course and stay together.

“And it’s a great series. You have to embrace that.”

The game was effectively won in the first two quarters as Boston punished a strangely subdued start by Miami to race into a 29-11 lead in the first quarter.

Tatum, who had been restricted to just 10 points in Saturday’s Game 3 defeat, was back to his sharp-shooting best with 12 points in the first quarter alone.

With Miami’s offense unable to penetrate a Boston defense bolstered by the return of Williams, the Celtics kept the pressure on in the second quarter, extending the lead to 27 points at one stage.

There was no better illustration of Miami’s offensive impotence than the first-half points haul of their starting lineup.

With Jimmy Butler contributing just six points, the Heat’s starters totalled 10 points in the first half, with only Oladipo’s 18 points off the bench preventing a total humiliation.

Miami made just 11-of-40 attempts from the field in the first half, a shooting percentage of just 27.5 percent.

Any hopes Miami had of mounting a second-half fightback were quickly snuffed out in the third quarter.

Boston outscored the Heat 12-4 immediately after the interval to pull clear by a whopping 32 points with the lead at 69-37.

The departure of Williams with what appeared to be left knee soreness midway through the third quarter helped Miami reduce the deficit to 23 points at 73-50, but it was only a temporary reprieve.

Boston continued to score steadily at the start of the fourth quarter and were sitting on a 31-point lead at 88-57 with just under nine minutes remaining before closing out a wire-to-wire win.

The series now swings back to Florida, with top seeds Miami hosting Game 5 on Wednesday.