Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Zii Jia quits national team

Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Zii Jia quits national team
It was not clear why Malaysian badminton ace Lee Zii Jia cut ties with the body, and there was no immediate comment from the player, but he could face sanctions. (AFP)
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Updated 20 January 2022

Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Zii Jia quits national team

Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Zii Jia quits national team
  • Lee Zii Jia being held up as the heir to Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian badminton ace Lee Zii Jia, ranked seventh in the world, has quit his country’s national team to play as an independent, reports said Thursday.
Lee has been held up as the heir to Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei, rising rapidly up the rankings and scoring a breakthrough victory at the prestigious All England Open last year.
But the 23-year-old has performed poorly in recent months. He lost to China’s Chen Long at the Olympics and retired with an injury in the world championship quarter-finals.
After weeks of speculation, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Norza Zakaria confirmed that Malaysia’s top player had quit the body earlier this month.
“We see Zii Jia as an asset and we tried to persuade him (to stay) because we have groomed him since he was 13,” he was cited as saying by The Star newspaper.
“Now that he has reached this stage, winning the All England, we certainly didn’t want to lose him because he has a bright future.”
“However, he told us that he’s no Lee Chong Wei and he cannot cope with the pressure,” added Norza.
BAM did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It was not clear why Lee cut ties with the body, and there was no immediate comment from the player, but he could face sanctions.
Previously, BAM banned Tan Chun Seang from playing in Asian countries for two years after he quit the national team.
However world number one Viktor Axelsen of Denmark voiced support for Lee’s decision.
“If a player ... feels it’s best for him to follow another path where he is more independent as a player, then that is what he should do,” tweeted the Olympic gold medalist.
“It’s his career and his life after all.”
Badminton is one of the few sports in which Malaysia performs well internationally.
Three-time Olympic silver medalist Lee Chong Wei, who retired in 2019, was one of the greatest players of his generation.


Asian pole vault king Obiena sets SEA Games record

Asian pole vault king Obiena sets SEA Games record
Updated 16 sec ago

Asian pole vault king Obiena sets SEA Games record

Asian pole vault king Obiena sets SEA Games record
  • Obiena eclipsed his own previous Southeast Asian Games record 5.45m he set in winning gold in 2019
  • The 26-year-old Filipino is ranked sixth-best men’s pole vaulter in the world

HANOI, Vietnam: Asia’s top pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena set his sights on the World Athletics Championships in July after retaining his SEA Games title by easily clearing a Games-record 5.46m on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Filipino, ranked the sixth-best men’s pole vaulter in the world, eclipsed his own previous Southeast Asian Games record 5.45m he set in winning gold in 2019.
But in hazy conditions at My Dinh National Stadium in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Obiena fell short of bettering his Asian-record 5.93m.
“I wanted to beat the Asian record. You never know how many chances I get, I wanted, I really wanted it today,” he told reporters afterwards, having failed three times at 5.94m.
But he was nevertheless feeling “positive” about the World Championships in Oregon in two months’ time.
“The first battle is I need to make sure I get in there. (First) I get selected to compete and the next one is perform well,” said Obiena, who was joint 11th at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
“That’s why I’m here. I’m preparing.”


Celtics eliminate NBA defending champion Bucks in Game 7

Celtics eliminate NBA defending champion Bucks in Game 7
Updated 16 May 2022

Celtics eliminate NBA defending champion Bucks in Game 7

Celtics eliminate NBA defending champion Bucks in Game 7
  • Boston face top seeds Miami in game one of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday, in a rematch of their 2020 series

BOSTON: Grant Williams scored 27 points as the Boston Celtics eliminated the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday with a 109-81 game seven victory in their NBA Eastern Conference series.
Celtics forward Williams produced a deadly display of scoring from three-point range at the TD Garden as Boston advanced to a conference finals showdown with the Miami Heat with a 4-3 series win.
Williams’s red-hot shooting from beyond the arc was emblematic of Boston’s superiority from the field as the Bucks missed a slew of wide open looks.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 25 points 20 rebounds and nine assists for Milwaukee.
But the Celtics’ three-point shooting accuracy proved the difference between the two teams as Boston completed a comeback from 3-2 down in the best-of-seven series.
Boston dropped 22 of 55 from downtown, in stark contrast to Milwaukee, who converted just four of 33 attempts from beyond the arc.
Williams led the three-point blitzkrieg with seven threes in his 27-point haul. Jayson Tatum made five-of-nine threes to finish with 23 points.

Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics in action during Game Seven of their semifinals playoff against the Milwaukee Bucks on May 15, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Getty Images/AFP)

Payton Pritchard also got in on the act, with four three-pointers from the bench in a tally of 14 points.
Only one Milwaukee player — Bobby Portis — made multiple three-pointers. Portis finished with two in his 10-point haul.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka revealed he had encouraged Williams to shoot more aggressively, suggesting the Bucks had “disrespected” the forward by allowing him so much room to operate.
“I told him let it fly. I said ‘They’re disrespecting you more tonight than earlier in the series,’” Udoka said.
“He missed a few and got hesitant and I basically said ‘shoot the ball, what else can you do?’“
Williams said he was only too happy to accept the challenge from Udoka and the rest of his Celtics team-mates.
“Everyone kept saying ‘Let it fly, keep shooting’. So I thought ‘All right, they’re encouraging it, might as well take advantage.’ As time went on each one got more comfortable. It was fun. It was just great that we got a win,” Williams said.
“I’ve worked on my shot enough to be confident enough to knock those down.
“My team-mates know that if I get 18 looks I’ll make 40 percent of them at least. It was just a matter of continuing to do what we wanted to do and keep getting those open looks.
“We hadn’t put a full game together this entire series. So we said, why not now? We just did what we were supposed to do.”
Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer made no excuses for the defeat, saying Boston had been the better team over the series.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Budenholzer said. “We’ve had a lot of success together, and tonight we hit a wall and met our end.”
Boston face top seeds Miami in game one of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday in a rematch of their 2020 series.
Miami won that series 4-2 to advance to the NBA Finals.


Mortara and Di Grassi keep up good momentum for ROKiT Venturi in second Berlin E-Prix

ROKiT Venturi soared to back-to-back podiums at the 2022 Berlin E-Prix on Sunday, with Edoardo Mortara taking second place in Ra
ROKiT Venturi soared to back-to-back podiums at the 2022 Berlin E-Prix on Sunday, with Edoardo Mortara taking second place in Ra
Updated 15 May 2022

Mortara and Di Grassi keep up good momentum for ROKiT Venturi in second Berlin E-Prix

ROKiT Venturi soared to back-to-back podiums at the 2022 Berlin E-Prix on Sunday, with Edoardo Mortara taking second place in Ra
  • The second-placed finish on Sunday, following his race win on Saturday, puts Mortara into second in the World Drivers’ Championship

LONDON: ROKiT Venturi soared to back-to-back podiums at the 2022 Berlin E-Prix on Sunday, with Edoardo Mortara taking second place in Race Two after starting from pole position.

After his victory in the first race of the weekend double-header, the Monegasque team continued to show promise on Sunday morning by topping both practice sessions in the German capital.

Mortara and teammate Lucas di Grassi carried this momentum forward into qualifying and both drivers advanced from their respective groups to contest the duel stages.

In the Quarter-Finals, Di Grassi lost out to Nyck de Vries by only 0.270 seconds to qualify sixth while, by beating Nick Cassidy, Mortara faced the Dutchman in the second Semi-Final.

By defeating the Mercedes-EQ driver, then cemented his place in the Final and vanquished another Dutchman Robin Frijns by 0.498 seconds to secure a second consecutive pole position and three points.

At the start of the race, Mortara successfully defended from fellow front row starter Frijns but slipped to second following a diving move from De Vries into Turn One.

Di Grassi, meanwhile, made steady progress from the third row by immediately moving into the top five, overtaking Antonio Felix da Costa.

As the race progressed and strategy evolved, ROKiT's Swiss-Italian driver regained the lead and Di Grassi moved into third when De Vries and André Lotterer and Frijns activated Attack Mode with 34 minutes remaining.

In favor of the overcut strategy, however, the duo fell to fifth and sixth upon activating their sole Attack Mode of the E-Prix in the 16th minute.

With a power advantage over all other drivers ahead, the ROKiT drivers carved through the field, clearing Lotterer, Stoffel Vandoorne and da Costa to hold second and third on the road.

Despite posting the fastest lap of the race, Mortara was unable to close in on and pass De Vries but secured second place when the chequered flag waved in the German capital.

In the closing moments, Brazilian Di Grassi lost track position to Vandoorne and finished fourth overall to score 12 points.

The second-placed finish on Sunday, following his race win on Saturday, puts Mortara into second in the World Drivers’ Championship while, by scoring a total of 62 points in one weekend, ROKiT Venturi Racing moved to second in the Teams’ Standings, now holding 148 points from eight races.

“This weekend has been phenomenal and I’m extremely proud of the entire team for what we have been able to achieve, team principal Jerome D'Ambrosio said.

“One win, two podiums, two pole positions, two fastest laps and 62 points from two races is an incredible achievement and in a championship as close and competitive as Formula E, is one that doesn’t happen very often at all,” he added.

“Today’s race was more difficult in comparison to yesterday’s, Mortara said. “Both the ambient and track temperatures were much higher and this meant that there was more management to do, both for the energy and the tyresm and Nyck’s pace was very strong today and realistically, I think he was just out of reach for us.”

And Di Grassi was disspointed to miss out on a podium finish so late in the race.

“It was frustrating to miss out on the podium today, especially so close to the finish, but overall, I’m happy with this result. After yesterday it was clear that we had the pace to be at the front and we made the most in qualifying to start inside the top eight,” he said.

Formula E’s Season 8 campaign will resume on June 4 for the inaugural Jakarta E-Prix in Indonesia.


Penalty save denies City victory, keeps Premier League title race alive

Penalty save denies City victory, keeps Premier League title race alive
Updated 15 May 2022

Penalty save denies City victory, keeps Premier League title race alive

Penalty save denies City victory, keeps Premier League title race alive
  • City are now four points clear of Liverpool, who head to Southampton on Tuesday needing at least a point to take the title race to the final day
  • Leeds scored in the second minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw against Brighton and move out of the relegation zone

LONDON: A dramatic penalty save might have kept the Premier League title race alive.
When Riyad Mahrez stepped up to take an 86th-minute spot kick for Manchester City, he knew that converting it would virtually secure another league championship for his team.
It was saved, though, by West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and City had to settle for a 2-2 draw at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday — albeit from 2-0 down at halftime — to leave Liverpool still with hope.
City are now four points clear of Liverpool, who head to Southampton on Tuesday needing at least a point to take the title race to the final round next Sunday.
A win is probably required at Southampton, though, given City have a superior goal difference of 7 compared to Liverpool.
City finish at home to Aston Villa, managed by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, who was never able to win the league for Liverpool. He still could — but as a coach.
Liverpool host Wolverhampton in their last game.
City manager Pep Guardiola hardly flinched when Fabianski dived to his left and clawed away Mahrez’s penalty. After a few seconds, Guardiola scratched the side of his head and rubbed his face, and didn’t appear too disheartened at the final whistle as he shared an embrace with Mark Noble — West Ham’s long-serving midfielder who is retiring at the end of the season and was making his final home appearance for the club.
Mahrez had converted his previous seven penalties this season. His most high-profile miss from the spot was in the 2018-19 season — another City vs. Liverpool title race — when he skied a penalty late in the game in a 0-0 draw at Anfield.
It’s just as tense at the other end of the standings.
Leeds scored in the second minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw against Brighton and move out of the relegation zone at Burnley’s expense.
Pascal Struijk headed in the goal for Jesse Marsch’s Leeds, though it owed so much to a brilliant piece of skill on the byline by Joe Gelhardt before he crossed the ball over to Struijk to score at the back post.
Burnley lost 1-0 at Tottenham a few hours earlier — Harry Kane scored the winner from the penalty spot — and lie in third-to-last place, one point behind Leeds.
Burnley do have two games remaining while Leeds have one.
Everton will be safe from relegation by beating Brentford later Sunday.
Watford’s season is coming to a messy end under departing manager Roy Hodgson, a 5-1 home loss to Leicester leaving his team a point above last-place Norwich, who drew 1-1 at Wolves.
Norwich and Watford have already been relegated.
Aston Villa and Crystal Palace drew 1-1.
The race for Champions League qualification is also heading for the final day, too, with Tottenham climbing into fourth place — two points ahead of north London rivals Arsenal.
Arsenal have two games remaining compared to Tottenham’s one, the first coming at Newcastle on Monday.


Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier desperate for Newcastle starts against Arsenal: Eddie Howe

Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier desperate for Newcastle starts against Arsenal: Eddie Howe
Updated 15 May 2022

Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier desperate for Newcastle starts against Arsenal: Eddie Howe

Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier desperate for Newcastle starts against Arsenal: Eddie Howe
  • The two players have had no ill effects after their returns from long-term injuries, and the Magpies could also have Ryan Fraser back in contention

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier are desperate to be handed Newcastle United starts against Arsenal on Monday night.

However, the Magpies’ head coach is giving no clues away about his starting XI selections.

Wilson and Trippier both returned to the fold last time out against Manchester City, getting 20-minute cameos under their belts after four and two-and-a-half months out respectively.

Having suffered no ill effects from their Etihad exertions, both are said to be champing at the bit to be let loose against the Champions League-chasing Gunners.

“I think both players would say they are very keen to start,” said Howe. “My job is to make sure I’m doing the best, not just for the individual, but also for the team as well.

“We have to make sure that they’re fit enough to last a long period in the game because obviously I don’t want to be making too many changes too early in the match, which would unbalance the team.

“They’re also slightly different; you can’t group them together and say they’re at the same stage. Wilson has done more training work than Trippier, although of course he sustained a more serious injury.

“We’ll make a decision based on their training week as to whether they’re ready to start the game on Monday.”

While the narrative at Newcastle United at present is very much about new beginnings, this summer will also bring to an end some long associations with the football club as incomings and outgoings sweep through the ranks in the off season.

The likes of Matt Ritchie, Ciaran Clark, Dwight Gayle and Isaac Hayden, all signed in the summer of 2016 when United were aiming for promotion from the Championship, are likely to be heading out the door.

The same can probably be said of Federico Fernandez, Jamal Lewis, Karl Darlow and others.

So will Monday be looked upon as a farewell for many?

“It’s difficult to speak about individuals, but I’m sure for some of my players, it may well be an emotional experience,” Howe said. “I’m very much in the mindset that we have to be very appreciative of everybody’s efforts to our success this season in terms of the position we were in to where we are now. Everyone has played their part in that, whether they have participated on the pitch or not.

“I look at Clark, Hayden and Lewis, who were not in the 25-man squad, but their attitude to that disappointment has been incredible,” said Howe. “They’re still training with the group, and they’ve not been negative or disappointed for a moment. It’s important that I highlight that because we haven’t achieved anything as individuals. It’s been the collective group that’s done it and full credit to everyone.”

Meanwhile, Howe has revealed an injury boost ahead of tomorrow night’s encounter with the news that Ryan Fraser will likely be available for selection.

“Fraser returned to training, which is great to see. He trained very well, so fingers crossed he’s fine,” said Howe.

While the Scotland international’s fitness is on an upward trajectory, that’s not the case for everyone in the squad.

“Jonjo [Shelvey] has quite a serious calf injury, similar to the one he sustained at the start of the season,” said Howe.

“He’ll be out for a period of time, but we expect him back before pre-season with no problems. It’ll be the same for Joe Willock; he’s had an issue with a tendon in his knee for a while. We thought we sorted the problem, but it’s come back so he needs a period of rest. He’s had a couple of injections in his knee, and we anticipate he’ll be fine for pre-season.

“Fernandez has had a slight Achilles problem.”

Mikel Arteta is expected to welcome back central defenders Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes at St. James’ Park but will continue to be without Thomas Partey through injury and the suspended Rob Holding.