Ukrainian Paralympian escapes Russian-held city to safety

Ukrainian Paralympian escapes Russian-held city to safety
Ukrainian paralympian and world champion powerlifter Raisa Toporkova, 36, from Enerhodar, looks on during an interview with AFP in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Updated 01 April 2022

Ukrainian Paralympian escapes Russian-held city to safety

Ukrainian Paralympian escapes Russian-held city to safety
  • Crammed into a car with several others with special needs, Toporkova spent 12 hours negotiating a series of checkpoints to flee the city in southern Ukraine
  • "It would be impossible to get out of the car if something happened," Toporkova, who was fifth at last year year's Tokyo Paralympics, told AFP

ZAPORIZHZHIA: With her wheelchair perched on her lap, Ukrainian world champion powerlifter Raisa Toporkova escaped with friends from the occupied city of Enerhodar where Russian forces were shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power facility.
They had lost their homes, but not their sense of humor.
“If the Russians came after us, at least we have our sticks to defend ourselves,” joked Yevhenii Razikov, who has cerebral palsy and shared the perilous journey to safety.
Crammed into a car with several others with special needs, Toporkova spent 12 hours negotiating a series of checkpoints to flee the city in southern Ukraine.
“It would be impossible to get out of the car if something happened,” Toporkova, who was fifth at last year year’s Tokyo Paralympics, told AFP in the regional capital Zaporizhzhia.
“My wheelchair was on me and two of the others need a stick to walk.”
More than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since Russia invaded on February 24, but for people with disabilities, the often long and difficult journey can be an almost impossible undertaking.
Russian troops shelled Enerhodar, the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, in early March, causing a fire, which was eventually put out.
The attack led to international outrage with memories still fresh of the 1986 explosion at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear reactor, the world’s worst nuclear accident.
Toporkova, who has been in a wheelchair for most of her life due to a musculoskeletal growth disorder, said the situation was deteriorating fast in Enerhodar after a month under Russian control.
She was barely able to go out and her first-floor home had no basement to take shelter from the many explosions.
Food supplies were running low and prices had risen by as much as four times. Pharmacies were out of vital prescription medicines.
Another uptick in violence at the nuclear plant could mean a lethal radiation leak.
Worried that the opportunity to leave could close, Toporkova fled on Monday with husband Anton Vavryshchuk, 37, who is also physically disabled.
They were joined by their friends, Razikov and his wife, who did not want to be identified. Both have cerebral palsy.
“My wheelchair was on our lap and there was shelling constantly. We were scared we would be killed there and the explosions got even louder when we reached the checkpoint,” Toporkova said.
After their minibus broke down on the outskirts of the city they were worried their chance was gone, but a Red Cross volunteer managed to transfer them to a car.
Yet at one checkpoint, they were held for seven hours.
It was a long and painful wait for the group, whose physical difficulties were exacerbated by long periods of sitting in a car.
There are more than seven million people aged 60 or older in Ukraine and 2.7 million people with disabilities, according to the European Disability Forum.
Advocacy groups have warned that many would not be able to escape or seek shelter due to lack of mobility.
Out of a column of more than 100 cars, the group said they were eventually one of only two vehicles that were allowed to pass. The journey took 12 hours instead of the usual two because of difficulties at checkpoints.
“There were three possible outcomes: one is that we got hit by the shelling, another is we got stuck and then who could possibly save us. The third is that we got out, and thankfully that’s what happened,” said Razikov.
Toporkova started powerlifting 19 years ago and is a two-time world champion.
She has not been able to train since the war began in late February and gyms closed and she also faced losing her job and means to earn a living if she stayed. She used to do three two-hour sessions a week.
“If I don’t train for one week, it’s OK, but two weeks is terrible,” she said. “Let’s say I could lift 100 kilograms before, after that time I would only be able to lift 80kg.”
“I’m losing results if I’m not training and I won’t get invited to international competitions anymore.”
Now she is heading to Lviv in western Ukraine and hopes to be able to return to the gym.
“I cannot wait to start training again.”


Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash
Updated 11 sec ago

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash
  • Two-time heavyweight champion Joshua tipped the scales at 110.9 kilos
  • Ukraine’s Usyk weighed 100.5 kilograms

JEDDAH: British boxer Anthony Joshua weighed in more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) heavier than defending champion Oleksandr Usyk on Friday ahead of their world title rematch in Saudi Arabia.
Two-time heavyweight champion Joshua tipped the scales at 110.9 kilos (244.5 pounds) while Ukraine’s Usyk weighed 100.5 kilograms (221.6 pounds), both similar to last year’s fight in London.
Usyk, 19-0 and the favorite after his unanimous decision on Joshua’s home turf, confounded predictions that he had packed on several kilos of muscle to counter the towering Joshua.
The fighters came face-to-face in a 90-second stare-down before shaking hands and posing for the cameras.
“All this stuff, weight, face-off, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s all about the fight,” Joshua said. “I’m just ready for 12 rounds, 100 percent. Anything shorter than that, it’s a bonus.”
Many commentators have written off Joshua after a hesitant showing against the quick and skillful Usyk at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September.
But the 6ft 6ins (1.98m) Watford man, who is striving to become a three-time world champion, has promised to be more “competitive.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn has suggested Joshua will go for the knock-out.
Saturday’s clash will be the 12th consecutive world title fight for Joshua, the 24-2 former Olympic gold-medallist whose other professional defeat was a shock TKO by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019.
Joshua avenged that loss six months later in the “Clash of the Dunes” in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, the first heavyweight world title fight in the conservative kingdom.
On Saturday’s undercard, Somali-born Briton Ramla Ali will fight the Dominican Republic’s Crystal Garcia Nova in the first women’s professional boxing match in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sports, including Formula One, Premier League football team Newcastle United and the LIV Golf tour, a controversial rival to the traditional circuits.
The investments are part of a multi-pronged strategy to diversify the oil-reliant economy spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi’s 36-year-old de facto ruler.
The moves have attracted accusations of “sportswashing” from activist groups that say Saudi Arabia is hoping to distract attention from its human rights record.


Abdulelah Mir Alem takes gold for Saudi at MMA Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

Abdulelah Mir Alem takes gold for Saudi at MMA Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
Updated 19 August 2022

Abdulelah Mir Alem takes gold for Saudi at MMA Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

Abdulelah Mir Alem takes gold for Saudi at MMA Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
  • The Kingdom’s first top award at the tournament came in the 62 kg category

ABU DHABI: Saudi MMA fighter Abdulelah Mir Alem has a won a gold medal at the 2022 IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi fighter defeated Isaac Esparza of the US in the 62 kg category of the tournament taking place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in the UAE capital from Aug. 17-20.

After his win, Alem expressed his happiness at claiming Saudi’s first gold of the competition and its first MMA win at international level in that weight category.

Abdulaziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts Federation and head of the Kingdom’s delegation in Abu Dhabi, praised Alem’s achievement and the role that government support for Saudi athletes has played. He highlighted the importance of the continuing programs targeting similar achievements in future competitions.


New Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne credits Diriyah E-Prix for kick-starting triumphant season

New Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne credits Diriyah E-Prix for kick-starting triumphant season
Updated 19 August 2022

New Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne credits Diriyah E-Prix for kick-starting triumphant season

New Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne credits Diriyah E-Prix for kick-starting triumphant season
  • The Belgian, 30, highlights importance of Saudi Arabian races this year as he claims his maiden world title in South Korea

RIYADH: Newly crowned ABB FIA Formula E World Champion Stoffel Vandoorne has credited the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix double-header races as a key factor in his “incredible” year as he paid tribute to his departing Mercedes-EQ team.

In the all-electric championship’s 100th race, the 30-year-old Belgian clinched his first Formula E title following a second-place finish in Round 16 of the Seoul E-Prix. The result meant he finished 33 points ahead of Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, who had triumphed in Round 15 to keep his hopes for the title alive.

It was the perfect end to Vandoorne’s season, who despite only claiming one race victory, showed consistency in picking up regular points throughout the 16 races which began in January this year at Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah E-Prix.

“I felt every race this year was very important, but to start the season at the Diriyah E-Prix with pole position and to then finish second in the first race was a very good feeling, especially as it came after a very long winter break,” he said.

“To start the season on a high is motivating for everybody, not just for myself but also for the team. It made me realize that we’re back and in good shape.

“We had won the championship the year before and it gave a lot of confidence to everyone within the team that we had the competitive tools to fight for the best results.”

The Seoul E-Prix marked the end of the Formula E chapter for Mercedes-EQ, and although Vandoorne hinted that he is likely to feature in the 2023 season, he expressed his disappointment that he will not be able to race for them again, especially after clinching their second consecutive teams’ world championship title in South Korea.

The ex-Formula One driver said: “It’s a shame, as I would’ve liked to have continued with Mercedes-EQ. When I first joined them, I was thinking of a long-term partnership, but all things have to come to an end, and we have to move on.

“Everyone knew about this decision for a long time, which gave them time to figure out their future plans. I obviously will miss racing for them, both as a team and as a brand. They are one of the biggest motorsport teams in the world and it doesn’t matter what series they enter, they are always winning. It will be a team that I’ll miss.”


Gamers8 hosts week-long Gameathon with $530,000 up for grabs

Gamers8 hosts week-long Gameathon with $530,000 up for grabs
Updated 19 August 2022

Gamers8 hosts week-long Gameathon with $530,000 up for grabs

Gamers8 hosts week-long Gameathon with $530,000 up for grabs
  • Contest to develop game prototypes from scratch
  • Runs at AlFaisal University in Riyadh until Aug. 24

RIYADH: Gamers8 on Thursday night launched the week-long Gameathon competition at AlFaisal University in Riyadh, with prize money of $530,000 up for grabs.

The university is a partner in the competition, which is similar to a hackathon, in which competitors try their hand at developing a game prototype from scratch.

Gameathon runs until Aug. 24 and provides a platform for individuals to showcase their creative skills by utilizing video games as a common language.

With more than 600 participants expected, Gameathon is open to people from all ages and backgrounds to explore new technology tools in 10 different educational zones.

Turki Alfawzan, chief executive officer at the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “We aim to develop an industry ecosystem in which different disciplines collaborate for the advancement of the gaming community, and in this case focusing on the educational aspect of esports.

“Gameathon is a bridge to greatly enhance gamers’ ability to professionalize their passion into the world of esports. Developers, designers, and artists will enjoy this experience where they can learn many new, and unexpected, skills while supporting their team by contributing ideas, and playtesting.”

Meanwhile Dr. Yousef Al-Yousef, vice president of Graduate School, Research and Innovation at AlFaisal University, commented: “One of the university’s goals is to partner with industries that positively impact the local economy and the society we live in. The gaming industry — bigger than the movie and music industries combined — is well known and acknowledged as a sector in Saudi Arabia that is immensely capable of achieving those impacts. Gameathon is a big part of that.

“One of the major ambitions of Gameathon is to bring the community together at the junction of art and technology, as well as to offer a space and platform for gaming studios to present their work.”


Bradley off to fast start in bid to make FedEx Cup finale

Bradley off to fast start in bid to make FedEx Cup finale
Updated 19 August 2022

Bradley off to fast start in bid to make FedEx Cup finale

Bradley off to fast start in bid to make FedEx Cup finale
  • Bradley is at No. 44 in the FedEx Cup and likely needs a top 10 to advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta to chase the $18 million prize

WILMINGTON, Delaware: Keegan Bradley hasn’t been to the FedEx Cup finale in four years, and he started the BMW Championship on Thursday like he was in a hurry to get back.

Bradley matched a career low with a 29 on the front nine at Wilmington Country Club and finished with a 7-under 64 to take a one-shot lead over Adam Scott.

Bradley is at No. 44 in the FedEx Cup and likely needs a top 10 — he hasn’t had one since the US Open — to be among the 30 players who will advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta to chase the $18 million prize.

He isn’t willing to consider the scenarios until it matters, which is Sunday. Until then, it’s all about try to do win a tournament, just like any week.

“My plan is I’m going to go home and see my kids no matter what on Sunday night,” Bradley said. “I’d love to go to Atlanta. That’s everyone’s goal to start the year.”

Scott started the postseason at No. 77 and tied for fifth in the playoff opener last week just to make it to the second stage. Now he’s at No. 45, giving him a chance. It also meant being paired with Bradley, and they put on quite a show. They combined for 15 birdies.

“He played beautifully today, and I was really just trying to follow his lead,” Scott said. “He kind of had everything going the way he wanted, and most of the time he was teeing off first and I was just trying to follow.”

PGA champion Justin Thomas put a different putter in the bag and responded with a 66 to leave him in the group with former British Open champion Shane Lowry and Harold Varner III.

Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa led the group at 67.

Rory McIlroy was the only player from the afternoon who looked to challenge Bradley, and he was doing just that at 6 under with four holes to play. But then he was between clubs on the par-3 15th, tried to hit a soft cut with a 5-iron and put his tee shot into he water. He took three putts from just short of the green, missing a 3-footer, and made triple bogey.

McIlroy was in the group at 68 that included Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay, who won the BMW Championship last year an hour down the road at Caves Valley on his way to capturing the FedEx Cup.

McIlroy was able to accept one bad swing that cost him three shots, especially having missed the cut last week in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

“Overall the rest of it was pretty good,” he said. “I knew once I got here last weekend, I knew it was a golf course that was going to suit me better than last week. ... Pleased with my game. Disappointed with how I finished, but encouraged with the rest of it.”

The course is new to everyone — Delaware has never hosted a PGA Tour event — though Bradley has reason to feel right at home. He won the BMW Championship in 2018 some 20 miles away at Aronimink when he was No. 52 in the FedEx Cup, sending him to Atlanta.

The courses are nothing alike. If anything, Wilmington reminds several players of a “big brother” to Caves Valley, about the same length (7,534 yards) except playing to a par 71.

Find the fairway, fire at the flag. Miss the fairway, and it’s all about trying to get into position. It doesn’t always work out that way, and Schauffele is thankful for that.

He pulled his tee shot so far left on the par-5 14th that he was in shaggy round just in front of the on No. 3. He could see a portion of the green between a television tower, some video equipment and the trees. Schauffele got line-of-sight relief, and his drop happened to be on one of the forward tees. He belted a 3-wood onto the green for birdie.

Will Zalatoris won his first PGA Tour title last week at an ideal time, moving to the top of the FedEx Cup standings. Three holes into the BMW Championship, he went bunker to rough to bunker and then three-putted for a double bogey.

He rallied with four birdies on the back and escaped with a 70. Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world coming off a missed cut, still felt scrappy but holed enough putts for a 69.