O’Callaghan overcomes ‘panic’ to win world 100m freestyle title

O’Callaghan overcomes ‘panic’ to win world 100m freestyle title
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Australia's Mollie O'Callaghan reacts after taking gold in the women's 100m freestyle finals during the 19th FINA World Championships at Duna Arena in Budapest on June 23, 2022. (AFP)
O’Callaghan overcomes ‘panic’ to win world 100m freestyle title
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Ryan Murphy of the US on his way to the gold medal in the men's 200m backstroke final. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 June 2022

O’Callaghan overcomes ‘panic’ to win world 100m freestyle title

O’Callaghan overcomes ‘panic’ to win world 100m freestyle title
  • At 18 years and 82 days, O’Callaghan became the youngest winner of the 100m freestyle since 1991, when Nicole Haislett of the US won the title at 18 years and 22 days

BUDAPEST: Australian 18-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan overcame “panic” to edge world record holder Sarah Sjostrom and become the youngest women’s 100m freestyle world champion in more than 30 years on Thursday.

Lilly King added to her collection of gold medals when she won the women’s 200m breaststroke while another American veteran Ryan Murphy won the men’s 200m backstroke.

Australian Zac Stubblety-Cook took the men’s 200m breaststroke.

The American men finished the evening by winning the mens 200m relay.

O’Callaghan, a double Olympic relay gold medallist, edged the 28-year-old Sjostrom of Sweden by 0.13sec. American Torri Huske took bronze.

At 18 years and 82 days, she became the youngest winner of the 100m freestyle since 1991, when Nicole Haislett of the US won the title at 18 years and 22 days.

O’Callaghan said she had suffered badly from pre-race nerves.

“It was bad, the worst ever,” she said.

“I was panicking in my bed, having a little bit of a cramp in my leg, just feeling dizzy, feeling out of it, starting to panic, but I knew I had my teammates there... I guess that kind of uplifted me for the race.”

It was Sjostrom’s 16th World Championship medal but while she has eight golds, she has never won the 100m free. This was her fourth silver.

She also has world-championship and Olympic bronzes in the race.

King had dominated the 50m and 100m breaststroke at the last two world championships and also won gold in the 2016 Olympics in the 100m breaststroke.

After she missed a medal in the 100m breast on Tuesday, her college coach, Ray Looze, told American media that she was racing at “80 percent.”

On Thursday, she came from fifth to grab victory in 2min 22.41sec. Australian Jenna Strauch was second at 0.63 with American Kate Douglass third.

“It’s really nice to be able to complete the set, I guess I’m a distance swimmer now,” said King after her first gold at the longest breaststroke distance.

King said the setback earlier in the competition had motivated her.

“Anytime I have a bad swim I feel like I have a lot of haters out there, so just to prove them wrong is good,” she said

Murphy ended a long streak of duller colored medals when he won the men’s 200m backstroke.

Since grabbing two individual Olympic golds in Rio in 2016, the American had collected six silvers and two bronzes in Olympics and worlds, including a silver in the 100m backstroke in Budapest.

The 26-year-old won in 1:54.52, 0.64sec ahead of Briton Luke Greenbank with another American, Shaine Casas third.

“That ws a far from perfect race but I managed it,” Murphy said.

Australian Stubblety-Cook, the Olympic champion, came from last after the first lap to win the men’s 200m breaststroke.

Dutchman Caspar Corbeau started off at world record pace, but faded and Stubblety-Cook, Yu Hanaguruma and Erik Persson, who had conserved energy at the back, came through.

The Australian won in 2:07.07, 1.31sec ahead of the Japanese and the Swede who tied for the silver.

Kristof Milak, the Hungarian who said after winning the 200m butterfly that the Duna “is my pool,” strolled out for butterfly 100m semis like a lord strolling his estate.

Milak has struggled to catch American Olympic and world champion Caeleb Dressel in the 100m butterfly.

With the American heading home, the Hungarian star justified his aura of confidence by comfortably swimming the fastest time.

He finished in 50.14sec, 0.67sec quicker than Naoki Mizunuma of Japan.

In the 50m, another event that Dressel has dominated in recent seasons, Briton Benjamin Proud was fastest in the semis.


Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur’s date with history

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur’s date with history
Updated 06 July 2022

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur’s date with history

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur’s date with history
  • Coach Nabil Mlika recalls training a talented girl ‘determined to stand out’ against both female and male peers

HAMMAM SOUSSE, Tunisia: Ons Jabeur will make history on Thursday when she walks on to the Centre Court at Wimbledon as the first Arab woman to compete in a Grand Slam semifinal.

Fifteen years ago, Ons Jabeur’s young tennis sparring partner could see the Tunisian was destined for glory — even if he suffered a broken arm in the process.

Omar Laabidi remembers being repeatedly beaten by a 12-year-old Jabeur.

“We used to call her ‘Roger Federer’,” Laabidi said.

He was talking at the tennis club where it all began, in the North African country’s coastal town of Hammam Sousse.

“One time during a training match she hit a drop shot that I tried so hard to return that I broke my arm,” he said.

Jabeur had started by playing on courts belonging to local hotels but she soon joined the Tennis Club Hammam Sousse, which now bears a huge portrait of its most famous graduate.

Coach Nabil Mlika recalls training a talented girl “determined to stand out” against both female and male peers.

It is a determination that has taken her all the way to the world No. 2  spot — one place behind Poland’s Iga Swiatek.

But Mlika, who trained a young Jabeur for 10 years, said there was a moment where she almost quit the sport.

“She had great ball control, to the point where other coaches tried to attract her to handball,” said the 55-year-old.

“Ons thought seriously about switching sports — but decided to stick to tennis.”

The 27-year-old Tunisian’s fighting spirit has been on show throughout her career.

Despite crashing out in the first round of the French Open in May, she surged back to win the Berlin WTA singles title a few weeks later.

Her appearance in the Wimbledon semis — against close friend and ‘barbecue buddy’ Tatjana Maria — comes just two weeks after she was forced to withdraw from the Eastbourne tournament, where she was partnering Serena Williams in the doubles, with a knee injury.

Jabeur, known to many Tunisians as “the minister for happiness,” was born in the southern coastal town of Ksar Hellal, one of four siblings.

She moved to the capital, Tunis, at the age of 12 to train at a highly rated state-backed sports club.

She has been married to her physical trainer, and former fencer, Karim Kamoun, since 2015.

The right-hander is known for her stamina and the variety of her play.

 

 

“She hates playing at one pace,” said Mlika. “She’s always trying to create a spectacle by switching up the game with shots that surprise her opponents, especially with drop shots.

“She’s really the queen of the drop shot.”

Jabeur made a splash on the global scene in 2011, winning the girls’ singles at the French Open at the age of 16.

Laabidi also moved to Tunis around the same time as the adolescent Jabeur and joined the same academy, where they continued sparring.

“She was always fun and quickly got to know strangers,” he said.

“But she was always provocative and competitively debating on all subjects.”

Those who knew her as a teenager say she has changed little despite her growing fame.

“She still runs around gathering up all the balls during training, which she’s been doing since she started playing,” said Mlika.

Unsurprisingly, as her fame has spiralled membership levels have skyrocketed at her home club, from 320 in 2018 to more than 700 today.

For Yousra Koubaa, the mother of eight-year-old student Yasmine, Jabeur is “an example of hope, one we’re always showing to our children.”

Mlika says he uses photos of a young Jabeur to inspire his students today.

“She was a spark of enthusiasm, always moving and wanting to show that she was the best,” he said.

“She always put me in a difficult position because I had to balance between taking the training up a level, or waiting for her peers to catch up with her level and her pace.”


Nadal to face Kyrgios after surviving Wimbledon injury scare

Nadal to face Kyrgios after surviving Wimbledon injury scare
Updated 06 July 2022

Nadal to face Kyrgios after surviving Wimbledon injury scare

Nadal to face Kyrgios after surviving Wimbledon injury scare
  • The second seed lost the first set and had to take a medical time-out in the second
  • Nadal admitted after the match that he was suffering from an abdominal problem

LONDON: Rafael Nadal beat Taylor Fritz in a gruelling five-setter on Wednesday to set up a blockbuster Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios, but revealed that an abdomen injury almost forced him to quit mid-match.
The second seed lost the first set and had to take a medical time-out in the second but raised his game to win 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10/4) in a match lasting four hours and 21 minutes.
Earlier, Australian maverick Kyrgios cruised past Chile’s Cristian Garin 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).
Nadal admitted after the match that he was suffering from an abdominal problem, which forced him to leave the court.
“I had to find a way to serve a little bit different,” he said. “For a lot of moments I was thinking I would not be able to finish the match but the crowd, the energy, thanks for that.”
He added: “I honestly enjoy a lot playing these kind of matches in front of you guys. I can’t thank you enough for the support.”
Kyrgios, ranked 40th in the world, trails Nadal 6-3 in their head-to-head meetings but he beat the Spaniard on his way to the quarter-finals in 2014 and is seen as a major threat to his hopes of reaching a sixth Wimbledon final.

A pumped-up Nadal raced out of the blocks on Center Court to take a 3-1 lead but then lost five straight games to lose the first set.
The players swapped breaks in the second set but Nadal was not moving freely and when leading 4-3 he took a medical time-out.
When he returned, American 11th seed Fritz served out to love, with Nadal’s movement still looking hampered.
But the Spaniard twice held serve comfortably to lead 6-5 and a backhand volley into the open court sealed the second set, to roars from the crowd.
Nadal, 36, was now moving more easily but the pendulum swung again early in the third set when the two-time Wimbledon champion double-faulted to hand his opponent a break, with Fritz repeating the dose to take the third set.
There were five breaks in a topsy-turvy fourth set but Nadal came out on top to level the match.
The first six games of the deciding set went with serve before a break apiece as the pressure mounted.
The set went to a tie-break and Nadal seized control, racing into a 9-3 lead and completing the win on his second match point.
Nadal, who has already won the Australian Open and the French Open this year, is halfway to the first calendar Grand Slam by a man since Rod Laver in 1969.
He is also bidding to win his 23rd Grand Slam title and equal Serena Williams in second place on the all-time list for most Grand Slam singles titles. Margaret Court is the leader on 24 titles.

Kyrgios reached the last four at the All England Club with relative ease.
The 27-year-old was broken just once by Garin and hit 35 winners as he reached his first Grand Slam semifinal.
“I never thought I’d be in the semifinal of a Grand Slam,” said the Australian. “I thought that ship had sailed, that I may have wasted that little window in my career.
“I am really happy I was able to come out here with my team and able to put on a performance.”
Kyrgios is the first Australian man into the semifinals at Wimbledon since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.
But he went into the match under a new cloud of controversy after it emerged he faces an Australian court next month to answer an allegation of assault.
His 2022 Wimbledon has also been a rollercoaster on the court.
Brilliant, crowd-pleasing shot-making has been accompanied by $14,000 in fines and an ugly, bitter spat with third-round rival Stefanos Tsitsipas.


Saudi football delegation attends World Cup workshop in Qatar

Saudi football delegation attends World Cup workshop in Qatar
Updated 06 July 2022

Saudi football delegation attends World Cup workshop in Qatar

Saudi football delegation attends World Cup workshop in Qatar
  • The representatives of the Kingdom’s national team learned about the preparations for world football’s showpiece event, which kicks off on Nov. 21

RIYADH: A delegation of officials representing the Saudi national football team took part in a workshop for the nations that will compete at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, during which they learned about the ongoing preparations for the showpiece event, which begins on Nov. 21.

The workshop in Doha covered a number of topics relating to the competition and its venues during a series of detailed sessions, including technical issues, medical provision, security, transportation, logistics, media, marketing, football-related technologies and arbitration.

The Saudi delegates also visited the camp at which the national team will stay throughout their participation in the World Cup, and was briefed on the specific preparations at their designated training ground.

The Kingdom’s delegation was led by Hussein Al-Sadiq, director of the Saudi national team, and Nawaf Al-Dakhil, the team’s executive director.


Former champion Simona Halep back in Wimbledon semifinals

Former champion Simona Halep back in Wimbledon semifinals
Updated 06 July 2022

Former champion Simona Halep back in Wimbledon semifinals

Former champion Simona Halep back in Wimbledon semifinals
  • The 16th-seeded Romanian reached the semifinals and stretched her winning streak at the All England Club to 12 matches
  • “I struggled a lot last year,” Halep said, “and now I’m just trying to build my confidence back”

WIMBLEDON, England: Simona Halep’s first appearance at Wimbledon since winning the title three years is going just as good as it did the last time.
The 16th-seeded Romanian reached the semifinals and stretched her winning streak at the All England Club to 12 matches by beating Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday on Center Court.
Halep missed the chance to defend her title at Wimbledon twice, first in 2020 when the tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic and then again in 2021 when she had to sit out with a left calf injury.
“I struggled a lot last year,” Halep said, “and now I’m just trying to build my confidence back.”
In the semifinals, Halep will face Elena Rybakina. The 17th-seeded Rybakina beat Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 on No. 1 Court.
Rybakina, a 23-year-old Kazakh, is playing at Wimbledon for only the second time in her career. She lost in the fourth round last year.
In the men’s quarterfinals, two-time champion Rafael Nadal was to play Taylor Fritz on Center Court while Nick Kyrgios was to face Cristian Garin on No. 1 Court.
Halep is making her 10th appearance at Wimbledon and has reached the semifinals for the third time. She is the only Grand Slam champion left in the women’s tournament.
“I’m very emotional right now, because it means a lot to be back in the semis,” Halep said.
The match against Anisimova appeared to be as straightforward as her first four victories at this year’s tournament — all came in straight sets. But the 20th-seeded American broke Halep when she was serving for the match at 5-2.
Anisimova then had three more break points when Halep again served for the match at 5-4, but the Romanian won five straight points to finish the match.
“She could crush the ball in the end, and I didn’t know, actually, what to do,” Halep said. “But I just believed in myself. I said that I have to stay there, strong on my legs.”
Halep injured her calf more than a year ago, forcing her to withdraw from the French Open and Wimbledon. She started working with Patrick Mouratoglou, the former coach of Serena Williams, in April.


‘Brave’ new England try to shake up Test cricket

‘Brave’ new England try to shake up Test cricket
Updated 06 July 2022

‘Brave’ new England try to shake up Test cricket

‘Brave’ new England try to shake up Test cricket
  • Arguably the greatest revelation about England’s latest run-chase was how they attacked it from the start

BIRMINGHAM: Everything you know about Test cricket is wrong.

Well that might be the conclusion of some fans who watched a resurgent England make light of a chase of 378 in the Covid-delayed fifth Test against India.

It was the latest example of ‘Bazball’ in action, with a seven-wicket win in Birmingham England’s fourth successful chase in as many Tests under a new leadership duo of coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes following a 3-0 whitewash of Test world champions New Zealand.

That series saw England chase down seemingly stiff targets of 277, 299 and 296.

No England side, however, had previously made more to win in the fourth innings of a Test than 359, when Stokes’ brilliant century secured a thrilling victory over Australia at Headingley three years ago.

But with Joe Root (142 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (114 not out) sharing an unbroken partnership of 269, that mark was overhauled with ease at Edgbaston as England ended a five-match series all square at 2-2.

Yet as well as former England captain Root and Bairstow batted, they are in-form and experienced internationals.

Arguably the greatest revelation about England’s latest run-chase was how they attacked it from the start, with Alex Lees and Zak Crawley, both of whom had been struggling for runs, sharing a century opening stand in 19.5 overs — the fastest in England Test history.

Stokes said England’s approach was down to a change in attitude from a team that had won just one of its 17 previous Tests prior to the New Zealand series.

“When you’ve got real clarity in what you want to achieve as a team and how you want to play it makes things a lot easier,” said Stokes.

“We know what we were going to do — we knew we were always going to go out and try and chase that down from the get-go.

“A great way to explain is that teams are perhaps better than us, but teams won’t be braver than us.

“(England spinner) Jack Leach said that to me and it is a great way to sum things up at the moment,” the all-rounder added.

Scoring runs quickly in Test cricket is nothing new.

A celebrated West Indies team once chased down a target of 342 inside a day to beat England by nine wickets at Lord’s, with opener Gordon Greenidge making an unbeaten double century.

And the successful Australia teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s looked to score at a rate of four per over in order to give their bowlers as much time as possible to take the 20 wickets needed to win a Test.

But on Tuesday, England were scoring at a rate of nearly five an over, with the way Root reverse scooped medium-pacer Shardul Thakur for six a sign of how T20 shot-making, unknown to previous generations, is influencing the longer game.

Former New Zealand captain McCullum was credited for being the inspiration behind England’s rise from white-ball no-hopers to 2019 50-over World Cup winners and England clearly hope he will have a similar effect now he is directly involved with the Test side.

Four matches is a small sample size, however, and had Rishabh Pant stayed in for just a little longer in India’s second innings, Stokes may have been granted a wish where he “almost wanted them to get 450 (ahead), to see what we did.”

India coach Rahul Dravid, one of the best batsmen of his era, was impressed by England but said the way Pant had scored a typically dynamic 146, in a first innings where Ravindra Jadeja also made a hundred, proved Stokes’ side did not have a copyright on attacking play.

“When your players are doing well, are in good form, then you can play really positively, can take the game forward,” said Dravid.

“We also showed when Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja were playing in the first innings — we played pretty positive cricket.

“But when two positive players or attacking players are in good form, and can play such a big innings, and that happens in three to four matches continuously it looks good for cricket and also for them.”