Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship
In Gee Chun, of South Korea, tees off on the 18th hole during the second round in the Women's PGA Championship golf tournament at Congressional Country Club, Friday in Bethesda, Md. (AP)
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Updated 25 June 2022

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship
  • Chun admitted she had felt under pressure after her scintillating opening round

Bethesda, Maryland:  In Gee Chun extended her lead at the Women’s PGA Championship on Friday, firing a 3-under-par 69 to open up a six-stroke advantage at the halfway stage as she hunts down a third major title.

The 27-year-old South Korean had demolished Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, in Thursday’s first round, shooting a course record 8-under-64 that left awed rivals in disbelief — and five shots adrift.

Chun found the going slightly harder on Friday, opening with three early birdies before back-to-back bogeys checked her progress just before the turn.

However, she regained those two strokes with birdies on the 10th and 18th to maintain a vice-like grip on the lead heading into the weekend on 11 under with a 36-hole aggregate 133.

Chun admitted she had felt under pressure after her scintillating opening round.

“I got a little pressure for sure because after I had a great first round, everyone (talked) about how you are, like, five-shot lead,” she said.

“Now I’m in a good position. Everyone’s expectations are really high.

“So it was a little tough to make focus, but I believe it’s another process in my life ... So I just want to enjoy my next two days.”

Chun’s nearest rivals are New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who moved up the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 67, and in-form Jennifer Kupcho, who shot seven birdies and three bogeys in a 4-under 68.

Kupcho and Ko are five under for the tournament.

Former world No. 1 Ko is chasing her first major victory in six years.

The last of her two majors came at the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage in 2016 — the same year she finished second at the Women’s PGA Championship.

“It is hard to win, but I’m just trying to put myself more in that kind of position, and I think when you keep knocking on the door, you hope that one day that door will open,” Ko said.

Kupcho, chasing her second major win of the season after victory at the Chevron Championship in Rancho Mirage in April, said she will not change her strategy to try and catch Chun.

“If she’s going to continue to play well, that’s her game, and there’s really nothing anyone can do about it,” Kupcho said.

Five players are tied for fourth on four under, including Canada’s Brooke Henderson, Australia’s Hannah Green and South Korea’s 2020 Women’s PGA champion Kim Sei-young.

Lexi Thompson and Australia’s Minjee Lee are eight off the lead on three under, tied for ninth with three other players including Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and South Korea’s Choi Hye-jin.

Thompson caught the eye with a 5-under 67 which included a spectacular eagle two at the par-four 17th, when she chipped onto the green from 102 yards, prodigious backspin sending her ball into the cup.

“I just came into today with a positive attitude and same going into the weekend if I go out and play like I did today, just solid and committing to my shots in the process of my routine,” Thompson said.

“We’ll just see where that takes me. You never know.”


Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates

Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates
Updated 15 sec ago

Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates

Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates
  • Ingebrigtsen’s victory sealed a remarkable triumph, having won the same 1,500-5,000 European double as a precocious 17-year-old in Berlin in 2018
  • Thiam went into the final 800m in total control of the multi-discipline event and duly completed the two laps to seal a comprehensive victory

MUNICH: Norwegian prodigy Jakob Ingebrigtsen sealed a memorable European distance double-double in Munich on Thursday as Belgium’s Nafi Thiam retained her heptathlon title in style.

In a mixed night for defending champions at a rain-hit Olympic Stadium, a third, Poland’s Wojciech Nowicki, left it late to also retain his hammer throw title.

But there was no such luck for two-time world long jump champion and Olympic gold medallist Malaika Mihambo and her German teammate Mateusz Przybylko in the men’s high jump.

After heavy rain had seen the evening session delayed by 20 minutes, Ingebrigtsen made up for the disappointment of finishing second to Britain’s Jake Wightman in the 1,500m in last month’s world championships in Oregon.

The 21-year-old Norwegian, who dominated the 5,000m here on Tuesday, was also in total control of the 1,500m, clocking a championship record of 3min 32.76sec for his second gold of the continental track and field showpiece event.

Ingebrigtsen’s victory sealed a remarkable triumph, having won the same 1,500-5,000 European double as a precocious 17-year-old in Berlin in 2018.

Britain’s Jake Heyward claimed silver in 3:34.44, with Spain’s Mario Garcia taking bronze in 3:34.88.

Thiam went into the final 800m in total control of the multi-discipline event and duly completed the two laps to seal a comprehensive victory.

It meant the Belgian became a two-time champion on the Olympic, world and European stage.

She had registered 13.34sec in the 100m hurdles, 1.98m in the high jump, 14.95m in the shot put and 24.64sec in the 200m on the first day of action on Wednesday.

Thursday saw her go out to a disappointing 6.08m in the long jump before 48.89m in the javelin and 2:17.95 in the 800m for a total of 6,628 points.

Poland’s Adrianna Sulek won silver with 6,532pts and Switzerland’s Annik Kalin bronze (6,515).

Kenyan-born Yasemin Can came close to a second distance double for Turkey, but Germany’s 2019 world bronze medallist Konstanze Klosterhalfen bolted with 600m to run for victory in the women’s 5,000m in 14:50.47.

Can and Britain’s Eilish McColgan rounded out the podium to add to the gold and silver medals they respectively won in the 10,000m earlier in the week.

There was a battle royale in the men’s hammer throw, Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Nowicki retaining his title with a best of 82.00m on the fifth of his six attempts.

Hungary’s Bence Halasz won silver in a personal best of 80.92m, while Norwegian Eivind Henriksen took bronze (79.45) to push five-time world champion Pawel Fajdek of Poland into fourth (79.15).

Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who famously shared Olympic gold at last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo with Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim but who has been suffering with the after-effects of Covid-19, wrapped up the men’s high jump with a best of 2.30m.

It was Tamberi’s second European title after having previously won in Amsterdam in 2016.

Tobias Potye of Germany took silver with 2.27m on countback from Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko.

Defending champion Przybylko could only finish sixth in the high jump, but Mihambo was beaten by just 3cm in her bid to retain long jump gold.

That title went to Serbia’s Ivana Vuleta, with a best of 7.06m.

Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis and Karsten Warholm had earlier lent more world-class stardust to the fourth day of action in Munich.

Olympic pole vault champion Duplantis, fresh from breaking his own world record in Eugene as he clinched world gold with 6.21 meters last month, qualified with ease for Saturday’s final.

And there was also no drama for defending 400m hurdles champion Warholm, who sailed into Friday’s final.


Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi takes karate gold at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi takes karate gold at Islamic Solidarity Games
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi takes karate gold at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi takes karate gold at Islamic Solidarity Games
  • After winning a silver medal at Tokyo 2020, Hamdi took top spot in the +84kg kumite category in Konya

RIYADH: Saudi Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi has claimed karate gold at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey.

He defeated Ismailov Qurban of Azerbaijan 10-4 in the final on Thursday night to take first place in the +84 kg kumite category.

Prince Fahd bin Jalawi, vice president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and head of the Kingdom’s delegation in Konya, watched the victory and congratulated Hamdi on his latest triumph.

Hamdi reached the final by beating Sen Fateh of Turkey 2-0 in the semi-final. Earlier in the day, the Saudi Olympic hero kicked off his campaign at the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games by overcoming Tunisia’s Ahmad Khader through a technical knockout. He followed that up with a 2-0 victory over Khalid Hassanain of Qatar in the quarter-final.

Last year, Hamdi came within seconds of winning gold at the delayed Tokyo 2020 games but had to settle for silver after he was disqualified for a kick to the head of Iranian opponent Sajad Ganjzadeh in the final.


Ramla Ali puts on boxing clinic with Saudi girls ahead of historic bout in Jeddah

Ramla Ali puts on boxing clinic with Saudi girls ahead of historic bout in Jeddah
Updated 18 August 2022

Ramla Ali puts on boxing clinic with Saudi girls ahead of historic bout in Jeddah

Ramla Ali puts on boxing clinic with Saudi girls ahead of historic bout in Jeddah
  • The Somali-English fighter will take on Crystal Nova Garcia at the Rage on the Red Sea on Saturday

JEDDAH: Ramla Ali held a boxing session for girls and women in Jeddah on Thursday ahead of her history-making bout against Crystal Nova Garcia at the Rage on the Red Sea this Saturday.

It will not be the first time Ali makes history, having become the first English Muslim fighter to claim an amateur title in her country, and she will etch her name into the record books alongside her opponent as they become the first females to fight professionally in Saudi Arabia.

Since Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. headlined the Clash of the Dunes in 2019, there has been a 150 percent uptake in female sports participation across the Kingdom.

Boxing as a whole has seen a 300 percent jump in Saudis taking up the sport, and the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation is aiming to get 500,000 people involved in the sport over the next four years.

The increased interest in the sport and the governing body’s mission were in evidence at Jeddah’s Waad Academy, where Ali conducted a 45-minute training session with local coaches and Saudi girls and women between the ages of 15 and 30 from government-funded and private clubs across the country.

“The organizers inviting me to compete and allowing this fight to go ahead really shows you the cultural shift in the landscape that is happening in the region. I hope myself and my opponent, as well as the full card competing in Saudi Arabia, inspires future generations. It’s been wonderful to spend time with this group of girls today and I hope they truly believe their ambition is limitless.”

Alongside Ali was Rasha Al-Khamis, the country’s first certified female boxer and boxing coach, as well as a part-time footballer, Guinness World Records-holder and current vice president of the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation.

Al-Khamis herself has inspired women from all over the country and is hoping that Ali’s presence both at Waad Academy and at the Rage on the Red Sea will lead to even more of her countrywomen giving boxing — or any other sport for that matter — a go.

“Training programs are very important, not only for the athletes but to develop coaches and referees; the more we have the more competitions can be organized, which helps to identify promising talent,” Al-Khamis said. “We are constantly in the process of providing more training and increasing the number of competitions nationally and regionally, as well as looking into more programs that pave the way for future athletes.

“It’s so exciting to see the growing interest in the sport, especially following some of the incredible boxing spectacles we have, like this week’s Rage on the Red Sea.”

Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation President Abdullah Al-Harbi and CEO Amr Abdel Binhassan also oversaw the clinic, alongside Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn.

Rage on the Red Sea is at the King Abdullah Sports City Arena in Jeddah on Saturday, with Joshua looking to recapture his heavyweight world titles from Oleksandr Usyk at the top of the billing.

As well as Ali versus Nova Garcia delivering a first for boxing in Saudi Arabia, local boxer Ziyad Almaayouf will become the first professional fighter from his country to feature on a major international card.


Impact of Indian-led T20 franchise cricket leads to splits among sport administrators

Impact of Indian-led T20 franchise cricket leads to splits among sport administrators
Updated 18 August 2022

Impact of Indian-led T20 franchise cricket leads to splits among sport administrators

Impact of Indian-led T20 franchise cricket leads to splits among sport administrators
  • With leading players making their own decisions about when, where and in which format they play, Test and One Day International cricket could suffer

Noise from the debate over the impact of T20 franchise cricket on the sport’s future is becoming difficult to drown out. Former Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar has suggested that opposition to the format and its Indian-led dynamic is tantamount to sour grapes. In a thinly disguised dig at English and Australian administrators, he pronounced that Indian administrators are better equipped to look after the interests of Indian cricket than those who are perceived to be trying to interfere with it.

At first sight, this may appear to be an overreaction and a veiled criticism of the way that cricket used to be ordered. As discussed in previous columns, professional cricket is being disrupted before our eyes. Its future landscape is beginning to shape up, with T20 franchise cricket recognized as the disrupter-in-chief. Gavaskar advises that administrators in other countries should focus on looking after their own interests. This is becoming increasingly difficult to do now that leading players are making decisions about when, where and in which format they will ply their trade. Added to this mix is the possibility that they will be able to choose to which employer — national board, regional board, franchiser — they contract their services.

There is much speculation about who and what will be the casualties of the disruption. Some argue that it will be One Day International (50 over) cricket, while others say that it spells the decline of Test match cricket.

Domestic cricket structures may well experience shake-ups. In England, for example, counties which host neither Test matches nor T20 franchises are likely to struggle, both financially and in terms of their ability to attract top players.

Cricket’s economics have been altered substantially by T20 franchises. A dominant proportion of income for national Boards in India, Australia and England used to be generated at Test matches through ticket sales, at ground sales, sponsorships and media rights. The Indian Premier League has changed that dynamic to the point where the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) no longer relies on Test match income. Nevertheless, it remains an advocate of Test match cricket and knows that other countries depend on Tests with India to generate much-needed income. This gives the BCCI significant advantage in the corridors of power in international cricket.

Despite Australia and England having their own short format franchise tournaments, it is Test matches which continue to generate a sizable proportion of their income. In England’s case, this is as much as two-thirds. On Wednesday, England and South Africa began a three-match Test series at Lords. Ticket prices range widely according to the day of play, location of seat in the ground and age of spectator, with under-16s receiving a discounted price. At the top end of the scale a seat costs £160 ($193) for the first day and £70 at the bottom end of the range. Seats with restricted views are offered in a range of £100 down to £45. Tickets for Day Four are on offer in a range of £140 to £50 and a mere £5 for Day Five.

The owner of Lords, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), was the subject of much criticism earlier in the season over an England Test match against New Zealand. This coincided with celebrations to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and public holidays to encourage people to celebrate, accordingly. It is rumored that several days before the match started that at least 16,000 tickets remained unsold, mainly priced at more than £100. The ground has an official capacity of 31,000. The MCC blamed the public holidays for the lower-than-expected demand. Observers of cricket were sure that a combination of high ticket prices and a cost-of-living crisis in the UK had caused the drop in demand. The MCC has long appeared to take the view that it has captive market for one of the great sporting events of the English summer and can price accordingly. Perhaps this view is going to be limited in future to matches against Australia and India, although it appeared to be a full house on Wednesday against South Africa, before the rain came to disperse spectators.

A day at a Test match when the weather is good and six hours cricket are played means that a ticket priced at £120 averages out at £20 per hour. Arguably, this is fair value. The price of a member’s ticket to watch Arsenal vs. Manchester City, for example, lies in a range of £69 to £99, equivalent to £46 or £66 per hour. A price of a ticket to watch a Hundred match at Lords starts at £40 for an adult, is £5 for under-16s and free for those aged under-six. One match lasts for two and a half hours. The English Cricket Board, in its reliance on its income from Test matches, is caught up in a dilemma. Fear of a decline in Test match cricket has led it to seek to spread its risk by introducing an additional income stream, the Hundred, now being played simultaneously with the Tests against South Africa.

Set against this dilemma is a clear-cut situation. On Aug. 27, in T20 format, the Asia Cup will begin in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, with a capacity of up to 30,000 spectators, equivalent to Lords. Ticket prices start at AED 30-75 ($8-$20), rising to AED 250 depending on the match and seat type. The first batch of tickets went on sale online on Aug. 15. Those for the India vs. Pakistan match sold out within one hour.

Gavaskar’s advice is founded on some obvious trends in the game. The BCCI now generates about 70 percent of cricket’s global income. It has monetized and mobilized its massive support base. Indian franchise interests are set to add to this dominance. Although the International Cricket Council sets schedules of ever-increasing intensity for its members, India and its collaborators control the future direction of world cricket. Money, media casters and advertisers are the face of the game, with the boards in thrall.


Whole world is watching, says Prince Khaled ahead of Rage on the Red Sea

Whole world is watching, says Prince Khaled ahead of Rage on the Red Sea
Updated 18 August 2022

Whole world is watching, says Prince Khaled ahead of Rage on the Red Sea

Whole world is watching, says Prince Khaled ahead of Rage on the Red Sea
  • Organizers and fighters speak to international media ahead of heavyweight title clash in Jeddah on Saturday

JEDDAH: “The whole world will be watching” Ukrainian world champion Oleksandr Usyk defend his title against Britain’s Anthony Joshua in a fight billed as the “Rage on the Red Sea,” Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz, chairman of Skill Challenge Entertainment, said.

Prince Khalid was speaking during the press conference at Shangri-La Hotel in Jeddah ahead of the Aug. 20 showdown, with the two main headliners and other boxers from the card also giving their views on the event.

“The whole world will be watching,” he said, referring to the heavyweight bout. “It is a huge milestone for Saudi Arabia and sports in the Kingdom.”

Prince Khalid added: “I want Saudi Arabia to be on the boxing map and to empower the people of our country. We want to get involved more in female boxing and, hopefully, we will have Saudi women fighting and representing the nation in the future.”

During the press conference Usyk and Joshua declared themselves ready for the fight, and acknowledged the enthusiastic atmosphere and the hospitality they have experienced in Saudi Arabia.

Joshua will be hoping it is the second time he regains the heavyweight championship in the Kingdom, having beaten Andy Ruiz Jr. in Riyadh in December 2019.

“I am grateful to everyone in Saudi Arabia for their support and hospitality. I am grateful to my team for training me in an excellent way. We raised the level of training and improved the mental focus by being disciplined enough to achieve the goals that I have for myself. What drives me is my passion for competition and always improving above all. Attaining success is my first goal and not the belts.”

Usyk, meanwhile is fighting as much for the Ukrainian people as he is for himself.

“Physically, we are ready for this game and have spent a lot of time on training. There is a great atmosphere and spirit here in the Kingdom which keeps motivating us. I am really thankful to the Saudi people for their hospitality and warm welcome and hope to come to the Kingdom more frequently,” he said.

Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz, spokesperson for Skill Challenge Entertainment, said: “We are very proud that boxing in Saudi Arabia continues to grow its profile, (allowing us) to host this global event which would have not have been achieved without the support of our wise leadership and the efforts of the Ministry of Sports as well as the tireless work of the Saudi Boxing Federation.”

Speaking to Arab News, he added: ” I hope this event turns out to be successful and Saudi Arabia becomes a destination for other international sports events, alongside boxing.”

Abdullah Ahmed Al-Harbi, president of the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation, said: “It’s great to see the ecosystem of boxing coming to life in the Kingdom and I hope this (event) turns out to be one of the best we will ever witness in the coming years. It doesn’t get bigger than this world heavyweight championship, as it features five different belts and we wish all the luck to the boxers.”

He also looked forward to the undercard, in particular the first female pro fighters to appear on an international professional card in Saudi Arabia.

“This surely is a historic boxing event not only for the Kingdom but also for the world, and I am very glad to be a part of it,” Al-Harbi said.

“The beauty of this event is that it is the second one in the Kingdom, after the first was held in Diriyah Season in Riyadh, and from then we have seen a big transformation and the growth in amateur boxing,” he said.

“We now have almost 24 clubs and more than 700 boxers. Besides, we have an Olympic event that is featuring 300 boxers in Jeddah. We are (seeing) mass participation within the sport, and we look forward to inspiring more people to participate after this event.”

Commenting on Ziyad Al-Maayouf, the first professional fighter to represent Saudi Arabia, Al-Harbi said: “We are all behind him and support him as he becomes the first Saudi pro boxer to fight in his home country. He will surely inspire a new generation of amateurs to turn pro and help them aim to compete on a higher level.”

Al-Maayouf, who will face Mexico’s Jose Alatorre on Saturday, said he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received and feels a little under the pressure with all eyes on him.

“I definitely feel the pressure,” he said. “It is something that you are going to feel in anything you do that’s important. But there are always two roads to take once you have the pressure. It’s either you enjoy every minute and make the best of it and let it not worry you, or not have fun and let it become an obstacle. I chose the first, to turn the pressure into something good. I am very excited to fight in front of my people and I know, no matter what, they are behind me and I really appreciate that.”

During the Rage on the Red Sea undercard press conference, the other boxers — Zhang Zhilei, Filip Hrgovic, Callum Smith, Mathieu Bauderlique, Badou Jack, Andrew Tabiti, Rashed Belhasa, Bader Samreen, Ramla Ali and Crystal Garcia Nova — all revealed their delight at taking part in the event.

“I and my opponent will be making history together and along the way, we are going to inspire loads of girls to not only take up boxing, but also participate in any kinds of sports. It’s a great feeling to know the fact that I will be inspiring many other women,” Ali said.

Her opponent, Garcia Nova, sent out a message that boxing is for everybody and that there should be no gender discrimination.

“If women want to learn boxing or they want to do something else on their own, then they should go ahead as this will give them a better attitude and (chance) to defend themselves against anybody.”

Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield said he could not split the two fighters in the main event.

“Everyone has their favorites to go on and win the title, but I am neutral, ” he said. “I believe both Usyk and Joshua have to be at their best and give the fans a good fight.”