Dutch debut for Vuelta a Espana as Roglic targets fourth title

Dutch debut for Vuelta a Espana as Roglic targets fourth title
Dutch Minister for Housing and Spatial Planning Hogo de Jonge (L) rides while cycling the touring version of the Vuelta a Espana, in Bunnik, near Utrecht, on Aug. 14, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 17 August 2022

Dutch debut for Vuelta a Espana as Roglic targets fourth title

Dutch debut for Vuelta a Espana as Roglic targets fourth title
  • The flat Dutch terrain means stages two and three are likely to culminate in mass sprints, so Jumbo’s best chance on home soil is the opening day team race

UTRECHT: Cycling’s Vuelta a Espana embarks Friday with defending champion Primoz Roglic chasing an unprecedented fourth straight victory over a mountainous 3,280km route that begins, however, on the flatlands of the Netherlands.

After the Giro d’Italia started in Budapest and the Tour de France in Copenhagen, both to rousing support from roadside fans, the final grand tour of the season begins its 21-day odyssey with a 23km team time-trial around Utrecht.

It is home terrain for Slovenian Roglic’s Jumbo team. They are Dutch-based and include three Dutch riders in Sam Oomen, Robert Gesink and Mike Teunissen.

“We have a nice and balanced team at the start that can optimally support Primoz in all areas,” Jumbo director Merijn Zeeman said.

The flat Dutch terrain means stages two and three are likely to culminate in mass sprints, so Jumbo’s best chance on home soil is the opening day team race.

The 23 teams, which start with 184 riders, transfer to Spain on Monday, and start climbing at once with all six stages before the next rest day in medium or high mountains.

The race winds through the rugged terrain of the Basque Country and Asturias, where plenty of traveling Dutch fan are expected.

Stage five ends in Bilbao, near Frank Gehry’s landmark Guggenheim museum, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Stage eight and nine in Asturias offer climbers the chance to gain serious time.

After a second rest day, the race swoops south where the kind of sizzling temperatures that effected the Tour de France could play a roll.

An individual time-trial on stage 10 should provide a minor shake up while the cliff-perched city of Ronda hosts the start of stage 13.

A mountaintop finish, more than 2,500m high in the Andalusian Sierra Nevada may provide some drama on stage 15.

The race might only be settled on stage 20 with a series of climbs designed to produce a final showdown on the road toward Madrid.

Quick Step starlet Remco Evenepoel targets his first Grand Tour at 22 and was the bookies tip for triumph before Roglic was declared fit on Monday.

The rigours of a 21-day Tour will test Evenepoel, who has won several shorter tours, but he will be chaperoned by the world champion Julian Alaphilippe, as co-leader.

“He doesn’t start as a favorite, and we will just take it day by day,” said Quick Step sports director Klaas Lodewyck.

“It’s a whole new adventure for him,” Lodewyck said of the rider with 11 wins this season, including a resounding triumph at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Former Giro champion Richard Carapaz leads a youthful Ineos line up and, after a narrow miss at the Giro in May, the reigning Olympic champion cannot be ignored.

Ineos director Rod Ellingworth expects “an exciting edition of the Vuelta” with some “outstanding racing.” 

Powerful roller Dylan van Baarle and the climbers Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart provide ample back up in an otherwise youthful Ineos lineup.

Giro champion Australia’s Jai Hindley and British climber Simon Yates both appear to have the credentials to target at least a podium shot.

But several of cycling’s hottest riders are missing with Egan Bernal, Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar all sitting out this Vuelta.


Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad play out stalemate in ill-disciplined ‘Saudi Classico’

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad play out stalemate in ill-disciplined ‘Saudi Classico’
Updated 15 sec ago

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad play out stalemate in ill-disciplined ‘Saudi Classico’

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad play out stalemate in ill-disciplined ‘Saudi Classico’
  • Champions Al-Hilal suffer shock 2-1 home defat to Al-Taawoun in the day’s other big match

RIYADH: The first ‘Classico’ of the Roshn Saudi League season ended in stalemate as Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad played out an ill-tempered 0-0 draw at Mrsool Park on Sunday, which saw two players sent off and six others booked.

It looked like Al-Nassr might have gained a major advantage when Al-Ittihad midfielder Tarek Ahmed was sent off two minutes before the break. But Rudi Garcia’s team failed to take advantage and on 59 minutes the numerical advantage was lost when Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaiheem received a straight red.

The stop-start nature of the match saw almost 15 minutes of stoppage time added at the end of the match, but neither team could find a breakthrough.

The result leaves Al-Ittihad in third place with 11 points from five matches, while Al-Nassr are in fifth with one point less.

The day’s big shock came with Al-Hilal’s 2-1 home defeat to Al-Taawoun.

The reigning Saudi and Asian champions took the lead through Brazilian forward Michael on the half hour, but the visitors equalized with a goal from Summayhan Al-Nabit in first half stoppage time.

Despite having Leandre Tawamba sent off on 65 minutes, Al-Taawoun took a shock lead through Fahad Alrashidi after 74 minutes, and then held onto the final whistle for a famous win.

After their first loss of the season, Al-Hilal are in second place with 12 points, while Al-Taawoun are in joint-fourth position with 11. 


Saudi sports minister chairs delegation at Asian Olympic council meeting

Saudi sports minister chairs delegation at Asian Olympic council meeting
Updated 02 October 2022

Saudi sports minister chairs delegation at Asian Olympic council meeting

Saudi sports minister chairs delegation at Asian Olympic council meeting
  • The delegation will highlight the Kingdom’s bid to host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 at TROJENA in the NEOM region

RIYADH: Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal will chair the Kingdom’s delegation at the Olympic Council of Asia executive board meeting and its general assembly in Cambodia on Monday.

The prince will lead the delegation in his role as president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee (SOPC) and vice-president of the OCA.

The Saudi committee will include SOPC Vice-President Prince Fahad bin Jalawi, board member of SOPC Prince Abdullah Bin Fahad and NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr.

The delegation will highlight the Kingdom’s bid to host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 at TROJENA in the NEOM region in northwest Saudi Arabia. The bid will be submitted to a vote during the general assembly on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia will be the first west Asian country to host the Asian Winter Games if it wins the bid.

The meeting will also shed light on the preparations of Riyadh in hosting the 7th Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games 2025 and the Asian Games in Riyadh in 2034.


Japan wrestling trailblazer Antonio Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy

Japan wrestling trailblazer Antonio Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy
Updated 02 October 2022

Japan wrestling trailblazer Antonio Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy

Japan wrestling trailblazer Antonio Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy
  • The professional wrestler, martial artist, politician and promoter died on Saturday at the age of 79

RIYADH: Legendary Japanese figure Antonio Inoki, real name Muhammad Hussain Inoki, died on Saturday at the age of 79.

Inoki was a professional wrestler, martial artist, politician and promoter for both professional wrestling and mixed martial arts.

Born in Yokohama, Japan in 1943, he spent most of his childhood in Brazil where his family had relocated. There, he developed a passion for professional wrestling. Inoki was recruited by Rikidozan, one of the the most famous Japanese wrestlers of all time, and returned to Tokyo to join the Japanese Wrestling Association.

In his home country, Inoki became widely popular and revered for his versatility and for his charismatic demeanor in the squared circle. His contributions transcended achievements inside the ring, and he founded New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 1972.

Over the course of the next two decades, Inoki built NJPW into the most successful wrestling company in Asia, using talented competitors such as Tiger Mask, Dynamite Kid, Bob Backlund, and Vader.

In addition to running the promotion, Inoki himself was one of the top stars carrying the championship, stepping into the ring against the likes of Stan Hansen, Tiger Jeet Singh and Hulk Hogan.

He gained global fame in 1976 when he faced Muhammad Ali in a wrestler vs. boxer match in Tokyo. This encounter was credited for being a precursor to what is known today as mixed martial arts, and was one of the most watched fights of its generation. In addition to the sold-out crowd of more than 14,000 at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, it aired on closed-circuit across the world.

Shea Stadium in New York aired the bout on its big screen and drew a crowd of 32,897, with an undercard of pro wrestling and mixed-rules matches preceding the main event.

Outisde the ring Inoki used sport to forge peace and diplomacy. In 1990, he played a major role in freeing 36 Japanese hostages held in Iraq.

Inoki was also a outstanding ambassador for professional wrestling, bringing major events to places such as Russia and China.

He was also instrumental in organizing two large sporting events in Pyongyang in 1995, and another in 2014. The first event, known as “Collision in Korea” drew nearly 380,000 fans and is considered the biggest-pay-per-view in pro-wrestling history.

In 1998, Inoki retired from in-ring competition. In 2010, he was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame. An WWE statement said: “This passion for competition earned him the nickname ‘Moeru Toukon’ among his peers, which translates to ‘The fighting spirit that burns’.”

Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy as a competitor. He was 12-time professional wrestling world champion, notably being the inaugural IWGP Heavyweight Champion and the first Asian WWF Heavyweight Champion in a reign not officially recognized by WWE.

The cause of Inoki’s death was not released, but he had been ill in recent years and confined to a wheelchair.


LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah
Updated 02 October 2022

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah
  • LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will take place Oct. 14-16
  • Tournament will host the current Open Champion Cameron Smith and 12 major winners among the strong field

JEDDAH: LIV Golf is set to make its Middle Eastern debut in Saudi Arabia from Oct. 14-16 with 48 of the world’s best golfers competing in the penultimate event of the 2022 season.

The LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will host the current Open Champion Cameron Smith and 12 major winners among the strong field, which also includes past Saudi International winners Dustin Johnson, Harold Varner III, and Graeme McDowell.

The first-of-its-kind individual and team format sees the professionals compete in 12 teams of four with a shotgun start accompanied by on-course music and entertainment to create energy and an incredible environment not often associated with golf. 

Featuring a $25 million prize purse, the contest is the final international stop in LIV’s inaugural eight-event season, having previously competed in the US and England. The week prior to Jeddah, the golfers will head to Thailand for the first event in the Asian continent at the newly opened Stonehill.

“LIV Golf can’t wait for our first stop in the Middle East, where interest in both sport and golf is growing,” said LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman. “We couldn’t be more pleased to bring the biggest names in golf to Jeddah and debut our innovative league.”

Majed Al-Sorour, managing director of LIV Golf, added: “LIV Golf is creating opportunities for players from all over the world to compete on a new global stage. After only five events, the results reveal incredible competition and entertainment that are engaging LIV Golf with an international audience. We’re excited to tee off at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club which will be an excellent test for the world’s greatest players.”


Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest
Updated 02 October 2022

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest
  • Saudi contingent also bagged 1 silver medal, 3 bronzes at AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro championship in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Martial arts fighter Dina Elias made history at the AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro championship in Abu Dhabi with a gold-medal-winning performance that made her the first Saudi female to claim top spot at an international jiu-jitsu competition.

Her victory came on day two of the event taking place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in the UAE capital, a contest organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro.

Elias’ gold was achieved in the under-95-kilogram division (blue-belt category) and followed a third-place finish by compatriot Haya Al-Sheikh in the under-70-kg division (blue).

Other Saudi medalists were Abdullah Ndaa with a silver in the under-62-kg, under-16 class, and bronzes for Faros Majid in the under-94-kg (purple) category, and Badi Idris in the under-81-kg, under-18 section.