Flora Duffy wins record fourth World Triathlon title in Abu Dhabi

Flora Duffy wins record fourth World Triathlon title in Abu Dhabi
Flora Duffy became the only woman ever to win four World Triathlon titles in Abu Dhabi. (Twitter: @worldtriathlon)
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Updated 26 November 2022

Flora Duffy wins record fourth World Triathlon title in Abu Dhabi

Flora Duffy wins record fourth World Triathlon title in Abu Dhabi
  • Silver went to Georgia Taylor-Brown, with a first podium for Lena Meissner in third

ABU DHABI: Flora Duffy became the only woman ever to win four World Triathlon titles on Friday afternoon in Abu Dhabi, confirming her status as the greatest female athlete that the sport has ever seen.

Bermuda’s Olympic hero was again able to deliver when it mattered most, navigating plenty of drama on the 40 km bike race and then easing away from the only woman who could stop her date with destiny, Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown.

Silver went to Taylor-Brown, with an excellent first podium for Lena Meissner in third. The finals meant another eventful fourth-place finish for Taylor Knibb after coming off on the bike secured her the series bronze.

“I’m really, really proud of this one,” said a beaming Duffy afterward. “It was a difficult start to the year for me coming out of the Olympics and Covid. It took a lot of work to get my mind back into it, so I’m thrilled. I smiled a few times when it was just me and Georgia…I feel like she brings me to another level. We don’t really give each other an inch and I just wanted to stay safe. When I got a little bit of a gap on the third lap of the run, it was a little sooner than I anticipated but I thought, ‘Well, gotta go now.’”

Taylor-Brown finished with the silver at the end of an exhausting campaign, and Meissner with a gutsy first-ever World Triathlon Championship Series podium ahead of Knibb. Leonie Periault ran her way into fifth, Vittoria Lopes hung on for an excellent sixth ahead of Taylor Spivey, Emma Lombardi, Miriam Casillas Garcia and Cassandre Beaugrand, rounding out the top 10.

“I gave it everything I had today,” said Taylor-Brown. “It’s been a hard few months, but I’m really proud of myself out there today, giving it everything and doing all I could. We were battling it out to the end, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I don’t think she would. I’m still learning in every race, and I still want that world title one day.”

Meissner said it would take a few days for the achievement to sink in.

“It was tough, but I got here 10 days ago, and I had good heat prep and there was lots of water and ice out there,” she said. “I just tried to stay calm and confident, and it just worked perfectly for me today.”

Meanwhile, Knibb commented: “I’m pretty shocked. There were a lot of ups and downs in the season and today. The corner was entirely my fault. I wasn’t fully processing things at that point, and it was a bit of user error and I’m sorry to Maya and Vittoria and Lena behind me for that. Hopefully I will be back here in March to go again.”


Fernandez set for Chelsea debut, Arsenal renew Premier League title charge

Fernandez set for Chelsea debut, Arsenal renew Premier League title charge
Updated 23 sec ago

Fernandez set for Chelsea debut, Arsenal renew Premier League title charge

Fernandez set for Chelsea debut, Arsenal renew Premier League title charge
  • Chelsea’s overall spend in their first season under new ownership fronted by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly has now surpassed £500 million

MANCHESTER: The clock is ticking for Chelsea manager Graham Potter to turn unprecedented spending into results, starting against Fulham on Friday, as new Everton manager Sean Dyche prepares for a baptism of fire against Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool travel to face struggling Wolves, desperate to pull themselves out of a slump that has left them playing catch-up, while Tottenham host champions Manchester City.

Here are some of the key talking points ahead of the weekend action in the English top flight.

British-record signing Enzo Fernandez could make his debut at Stamford Bridge in the west London derby after completing a €121 million ($132 million, £107 million) move from Benfica.

Mykhailo Mudryk is also in line for his first start since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in a blockbuster January transfer window for the club for a fee that could rise to €100 million.

Chelsea’s overall spend in their first season under new ownership fronted by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly has now surpassed £500 million but the Blues are languishing in 10th in the Premier League table, 10 points off the top four.

Potter admits he has a challenge on his hands to keep all his stars happy as he tries to turn Chelsea’s fortunes around.

“We have to create an environment where there’s healthy competition and they can push each other,” Potter said on Thursday. “There’s going to be frustration at times because only 11 can play.

“But we’ve got a lot of important games and we need to improve our results so it’s about playing, supporting the team and being ready to play.”

Marco Silva’s Fulham beat Chelsea for the first time since 2006 when the sides met last month at Craven Cottage and are above their illustrious neighbors in the table.

Another victory for the white half of west London would secure a first-ever league double over Chelsea in a single season.

The contrast in mood between Arsenal and Everton fans could hardly be starker ahead of their meeting at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Arsenal are on course for a first league title since 2003/04 with the luxury of a five-point lead over Manchester City and a game in hand.

The Gunners will be hoping their January business is enough to get them over the line despite missing out on their top two targets — Mudryk and Brighton’s Moises Caicedo.

Jorginho’s arrival from Chelsea this week adds depth and an old head to Mikel Arteta’s young squad while Leandro Trossard boosts his attacking options.

Everton were the only Premier League club not to make a January signing and former Burnley boss Sean Dyche knows he has a mountain to climb.

The Toffees’ 69-year stay in the English top flight is at severe risk and further protests from supporters against the club’s board are planned for after the match.

“There’s a big challenge ahead but one I’m ready for and want to take on,” Dyche told Everton TV. “We want to change the shape of this club going forward, remodel it in our style, but remodel it in a way we can win.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola showed his ruthless streak as Joao Cancelo was allowed to move on loan to Bayern Munich this week.

The Portuguese full-back was an important figure in City’s title wins over the past two seasons but his departure is further evidence that Guardiola is trying to spark a reaction from his squad.

He questioned whether his side had the hunger to hunt down Arsenal despite a dramatic comeback from 2-0 down to beat Tottenham 4-2 last month.

Now Guardiola has gambled, knowing that his daring call on Cancelo leaves him short on full-back options for the rest of the season.

City might be eight points behind the leaders before Sunday’s game against Spurs, who could be without manager Antonio Conte after he underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder, but they have title-winning nous and enviable strength in depth.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Chelsea vs. Fulham (2000)

Saturday

Everton vs. Arsenal (1230), Aston Villa vs. Leicester, Brentford vs. Southampton, Brighton vs. Bournemouth, Man Utd vs. Crystal Palace, Wolves vs. Liverpool (all 1500), Newcastle vs. West Ham (1730)

Sunday

Nottingham Forest vs. Leeds (1400), Tottenham vs. Man City (1630)


Messi has doubts about playing 2026 World Cup at age 39

Messi has doubts about playing 2026 World Cup at age 39
Updated 43 min 45 sec ago

Messi has doubts about playing 2026 World Cup at age 39

Messi has doubts about playing 2026 World Cup at age 39
  • Messi told newspaper Olé in an interview published Thursday that he’d regularly said his age would make it difficult to play another World Cup

BUENOS AIRES: Lionel Messi may be in doubt as to whether he’ll be still playing for Argentina at the 2026 World Cup but he’s sure about one thing: He wants Lionel Scaloni to stay on as head coach until then, regardless.

The 35-year-old Messi led Argentina to the title in Qatar last December and wasn’t entirely sure if his fifth trip to the World Cup would be his last. The next edition will take place in Mexico, Canada and the US when Messi is 39.

Messi told newspaper Olé in an interview published Thursday that he’d regularly said his age would make it difficult to play another World Cup.

“I love playing soccer, I love what I do and while I am feeling well and feel I am fit and continue to enjoy it, I will do it. But it seems to be too much until the next World Cup,” he told the newspaper. “I have to see where my career goes, what I will do. It depends on many things.”

In the near future, he suggested he wants to play in next year’s Copa America in the US to help Argentina defend their title.

“I will stay a little longer, I have to enjoy this,” he said.

Scaloni is negotiating an extension of his contract with the Argentinian soccer federation and Messi thinks the coach should remain on the job.

“He is very important for the national team,” Messi said. “To continue with this process would be spectacular.”

Asked what it was like returning to his club Paris Saint Germain after Argentina beat France on penalties to win the World Cup, Messi said he didn’t have deep discussions about it with his teammate Kylian Mbappe, the French striker.

“One doesn’t want to speak and bring the topic of the final,” Messi said, recalling his own experience after losing the 2014 World Cup final to Germany in Brazil. “I was also on the other side, I lost a World Cup final and I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Truth is there is no problem with Kylian, quite on the contrary,” Messi said.

Messi is set to play for Argentina in friendlies to be scheduled in Buenos Aires in March to celebrate the team’s third World Cup title with their fans.


Lebioda fires sparkling 63 to take Pebble Beach first round lead

Lebioda fires sparkling 63 to take Pebble Beach first round lead
Updated 03 February 2023

Lebioda fires sparkling 63 to take Pebble Beach first round lead

Lebioda fires sparkling 63 to take Pebble Beach first round lead
  • Lebioda said recent work on his putting was finally starting to pay off

SAN FRANCISCO: Hank Lebioda was firing on all cylinders on Thursday, firing nine birdies in an 8-under-par 63 to take the first round lead in the US PGA Tour Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Lebioda said it “felt like everything” was working for him at Monterey Peninsula, the par-71 course that is one of three in use over the first three rounds along with Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill — both par-72 layouts.

“I hit a lot of great iron shots. I made the putts when I was close. It was a really nice day,” added the 29-year-old American, who is ranked 420th in the world and in search of a first US PGA Tour title.

Lebioda, who hasn’t made a cut on Tour since the 3M Open in July, tied his career-low score and was a stroke clear of England’s Harry Hall and Americans Kurt Kitayama and Chad Ramey.

Hall and Kitayama both carded seven-under 64s at Monterey Peninsula while Ramey posted a seven-under 65 at Pebble Beach.

Lebioda said recent work on his putting was finally starting to pay off.

“For probably the last couple weeks or so I felt like my putting had really turned a corner,” he said. “Even though I may not have shown the results. But I felt more confident standing over the ball. I liked what I was looking at visually standing over it. I knew it was just a matter of time.

“So today, fortunately it was one of the days where quite a few of ‘em did go in. Not every day is like that. I was glad I was able to take advantage of it today.”

Hall teed off on 10 at Monterey Peninsula and his seven-under effort featured an eagle at the 16th hole and a string of five straight birdies from the third through the seventh, a run that ended with his second bogey of the day, at the eighth.

“Kept it in play off the tee,” Hall said. “Hit a lot fairways. Hit a lot of greens.”

after failing to take advantage of two early par-fives, he hit driver off the tee at 16 and a hybrid second shot that left him a 20-foot eagle putt.

“The birdie streak on the front was pretty cool because I think I went bogey and then had a par on the second hole and then had five in a row from three onwards. So it was really good,” he said.

Hall was especially pleased to find himself in the clubhouse one off the lead since “coming down the last two holes it started to blow 45 miles an hour.

“It was crazy,” he said, and more wind and possible rain was in the forecast for the rest of the week.

The blustery winds were just another challenge in the tournament that features not only the complication of three courses but the addition of amateurs playing alongside the pros.

The celebrities teeing it up this year include such sports stars as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and recently retired Wales captain Gareth Bale.

Bale admitted to some first-time nerves on the first tee.

“I think every amateur will tell you, even though we’re used to playing in front of 80,000 or more live on TV, it’s a completely different sport,” he said. “Outside your comfort zone and something that’s just different. It’s a cool experience. Lucky that I hit one of my best shots down the first fairway, which was nice.”

Defending champion Tom Hoge, who out-dueled Jordan Spieth last year to win his first PGA Tour title, carded a one-under 71 at Pebble Beach.

Spieth posted a one-under round at Spyglass Hill.


Juventus beat Lazio to reach Italian Cup semifinals

Juventus beat Lazio to reach Italian Cup semifinals
Updated 03 February 2023

Juventus beat Lazio to reach Italian Cup semifinals

Juventus beat Lazio to reach Italian Cup semifinals
  • Juventus are 14 points away from Serie A’s European spots

MILAN: Juventus will face Inter Milan in the last four of the Italian Cup after beating Lazio 1-0 in Thursday’s final quarter-final tie.
Gleison Bremer headed home the decisive goal a minute before half-time when he beat Lazio goalkeeper Luis Maximiano to Filip Kostic’s cross.
The Brazilian’s second goal of the season won a tight contest in Turin and set up a two-legged semifinal against Juve’s biggest rivals Inter.
Victory and a clean sheet came after a 2-0 home defeat by promoted Monza at the weekend which meant they had conceded 10 goals in their three most recent league matches.
“You need the right tactics and play but above all you need the right spirit,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“We were coming off that Monza defeat so it wasn’t an easy situation for us... now we’ve laid the foundations to recover our league form as well.”
April’s semifinal will be crucial to Juve’s season as should they get past Inter, who beat Atalanta on Tuesday, they will be favorites for the win the final in May against either Fiorentina or Cremonese.
Winning the cup would qualify them for the Europa League and that is their most realistic route to continental competition next season after being hit with a 15-point penalty for illicit transfer activity last month.
Juventus are 14 points away from Serie A’s European spots and a further point off the Champions League places.


US backs Russians competing as neutrals in Olympics

US backs Russians competing as neutrals in Olympics
Updated 03 February 2023

US backs Russians competing as neutrals in Olympics

US backs Russians competing as neutrals in Olympics
  • The US position adds to a growing debate over the status of athletes from Russia and Belarus at the 2024 Paris Games

WASHINGTON: The US backs moves to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part at the 2024 Olympics as neutral athletes provided they are prevented from displaying their national flags or emblems, the White House said Thursday.

“The United States has supported suspending Russia and Belarus’ sport national governing bodies from international sports federations,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

However, if athletes are invited to an international event, such as the Olympics, “it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarussian states,” she said.

“The use of official state Russian, Belarussian flags, emblems and anthems should be prohibited as well.”

The US position adds to a growing debate over the status of athletes from Russia and Belarus at the 2024 Paris Games.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky staunchly opposes any participation by Russian and Belarussian athletes, and has called for Russia to be banned over its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is pushing for all restrictions to be lifted, arguing that the Olympics should not be politicized.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it is examining a “pathway” for Russians to take part in the summer Games, probably as neutral athletes.

Writing on Twitter shortly after the White House remarks on Thursday, Zelensky described the IOC’s stance as a “legitimization of the criminal aggression against Ukraine.”

“We won’t allow sport to be used against humanity & for war propaganda!” Zelensky tweeted.

The IOC’s willingness to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes in Paris has divided the sporting and diplomatic world.

On Wednesday, two UN rights experts applauded the IOC’s moves to allow athletes from the two countries to compete, arguing that no athlete should be “discriminated against on the basis of their nationality.”

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has also backed the IOC’s moves to create a pathway for Russian and Belarussian athletes.

In a conference call in December, USOPC chairwoman Susanne Lyons warned that the “fabric” of the Olympic movement was at risk if athletes were not given the chance to compete as neutrals.

Barring Russian and Belarussian athletes from Paris risked a return to the Olympic boycotts of the 1970s and 1980s.

“There are conflicts around the world every day, countries at war every day, and if people decide they want to boycott things, tit-for-tat, — ‘You didn’t come to our games, so we won’t come to your games’ — very quickly the fabric of the Olympic and paralympic movement falls apart,” Lyons said.

US Olympic officials are adamant however that athletes would only be able to participate in “strictly neutral” uniforms.

Similar words of support have come from the Olympic Council of Asia and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

But Britain, Poland and Baltic nations have all condemned the IOC’s position.

Writing on Twitter after a meeting with his counterparts from the Baltics and Poland in Riga earlier this week, Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Olympics was “immoral and wrong.”

British Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said the IOC’s plans were “a world away from the reality of war being felt by the Ukrainian people.”

“We will strongly condemn any action taken that allows President Putin to legitimize his illegal war in Ukraine — a position the IOC previously shared,” Donelan said.

“We, and many other countries, have been unequivocal on this throughout, and we will now work urgently across like-minded countries to ensure that solidarity continues on this issue.”