Inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proves a success for World Supercross Championship

Inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proves a success for World Supercross Championship
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The first ever FIM World Supercross Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix took place at Etihad Arena. (Ethara)
Inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proves a success for World Supercross Championship
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The first ever FIM World Supercross Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix took place at Etihad Arena. (Ethara)
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Updated 06 November 2023
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Inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proves a success for World Supercross Championship

Inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proves a success for World Supercross Championship
  • Etihad Arena was transformed into a dirt track for the first time to host the event’s Middle East debut, the penultimate race in the championship
  • 40 riders competed in 2 race categories with Joey Savatgy winning the WSX (450cc) category and Max Anstie the SX2 (250cc) class

ABU DHABI: The FIM World Supercross Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the penultimate race in the championship, concluded its Middle East debut on Sunday at Etihad Arena, which was transformed into a dirt track for the occasion.

This is also the first time a supercross track has run indoors and outdoors. Forty of the world’s best riders took part in two categories, with Joey Savatgy emerging as champion in the WSX (450cc) division, and Max Anstie placing first in the SX2 (250cc) race.

Savatgy, the current championship leader, said: “It’s always really exciting to ride a new track, and today surpassed our expectations. The team in Abu Dhabi has done an amazing job transforming this indoor arena into a suitable dirt track for us. Having a two-row start gate is a really unique concept and I luckily got out of the gate pretty well in the first two races, which put me in a good spot going into the third. The competition was really tough this weekend, and I’m glad to have come away with the overall win.”

Anstie commented: “We have had a great day in Abu Dhabi, and I’m really happy to have come out with a win, especially for the first-ever World Supercross Championship event in Abu Dhabi. The atmosphere was electric today in Etihad Arena, thanks to all the fans. We have been blown away by the size of the fan base that our sport already has here, and are excited to see it grow even more.”

Following in the footsteps of their senior counterparts, the junior category showcased the talents of 20 riders, aged between 7 and 13.

“We aimed to bring the world’s most thrilling supercross action to the heart of Abu Dhabi, and the overwhelming response from fans and the exceptional performances we witnessed have exceeded our expectations,” said Saif Rashid Al-Noaimi, CEO of organizers Ethara. “We are also happy to have provided young talent from the UAE a platform to showcase their skills to an international audience.”

“At Ethara, we are committed to continually adding more variety and diversity for the Abu Dhabi entertainment and sporting calendar, and the addition of the FIM World Supercross Championship to our portfolio is testament to our dedication to setting new standards of excellence for events.”

Adam Bailey, SX Global CEO, said: “The success of the first-ever World Supercross event in Abu Dhabi marks a significant milestone in the championship’s history and demonstrates our commitment at SX Global to delivering top-tier sporting entertainment for our fans. We’ve been blown away by the positive response we’ve received from Abu Dhabi and the crowd tonight was sensational — so much energy and enthusiasm.”

At the end of the month, the riders will head to the home of the WSX in Australia for the Melbourne Grand Prix — the final event of the championship.


Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year

Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year
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Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year

Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year
  • Laureus rewarded Spain as the first all-female team to win the team award
  • American gymnast Simone Biles was given the comeback of the year award

MADRID: Spain’s first Women’s World Cup triumph last year earned two more major plaudits at the Laureus World Sports Awards on Monday.

Spain were chosen world team of the year for 2023 and midfielder Aitana Bonmatí was picked as the best sportswoman.

Novak Djokovic received the sportsman of the year at the ceremony in Madrid, and American gymnast Simone Biles was given the comeback of the year award.

Real Madrid forward Jude Bellingham earned the breakthrough prize, and Rafael Nadal won the sport for good award thanks to his foundation.

The Spanish women’s World Cup breakthrough last August in New Zealand and Australia was tarnished in the following weeks because of an unwanted kiss of forward Jenni Hermoso by then-federation president Luis Rubiales after the final.

Laureus rewarded Spain as the first all-female team to win the team award.

Before the World Cup, Bonmati also helped Barcelona win a second Women’s Champions League. She’s the first female soccer player to win the Laureus, after also receiving the Ballon d’Or and FIFA best player award.

“I want to thank all my teammates and the staff of my club and national team who have helped me a lot, and because of them I am here today,” Bonmati said.

Djokovic won his record-equalling fifth Laureus sportsman award — tying Roger Federer — after titles at the Australian Open, French Open and US Open to reach a record 24 Grand Slam singles triumphs. NFL great Tom Brady presented Djokovic the award.

Biles made a record-breaking return to competition last year when she won four gold medals at the world championships, including a record sixth all-around title.

Nadal’s foundation was rewarded for helping more than “1,000 vulnerable young people in Spain and India,” according to Laureus.

Teenager Arisa Trew won the action sportsperson award after becoming the first female skateboarder to land a 720 in competition.

Dutch wheelchair player Diede de Groot was selected as the sportsperson of the year with a disability after winning her third straight calendar tennis Grand Slam.


Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan

Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan
Updated 23 April 2024
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Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan

Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan
  • Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles, and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns

MILAN: Inter Milan sealed the Serie A title on Monday after beating AC Milan 2-1 and creating an unassailable lead at the top of the league with their sixth straight derby victory.
Goals from Francesco Acerbi and Marcus Thuram gave Inter a 17-point advantage over closest challengers Milan and secured their 20th league crown with five matches of the season remaining.
Inter last won Serie A in 2021, followed by AC Milan in 2022 and Napoli last year.
For Simone Inzaghi it was the first league title as a manager and on a cold, soaking wet evening at the San Siro he strode proudly in front of a clutch of Inter’s “away” fans in the 75,000 crowd as they roared in delight and fired fireworks from the stands at the final whistle.
Milan made a fight of it in the final moments after Fikayo Tomori pulled one back with 10 minutes remaining but Inter held out to kick off a title party after a stormy ending to the match which featured three red cards.
“I feel like crying because we worked so hard, we deserve this joy,” said tearful captain Lautaro Martinez.
“It’s been wonderful but we have to keep going because we’ve already won a lot of trophies and we want to win many more.”
Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles, and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns.
Inzaghi’s team did it style, laying waste to the rest of the division and becoming the first team to claim the title by winning the Milan derby and leaving his opposite number Pioli on the verge of the sack.
“He was struggling 14 months ago according to the media and look what he has achieved since. I am happy here, I work well and I think the team has margin for improvement,” insisted 2022 Scudetto winner Pioli.
With outgoing champions Napoli crashing and burning early in the campaign and Milan falling away in the autumn Inter raced off into the distance at the turn of the year.
Juve looked like putting up a fight but they collapsed in February just as Inter strung together a run of 13 wins which also gave them hope of repeating a deep run in the Champions League.
Inter failed in that mission as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in mid-March, but by that time the domestic damage had already been done.
The future looks bright too as Inzaghi, Martinez and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella are all set to renew their contracts while smart work in the transfer market and increased revenue have helped mitigate significant financial harm wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Piotr Zielinski and Mehdi Taremi will arrive from Napoli and Porto as free agents in the close season while big stars like Thuram should stay.
“Crazy feeling, crazy game. We wanted to do it for our fans and we did it. It’s my first league title and I’m very proud of it,” said Thuram.
The nominal away side on Monday, Inter were on their way to a title party in the 18th minute when Acerbi was left completely free to head home Benjamin Pavard’s flick-on.
Inter should have been two ahead seven minutes later through Lautaro Martinez who lost his footing when Federico Dimarco’s perfect cut-back fell to the Argentina striker.
And his strike partner Thuram was equally at fault for Inter not increasing their lead seven minutes before the break as he shot a great chance just wide after being set up by Nicolo Barella.
But shortly after half-time Thuram made up for that miss with a brilliant individual goal which took his tally for his debut Serie A season to 12.
France forward Thuram collected Alessandro Bastoni’s long pass on the left and eventually cut inside before drilling home at Mike Maignan’s near post.
Yann Sommer did well to keep out Theo Hernandez’s well-struck shot as Milan fans let go a barrage of flares in the stands.
The resulting smoke mixed with the persistent rain to create an misty atmosphere around the San Siro, and just as Inter looked set to see the match out Tomori made sure it would be a grandstand finish when he headed home on the rebound.
However instead of levelling the match Milan lost their heads, with both Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria receiving straight red cards in stoppage time.
Inter’s Denzel Dumfries was also sent off in the closing minutes, but that will matter less to his team who danced and bounced in front of joyous fans.


Jeddah set to host its first-ever World Table Tennis Championship

Jeddah set to host its first-ever World Table Tennis Championship
Updated 22 April 2024
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Jeddah set to host its first-ever World Table Tennis Championship

Jeddah set to host its first-ever World Table Tennis Championship
  • Saudi Smash will take place May 1-11 and will see international and Saudi players compete for total prize money of $2m

JEDDAH: Saudi Smash, Jeddah’s first-ever World Table Tennis Championship, is set to take place from May 1-11 at the King Abdullah Sports City.

The event will see elite players from around the world and the Kingdom take part in singles and doubles competitions for men and women, as well as mixed doubles.

Confirmed for the tournament are men’s world No. 1 Wang Chuqin and women’s No. 1 Sun Yingsha, as well as Felix Lebrun, Hugo Calderno, Hina Hayata, Lin Yun-Ju and Tomakazi Harimoto.

A 64-player singles qualifying round will determine the eight players who advance to the respective singles main draw competitions.

With a prize pool of $2 million, this championship boasts the highest rewards ever offered in any officially sanctioned table tennis event. The men’s and women’s singles champions will each pocket $65,000 and get 2,000 International Table Tennis Federation world rankings points.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi minister of sport and president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said: “By introducing Saudi Smash, we add a further new international event to our growing list of major championships that we are honored to host in Saudi Arabia.”

Dr. Abdullah Hashim Al-Bar, president of the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, commented on hosting Saudi Smash for the first time, saying: “The Saudi Table Tennis Federation is proud to announce that Jeddah has been chosen as the host city for the inaugural Saudi Smash.

“This is a ground-breaking event that promises to elevate the sport to new heights in the Kingdom and inspire future generations of Saudi table tennis players. We are excited to be partnering with WTT to deliver one of their marquee events and look forward to showcasing Jeddah and Saudi Arabia to the world.”

Steve Dainton, WTT CEO, said: “We are thrilled to host the first-ever Saudi Smash in Jeddah.

“Grand Smashes are WTT’s most prestigious events and (this one) represents a significant milestone for table tennis in Saudi Arabia,” he added. “We are excited to showcase the talent and excitement of our stars, and Jeddah’s dynamic energy and passion for sports make it an ideal host city.”


Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’

Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’
Updated 22 April 2024
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Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’

Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’
  • Al-Shabab midfielder would waste no time in promoting the Kingdom to his former Croatia teammate if he decides to leave Real Madrid

LONDON: Ivan Rakitic hopes his strong brotherly bond with his former Croatia team-mate Luka Modric can persuade the timeless maestro to join him at Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League.

Modric may be 38 but Rakitic said that his enduring class was something his fellow Real Madrid midfielder, the free-scoring tyro Jude Bellingham, could learn from.

Modric’s Real Madrid contract expires in the summer, and rumors of a move to Saudi Arabia have been swirling. Rakitic, eager to reunite with his former teammate, would be delighted to help facilitate it.

“If you come to Saudi but don’t come to Al-Shabab, you’re going to have some problems with me,” Rakitic told Arab News with a laugh when asked what he would tell Modric, whom he has said “is like a brother to me.”

Rakitic suffered an injury inlets month’s 4-3 home defeat to Al-Hilal and was absent from Al-Shabab’s 5-0 win over Abha on Thursday, a result that sees them sit ninth in the Saudi Pro League table.

The 36-year-old joined the Riyadh club from La Liga side Sevilla in January and told Arab News over Zoom that he would be thrilled to share a pitch again with Modric, with whom he played for Croatia for 12 years until his international retirement in 2019.

The pair’s midfield majesty helped to propel Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final, which they lost 4-2 to France.

“If he decides to move, it would be amazing. I would call him directly after two minutes to try to do everything for Al-Shabab, for Saudi, to bring him to the Saudi Pro League, or give him all the information that maybe he needs.

“If he decides to stay in Madrid for one more year, I think enjoying Luka at the highest level would also be amazing.”

A renowned playmaker after trophy-laden spells at Barcelona and Sevilla, Rakitic is well-placed to assess the merits of other leading midfielders.

Of the credentials of England’s Bellingham, who, at only 20, has enjoyed a marvelous debut season with Real Madrid and scored a stoppage time winner in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Barcelona, Rakitic said: “Of course, (there are many talented young players) and Jude is one of the first we look for but I like the old generation. I like Luka, (Kevin) De Bruyne, Bernardo. I have (so much) respect for Real Madrid because they were able to understand they had to do this change of generation step by step by giving the opportunity to big talents like Bellingham, (Federico) Valverde, (Eduardo) Camavinga. But there are still many things to learn from Luka and Toni (Kroos).”

Bellingham, Camavinga, Modric and Kroos are all set to appear at Euro 2024 in the summer and Rakitic expects “a really special” tournament. He said there would be “surprises for sure” and cited hosts Germany, France, and Portugal as his top contenders.

Rakitic also believes Croatia and the evergreen Modric can have “a big tournament” — despite being in a tough group with Spain and Italy.

He is similarly enthusiastic about Saudi Arabia hosting the 2034 World Cup.

“I think it will be the best World Cup because if the Saudis are at the top in something it is in organization and motivation,” he said.

An interview with Rakitic would not be complete without mentioning the iconic triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez with whom Rakitic enjoyed halcyon days at Barcelona.

“Why not? I think we can do many, many, many important things together,” Rakitic said when Arab News mooted the dream scenario of him and the legendary trio joining forces in Saudi Arabia.

Messi may have rejected Al-Hilal’s $399 million-a-year deal last summer in favor of joining Inter Miami in the US but remains the Kingdom’s tourism ambassador.

Xavi has vowed to quit as Barcelona manager in the summer and has significant experience in the Middle East, having played for and managed Al-Sadd in Qatar between 2015 and 2021.

Iniesta is already in the region after joining Emirates Club in the UAE on a one-year deal in August.

“I think the season we did together, 2014-2015, I think (we were) the best team in the history of football,” Rakitic said.

Barcelona won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League, becoming the first European team to secure the treble twice — a feat Bayern Munich emulated in 2020.

“(We achieved) the perfect Champions League that season (beating) the French champions (Paris Saint-Germain), the English champions (Manchester City), the German champions (Bayern Munich) and the Italian champions (Juventus). It was the best season possible.”

Messi reportedly asked the Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham to persuade Rakitic to join his club last year.

But Rakitic said he “never spoke” to the former England, Real Madrid and Manchester United star.

“Hopefully I can speak to him because I’m a big fan,” he said.

“I wear my (Adidas) Predators because I saw him taking his free-kicks with (those boots). If David would like to meet and even take some free-kicks together, it would be amazing.”


Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 22 April 2024
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Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • A 4-1 win secured second spot in Group A of the tournament which also provides a pathway to 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Indonesia on Sunday beat Jordan 4-1 at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha to reach the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

Indonesia has now secured second spot in Group A behind already-qualified hosts Qatar, who drew 0-0 against Australia on the same day at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan.

The tournament, which runs until May 3, provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Indonesia led 2-0 at half time thanks to Marcelino Ferdinan’s penalty on 23 minutes and Witan Sulaeman’s strike five minutes before the break.

Ferdinan made it 3-0 after 70 minutes before Jordan’s consolation nine minutes later came via an own goal from Justin Hubner.

Komang Teguh ensured there would be no late drama by making it 4-1 with four minutes of the 90 left.

In Monday’s action, a draw against Iraq will be enough for Saudi Arabia to secure top spot in Group C, while Thailand and Tajikistan meet at Al-Janoub Stadium in Wakrah.

After two rounds of matches, Saudi Arabia lead the group with a maximum of six points while Thailand are second with three points on goal difference from Iraq. All three can still qualify for the quarterfinals while bottom-of-the-table Tajikistan, with no points, have already been eliminated.

Monday will also see the conclusion of Group B. South Korea meet Japan, with both having already ensured progress; and the UAE and China clash in a dead rubber having amassed no points between them so far.

The tournament has 16 nations split into four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. For the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, the winners of the two semifinals secure automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will compete for third place, with the winner also booking a place in Paris. The fourth-place finisher has a final chance with a playoff against an African qualifier.