Commando Group crowned champions at AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship

Commando Group crowned champions at AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship
The AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship took place on Feb. 2-4 at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi. (UAEJJF)
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Updated 05 February 2024
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Commando Group crowned champions at AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship

Commando Group crowned champions at AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship
  • Competitions for the amateur and professional divisions were held at Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

ABU DHABI: The AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2024 – Gi concluded on Sunday at Mubadala Arena in Zayed Sports City, with Commando Group securing first place.

The event, organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro, featured competitions in the amateur and professional divisions on the final day, with A.F.N.T claiming second and Sharjah Self-Defence third.

On Friday, competitions for the kids, infant and junior divisions were held, which saw the UAEJJ Arena academy claiming first, with Sharjah Self-Defense second, and Palms Sports third.

The teen and master divisions contests took place on Saturday and Commando Group topped the medal table, pushing A.F.N.T to a close second, and Al-Jazira Jiu-Jitsu Club securing third.

“The AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship met our organizational and technical goals, attracting a sizable crowd and media attention,” said Fahad Al-Shamsi, secretary-general of the UAE and Asian Jiu-Jitsu Federations. “It showcased world-class competitions, enabling local and international athletes, especially in the black and brown belt divisions, to test their skills and assess their physical and mental readiness in the beginning of the new season.”

“The championship, which marked the first event in the UAEJJF’s calendar, boosted the optimism of the athletes for what promises to be an action-packed season and served as a platform for discovering new talents,” he added. “Over three days, we witnessed impressive performances from emerging athletes who have high potential for growth and professional careers in the sport.”

Al-Shamsi praised the performances of the Emirati athletes, particularly in the professional category.

Tareq Al-Bahri, general manager at AJP, said the increased participation of athletes was a result of the hard work of officials at the local clubs.

“Athletes and clubs try not to miss the AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship, as it offers 1,000 AJP ranking points for the first-place winners, contributing to the enhancement of their rankings in their respective weight and belt categories.

“This will help them qualify for the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Awards at the end of the season, which celebrates the best individual winners, as well as the best local and international clubs and academies. Accumulating ranking points will also help athletes with other benefits, such as eligibility for travel benefits during the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship,” added Al-Bahri.

The Commando Group club had more than 200 athletes compete across various categories.

“I am proud of the performance of our athletes at the AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship,” Thiago Barreto, coach of the Commando Group, said. “I would like to express my gratitude to the UAEJJF for organizing this championship, which offered an unparalleled experience for athletes and fans alike.”

“I believe the impressive performances by the Commando Group can be attributed to the dedication of the athletes, their sacrifices, and their desire to elevate the level of their technical skills. Our players deserve the title, as they performed outstandingly, demonstrating remarkable technical prowess and determination.”

Brazil’s Christian Lara, who scooped gold in the Men’s Gi/Brown/Professional/69 kg division representing Commando Group, said: “I can’t be happier about winning the gold medal in the AJP Tour UAE National Jiu-Jitsu Championship. I faced some of the most brilliant players in the world, and the competitive atmosphere at the arena was amazing. I am sure it will enhance the physical and mental aspects of preparation for future tournaments.”

Mohammed Saeed Alketbi of Al-Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club, who won gold in the Men’s Gi/Purple/Professional/56 kg division, said: “I participated in the championship because it provides a good opportunity for me to attain full physical and mental readiness before participating in the upcoming international tournaments. I am very happy to earn 1,000 AJP ranking points, and I am looking forward to adding more in the coming days.”


Saudi beat Tajikistan 4-2 in AFC U-23 Asian Cup group opener

Saudi beat Tajikistan 4-2 in AFC U-23 Asian Cup group opener
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi beat Tajikistan 4-2 in AFC U-23 Asian Cup group opener

Saudi beat Tajikistan 4-2 in AFC U-23 Asian Cup group opener
  • The Green Falcons lead Group C on goal difference as Thailand beat Iraq

DOHA: Saudi Arabia kicked off their 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup campaign in style with a 4-2 win over Tajikistan on Tuesday at Khalifa International Stadium in Al-Rayyan.

In the other Group C match, Thailand defeated Iraq 2-0 at Al-Janoub in Al-Wakrah.

The Green Falcons now have three points and lead their group ahead of Thailand on goal difference. Tajikistan and Iraq are third and fourth respectively with zero points.

Saudi Arabia took the lead on seven minutes through Rayane Hamidou, but Tajikistan struck back through Ruslan Khayloev after 23 minutes. Deep into stoppage time at the end of the first period, Saudi regained the advantage thanks to Haitham Asiri.

Saad Al-Shehri’s men looked to have put the game to bed with goals by Ayman Yahya on 55 and 61 minutes, before Rustam Soirov gave Tajikistan a glimmer of hope nine minutes later to make it 4-2.

Earlier in the day, Japan beat China 1-0 in the opening match in Group B at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, before South Korea defeated the UAE team at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.

Saudi Arabia’s next game is against Thailand on Friday. They will then face Iraq on April 22. 

The 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, which sees 16 nations split into four groups of four, also acts as a route to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer.

The top two teams from each group progress to the quarterfinals, with the winners of both semifinals automatically qualifying for the Olympics.

The losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winner also booking a spot in Paris. The fourth-place finishers have one final chance to secure a place at the Games through a play-off against an African qualifier.


LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets

LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets
Updated 17 April 2024
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LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets

LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets
  • After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson had “left leg sorenes”
  • The Pelicans will host Sacramento on Friday, with the winner earning the No. 8 seed in the West

NEW ORLEANS: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and their supporting cast have the Los Angeles Lakers looking like a tougher out in the playoffs than they appeared to be just a few weeks earlier.

The New Orleans Pelicans, meanwhile, find themselves on the brink of elimination and wondering about the health of star power forward Zion Williamson, whose dominant NBA postseason debut was cut short by an injury in the final minutes of a tight game.

James had 23 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, and the Lakers secured a playoff berth with a 110-106 victory over the Pelicans in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Tuesday night.

“Tonight we showcased what we were able to do both offensively and defensively,” said James, whose team enters the playoffs having won 12 of 15 games. “We’ve got a good group going right now, good rotation, good plan and guys are coming in ready to go.”

Williamson had 40 points and 11 rebounds. But shortly after tying the game at 95 on a driving layup with 3:19 to go, Williamson went to the locker room, throwing a towel to the floor in disgust as he walked into the tunnel with an apparent injury.

After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson had “left leg soreness.”

“He’s going to have some imaging on it tomorrow and we’ll figure out more,” Green said.

Soon after Williamson went out, James hit a jumper, Davis dunked Austin Reaves’ alley-oop lob, DeAngelo Russell hit a 3 and Davis grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, after which he hit two free throws to help the Lakers hold on.

The Pelicans “threw some heavy blows at us,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “They kept swinging. We kept fighting back.

“It revealed a lot about us and what we’re made of,” he added.

Davis finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Russell scored 21, hitting five times from deep. James was 10 of 10 on free throws and Davis 8 of 10.

The Lakers advance to face defending champion Denver in the first round in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals, a sweep by the Nuggets. Game 1 is Saturday night.

The Pelicans will host Sacramento on Friday, with the winner earning the No. 8 seed in the West. The Kings eliminated Golden State in the later play-in game on Wednesday night.

“Obviously a tough loss for us,” said Green, whose team could have secured the sixth seed in the playoffs on Sunday but lost at home to the Lakers, 124-108, setting up the rematch in the play-in. “We’ve got to feel this one tonight and regroup and get ready for another one.”

Williamson, Green said, was “fantastic.”

“He settled into the game. He just continued to attack. He found seams. He rebounded the ball. He played fast,” Green continued. “(If) we have him for a few more minutes, maybe we have a chance to pull this thing out.”

The Lakers went 14 of 35 from 3-point range. The Pelicans hit 9 of 29 from deep and Williamson didn’t get a lot of help from the Pelicans’ usual high scorers. Brandon Ingram — in his second game back from a 12-game absence because of a knee injury — missed 8 of 12 shots and finished with 11 points after spending the final few minutes on the bench.

“I just like the group that was on the floor at that time,” Green said. “BI is still getting back, he’s still finding his rhythm. So, I didn’t want to force the issue.”

CJ McCollum missed 11 of 15 shots and scored nine points.

Trey Murphy III scored 12, hitting two 3s from beyond 28 feet in the second half to help New Orleans come back from an 18-point second-half deficit to tie it.

The Lakers led 75-57 after Rui Hachimura’s layup in the third quarter. But New Orleans got back in the game by outscoring Los Angeles 19-8 during the final 5:31 of the period.

Williamson sparked the surge with a pair of layups. Murphy pulled up for a 31-foot 3-pointer in the final minute of the quarter and Williamson’s free throw made it 83-76 at the end of the period.

The Pelicans finally tied it when Williamson slammed down Jose Alvarado’s alley-oop lob in transition to make it 93-all with 3:53 to go.

Looking to redeem themselves for a lackluster loss to the Lakers on Sunday, the Pelicans put together a promising opening quarter and took a 34-28 lead on Herb Jones’ 3.

Los Angeles surged into the lead by outscoring New Orleans 34-16 in the second quarter, leading by as many as 14 after James, who had 15 first-half points, hit two free throws to make it 58-44.

In the final seconds of the half, Williamson sprinted nearly the length of the court on the dribble for a floating layup at the horn that made it 60-50.


Boston Marathon winners hope victories will earn them spot in Paris Olympics

Boston Marathon winners hope victories will earn them spot in Paris Olympics
Updated 17 April 2024
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Boston Marathon winners hope victories will earn them spot in Paris Olympics

Boston Marathon winners hope victories will earn them spot in Paris Olympics
  • Even before his Boston win, Lemma already had good credentials with a course-record 2 hours, 1 minute, 48 seconds in Valencia last year
  • Hellen Obiri won her second straight Boston Marathon, outkicking fellow Kenyans Sharon Lokedi and Edna Kiplagat in the final mile to finish in 2:27:37 and win by eight seconds

NEW YORK: There are two main things to look for when picking an Olympic marathon team: speed and success.

Sisay Lemma has both.

The 2024 Boston Marathon champion says he expects to be on the roster for the Paris Games when Ethiopian officials make their decisions in the coming weeks. Even before his Boston win, Lemma already had good credentials with a course-record 2 hours, 1 minute, 48 seconds in Valencia last year that was the fourth-fastest ever run in a competitive marathon.

“Because of the fast race I ran in Valencia, the time that I got the fastest time, and also the marathon that I won here, right now from all the Ethiopian athletes I’m the fastest,” Lemma said on Tuesday, a day after winning in Boston. “So I’m confident I am the one who is going to be selected.”

Lemma blistered the Boston course with a 1:00:19 first half, opening a lead of almost three-quarters of a mile with six miles to go. He slowed over the final stretch and finished in 2:06:17 but still beat fellow Ethiopian Mohamed Esa by 41 seconds — the length of more than two football fields.

Lemma said he wanted to redeem himself after finishing 30th and dropping out in two previous Boston attempts. The Olympics are next on his redemption tour; he also dropped out of the race at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

“When I ran in Tokyo, the Ethiopian people were expecting a gold medal, and a good result. But we were not able to do it because there was so much heat,” Lemma said. “But now in Paris and we try, we will try to redeem that again and, you know, win the gold for Ethiopia.”

Hellen Obiri earned her second straight Boston Marathon crown when she outkicked fellow Kenyans Sharon Lokedi and Edna Kiplagat in the final mile to finish in 2:27:37 and win by eight seconds. The Kenyan federation first announced a provisional roster of 10 women and has since trimmed it to six.

The win makes Obiri, who also won in New York last fall, a virtual lock for Paris. But she hopes Lokedi will join her.

“We were 10 and now we are six. And Sharon was still with me,” Obiri said Tuesday. “I do hope I will be on the team with Sharon because the Paris course, it’s a tough course. It’s even tougher than Boston. If Sharon is my teammate in Paris, I will have a fantastic moment racing with her.”

Boston wheelchair winners Marcel Hug and Eden Rainbow-Cooper are also aiming for Paris. But first both are planning to race in the London Marathon next week. (Unlike elite runners, who run at most three marathons a year, wheelchair racers can be back on the road in a week.)

“Paris is definitely in my plans,” said Hug, who has won 22 major marathons and two Paralympic gold medals at the distance. “We are still in the qualifying period, but I already have some good, fast qualifying times. So it should not be a problem for me.”

Rainbow-Cooper, 22, doesn’t have the same resume but she also expects to make her first British Paralympic team. She is the third-youngest woman to win the Boston wheelchair race, and the first from Britain.

“I’ve got the times to qualify,” she said Tuesday, a day after winning Boston in 1:35:11 for her first major marathon victory. “Our selection isn’t for a few months yet, so it’s just about staying consistent. But Paris is definitely in the forefront.”

Hug said he had a mixture of pride and relief after Monday’s race, when he crashed into a barrier and flipped on his side but righted himself and still set a course record by 93 seconds.

“(I was) proud to overcome, that I still could make the fast time,” Hug said. “But also grateful that nothing worse happened, that the wheelchair is OK, that nothing is broken, no bones broken. So it’s a mix of these two emotions.”


Nadal returns to action with easy win over Cobolli in first round of Barcelona Open

Nadal returns to action with easy win over Cobolli in first round of Barcelona Open
Updated 17 April 2024
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Nadal returns to action with easy win over Cobolli in first round of Barcelona Open

Nadal returns to action with easy win over Cobolli in first round of Barcelona Open
  • Nadal, a 12-time champion at the clay-court tournament, said he was never at full strength at the center court named after him, especially when serving
  • World No. 8 Andrey Rublev smashed his racket to the ground several times after a 6-4, 7-6 (6) loss to American Brandon Nakashima

BARCELONA, Spain: Taking it easy after months away from competitive tennis, Rafael Nadal was good enough to earn a comfortable first-round win at the Barcelona Open on Tuesday.

Nadal looked injury-free in a 6-2, 6-3 win over Flavio Cobolli to advance to the second round in his first tournament in more than three months.

Nadal converted on his second match point to seal the victory over the 21-year-old Italian ranked 62nd in the world. The Spaniard will next face Alex de Minaur, who had a first-round bye.

“Taking everything into consideration, it was a good first round,” Nadal said. “I played the kind of match that I needed to play. I’m happy for the victory and happy to be playing at home again.”

Nadal, a 12-time champion at the clay-court tournament, said he was never at full strength at the center court named after him, especially when serving.

“I’m not going to do anything that doesn’t make sense right now,” he said. “I’m not going to go out there and serve like crazy. I have to take it easy because that’s what’s needed at the moment.”

Nadal broke serve twice in each set. He finished with eight winners and 22 unforced errors.

Nadal was returning from yet another injury layoff and hadn’t played since an exhibition match against Carlos Alcaraz in March. The 22-time Grand Slam champion had last played a tournament in Brisbane in January, when he played only three matches before skipping the Australian Open.

He withdrew from Monte Carlo saying he his body wasn’t ready yet. Nadal is a 14-time winner at the French Open, which begins next month.

The 37-year old Nadal said it will likely be his last time playing the Barcelona Open. The Spaniard had hip surgery last summer and said 2024 will probably be his last year playing on tour.

FRUSTRATED RUBLEV

World No. 8 Andrey Rublev smashed his racket to the ground several times after a 6-4, 7-6 (6) loss to American Brandon Nakashima.

It was the third consecutive first-round defeat for the second-seeded Rublev, who also lost in straight sets in Monte Carlo and Miami. He also lost in straight sets in the second round in Indian Wells.

It was only the second win over a top-10 opponent for the 22-year-old Nakashima, and the first on clay. The world No. 87 had beaten Holger Rune in Shanghai last October.

“I’m still out here competing as hard as I can,” said Nakashima, who reached No. 43 in the world in 2022. “I’m happy with getting my level back to where it was. Playing in front of these crowds and on this court was super special.”

OTHER RESULTS

Also Tuesday, Facundo Diaz Acosta defeated 15th-seeded Borna Coric 6-2, 7-5. Tomas Machac beat Shang Juncheng 6-4, 6-4 to set up a meeting with 11th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Roberto Carballes Baena defeated Hugo Grenier 6-2, 6-4, while Jaume Munar cruised past Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-1.


Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis

Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis
Updated 17 April 2024
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Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis

Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis
  • The visitors started with determination and penned Barcelona back in their own territory, but it was the hosts who took the lead

BARCELONA: Kylian Mbappe struck twice as Paris Saint-Germain battled back to beat 10-man Barcelona 4-1 and book a place in the Champions League semifinals with a 6-4 aggregate triumph on Tuesday.
Raphinha fired Barcelona ahead early on but Ronald Araujo’s 29th-minute red card turned the tide in PSG’s favor, despite the Spanish champions leading by two goals following a 3-2 quarter-final first-leg win.
Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha levelled the tie for PSG and the deadly Mbappe hit a brace to put them into the final four for the first time since 2021.
The French champions have never won the trophy despite huge investment but demonstrated they have the attacking weapons in their squad to do so.
Five-time winners Barcelona were dreaming of a first semifinal return since 2019 but Araujo’s red card for pulling down the relentless Bradley Barcola undermined their grip on the tie.
PSG coach Luis Enrique, who led Barca to the 2015 Champions League, said he believed his team would turn things around despite never having managed to after a first-leg defeat, and so it proved.
The visitors started with determination and penned Barcelona back in their own territory, but it was the hosts who took the lead.
Explosive 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal ripped past Nuno Mendes and crossed to the near post where Raphinha turned home despite pressure from Achraf Hakimi.
It was the Brazilian winger’s third goal of the tie after his brace in Paris.
Robert Lewandowski fired another chance over the top for Barcelona before Barcola tilted the tie in PSG’s favor. The winger was a nightmare for his French compatriot Jules Kounde to handle.
Barcola teed up Mbappe but Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied him well, before Araujo was sent off for bringing him down.
The Uruguayan center-back pulled Barcola back as he burst into the area, leaving Barca with 10 men.
Dembele whizzed the resulting free-kick narrowly over, but soon found the net, as he did in the first leg.
The former Barcelona winger struck after 40 minutes from another Barcola cross, which raked across the area to the back post where Dembele was arriving to fire into the roof of the net.
Barcelona sacrificed Yamal for defender Inigo Martinez after Araujo’s red card and it left them with few outlets in attack.
With PSG controlling the game Barcelona soon paid the price for their inability to keep possession.
Vitinha was given far too much space on the edge of the box and he drilled into the bottom corner to put PSG ahead on the night.
Ilkay Gundogan hit the post at the other end for Barcelona before their coach Xavi was sent off for a show of dissent on the touchline.
The Catalans were losing their heads and Joao Cancelo clumsily fouled Dembele to hand PSG a penalty.
Mbappe, who had been kept quiet in the first leg, hammered it into the top corner for his 40th goal across all competitions.
The striker’s future may lie in Spain, with Real Madrid aiming to sign him in the summer at the end of his contract, and he made no friends in Barcelona by hopping the advertising hoardings and running toward fans to celebrate.
Another member of Barcelona’s backroom staff was dismissed after Gundogan had a penalty appeal waved away and it became clear the hosts had no response.
Mbappe wrapped up the win in the 89th minute after a fine Ter Stegen double save, leaving Barcelona the victims of another bitterly disappointing night in Europe.