IOC says ‘aggressive’ Russia criticism a ‘new low’

IOC says ‘aggressive’ Russia criticism a ‘new low’
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks at the opening of the executive board meeting of the IOC at the Olympic House, in Lausanne on Mar. 19, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 20 March 2024
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IOC says ‘aggressive’ Russia criticism a ‘new low’

IOC says ‘aggressive’ Russia criticism a ‘new low’
  • “To link the president (Germany’s Thomas Bach), his nationality and the Holocaust in the context of this issue reaches a new low,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said
  • When Bach was asked about the comments, the German gave a curt reply before asking spokesman Adams to take over

LAUSANNE: Moscow’s criticism of Olympic restrictions on Russian athletes was beyond unacceptable and had reached a “new low,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Wednesday.
“It goes beyond anything that is acceptable. To link the president (Germany’s Thomas Bach), his nationality and the Holocaust in the context of this issue reaches a new low,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.
The IOC on Tuesday both barred Russian athletes from taking part in the opening ceremony of the 2024 Paris Olympics on July 26 and criticized the Kremlin for planning to hold its own “Friendship Games” to rival those held in the French capital.
Those decisions invoked the ire of the Kremlin, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying that they “demonstrate how far the IOC has moved away from its stated principles and slipped into racism and neo-Nazism.”
When Bach was asked about the comments, the German gave a curt reply before asking spokesman Adams to take over.
There are “more quotes coming from Russia that are extremely aggressive and since some of them are very personal also, if you allow I would like to ask Mark Adams to respond to this question,” Bach said.
Adams added: “We’ve seen some very aggressive statements coming out of Russia today, but there’s one comment even which is going beyond that, we’ve even seen one that links the president, his nationality and the Holocaust, and this is completely unacceptable and reaches a new low.”


Celtics grind to overtime win over Pacers in East finals opener

Celtics grind to overtime win over Pacers in East finals opener
Updated 22 May 2024
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Celtics grind to overtime win over Pacers in East finals opener

Celtics grind to overtime win over Pacers in East finals opener
  • Tatum top scored for Boston with 36 points, 10 of them in overtime, collecting 12 rebounds and four assists with Brown putting up 26 and Jrue Holiday 28
  • The Pacers came into the game on the back of a gruelling Game 7 win against the New York Knicks on Sunday and Boston were the fastest out of the traps

LOS ANGELES: The Boston Celtics needed a late rally to force overtime against the Indiana Pacers before emerging with a 133-128 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown sank a three-pointer from the corner with 6.1 seconds remaining to tie the scores at 117-117 and take it to overtime.

Then Jayson Tatum made a crucial late three-pointer to push the Celtics to victory and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Tatum top scored for Boston with 36 points, 10 of them in overtime, collecting 12 rebounds and four assists with Brown putting up 26 and Jrue Holiday 28.

Indiana, who fought back from large deficits several times in the game, were led by Tyrese Haliburton’s 25 points, 10 assists and three rebounds with Pascal Siakam making 24 points, seven assists and 12 rebounds.

Brown was far from happy with the performance from Boston, who had almost a week off after their 4-1 series win over Cleveland.

“A lot of ups and downs, I don’t think we played our best,” said three-time All Star Brown.

“We almost dropped the game on our own floor. So we have got to come out and be better,” he added.

The Pacers came into the game on the back of a gruelling Game 7 win against the New York Knicks on Sunday and Boston were the fastest out of the traps.

With the loud home crowd sensing Indiana were struggling, Al Horford’s 26-foot three pointer made it 12-0.

The Pacers got back into the game and levelled it 64-64 at half-time.

A 13-point run in the third put Boston 87-77 up but again Indiana came back and with less than two minutes to go they led 115-100.

Indiana turned the ball over twice in the final 30 seconds of regulation before Brown’s crucial three pointer, over the top of Siakam.

When Haliburton was unable to get off a last-gasp shot the game went to overtime.

A step back three-pointer from Tatum with 43 left put Boston four points up.

After Derrick White’s layup extended the advantage to six with 25 seconds left, the game was beyond the Pacers.

“We were able to make some plays at the end but we have got to be better to be honest, but I’ll take the win,” said Brown.

Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said he was to blame for allowing the Celtics to take the game to overtime.

“The loss is totally on me,” he said.

“With 10 seconds left in regulation, we should have just taken the time out, advanced the ball and found a way to get it in and made a free throw or two and ended the game.

“But it didn’t happen and we made some other mistakes,” he added, referring to the team’s turnover problems.

“We know we made mistakes and that is an area we have got to clean up,” said Carlisle.

“We have been a tough-minded, resilient team for almost the entire second half of the year but we have to continue with that and come back here on Thursday night.”


Pakistan to face England in opening T20I clash at Headingley ahead of World Cup

Pakistan to face England in opening T20I clash at Headingley ahead of World Cup
Updated 22 May 2024
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Pakistan to face England in opening T20I clash at Headingley ahead of World Cup

Pakistan to face England in opening T20I clash at Headingley ahead of World Cup
  • Skipper Babar Azam expresses confidence Pakistan will carry the winning momentum from the Ireland series
  • England dominate the T20I rivalry with 19 wins to Pakistan’s nine triumphs, with one game ended as a no-result

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan men’s cricket team will take on England in the first of the four-match T20I series at Headingley today, Wednesday, in what is expected to be an exciting match ahead of next month’s World Cup.
The last T20I meeting between Pakistan and England took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. England edged past Pakistan by five wickets in the close encounter with Sam Curran earning the Player of the Final award for his figures of three for 12.
A full-strength Pakistan cricket team is expected to take the field at Headingley on Wednesday at the back of a 2-1 series win against Ireland in Dublin last week. Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi snapped up the Player of the Match awards in the two victories.
Pakistan men’s white-ball head coach Gary Kirsten also joined the side on 19 May for the first assignment of his two-year tenure.
“I am confident that Pakistan will carry the winning momentum from the Ireland series into the England T20Is. Our 2-1 victory in Dublin showcased the brilliance of our batters and bowlers, while also providing us with learnings as we aim to work on our areas of improvement,” said Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, the most successful captain in T20Is with 46 wins.
“We’ve had productive training sessions at Headingley and with head coach Gary Kirsten linking up with the squad, we are focused on fine-tuning our strategies and combinations for the four T20Is against England and T20 World Cup,” he added.
England dominate the T20I rivalry with 19 wins to Pakistan’s nine triumphs, while one game ended as a no-result. England were the winners of the previous bilateral series against Pakistan, clinching the seven T20Is played in Lahore and Karachi 4-3.
Series schedule:
22 May – v England, 1st T20I, Leeds
25 May – v England, 2nd T20I, Birmingham
28 May – v England 3rd T20I, Cardiff
30 May – v England, 4th T20I, The Oval


Nadal ready for emotional French Open farewell

Nadal ready for emotional French Open farewell
Updated 22 May 2024
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Nadal ready for emotional French Open farewell

Nadal ready for emotional French Open farewell
  • The great Spaniard, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, won his first title at Roland Garros as a teenager in 2005
  • As well as 14 titles in Paris, Nadal can boast a record of 112 wins and just three losses, two of which came against career-long rival Novak Djokovic

PARIS: Rafael Nadal will bring down the curtain on his 19-year French Open career with the likelihood of adding to his 14 titles greatly diminished before he leaves behind a record and reputation unlikely ever to be matched.

The great Spaniard, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, won his first title at Roland Garros as a teenager in 2005. A week on Monday, he will celebrate his 38th birthday.

A former world No. 1, who is now at 276 in the world, Nadal has only played 15 matches since January last year as a hip injury and then a muscle tear were added to a depressing history of physical ailments which have forced him to miss 12 Grand Slam tournaments in his career.

Whether or not the 2024 French Open becomes No. 13 will soon become apparent as the draw for the event takes place on Thursday afternoon.

“I’m going to play the tournament thinking that I can give my all, 100 percent,” explained Nadal after a second round exit in Rome last week.

“And if 100 percent is not enough to win a match, I’ll accept that. But I don’t want to step onto court knowing that I have no chance. If there’s a 0.01 percent chance, I want to explore that and give it a go.”

As well as 14 titles in Paris, Nadal can boast a record of 112 wins and just three losses, two of which came against career-long rival Novak Djokovic.

He is also held in remarkably high esteem.

At his first training session on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros on Monday an estimated 6,000 people turned up to watch, many chanting his name.

“We have to enjoy the time he has left on court, evaluate it, and be aware that it’s very unlikely that something like that will happen again,” said coach Carlos Moya during the recent Madrid Open.

“Personally, I’m never on court when he enters or leaves, but I am this year because I like seeing the love he gets from the people when he steps on court.

“He’s one of the great stars of this sport, he’s about to retire, and it’s really amazing to see that.”

Nadal isn’t the only A-list talent under a Paris cloud ahead of the tournament start on Sunday.

Defending champion and record 24-time Grand Slam title winner Djokovic, whose three titles in Paris put him alongside Gustavo Kuerten, Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl, is enduring a title dry spell unseen since 2018.

Back then, he also reached May without a trophy before crashing to a shock last-16 defeat at the French Open to unheralded Marco Cecchinato of Italy.

This season, Djokovic has lost his Australian Open title and has yet to make a final on tour.

Adding injury to insult, he was hit on the head by a falling water bottle in Rome, a freak accident which he claimed caused nausea and dizziness.

In an attempt to gather a degree of clay-court confidence ahead of the French Open, Djokovic, who turns 37 on Wednesday, grabbed a late wild card in the ongoing Geneva tournament.

Between them, Nadal and Djokovic have carved up the last eight French Open titles while 2009 was the last time a final at Roland Garros did not feature at least one of them.

World No. 2 Jannik Sinner, the man who succeeded Djokovic as Australian Open champion, has been laid low by a hip injury which caused him to skip the Rome Open.

The 22-year-old Italian reached the quarterfinals of the French Open on his debut in 2020 where he was defeated by Nadal in straight sets.

Sinner has an extra incentive to progress deep in Paris as he could depose Djokovic as world No. 1.

Carlos Alcaraz, the reigning Wimbledon champion, also skipped Rome to nurse an arm injury.

The world No. 3 took the first set off Djokovic in their semifinal last year before body cramps saw his slip to defeat.

The Spanish crowd-pleaser admitted that his sudden and dramatic diminished physical state was caused by the fear of facing Djokovic.


Swiatek eyes place among greats with fourth French Open crown

Swiatek eyes place among greats with fourth French Open crown
Updated 22 May 2024
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Swiatek eyes place among greats with fourth French Open crown

Swiatek eyes place among greats with fourth French Open crown
  • The world No. 1 could also become the first player to lift three successive women’s titles in Paris since Justine Henin in 2007
  • Swiatek is a strong favorite after dominating on clay again this season, arriving in Paris off the back of WTA 1000 victories in Madrid and Rome

PARIS: Iga Swiatek admits she is the favorite and “confident” ahead of her bid to become only the fourth woman to win four Roland Garros singles titles in the Open era.

The world No. 1 could also become the first player to lift three successive women’s titles in Paris since Justine Henin in 2007.

Swiatek is a strong favorite after dominating on clay again this season, arriving in Paris off the back of WTA 1000 victories in Madrid and Rome.

The only female player in history to complete a Madrid-Rome-Roland Garros treble in the same season is Serena Williams.

But Swiatek is not daunted by what she could achieve.

“I’m No. 1 so I’m the favorite everywhere if you look at rankings,” she told reporters after swatting aside second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka in the Rome Open final last weekend.

“But rankings don’t play, so... I’ll do everything step by step and we’ll see.

“Obviously I am confident. I feel like I’m playing great tennis. But it doesn’t change the fact that I really want to stay humble and really focused.”

The 22-year-old Pole has plenty of years ahead of her to chase records but is wasting little time — her four WTA 1000 titles this season have taken her career total to 10.

That is already only 13 short of Serena Williams’ all-time record.

With four Grand Slam titles, Swiatek has not struggled to translate that form to the major tournaments in the past, but insists it is tougher to lift the sport’s biggest trophies.

“Grand Slams are different. There is different pressure on the court and off the court,” she added.

“I love to come to Paris again and be there. It’s a great place for me to be. I really enjoy my time there anyway. These are hard seven matches that you need to win, so I don’t take anything for granted.”

Swiatek is aiming to join Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Henin in lifting the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen four times in the Open era.

The biggest obstacle standing in her way is Sabalenka.

The Belarusian missed three match points before losing to Swiatek in a thrilling Madrid final and will be hoping to get another crack at her rival after a one-sided loss in Rome.

Sabalenka, the two-time reigning Australian Open champion, has reached at least the semifinals in each of the past six Grand Slam events.

She is also the only woman to beat Swiatek in a final on clay — in Madrid last year — since the Pole lost her first WTA title decider as a teenager in 2019 at a low-key event in Switzerland.

Sabalenka has an 8-3 losing record against Swiatek, but insisted after Rome that she wanted to face her again in Paris.

“Even though I lost these two finals, I mean, I never focus on the past,” she said.

“No matter how many times I lose to the player, I know anyway if I’ll be there, if I’ll be fighting, I’ll be focusing on myself, I know that I can get that win.

“I mean, I’m going there with the confidence that I can do well there.”

Sabalenka had never even reached the second week at Roland Garros until last year, when she was knocked out by Karolina Muchova in the semis.

“I’m definitely not the favorite probably there,” she said.

“But at the same time I do feel that I can actually go for it.

“It’s 50/50, you know? But I prefer to be underdog. I really hope I’m going to make it to the final and I really hope I’ll be able to get that win, if it’s Iga or not.”

Elena Rybakina, the only player to defeat Swiatek on clay this year, was being touted as part of a new ‘big three’ 12 months ago.

But the Kazakh has failed to make the last four at a Slam since losing the 2023 Australian Open final to Sabalenka and has been passed in the rankings by US Open champion Coco Gauff.

American Gauff, playing in a major for the first time since turning 20, will be hoping to go one better than when she lost the 2022 French Open showpiece to Swiatek.


Al-Hilal face new Saudi season without sidelined Neymar

Al-Hilal face new Saudi season without sidelined Neymar
Updated 21 May 2024
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Al-Hilal face new Saudi season without sidelined Neymar

Al-Hilal face new Saudi season without sidelined Neymar
  • The injury-prone player left the French club for Al-Hilal in 2023, the latest world-famous footballer snapped up by the big-spending Saudi Pro League

RIYADH: Neymar remains sidelined from knee surgery and will miss his Saudi Pro League champions Al-Hilal’s pre-season training, coach Jorge Jesus said on Tuesday.
“All I know now is that the time given to Neymar to recover and during similar injuries is approximately from 10 to 11 months.
“If we calculate mathematically, he will not be ready at the beginning of the pre-season training,” Jesus told reporters in Riyadh.
Neymar underwent surgery in his native Brazil last November to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus damage suffered during a national team match the month before.
The 32-year-old was stretchered off in tears during Brazil’s 2-0 loss to Uruguay in a World Cup qualifying match on October 17, after colliding with opposing midfielder Nicolas de la Cruz.
Whilst he may have been absent from the pitch Neymar has been busy off it recently.
He was ringside to witness Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury to win the world’s first undisputed heavyweight championship in 25 years in Riyadh on Sunday.
Last month a Brazilian court suspended a $3 million fine imposed on the player for building a lake at his mansion on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro without an environmental license.
In March he performed a ceremonial first pitch before the Marlins’ home MLB opener in Miami against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was on the grid before the Formula One season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir.
In January the French finance and economy ministry was searched as part of a probe into the 2017 transfer of the Brazil football superstar to Paris Saint-Germain.
Officers with anti-corruption units carried out the searches amid suspicions that PSG may have received favorable tax treatment as part of the transfer.
Neymar joined Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona in 2017 for a world-record fee of 222 million euros ($242 million), scoring 118 goals in 173 matches despite a series of injuries.
The injury-prone player left the French club for Al-Hilal in 2023, the latest world-famous footballer snapped up by the big-spending Saudi Pro League.
He earns 100 million euros a season in Saudi Arabia, according to a source close to the negotiations, while PSG pocketed 100 million euros in the deal.
This month he was omitted from Brazil’s Copa America squad by national coach Dorival Junior.
His club coach in Saudi, Jesus, conceded his absence was an issue, but added Tuesday that “the solution was Malcolm” referring to the Brazilian winger who scored 22 goals in 46 games.