12-year-old Saudi karting sensation dreams of glory at motorsport’s highest level

Special 12-year-old Saudi karting sensation dreams of glory at motorsport’s highest level
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Janna Al-Nujaiman celebrates winning the Track Challenge in Jeddah in February. (Supplied)
Special 12-year-old Saudi karting sensation dreams of glory at motorsport’s highest level
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Janna Al-Nujaiman began taking part in competitive karting races last year. (Supplied)
Special 12-year-old Saudi karting sensation dreams of glory at motorsport’s highest level
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Janna Al-Nujaiman with Spanish F1 driver Fernando Alonso. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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12-year-old Saudi karting sensation dreams of glory at motorsport’s highest level

12-year-old Saudi karting sensation dreams of glory at motorsport’s highest level
  • Only three years after taking up racing, Janna Al-Nujaiman has already excelled in domestic and regional competitions against more experienced drivers
  • Janna Al-Nujaiman: My dad used to take me to a rental karting, which sparked my interest, as well as watching F1 on the weekends with him as a little kid

JEDDAH: At only 12, Saudi’s Janna Talal Al-Nujaiman is already dreaming big. As she makes a name for herself in the Kingdom’s karting scene, she has set her sights on becoming a professional driver and ultimately racing in no less a category than Formula One.

The Jeddah resident started karting three years ago in Kyiv while living with her Ukrainian mother, and since then, she has progressed through age group levels and has gone on to rank highly in multiple national and regional races.

Unlike many young drivers coming through the ranks of different racing categories today, however, Janna does not come from a motorsport background.

She is making her way through a tough and costly sport with the support of her family, especially her father Talal Al-Nujaiman.

“I’m not really from a racing family. My dad used to take me to a rental karting, which sparked my interest, as well as watching F1 on the weekends with him as a little kid,” she said about the origins of her passion for the sport.

From the first day, she showed a remarkable aptitude for karting.

“After my father saw how happy I was driving, he called the (instructors) and asked them about me, and my first time in karting,” Janna added. “He asked them about my performance and timing. Was it normal? The answer was no, what I did was not normal.”

In 2022, while Janna and her father were in France on vacation, she was admitted into a karting academy, which was supervised by Herve Montage, a former French rally driver.

Janna was again the least experienced among the senior candidates — a group of elite karting drivers aged 14 to 16. And yet again, the young Saudi offered a glimpse of what she is capable of.

After one month of practice and breaking records, she was asked to stay in France and continue racing, but her father, a Saudia captain, believed that the future of racing was in the Kingdom and refused all offers his daughter received.

“Based on the vision of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and what my country has been going through in all fields, I decided to bring back my daughter to Saudi Arabia and (have her) make her way in motorsports in her own country,” Talal said.

He believes his daughter has what it takes to break into motorsports in Saudi Arabia.

“I have to be very careful what I say now so that I don’t build up pressure on her,” Talal said. “But racing today is looking for women, wants women, and she really loves racing. So, I support her as best I can.

“Making it to the top is of course a very tough road. If she wants to get there, she has to do everything and work very hard. Then she can do it.”

Talal said that his daughter started racing competitively in Jeddah in September 2023, winning her first karting competition on Feb. 24 of this year at the Track Challenge in Jeddah. A mark of her talent, she achieved this in a field of almost 100 male drivers, all older and more experienced than her, with some being university champions with 10 years of experience.

“My dream is to see my daughter representing her country,” Talal said.

For Janna however, that is not enough. Her dream is to be the first female champion in racing’s most elite series here in the Kingdom.

“My dream is to see myself in the future raising the flag of my country Saudi Arabia … by winning the F1 and (being) the first Saudi woman who will make the impossible come true,” she said.

She says she hopes to one day become as good as her motor racing idol Fernando Alonso.

Karting has historically been the birthplace of champions such as Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Alonso, whom Janna recently met.

Now she is looking for sponsorship opportunities to help keep her racing dream alive through karting and eventually other series. While she continues to count on the significant support of her father, who helps cover many racing expenses, her goal now is to add sponsors who will help push her onto the professional circuits.

Given her breakthroughs in such a short time, with the right support, the name Janna Al-Nujaiman is set to become a familiar one for racing fans across the Kingdom and the region in the coming years.


Dressel, Ledecky line up title defenses at Paris Olympics with US swimming trials victories

Dressel, Ledecky line up title defenses at Paris Olympics with US swimming trials victories
Updated 32 sec ago
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Dressel, Ledecky line up title defenses at Paris Olympics with US swimming trials victories

Dressel, Ledecky line up title defenses at Paris Olympics with US swimming trials victories
  • Dressel wrapped up his emotional return to the US trials, following up his 50m freestyle victory with another win after his lengthy break from the sport
  • In Paris Ledecky will be the favorite to become the first woman in any sport to win Olympic gold in the same event four times

LOS ANGELES: Caeleb Dressel powered to victory in the 100m butterfly at the US Olympic swimming trials to line up another title defense in Paris, where Katie Ledecky will go for a historic fourth straight 800m freestyle gold.

Dressel wrapped up his emotional return to the US trials on Saturday, following up his 50m free victory on Friday with another win after his lengthy break from the sport.

Dressel seized control with his trademark explosive start, led at the wall and won in 50.19sec, with 17-year-old Thomas Heilman second in 50.80.

Heilman had already won the 200m butterfly to become the youngest US male swimmer to book an Olympic berth since 15-year-old Michael Phelps and 17-year-old Aaron Piersol competed at the 2000 Sydney Games.

He flew home in the outside lane one to edge 21-year-old Dare Rose by four-hundredths of a second.

“This is truly the hardest part,” Dressel said of the pressure-cooker US trials, where only the top two finishers in each event can secure an individual Olympic berth.

“It’s tough to make the team here, and that’s how it should be,” said Dressel, who won five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics to confirm his superstar status but abruptly stepped away from the sport in 2022.

“I think I’ve felt every emotion that I’m capable of,” Dressel said of the rollercoaster nine-day trials, held this year in the stunning, potentially intimidating atmosphere of Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

“It’s tough. So really the motto is one stroke at a time. You’ve got to turn the dial on, then turn it off and just when you can go to bed. So I’m happy to be done,” said Dressel, who has been cheered on this week by his wife, Meghan, with their four-month-old son, August, along for the ride.

Ledecky’s fourth victory of the week, in the 800m freestyle, takes her back to where her Olympic journey began, with an upset triumph at the age of 15 in the 2012 London Games.

Ledecky, the world record-holder who owns the top 16 times ever in the event, clocked 8min 14.12sec. As in the 400m free, Paige Madden was second to Ledecky, shattering her personal best with a time of 8:20.71.

In Paris Ledecky will be the favorite to become the first woman in any sport to win Olympic gold in the same event four times.

Michael Phelps the only swimmer to win the same event at four straight Games, the 200m individual medley in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Kate Douglass added an impressive victory in the 200m individual medley in 2min 06.79sec to her 100m free and 200m breaststroke wins this week.

Alex Walsh was second in 2:07.86 and the pair head to Paris aiming to improve on their performances at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games, where Walsh took silver and Douglass earned bronze behind Japanese gold medallist Yui Ohashi.

“I feel like the goal coming into this meet was to try and win all three events, but you know, I didn’t really think I was going to be able to achieve that,” Douglass said. “So I’m really happy I did.”

Walsh finally secured her Paris berth on the penultimate night of the trials, joining her sister Gretchen who clocked a world record in the semifinals on the way to winning the 100m fly.

“I didn’t know if I was going to make it to Paris after she made it,” said Alex Walsh, who competed in Tokyo as Gretchen missed out. “This is a dream we’ve been dreaming for so long.”


Shakib blasts Bangladesh’s lack of ‘fight’ at T20 World Cup

Shakib blasts Bangladesh’s lack of ‘fight’ at T20 World Cup
Updated 18 min 20 sec ago
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Shakib blasts Bangladesh’s lack of ‘fight’ at T20 World Cup

Shakib blasts Bangladesh’s lack of ‘fight’ at T20 World Cup
  • Saturday’s mauling was Bangladesh’s second defeat in the Super Eights after an opening loss to Australia
  • Bangladesh stumbled to 146-8 in their 20 overs against India with skipper Najmul Hossain Shanto top scoring with 40

North Sound, Antigua and Barbuda: Veteran Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan hit out at the Tigers’ lack of “fight” after a 50-run rout by India effectively ended their T20 World Cup dreams.
Saturday’s mauling was Bangladesh’s second defeat in the Super Eights after an opening loss to Australia.
“We were always thinking that we came to do something good and we will do it,” said former skipper Shakib who was playing in his 128th T20 international.
“But if you look at the result or the performance on the ground, actually we couldn’t show any fight in that way. It’s disappointing.”
Chasing 197 to win, Bangladesh stumbled to 146-8 in their 20 overs against India with skipper Najmul Hossain Shanto top scoring with 40.
Making runs has been a problem for Bangladesh throughout the tournament with Towhid Hridoy their top run-getter with a modest 139 across six innings.
Shakib was the only player to make a 50 when he hit an undefeated 64 in the first round victory against the Netherlands.
“I don’t know how long it will take,” said the 37-year-old Shakib when asked to put a timeframe on Bangladesh winning a world title.
“When we played with two big teams, who were maybe the closest contenders for the World Cup, our gap with them was clearly visible.
“So, it is disappointing to me that we still have such huge gaps.”
Shakib made his international debut in 2006 and has also played in 67 Tests and 247 one-dayers. He has amassed more than 19,500 runs and taken over 700 wickets.
However, he will not make any hasty decisions on whether he will call time on his Bangladesh career.
“If the team think that they need me, and if I think that I need the team and I am feeling desired in that way then it is a matter of playing for the team,” he said.
“Otherwise, if I am not enjoying then of course, I will not play. When it’s time everyone will come to know about it.”


Whittaker knocks out Aliskerov, Volkov beats Pavlovich in Riyadh’s UFC ‘Fight Night’

Whittaker knocks out Aliskerov, Volkov beats Pavlovich in Riyadh’s UFC ‘Fight Night’
Updated 23 June 2024
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Whittaker knocks out Aliskerov, Volkov beats Pavlovich in Riyadh’s UFC ‘Fight Night’

Whittaker knocks out Aliskerov, Volkov beats Pavlovich in Riyadh’s UFC ‘Fight Night’
  • Whittaker took down the Russian fighter in just 1:46 minutes of the first round
  • Volkov defeated Russian compatriot Pavlovich by unanimous decision

RIYADH: Australian mixed martial arts star Robert Whittaker knocked out Ikram Sabirovich Aliskerov in under 2 minutes of the first round of the middleweight main event of the inaugural UFC "Fight Night" in Riyadh late on Saturday.

Aliskerov was pulled from Saturday’s UFC event in Las Vegas as a last-minute replacement for his compatriot Khamzat Chimaev, who withdrew from the fight due to illness.

Aliskerov was tagged by UFC's CEO and President Dana White as a "legit contender," having been on a seven-game winning streak, and having lost only one of his 16 bouts. His only loss was against Chimaev.

Whittaker started the fight using precision striking to keep Aliskerov at a distance, while Aliskerov countered with powerful takedowns and effective ground control, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

But Whittaker, nicknamed "The Reaper" for sending many opponents down with his famous 1-2-high kick combination, was just too much for him, securing a victory by knockout at 1:49 in the first round, solidifying his status as a leading contender in the division.

"I'm the most dangerous middleweight on the planet. Everyone knows that," Whittaker declared in a press conference after his victory.

In the heavyweight co-main event, Alexander Volkov defeated Russian compatriot Sergei Pavlovich by unanimous decision.

Results of the UFC Saudi Arabia "Fight Night" matches.

Earlier, Kelvin Gastelum beat American compatriot Daniel Rodriguez by unanimous decision in their middle weight division match.

Pavlovich came out aggressively, landing significant strikes early in the fight. However, Volkov showcased impressive endurance and striking accuracy, gradually turning the tide.

In a dramatic third round, Volkov landed a decisive head kick, followed by a series of punches that led to his victory. The crowd erupted in applause, appreciating the skill and tenacity displayed by both fighters.

The undercard featured several emerging talents who seized the opportunity to shine. Felipe Lima, a promising featherweight prospect, delivered a standout performance with a third-round submission victory (rear-naked choke) over Muhammad Naimov. Lima's seamless transition from striking to grappling highlighted his potential as a future star in the division.

In the bantamweight bout, Muin Gafurov impressed the audience with their striking precision and footwork, earning a unanimous decision win against Kyung Ho Kang. The technical mastery displayed by both fighters was a testament to the high level of competition in the UFC.

The fight night witnessed two other knockouts: Shara Magomedov defeated Antonio Trocoli at 2:27 of round three, and Volkan Oezdemir knocked out Johnny Walker at 2:28 of the first round.

The success of UFC Fight Night in Riyadh confirms the growing interest in MMA in the region and sets the stage for future events. UFC President Dana White expressed his excitement about the evening's success and discussed more events to come in the Middle East. "The energy and passion of the fans here in Riyadh have been incredible. We’re thrilled with tonight's success and look forward to bringing more world-class UFC events to this part of the world," White said.

“We sold over 12,000 seats. It’s been good, it was fun coming to this market. I love how passionate Turki AlAsheikh is about the sport,” White said. “In this region now, you see a lot of talents coming from here (Saudi Arabia and the Middle East).”

UFC Fight Night at Kingdom Arena was not just about the fights; it was a celebration of MMA's global reach and cultural significance. The event drew a diverse crowd, including local fans, international visitors, and celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds. The atmosphere inside Kingdom Arena was electric, with enthusiastic fans cheering for their favorite fighters and savoring each moment of the action-packed night.

The success of UFC Fight Night in Riyadh highlights the growing interest in MMA in the region and sets the stage for future events.

With thrilling fights, standout performances, and an unforgettable atmosphere, the night will be remembered as a significant milestone in UFC history and a testament to the sport's popularity.

 


De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track

De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track
Updated 23 June 2024
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De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track

De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track
  • All four teams in Group E have three points, meaning there is all to play for in the final round of games on Wednesday

COLOGNE, Germany: Kevin De Bruyne scored and Belgium got its European Championship campaign up and running after beating Romania 2-0 on Saturday.
The No. 3-ranked Belgians shook off the shock of losing to Slovakia in their opening game by responding with a dominant performance in front of the Belgium royal family at Cologne Stadium.
Youri Tielemans gave them a flying start with a goal from the edge of the area in the second minute.
De Bruyne effectively killed the game off in the 80th after converting direct from Belgium goalkeeper Koen Casteels’ long kick.
All four teams in Group E have three points, meaning there is all to play for in the final round of games on Wednesday.
While Belgium won, there was more frustration for Romelu Lukaku, who had a third goal ruled out by VAR at these Euros.
Still, he was at the center of his team’s great start when laying the ball off for Tielemans to score with a low drive from the edge of the box.
It was just what Belgium needed after the Slovakia stunner, which raised the prospect of another early exit from a major tournament after being eliminated at the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.
The format of the Euros, in which the four best third-place teams advance, leaves more room for error. But with memories of Qatar still fresh, another defeat would have broken the confidence of a team criticized for failing to live up to expectations in the past.
Tielemans’ goal seemed to lift the pressure, and Belgium ruled the rest of the half with 67 percent of possession.
Lukaku thought he scored after the break, but VAR said he strayed offside before firing past Romania keeper Florin Nita.
The longer the game went on without Belgium scoring a second, the more the tension rose.
Dennis Man could have evened the score when running through on goal, but was denied by Casteels.
The keeper then turned provider with a long punt upfield, which De Bruyne raced on to and fired home.
Under former Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, Portugal advanced to the knockout phase after a 3-0 win against Turkiye in Group F. Georgia picked up its first ever point at a major tournament after a drawing the Czech Republic 1-1 and still has hopes of advancing.


UEFA fines Croatia for fan trouble at Euro 2024

UEFA fines Croatia for fan trouble at Euro 2024
Updated 22 June 2024
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UEFA fines Croatia for fan trouble at Euro 2024

UEFA fines Croatia for fan trouble at Euro 2024
  • The HNS published a statement on its website saying that it will have to pay a fine of $29,900
  • The Croatian federation was fined 87,875 euros

ZAGREB: UEFA have fined the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) for the incidents that occurred in the stands during Croatia’s 2-2 draw with Albania at Euro 2024, the national federation said on Saturday.
The HNS published a statement on its website saying that it will have to pay a fine of 28,000 euros ($29,900) due to the “lighting of flares and throwing of objects by some Croatian fans during the match played on June 19 in Hamburg.”
“The Croatian Football Federation thanks the Croatian fans for their excellent support and once again calls on them to refrain from lighting and throwing flares,” the statement said.
The HNS was also fined after Croatia’s first match in Group B, which they lost 3-0 to Spain.
The Croatian federation was fined 87,875 euros for fans throwing plastic cups onto the pitch and lighting flares.
Croatia are in danger of a group-stage exit from Euro 2024 after defeat to Spain and Wednesday’s thrilling 2-2 draw in which Albania’s Klaus Gjasula scored at both ends, including a dramatic injury-time equalizer.
Croatia, World Cup semifinalists in 2022, will now likely need to win their final Group B match against holders Italy on Monday to have any hope of reaching the knockout phase of a fifth straight major tournament.