Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal

Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal
WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has revealed she contemplated suicide during her nine-month ordeal in a Russian jail that left her feeling “less than a human.” (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal

Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal
  • Griner made the revelation in excerpts of an upcoming interview with ABC Television released on Tuesday
  • “Yeah, I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” an emotional Griner said

LOS ANGELES: WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has revealed she contemplated suicide during her nine-month ordeal in a Russian jail that left her feeling “less than a human.”
Griner, who was detained in a Moscow airport in February 2022 on drug charges before being sentenced to nine years in prison, made the revelation in excerpts of an upcoming interview with ABC Television released on Tuesday.
“Yeah, I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” an emotional Griner said when asked by her interviewer on ABC’s 20/20 news show if she had considered “ending it all.”
In other segments of the interview, Griner, who was freed in late 2022 as part of a prisoner swap, gave an insight into the grim conditions of her incarceration at a Russian penal colony.
“The mattress had a huge blood stain on it. I had no soap, no toilet paper. That was the moment where I just felt less than a human,” Griner said.
Griner said at one stage during her imprisonment she was ushered into a room to find “a huge knife sitting on the table.”
“And I was like ‘Now, this is going to be a ride,’” she said. “You’ve got to do what you got to do to survive.”
Griner was arrested and charged by Russian officials for possessing vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage as she passed through airport security.
She later testified she had “no intention” of breaking the law and had packed the cartridges by accident.
Asked by ABC what she felt when she realized that she had left the cartridges in her luggage, she replied: “My life is over right here.”
Later in the interview, Griner recalls the moment she was handed her nine-year prison term.
“I was just so scared for everything because there’s so much unknown,” she said.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion, Griner was eventually released in December 2022 as part of a deal that saw her swapped for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout — known as the “Merchant of Death.”
At the time, Griner was one of several US-based players playing in Russia during the WNBA off-season in order to boost her income.
She has vowed never to play basketball abroad again for clubs following her jail sentence.
Griner’s full interview, which comes ahead of the release next month of a memoir by the basketball player detailing her ordeal, will be aired on May 1.


Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving each score 33 points as Mavs beat Wolves for 3-0 lead in West finals

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving each score 33 points as Mavs beat Wolves for 3-0 lead in West finals
Updated 27 May 2024
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Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving each score 33 points as Mavs beat Wolves for 3-0 lead in West finals

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving each score 33 points as Mavs beat Wolves for 3-0 lead in West finals
  • Luca Doncic and Kyrie Irving score 33 points apiece and Dallas put together a decisive run in the final five minutes

DALLAS: Luka Doncic lunged for the ball after a steal by Anthony Edwards, knocking it far enough away to create a scramble and a jump ball the Dallas superstar won.
The Mavericks made all the big plays again — on both ends of the court — and are a win away from their first trip to the NBA Finals in 13 years.
Doncic and Kyrie Irving scored 33 points apiece and Dallas put together a decisive run in the final five minutes to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-107 on Sunday night for a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The 14-3 finish gave the Mavs a fifth consecutive playoff victory after Dereck Lively II left with a sprained neck when the rookie center took an accidental shot to the back of the head from Karl-Anthony Towns’ knee.
No team in NBA playoff history has rallied from 3-0 down.
“Don’t even say it,” said Doncic, who will try to clinch his first trip to the NBA Finals in Game 4 on Tuesday night in Dallas. “But it feels great. But we’ve got to think about next game. Gotta play with the same mentality. They’re not going to go away. No way.”
P.J. Washington Jr., who scored 16 points, put Dallas ahead for good on a tiebreaking corner 3-pointer with 3:38 remaining after Doncic passed to Irving, who sent the ball to Washington.
The co-stars took over from there.
Doncic hit a shot in the lane for a four-point lead, Irving sent the crowd into a frenzy on a falling-down jumper and Doncic found Daniel Gafford for an alley-oop dunk and a 113-105 lead with 34 seconds left. Gafford had just blocked Mike Conley’s layup attempt at the other end.
“They’re trying to double me the whole game, trying to double Kai, so that just makes us better,” Doncic said. “Everybody touches the ball, everybody plays. We come down to the stretch, and we execute.”
Edwards had 26 points for the Wolves, but just four after scoring eight consecutive points for Minnesota to get the Wolves even in the third quarter.
“I never think the sky is falling,” Edwards said. “I’m always positive, always happy. Been through the works, so the sky’s never falling for me.”
Towns scored 14 points but missed all eight 3s, including a rushed 27-footer early in the shot clock when the deficit was four with 1:25 remaining.
After taking a 104-102 lead on Kyle Anderson’s floater with five minutes to go, Minnesota — which couldn’t hold leads of 18 points in the first half and five points in the final 90 seconds of Game 2 — missed seven consecutive shots.
“You’ve got to try to score alongside of them,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “The whole series, we’ve struggled to close games. These three-minutes games that we’re playing, we’re losing.”
Doncic, whose game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of Game 2 in Minnesota put Dallas firmly in control of the series, was 10 of 20 and 5 of 11 from deep.
Irving, who won the 2016 title alongside LeBron James with Cleveland, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished 12 of 20 and 3 of 6 from long range.
The Mavs, with 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki watching from center court, are the closest they’ve been to the NBA’s biggest stage since the big German led them to their only championship.
Edwards was 11 of 24, but took just three shots in the fourth quarter, making two. The 22-year-old star who has acknowledged fatigue in the series had nine rebounds and nine assists.
“We can’t be anything but positive at this point,” Edwards said. “We can’t be negative. Try to get one win at a time.”
In the second quarter, Lively absorbed the kind of contact normally found on football fields not far from Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, the quarterback-tight end pair sitting courtside.
The rookie from Duke stayed on the court holding his head after it snapped forward on the accidental contact. Lively was down for several minutes before appearing dazed as he was helped off the court and taken to the locker room.
Lively fell as Mike Conley, who scored 16 points, was driving for a missed shot, and Towns was pursuing an offensive rebound when his knee hit Lively’s head in the second quarter.
The 20-year-old Lively and Gafford, the starter, played a big role in helping Dallas take a 2-0 lead. Lively is 12 of 12 from the field in the series, including three makes in Game 3.


Cricket’s T20 giants and minnows ready to battle in USA and Caribbean

Cricket’s T20 giants and minnows ready to battle in USA and Caribbean
Updated 27 May 2024
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Cricket’s T20 giants and minnows ready to battle in USA and Caribbean

Cricket’s T20 giants and minnows ready to battle in USA and Caribbean
  • This will be biggest ever T20 World Cup after ICC decided to extend number of teams from 16 to 20 
  • ICC also sees World Cup as launchpad for cricket’s return to the Olympics for Los Angeles 2028

FORT LAUDERDALE, United States: Cricket’s ability to grow its global presence beyond its heartlands, while still maintaining the quality at the highest level, will be tested over the coming month in the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the United States.

The ninth edition of the tournament, in the fastest and most explosive form of the game, will be the biggest ever after the decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to expand the field from 16 nations to 20.

It will also be the first ever major ICC event to be held, in part, in the United States, a country where attempts to grow the sport have consistently failed.

Three American venues — in Florida, Texas and New York — will host 16 of the group stage games including the marquee match between India and Pakistan which will be played in Long Island, New York.

The rest of the tournament will be held in the West Indies, including the Super Eight stage, the semifinals and the final, which will be played at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.

While cricket is widely played at a recreational level in the United States, with strong presences in all three of the states that have been chosen for games, organizers are realistic about the chances of “converting” mainstream American sports fans.

Instead, they expect that the large immigrant communities from cricket-loving backgrounds, including thousands of India fans in particular, will pack the stadiums.

“I think, number one, we want to celebrate those that are already fanatical lovers of cricket. They deserve to see the best players in the world come into their backyard and have that chance,” T20 World Cup USA, Inc. chief executive Brett Jones told AFP.

“Number two, I think it’s about spiking curiosity in the game,” he said.

The ICC also sees the tournament as a launch pad toward the sport’s return to the Olympics for Los Angeles 2028, when the T20 format will be used.

Major League Cricket, a T20 tournament, was launched last year and also stands to benefit from any growth in interest in the big-hitting, spectacular shortest form.

But it is not only the American market that the ICC is focused upon — the expansion of the tournament has opened up opportunities for newer cricket nations to compete on the big stage.

In recent years, the sport has been able to expand outside of its traditional strongholds with Ireland and Afghanistan earning places in the 12-strong elite with full Test status.

But the ICC see the shortest format as the perfect vehicle for growing the game and this year’s edition will feature three T20 World Cup debutants in the USA, Canada and Uganda.

Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Oman are among the other nations who are relatively new to the big stage and who will be looking to make their mark and grab some attention with an upset win.

With the teams drawn in four groups of five teams, with just the top two advancing, none of the smaller nations are expected to progress beyond the group stage and there is a danger the pool stage could mainly be a ‘weeding out’ process.

India, winners of the first edition in 2007, are the favorites, with their line-up packed with players steeled from the annual Indian Premier League.

Veterans Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli could be playing in their final big tournament and are desperate to make up for defeat in the ODI World Cup final last year.

Despite being the epicenter of the modern game, India have not won a major title since the 2013 Champions Trophy.

Australia, winners of the ODI World Cup last year along with the World Test Championship, opted to leave out their veteran batsman Steve Smith but big-hitting David Warner with the bat and pacemen Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins provide plenty of experience.

“There’s five, six or seven teams that can win it and we know that in tournament play it’s all about getting things right at the right time and winning in big moments,” said Australia captain Mitchell Marsh.

Among those contenders, England are the defending champions, but will be without the star of their 2022 triumph Ben Stokes, with the all-rounder managing his fitness after a knee operation and they will look to skipper Jos Buttler to provide the fireworks with the bat.

Co-hosts West Indies won the tournament in 2012 and 2016 and while the Caribbean team have struggled in the longer formats, they remain a threat in 20-over cricket and are hoping that they can benefit from familiarity with the surfaces in the region.

South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan will all fancy their chances of making an impact in a tournament which always produces surprises.


Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title

Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title
Updated 26 May 2024
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Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title

Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title
  • Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final
  • Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction

CHENNAI: Mitchell Starc bowled a sensational opening spell to fire Kolkata Knight Riders to their third Indian Premier League title with a eight-wicket thrashing of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Sunday final.
Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia’s left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14 to live up to his top billing in the world’s most lucrative T20 tournament.
Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction and ended the IPL with two stellar performances, including a match-winning 3-34 in the first play-off to hammer the same opponent.
Kolkata’s batsmen had it easy and despite Sunil Narine’s early departure, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who made 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, on 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91.
Iyer, a left-handed batsman, reached his 50 in 24 balls and hit the winning runs to trigger celebrations for Kolkata, who remained the most dominant team after they ended top of the table with 20 points in the league phase.
Skipper Shreyas Iyer was unbeaten on six, and at the other end, when Kolkata players came rushing on to the pitch and the stadium fireworks went off.
“Great night for KKR. What a game, what a season,” player-of-the-match Starc said.
“Probably the two most exciting teams in the final. We have had a fantastic squad of bowlers and batters, our staff have been fantastic to get everyone peaking.”
On the pressure of his high price tag, 34-year-old Starc said: “There’s been jokes about the money. I am experienced, that’s helped with all the expectations.”
Players and national teams now move into the T20 World Cup starting June 1 in the West Indies and the United States.
Afghanistan’s Gurbaz, who left the tournament midway through to be with his ailing mother back home and returned for the play-offs, said: “My mom is watching from home.
“She is feeling good now. I asked mom before the match if she wanted anything. She said just the win,” added the wicket-keeper-batsman.
Kolkata’s co-owner and Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan was in attendance and congratulated his champion players after he suffered from a heat-related illness in the first qualifier in Ahmedabad.
It was Kolkata’s second title triumph at the venue, after they won their first trophy in 2012, and a near-capacity crowd at the 36,000-seater stadium cheered on.
Narine, a left-hand batsman and a right-arm spinner, ended as the player of the series with 488 runs as an opener and 17 wickets.
Apart from the big signing of Starc, they got Gautam Gambhir as mentor after the former India batsman led the team to their first two titles, including in 2014.
Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat first and go with his team’s strength of scoring big, after they racked up IPL record totals of 277 and 287 in this year’s edition.
Hyderabad took Cummins for $2.5 million in the same auction and made him captain after he led Australia to two titles, including the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup last year.
“So many (positives), the style with which the guys played especially with the bat. Lot of skills to get to 250 three times,” said Cummins.
“I loved how brave the guys were. It was a lot of fun, great season.”
But it was Starc who took the limelight as he struck in his first over when he bowled in-form Indian batsman Abhishek Sharma, for two, on a delivery that pitched in the middle and caught the top of off stump.
Travis Head followed his fellow left-hand opener Abhishek to the dug-out, caught behind for his second duck in three matches off fast bowler Vaibhav Arora.
Starc struck again and the opposition top-order was in disarray at 47-4 inside seven overs.
Andre Russell took down Aiden Markram for 20 and wickets kept tumbling as fellow South African Heinrich Klaasen fell for 16.
Cummins, who was dropped on 10 by Starc, took the team past 100 before falling for 24 off Russell, who ended with figures of 3-19.


Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title

Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title
Updated 26 May 2024
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Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title

Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title
  • Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia’s left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14
  • Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91

CHENNAI: Mitchell Starc bowled a sensational opening spell to fire Kolkata Knight Riders to their third Indian Premier League title with a eight-wicket thrashing of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Sunday final.
Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia’s left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14 to live up to his top billing in the world’s most lucrative T20 tournament.
Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction and ended the IPL with two stellar performances, including a match-winning 3-34 in the first play-off to hammer the same opponent.
Kolkata’s batsmen had it easy and despite Sunil Narine’s early departure, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who made 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, on 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91.
Iyer, a left-handed batsman, reached his 50 in 24 balls and hit the winning runs to trigger celebrations for Kolkata, who remained the most dominant team after they ended top of the table with 20 points in the league phase.
Skipper Shreyas Iyer was unbeaten on six, and at the other end, when Kolkata players came rushing on to the pitch and the stadium fireworks went off.
“My mom is watching from home,” said Afghanistan’s Gurbaz, who left the tournament midway through to be with his ailing mother back home and returned for the play-offs.
“She is feeling good now. I asked mom before the match if she wanted anything. She said just the win,” added the wicket-keeper-batsman.
“This win is for the fans who turned up year after year and waited for ten years,” Venkatesh said on his team’s first title win since 2014.
Kolkata’s co-owner and Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan was in attendance and congratulated his champion players after he suffered from a heat-related illness in the first qualifier in Ahmedabad.
It was Kolkata’s second title triumph at the venue, after they won their first trophy in 2012, and a near-capacity crowd at the 36,000-seater stadium cheered on.
Apart from the big signing of Starc, they got Gautam Gambhir as mentor after the former India batsman led the team to two titles.
Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat first and go with his team’s strength of scoring big, after they racked up IPL record totals of 277 and 287 in this year’s edition.
Hyderabad took Cummins for $2.5 million in the same auction and made him captain after he led Australia to two titles, including the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup last year.
But Starc took the limelight as he struck in his first over when he bowled in-form Indian batsman Abhishek Sharma, for two, on a delivery that pitched in the middle and caught the top of off stump.
Travis Head followed his fellow left-hand opener Abhishek to the dug-out, caught behind for his second duck in three matches off fast bowler Vaibhav Arora.
Starc struck again and the opposition top-order was in disarray at 47-4 inside seven overs.
Andre Russell took down Aiden Markram for 20 and wickets kept tumbling as fellow South African Heinrich Klaasen fell for 16.
Cummins, who was dropped on 10 by Starc, took the team past 100 before falling for 24 off Russell, who ended with figures of 3-19.


WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah

WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah
Updated 26 May 2024
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WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah

WWE stars praise ‘passionate and excited’ fans after epic showdown shakes Jeddah
  • WWE makes history with double-header in Red Sea city
  • Superdome filled as 20,000 people cheered for their favorite WWE stars

JEDDAH: WWE made a historic return to Saudi Arabia with the double-header of “SmackDown” and “King and Queen of the Ring” this weekend at Jeddah’s Superdome.

Superstars such as Sami Zayn, Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Logan Paul performed in front of thousands of fans at the Jeddah venue.

The historic double-header showcased WWE’s commitment to its partnership with the General Entertainment Authority, with this being the tenth event of the partnership.

In total, 20,000 passionate fans flooded the arena, marking a historic moment in WWE’s legacy in the Kingdom.

Gunther, a WWE Superstar, who defeated Randy Orton and became the King Of The Ring on Saturday evening told Arab News that Saudi fans always display an immense level of passion and enthusiasm whenever WWE visits the Kingdom.

Syrian Canadian WWE SuperStar Sami Zayn, who is much loved in Saudi Arabia because of his Arab background, told Arab News: “It’s always good to be back in Jeddah. Especially after last year (“The Night of Champions”), which was amazing, it was my first time back here in a few years. I'm just always excited to perform in front of these fans because they’re very, very excited fans, and they have been particularly nice to me.”

He continued: “I plan on successfully defending the Intercontinental Championship in front of my people.”

Sami won the title match and defended his title against both Chad Gable and Bronson Reed in a Triple Threat Match.

It was a festive feel for fans, as they enjoyed the complete WWE fan experience.

Aziz, who is a Saudi pro wrestler and owner of Future Federation Wrestling, said: “We are pumped, we are hyped to be here tonight, my favorite wrestler is the ‘American Nightmare,’ undisputed champion, Cody Rhodes — I want to thank GEA for making tonight special.”

Khalid, a teenage fan from the Kingdom who attended with his family, said: “I am very excited to see my favorite wrestlers, I want to thank the GEA for organizing this event.”

As the final bell rang and the last fireworks faded in the world’s largest geodesic dome, fans left with lifetime memories of witnessing a historic double-header. For one magical evening, WWE had transported them to a world of excitement, drama, and pure adrenaline.

WWE is renowned globally for its larger-than-life production values, and Jeddah’s historic double-header of “Smackdown” and “King and Queen of the Ring” was no exception.

WWE is taking its sports entertainment offering worldwide and plans to visit more destinations in the Middle East and Europe. Recently the company announced an inaugural tour to Berlin with their upcoming “WWE Bash” event in August this year.