Dakota Ditcheva victorious as 2024 PFL Global Season resumes in the US

Dakota Ditcheva victorious as 2024 PFL Global Season resumes in the US
Dakota Ditcheva celebrates victory in the 2024 PFL Global Season on Thursday. (PFL)
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Updated 14 June 2024
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Dakota Ditcheva victorious as 2024 PFL Global Season resumes in the US

Dakota Ditcheva victorious as 2024 PFL Global Season resumes in the US

CONNECTICUT: The Professional Fighters League resumed on Thursday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, with an 11-fight card in the men’s heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions, that featured eight athletes earning 2024 PFL Playoff berths.

In the evening’s co-main event, Dakota Ditcheva defeated Chelsea Hackett by first-round knockout in a women’s flyweight bout.

Ditcheva remained undefeated at 12-0 with 10 knockouts, and clinched the top playoff spot in the division.

Valentin Moldavsky entered the PFL SmartCage in a highly anticipated trilogy matchup against Linton Vassell. After three punishing rounds, Vassell earned a split decision victory and is now 2-1 against his foe. Although he did not win, Moldavsky also heads to the 2024 PFL Global Season Playoffs.

Also in the heavyweight division, Denis Golstov defeated Thiago Santos by first-round technical knockout, to punch his ticket to his fifth PFL playoff.

In women’s flyweight action, former Bellator champion Liz Carmouche and Kana Watanabe squared off in an exciting rematch. The contest was even going into the third round and looked to be headed to the judges’ scorecards before Carmouche locked in an armbar submission with eight seconds remaining.

Said PFL CEO Peter Murray: “The 2024 PFL Global Season resumed this evening with the highest of stakes as the heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions looked to secure 2024 PFL Global Playoff berths and continue their million-dollar journeys.

“The PFL is the only organization in which the athletes and fans know what is needed to advance, which provides for the best action and unparalleled synergy with the audience.”

Ray Sefo, president of fighter operations at the PFL, said: “Tonight in Connecticut we saw our world-class PFL athletes fight their way to the PFL Playoffs. We look forward to next week’s action in Salt Lake City. It is officially time to win or go home.”

Taila Santos and Jena Bishop met in women’s flyweight action, with both having a viable shot at a berth in the 2024 PFL Playoffs. Both women left it all in the PFL SmartCage for three rounds, with Santos winning by split decision.

Oleg Popov defeated Davion Franklin by unanimous decision in a heavyweight clash, and extended his winning streak to 16, the longest in mixed martial arts.

Marcelo Golm and Tyrell Fortune duked it out in heavyweight action, with the bout going the distance. Fortune took the unanimous decision win and secured three points in the season standings.

Flyweights Ilara Joanne and Shanna Young traded blows for three rounds, but it was Joanne who won via unanimous decision.

In heavyweight action, Tim Johnson made quick work of Danilo Marques with a first-round technical knockout. Johnson is now 18-9 with 10 knockouts. Johnson, who took the fight on short notice, earned six points.

In an exciting flyweight bout, Juliana Velasquez used her striking prowess to beat Lisa Mauldin by technical knockout in the second round. Velasquez is now 13-3 with five knockouts.

Kicking off the night, Sumiko Inaba defeated Saray Orozco by split decision in a women’s flyweight bout. Inaba moved her career record to 7-1 in her PFL debut.

The 2024 PFL Global Season continues Friday, June 21, from Salt Lake City, Utah, with light-heavyweight and lightweight action across ESPN platforms in the US and via DAZN in Canada and Europe.


Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years

Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years
Updated 21 July 2024
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Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years

Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years
  • Borges dominates Spanish star as the latter struggled to find fluency

BASTAD, Sweden: Rafael Nadal lost his first final in two years on Sunday as the Spaniard went down 6-3, 6-2 to Portugal’s Nuno Borges at the clay-court Bastad Open.

The Spanish tennis great had shown signs of a return to form in Scandinavia as he made an impressive run to the final, just one week before tennis at the Olympic Games gets underway on the clay in Paris.

But Nadal, rather than celebrating his 64th title on the surface and first since Roland Garros 2022, was dominated by Borges as he struggled to find fluency with his serve and ground strokes.

“I don’t know what to say. I think I was wishing for this moment for a while already,” said Borges in his post-match interview.

“It’s crazy; in tennis, it doesn’t happen when you expect it sometimes. I know we all wanted Rafa to win; a part of me wished that too, but something even bigger inside of me really pushed through today ... I’m just really happy overall. I really don’t know what to say, I’m very emotional.”

Elsewhere, Matteo Berrettini breezed to a 6-3, 6-1 win against France’s Quentin Halys in the Gstaad final, earning the Italian his second clay-court title of the year. 

The sixth seed Berrettini capped off a fine week in Switzerland by needing just 59 minutes to dispatch the world No. 192 Halys.

“It feels unbelievable. It feels like it was yesterday that I won my first title here six years ago, but a lot of matches and a lot of things happened,” said Berrettini.

“I’m just so glad that I can keep playing and enjoying, and I think I found the energy of six years ago during this week. This place is special for me. I’m just so happy,” added the 28-year-old who has struggled with injuries since reaching a career-high world number six in May 2022.

Berrettini’s second title on clay this season, after winning in Marrakech in April, will ensure he breaks back into the ATP top 50 on Monday.

Currently ranked 82, Berrettini was outside of the top 150 in March but a return to fitness and a fine 16-6 record for the current season has seen the 2021 Wimbledon finalist begin to refind his best level.

Sunday’s final was briefly interrupted for rain just after Berrettini secured a crucial first break in the opening set.

When the players returned 30 minutes later, the Italian won six of the next seven games to claim his second Gstaad title.


Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix

Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix
Updated 21 July 2024
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Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix

Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix
  • Finished ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris
  • Piastri, 23, won by 2.141 seconds with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes

BUDAPEST: Oscar Piastri claimed his maiden Formula One victory on Sunday when he finished ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, after a vexed radio argument produced an extraordinary finish to an incident-filled Hungarian Grand Prix.
In a race of fluctuating fortunes and many quarrels on and off the track, the McLaren duo secured a comprehensive one-two after starting from the team’s first front row lockout since 2012, Norris finally obeying team orders to hand his team-mate his first career win.
Piastri, 23, won by 2.141 seconds with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes to claim his record 200th podium finish.
He survived a late collision with Red Bull’s three-time champion and series leader Max Verstappen, who flew off, but recovered to finish fifth.
Charles Leclerc came home fourth and Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz sixth, sandwiching a grumpy Verstappen who was called to see the stewards to explain his collision with Hamilton.
Sergio Perez finished seventh for Red Bull, having started 16th on the grid, ahead of George Russell in the second Mercedes, who started 17th, and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda. Lance Stroll was 10th for Aston Martin.
“It’s very special,” said Australian driver Piastri.
“I dreamt of this as a kid and if it was a bit complicated at the end, I did put myself in the right position at the start of the race.
“It’s a hell of a lot of fun racing with McLaren. This is an incredible feeling.”
Norris was first to congratulate his team-mate, after he had appeared to reject team orders and allow the Australian to pass in the closing stages.
“Well done, a good 1-2 and lots of good points for the team. Well deserved,” he said.
Norris had made an uncertain start and he, Piastri and Verstappen were three abreast into Turn One where Piastri exited in the lead as the Dutchman ran wide and cut back into second place, gaining a clear advantage and pushing Norris down to third.
This prompted an exchange of messages before race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase told Verstappen to allow Norris to pass, a command that clearly irked him.
“So, you can just run people off the track?” barked the Dutchman.

By lap 10, Piastri led Norris by 2.7 seconds with Verstappen third adrift by two seconds ahead of Hamilton and the two Ferraris, led by Leclerc.
Hamilton eventually reeled off a series of fastest laps to rise to third, but Verstappen on younger tires reeled him in, waiting to pounce as the Briton endured a lurid slide out of Turn 12 before pitting again on lap 41 after fending off the Dutchman.
At the front, Piastri was in cruise mode ahead of Norris with Verstappen third, 11.5 seconds adrift. Hamilton rejoined fifth behind Sainz, but with Leclerc, on new mediums, on his tail.
Norris pitted again for mediums on lap 46, rejoining fourth ahead of Hamilton, followed by Piastri on 47, handing the lead to Verstappen with Norris up to second, but told to “re-establish the order at your convenience.”
Verstappen made his second stop, for mediums, on lap 50, rejoining fifth behind Leclerc, but adrift of the Ferrari by 4.5.
In the lead, Norris was reminded of his team instructions and responsibilities as Piastri closed in.
“We know you’ll do the right thing,” said McLaren, but Norris, knowing he could reduce Verstappen’s championship lead, stayed silent when told not to stress his tires.
“Tell him to catch up, please,” he said.
As McLaren’s tensions boiled over, Verstappen lunged down the inside of Hamilton at Turn One on lap 63, but locked up and clipped the Mercedes. The collision sent him airborne briefly before he bounced clear and wide before rejoining in fifth.
McLaren then issued an ultimatum to Norris.
“There are five laps to go. The way to win a championship is not by yourself. It is with the team. You are going to need Oscar and you are going to need the team.”
With three laps remaining, Norris slowed dramatically to gift Piastri the lead.


Cecile and Laurent Landi helped Simone Biles reach new heights. The Olympics serve as a homecoming

Cecile and Laurent Landi helped Simone Biles reach new heights. The Olympics serve as a homecoming
Updated 21 July 2024
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Cecile and Laurent Landi helped Simone Biles reach new heights. The Olympics serve as a homecoming

Cecile and Laurent Landi helped Simone Biles reach new heights. The Olympics serve as a homecoming
  • The Landis say the key to their coaching success is making it a point to adjust to each athlete rather than the more rigid style they grew up with in France
  • The Landis are moving on after the Olympics. Cecile Landi was named co-head coach at the University of Georgia in April

SPRING: Cecile Canqueteau-Landi fit “in the box,” as she put it. She was skinny. She was blonde. She was pretty good at gymnastics.
And so at 9 years old, she was whisked away to become part of the French national team program, a path that ultimately led her to the 1996 Olympics.
There was reward in that journey. Yet looking back nearly three decades later, Landi wonders how many promising young athletes had their careers and their lives altered — and not for the better — because they didn’t fit someone’s preconceived notion of what a gymnast needed to look like by the time they reached their 10th birthday.
When Landi transitioned into coaching in the early 2000s, she vowed not to make the same mistake.
So maybe it’s not a coincidence that when Landi and her husband Laurent — himself a former French national team member — walk onto the floor at Bercy Arena for women’s Olympics qualifying next Sunday, they will do it while leading the oldest US women’s gymnastics team — headlined by 27-year-old Simone Biles — the Americans have ever sent to a modern Games.
A healthy partnership
In another country in another era, maybe Biles becomes something other than an icon. Maybe she becomes a casualty.
“An athlete like Simone would never have reached her full potential in France,” said Cecile. “Because she would have been put aside because she didn’t fit that box.”
For the Landis — who began coaching Biles in 2017 — there is no “box.” There can’t be.
“It’s not the athlete that needs to adjust to the coaches,” Laurent Landi said. “The coaches need to adjust the athletes and the athlete’s abilities.”
Biles was already 20 and the reigning Olympic champion when the Landis agreed to helm the elite program at World Champions Center, the massive gym run by the Biles family in the Houston suburbs.
They knew Biles fairly well at the time having already coached gymnasts who competed alongside Biles at several world championships and the 2016 Olympics. During the interview process, all three agreed there was no point — and no fun — in having Biles merely try to hold on to her otherworldly talent. To keep her engaged, they needed to make sure she kept moving forward.
The result has been perhaps the best gymnastics of Biles’ remarkable career, a stretch that includes three world all-around titles and another handful of entries in the sport’s Code of Points with her next name next to them, from the triple-double on floor exercise to the Yurchenko double pike vault that drew a standing ovation at the Olympic trials last month.
Biles views her relationship with the Landis as more of a partnership.
“They’ve been big mentors in like my adulthood (because) they got to see and harness the more mature Simone,” Biles said. “They’ve helped me a lot not just in the gym but out of the gym too.”
When Biles moved into her first house, Cecile who came over and showed her how to operate the dishwasher. When a gymnast who had just gotten their driver’s license had a problem with one of her tires, Cecile went to a nearby gas station and gave a tutorial on how to use the air pump.
“If we can help and they want the help, then why not?” she said with a laugh.
Changing with the times
The trick is finding a way to provide that help safely and productively, particularly amid a culture shift in the sport aimed at empowering athletes to take ownership of their gymnastics. It is a delicate needle to thread. What serves as motivation for one athlete could be construed negatively by another.
It’s a reality the Landis are well aware of as they try to find the proper balance between being too rigid and too lax. They grew up in a time when the coach/athlete relationship was one-sided. There was no back and forth. There was no discussion. The coach set the standards and expectations. The athlete met them or they didn’t last long.
The shift toward a more cooperative approach was overdue, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy. Laurent Landi admits he’s not the most patient coach, though those around him say he has mellowed a bit over the years. He also understands if he wants to keep doing this for a living, he didn’t have much of a choice.
“Yeah, there will be frustration,” he said. “But you can always go around some stuff and just take your pride (as a coach) away and make sure that the athletes still get the skill done.”
It’s an approach that helped World Champion Center’s elite program send five athletes to the Olympic trials, with Biles and Jordan Chiles making the five-woman US team while Joscelyn Roberson and Tiana Sumanasekera were selected as alternates.
It’s the kind of success Roberson envisioned when she moved to the Houston suburbs a few years ago to train under the Landis. She was intimidated at first before realizing her new coaches “have a million different ways to coach one skill,” a marked departure from what she was used to.
The goal is to meet the athletes where they are at on a given day, understanding no two gymnasts are the same and what works for one might not necessarily work for another. Perhaps even more importantly, they have learned to evolve as the nature of coaching evolves.
“We’re not always right,” Laurent said. “If you do your own way all the time, you will hurt the majority of the athletes. Maybe one will survive and will be an amazing person, amazing athlete but the (other) 90 percent, they will be broken. ... We had to adjust to Simone, otherwise we would have broke her.”
It’s not just Biles’ age they had to accommodate, but her schedule. She is no longer a precocious teenager who buries herself in the gym. She’s a newlywed whose schedule is packed with everything from corporate commitments to building a house and a family with her husband, Chicago Bears safety Jonathan Owens.
“When (we) tell him he just hears ‘you’re missing practice’ and kind of freaks out,” Biles said. “Because he sees all the end goals and then he gets the calendar and then he’s like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s fine. We’ll do this today, we’ll do that.’ So it just takes time for him to process.”
Biles certainly appears well-prepared. She arrives in Paris at the height of her powers more than a decade after ascending to the top of her sport. She’ll be accompanied by a pair of coaches who view the trip as more of a business trip than a homecoming.
A new challenge awaits
While the Landis have been approached to take over the women’s national team program in France in recent years, returning never made much sense to them even with the women’s program is in the midst of a resurgence.
“I think our family will be very proud, probably more than we are,” Cecile Landi said. “Because in a weird way, it’s just work for us.”
And perhaps, goodbye too.
Cecile, long a supporter of NCAA gymnastics, earlier this year agreed to become the co-head coach at the University of Georgia. Laurent will remain at World Champions Center in the short term until the Landis’ daughter Juliette — who will dive for France during the Games — graduates from high school next spring.
After that, who knows? The young gymnast who was put in a box has become a coach who no longer puts limitations on anyone, herself maybe most of all.
“I think I’ve done everything I could do in elite, and beyond what I could ever have imagined as a little French girl in a little town,” Cecile said. “I’ve coached the greatest of all time. I’ve coached many kids. I’ve had many great athletes in NCAA and elite that I feel like I want to try what’s next, a new challenge.”


SAFF launches first edition of Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif

SAFF launches first edition of Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif
Updated 21 July 2024
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SAFF launches first edition of Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif

SAFF launches first edition of Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif
  • Top talents from academies across 14 cities, provinces, and regions are featuring in the tournament
  • The competition will provide valuable experience for young up-and-coming referees who have been selected from SAFF Referees’ Academy

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has launched the first edition of the Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif, running from July 18–30.

Currently in its third day, the 12-day tournament features 14 regional teams, showcasing top talents from academies across 14 cities, provinces, and regions.

The 14 regional teams competing in the championship are from Al-Ahsa, Jazan, Najran, Jouf, Hail, Al-Qassim, the Eastern Province, Riyadh, Jeddah, Asir, Madinah, Makkah, Hafar Al-Batin, and Tabuk.

SAFF’s Technical Director Nasser Larguet said: “The championship represents the result of the significant work supported by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and the outcome is the creation of the Regional Under-13 League. Clear goals and strategic plans have been set to discover and support young talents.”

Additionally, the tournament will provide valuable experience for young up-and-coming referees, who have been selected from the SAFF Referees’ Academy, further contributing to the development of skilled officials in the sport.

Manuel Navarro, president of the SAFF Referees Committee, said: “The Regional Under-13 Championship is an opportunity to develop promising referees, especially since it will witness the participation of 32 young referees. The committee aims to increase their refereeing hours and enhance their experience.”

This tournament is a significant part of SAFF’s strategy to scout and develop over 4,000 young talents by 2025, supporting the growth and future of Saudi football.


Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh

Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh
Updated 21 July 2024
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Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh

Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh

RIYADH: Gaming fans and esports enthusiasts are gearing up for a sensational Sunday of action-packed drama at the Esports World Cup with two new champions set to be crowned at Boulevard Riyadh City.

After delighting audiences ever since the Esports World Cup began, the Dota2 Riyadh Masters concludes at the SEF Arena with Saudi Arabia’s Team Falcons among the last three clubs vying to win the $5 million tournament.

After overcoming Tundra 2-0 in Saturday’s lower bracket semi-final, the hometown heroes face the Netherlands’ Team Liquid in the lower bracket final on Sunday afternoon. The victor will progress to the Grand Final, where they will meet Canada’s Gaimin Gladiators later on Sunday evening for glory and the $1.5 million first prize.

Also sharing the Esports World Cup spotlight is the Counter-Stike 2 Grand Final. Germany’s G2 booked their place in Sunday’s showpiece — overcoming Russian outfit Virtus.pro to move within one match of the $400,000 first prize and valuable Esports World Cup Club Championship points. Awaiting them in the Grand Final is NAVI of Ukraine — who set up a highly anticipated showdown with G2 after defeating MOUZ of Germany.

The Sunday action in Riyadh concludes Week 3 of the Esports World Cup. Alongside the Dota2 Riyadh Masters and CS2 grand finals, fans can also catch PUBG Mobile World Cup 2024 group stage matches.

For more information on scheduling and results, visit the Esports World Cup website.