Paris Olympics uncharted waters for seven-time gold medalist Dressel

Paris Olympics uncharted waters for seven-time gold medalist Dressel
Caeleb Dressel of the US is interviewed after a preliminary heat for the men's 100m freestyle on Day Four of the 2024 US Olympic Team Swimming Trials on June 18, 2024. The 27-year-old American is ready to test himself again at the Paris Olympics. (AFP)
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Updated 11 July 2024
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Paris Olympics uncharted waters for seven-time gold medalist Dressel

Paris Olympics uncharted waters for seven-time gold medalist Dressel
  • The 27-year-old American once touted as the heir to Michael Phelps is ready to test himself again at the Paris Olympics
  • The coach helping Dressel find out just what he has left is Anthony Nesty, who won the 100m butterfly at the 1988 Olympics for Suriname and now coaches in Florida

LOS ANGELES: Caeleb Dressel knows the age-group days of “simply swimming” can never return for a seven-time Olympic gold medalist.

But despite devastating lows that drove him away from the sport for the better part of a year and admitted uncertainty over whether he’ll ever return to his best, the 27-year-old American once touted as the heir to Michael Phelps is ready to test himself again at the Paris Olympics.

“I don’t know what’s possible,” Dressel said after a rollercoaster US trials, where he won the 50m free and 100m butterfly to earn a chance to defend two of his three individual titles from the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games.

He missed out in the 100m free — finishing third behind up-and-comers Chris Guiliano and Jack Alexy in a blistering final that put Dressel in the mix for a relay berth.

It’s a far cry from his buildup to Tokyo, when he went into the Games as the two-time reigning world champion in all three of his individual events and emerged with five golds to cement an Olympic legacy that began when he earned two relay golds in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

But Dressel’s pursuit of perfection came at a price, and he stepped away abruptly at the 2022 World Championships, later speaking candidly of feeling mentally “broken” by the demands he put on himself.

“I would love if I could get back to the point where I was five years old,” Dressel said. “It was simply swimming, that’s all it was. You were just swimming, there wasn’t any media, you didn’t care how you felt ... that’s what drew me into the sport and there’s things that I’ve put up with that I don’t like or things about the sport that I hate.”

That included comparisons to Phelps, who earned 23 gold medals over five Olympic campaigns and established himself as the standard bearer for the sport not just in the US but globally.

Dressel remains in awe of Phelps’s longevity and excellence and says now the comparisons seem unfair.

“I get it, trying to find the next guy,” Dressel said. “But I have said multiple times I’m not Michael, at all, and I’m fine with admitting that.

“I think I’m pretty damn good at what I do. And I’ve exceeded a lot of my expectations in the sport, and I have drained the talent that I have, and I’m still continuing to do that.”

But Dressel admits he isn’t sure how much more there is to mine.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever go a best time ever again, and that’s tough to say out loud, it really is,” Dressel said.

“When you’re 19, 20, 21, you keep chipping away, chipping away, chipping away. I’m still working harder than ever, finding outlets, finding every path I can take to shave those couple tenths.

“I’m really good at racing. You put me in a race, I will make it close, as close as I possibly can, even if I have to try to kill myself to get there.”

The coach helping Dressel find out just what he has left is Anthony Nesty, who won the 100m butterfly at the 1988 Olympics for Suriname and now coaches in Florida.

Dressel is also buoyed by the support of his wife Meghan. The couple welcomed the birth of their first child, son August, in February.

“Meghan knows what goes into this, not just the parenting side of things but she gets to see firsthand the struggles that come with the sport,” Dressel said. “The tears that come with it, the frustration and then also the high points, and getting to share that with them, because they go through that as well.”

Dressel also felt the support of fans that made his third Olympic trials a “totally different experience” to “bombing” as a youngster at his first trials, making the team in a “nerve-wracking” 2016 and then seeing his face plastered everywhere before Tokyo.

“The crowd, feeling the love from everybody, that’s something new,” he said.


Bach says IOC neutral after Palestinian call for Israel Olympic ban

Palestinian swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab reacts during the men's 100m freestyle heats at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka.
Palestinian swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab reacts during the men's 100m freestyle heats at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka.
Updated 35 min 20 sec ago
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Bach says IOC neutral after Palestinian call for Israel Olympic ban

Palestinian swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab reacts during the men's 100m freestyle heats at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka.
  • “We are not in the political business, we are there to accomplish our mission to get the athletes together,” Bach said
  • The Palestinian call highlights how the rising death toll and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza is impacting the Paris Games

PARIS: President Thomas Bach on Tuesday stressed the neutrality of the International Olympic Committee after a Palestinian call for Israel to be barred from the Paris Games over the war in Gaza.
As the Israeli team settled into the Athletes’ Village, the IOC studied a letter from the Palestine Olympic Committee asking Bach to ban the Israelis, citing the bombings of the besieged Gaza Strip as a breach of the Olympic truce.
The letter sent days before Friday’s opening ceremony “emphasized that Palestinian athletes, particularly those in Gaza, are denied safe passage and have suffered significantly due to the ongoing conflict.”
It said “approximately 400 Palestinian athletes have been killed and the destruction of sports facilities exacerbates the plight of athletes who are already under severe restrictions.”
But Bach said in a press conference: “The position of the IOC is very clear. We have two National Olympic Committees, that is the difference with the world of politics, and in this respect both have been living in peaceful co-existence.
“The Palestinian NOC has greatly benefitted. Palestine is not a recognized member state of the UN but the NOC is a recognized National Olympic Committee enjoying the equal rights and opportunities like all the other NOCs.”
He added: “We are not in the political business, we are there to accomplish our mission to get the athletes together.”
The Palestinian call highlights how the rising death toll and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza is impacting the Paris Games.
France’s foreign minister has already had to intervene to stress that Israeli athletes are welcome after a far-left French politician called for them to be barred over the Gaza offensive.
Competitors flooded into the Olympic Village in northern Paris, with national flags hanging from many windows.
Some of the biggest names set to perform at the Olympics — American gymnast Simone Biles and Spanish tennis pair Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz — have been spotted at the village.
Reviews of the food and accommodation were broadly positive, but some people reported issues with the transport to and from sports venues.
“Usually at Olympics, the transport takes a bit of time to work out,” Tom Craig, a player in the Australian hockey team, told AFP.
“We’ve heard about some teams getting taken to the wrong venue, but it hasn’t happened to us. One day we got a bit lost, but it was fine.”
American gymnastics coach Sam Mikulak, a veteran of four Olympics, praised the village as the best he had seen.
“Ten out of 10. It’s the best set-up, the best conditioning space (gym), very organized,” he told AFP.
Meanwhile, Britain’s joint most decorated woman Olympian, dressage specialist Charlotte Dujardin, withdrew from the Games after a video emerged showing her making “an error of judgment” during a coaching session.
It was not immediately clear what three-time Olympic champion Dujardin had done but Olympic and equestrian authorities have taken an increasingly strict line against alleged improprieties relating to the treatment of animals in recent years.
During the delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021, a German modern pentathlon coach was thrown out the Games for striking a horse.
In other developments, as organizers put the final touches to the opening ceremony on the Seine, videos posted online showing US pop star Lady Gaga in Paris sparked rumors that she will be among the performers.
The line-up for the ceremony, the first time a Summer Olympics has opened outside of the main stadium, is yet to be fully announced.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she hoped the weather would be fine for the ceremony after rain on Tuesday.
“We don’t make the weather so we will anxiously watch what it will be like on July 26, but we will make do and they will be exceptional Games.”


‘An achievement for all Arabs’: PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi takes part in Olympic Torch Relay in Paris ahead of opening ceremony

‘An achievement for all Arabs’: PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi takes part in Olympic Torch Relay in Paris ahead of opening ceremony
Updated 23 July 2024
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‘An achievement for all Arabs’: PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi takes part in Olympic Torch Relay in Paris ahead of opening ceremony

‘An achievement for all Arabs’: PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi takes part in Olympic Torch Relay in Paris ahead of opening ceremony

PARIS: Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain, took part in the Olympic Torch Relay on Monday afternoon ahead of this Friday’s opening ceremony of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France.

The Torch Relay is passing through more than 400 towns and cities across France and its overseas territories with the help of a host of illustrious figures from the world of sports, entertainment, and culture, including the prince and princess of Monaco, Formula One driver Charles Leclerc, and Hollywood actress Halle Berry.

In recognition of Al-Khelaifi’s contribution to French sport, as well as to the upcoming competition, the International Olympic Committee offered the PSG president the chance to collect the Olympic torch in Vigneux-sur-Seine in the southern suburbs of the French capital, where he carried it for close to 500 meters before passing it to 84-year-old Marie-Rolande Biro, the former head of the Epinay judo club.

A former ATP tennis player from Qatar who is now also chairman of beIN Media Group and Qatar Sports Investments, Al-Khelaifi was greeted on the street by throngs of fans cheering and calling his name. After posing for photos and interacting with supporters, he spoke about how sport has influenced his life and work ethos and helped him connect with people from all walks of life.

“It was an immense honor to carry the Olympic torch and flame of Paris 2024, representing such powerful symbols of unity, friendship and peace,” he said. “It is an indescribable feeling to carry it, as a Qatari, Arab, and Muslim in the French capital, Paris. It is an achievement for all Arabs, not just the state of Qatar, and I thank God for this honor. When I was an athlete and I played tennis, I always had this dream. Today that dream has come true.”

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain, takes part in the Olympic Torch Relay on Monday afternoon. (Supplied)

Al-Khelaifi carried the torch along Avenue Henri Barbusse, some 27 km south of the Parc des Princes, home of PSG. The club’s distinguished stadium will host 10 football matches during the Games, including the first event of Paris 2024 this Wednesday, a men’s tie between Uzbekistan and Spain, as well as the men’s and women’s football finals on Aug. 9 and 10, respectively.

“Paris Saint-Germain is so proud that 26 of our male and female athletes — across men’s and women’s football, handball and judo — are competing in the Games, and we look forward to a magnificent sporting spectacle in our home city of Paris,” added Al-Khelaifi. “This is an honor for Paris Saint-Germain, for me personally, for all club members, and for the state of Qatar.”

Qatar is taking a delegation of 14 athletes to Paris 2024, including Mutaz Barshim, regarded as one of the best high jumpers of all time after securing gold in the 2020 Tokyo Games and silvers in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics, as well as weightlifter Fares Ibrahim Hassouna, who also won gold in Tokyo.

PSG meanwhile has had representatives competing in Olympic sports for 40 years. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the French club celebrated 15 Olympic and four Paralympic medalists. This year, as well as the 26 athletes, more than 70 staff are also helping in various capacities across event management, operations, and technical support.

The 2024 Olympic Games will start on July 26, preceded by preliminary events in soccer and rugby sevens, which start on July 24. The closing ceremony on Aug. 11 will mark the conclusion of the quadrennial event.


Iran slams Israel participation in Paris Olympics

Iran slams Israel participation in Paris Olympics
Updated 23 July 2024
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Iran slams Israel participation in Paris Olympics

Iran slams Israel participation in Paris Olympics
  • “They do not deserve to be present at the Paris Olympics because of the war against the innocent people of Gaza,” Iran’s foreign ministry said on X
  • Iran does not recognize Israel and prohibits all contact between Iranian and Israeli athletes

TEHRAN: Iran condemned on Tuesday the “reception and protection” of Israeli athletes at the Olympic games in Paris, demanding their exclusion over Israel’s handling of the Gaza war.
Israel’s delegation, which headed to France on Monday ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony, is being tightly protected in the French capital amid growing international outrage over the high civilian casualty toll and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“Announcing the reception and protection of the apartheid terrorist Zionist regime’s delegation means giving legitimacy to the child killers,” Iran’s foreign ministry said in a post on X.
“They do not deserve to be present at the Paris Olympics because of the war against the innocent people of Gaza,” it added, calling on organizers to ban Israel.


The Gaza war was triggered by the October 7 attacks on Israel by Iran-backed militant group Hamas, which led to the deaths of 1,197 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive against the militants has killed at least 39,090 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to figures from the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.
Iran does not recognize Israel and prohibits all contact between Iranian and Israeli athletes.
The Islamic republic has made support for the Palestinian cause a centerpiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
In February, Iran’s football federation asked the sport’s governing body, FIFA, to suspend its Israeli counterpart over the war in Gaza.
Last August, Iranian authorities imposed a lifetime ban on weightlifter Mostafa Rajaei after he shook hands with an Israeli competitor at an event in Poland, state media reported at the time.
In 2021, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged athletes “not to shake hands with a representative of the (Israeli) criminal regime to obtain a medal.


What we know about the Paris Olympics opening ceremony

The moon rises behind the Olympic rings displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. AFP
The moon rises behind the Olympic rings displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. AFP
Updated 23 July 2024
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What we know about the Paris Olympics opening ceremony

The moon rises behind the Olympic rings displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. AFP
  • Up to 500,000 people are set to watch in person from specially built stands
  • Two-thirds of the ceremony will take place in daylight, then dusk

Paris: Organizers of Friday’s opening ceremony for the Paris Olympics — the first time it will be held outside a stadium — have provided teasers for their spectacular plans but refused to give specifics.
Here is what we know about the concept, the artists, and the music based on public statements over the last few months and press leaks:
Instead of using the main athletics stadium for the opening parade, as is customary, organizers have moved the event outside and into the heart of the capital — in keeping with their motto “Games Wide Open.”
Around 6,000-7,000 athletes are set to sail down a six-kilometer (four-mile) stretch of the river Seine from the Austerlitz bridge in the east to the Eiffel Tower, on 85 barges and boats.
Up to 500,000 people are set to watch in person from specially built stands, where tickets have been sold for up to 2,700 euros ($2,900), on the riverbanks for free, and from the overlooking balconies and apartments.
“Organizing a ceremony on the Seine is not easier than doing it in a stadium... but it has more punch,” chief organizer Tony Estanguet told AFP earlier this month.
Because of the size and complexity of the parade, it has never been rehearsed in full.
The show has been designed by prodigious theater director Thomas Jolly, a 42-year-old known for the hit rock opera musical “Starmania.”
He brought on board a creative team that includes the writer of the French TV series “Call My Agent,” Fanny Herrero, best-selling author Leila Slimani, and renowned historian Patrick Boucheron.
The show has been split into 12 different sections, with around 3,000 dancers, singers, and entertainers on both river banks, bridges, and nearby monuments.
A tribute to Notre Dame Cathedral, in the process of being renovated after a devastating fire in 2019, is guaranteed, possibly with dancers on its scaffolding.
Starting at 07:30 p.m. (1730 GMT), two-thirds of the ceremony will take place in daylight, then dusk — Jolly is hoping for one of Paris’s stunning summer sunsets — and will end with a light show.
The music will be a mix of classical, traditional ‘chanson francaise’, as well as rap and electro.
Franco-Malian R&B star Aya Nakamura is widely tipped to perform despite criticism from far-right politicians, including Marine Le Pen who suggested an appearance by her would “humiliate” France.
French electro superstars Daft Punk said they had turned down an invitation to play, while globe-trotting French DJ David Guetta has been overlooked — much to his irritation.
Asked to sum up his message last week, Jolly said it was “love.”
Despite the risk of irking conservatives, he said his work would be a celebration of cultural, linguistic, religious and sexual diversity in France and around the world.
“I think the people who want to live together in this diversity, this otherness, are much more numerous, but we make less noise,” he told AFP.
It is fair to assume it will be nothing like the widely panned retro-styled opening ceremony of last year’s Rugby World Cup, which featured a succession of French cliches from baguettes to berets and the Eiffel Tower.
Jolly’s team is also wary of over-emphasizing France’s historic contribution to the development of democracy and the concept of universal human rights thanks to its Enlightenment philosophers and 1789 Revolution.
“We wanted to avoid our natural tendency to lecture people,” Herrero told Le Monde newspaper recently.
And don’t expect a three-hour tribute to French greatness to rival the nationalistic pageantry seen at the Beijing Games in 2008.
“The opening ceremony in Beijing in 2008 was exactly what we did not want to do,” Boucheron told Le Monde.
With so much still under wraps, it’s hard to predict.
A performance by Aya Nakamura, after so much controversy about her role, would be a major moment so soon after parliamentary elections that saw the anti-immigration far-right gain a historic 143 seats in the national parliament.
Jolly has strongly hinted that a submersible or submarine could emerge from the waters of the Seine at some point.
“You have the sky, you have bridges, you have water, you have banks, you have so much space to make poetry,” Jolly told reporters last week. “So why not under the river also?“
The biggest moment of all might simply be the end if everyone gets home safely.
The ceremony has given French police cold sweats ever since it was unveiled in 2021 because of the difficulty of securing so many people over such a vast urban area.
Around 45,000 members of the security forces will be on duty.


Gaimin Gladiators and NAVI enter the club championship race to close out week 3 of Esports World Cup

Gaimin Gladiators and NAVI enter the club championship race to close out week 3 of Esports World Cup
Updated 23 July 2024
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Gaimin Gladiators and NAVI enter the club championship race to close out week 3 of Esports World Cup

Gaimin Gladiators and NAVI enter the club championship race to close out week 3 of Esports World Cup
  • Canada’s Gaimin Gladiators won ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and NAVI was victorious in all-European ‘Counter-Strike 2’ grand final

RIYADH: Week three of the Esports World Cup has culminated with two new clubs showcasing their club championship credentials at Boulevard Riyadh City.

Canada’s Gaimin Gladiators won the “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters” with a 3-0 score against Team Liquid of the Netherlands in Sunday’s Grand Final, to win the $1.5 million first prize and enter the race for the EWC Club Championship.

A capacity crowd inside the SEF Arena witnessed more jubilant scenes hours later as Natus Vincere, or NAVI, etched their name in the esports history books by winning the ‘Counter-Strike 2’ competition.

In the first-ever all-European EWC Grand Final, the Ukrainian club came from behind to beat Germany’s G2 Esports 2-1, taking home the title and the $400,000 first prize.

The “PUBG Mobile World Cup 2024” also made its highly anticipated EWC debut in week three. The $3-million tournament kicked off this past Friday with 24 clubs and continues this coming week with the survival stage and main tournament.

Elsewhere over the last seven days, two football icons visited Boulevard Riyadh City to see the action for themselves. Al-Hilal and Brazil winger Neymar attended over the weekend as did Liverpool and Portugal forward, Diogo Jota.

The Esports World Cup began on July 3 and runs until Aug. 25 with 22 tournaments across 21 titles.

Week four kicks off on Tuesday, with the “PUBG Mobile World Cup 2024” returning and two new tournaments make their highly anticipated EWC debuts. These are the “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational 2024” and “Overwatch 2.”