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Wednesday, February 08, 2023 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Yash Mudgal
Yash Mudgal
Yash Mudgal is a Senior Editor at Gulf Times sports section. Prior to joining Gulf Times in 2012, he was with a leading daily in India. At Gulf Times, Yash mostly covers Olympic sports although his interests include tennis and cricket too.
(From left) Elite athletes Abdi Abirahman, Gemma Steele, Mo Farah, Arne Gabius and Michael Shelley at the press conference for Ooredoo Doha Marathon yesterday. PICTURE: Ram Chand
Sport
Pain no problem for ‘Mobot’ Farah

Britain’s Mo Farah signs autographs during a promotional event in Doha yesterday. (Twitter/Ooredoo) British long-distance star may have left the track behind but the 34-year-old is gunning for glory in marathons Four Olympic gold medals, six world titles and he is not done yet. He is an athlete who personifies the adage, ‘no pain, no gain’. In fact, he loves pain. “I am still competing because I loooove pain,” retired track star Mo Farah stretched a few syllables to amplify what he felt, while talking ahead of his participation in the elite Half Marathon event in the Ooredoo Doha Marathon yesterday. “As an athlete, as a young boy I dreamt of becoming an Olympic champion and I remember taking part in as many races I could. I think it was 2000 Sydney Olympics, I had seen Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie compete and that’s when I told myself that I want to win an Olympic gold medal, and since then I have been training hard, and going on and on. “And it happened in 2012, and what a way for it to happen. That carried me every day. It felt amazing, it felt beautiful. It’s something I enjoy. And once you have gone through it, you can’t just sit after that. I definitely enjoy going for a run, pulling myself through pain, crazy sessions,” said Farah, who is taking part in his first event of the year at the Ooredoo Doha Marathon. “And there will be more crazy sessions coming through in case of a marathon. I like to be able to work and work. Just hearing the national anthem, it is a proud moment. It could well all depend on whether one morning I ask myself if I want to go through all this, but that my body decides,” the British athlete, who announced his intention to focus on the marathon in 2017, said. Farah completed the ‘distance double’ of 5,000m and 10,000m titles at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships. He was only the second man in history after Kenenisa Bekele to win long-distance doubles at successive Olympics and World Championships, and first in history to defend both distance titles in both major global competitions – a feat described as the ‘quadruple-double’. Since finishing second in the 10,000m at the 2011 World Athletics Championships, Farah had an unbroken streak of ten global finals wins (the 5,000m in 2011, the 10,000m in 2017 and the double in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016). The streak finally ended in Farah’s final World Championship track race, when he finished second to Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris in the 2017 5,000m final. However, in his final track race, the inaugural 2017 Diamond League Final in Zurich, he beat Edris for a 5,000m victory. After 10 global golds over 5,000 and 10,000m in the space of seven incredible years, the 34-year-old’s track exploits have already earned him a knighthood, but he still has unfinished business. He is taking part in the Doha marathon event for the first time with an eye on the London Marathon and Tokyo Olympics for a possible fifth Olympic title. Doha race will be the 34-year-old’s first race of 2018 as he prepares for the London Marathon on April 22 where he will take on Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge. “I am really looking forward to opening my 2018 season in Doha. I am taking the event as a chance to test myself on the fast and flat run along Doha, and also to hopefully check out the city,” Britain’s most successful-ever distance runner said. Farah also said a fourth Olympic Games appearance in 2020 is a distinct possibility. “Tokyo is possible. If I’m in great shape and I’m good enough to get a medal I will be there,” he said. Given his incredible journey so far it should not be out of question.

Englandu2019s James Willstrop (foreground) plays a shot during their first round Qatar Classic match against Peruu2019s Diego Elias at Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha yesterday. PICTURE: Jayan Orma
Sport
Elias claims first upset, sends Willstrop packing on day one

Diego Elias has been on a roll off late. The 20-year-old Peruvian had defeated three-time world champion Nick Matthew to reach the NetSuite Open semi-finals before losing out to current World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in a hard fought five-game battle. Elias seems to have carried that form to the Qatar Classic, being played at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex here, as he created the first upset on the opening day of the World Series event yesterday. Elias sent former champion James Willstrop crashing out (3-0) 12-10, 11-5, 11-8 in 46 minutes. The pulsating opening round clash was expected to go the distance, but the two-time world junior champion gave no chance to the veteran Englishman after a close first game. He easily won the next two games with some fast and accurate squash. In the first game, a huge rally at 3-2 gave Willstrop a four-point lead (7-3) and it looked like that the game had been decided. But out of the blue, Elias reversed the position on the court, sent Willstrop on a run and closed the gap (8-8 and 9-9) and won the game on his second chance. Both the players struck six winners each, but Willstrop also had five unforced errors. In the second, Willstrop seemed very much in the game again, but a little drop in energy allowed the Peruvian to take a healthy lead at 7-4 and later at 11-5. Willstrop came back blasting all guns, finding some amazing long drop shots. However, Elias’ backhand length was perfect and his court coverage was stunning in the latter part of the game. “It’s always hard to play against such a big star I just tried to apply as much pressure as I could throughout the match and maintained my concentration. The first game was very crucial, I think, I was down 8-3, I was just running too much for no reason… So just tried and volleyed as much as I could,” Elias said. “I am confident of my game as I managed to beat six top 10 players this season. I feel good and today, I think I played well. I hope this would be a good tournament for me,” he said. Qatar’s Abdulla Mohamed al-Tamimi, hoping for a flying start to his campaign before home crowd, went down fighting against Egypt’s Fares Dessouky. Dessouky beat the wild card entrant 11-7, 11-8, 11-5 in 111 minutes. In the other upset of the day, Hong Kong’s qualifier Leo Au rallied to stun world No 16 from Australia, Ryan Cuskelly 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4. For Cuskelly, it was a return to the venue that saw him achieve a long awaited breakthrough into the top 20 in 2015, but it proved to be an unhappy hunting ground this time around as he fell flat against an inspired Au, who put in a performance of note and one that could lay the foundation for his own long awaited surge into the top 20. The opening game saw the two probing and testing, opening up all four corners of the court through a series of patient rallies before Cuskelly took the initiative and opened up a one game lead before Au matched him in the second. The Australian looked certain to restore his lead on the scoreboard in the third only to see Au rally from 4-8 to snatch the game. It was a run that dented Cuskelly’s confidence and in the fourth game it was one-way traffic for Au as he out-hustled Cuskelly. “I had no expectations today,” said Au. “Ryan is a good player, he’s very solid and consistent. Today I don’t think I had any pressure and I played well and that third game was key.” The tournament top-seed and world No.1 Gregory Gaultier defeated Mexico’s Cesar Salazar 3-0 (11-6, 11-2, 11-9) later in the evening yesterday. The Frenchman, who is making his comeback, took only 37 minutes to win his first round match. This is his first appearance of the 2017-18 season, after suffering with an ankle injury that saw him forced to withdraw from both the NetSuite Open and US Open. “It’s been tough recently with the ankle injury so I came here happy to be back on court,” said Gaultier. “I haven’t played on a glass court for long; it felt a bit weird to start, and Cesar has been playing well and had some good wins recently. I’m pleased to come through. I just tried to find my mark and not do anything too crazy. I need these kind of matches to help me get back to fitness.” Gaultier could face two-time champion Mohamed El Shorbagy, who also won his first round match easily against English qualifier Chris Simpson 3-0, in the semi-finals. “I like playing here. I come back year-after-year and would love to get my name on the trophy again. This is where I won my first ever World Series title back in 2013 and I feel this year the event has raised the bar and I’m looking forward to hopefully having a good week,” El Shorbagy said. US Open champion and current leader in the World Series standings, Egypt’s Ali Farag, also marched into the second round defeating compatriot Karim Ali Fathi 11-7, 11-5, 11-1. Qualifier Saurav Ghosal from India also won his first round match against England’s Daryl Selby 11-4, 11-8, 11-2.  RESULTS FIRST ROUND *(1) Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Cesar Salazar (Mex) 11-6, 11-2, 11-9 *Zahed Mohamed (Egy) bt Gregoire Marche (Fra) 11-6, 5-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-2 *(Q) Saurav Ghosal (Ind) bt Daryl Selby (Eng) 11-4, 11-8, 11-2 *Diego Elias (Per) bt (7)James Willstrop (Eng) 12-10, 11-5, 11-8 *[5] Ali Farag (Egy) [Q] Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) bt 11-7, 11-5, 11-1 *(Q) Leo Au (Hkg) bt Ryan Cuskelly (Australia) 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 *Fares Dessouky (Egy) bt [wc] Abdulla al-Tamimi (Qat) 11-7, 118, 11-5 *(3) Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egy) bt [Q] Chris Simpson (Eng) 11-7, 11-9, 11-5

(From left) FINA technical delegate Daphne Bird, Qatar Swimming Association president Khaleel al-Jabir, Swedish swimmer Sarah Sjostrom, South African swimmer Chad Le Clos, FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu and Russian swimmer Kirill Prigoda pose at the press conference ahead of the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup in Doha yesterday. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil
Sport
Le Clos, Sjostrom look to build on momentum

South Africa’s Chad Le Clos and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom are targeting further success at the Doha-leg of FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup, which starts at the Hamad Aquatic Centre today. “Doha is a second home for me. I have been coming here since 2012 and have always had success here. I hope that continues this time too. I will try to improve on my recent performances in Hong Kong,” Le Clos told the media yesterday. The London Olympics 200m butterfly gold medallist is the overall men’s series leader with a total score of 234 points after the end of the first four events in Moscow, Berlin, Eindhoven and Hong Kong.  He boasts of a 132-point lead over Tom Shields of the US. Russian star Vladimir Morozov is in third place with 138 points and his compatriot Kirill Prigoda is fourth. The two-day event will be fifth of the eight-leg World Cup, with Beijing (November 10-11) and Tokyo (November 14-15) the other remaining stopovers. Le Clos is entered in six races this weekend. In Hong Kong he had won gold in 50m fly, while picking up silver medals in 100m fly and 200m freestyle. “It’s been a hard few months of training for me leading up to this and I will be pushing myself here also,” the 25-year-old champion said. Le Clos also expected a very good show by Sjostrom in Doha. “Sarah had a very good outing in Hong Kong and I am sure that she will establish a couple of world records here.” After a four-week break, the Swedish ace pocketed five gold medals throughout the two-day competition in Hong Kong. She was topped 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, and 50m and 100m fly. “I am very happy to be back in Doha. I was here in 2014 for the World Championships, which were very successful for me. It’s my first World Cup here, and hope it’s going to be fun,” said Sjostrom.  “I have had a very good season – I am taking part in all the World Cup legs and it’s going pretty well,” the 24-year-old said.  The 2016 Rio Games 200m butterfly gold medallist leads the women’s points table with 353 points, while Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (272 points) and the Netherland’s Ranomi Kromowidjojo (155 points) round up the top three ahead of the Doha leg. Talking about her good show in Hong Kong last week, Sjostrom said, “I was coming after a good break after Eindhoven, which finished on August 12. I was fully recovered and it was evident in my performance.” Prigoda too was optimistic of his performance in Doha. “Like Sarah, I was also here for the last time for the World Championships, and I won bronze. So I have found memories of this pool and I expect a good performance at the very nice venue,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, Qatar Swimming Association president Khaleel al-Jabir emphasised that the event was generating a great enthusiasm in the city and mentioned, with proud, that some young Qatari swimmers were participating in the event.  “This is very important for us, as it will be essential for building-up and developing swimming in Qatar. This competition and the presence of so many stars is certainly a motivation for our youth,” he said.  The press conference was also attended by FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu and technical delegate Daphne Bird.  “Outside the frame of the FINA World Championships, the World Cup is the best and most privileged opportunity to further promote our sport. The event in Doha will be spectacular, as this city is actively preparing for the 2023 FINA World Championships here in Qatar,” Marculescu said.  “However, nothing is more important in swimming than our stars – and some of them are here with us for the event.” With the new 2017 rules for the World Cup, swimmers are competing twice in each event over the three-leg cluster, but with the reduction to two events in cluster 2, the full programme of 34 individual events for each leg was reinstated only for Hong Kong and Doha.  Moreover, the general rule of a maximum of four individual events per swimmer per leg was slightly modified for this second cluster, and now comprises six events per competitor. FINA announced earlier this week it has raised the prize money awarded to winners of the overall World Cup titles. A total of $600,000 will now be split across the top three in the men’s and women’s competitions. The two athletes that finish in first place at the end of the World Cup campaign will receive $150,000 each. Second place will get $100,000 and third place will receive $50,000.

The victorious Al Rayyan team celebrate with the Emir Cup trophy after beating favourites Al Arabi yesterday. PICTURES: Jayaram
Sport
Rayyan salvage season by winning Emir Cup title

Al Rayyan stunned favourites Al Arabi 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 36-24) in the final of the Emir Cup yesterday and ended the Reds’ domination in the finals of the prestigious tournament. At the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee Indoor Hall in the Aspire Zone, defending champions Al Arabi, who won three domestic titles in the current season, were no match for a rejuvenated and motivated Al Rayyan in the final, which was the 16th Emir Cup title clash between the two domestic giants. Al Arabi’s two out of four titles in the current season came at the expense of  Al Rayyan who have been found wanting in defence especially when they needed it the most. However, yesterday it was different story as Rayyan started off very well by winning the first two sets comfortably in 23 minutes each. In the third, Al Arabi provided stiff resistance, but Rayyan held their nerve  to clinch it 36-24 in 36 minutes after a see-saw battle. Conceding the first two sets, Arabi did what they could to get their act together. They raced to an initial 10-6 lead in the third, thanks to their professional player Gyrogy Grozer’s fierce attacks. Arabi maintained their lead building on their rivals’ poor reception but Al Rayyan captain Osmel Camejo dominated Arabi’s taller blockers with his devastating spikes to turn the tide. Rayyan then led 24-23, needing only one more point to win the set. But Al Arabi stormed back to catch them at 24-24, although Al Rayyan fared better in the final assault to rally past their opponents. “It is a big win for us at the end of the season. We lost two finals earlier, but winning the Emir Cup is something else. It has erased all our disappointments,” Rayyan coach Carlos Schwanke said. “As I said before we were better placed for the final and were motivated for the title after a disappointing season. My players executed our plans very well and I am very delighted with the victory. “I was confident of the victory. We got extra days this time to prepare ourselves as we finished our best-of-three semifinal playoff 2-0 against El Jaish,” he added. The Brazilian gave credit to his new professional player, Serbian Milos Nikic, who joined them for the Emir Cup and gelled well with Camejo. Cuban star Camejo scored 15 points for the winners, while Nikic scored 14. “Our new combination of Nikic and Camejo worked well for us in the championship as it improved our overall game. Nikic is an experienced player and his inclusion has added the value to our team,” he said. Arabi’s professional spiker Grozer scored a match-high 20 points for them and their American outside hitter Taylor Sander contributed eight. Besides the Qatar Cup and Super Cup, Al Arabi also won the season-opener Federation Cup defeating El Jaish. However, after that there was an alarming dip in the Reds’ form which resulted in them finishing third in the Qatar League and fifth in the GCC Clubs Championship. In yesterday’s final, Al Arabi who defeated Qatar league champion Police 2-0 in the playoff, were on a high after the Qatar Cup win, but failed to keep their winning streak intact. “It is disappointing to lose the final today. Overall we have played a good game throughout the season, but today especially in the first two sets were not up to the mark. The credit also goes to Rayyan as they played the first two sets superbly to outclass us,” Sander said.

   Qatar Volleyball Association officials pose with Al Rayyan and Al Arabi players and officials ahead of todayu2019s Emir Cup final. PICTURE: Jayaram
Sport
Rayyan get another shot at Arabi in a final

Al Rayyan are hoping to end a disappointing season on a winning note by winning the prestigious Emir Cup Volleyball at the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee Indoor Hall in Aspire Zone today. The Lions have failed to win a single title this season, but their coach Carlos Schwanke is eager to make up for that with the win in the final against arch-rivals Al Arabi. “We are motivated for the final and hopefully we will put up a good show and win the title to end the season on top. I am sure the Emir Cup win will erase all disappointments,” Schwanke said. “We lost the Qatar Cup final to Arabi, but this time we are better prepared after winning the best-of-three semifinal playoffs in straight games and got some extra days to recover for the important final,” said Schwanke, who remains confident that his team can finish the year with a flourish against in-form Arabi. “We have a new combination this time as our new professional player Serbian Milos Nikic has joined us. We are ready for the final battle. We have displayed fine team work in the playoffs and have confidence that my boys will do it again in the final,” the Brazilian said. The 31-year-old wing-spikes Nikic is a top professional player, who has played for several European teams and played in the strongest of volleyball leagues. He was also part of the Serbia’s gold medal winning team from the 2011 European Championship. On the other hand, defending champions Arabi are aiming for picking up their fourth domestic title of the season and their third successive Emir Cup. Al Arabi coach Patrick Duflos is also well aware of the fight in the final, admitting they have to play a tough game against a motivated and better-prepared Rayyan this time. “It will be a tough and long final as we are playing against a better-looking Rayyan this time. They have had more preparation time and have a very seasoned professional player in Nikic this time. They will be more motivated to win this time after not winning anything this season,” he said. Talking about his team’s preparations, he said, “We are happy to be in the final and will put up a great fight again.” Talking about their losses to Arabi in the Qatar Cup and Super Cup finals, captain Osmel Camejo said, “We are ready for the final against Arabi once again and hope this time we will beat them. We were disappointed after losing Qatar Cup final to them, but I think we are well prepared this time.” Besides, Qatar Cup and Super Cup, Arabi won the season-opening Federation Cup, defeating El Jaish. After that there was an alarming dip in their form which resulted in them finishing third in the Qatar League and fifth in the GCC Clubs Championship. However, with the inclusion of outside hitter Taylor Sander, a member of America’s bronze-winning squad in Rio, and Germany’s pro Gyorgy Grozer, Arabi are at their best. Grozer, who was the highest score for the Reds in the Qatar Cup final, is excited to play yet another final against Rayyan. “I am excited to play another big final against Rayyan. I think we are playing well as a team and determined to win the Cup,” said the German star. Rayyan, who finished fourth in the Qatar Volleyball League, defeated El Jaish in the semi-finals 2-0, while 21-time champions Arabi defeated Qatar League champions Police 2-0 in second semi-finals. The final is slated for 6.30pm today.

Gold winner Rashid Masoud Jaralla (C), silver winner Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah (L) and Khalid al-Muhannadi pose on the podium.
Sport
Rashid and Sarah take gold, al-Attiyah settles for silver

Rashid Masoud Jaralla and Sarah Mohamed clinched the men’s and women’s Emir Cup skeet gold medals while London Olympics bronze medallist Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah had to settle for silver. At the Losail Shooting Range yesterday, Jaralla upstaged al-Attiyyah and 2015 winner Khalid al-Muhannadi to win the gold. Jaralla, who was coming to the competitive shooting after a gap of nine months, qualified for the final in first position with 122 targets and maintained his supremacy in the gold medal round in  blustery conditions. In the end, Jaralla (45+8) beat al-Attiyyah (44+7) for the gold. Al-Muhannadi claimed bronze with 43. “I am very happy with the win today. I was coming after a nine-month break as I was dealing with some personal issues. I am happy to beat shooters like Nasser and Khalid in the Emir Cup as it is an achievement for me,” the 25-year-old Jaralla said. “I won many medals in Qatar before. For me, the most important thing was I showed that I have not lost any of my touchtouch,” said Jaralla.   The 47-year-old shooter and rally driver al-Attiyah, who took time from his busy rallying schedule to take part in the event, took silver. Al-Attiyah lauded the efforts of Jaralla, saying: “It was a very good victory for young Jaralla. I am happy for him as he has a bright future ahead of him.” Al-Attiyah, who crashed out of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge two weeks ago and got injured, was satisfied with his show yesterday. “I was not up to the mark today, but I am happy with my show considering I am carrying an injury. I’ve pain in my back. My coach advised me to skip it. But I said I won’t give up so quickly,” al-Attiyyah said. “I tried my best, but I wasn’t able to recover hundred percent. Anyway, it was a good round of shooting for me. It was good for me to reach the second place. I have lost some weight and now I’m worried about my fitness for the next week’s Sealine cross-country. Talking about his preparation, he said: “The level of the Qatari shooters is going up. It was a good competition and preparation for me ahead of some events. After the Sealine rally, I’ll go to compete in the Cyprus World Cup and then the Islamic Games in Baku.” In the women’s section Sarah stated slowly but once in the final she flourished in the windy conditions. “It was a great final, I guess... I shot 46 out of 60. It was a nice performance. Before the final, I and Reem were second behind Lulwa with 69 each. I’d never thought I’d win the title today. With each stage, I shot well and in the gold medal elimination, I managed to hit 10 out of 10 in the windy condition to claim the title. I’m very delighted with my performance,” Sarah said. Sarah was followed by the former Emir Cup junior champion Ammena al-Mansoori and Hanan Haji. The former Emir Cup junior champion Ameena shot 41 out of 60 to finish second was also happy with her performance, as she said: “It was tough competition for me. I tried my best and won the second place and I’m very proud of it. In 2014, I had won the junior title in the Emir Cup. So I’m really happy about this performance and the silver medal. This is the best result for me so far. I’m glad about my progress. This was my second event in the senior class. I’ll work hard and try to improve my results in the future competitions.” In men’s junior skeet, Abdulla Rashidan bagged the top prize. MM al-Khulaifi and HM al-Khulaifi claimed silver and bronze medals respectively.

Al Arabi players pose with volleyball officials after winning the Qatar Cup title yesterday.
Sport
Al Arabi prevail over Rayyan to win Qatar Cup

Al Arabi completed a treble of domestic titles as they won the Qatar Cup yesterday. At the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee Indoor Hall in Aspire Zone, Al Arabi came on top against arch-rivals Al Rayyan in the two-hour long battle for supremacy, winning 25-21, 21-25, 25-17, 25-22 to pick their third title of the season. Al Arabi had won the Federation Cup and Super Cup at the start of the season. “It is a very big won for us after a disappointing league and GCC Championship. We played well today except in the second set where we were no match for Al Rayyan,” said Al Arabi coach Patrick Duflos. This is Arabi’s 11th victory against Al Rayyan in the Qatar Cup finals and first under Duflos. “I am very happy. We needed something like that and I am sure this win is going act as a catalyst for this squad in the Emir Cup,” the delighted Frenchman said.  Al Arabi took the keenly contested first set at 25-21, while the second set again turned out to be a see saw battle which Al Rayyan won by an identical score. However, Al Arabi bounced back to win the third and fourth to pocket the title. For Arabi, it has been a roller-coaster season so far. After the highs of the twin titles, they suffered a loss in form and could only finish third in the league and a dismal fifth in the GCC Clubs Championship. No wonder, there was a big shake-up within the team for the Qatar Cup as they brought in two professionals — America’s outside hitter Taylor Sander and Germany’s star spiker Gyorgy Grozer.  “It is a big victory for us, although we did not play that well. The second set was a strange one, somehow nothing was going our way. I also played bad in the set, but we bounced back in the subsequent ones to win the title,” said Sander, who was member of the bronze medal winner US team of the Rio Olympics. In the first, the initial proceedings saw both teams neck-and- neck until Arabi broke free to take a two point lead at 9-7. But Al Rayyan fought back to tie the score at 11-all. Al Arabi, however, once took the upper hand to take a 14-11 lead. Thereafter, Duflos’ side held the grip over the rallies and maintained a consistent two-point lead which they carried to the  end to win the first set. In the second set, Al Rayyan were determined to bounce back and took a runaway lead at 8- 3. Al Arabi, however, made a splendid recovery to tie the score at 11-all. From thereon, fortunes fluctuated with Al Rayyan having an upper hand for a brief period only to surrender the initiative to their rivals. In the end Al Rayyan pocketed the second set at 25-21.  In the third, Al Arabi determined to finish off proceedings, took a five point lead at 8-3. Al Rayyan clawed back to narrow the lead at 12-9. Al Arabi put up an all round display to increase their lead to seven points at 23-16.  Arabi then took the next two points to wrap the third at 25-17. Arabi continued where from they left off in the fourth set, taking an early 5-3 lead in the fifth. The defending champions had other thoughts as they came back strongly to tie the score at eight-all. From that stage the both teams fought hard for each point with the scores tied at 11-all, 14-all, until Al Arabi broke free to make it 15-13 and extended the lead to three points at 17-14. Carlos Schwanke’s side tried to make a fight and took a timeout with score reading 20-18 to stop their rivals in their tracks. However, Al Arabi were in no mood to allow any room to heir rivals. In the end, Al Arabi won 25-22 to win the title for 16th time and set off wild celebrations among their supporters.

Al Rayyan and AL Arabi players and officials pose during their press conference yesterday.
Sport
Rayyan, Al Arabi set for exciting Qatar Cup final

Defending champions Al Rayyan are aiming to win their first title of the season by retaining the Qatar Cup when they take on arch-rivals Al Arabi in the final at the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee Indoor Hall in the Aspire Zone today. Rayyan coach Carlos Schwanke is very much aware of the tough task they have on their hands as emotions are sure to run high. “We know it will be a tough final against Arabi. The emotions will be high as two powerhouse clubs are taking part, but I am confident that we are ready for the title fight,” Schwanke said while talking to the media yesterday. Rayyan, who finished fourth in the Qatar Volleyball League, played three tough games in the last six days to qualify for the final and are raring to go. “It’s a final and it’s always a special game. We all play for the title and for that you have to give something extra. We have played some really tough games in the recent past, but we have to be mentally ready and give our 100 percent for the final,” the Brazilian said. Rayyan overcame Police 2-1 in the semifinal playoffs, while Arabi blanked El Jaish 2-0. Schwanke is delighted with the way his team fought back and found solutions for their on-court problems during the three-game semifinal play-offs. “I’m very happy with the team’s comeback and victory to move into the final. I liked the spirit that my team showed. We had some problems and made some adjustments. “The team has regained their touch during the play-offs against Police. We played like Al Rayyan play. Police are the league champions and were not an easy side. It was quite tough and now we’ll focus on another difficult match against Al Arabi,” said Schwanke. Talking about the service problem they had during the semifinals, Schwanke said, “The service has only one point and sometimes you have to take risk to win bigger points. I am confident that we will have no such issues in the final.” Rayyan came third in the recently concluded GCC Championship, while Arabi finished poor fifth. Al Arabi coach Patrick Duflos is also keen to win his first title for the club. “We are happy to be in the final. It is an important game and will be a difficult one. There will be some emotions on both the sides. We must be ready in our head to control the emotions to win it. I hope tomorrow will be a good day for us,” said Duflos, who was put in charge of the team midway through the league, in which they finished third. Arabi started off their season well by winning the Super Cup by defeating Rayyan and QVA Cup with a win over El Jaish.Arabi’s pro players, Gyorgy Grozer of Germany and Taylor Sander of the United States, are also hoping to finish on top. “It is very interesting to be in the final as finals are always something special. We have a very good team and hope to win tomorrow. I was here two years ago also… this is my second time in Qatar. The level of the game is very high in Qatar and I think it’s growing,” Grozer said. “I am excited to be in the final. It will be a high-level game and I hope we are able to put up a good show tomorrow,” Sander said.

Riders pose with officials after the final day of the GCC Cycling Championship organised by the Qatar Cycling Federation yesterday.
Sport
Qatar’s Moosa second as UAE riders dominate

Qatar’s Moosa Khalfan finished second as UAE’s Majid al-Balooshi won his maiden GCC Road Cycling Championship title yesterday at the Losail circuit. Al-Balooshi clocked 21:48.10s to comfortably defeat Khalfan by seven seconds after the 138km Katara-Losail race as Kuwait’s Abdul Hadil al-Azmi came third in the 19th edition of the championship. For the past decade, Yousif Mirza has been the man at the forefront of cycling in the Emirates. But yesterday at the Losial circuit, it was al-Balooshi who crossed the finish line first to win the title. “This is the first time that I’ve won the GCC title. It was a tough race on a windy day. But we have a good team and we controlled the race well today. In cycling, there is never one person winning anything. He has to depend a lot on his teammates, so the credit for my win goes to the entire team,” al-Balooshi said. Talking about the race, al-Balooshi added: “We started in Katara fast. We started to push after three kilometres. Our plan was to control the race first and then assess the situation before the dash for the medal. Bahrain looked good in the beginning as they had a good number of riders in the peloton. We started to attack after two or three break-away attempts. We kept launching our attacks to weaken the rivals. “Then on the final straight, the Kuwaiti and Qatari riders were the first to kick in. I was fourth to start the sprint but I managed to pass them to win the race,” the 30-year-old rider said. Khalfan’s second position is the only victory for the 10-member Qatari team. “I’m very happy with the silver medal. It is a good win for Qatar. This was a very difficult race for all of us. There was rain and wind, that kept changing directions, which made our job even more demanding,” Khalfan said. “I got separated from the peloton early in the race. I had to put in a great deal of effort to not only recover my way into the pack, but also find a good position before launching the dash for the line,” the 28-year-old rider added. Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) president Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari also felt that Qatar team was not strong at the moment. “Moosa won a good race today. But I feel we had a strong team in the past, but this time we are not that strong. UAE riders are very good and they have dominated the races, but we have some plans for our team and hopefully we will have a good team in the coming years,” said Dr al-Kuwari. Mirza, who won the Elite Individual Time Trial beating his brother Badr, was thrilled to see al-Balooshi on the top of the podium. “It’s a dream for me to see other Emiratis get on that podium,” Mirza, who failed to finish at the podium yesterday, said. “The development in cycling here over the past couple of years has been tremendous. It’s a huge leap. Our rulers all practice cycling regularly,” said Mirza, who took part in the Dubai Tour this year with the UAE-Abu Dhabi Professional Cycle Team.     

UAEu2019s Yousif Mirza (left) beat his elder brother Badr to clinch the Elite Individual Time Trial title during the 19th GCC Road Cycling Championships yesterday. PICTURE: Jayaram
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Mirza brothers lead UAE charge at GCC Road Cycling

UAE riders made a clean sweep in the 19th GCC Road Cycling Championships yesterday, bagging all three gold medals on offer with Mirza brothers finishing one-two in the Elite Individual Time Trial (ITT). The 28-year-old rider Yousif Mirza, who spent two weeks training with his team in Italy in January, clocked 45.21 seconds to clinch the ITT gold ahead of his older brother Badr Mirza. Badr clocked 46.11s. Bahrain’s Sayed Ahmed Khalil came third with a timing of 47.19s.  UAE riders, who claimed three gold medals on the opening day of the championship, maintained their domination yesterday. Apart from Mirza brothers, their teammate Abdullah Abdulkareem and Abdullah Jassim won the Juniors Individual Time Trial and Cadets Individual Time Trial gold. Rashid Abdullah of UAE won the Junior’s silver medal. “It is nice to finish first and second with Yousif. I am proud of my team’s show on the first two days of the championship,” Badr said.   “It’s a proud moment to listen national anthem on the podium after Yousif’s victory,” said Badr, who is four years older than his brother, in his Instagram post yesterday. This not the first time Yousif has won in Qatar. He had won the overall classification triumph at the 2013 Tour of Al Zubarah — a 2-2 race on the UCI Asia Tour — among other notable performances in Doha. The Emirates’ top rider Yousif tasted a slice of history when he became the first Emirati cyclist to be part of a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Tour team, when a revamped UAE Team Emirates was unveiled ahead of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour. In 2013, Yousuf went on to win the Sharjah Cycling Tour and capped a fine season by coming first in the mountains classification at the Tour d’Algerie. However, his breakaway season came in 2015 when he bagged the silver medal at the Asian Road Race Cycling Championships to seal his spot at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, where the Emirati was not given a finishing classification due to exceeding the race’s time limit. Meanwhile, the UAE team comprising Badr Neerzra al-Hamadi, Muhamed Hasan al-Marwi, Jabir al -Mansuri and Ahmed al-Mansuri won the 46km Elite class team time trial title, the feature event of the opening day.  UAE also won gold when Umar Abdurrazzaq, Umar Salim, Rashid Ahmed and Khalil Essa won the 23km cadet class race and the 34.5km junior class race as Rashid Abdullah, Abdullah Abdul Karim, Mohamed Farooq and Hamd Abdullah took 46:12s to finish the job on Tuesday. Today, the 92km (eight laps) junior road race and 46km (four laps) cadet road races will be held at Lusail circuit. Tomorrow, the 138km elite road race will be held around Katara and Lusail.   DAY TWO RESULTS Elite Individual Time Trial 1. Yusif Mirza (UAE) 45.21 seconds 2. Badr Mirza (UAE) 46.11 seconds 3. Sayed Ahmed Khalil (Bahrain) 47.19 seconds Juniors Individual Time Trial 1 Abdullah Abdulkareem (UAE) 31.43 seconds 2. Rashid Abdullah (UAE) 31.58 seconds 3. Mohamed Ibrahim (Bahrain) 33.15 seconds Cadets Individual Time Trial 1. Abdullah Jassim (UAE) 16.09 seconds 2. Jassim Mohamed (Bahrain) 16.54 seconds 3. Al Hassan al-Momin (Saudi Arabia) 17.37 seconds.

Rasen Sportsu2019 Sheikh Abdullah al-Thani.
Sport
Qatar’s first 24-hour mountain bike race to be held on March 17

Qatar’s first-ever 24-hour mountain bike race will be held on March 17. Rasen Sports organised endurance race, which will take the riders beyond their limits and inspire unbelievable camaraderie, will be held on specifically designed challenging 11km circuit at a private farm in Umm Jurn. “This is a different race, the first 24-hour bike race in Qatar and probably first in the region also, but we are not very sure about it and not claiming it. I came to know that the one such race was held in Dubai but it was cancelled. But ours will be the first one of its kind in Qatar. Hopefully we will do something similar next year in road cycling,” Rasen Sports’ Sheikh Abdullah al-Thani told Gulf Times. Talking about the circuit of the race, he said: “The challenge will attract participants to one of Qatar’s most untouched natural wonders. It will be different from all the other races you see, the riders will actually go between banana trees and date palms. There will be old houses as they will ride alongside old housing communities. There will be water puddles and sandy dunes also.” For this adventurous, exciting and demanding race, which will start on March 17 at 1pm, the registration process is on. Rasen Sports have been organising cycling race from the last couple of years in the country with the aim to make the biking a popular sport under the guidance of Sheikh Abdullah, who himself is a biker. “Since 2013, we have been sponsoring mountain bike events. We wanted to add something different to our calendar and that is the 24-hour competition. We want it to be family-oriented. It’s not only a race. There is camping. People will get to experience farmhouse life and connect with desert nature. It’s a very old farm. It is different from what you normally see in the desert. I am sure most participants wouldn’t have seen the farmhouse life I am talking about,” he said. The riders will have to plan their own strategy, when they want to take break and when they want to race. There winner of the face will be the team or rider that completes the most laps with the first lap after the clock has ticked over 24 hours counting to the result. “The riders have their targets to achieve, some aim to complete 80kms, while some experienced riders are aiming to complete 100kms. I am aiming at 80kms,” Sheikh Abdullah, who is going to participate in the race, said. Discussing, the scheduling of the event he said: “The reason we have it in March is because we sought suggestions from our family of riders. We saw into their requests. The other date that we could have gone for was in the month of January. Our races are scheduled well in advance, even going back to a year. We have to work with sponsors also. “It was very tight for us looking at the annual calendar. We had a race scheduled for March 10. We cancelled that to have this event on March 17. On March 11, we will have an off-road event also,” he added.

GCC Clubs Volleyball Championship director Yousef Ahmed Kanu attends a technical committee meeting. PICTURE: Jayaram
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Rayyan look to bounce back in Clubs Championship

After below par performances in recent tournaments, defending champions Al Rayyan are aiming to bounce back in the 36th GCC Clubs Volleyball Championship which begins today at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena. Rayyan finished third in the Arab Clubs Championship last month and fourth in the recently-concluded Qatar Volleyball League. “Finishing third in the Arab Clubs Championship was certainly not our target; we wanted to finish much higher,” said Karim, assistant coach of Al Rayyan. “We have added a few new players after the league. Another positive point is the return of Sulieman, our libero, from a six-month layoff due to injury. Hopefully, we will live up to the expectations,” said the assistant to Brazilian head coach Carlos Schwanke. Al Arabi, who finished third in the local league, is the second club from Qatar in the championship. They will take on Al Salam of Oman on the first day of the championship. Rayyan are two-time defending champions, while Arabi last won it in 2010, when the tournament was held in Muscat, Oman. Seven clubs from the region will be vying for the top place in the tournament, which will be played in a round-robin format, with the team with the maximum number of points emerging as the winner. Al Ahli and Dar Kulaib of Bahrain, Al Ain of UAE, Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia are the other teams in the championship, which ends on March 17. Last year in Oman, three-time champions Rayyan defeated Al Arabi in straight sets to win the title. The two are set to renew their rivalry at the regional competition when they clash on March 11. In the Arab Clubs Championship in Manama, Rayyan had maintained a clean sheet in the group stages and beat Saudi Arabia’s Al Wahda 16-25, 25-19, 25-14, 25-16 in the quarter-final before going down 23-25, 17-25, 20-25 to eventual champions Al Ahli in the semifinal. Rayyan defeated Al Salam 25-23, 25-20, 23-25, 25-17 in the play-off to finish third. This was Rayyan’s second podium finish in the championship history. They were runners-up in the 2012 edition held in Lebanon. Qatar’s El Jaish finished second in the same championship, going down 25-27, 28-26, 25-21, 21-25, 13-15 to Bahrain’s Al Ahli in the final.

(From left) Sheikh Abdulla al-Thani of Rasen Sports, Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) president Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari, QCF general secretary Jamal al-Kuwari and Q Auto general manager Ahmed Shariefi address a press conference yesterday. PICTURE: Jayaram
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Ten-rider Qatar team for GCC road championships

Qatar riders are all set to show their mettle against their regional rivals in GCC Road Cycling Championships which will be held from March 13-17 around Doha. This is a major event on the domestic cycling calendar as more than 150 riders from across the region will feature in the 19th edition of the championship. Qatar is fielding a 10-rider team in the elite, junior and cadet groups. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait are the other participating nations. “Our riders have been preparing well for this event. They had an extensive summer training camp in Europe last year. After that they featured in numerous events at the regional and Asian level in the winter. I would say our riders are full of confidence,” Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) president Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari said, while addressing a pre-event press conference. “It’s true that team from the UAE is strong. They have good riders but at the same time I would say Qatari cyclists are in very good form. We are confident they would do well,” he said. There will be a technical inspection on Monday with the actual races starting on Tuesday. The Team Trial is on Tuesday in the Youth, U-23 and Elite classes. On Wednesday, there will be the Individual Time Trial in all three classes. The road competition will be held on Thursday, across all the three classes. Friday, March 17, is reserved for the biggest contest of the event - when the Elite Class will compete against each other. “We will be competing in all the classes. It is a very important tournament. We are pleased to be in this position as we give our riders the chance to compete against the best in the region,” al-Kuwari said. “At the same time, QCF also gets the chance to stage a quality event and take the message on cycling and healthy living all over the country and the region,” he said. Q-Auto are the official sponsors of the event. “We are happy to have our sponsors - Q-Auto, the official Volkswagen dealer in Qatar - backing the championship. We thank them for their support,” al-Kuwari said. “This is a championship for the amateurs and the professionals to compete side-by-side. We are thrilled to be a part of this championship. We are honoured to be supporting this championship. We are pleased to be a part of such a top-class event and to support Qatar’s great sport ambitions,” Q Auto general manager Ahmed Shariefi said. Q-Auto joined the QCF when Qatar staged the UCI World Road Championship last year. QCF general secretary Jamal al-Kuwari said, “This is an event we have been preparing for quite a while. Our riders have trained well and feel confident. We expect them to do well with positive results.” Sheikh Abdulla al-Thani of Rasen Sports was also present during the press conference. QATAR SQUAD Elite *Abdullah Salem Afif – Individual Time Trial + Road Race *Adbelrahman Selem Jarboua – Road Race *Mossa Khalfan Said – Road Race *Khaleel Alrehman Abduljanan – Road Race *Khalid Elbardiny – Road Race Junior *Mohamed Farhan al-Farizi – Road Race *Khaled Saber G Hammouda – Road Race *Mohamed Eihab Abougabarah – Race Race Cadet *Naif Alaa I Baltaji – Road Race *Bilal Haitham A Alsaadi – Road Race Coach: Aziz Merzoug SCHEDULE March 13 18:00 – Licence control 19:00 – Team managers’ meeting March 14 08:30 – TTT Cadet (23 kms) - Losail 09:30 – TTT Junior (34.5 kms) – Losail 10:30 – TTT Elite (46 kms) – Losail March 15 09:30 – Road Race Junior (69 kms) Losail March 16 08:30 – ITT Cadet (11.5 kms) - Losail 09:30 – ITT Junior (23 kms) – Losail 10:30 – ITT Elite (34.5 kms) – Losail March 17 08:30 – Road Race Cadet (34.5 kms) – Losail – Katara - Losail 13:00 –Road Race Elite (101 kms) – Losail – Katara - Losail

Qataru2019s Nasser al-Attiyah celebrates after clinching a silver medal in the skeet event during the Qatar Open shooting at the Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. PICTURE: Nasar T K
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Qatar’s al-Attiyah wins silver, sets sights on Tokyo 2020

Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah fired an early warning for the 2020 Tokyo Games by winning his first Qatar Open medal yesterday. The Qatari sports icon, a bronze medallist in skeet shooting at the 2012 London Olympics and also a two-time Dakar Rally winner, won the silver after losing a keenly contested final 58-55 to Frenchman Antony Terras at the Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. Russia’s Anton Astakhov claimed the bronze. “It is fantastic to win a silver medal on home range. I had promised HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani (President of Qatar Olympic Committee) after we returned from Rio 2016 Games that I will win another Olympic medal for Qatar. Today’s win indicates that I am on the right path,” said al-Attiyah, who was taking part in his first international shooting event after last year’s Olympic Games. Rallying and marksmanship are not easy to combine, but al-Attiyah won the bronze — only the fourth individual medal Qatar have won at the Olympics — in London after only 10 days of practice. He is now looking forward to Tokyo after disappointment at the Rio Games. “I have cut down on a number of races to concentrate on shooting for the Tokyo Games,” the 45-year-old added. On his participation at the upcoming shooting World Cup, al-Attiyah appeared up-beat for the event in the Indian capital of Delhi. “Yes, my good showing in the Qatar Open Shotgun has certainly given me a confidence boost. I am leaving for India tomorrow,” the ace shooter informed. “I have been to six Olympic Games (Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio) and won the bronze in London. It will be a dream for me to (also) compete in Tokyo… It will be my seventh Olympics,” the 12-time Middle East Rally Championship winner said. Al-Attiyah, who just about managed to get past the qualifying stage through shoot-out, came all guns blazing in the final round to finish second. He made it past the qualifying stage along with Ben Llewellin of Great Britain after Saif bin Futais of UAE got eliminated in the three-way shoot-out. All three finished with identical score of 121 in the qualifying round, resulting in the shoot-out. In the final round, Terras, al-Attiyah, Astakhov, al-Muhannadi and Llewellin were in fine form in the first round to register a perfect score. But as the competition went ahead, first Qatar’s Khaled al-Muhannadi flattered, followed by Llewellin, leaving Terras, al-Attiyah and Astakhov to fight for the medals. For hosts Qatar, it was their second silver medal of the nine-day championship which concluded yesterday. In the final round, Terras came with a near-perfect display, missing just two targets in the final round on way to the gold. It was the third gold medal for the 31-year-old Frenchman out of the five he competed in. “The conditions were difficult for shooting. It was quite windy. But due credit to all the shooters for keeping their focus and getting good scores,” said the Frenchman, who finished as winner in the skeet event at the same championship in 2013 and last year. “This range is very nice, at least for me! It’s fantastic, I love shooting here. I think I have developed a special relationship with the Qatar shooting range,” added Terras, who also won the gold at last year’s Military Shooting Championship at the same venue. Terras is not going to the World Cup in India, which starts tomorrow, on account of funds crunch. “I am not going to New Delhi. My federation has no money to pay for my expenses,” said the 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist. With the Olympics three years away and no quota issue to deal with, Terras said he will be spending more time with his family. “I am not taking part in many events this year as it is not an Olympic year,” the shooter from Marseille said. Great Britain’s Jack Fairclough won the junior men’s skeet gold, with Kazakhstan’s Eduard Yechshenko and David Pochivalov taking the silver and bronze, respectively. A function was organised yesterday in which the Qatar Shooting and Archery Association (QSAA) secretary general Majid al-Naimi felicitated the Qatar national team members who won medals at the recently concluded Arab Shooting Championship in Kuwait.

Slovakiau2019s Danka Bartekova in action during the womenu2019s Skeet event in Qatar Open Shotgun Championship at Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. PICTURE: Nasar TK
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Bartekova takes skeet gold, 2016 winner Hill sixth

Danka Bartekova is back. The 32-year-old London Olympic bronze medallist from Slovakia won women’s Skeet at the Qatar Open beating veteran Svetlana Demina of Russia 53 to 48 in the gold medal match yesterday. Experience and doggedness prevailed as Bartekova led the competition right from the qualification stage, making it to the semi-final with 70 hits, one more than 55-year-old Demina. Another Russian, 31-year-old Marina Belikova, finished third. Last year’s winner, 19-year-old Amber Hill of the Great Britain finished sixth, behind Vanessa Hauff of Germany and Kazakhstan’s Anastassiya Molchanova. The Slovakian sharpshooter, who had won her last World Cup stage back in 2014 in Tucson, Arizona, was palpably happy with her win. “I’m very happy with the win because today we had very difficult conditions. It was only thirteen degrees and a strong wind was also there. I am satisfied, although I have to work on some aspects of my game to make things better. But I know that I am on right track,” Bartekova said. “It was a difficult final as we were following a new format. I was focused and was feeling good from the first round with the target and I think my tactics worked today.” Bartekova had finished eighth in Skeet at the 2008 Summer Olympics and won bronze in London. This is the second gold for Slovakia in the women’s category in the tournament after Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova won the Trap gold on the first day. Qatar’s Sarah Mohamed finished eighth after failing to score in the three-way shoot-out for the last qualifying place in the final after finishing behind Hauff and Russia’s Anastasiia Krakhmaleva. Sarah was part of the team that won the Skeet silver at the Arab Shooting Championship recently. The other members of the team were Reem al-Sharshani and Sarah’s sister Hajar. British teenager Hill, who narrowly missed out on a place in the finals of the Skeet event at the Rio Olympics, found some consolation in her performance. “It is a steady start to the year for me, making the finals of my first competition of the season, and finishing sixth and going home with some dollars.” In the women’s junior skeet, Alina Fazylzyanova of Russia claimed gold, while Esmee Van Der Veen of the Netherlands and Margarita Gervorkian of Russia clinched silver and bronze respectively. The Men’s Skeet and Junior Men’s Skeet finals are scheduled for today afternoon. French double champion Anthony Terras, who has also won the World Championship and World Cup Finals twice, leads the qualifiers with 50. Qatar’s Khaled al-Muhannadi and Abdulaziz al-Attiyah shot 49, while London Games bronze medallist Nasser al-Attiyah shot 48. In the Junior Men’s Skeet qualifying round, two local lads are on course to getting into the eliminations. Abdulla Rashdan shot 48, two less than leader Jack Fairclough (Great Britain), while Mohamed al-Khulaifi shot 44. The men’s skeet final will be held today at 2:30pm. Women’s Skeet Final RESULTS 1. Danka Bartekova (SVK) 24-22-24-0-0-70-53 2. Svetlana Demina (RUS) 22-24-23-0-0-69-48 3. Marina Belikova (RUS) 25-22-22-0-0-69-42 Junior Women’s Skeet Final 1. Alina Fazylzyanova (RUS) 21-22-24-0-0-67 2. Esmee Van Der Veen (NED) 19-24-23-0-0-66 3. Elena Bukhonova (RUS) 23-21-21-0-0-65+2

USAu2019s Casey Wallace (centre) won the menu2019s Trap gold ahead of Russiau2019s Nikita Egorovat (left) and UAEu2019s Hamad Alkendi at the Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. PICTURE: Nasar TK
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USA’s Wallace claims Qatar Open Trap gold

Casey Wallace of the USA made a golden start to the season as he won the Trap gold under trying conditions at the Qatar Open Shotgun Championship yesterday. At the Lusail Shooting Range, Wallace shot 10 out of 10 in the final round against young and upcoming Russian shooter Nikita Egorov, who missed his first four shots, to win the gold under clouds and a light drizzle. Wallace was introduced to shotgun shooting at the age of 11 after he was forced in to a wheelchair for almost two years after breaking his hips in an accident. The 27-year-old was happy to open his medal account in 2017. “It was my first outing in Doha. The conditions were a bit tough; it was tough to aim the target  as clouds got really dark there and, in the end, the wind picked up. But I am very delighted with the win in the very first tournament of the season,” Wallace said after topping the field of 33 athletes. “I am impressed with the facilities here. The range is very good and the targets were also perfect today,” said the 2012 Lindenwood University graduate. Talking about the level of the shooters in the competition he said: “The competition was tough as all the shooters were of top quality, but I kept my cool to emerge as the winner.” The Colorado Springs resident received $7,000 in prize money for yesterday’s win. “It is always good to win the gold and get some extra bucks as prize money,” the USA star said with a cheeky smile. Wallace will be going to India for the first ISSF World Cup of the year, which begins on February 23. Ahead of the tournament, which is being held in New Delhi, the win should serve as a confidence-booster. “I am feeling more confident for the New Delhi World Cup after today’s win. I hope to carry the winning touch to the World Cup.” Egorov, the 21-year-old Russian, who came through the junior ranks of the national team, shot four targets less than the eventual winner in the final round, in which six shooters qualified, to finish second. On a day where two young shooters grabbed the spotlight, it was veteran Hamad Alkendi of UAE, who took the bronze. The 47-year-old finished with a score of 32 in the final to take the third place, while Piotr Kowalczyk of Poland, who led at the start with perfect 13 shots, came fourth followed by Thomas Ward of Great Britian and Talal al-Rashidi of Kuwait. According to the new ISSF rules the shotgun finals are changed from the current semifinal-medal match format to a progressive elimination final. The trap finalists were shooting in qualification rank order, with the qualification ranking deciding ties for 6th, 5th, 4th  and 3rd places. All finalists have to shoot 25 targets with eliminations or medal ronds occurring after 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 targets.   Double Trap finalists will shoot 15 doubles with eliminations taking place after 15, 20, 25, 30 and 40 doubles. The Double Trap final will be held tomorrow.

Slovakiau2019s Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova (centre) won womenu2019s Trap gold ahead of Russiau2019s Liudmila Pshenichnikova (left) and IuliiaTugolukova (right) at the Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. PICTURES: Nasar TK
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Stefecekova takes Trap gold in emphatic fashion

Slovakia’s Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova won the Trap gold in emphatic fashion in a shoot-out against Russian veteran Liudmila Pshenichnikova at the Qatar Open Shotgun Championship at the Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. Young and upcoming shooter from Russia, IuliiaTugolukova, took bronze. Two-time Olympic Silver medallist (2008 and 2012) medallist Stefecekova was delighted by her title win in Qatar. “I am happy to start the season with a win. This is like second home for me, as we always start the season here and I love the range here,” said the gold medal winner, who is here with her son and husband. “Every year we come to Qatar to take part in the pre-season training at the Lusail Shooting Range, as it is winter back home in Slovakia. We enjoy training here and it prepares us for the season ahead,” the Slovakian shooter, who had won the ISSF World Cup in 2013, said. She said she had no problem with the weather yesterday. “It was not that windy today, it was a warmer day, so I had no problems. But on the first two days (Monday, Tuesday) the rain and the windy conditions made it difficult,” said Stefecekova, who will not be going to India for the ISSF World Cup later this month. Instead, after returning to Slovakia, her next event will be in April. Stefecekova had a perfect start in the qualifiers and topped the score sheets and continued in the same vein in the final round. In the final round, in which six qualified, Stefecekova and Pshenichnikova finished on top, forcing a shoot-out for the top position leaving Tugolukova and New Zealand’s Natalie Rooney to train their guns on the bronze medal. Tugolukova hit the bull’s eye finishing with a combined score of 30 while Rooney had 25 against her name to take bronze. Pshenichnikova was happy with silver, having won her first medal in four years. The 44-year-old had last won a medal — a gold — in Trap at the 2013 ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Acapulco, Mexico. Yesterday’s women’s Trap field saw participation of 31 shooters, including five from Qatar. Today, the men’s Trap final will be held 3pm onwards. The men’s Double Trap final is scheduled for Saturday, while women’s Skeet final will take place on February 20, followed by the men’s Skeet final the next day. The eight-day event, which will competition across three disciplines, including Trap, Double Trap and Skeet for senior and junior, men and women, carries a total prize money of $132,600.

TOP: Winners on the podium for the Al Adaid Desert Challenge 2016.   BELOW PHOTO: (From left) Al Adaid Desert Challenge managing director Dr Jamal al-Khanji, Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) president Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari, Qatar Cyclists Centre president Dr Abdulaziz al-Kuwari and Rayyan Mineral Water CEO Colin Smith at a press conference yesterday. PICTURE: Jayaram
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Al Adaid Desert Challenge promises to be bigger, better

One-day event will have more than 200 riders competing over six dunes on two bike types across seven categories It started in 2010 with a bunch of local riders and has kept growing ever since. This year, Al Adaid Desert Challenge promises to be bigger, better and more fun when it is held on March 3. The most challenging cycling event on Qatar’s off-road cycling calendar has been marked as UCI C3 Cross Country point-to-point race (XCP) in the International Cycling Union calendar. The challenge will cover 40km of astonishing desert track from Sealine to one of Qatar’s most impressive natural wonders, the ‘Inland Sea’ or Khor Al Adaid. The one-day event will have more than 200 riders competing over six gruelling dunes on two bike types across seven different categories for a total prize money of USD50,000. Addressing the media yesterday, Qatar Cyclists Centre’s Dr Jamal al-Khanji, who is also the managing director of the event, said: “It is a great honour that our event is recognised by the government as one of the most compelling events with potential for tourism. Our goal is to attract international participants and we will direct even more energy in achieving this. One of the first steps in this direction was getting out event placed in the UCI calendar.” The challenge is the first off-road race in Qatar to have been awarded with the UCI status. It is at the moment also the only off road race in the region that will become part of the UCI calendar. The course for a XCP event starts in one place and finishes elsewhere. Riders, who want to compete in the UCI category and would like their race results to contribute to their UCI point rankings must register as UCI pro-elite category riders during online registration, and must provide their UCI international racing license numbers. Qataris and expat residents of Qatar can apply for a UCI license through Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF). “We are preparing packages that will ease travel and accommodation for riders coming to Qatar. I am positive they will return home with great memories and stories to tell,” al-Khanji said. The event is being organised by Qatar Cyclists Centre, under the patronage of Ministry of Cultural and Sports at the Unesco-recognised nature reserve with its own ecosystem — the Inland Sea. It is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert. Inaccessible by road, this tranquil expanse of water can only be reached by crossing the rolling dunes. Riders will have to cross over six of them to reach the finish line. Commenting on the occasion, chief marketing and promotion officer at Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) Rashed al-Qurese, said, “The Al Adaid Desert Challenge attracts visitors and residents to one of Qatar’s most impressive natural wonders by offering a unique challenge, exciting sports and fun activities for families. “QTA is proud to be supporting the seventh edition of this annual event which has steadily grown over the years, and promises to contribute to the country’s efforts to develop the sports tourism sub-sector in Qatar.” This year’s edition will also see a new route in the final part of the race. Removing last year’s dune No 6 (26.5km), the new route involves hitting the last dune (new dune No. 6) just one km from the new finish line. “We believe the new finale will make the race more interesting for riders as well as spectators. Riders will climb on the last dune, have a breath-taking view of Khor Al Adaid and feel that the finish line is within their reach. The terrain on the 30km to 35km is also not as concrete hard as the last year’s approach to the finish, which could mix the standings up to the very last minute,” al-Khanji said. The event was initially started by the Qatar Chain Reaction (QCR) cycling group in 2010 on a minimal budget as Inland Sea Travers and the number of participants varied between 50 and 60 riders per year. In 2015, the Qatar Cyclists participated in the event for the first time and also provide some logistic support to the QCR. “After our participation in 2015, we realised that the event is truly unique in Qatar as well as in the GCC region. So we offered to undertake the concept and the management of the event and rebranded it in 2016 and elevated the status to become one of the top off road cycling event in the region,” president of the Qatar Cyclists Centre Dr Abdulaziz al-Kuwari said. Last year, the rebranded event took place with 130 riders successfully completing the Al Adaid Challenge and paying out a total of $20,000 in gifts and prize money. Talking about the future plan for the growth of the event, Dr al-Kuwari said, “We have plans to for the live coverage this year, but due to some logistic issues it’s not possible, but from next year it will telecast live.” QCF president Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari also advocated the need for the event to go live. “We will ensure the event will go live next edition onward so that it can inspire budding cyclists and help develop a new crop of cyclists in the region,” he said. “We want to increase the total number of riders to more than 400 riders in the next four years. I am confident that we will once again have a unique event that is fun and exciting for cyclists from all over the world.” The desert challenge will not only be a competitive event, but also a fun event for families. The riders can share fun times with their families at the finish line and just before the prize-giving ceremony there will be a short informal kids (7-15 years) event at the finish line.” Last year, Canada’s Julien Periard won the overall title, while Finland’s Pia Sundstedt won the women’s title and was third overall. Al Adaid Desert Challenge facts RACE TYPE: UCI Class 3, XCP (point to point race) CATEGORIES UCI Class 3 categories: Elite Men and Elite Women Other categories: Men MTB, women MTB, men fatbike, women fatbike, Qatari nationals. Race route: The start area is about 1km from Sealine Beach Resort after entering the desert located near the Mawater Sand Dune. From there, cyclists will cover the desert highway, across sand patches and cross over six dunes to reach the finish line at Khor Al Adaid. Total distance: 40km The total prize money is USD 50,000. Registration for participants (minimum age 18 years) is open until February 28. EVENT SCHEDULE 6:00am to 7:30am: Race Number Collection 8:00am: Race begins 9:30am: First riders expected to finish 11:30am: Kids’ event at Finish Area 12:00pm: Friday Prayer 12:30pm: Prize Distribution