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 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.
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
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
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

Paul Lawrie
Lawrie hopes to become first 3-time winner in Qatar

The spring in the steps of Paul Lawrie, after playing the ProAm round yesterday, was a signal that he is looking to atone for his disappointing showing at last week’s Abu Dhabi Championship, the first event of the Desert Swing, where he missed the cut. Lawrie, known to make strong last-round comebacks—he pulled off the largest final-round comeback in a major championship—is aiming for a spectacular third Commercial Bank Qatar Masters titles. His belief is a key attribute for a champion and Lawrie was full of it when he said, “I feel ready for the show. I am feeling good (about my shot at the third title).” “Last week was my first event of the year in Abu Dhabi for quite a few months. I was a bit rusty and missed the cut by five shots, but I did a lot of work over the weekend. I have been here for a couple of days now and I think I’m ready,” the 49-year-old, who won his first Qatar title in 1999, told Gulf Times yesterday. “I hit it pretty good from tee to green but my short game and putting was pretty poor in Abu Dhabi. The course and event as always was brilliant and is a great way to start the season for most of the players. I stayed over the weekend in Abu Dhabi and managed to put in some quality practice, especially with the putter,” he added. Lawrie won his second title in Qatar, defeating Jason Day and Peter Hanson by four strokes after a gap of 13 years in the wind-hit 2012 edition, his seventh win on the European Tour. The other two-time winners in Qatar are Australian Adam Scott and Brenden Grace of South Africa. Lawrie said he has a special liking for the Doha Golf Club course. “It is my favourite course,” he said. “The course is pretty much the same… some new tees are there. Overall, the place is nearly the same. The top hasn’t changed. The event has become bigger than it was. Obviously over the years, it (the tournament) has grown,” Lawrie, who won the 1999 British Open despite starting the final round 10 shots behind Frenchman Jean van de Velde, said. Commenting over the competitive field, he said, “The field is quite strong. It is always good (field) here. These three weeks are always pretty busy and people like to play them here.” Lawrie’s last title was the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in 2012. He won the Open de Andalucia title in 2011, which came after his 2002 Wales Open win. Lawrie played the Pro-Am yesterday with local golfers Yasmain al-Sharsani and Mariam al-Sada and was happy with the conditions. “The Pro-Am went ok. The course is very good and the greens are beautiful but the fairways are not as good as they normally are. There are a fair bit of problems with them. But it is always nice to play here,” the vice-captain of the European Ryder Cup team last year said.

Chris Wood
Wood hopes to repeat his 2013 title feat

Chris Wood has set his sights on reclaiming the Mother of Pearl trophy in the 20th edition of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. “Every year I come back here, I sort of feel like I’m going to give myself a chance, just because of the memories that I have here. I always love coming back,” the 29-year-old Wood, who won his first European Tour title at the 2013 Qatar Masters in brilliant fashion with a last-hole eagle, said yesterday. His victory was followed by a tie for 43rd in 2014 and a missed cut last January. He skipped the 2015 event due to injury. The 25-year-old from Bristol rates his first title in 2013 as perhaps the best moment of his glittering career. “My win at the 2013 Qatar Masters is still one of the highlights of my career. It was pretty emotional to finally win my first European Tour title after what felt like many years,” Wood, the only Englishman to lift the Mother of Pearl trophy, said. He also got nostalgic talking about his fist title win: “Yeah, this is the scene of my first win on the European Tour in 2013 here. I don’t know where time goes, four years ago now… But every year I come back here, I always sort of remember the shots I hit and the finish in particular. Eagling the last to beat one of my sort of childhood heroes, Sergio Garcia, is pretty special. “It was massive, really. And I think I showed it in my sort of celebration. I sort of gave everything to a fist pump I could, really, when I holed that eagle putt! Yeah, I think obviously I’ve come on as a player since then. “Four years is quite a long time. I’ve put myself in contention to win more events since, and I have done that. There’s nothing like feeling the importance of every single shot over the last few holes when you’re in contention. You know, one shot, one putt missed here or there can make all the difference…” “It’s hard to explain until you’ve been in that position, but it really is the reason that we play; the pressure that you put yourself under trying to win a tournament, trying to finish a tournament off. It’s like something I’ve never experienced week-in and week-out, really,” Wood added. After winning further European Tour titles at the 2015 Lyoness Open in Austria and last year’s BMW PGA Championship in England, Wood finished fourth on the Ryder Cup European points list last year to secure a first appearance in the biennial team competition against Team USA. “It will feel good to compete here in my first full season after playing at the Ryder Cup because I would like to keep playing well enough to make the 2018 team,” he said. Discussing the success of big hitters in Doha, he said: “I wouldn’t consider myself one of the very longest but I’m long enough. So yeah, clearly it’s suited to my game. I think I can reach all the par 5s here, apart from the ninth, which maybe only one or two guys can reach in two. But you know, clearly I’ve won here before, so there’s every chance again this week,” the 6-foot-6 inch golfer said. The Englishman missed the cut last week in Abu Dhabi despite a solid second-round 68. “I was probably mentally quite rusty on the first day. Let three or four shots go, which I wouldn’t necessarily have done if it was sort of midway through the season. “But then the second day, I felt I was right back on it, and it was an easy 68 for me, really. So even though I missed the cut I came away with a little bit of confidence because I’ve never really done well there. But I showed enough to feel like my game is in pretty good shape coming into this week,” the gentle giant concluded.

Winners of the Fide World Rapid and Blitz Championship with Qatar Chess Association (QCA) president Khalifa al-Hitmi, Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and QCA general secretary Mohamed al-Medaihki at Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena yesterday. PICTURES: Shemeer Rasheed
‘Satisfied’ Karjakin claims Blitz world title

Russia’s Sergey Karjakin finished the year on a “satisfied” note by clinching the Fide World Blitz Championship title yesterday. In the women’s section, consistent Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk completed a golden double by defending her blitz title she won in 2014 in Russia, a day after winning the rapid title. “I am satisfied with the victory as it came after a disappointment in USA. I am happy to go home with the world title,” the 26-year-old grandmaster said. Exactly two months after his narrow loss to Magnus Carslen in the classical World Chess Championship, the Russian gave the Norwegian a test of his own medicine by claiming the title under his nose at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena. The Karjakin-Carlsen tussle in Doha was as close as the one in New York last November. The Russian scored 16.5 points from 21 rounds of the fast and furious form of the game, and so did the Norwegian. But the first place went to Karjakin on tie-break. Carlsen and Karjakin dominated the blitz event from the very beginning. After Day 1, they shared the lead with 10.0/12 and they continued to lead throughout Day 2. However, before the last round Carlsen led with 16.0/20, while Karjakin was half a point behind. In the last round, Carlsen was to play Peter Leko with black, while Karjakin had white against Baadur Jobava. After failing to create any serious winning chances against Leko, Carlsen finally settled for a perpetual and a draw, while Karjakin grabbed his opportunity, defeating Jobava. In the tie-break, the Elo-average of the opponents came into play. Karjakin’s opponents had a better average and that clinched the title for Karjakin. “Ahead of this championship, I thought I only wanted to play chess here and take a rest from all the attention. I didn’t set any big goals for championship,” Karjakin said. Talking about his victory route, he said, “After an okay performance in the rapid event I tried harder in the blitz. I realised that my play in rapid was not upto the mark. I was bit upset with that. “So, on day one (of the blitz) I managed to beat Carlsen, which was a beautiful continuation of our story in New York. And after beating the Norwegian, I realised I really could claim the champion’s title.” Russian grandmaster Daniil Dubov, 20, was in a three-way tie for bronze with Hikaru Nakamura and defending champion and compatriot Alexander Grischuk at 14.5 points. India’s Viswanathan Anand finished 10th overall with 13 points, after recording three wins in the last four rounds – the lone defeat coming against his old nemesis Carlsen in the 20th and penultimate round. In the women’s section Muzychuk emerged as the clear winner in the 34-player field. Muzychuk finished with 13 points from a possible 17. Russia’s Valentina Gunina came second, while Russia’s Kateryna Lagno secured the third place. India’s Dronavalli Harika finished fifth overall after a tie with Daris Charochkina of Russia on 10.5 points in the 17-round competition. “It was a fantastic victory. I can’t believe yet that I have won two back to back championships,” Muzychuk told Gulf Times. “I am happy with the golden double. It was a top field but after winning the rapid it gave me the confidence to go for another title and I played consistently in the blitz also. It is nice to end the year on a winning note,” said the Ukrainian. The total prize money for the Open tournament was $400,000 with the winner taking home $40,000 for each championship. Total prize money for the women’s championship was $80,000 with the winner taking home $20,000 for winning both the championships. STANDINGS BLITZ: Open: 1-2. Sergey Karjakin (Rus) and Magnus Carlsen (Nor), 16.5/21; 3-5. Daniil Dubov (Rus), Hikaru Nakamura (USA) and Alexander Grischuk (Rus) 14.5; Women: 1. Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) 13/17; 2-3. Kateryna Lagno (Rus) and Gunina Valentina (Rus) 12.5; 4. Tan Zhongyi (Chn) 11; 5-6. Dronavalli Harika (Ind) and Daria Charochkina (Rus) 10.5. RAPID: Open: 1-3. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr), Alexander Grischuk (Rus) and Magnus Carlsen (Nor) 11/15; Women: 1. Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) 9.5/12; 2. Alexander Kosteniuk (Rus) 8.5; 3. Nana Dzanigdze (Geo) 8

Vassily Ivanchuk (left) and Anna Muzychuk made it a Ukrainian double by winning the menu2019s and womenu2019s title respectively at the Fide World Rapid Championship at Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena, yesterday.  PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil
Ivanchuk, Muzychuk crowned World Rapid champions

It was double delight for Ukraine as Vassily Ivanchuk and Anna Muzychuk clinched the men’s and women’s Fide World Rapid Championship, respectively yesterday. At the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena, the 47-year old Ivanchuk scored 11 points from 15 rounds, the same as Alexander Grischuk of Russia and the reigning champion and top seed Magnus Carlsen of Norway, but a superior tie-break score gave him the title. “I am happy. I am very happy, but I was very lucky in this tournament,” Ivanchuk said. “It was a very tough championship as all the players were top class and to win against them is very tough,” the former world No 2 added. Ivanchuk, who had emerged as the sole leader after the end of round 10 on the penultimate day, played superbly on the final day to emerge champion. World champ Carlsen, who was favourite to defend his title after his recent world title triumph against Russian Sergey Karjakin in New York, was not at his best yesterday and lauded the efforts of Ivanchuk. “I can only congratulate Ivanchuk. If there’s anyone I want to be successful, it’s him. He has been class player for the last 30 years,” the Norwegian superstar said. On the second day, Carlsen edged closer with a victory in the eighth game over Dimitry Jakovenko and then defeated Grisjtjuk, the current world champion in blitz chess. However, he ended the day with a draw against Levon Aronian. “I should have stood fine, but I messed things up. Carlsen said. “I don’t think it was ever any crisis … my basic game was correct, but my play wasn’t good enough. I can’t afford to give away so many points,” said Carlsen, who started the championship with a lucky draw against India’s Surya Shekhar Ganguly. He also lost in the second game to Levan Pantsulaia of Georgia and in 11th to day one leader Anton Korobov of Ukraine. Commenting on his overall game, Carslen admitted he wasn’t playing ‘nearly well enough.’ “There’s something that’s not functioning. I’m lacking a good feeling. If you are losing three games, you can’t expect anyone to win the title,” he said. Ivanchuk termed his win against Carlsen in round seven as a very tough one. “I was lucky to win against Carlsen. He is a very accurate player, you need a brilliant game to beat him,” the Ukrainian said. This is Ivanchuk’s second world title after his triumph blitz in 2007.   India’s Vidit Gujrathi, who was seeded 51st, did exceedingly well to take the eighth spot, scoring 9.5 points, while former champion and seventh seed Viswanathan Anand had to settle for the 14th place, with nine points. Carlsen is fancied to win back the blitz title, which will be played from day, from Gristsjuk. The Russian won that title from Carlsen in 2015, after the Norwegian had become the only person ever to hold all three titles at once. In the women’s, Muzychuk played consistently to win her second world title in style earlier in the day. The 26-year-old finished with nine points at the end of 12 rounds to emerge as clear winner. Muzychuk superiority was never in doubt from day one in Doha. She finished on top on the day one and also on the day two, and capped her consistent run on the final day by bagging the title. “It was a tiring championship, and I am happy to win the title,” Muzychuk said. “I have to prepare for the next two days for the blitz event, and hopefully I will win that too. I am looking forward to the next two days.” The former world No.2, who earlier used to play for Slovenia, is also the current world blitz title holder and will defend her title in Qatar, when the two-day championship begins today. Russian Alexandra Kosteniuk finished second, while Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia took the third place. The rapid category was contested over 12 rounds for the women`s section, with a single game for each round, the Swiss event. On day two, Muzychuk, who was a runaway leader after five rounds, slowed down a bit by playing out two draws in rounds five and six. But after two victories in rounds seven and eight against Dzagnidze and Kashlinskaya, she finished the day in first place with seven points.   Kosteniuk and Katerina Lagno of Ukraine played out a draw in the eighth round and shared the second place together with Iranian player Sarasadat Khademalsharieh. India’s Koneru Humpy took the 10th place, while Dronavalli Harika finished 16th. After the rapid chess segment the 21 rounds of blitz chess will be played today and tomorrow, in which players will only have three minutes per game plus two seconds extra per player per move. The total prize money for the Open tournament is $400,000 with $40,000 for the winner of each championship and $80,000 in Women Championships with $10,000 for the winner of each championship. Final standings Men: 1-3. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr), Alexander Grischuk (Rus) and Magnus Carlsen (Nor) 11/15; 4-7. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze), Yu Yangyi (Chn), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus) and David Anton Guijarro (Spa) 10; 8-11. Vidit Gujrathi (Ind), Levon Aronian (Arm), Leinier Dom?nguez (Cub) and Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (Vie) 9.5. Women: 1. Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) 9.5/12; 2. Alexander Kosteniuk (Rus) 8.5; 3. Nana Dzanigdze (Geo) 8; 4-6. Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (Ira), Ju Wenjun (Chn) and Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kaz) 7.5; 7-11. Kateryna Lagno (Rus), Antaoneta Stefanova (Bul), Dinara Saduakassova (Kaz), Koneru Humpy (Ind) and Zhao Xue (Chn) 7.

Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine mulls his next move on second day of the Fide World Rapid ChessChampionships at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena yesterday. PICTURES: Shemeer Rasheed
Ivanchuk, Muzychuk lead after second day

Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine emerged as the sole leader after the end of the Round 10 of the Fide World Rapid Championships with eight points at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena yesterday. Mamedyarov Shakhriyar and Ian Nepomniachtchi were tied second with 7.5 points. Top-seed and world champion Magnus Carlsen was joint fourth with seven points. Carlsen was joined by Day One leader Anton Korobov of Ukraine, former champion Viswanathan Anand, Armenia’s Levon Aronian, India’s Vidit Gujrathi, Russia’s Alexander Grischuk and Cuba’s Dominguez Perez Leinier. Day One leader in the women’s section, Anna Muzychuk, maintained her lead by 1.5 points after the end of round eight. The second seed played two draws against compatriot Inna Gaponenko and Russia’s Kateryna Lango in the first two games of the day. She came strongly to beat Georgia’s Nana Dzagnidze and Russia’s Alina Kashlinskaya in the last two rounds. On Day One, Korobov and blitz world champion Muzychuk had maintained a clean slate in the men’s and women’s section respectively. Anand had won his first game against Kazakhstan’s Rinat Jumabayev in the first round, but was held by China’s Xiangzhi Bu in the second, England’s Davis Howell in the third and by France’s Laurent Fressinet in the fourth. He finished the opening day with a win against Spain’s Francisco Vallejo Pons. Top-seed Carlsen had got off to a shaky start, pulling off a great escape in the first game against Indian GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly, who was playing with black pieces, before pushing too hard. In the second, he was convincingly outplayed by Levan Pantsulaia. Carlsen started the game with unusual moves in a plot to confuse Ganguly, who kept his calm and took the advantage of his opponent’s inaccurate play. With time pressure mounting, he missed an elementary mate in three moves as Carlsen managed to draw with a perpetual check. The draw was a surprising result as everybody expected an easy win for the Norwegian. “It was a typical first round game. To get a draw when you’re a piece down and your opponent has mate in three ... That’s kind of nice,” said Carlsen. “What I’m happy about is that it was not even worse. The first couple of games were awful of course,” said the world champion, who has not returned to Norway since October and wasn’t planning on returning until February. However, defending champion hit back with three wins to end the day on 3.5 out of five, to join Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The Norwegian defeated Cristobal Henriquez Villagra in 30 moves, Diego Flores in 27 and then Ernesto Inarkiev in 41, after he emerged from a tricky middle-game with a superior rook ending that he converted into an easy win. For Ganguly, the draw against Carlsen was both the high as well as the low point of the opening day. He could have easily beaten the world champion, but let him off the hook. A draw against Carlsen is an excellent result, but this is not how the Indian grandmaster would have wanted the game to end. However, he drew his game against Nepomniachtchi, another excellent rapid player. Ganguly did lose to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but wins against Sergey Kayumov and Parham Maghsoodloo to finish the day on three points. The hero of the day Korobov, whose performance just got better and better, started by beating Kazakhstan’s Rustam Khusnutdinov, India’s B Adhiban and Iran’s Pouria Darini before coming up against Alexander Grischuk in round four. Playing with black against Grischuk, he showed aggressive play and a keen tactical eye. In round five, Korobov won against China’s Yu Yangyi with a violent attack which drove black’s king from the kingside to the queenside. Carlsen’s world championship opponent Russia’s Sergey Karjakin also fared poorly. After pushing too hard against Nils Grandelius in the first round, he began the tournament with a loss. After wins in rounds two and three, he lost again in round four. In the fifth round, he once again had to show his amazing defensive skills to draw the game and to finish the day with 2.5 points. India’s Vidit Gujrathi shared the third place with seven others at the end of the fifth round.  Gujrathi started off with a fine win over Aryan Gholami, a talented youngster from Iran. He then beat the man-in-form, the Olympiad gold medal on board one Baadur Jobava. This was followed by a crushing victory over Russia’s talented youngster Vladislav Artemiev. The 23-year-old Indian lost his fourth round game against Vasily Ivanchuk, but he didn’t let that affect him, as he bounced back with a win over Vladimir Akopian. “It was a good day at the office. Four out five is a fine score, but mainly I am happy with the quality of the games so far,” Gujrathi said. Muzychuk leads the women’s section with a perfect four out of four on the first day. She defeated one of her main rivals Alexandra Kosteniuk from an irregular opening and a weird sixth move by Black, eventually winning a double-rook endgame in the fourth round. Muzychuk also defeated Lela Javakhishvili, Russia’s Aleksandra Goryachkina and Russia’s Natalia Zhukova to end the day with four out of four.

Viswanathan Anand
Even in chess you need to be on right side of age: Anand

Five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand has had a mixed 2016. He won the Leon Chess Rapid Masters tournament and had a very good Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Tal Memorial tournament and the London Chess Classic. He lost the Candidates tournament where, despite beating eventual winner Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, Anand ended up joint second. He finished fourth in the 2016 Grand Chess tour, resulting in him not securing a direct qualification for the Grand Chess tour of 2017. And at the age of 47, he is in no mood to relent. “My ambitions are high. I’m going to play a lot of chess,” Anand said after the London Chess Classic recently. Anand, who became a Grandmaster at 18, was called Lightning Kid then. The former No.1 ruled the world from 2007 to 2012 as the undisputed king, with his famous wins coming against Russian Vladimir Kramnik in 2008, Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov in 2010 and Israel’s Boris Gelfand two years later, all at the World Championships. In fact, Carlsen even helped Anand prepare for the finals against Kramnik and Topalov. Anand is now considered just off his peak and is a generation older than his Norwegian rival, who is 21 years younger to him. Carlsen had beaten the Indian for his first world title in 2013 in Chennai and then again in the 2014 final in Sochi. Before the Chennai event, Anand had a 6-3 win-loss record in 29 matches against the Norwegian, but Carlsen comfortably dethroned Anand, winning 6.5-3.5. But does age matter in chess? “In general, age is no criteria for a chess player, but yes, age has an impact on critical thinking and overall game. I would love to be younger,” Anand, who will play the World Rapid and Blitz championship in Doha starting today, said. Carlsen, 26, who is on an upswing and will be taking part in Doha event, also echoed Anand’s view. “I agree with Vishy. It’s a combination of youthful energy and knowledge. It is easier to deal with pressure when you are young because the lack of experience is easier to deal with, as compared to lack of energy and motivation, which is a part of older age,” the young champion said. Talking about his recent performances and the targets for next year, the Indian GM said, “I have had a reasonably good 2016, nothing spectacular, but I have my moments. There are positives to take out from 2016. “Next year I am not playing much in the first quarter of the year, but rest of the year is hectic. I hope to perform better next year,” said Anand, who has been a part of all the world championship finals since 2007. This is Anand’s third trip to Doha and he is excited to explore the new sights in the country. “I am coming to Doha after a gap of around 21 years and I can see the changes in the country’s landscape. It has a sizeable number of Indians and I am looking forward to visit a new place during my stay here,” he said.

Qatar Chess Association general secretary Mohamed al-Medhaiki (left) poses with womenu2019s Blitz champion Anna Muzychuk (second from left), world champion Magnus Carlsen and former world champion Viswanathan Anand (right) at a press conference yesterday. PICTURES: Shemeer Rasheed
Carlsen, Anand to headline Rapid and Blitz Worlds

The Fide World Rapid and Blitz Championships should satisfy the appetite of chess lovers who have been craving for bigger events in Qatar after two successful editions of Qatar Masters. The twin world championship featuring more than 400 players from 75 countries, including world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and former world champion Viswanathan Anand of India, will start today at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena. The Rapid and Blitz format is not as prominent as the classic one, but presence of title holders and former champions are a big boost for the championship. “Rapid and Blitz are for enjoyment. It is touch and go. You make one mistake and you are gone,” Carlsen said during a pre-event press conference yesterday. Carlsen’s World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin (Elo 2785) of Russia will also have an opportunity to avenge his tie-breaker defeat to the Norwegian in the FIDE World Championships in New York recently. Anand (Elo 2779), who missed out on a World Championship match this year, will get a chance to lock horns with Carlsen, who will be looking to defend his Rapid title. The top-seeded Norwegian (Elo 2853) will also face tough challenges from France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2811), Armenia’s Levon Aronian (2795) and USA’s Hikaru Nakamura (2779) in his bid to defend the title. The young champion is aware of the tough battle ahead and said it would not be easy as many former world champions would be breathing down his neck in Qatar. “Yes, Vishy and many others will be a hurdle for me. Though I can’t pinpoint any specific names, who will be a threat to me here,” said Carlsen. The world No. 1 would be looking for a ‘double’, eyeing the Blitz title he had last won in 2014. Anand, who was also present for the press conference, said the field looks strong. “It will be a tough one,” the 47-year-old Indian GM said. The Chennai-born, who became a grandmaster three decades back, said he has come back to Qatar after a gap of 26 years and over the years the country has undergone drastic changes. The Grandmaster said he was confident the hosts will deliver an excellent championship. “I have known (Qatar Chess Association general secretary) Mohamed (al-Medhaiki) for many years and I am sure that the organisation of the championship will match the high standards they have set over the years.” In the women’s Rapid event, defending champion Kateryna Lagno of Russia is once again the favourite, while Ukraine-born Anna Muzychuk is expected to defend her Blitz title she won in Khanty-Mansiysk. “I am happy to be in Qatar, this is my first trip to the country and hopefully it will be a memorable one,” the GM, who plays for Slovakia said. Al-Medhaiki, for his part said, “We are happy to host this tournament in Qatar. This is the second time an event of such magnitude will be hosted in the Middle East. The high calibre of players who have indicated their interest to come to Doha is a testimony to the quality of organisation of our past tournaments, especially the Qatar Masters.” Qatar is hosting the championships for the first time. “It’s going to be another big occasion for us. We’ll live up to our expectations as a good host. The Qatar Masters was a classic tournament, but Rapid and Blitz events will give fans something different to look forward to. We need such big tournaments to educate the parents and kids. The chess activity improved a lot over the last three years with many new students enrolled in QCA training centres,” the Qatari GM said. The Rapid event will be held over three days (December 26-28) at a time control of 15min+10s and the Blitz Championships will be run on the next two days (December 29-30) at a time control of 3min+2s. Both the events will be Swiss pairings tournaments. The Blitz will have 21 rounds in open championship and 17 rounds in the women’s championship, with a single game for each round of the Swiss event. On the other hand, the Rapid will be of 15 rounds for Open and 12 rounds for the women’s championship, with a single game for each round of the Swiss event. The total prize fund for the tournament is $400,000 with $40,000 for the winner of each championship and $80,000 in the women championships with $10,000 for the winner of each championship. World Blitz champions, three-time winner Alexander Grischuk (2006, 2012, 2015), Vassily Ivanchuk (2007), Leinier Dominguez (2008), Levon Aronian (2010), world Rapid champion Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2013) and other top players are also taking part in the tournament. In the women’s section former world Rapid champions Alexandra Kosteniuk, Antoaneta Stefanova, Anna Ushenina, Zhu Chen, 2014 world Rapid champion and 2010 world Blitz champion Katerina Lagno, 2012 world Blitz champion Valentina Gunina, FIDE Grand Prix Series winner Ju Wenjun and other top players also feature in the participants list. SCHEDULE 26 Dec: Day 1 – Rapid 27 Dec: Day 2 – Rapid 28 Dec: Day 3 – Rapid 29 Dec: Day 1 – Blitz 30 Dec: Day 2 - Blitz

Omkar Singh (right) with Yongde Jin
India’s Omkar takes silver in 25m Centre Fire Pistol

India’s triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Omkar Singh shot his way through to 25m Centre Fire Pistol silver medal at the CISM World Military Shooting Championship yesterday. At the Losail Shooting Range here, the 32-year-old Indian Navy shooter held his nerves to finish behind China’s Yongde Jin, who won the gold. North Korea’s Kim Hyon-Ung claimed the bronze. On the third day of the championship, Norway’s Boe Hans Kristian and Arne Brekne Odd claimed the gold and bronze respectively in the 300m Standard Rifle 3 Men, with Steffen Olsen of Denmark taking the silver. Thailand’s Tanyaporn Prucksakorn and Pattarasuda Sowsa-Nga finished 1-2 in the women’s 25m Pistol individual category. The silver went to China’s Yao Yushi. On Tuesday, in 50m Air Rifle Prone, Silvia Rachl of Germany missed the CISM record of So Hee Bae (625.5) of South Korea and finished with a silver medal on a tied score with CPL Sunuta Majchacheep of Thailand with 624.8 points, while OG Jolyn Beer of Germany took bronze. At the 50m range, Korean shooter So Hee Bae set a new CISM World record with 625.5 points. Later, the team record for women was tied by both the German and Chinese teams (1861.0 points) Earlier, Arne Brekne of Norway broke his own meet record with a total score of 588 points during the first relay of the 300m Standard Rifle 3×20 match. Captain Yong Bok Kim of China broke a record in the Trap Women qualification with a total score of 73. Both China (Wan, Yin & Gao) and Germany (Muller, Beer, Rachl) broke the CISM World Record in the 50m Rifle 60 Prone Women’s Team event with a total of 1861.0 points while Democratic People’s Republic of Korea team (Kim, Pak, Yang) is the new holder of the meet record in the Trap Women’s Team event with a total of 213 points. RESULTS 300m Standard Rifle 3 Men: 1. Boe Hans Kristian (Norway); 2. Steffen Olsen (Denmark); 3. Arne Brekne Odd (Norway) 25m Pistol women individual: 1. Tanyaporn Prucksakorn (Thailand); 2. Pattarasuda Sowsa-Nga (Thailand); 3. Yao Yushi (China) 25m Centre Fire Pistol men: 1. Yongde Jin (China); 2. Omkar Singh (India); 3. Kim Hyon- Ung (North Korea) 25m CF Pistol Men (Team): 1. China (1730-62x); 2. Czech Rep (1728-53); 3. Qatar (1727-57) 25m Sport Pistol Women (Team): 1. Germany (1732-61); 2. Thailand (1732-53); 3. China (1724-53) 300m Standard Rifle 3×20 Men’s Team: 1. Norway (1745-62) CR; 2. Switzerland (1743-44); 3. Austria (1731-50) 50m Rifle 60 prone Women Team: 1. China (1861,0) CR; 2. Germany (1861,0) CR; 3. Rep of Korea (1859,8) 50m Women 60 Prone: 1. New CISM Record: SSG So Hee Bae (KOR) 625,5pts CR Shotgun Trap Women team: 1. Democratic People’s Rep. of Korea (213) CR; 2. China (212); 3. Qatar (195) Shotgun Trap Women Final: 1. K Quooss (GER) 15; 2. J Wang (CHN) 12; 3. Y Wang (CHN) 13; 4. X Wang (CHN) 10 Shotgun Trap Men Team: 1. China (353) CR; 2. Qatar (352); 3. Italy (351) Shotgun Trap Men Final: 1. K Bindrich (GER) 12; 2. X Yu (CHN) 9; 3. A Löw (GER) 13; 4. R Danek (CZE) 9

The Los Angeles 2024 bid team at the ANOC General Assembly. (Twitter/LA2024)
We represent openness, diversity, inclusiveness, says sprint star Felix

Sprint star Allyson Felix yesterday urged Olympic officials not to worry about the changing political landscape in the United States, while considering Los Angeles’ bid for 2024 Olympic Games. LA-born Felix, a six-time Olympic gold medallist, said post the presidential elections, some may question America’s commitment to its founding principles. “Please don’t doubt us. We represent openness, diversity and inclusiveness, and it is our greatest strength,” Felix said during the 20-minute official candidate city presentation of Los Angeles. There have been murmurs that Trump’s foreign policy plans could harm the US city’s standing with some of the 205 National Olympic Committees, who represent a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds. The LA 2024 team outlined its plan for a low-risk, high-tech and sustainable new Games for a new era that will elevate the experience of the NOCs and their teams. Yesterday’s presentation was one of three official presentations to IOC members, with the second presentation scheduled for July 2017 in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the final presentation in September 2017 in Lima, Peru. The LA 2024 team is led by chairman Casey Wasserman, CEO Gene Sykes and vice-chair and four-time Olympic champion swimmer Janet Evans. “I was born and raised in Los Angeles, in the same neighbourhood as the LA Memorial Coliseum, and I’m incredibly proud to be representing the city I love. But I am also here to represent the voice of the athletes – not just from the US, but those from around the world,” Felix told Gulf Times just before her address. “I owe so much in my development as an athlete to the US Olympic Committee, and the same is true for Olympians worldwide. The ANOC General Assembly, and the ANOC Awards in particular, are great events and give us a wonderful opportunity to learn about and honour the remarkable work of the world’s NOCs,” the LA 2024 Athletes’ Advisory Commission member said. Felix said Los Angeles needed the Games “now more than ever” to help make the US better. “We are a nation of people whose descendants came from all over the world for a better life,” the most decorated female track-and-field athlete in Olympic history said. “We are also a nation with individuals like me, descendants of people who came to America, not of their own free will but against it,” she said. The last Olympics held in LA were in 1984 and since then a lot has changed in the city, said Felix. “We’re not a nation that clings to our past, no matter how glorious – or how painful. Americans rush toward the future.” Felix’s six Olympic gold medals and three silver medals make her the most decorated female track-and-field athlete in Olympic history. She won gold in the 4x100m and 4x400m relay events at Rio 2016, as well as a silver in the 400m. Felix is also a nine-time World Champion and was part of the 4x100m relay team that smashed a 27-year-old world record en route to gold at London 2012. Speaking on the occasion, Wasserman said, “I think the Olympics are at its best when they rise above politics. “The Olympic movement highlights the wonderful diversity and unity, bringing together more countries than the United Nations. LA 2024 is honoured, humbled and excited to be a part of it. We are here following voter approval of a $120bn transit upgrade and conservation legislation, which will ensure the National Olympic Committees and their athletes experience the very best of the City of Angels – a Games-ready city that is constantly imagining ‘What’s Next?” Mayor Eric Garcetti added: “We believe our campaign isn’t just about the Games in our city in 2024. We believe this bid is about ensuring that the Games are sustainable and relevant in every year beyond 2024 as well. This bid isn’t only about LA’s future – it’s about our collective future. We are planning a great Games in Los Angeles – make no mistake – but we’re also laying the ground work along with you for future Games. “We know that LA 2024 must not only deliver great Games, they must also deliver transformative Games. And we know that we can help transform the Games because we are a transformative city that reflects creativity and innovation.” This is the third United States bid since hosting the Centennial Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta, previously losing in 2012 and 2016. The IOC will choose the winning bid at its session in Lima next September.

Top left photo: Shotgun trap gold winner Katrin Quooss of Germany (centre) is congratulated by Chinau2019s Wang Jinglin (left), who won silver, while bronze winner Wang Yajun looks on during the CISM World Military Shooting Championship at the Losail Shooting Range yesterday.   Top right photo: Qatar Military Sports Association president HE Major General Dahlan al-Hamad (centre) walks at the Losail Shooting Range with Media Committee head Brigadier General Rashed al-Dosari (right) and Secretary Committee head Brigadier General Mohamed al-Obaidly.  Bottom photo: Enthusiasts look at a gun during an exhibition, running on the sidelines of the World Championship. PICTURES: Thajudheen
Germany’s Quooss retains trap gold on Day One

Katrin Quooss retained her shotgun trap gold at the 49th CISM World Military Shooting Championship yesterday. At the Losail Shooting Range, the calm and composed Quooss claimed the first gold of the championship as she brushed off the challenge of Wang Jinglin of China in the gold medal shoot-out to clinch the top spot. “It is a very nice feeling to win the first gold of the championship. Happy to open my account and also that of my contingent at the championship,” said Quooss, who won last year at the World Military Shooting Championship in South Korea. Jinglin lost the final shoot-out 15-12 and had to settle for silver on the first day of the eight-day championship, which is being contested by over 700 athletes from 50 countries. China had more success on the medal front as Wang Yajun won the bronze medal, beating compatriot Wang Xiaojing 13-10 in the shoot-out. “It was very warm, very interesting and I had so much fun in the final,” said the 30-year-old from Liebenthal. Quooss said she kept herself focused in the final which helped her to win the gold medal. “All the girls were in top form and shot very well. It was tough competition. I concentrated hard and that’s what made the difference in the end result,” she added. The German contingent also opened their medals account with Quooss’ gold. Quooss was delighted by the facilities on offer at the Losail Shooting Range and said she would love to return for another shooting competition in Qatar. “This is the first time I am talking part in an event in Qatar. The facilities here are excellent and I would love to return and compete here again. It was such fun shooting here and I loved shooting here,” said Quooss. For Quooss, it was her third gold at a major championship having won gold two years back at the 51st ISSF World Championship in Granada, Spain, and last year’s gold in South Korea. Wang Jinglin was understandably disappointed for narrowly missing gold. “I am happy to win silver today. I was aiming for the gold, but I narrowly missed the gold as I was little bit disturbed by the referee’s call in the final round,” Wang, who was part of the China’s trap team which won Military World Games gold. She had won trap bronze in South Korea in the last edition of the championship. “It was a very tough outing today. We have some very good shooters in the semifinals and I am happy to see three Chinese among top four,” she said.

Dr Abdulaziz al-Kuwari of Qatar Cyclists (left), Royal Air Marcou2019s Saeed al-Hajri (second from left), Qatar Cycling Federation secretary general Ahmed al-Hemaidi (centre), QCF technical secretary Andrej Fillip (second from right) and QCR chairman Ben Keane (right) at the press conference announcing Royal Air Marco Cycling League yesterday. PICTURE: Jayaram
After UCI Worlds, a league to boost cycling in Qatar

Qatar cycling aficionados can now test themselves in a competitive race in a brand new cycling league, which begins tomorrow. On the back of recently-concluded UCI World Road Race Championship, Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) and its volunteer branch Qatar Chain Reaction (QCR), in association with Qatar Cyclists, will start a five-month long Royal Air Maroc Cycling League from Al Thakhira Centre with 150 riders. QCF secretary general Ahmed al-Hemaidi said he was pleased with the start of the local league. “Cycling has reached new heights of popularity in Qatar thanks to the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016. We are delighted to announce the new league for the local people and I’m hopeful it’ll grow even more in the coming years,” al-Hemaidi said, while addressing a press conference yesterday. “The Qatar Cycling Federation is delighted to have the support of Royal Air Maroc, whose generosity further propels cycle racing in Qatar forward,” he said. Qatar Cycling Federation technical secretary Andrej Fillip was enthusiastic about the league and said that the new league, which will run till April, is the next “natural step’ for the evolution of cycling in Qatar”. “Although we have conducted so many races in the past, we could never do a systematic league competition. It will change this Friday with the start of the Royal Air Maroc Cycling League,” Fillip said. “Earlier, cycling in Qatar used to be a sport based purely on individuals’ love and dedication to it. However lately, more teams have started coming in. Now, there is now more investment in the sport. All these are signs that cycling in Qatar is maturing,” he said. Talking about the ever-growing domestic cycling season, Fillip said it would be “busier than ever”. “This year, at least 25 races are scheduled till the end of April 2017. There will be 10 races in the league competition and we will have at least 10 participating teams. I’m confident the new league will be a huge success,” Fillip said. One of the organisers behind the league, QCR chairman Ben Keane said while the cycling scene had already been growing in Qatar in recent years, he is hopeful the new league will bring more riders into competitive cycling. “At the moment the cycling scene is on the rise and we have a large number of riders for the league,” he said. “We have 150 riders registered for the first race and have closed the registration process as it is difficult to manage more riders for the inaugural race,” Keane said. The races have different categories including two for women. In addition to providing prizes for each road race and time trial through the season, points accumulated will count towards the grand prize for the series winners. The current points leaders in each category will have the honour of wearing the scarlet jersey. Royal Air Maroc’s Saeed al-Hajri and Dr Abdulaziz al-Kuwari of Qatar Cyclists were also present during press conference yesterday.   THE RACE SCHEDULE (provisional) October 21: Al Thakhira Centre Road Race from Al Thakhira-Ras Laffan November 11: National Time Trial from Lusail QCF Technical Zone November 12: National Road Race C’ship from Lusail QCF Technical Zone November 25: Al Shamal Road Race from Al Shamal Sports Club Januray 6, 2017: Raseen Sports Time trial from Raffa Street January 20: Dukhan Road Race from Dukhan Beach February 24: Al Thakhira Centre Road Race from Al Thakhira-Ras Laffan March 17: Al Khor Road Race from Al Khor Cornich March 31: Dukhan Road Race from Dukhan Beach April 14: Final Race (Time Trial) from Lusail QCF Technical Zone

Slovakiau2019s Peter Sagan (third from left) celebrates as he crosses the finish line ahead of Britainu2019s Mark Cavendish (right) and Belgiumu2019s Tom Boonen (second from left) to win the UCI Road World Championships 2016 menu2019s road race title at The Pearl yesterday.
Sagan retains rainbow with sprint masterclass

Slovakian Peter Sagan delivered a masterful finish sprint to find rainbow stripes in Doha desert yesterday. At the end of a 257.3km race starting from Aspire Zone, which featured a display of extraordinary power and persistence, Sagan emerged from the swirling, straining throng of the world’s best sprinters — the 2011 winner Mark Cavendish and 2005 World Champion Tom Boonen – to retain the title he won last year in Richmond, Virginia. Sagan was clearly delighted to take his second consecutive world title in front of a group of his fans waving the Slovakian flag at The Pearl, the finish line. “I don’t believe it, I’m still in shock,” said Sagan after the finish. Sagan took advantage of the Belgians, who tore the race into pieces at a long cross wind stretch in the desert on the way back to Doha. The Slovak was one of the last riders to make it in the first echelon in the decisive battle after about 75km into the race. On the finish circuits around the Pearl, only Niki Terpstra and his teammate Tom Leezer of the Netherlands made late attacks before Belgium once more controlled the race with a sprint set to decide the champion. At the finish line, Sagan went from the opposite side of Cavendish, who just got slightly congested behind Michael Matthews as he went left for the line, and picking a clearer line through a small gap left by Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy. Cavendish just got slightly congested behind Matthews as he went left for the line, with Sagan going to his right and getting clear to edge home. You can’t really fault Cavendish’s ride, given the odds he was up against it following the problems his team encountered early in the race, but Sagan proved his class. “I am very, very happy because in the crosswinds I was the last rider in the lead group. I felt like the final sprint was in a headwind, so I felt like I went from a little while back. It’s unbelievable. “I have the biggest group of fans here and I have to thank all of Slovakia because I feel they give me a lot of energy here.” Sagan now is one of six riders to have won back-to-back world titles after Belgians Georges Ronsse (1928-1929), Rik Van Steenbergen (1956-1957), Rik Van Looy (1960-1961) and Italians Gianni Bugno (1991-1992) and Paolo Bettini (2006-2007). Cavendish admitted he made a tactical mistake after finishing second. He started his sprint to the finish line directly behind Sagan, who in turn was behind Boonen and Nizzolo. “I wanted to be on Sagan’s wheel, and ultimately I was and then all of a sudden the road was blocked. I tried to find a way through and with less than 100m to go, I had to stop pedalling. I got back on Boonen, but it was too late to come back on Sagan,” The Manxman said. “I’m a little bit disappointed. I feel like I lost gold rather winning silver, but that’s how it is. We did all we can. It was my own fault. It wasn’t my legs. I made a mistake. It’s not really nice to do that at a World Championships,” Cavendish said. Cavendish is already one of only two British men ever to win the world road race, his 2011 victory in Copenhagen the only one since Tom Simpson’s famous effort in a storm-swept San Sebastian in 1965. Cavendish, Luke Rowe and Adam Blythe were the only British riders who made it into the front group, and their ranks were later reduced to two when Rowe punctured and couldn’t catch back up. The 35-year-old Etixx-QuickStep ace Boonen almost rolled back the years with a podium finish. “We took responsibility. We did what we planned, to make the race hard from 75 kilometres to 125, and then the lock went on the race for hundred kilometres. The race was too long, for spectators and everyone. But I was happy with the result in the end. We actually came one guy short. The way the sprint went, I think we did maximum,” Boonen said. ELITE MEN’S ROAD RACE RESULTS 1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) 5:40:43 2. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) 3. Tom Boonen (Belgum) 4. Michael Matthews (Australia) 5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy) 6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) 7. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) 8. William Bonnet (France) 9. Niki Terpstra (Netherlands) 10. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)

Norwayu2019s Kristoffer Halvorsen (right) crosses the finish line ahead of Pascal Ackermann (centre) of Germany and Jakub Mareczko of Italy to win the menu2019s Under-23 road race at the UCI Road World Cycling Championships yesterday. (Right photo) Norwayu2019s Kristoffer Halvorsen
Halvorsen pips Ackermann in a thrilling U23 road race

Norway’s Kristoffer Halvorsen pipped Pascal Ackermann of Germany in a high-speed bunch sprint to win the Under-23 men’s road race at the UCI Road World Cycling Championships yesterday. The Norwegian finished off a great team-effort, when he beat Ackermann and Jakub Mareczko of Italy for a total of 165.7km in The Pearl with a time of 3:40.53. The race included ten 15.2km laps around The Pearl and so was more like a criterium with constant changes of line, sweeping curves, roundabouts and tight corners. “My teammates were so good, they’ve been working so hard, I’m incredibly happy,” a joyful Halvorsen said just minutes after crossing the line. “The course was perfect for me and this was my biggest goal for this season.” Talking about his plans for next season the 20-year-old champions, said, “Next year I will ride for Team Joker, the same team I rode for this year.” The flat course was tailor-made for a sprint finish, although there was a breakaway that stayed off the front until the final 10 kilometres. The race started with two crashes at roundabouts within the first five kilometres. Many riders tried to escape from the peloton and after about ten kilometres Dutchman Pascal Eenkhoorn, Amanuel Gebrezgabihier from Eritrea and Portugal’s Nuno Bico were the first to maintain a real gap. The three had 44 seconds at the first crossing of the finish line. With the escapees still in striking distance several riders tried to make a jump. Swiss Patrick Muller and Colombian Bryan Gomez were the first to join the escapees. While the five leaders were fighting to sustain their lead, Bico slipped, crashed in a sharp turn and lost contact. He stood right up, remounted and managed to get back into the lead group. At the same time Iran’s Mahdi Rajabikaboodcheshmeh, Michael O’Loughlin from Ireland, Gregory Daniel from the USA and Rwandan Jean-Claude Uwizeye joined to a form breakaway, that would make last until the final lap. Russian Pavel Silakov and Irish Daire Feeley made an effort to escape from the peloton, but they did not manage. The nine leaders worked together to increase their lead to about three minutes, with the chasing peloton not yet fully organised. Many riders still tried to escape, but did not succeed in bridging the gap. Spain and Kazakhstan joined forces in front of the bunch halfway the race. The battlefield went into a status quo, with the breakaway holding on to their three-minute gap. Meanwhile the heat and the fast pace took their toll at the back of the bunch. Costa Rica’s Gabriel Marin was the first to step off his bike in after the first full lap and many were to follow. In total only 149 of the 188 starters completed the full 165.7 kilometres in The Pearl. With about 50 kilometres to go, mutual trust seemed to fade in the breakaway group. In the peloton, Norway came to the front row, working for pre-race favourite Halvorsen, who had dominated the sprints in this year’s Tour de l’Avenir. Together with British, Spanish and Kazakh help, the Norwegians slowly drew the peloton nearer and nearer to the leaders. At three laps from the finish, the gap was 2.20 minutes and with two laps to go it was 1.36 minutes. Gebrezgabihier was the first of the leaders to give way. The Eritrean rider suffered from heavy cramps and had to let his eighth fellow escapees go in the eighth lap. He was quickly swallowed by the hunting peloton. Bryan Gomez was the second to drop from the breakaway and in the penultimate lap Nuno Bico attacked. He didn’t get space, however, and heading into the final lap the seven frontrunners still held on to a 22-second lead. The Norwegian army was chasing them in full blown fashion. In the final lap, Rajabikaboodcheshmeh and Eenkhoorn surrendered just seconds before their companions were caught with ten kilometres to go. Norway were still in the driver’s seat, with France, Denmark and Germany eyeing their chances in second row. France and Germany made pace in the final five kilometres, but the Norwegian train rushed to the front again after clearing the red flag for the final kilometres. The final sprint was a close call between Ackermann and Halvorsen, but the Norwegian lived up to the expectations. Halvorsen followed the footsteps of fellow countrymen Kurt Asle Arvesen and Sven Erik Bystrøm, who captured the Under-23 title in 1997 and 2014. Norway has now collected three Men’s Under-23 titles to equal France in second place of the all-time ranking. Italy still leads with four gold medals. Ackermann was piloted very well by his German teammates and looked on a world title course entering the final straight, only to be pipped on the line by Halvorsen. “The race was tough and fast. The final sprint was a little too long for me. But I’m happy with how I did,” said the German. The Italian team were nowhere to be seen in most parts of the exciting race, but Mareczko managed to place himself well for the final sprint and rolled to bronze. Later on, he explained the Italians’ strategy: “The team helped me throughout the race. In the final kilometres my teammate suffered a fall. I could sprint well only in the last 150m, bit it was too late. I’m still happy with the bronze.” The 2016 Road World Championships continue today with the junior men’s and junior women’s road races. The elite women’s road race takes place tomorrow and the 2016 Worlds draw to a close with the elite men’s road race on Sunday. MEN’S U-23 ROAD RACE RESULTS 1. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Norway) 3:40:53 2. Pascal Ackermann (Germany) s.t. 3. Jakub Mareczko (Italy) 4. Phil Bauhaus (Germany) 5. Amund Grondahl Jansen (Norway) 6. Jason Lowndes (Australia) 7. Ivan Garcia (Spain) 8. Aksel Nommela (Estonia) 9. Jonathan Dibben (Great Britain) 10. Alan Banaszek (Poland)

Gulf Times
Two-time champions Arabi aim for Super Cup hat-trick against Rayyan today

In-form Al Arabi are aiming to continue their dream run and claim a hat-trick of Super Cup titles, when they take on arch rivals Al Rayyan in a one-off match today in the Indoor Hall of Al Arabi Stadium. This is the third edition of the Cup and likely to set the momentum for the 2016-17 Qatar League, which will start on October 17. The Super Cup features Emir’s Cup champions against Qatar League winners. Since Arabi won both, they will take on the League runners-up Rayyan. Arabi are the two-time defending champions of the Super Cup. Arabi finished second in the Asia Men’s Club Volleyball Championship held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, recently and won the QVA Cup defeating El Jaish 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-23) in the final on Wednesday. “We are playing good volleyball recently and players are confident after their QVA Cup victory. My team is match-fit and I hope we will put up a good show tomorrow against Rayyan,” Arabi coach Mawya Alajnaf said, while addressing a press conference yesterday. Matches between Rayyan and Arabi have always been high-voltage contests and as both the teams are going to name close to full-strength teams after the QVA Cup, the expectations are a few notches up this time. Rayyan, who lost the first two Super Cup contests to Arabi, is hoping for a better show this time. “I am expecting a tough match tomorrow. Arabi is a top team and it’s always a challenge to face them and as they are coming with good show in Asian Cup and recent QVA Cup triumph, we have to be at our best to beat them,” Rayyan’s coach Igor Arbutina said on the eve of the match. “Yes, we lost to Arabi last year and we were eliminated in the first round of the QVA Cup, but we are well prepared this time and also coming with a new-look team. Hopefully, we will put up a good show,” he said. Rayyan’s Osman Ajab echoed the views of his coach. “Our team is fully geared up. The team will be different from the one that played in the QVA Cup and I hope we will have a good outing tomorrow against Arabi,” he said. Qatar Volleyball Association executive director Ahmad al-Shaybani said the association will honour some players for their services to the game during the match.

Germanyu2019s Tony Martin cycles his way to victory in the menu2019s individual time trial world title in the UCI Road World Championships 2016 yesterday.
Impressive Martin makes it a time trial double in Doha

Germany’s Tony Martin demolished the field to win the joint record fourth men’s individual time trial world title at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships yesterday. Steady and powerful, the 31-year-old German stopped the clock on a flat, 40km course in 44min 42sec, which was 45 seconds faster than runner-up and defending champion Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus and 1min 10sec ahead of third-placed Jonathan Castroviejo of Spain. Martin was motivated to make the most out of the strong form he showcased four days ago, when he led Etixx–Quick-Step to victory in the team time trial. “After taking the gold medal with the team, to win the rainbow jersey in the individual time trial is just the icing on the cake. I was a bit scared by the heat at first, but having a good preparation here in Qatar helped me cope with it,” said Martin. Martin is leaving Etixx-Quick Step to join Katusha next season. “I rode without any pressure, was focused only on what I had to do, and not on my rivals, and to come out on top is really incredible. I haven’t had a great year up until this point, but to win two world titles in the space of just four days makes up for everything,” said Martin, who managed an average speed of 53.651km yesterday. On the course which suited him to a tee, the German put in a monster performance to win the title for the fourth time in his career, following the triumphs of 2011, 2012 and 2013, thus equalling Swiss Fabian Cancellara’s record — 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010. “I just had fun on the road. I want to be world champion every year, so I am proud I can ride in a world champion suit from next year,” said Martin after selfie-snapping moments with the fans.  “I’ve missed it a lot.” Martin blitzed the Doha course, setting the reference time at both checkpoints, before concluding the race in 44:42, a result better than the one posted by nine of the teams who competed in Sunday’s time trial. Martin crouched low under an umbrella on a curb and waited for Kiryienka to finish his ride. At the news that he had won the title, he jumped up in delight as his team surrounded him whooping for his fourth world championship title. On equalling Cancellara’s record, Martin said, “Everybody asks me for the record. I don’t count my medals. For me it’s more important to go from year to year to the title, and wearing the rainbow jersey next year means more to me. The only thing I can say I’m still motivated to go for a fifth and a sixth medal. I’m not at the end of my career. I have two more years. “For the moment Fabian has the bigger victories in time trials, two gold medals in the Olympic Games. For the moment he is still at the top, but I’m not at the end of my career. I’ve got two more years in cycling. But right now he is the man.” The two main pre-race favourites, Rohan Dennis of Australia and Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands, both struggled. While Dennis finished 1min 27sec behind the winner in sixth, Dumoulin was 2min 1sec adrift in 11th. “You can know about a course only by going there. I was thinking whether to come to Doha and I finally decided to do it. It didn’t work out. But the experience was worth it and it’ll help me in future events,” Dumoulin said. Ireland’s Ryan Mullen, the 13th of 70 riders named on the startlist, was the long-time leader, until the final six starters began finishing. He ended up in fifth place with a time of 46:07.74. Martin has struggled in time trials for much of the year but struck peerless form in searing heat yesterday. Martin started steady at the isolated Lusail arena in the desert and was fastest at both time checks on the road towards the finish area in The Pearl. Martin was the fastest man at the first time split but the race was still tight, with Kiryienka just three seconds behind and Dennis only 11 seconds off the pace. However, Martin hit the turbos in the next sector and had pulled 21 seconds ahead of Kiryienka by the second split, before another blistering final sector doubled the margin of victory. “I am very satisfied with the work I have done and the medal I have won. Now I have the full set of medals from the world championships,” said Kiryienka, who was wearing the colours of Belarus rather than the rainbow jersey. Qatar’s Abdullah finishes 60th Qatar’s sole participant in the ITT finished in 60th place. Afif Abdullah concluded the 40-kilometre course on home soil just under the hour barrier, in 57:36.78. “I am proud to have represented my country at the World Championships. It was a special feeling. It wasn’t easy, but I feel proud all the same,” Abdullah said. Four riders needed more than an hour to reach the finish line at The Pearl: Saudi Arabia’s Sultan Asiri (1:00:05.96), Pakistani’s Mohsin Kahn (1:00:33.69) and Hafiz Tahir Mahmood (1:01:06.02) and Saied Jafer Alali from Kuwait (1:01:15.51). The men’s elite road race is on Sunday, with Britain’s Mark Cavendish among the favourites.   RESULTS MEN’S INDIVIDUAL 40KM TIME-TRIAL 1. Tony Martin (GER) 44:42 2. Vasil Kiryienka (BLR) +45 3. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP) +1:10 4. Maciej Bodnar (POL) +1:16 5. Ryan Mullen (IRL) +1:21 6. Rohan Dennis (AUS) +1:27 7. Yves Lampaert (BEL) +1:45 8. Jos van Emden (NED) +1:45 9. Reto Hollenstein (SUI) +1:51 10. Bob Jungels (LUX) +1:56 11. Tom Dumoulin (NED) +2:01 12. Alex Dowsett (GBR) +2:11 13. Martin Madsen (DEN) +2:11 14. Marcin Bialoblocki (POL) +2:15

Brandon McNulty of the United States (centre) beat Denmarku2019s Mikkel Bjerg (left) and Ian Garrison, also of the United States, for victory in the menu2019s junior individual time trial event at the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016 yesterday.
Dominant McNulty makes junior time trial his own

It was a good day for US riders as Brandon McNulty picked up the men’s junior individual time trial title while compatriot Ian Garrison also finished on the podium. McNulty, 18, rode the course in 34 minutes 42 seconds, good enough for a 35-second triumph over Denmark’s Mikkel Bjerg. “It was a very hard race, but I pulled off the gold medal. I conserved my energy initially and started pushing hard from the 10th minute. From then on, it was all or nothing for me. I’m so glad I won,” said McNulty, who finished third at last year’s Worlds in Richmond. McNulty saw last year’s gold and silver medallists Leo Appelt of Germany and Adrien Costa of USA respectively, progress to the Under-23 ranks, and conquered the second American gold medal in this event after Phinney prevailed in 2007. Starting last from the ramp, McNulty left no doubts on The Pearl circuit. The American set the fastest intermediate times in all sections to finish the 28.9km course in 34:42.29, averaging 49.964 kilometres per hour. McNulty extended his lead to eight seconds at the midpoint, and then took flight in the third quarter of the course, stretching his advantage to 30 seconds over Bjerg by the final check point. The American gave a visual demonstration of his dominance by catching his one and two-minute men in the closing kilometres, and he punched the air as he crossed the line in the day’s fastest time. “I’m from Arizona, so I’m used to the heat. I conserved my energy initially and started pushing hard from the 10th minute. From then on, it was all or nothing for me,” McNulty said. Garrison finished 53 seconds behind his countryman in 35:35.37. “I’m very happy because this medal was unexpected. I wasn’t even in the top 15 before starting. I began slowly, conserved my energy and pushed hard towards the end,” stated the bronze medallist. Bjerg took silver in 35:17.47 and his compatriot Julius Johansen finished fourth in 35:44.84. “It was a pretty hard race and I pushed from the start. I’m still young and I can always come back again next year. I’m really happy,” Johansen said. Norwegian Iver Knotten, who had come third in the recent European Championships, took sixth place in 36:15.28. European Champion and pre-race favourite Alexys Brunel could not impress on the world stage. The 18-year-old French prodigy started second-last, but his chances of a medal were dashed from the early stages of the race. Despite the one-minute gap, he was overhauled by McNulty and eventually finished with a disappointing 34th place in 37:57.21. “The sun was too strong and I was so tired towards the end of the race,” Brunel explained. Stefan Bissegger, who had started two minutes ahead of McNulty, also saw the American passing by. The Swiss rider, who was fourth in the European Championships, finished 35th in 37:59.97. His compatriot Marc Hirschi, who took silver in the European Championships, finished eighth in 36:25.99. The men’s individual time trial will take place today. RESULTS JUNIOR MEN’S INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL 1. Brandon Mcnulty (USA) 34:42.29 2. Mikkel Bjerg (DEN) +35.18 3. Ian Garrison (USA)  +53.08 4. Julius Johansen (DEN)  +1:02.55 5. Ruben Apers (BEL)  +1:24.05 6. Iver Knotten (NOR)  +1:32.99  7. Awet Habtom (ERI)  +1:40.02  8. Marc Hirschi (SUI)  +1:43.70  9. Jaka Primozic (SLO)  +1:53.95  10. Jarno Mobach (NED)  +2:00.53