Germany’s Peter Florian and China’s Sixuan Feng clinched the men’s 25-metre rapid-fire pistol and women’s 25-metre pistol titles at the ISSF World Cup Finals at Lusail Shooting Complex yesterday.Hosted by the Qatar Shooting and Archery Association, the World Cup Finals features over 190 elite shooters from 42 countries competing fiercely in various disciplines.All eyes were on the men’s 25-metre rapid fire pistol final, where the young German showed impressive skills of precision. The three-time World Cup winner Florian registered an impressive score of 35, only missing five targets in the final.The 23-year-old said the title win came as a surprise. “I did not expect to win the title in the World Cup finals. After a two-month break following the last world championship, I resumed training just a week before the event. I am very happy with what I achieved here,” a jubilant Florian said.Following closely was Chinese two-time Olympic bronze winner and two-time World Champion Li Yuehong who scored 33 points. India’s 21-year-old Anish Bhanwala, a two-time world champion, secured the third position with 27 points.In the women’s event, Feng showed dominance throughout the final round. The reigning world champion shot a remarkable 37, missing just three targets. Germany’s Doreen Vennekamp secured second place with 31 points, while Feng’s compatriot Nan Zhao completed the podium after securing 29 points.Earlier, in the 50-metre rifle three positions, Frenchman Lucas Bernard Dennis Kryzs and Norway’s Jeanette Hegg Duestad secured the men’s and women’s titles respectively. Kryzs topped the table with a total score of 465.2 points, while China’s Yukun Liu and Norway’s Jon-Hermann Hegg followed up with scores of 465 and 451.1, respectively. Kruzs highlighted the intense competition, stating: “Today’s competitions were characterised by strength, competitiveness, and excitement. I am very happy to achieve my goal and win the world title.”Duestad amassed a total of 464.8 points and shared the podium with her compatriot Jenny Stene who shot 460.6 points, and Germany’s Lisa Mueller who scored 450.2 points to finish second and third respectively.“After a strong competition with the world’s elite shooters, I was able to win the title, which is the best way to conclude the current season, which was strong and full of many diverse participations,“ Duestad said after her latest gold-winning performance.
Jurgen Klopp says he would watch Liverpool take on Manchester City “wherever I am on the planet” as he prepares his team for today’s eagerly anticipated Premier League summit meeting. Dominant City have won the title in five of the past six seasons, with Liverpool the only team to break that run in 2020.Since Pep Guardiola’s arrival as City boss in 2016, the two sides have played 14 league matches, with City winning five and Liverpool triumphing four times. This season, Guardiola’s treble winners lead the way again, on 28 points after 12 games, with Liverpool a single point behind, setting the stage for a titanic showdown at the Etihad Stadium.“It is not a test (on) how close can we get to City, it is just a really super-exciting football game,” Liverpool boss Klopp told reporters. “I would watch wherever I am on the planet because why wouldn’t you watch this game? It’s like everything there you need. But for us it is not about that kind of excitement. We have to prepare for it properly and we know we have to be at our best to get a chance. If we have that then it is up to us to take it.”Klopp was asked whether Liverpool versus City was now the biggest game in the Premier League, even eclipsing their longstanding rivalry with Manchester United. “The rivalry I don’t know, you’ll have to ask other people,” said the German. “For us, from a sports point of view, it’s one of the (most) difficult games you can play for many years, since I’ve been here probably. But for a rivalry you need longer and the fans decide that. From a football point of view we needed some time to become a rival on the pitch...from a football point of view, definitely yes.”Guardiola, speaking at his own briefing, said the teams knew each other well after battling for so many years at the top of the league. “Of course, time goes forward. Jurgen has been at Liverpool for eight years and of course it’s not the same players since the start,” he said. “He has rebuilt the team, but the idea is quite similar and they have always been our best rivals.”Guardiola was asked whether the game now equalled the stature of the Barcelona versus Real Madrid fixture in Spain, dubbed the Clasico. “I think it’s different. Man City was never in the past 20, 30, 40 years, was not a contender like Liverpool but in the last decade, since I’ve been here, we’ve (each) been our best rivals,” he said. “I’ve said many times, he made me a better manager through his teams.”The City boss said top-scorer Erling Haaland, one short of the 50-goal mark since arriving in the Premier League, has trained “with some niggles” in the run-up to the game. The Norwegian striker picked up a knock during his nation’s friendly victory over Faroe Islands last week and sat out the 3-3 draw with Scotland on Sunday.Haaland tops this season’s Premier League scoring chart with 13 goals, three more than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. “He trained with niggles (on Thursday), hopefully he can train today and we will see,” Guardiola told reporters. “We have a few problems, the same as many clubs. We will see in the training session and we will see (Saturday). Always it’s Plan A.”Meanwhile, Arsenal will have a chance to top the table depending on results elsewhere, while Tottenham host high-flying Aston Villa.Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated)Today: Manchester City v Liverpool (1230), Burnley v West Ham, Luton v Crystal Palace, Newcastle v Chelsea, Nottingham Forest v Brighton, Sheffield United v Bournemouth, Brentford v Arsenal (1730)Tomorrow: Tottenham v Aston Villa (1400), Everton v Manchester United (1630)Monday: Fulham v Wolves (2000)
Cameron Smith choked back tears after missing the cut by nine shots at the Australian PGA Championship yesterday, describing it as his worst day as a professional golfer.On a blustery day in which Curtis Luck lived up to his name by firing a hole-in-one, defending champion and former world number two Smith slumped to a horror 78.It left him nine-over-par and 21 shots behind halfway leader Min Woo Lee in front of his home crowd at Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane.Asked if he could remember a day as bad as this, the 2022 British Open champion Smith told reporters: “No.”“No words. I’ve performed under pressure before and it’s not acceptable. It’s very upsetting, actually,” said the 30-year-old.“I hope I can get it together for next week and put on a better show than that,” he added, referring to the Australian Open in Sydney.Now playing on the lucrative Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, the Australian struggled for control off the tee to make just one birdie, with a double bogey at the 10th and a bogey at the last summing up his day.In contrast, compatriot Lee rattled off six birdies against one bogey in a five-under-par 66 to be 12-under for the tournament after round two at the opening event of the DP World Tour’s 2024 season.Veteran Adam Scott went one better with a 65 to be a shot adrift as he targets a 32nd title of his career.“Really happy with the way I went, very solid and doing the right things today,” said Lee, who is chasing a third win on the European circuit following victory at the 2020 Vic Open and Scottish Open a year later.He commiserated with countryman Smith.“It’s golf, that happens and next week I’m sure he’s going to bounce back, it’s what good players do,” he said.Lee will be grouped on Saturday with Scott, who won the title in 2013 and 2019 and is in good late-season form after finishing fifth at the US PGA Tour’s Bermuda Championship this month.“It’s always nice to have a bogey-free round, I probably haven’t had many of them this year,” said the Australian Scott, who is winless since early 2020.“I feel like my swing from the tee to the green is feeling better than it has for a while and that’s a nice thing for me.”Another Australian, John Lyras, is a shot further back, one clear of Spain’s Joel Moscatel, Lucas Herbert and Luck, who lived up to his name by acing the par-three 17th en route to a 67.“Once I saw it land I was confident it was going to stick pretty close and then obviously I think it might have just spun back a little bit back in the hole,” said Luck.“Pretty electric stuff.”
Alex de Minaur guided Australia into a second successive Davis Cup final with an assured 2-0 win over Finland yesterday in Malaga.The world number 12 wore down Emil Ruusuvuori in a 6-4, 6-3 straight sets triumph, after Alexei Popyrin beat Otto Virtanen 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in the first singles rubber.Australia, who last won the competition in 2003, will face Novak Djokovic’s Serbia or Jannik Sinner’s Italy in tomorrow’s final.“For us this cup is a priority, we do everything we can to represent Australia, with pride and passion,” said De Minaur.“It’s not too bad to reach another final.”Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt said reaching the final means “a hell of a lot” to him.“Our boys dug really deep...we’re a tight-knit unit and we’ve given ourselves another opportunity on Sunday,” he added.De Minaur produced a remarkable comeback against the Czech Republic in a rollercoaster classic to help his country reach the semi-finals but had a gentler ride this time at the Martin Carpena arena.Although he and Hewitt have been highly critical of the revamped Davis Cup format, the 24-year-old expertly steered his team into their 49th final.The 28-time champions, behind only the United States, ended Finland’s fairytale run with little fuss, and the captains agreed not to play the deciding doubles.Nordic fans outnumbered those in green and gold, just as they did for their superb last eight victory over reigning champions Canada on Tuesday, but this time left disappointed.Finland’s number one, Ruusuvuori, 69th in the world, missed the Canada win with a shoulder problem and he had heavy lifting to do after Virtanen’s defeat.Ruusuvuori exchanged breaks with De Minaur, with the Australian finally converting his sixth break point in the third game to get back on serve.De Minaur broke a second time when the Finn hit a backhand into the net and consolidated to move 4-2 ahead as he hit his stride. The Australian ended a long rally with a fine forehand winner to force another break point but although Ruusuvuori saved it, he eventually conceded a third break by slapping a forehand into the net.Ruusuvuori delayed the inevitable with a lovely drop shot to break back and then held, but De Minaur served out to wrap up the first set.At the start of the second he saved a break point against an aggressive Ruusuvuori and then broke himself for a 2-1 lead, which he protected.De Minaur clinched victory with a superb backhand winner, hit on the rise. Popyrin, 40th in the world, had paved the way for De Minaur by showing his quality in the second set to defeat his 171st ranked opponent. After a tight first set decided by tie-break, the Finn double-faulted to hand his opponent a break for 4-2, and then went wide as the Australian broke again to seal the win.“It’s nerves that I have never experienced before in my life, the nerves playing the first tie, the first rubber of a Davis Cup, winning my first live rubber of a Davis Cup (tie),” Popyrin said.“I just had to keep my head steady and just really focus on my serve and try to capitalise on opportunities when they came.”Serbia face Italy today in the second semi, ahead of tomorrow’s final.
Jorge Martin piled the pressure on title rival Francesco Bagnaia in yesterday’s practice for the season-ending Valencia MotoGP with the world championship leader failing to make the top ten and needing to take part in qualifying.Italian Bagnaia goes into the final weekend of a thrilling MotoGP season in Spain with the defence of his crown still in the balance against sole rival Martin. Yesterday, the contest between the two Ducati riders began to heat up when Martin followed Bagnaia out of the pits for his final run in bright sunshine.Ducati-Pramac’s Martin, who is 21 points behind the reigning world champion while there are 37 points left this weekend on the Ricardo-Tormo circuit, took second place in the session dominated by his compatriot Maverick Vinales of Aprilia.Martin, who saw a large part of his chances of winning a first world title evaporate last Sunday by finishing tenth in the Qatar GP, tailed his opponent very closely. And his mind games, combined with several yellow flags following falls at the end of the session, worked since Bagnaia was trapped and unable to improve his time in the final minutes as he is accustomed to doing.“There was tension. Following someone’s wheel is not something I like, but I had to try to pressure him in one way or another to complicate his life and I managed to do it because I made him nervous and he will have to go through Q1,” Martín explained.Bagnaia placed 15th on his Ducati-Lenovo and will need to finish in one of the first two places in Q1 today morning to have the right to fight straight away for pole position. “It was not an easy day, I was in difficulty. We will study the data collected today to improve tomorrow (Saturday),” the Italian said.“Jorge (Martin) had to try to do something today but he should rather concentrate on his work and try to improve because he knows he has to win both races.”The championship leader will have as his main opponents Spaniard Alex Marquez (Ducati-Gresini), France’s Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Italians Luca Marini (Ducati-VR46) and Enea Bastianini (Ducati). However, it seems unlikely that his teammate and compatriot will take the risk of depriving him of a qualification in Q2.Vinales, who smashed a lap record in Valencia which has stood for seven years, said he could yet improve upon the 1m29.142s which topped the timesheets. Jorge Lorenzo’s effort from 2016 was beaten in practice by Aprilia rider.“The lap was fantastic, I enjoyed it a lot. Still, I think I can do better. We always know that, on Fridays, we have a better balance on the bike. However, we identified it really well. We can improve tomorrow. I feel good, calm, flowing with the bike which I really like. Tomorrow we can do a good job. We need to focus. Every time I have free space in front, I ride much better, Vinales said.Vinales insists that Tuesday’s postseason test will be used to fine-tune some aspects of Aprilia’s bike, rather than for wholesale changes to it. “Of course, there are still some areas,” he said. “We are very focused on the test. We have items to improve the feeling.”
The opening day of the inaugural Al Shaqab International League provided a glimpse into the future of equestrian excellence in Qatar, as young and women riders displayed their talent in abundance yesterday.Organised by Al Shaqab – a member of the Qatar Foundation – the showjumping event has been launched to provide a platform for the upcoming riders of all ages and backgrounds to hone their skills and graduate to international level. The Al Shaqab International League has given a strong emphasis on promoting opportunities for female and junior riders. At the Indoor Arena of Al Shaqab, there was a keen contest among young riders as they battled it out for top honours.The Open Class had the largest representation with 27 combinations making up the quality field, which was held over two rounds on a height of 125-130cm. In the end, it was Rashid Towaim al-Marri who bagged the CSI1* class with his nine-year-old mare Van Gallettana Z, as the pair registered a fastest second round time of 28.25 secs. Following in second spot was Hamad Towaim Ali al-Marri, who timed 29.96 secs with Baron Z H. The third place went to Mohamed Abdulla S H Juma, who partnered Hurry Up to come in 29.99 secs.Earlier, in the Ladies Class – the opening event of the first edition of the Al Shaqab International League – talented teenager Haya Khalid al-Hitmi reigned supreme with veteran mare Dusty. The duo timed 27.66 secs. Maryam Jassim al-Suwaidi was second with Khaleesi in 28.45 secs, while Maryam Ahmad al-Boinin came third on The Toymaker in 29.36 secs.The Future Champions class was won by Hadi Nasser al-Shahwani with another veteran mare Beyonce. Khalid Nasser al-Khater (Actograna SZ) and Ahmad Ali al-Jaber (Diamond Legacy) finished second and third respectively.Suhaim Hamad al-Yafei emerged on top with Indie SKB in the Junior Champions category. Sheikh Mohamed Jassim A J al-Thani was second with Serendipity, while Mohamed Eisa al-Bukhari led BCO Come on Boy Z to third place.ResultsCSI1*Open Class: 1. Rashid Towaim al-Marri; Horse: Van Gallettana Z; Times: 38.01 & 28.25 secs; 2. Hamad Towaim Ali al-Marri; Baron Z H; 35.89 & 29.96 secs; 3. Mohamed Abdulla S H Juma; Hurry Up; 35.61 & 29.99Junior Champions: 1. Suhaim Hamad al-Yafei; Horse: Indie SKB; 2. Sheikh Mohamed Jassim A J al-Thani; Serendipity; 3. Mohamed Eisa al-Bukhari; BCO Come on Boy ZYouth Champions: 1. Saad Ahmed al-Saad; Horse: Irschi. Time: 35.94 & 31.04 secs; 2. Faris Saad A H al-Qahtani; Hero; 35.25 & 31.61 secs; 3. Khalifa Abdulla al-Khaldi; Graffiti De Lully CH; 33.67 & 32.08 secs.Ladies Class: 1. Haya Khalid al-Hitmi; Horse: Dusty; 2. Maryam Jassim al-Suwaidi; Khaleesi; 3. Maryam Ahmad al-Boinin; The ToymakerFuture Champions: 1. Hadi Nasser al-Shahwani; Horse: Beyonce; 2. Khalid Nasser al-Khater; Actograna SZ; 3. Ahmad Ali al-Jaber; Diamond Legacy
Pep Guardiola says he would stay at Manchester City even if the club are found guilty of breaching Premier League financial rules and relegated to third-tier League One as a punishment. City’s fate has been brought back into sharp focus following Everton’s 10-point deduction last week, which plunged them into the relegation zone.The Toffees were docked 10 points for breaking rules over a three-year period, while City are awaiting a ruling after being charged in February with 115 breaches of financial rules. The club denies all the charges.City were banned for two years from UEFA competitions in February 2020 by European football’s governing body for “serious financial fair play breaches”, but the sanction was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport later that year. Guardiola was asked yesterday whether any potential punishment would make him consider his position but he pledged his loyalty in the champions.“I will answer when I have the sentence,” he said. “You are questioning like we have been punished. And in the moment we are innocent until guilt is proven. I know the people want it. I know, I feel it. I will wait. Wait and see and after the sentence has been done we will come here and explain it. But absolutely I will not consider my future (if) it depends (on) being here or being in League One. Absolutely. There is more chance to stay if we are in League One than if we were in the Champions League.”Guardiola, whose team host Liverpool today, hinted that plenty of people in the football world would like to see City harshly punished. “When you read (what is said) then we should be relegated, relegated, relegated, yeah, of course, but nobody knows exactly,” he said.“All the people who say that didn’t read the statements, don’t know exactly what happened - not even myself. I didn’t read all the breaches, I didn’t read our defence. But wait. What I said a month ago - OK, if we’ve done something wrong we’ll be punished. But wait – we can defend ourselves can’t we?”The City boss insisted City’s case was “completely different” from the one involving Everton. “I want to say the case for Everton, and I don’t know what happened, but only I know from the lawyers and people at my club... is that they are completely different cases,” he said. “That’s why you cannot compare because every case is completely different.”Meanwhile, Everton boss Sean Dyche said he was shocked by the “unjust” 10-point penalty deduction. Everton were hit with the bombshell sanction last week after they exceeded losses permitted under the Premier League’s financial rules. The unprecedented punishment, the biggest points penalty in Premier League history, leaves Everton 19th in the table and two points from safety.Everton have announced their intention to appeal and, in his first public comments since the verdict, Dyche said the deduction was harsh. “I think like everyone in these parts, we’re shocked. Seemingly the wave of noise after that, it seemed like most people in football, around football are shocked,” Dyche said. “The enormity of it, disproportionate is a word that has been used by the club, so obviously we’re going to feel a bit aggrieved by that.”The Premier League referred Everton, who have posted losses for five consecutive years, to an independent commission in March for the breach of its profitability and sustainability rules. Clubs are allowed to lose a maximum £105mn ($132mn) over a three-year period but Everton exceeded that by £19.5mn in the three seasons ending in 2021/22.After saving Everton from relegation last season, Dyche had hoped to oversee a rise to mid-table respectability for the serial underachievers this term.
The final draw for the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 took place in Doha yesterday. Sixteen teams from across Asia were drawn into four groups. The tournament will take place between April 15 to May 3, 2024, with the top three teams qualifying to the men’s football tournament at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, while the fourth-placed team will participate in a Play-off against an opponent from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for a chance to compete at the Olympics.In Group A, hosts Qatar will face Australia, Jordan and this year’s only debutants Indonesia. Group B brings together Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and China. In Group C, there is Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Thailand and Tajikistan. Group D includes Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kuwait and Malaysia. This will be the 6th edition of the biennial competition. Iraq, Japan, Uzbekistan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia claimed the first five iterations of the competition.For Jassim al-Jassim, CEO of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 Local Organising Committee (LOC), this tournament will showcase Asia’s next generation of footballers as they compete for a place on the world stage at next year’s Summer Olympics. “Being able to host Asia’s best young talent is an exciting prospect for Qatar, and for the continent. Not only does this tournament give countries the chance to build strong football foundations, but it also acts as an important milestone for young players looking to make their mark on the international stage,” he said.Al-Jassim added: “Qatar has established as a global destination for sporting events, and will be an ideal host for a competition of this nature especially in that it will come only a few months after the AFC Asian Cup, and just over a year after a successful FIFA World Cup in 2022. It proves, once again, that Qatar is a go-to destination for major sporting events.”The AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 will be played for the first time on FIFA World Cup stadiums, and will take advantage of Qatar’s modern footballing infrastructure, most notably the country’s compact nature.
Francesco Bagnaia goes into the final weekend of a thrilling MotoGP season in Valencia with the defence of his crown still in the balance though sole rival Jorge Martin appears to have given up hope, claiming “they stole it (title) from me.”The ‘they’ Martin is referring to is tyre supplier Michelin who he claims cost him valuable points in last Sunday’s Qatar MotoGP – the Ducati-Primac rider finished 10th with Bagnaia second.It left him 21 points adrift of Bagnaia heading into the Sprint tomorrow – the Valencia MotoGP is on Sunday where wins in both earn the rider 37 points.Bagnaia could ease the pressure completely by securing the title in tomorrow’s sprint. If the Ducati rider can boost his lead to 25 points he will be assured of the championship due to having six grand prix wins to Martin’s four. Sprint wins do not count towards a tiebreak for riders being equal on points.However, 26-year-old Bagnaia was bested in the sprint by Martin in Qatar which resulted in his overall lead being reduced to seven points. That, though, was before the catastrophic ride for Martin in the race itself and for which the Spaniard attached all the blame to being given a dodgy rear tyre.“It’s a pity that in a championship like this, after such a great season, working hard, I feel like they stole it from me,” said Martin. “Because I think I could’ve done it before this race – now it’s really difficult.”The 25-year-old has indeed been the coming man in the second-half of the season, eating into Bagnaia’s 62 point lead. His sense of grievance, though, knows no bounds and his team will hope he can channel that this weekend into righting what he palpably perceives as a wrong.“I was the only rider in all the grid, in all categories, that this happened to,” he said. “So for sure there was something wrong with the tyre. It’s a pity that this happened to us. For sure I think they need to improve. It’s unacceptable that a MotoGP championship is decided by a tyre.”The scenario is not foreign to Bagnaia, who held a 23-point lead prior to Valencia last year and ended up securing the title by 17 points from France’s defending champion Fabio Quartararo. That, though, was without a sprint race being part of the equation – making Bagnaia happier about the extra points advantage he gained over Martin in the Qatar race.“It definitely gives us a bit more breathing space but is still not enough to relax completely,” said Bagnaia. “Valencia is a track where we have been fast in the past and where we have the potential to do well.”If Martin wins both the sprint and the grand prix, Bagnaia will need to score 16 points or more across the two races to win the title. A podium finish on Sunday would be enough. “Our approach to the weekend will not change compared to the other races,” said Bagnaia. “The goal will be the same: to work well from the first session on Friday and try to fight for the win in the race. I am calm and looking forward to getting on track for this season’s last act.”
Egypt’s Abdel Aziz Mehelba won the men’s trap gold at the ISSF World Cup Finals at Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. The 34-year-old edged out Italy’s Daniele Resca in a pulsating final held under the floodlights. Mehelba shot 46 out 50 targets, while Resca shot one less. Nathan Hales of Britain took the third spot.The women’s trap title went to Silvana Stanco of Italy, who shot one more target than Spain’s Fatima Galvez in the final. Another Italian Jessica Rossi was third.Assem Orynbay of Kazakhstan won women’s skeet gold defeating Chiara Di Marziantonio of Italy 51-50. Dania Jjo Vizzi won the bronze. Orynbay had to win a shoot-off against Sarah Mohamed of Qatar after being tied on 116 for the last spot in the qualification.India’s Ganemat Sekhon qualified on top with 120 out of 125, but eventually ended fifth. Ganemat was on par with Dania Jjo Vizzi after five rounds of qualification — 24, 24, 24, 23 and 25. Multiple Olympic gold medallist and world champion, Kimberly Rhode, was placed fourth ahead of Ganemat, while Jiang Yiting of China finished sixth.The men’s skeet gold went to Emil Kjelgaard Petersen, who won a nail-biting shoot of against Egypt’s Azmy Mehelba 26-25. Both shooters were locked at 56 targets each out of 60. Elia Sdruccioli of Italy won bronze. Nasser al-Attiyah failed to qualify for the final, after finishing eighth in the qualification. Rashid Saleh al-Athba was 12th.
Szczepan Mazur rode four consecutive winners in a row yesterday, as Three Diamonds won the Al Ghashamiah Cup at the QREC’s Al Rayyan Racecourse turf.The Pole guided the Ahmed Hassan al-Malki al-Jehani-owned four-year-old bay gelding to the 2000m thoroughbred conditions feature race win by three fourth of a length ahead of Rashid Awajan al-Khayarin-owned and Hamad al-Jehani-trained Toromona. Al Shaqab Racing’s Subahiyah finished third.In the penultimate race of the day, the Warsaw man rode Hamad al-Jehani-trained Maguroor to victory in the 1850m Purebred Arabian Conditions for three-year-old+ contest. Mazur also gave MHK al-Attiyah a double of the day, when he rode Al Buraq to the Local Thoroughbred Conditions (Class 2) contest with Al Buraq trained by MHK al-Attiyah.Al-Attiyah was in the winners’ enclosure earlier also when Mazur guided his ward AJS Al Mared to win in the Purebred Arabian Handicap 75-95 (Class 3).Meanwhile Al Shaqab Racing’s Jean de Mieulle-trained Austral won the 1600m Thoroughbred Graduation Plate for three-year-old+.RESULTS WINNERS: Horse, Trainer, Jockey 1 - Al Ghashamiah Cup - Thoroughbred Conditions (Class 2)Three Diamonds, Hamad al-Jehani, Szczepan Mazur2 - Purebred Arabian Conditions (Class 2)Maguroor, Hamad al-Jehani, Szczepan Mazur3 - Local Thoroughbred Conditions (Class 2)Al Buraq, MHK al-Attiyah, Szczepan Mazur4 - Purebred Arabian Handicap 75-95 (Class 3)AJS Al Mared, MHK al-Attiyah, Szczepan Mazur5 - Thoroughbred Graduation Plate (Class 4)Austral, Jean de Mieulle, Olivier d’Andigne6 - Thoroughbred Handicap 65-85 (Class 4)Kadupul, Georges Mikhalides, Lukas Delozier7 - Thoroughbred Novice Plate (2yo Only) (Class 5)Mr Saturday, Hamad al-Jehani, Gerald Mosse8 - Local Thoroughbred Maiden Plate (3yo Only) (Class 6)Ihtisham, Zuhair Mohsen, Soufiane Saadi9 - Local Purebred Arabian Maiden Plate (3yo Only) (Class 6)AJS Najma, MHK al-Attiyah, Mohamed Tabti10 - Thoroughbred Maiden Plate (2yo Only) (Class 6)Full Gambit, Hadi al-Ramzani, Ebrahim Nader
Max Verstappen yesterday rejected the notion, rumoured and reported in recent days, that his Red Bull team were considering approaching Lewis Hamilton to partner him in a dream line-up.Red Bull boss Christian Horner was quoted in the British media this week claiming that Hamilton’s management team has “reached out” several times, adding that “earlier this year there was an inquiry about whether there would be any interest”.But both Verstappen and Hamilton, speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday’s season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, scotched the idea that the Briton was on the move from Mercedes. “It’s not happening,” said Verstappen who has already wrapped up a third successive title.“There’s no point to make up stories if it’s not happening. I wouldn’t mind, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to put it particularly on Lewis. There’s so many great drivers and sometimes it just doesn’t work out like that.”Hamilton also distanced himself from Horner’s claims that he “reached out” before agreeing to extend his contract with Mercedes. “I don’t really know where that story has come from,” said the seven-time champion.“I know it’s come from Christian but I don’t really understand what he’s been talking about. No one, as far as I’m aware, from my team has spoken to him. I haven’t spoken to Christian in years.”Hamilton added that Horner had approached him earlier this season. “I just congratulated them on an amazing year and said that ‘Hopefully soon I’ll be able to fight against you guys in the near future’. That was it. So I’m not really sure, I think he’s just stirring things.”He admitted, however, that he would like to compete with Verstappen in equal machinery. “Yes, 100 percent, I’d be more than happy to race against him in an equal car,” he said. “Red Bull has done an amazing job and it’s an incredible team – any driver would love to drive for such a great group of people. I think moving from a car that’s not so great to a winning car, from my perspective, that’s not the dream. The dream is to start where we (Mercedes) are and build up to then winning. And that’s why I’ve stayed at Mercedes.”Verstappen heads into Sunday’s race bidding for a record-increasing 19th win in 22 races this year. A 54th career victory would carry him beyond four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the record books, sitting behind only Hamilton (103 wins) and Michael Schumacher (91).It would also give him an opportunity to break Jim Clark’s 40-year-old landmark record for percentage of laps led in a season. Clark’s record of 71.4 per cent of laps led has stood since 1963 but is likely to fall to Verstappen who has led 75.06 percent of this year’s laps.“Abu Dhabi always brings back good memories for me and the team,” said Verstappen. “It’s been a long but successful season this time and I’m looking forward to a break and some free time. The team has worked incredibly hard and everyone deserves a good rest and time with their friends and families. So it’s the last push for the year and I’m hoping to end this season on a high.”
Italy’s Jannik Sinner won his singles match and paired up with Lorenzo Sonego to claim a doubles victory as the former champions beat the Netherlands 2-1 to book their place in the Davis Cup semi-finals yesterday.Sinner and Sonego overcame the duo of Tallon Griekspoor and Wesley Koolhof 6-3 6-4 as Italy reached back-to-back semi-finals in the premier men’s team competition for the first time since three successive last-four appearances in 1996-98.Italy, who won their only Davis Cup title in 1976, will now take on a Serbia side featuring world number one Novak Djokovic or Britain who meet in their quarter-final later on Thursday.Botic van de Zandschulp earlier beat Matteo Arnaldi 6-7(6) 6-3 7-6(7) to give the Dutch a 1-0 lead in their bid to match their best result of reaching the semi-finals in 2001, before Sinner downed Griekspoor 7-6(3) 6-1 and levelled the tie.Dutch captain Paul Haarhuis, who was a part of the team that lost to eventual champions France 22 years ago, made a late swap with Griekspoor replacing Jean-Julien Rojer for the doubles tie while Filippo Volandri brought Sinner in for Simone Bolelli.The changes worked well for both teams in a high-octane clash but Sinner and Sonego won the crucial points in front of a boisterous crowd to send Italy through. “It means a lot to me,” Sinner said. “But more importantly we’re through to the semi-finals. It’s the first time I can experience this.“We were under a lot of pressure. The decision to put us on the court for doubles, we have to give a lot of credit to the captain and the team... pushing us to the limit.“It’s amazing, but now we’re focused on Saturday’s semis.”World number four Sinner, who lost to Djokovic in the ATP Finals title clash on Sunday, got them back into the quarter-final with an impressive display against Griekspoor.He edged the opening set before breezing through the next in only 20 minutes.In the day’s opener, Arnaldi squandered two set points and saved one as the world number 44 won a tight opening set in the tiebreak when Van de Zandschulp sent a forehand long.The Dutchman drew level after Arnaldi dropped serve in the eighth game of the next set and the world number 51 saved three matchpoints in the decider to prevail after nearly three hours.Gutsy Australia see off Czechs to make Davis Cup semi-finalsLast year’s runners-up Australia powered into the semi-finals of the Davis Cup with a battling 2-1 win over three-times champions Czech Republic that set up a showdown with this year’s surprise package Finland.Australia’s doubles pair of Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell secured their team’s progress with a 6-4 7-5 victory over Jiri Lehecka and Adam Pavlasek in the decider after Alex de Minaur edged past Lehecka 4-6 7-6(2) 7-5 to level the tie at 1-1.“I’ve never seen anything like it live,” Ebden said of their comeback victory. “I’ve seen it on TV back in the day, comebacks when your backs are against the wall. But what Alex did to give us the chance to come out here and fight was incredible.“I was lost for words. We were inside thinking we’re one game away from being out of here and ... winning and going to the semi-finals, we couldn’t be more proud.“I think that really is the sign of our team spirit and our fighting culture. Can’t wait for the next one.”The Czechs, who arrived at the Finals with a 9-0 win-loss record from three Group Stage ties in September, were seeking a first victory over Australia since 1975 and Tomas Machac beat Jordan Thompson 6-4 7-5 to give them a 1-0 lead.Yet it was not to be their day as Australia, who lost to Canada in the 2022 final, remained on course for a 29th crown in the premier men’s team competition to get closer to the United States who are top of the pile with 32 titles.Up next for Lleyton Hewitt’s side in today’s semi-final are outsiders Finland, who defied the odds to end Canada’s reign as champions a day earlier.Machac, the Czech number two, backed up an early break with a comfortable service game and withstood a strong fightback from Thompson at 5-4 in the first set of the opening match.There was little to separate the hard-hitting pair in the second set up to 4-4 and Machac traded breaks with his opponent before edging ahead to seal the victory with a forehand winner.Australia were without Thanasi Kokkinakis, who was forced to withdraw from the Finals with an ankle injury.Later, Australian Open quarter-finalist Lehecka saved five break points in the 10th game of the second singles contest and won a tight opening set with a big serve but surrendered the next amid a late charge from De Minaur in the tiebreak.The 22-year-old Lehecka regrouped in the decider and could have gone 4-2 up but an inspired De Minaur kept chipping away and raised his level towards the end to prevail.“It would have been quite easy for me to roll over under the circumstances, but that’s just not the type of player I am,” De Minaur said.“I’m always going to fight until the end... I got a little sniff. I was able to roll with it. I think my reputation’s quite strong when it comes to these types of situations. It precedes me. Maybe I won that match because of that today.”
India skipper Suryakumar Yadav’s 42-ball 80 and an unbeaten cameo by Rinku Singh helped the hosts chase down an Indian best of 209 against Australia in a Twenty20 thriller yesterday in Visakhapatnam.Suryakumar smashed nine fours and four sixes on his captaincy debut for India as the hosts won with two wickets and one ball to spare and take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.Needing seven off the last over, India lost three successive wickets including two run outs on ball four and five before chase-master Rinku got the team to victory after Sean Abbott bowled a no-ball.Rinku, a left-hand batsman who hit 22 off 14 balls, smashed a six that was not counted as the run off the no-ball got India past their previous best chase of 208 against the West Indies in 2019.“Very happy with the way the boys displayed the talent on the field. We were put under pressure, but the way everyone came back into the game, was great,” Suryakumar said of the win.On his India leadership, Suryakumar said, “I think it’s a proud moment, whenever you play cricket, you think of representing India, it will take some time to sink in but very proud. “Suryakumar’s 112-run third-wicket stand with Ishan Kishan, who smashed a 39-ball 58, proved key after the hosts lost their openers on 22.The match was played just four days after Australia’s record-extending sixth ODI World Cup triumph in the final against hosts India.Josh Inglis smashed 110 off 50 balls – his maiden international ton – to guide Australia to 208-3 after being invited to bat first on a batting-friendly pitch.Australia lost an early wicket before Inglis, who smashed 110 off 50 balls, joined Steve Smith, who made 52 before being run out, to hammer 130 runs off 67 balls in a blistering partnership.Inglis raised his fifty off 29 balls and completed his hundred in 47 balls as he jumped and punched the air and the Australian dressing room stood up to applaud.He finally fell to fast bowler Prasidh Krishna after his knock laced with 11 fours and eight sixes.“Inglis played a terrific innings,” Australia skipper Matthew Wade said. “I was speaking to him if he wanted to go down, don’t think that will happen. A great knock.”Australia rested many of their ODI stars – including Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa – as they plan for the T20 World Cup in June. The second T20 is on Sunday in Thiruvananthapuram.BRIEF SCORESAustralia 208-3 in 20 overs (J. Inglis 110, S. Smith 52; P. Krishna 1-50, R. Bishnoi 1-54) v India 209-8 in 19.5 overs (S. Yadav 80, I. Kishan 58. R. Singh 22 not out; T. Sangha2-47)Result: India won by 2 wicketsSeries: India lead 5-match series 1-0
Azerbaijani club Sumqayit FK has thanked Aspire Academy for hosting them for a training camp and a series of friendly games.The under-12 and under-11 squads from Sumqayit FK spent time training at Aspire’s facilities and played three matches each against the Academy’s feeder teams.Aspire’s under-11s won all three of their games while there was a win, a draw and a loss for the under-12 squad.Hakan Sunal the Academy Director at Sumqayit FK was grateful for the opportunity to travel to Qatar and was confident the players will return home with new experiences both on and off the pitch.“I would like to say thank you very much to the Aspire Academy for their invitation,” Sunal said.“It is a big experience for us to travel outside Azerbaijan. We have had a super few days here and enjoyed it very much, and we love this country.”“The first thing we will take back him are the cultural differences here. We have seen a lot of things that we don’t have in our country, like behaviour, like the people.”“From a football point of view, you have a very, very good infrastructure here. The teams are well organised, all the academies are well organised, and we are very happy to play against your academy.”“Our meetings with the video analyst for example means we can take away a lot of things with us, which I think will help us to improve our football style back in Azerbaijan.”Aspire Academy’s Pedro Verde, who was coaching the under-12 players, also highlighted the importance of playing against teams from outside Qatar.“These games against overseas opponents are very important, for the players and for us coaches as well,” he explained.“They allow us to compete and to transfer what we have worked on in training during the week to a competitive game.“They offer new challenging situations that help our players to continue learning and developing,” Verde added.“For us as coaches, it is a great experience because we can analyse the individual objectives we have given the players in a competitive environment which is very important for their learning.”The feeder teams will now return to normal training sessions as they continue their development, with more friendly matches against overseas opponents planned for next year.
The draw for the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 placed the Qatari team in Group A alongside Australia, Jordan and Indonesia.The tournament will see 16 teams competing for the title of the 6th edition of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup, held from April 15 to May 3, 2024 in Doha.Group B includes the teams of Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and China.Defending champion Saudi Arabia placed in Group C alongside Iraq, Thailand and Tajikistan, while Group D includes Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kuwait and Malaysia.Mead Al Emadi, person-in-charge of the event and fan experience in the organizing committee of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024, expressed her happiness in Doha hosting this event for the second time, noting that it holds great importance as it qualifies for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.Al Emadi added in a statement to Qatar News Agency (QNA) that the Qatari team has a great chance of reaching the Olympics. She wished them success during the 6th AFC U-23 Asian Cup and the ability to present the performance they hope for and achieve victories that please the fans.Qatar national team media official Saad Safar Al Kuwari said that the competition won't be easy for the Qatari team, as they will be competing with teams such as Australia and defending champion Saudi Arabia. He affirmed that the technical staff of the team is hoping to present a well-fitting performance and qualify for the Olympics.Al Kuwari pointed out in press statements that all participating teams showed strong performances during the qualifying stage, making the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 a thrilling tournament.The Qatari team has been partaking in a preparatory program that began a while ago and will continue until the start of the tournament. This includes playing several friendly matches to best prepare the team, Al Kuwari explained.The teams that finish in the first three places in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 will qualify directly for the football competition at the Olympic Games Paris 2024. The team that places fourth will face the fourth-placed team in the finals of the U-23 Africa Cup to determine the final team competing in the Olympics in Paris.Having competed in the Los Angeles 1984 and Barcelona 1992 editions, the Qatari team aims through the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 to qualify for the Olympics and compete for the third time in its history.
Qatar’s focus was the key to their 3-0 win over India in Group A of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and the AFC Asian Cup 2027 on Tuesday.Head coach Carlos Queiroz said his side maintained their concentration for the entire match as Qatar made it two wins out of two to open a three-point gap at the top of the standings. “We achieved our goal for the match, which was to win, and to be at the top of the group. I am proud of what we presented and getting six points, and we will strive to continue the journey successfully,” said Quieroz.“The result confirms the hard work we have done and this is not easy. Focusing for 90 minutes is positive. The players fought throughout the match and this is always our desire.”Mostafa Meshaal opened the scoring in the fourth minute, with Almoez Ali netting in the 47th – his fifth goal in two games – while Yusuf Abdurisag sealed the victory four minutes from time. Qatar had defeated Afghanistan 8-1 in the opening match but Queiroz felt his team could perform much better. “In our group, we hold the belief that there is always room for improvement, regardless of the outcome,” the veteran Portuguese said.“Whether we win or not, we strive to constantly progress and be better. This explains why even when we achieve a victory with a score of 8-1, we do not consider it sufficient; we always aim for more. Similarly, even a 3-0 win falls short of our expectations, as we continuously seek to push our limits,” he added.Queiroz praised the Indian team and lauded their efforts, as he said: “Despite exerting immense pressure since scoring the opening goal, we made every effort to control the game by pressing the opposing players, pressing the ball, and pressing all over the field. However, India displayed unwavering determination and never relented. This compelled our team to exert even more effort, as not a single moment was granted by the Indian team to secure a respite and score the three goals.”The defeat meant India could not build on their 1-0 win over Kuwait, with head coach Igor Stimac saying the early Qatar goal threw their plans into disarray. “The match was very difficult, especially since our start was not successful, and we conceded an early goal, so we failed to match them,” said Stimac.“We tried to come back in the second half, but we did not find the opportunity, and Qatar were able to score at the start of the half which mostly decided the match.”Stimac, however, believes India still have a good chance of advancing to the next stage. “I still believe in our chances of qualifying, but we must fight to achieve that goal. We must learn from such matches, look at the positives, and benefit from that in the future.”The Indian coach did not shy away from underlining that there was a lot more work needed to strengthen football’s infrastructure in the country. “We still need to work a lot, inside our house, our family, about everything that is connected to football. Qatar spends more on one trip coming here than we (do) all year on all selections, clear as that. Organisation-wise travel, logistics, food, sleep, rest, everything needs to get better to get and it will help us in the future,” he said.Next up, India will take on Afghanistan away from home in March, while Qatar host Kuwait.
Two gripping and volatile 10m air rifle finals at the ISSF World Cup Finals in Lusail produced victories in the men’s event for Hungary’s Zalan Pekler and, in the women’s version, Poland’s Aneta Stankiewicz.“I am still shaking a little bit because this final was really nerve-wracking”, 23-year-old Pekler said after a competition where he only took over the lead with four shots remaining, finishing on 251.2 ahead of Serbia’s Lazar Kovacevic on 249.4.Bronze went to 22-year-old European Games bronze medallist Jiri Privratsky of the Czech Republic after China’s world silver medallist and Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Yang Haoran, who had seemed poised to win, failed to make the final three.The competition had been led over the first two series of five shots by Naoya Okada, the Japanese shooter who had topped the earlier qualifying with 632.0 points ahead of Pekler and Yang. Okada maintained that lead in the first two elimination rounds, but then scores of 10.3 and 10.0 dropped him to fourth, one place above Pekler, as Yang moved ominously through for a 0.2 lead over Kovacevic, who had scored a 10.9, and Privratsky.Two shots later the long-time leader was out, fifth overall, after scoring 9.8 and 10.5. Yang also faltered, however, scoring 9.9 and 10.5 with shots 17 and 18 to drop to joint fourth with Pekler as Kovacevic, who had scored a perfect 10.9 in the previous round, took the lead on 189.0 ahead of Privratsky on 188.7. Things got worse for the Chinese shooter in the next round as a 10.4 was followed by a 9.8 which meant he was out before the medal rounds, with Pekler taking the lead for the first time, 0.2 ahead of his Serbian rival.The Hungarian extended his lead over Kovacevic to 1.4 in the penultimate round as Privratsky left with bronze and although he wavered with the first of his last two efforts, scoring 9.8, he recovered with a concluding 10.7 to reach a total of 251.2.Kovacevic, whose opening 10.3 had narrowed the lead, was left with an impossible task by the time he fired his final effort, which earned 9.5 for a total of 249.4.The women’s final matched the men’s for drama. It appeared for a while that the Chinese contingent of Jiayu Han, world champion, world No 1 and world record holder, 19-year-old world silver medallist and world No 2 Zhilin Wang and 17-year-old world No 3 Yuling Huang might replicate the clean sweep achieved by their teammates in the previous day’s women’s 10m pistol event.Wang, Han and Huang had qualified first, second and fourth, with only France’s Oceanne Muller interrupting their dominance. The 20-year-old French shooter, who finished fifth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and won bronze at this year’s European Games, underlined her potential to be one of the home banner-carriers at next year’s Paris Games as she held her lead in the first set of five shots and reached the elimination rounds just 0.1 off a lead held by Huang.She eventually finished fifth – but not before the departure of the 24-year-old Chinese favourite, Han. Huang, whose elimination round shots included two 9.9s, eventually missed out on a medal by one place as Norway’s steadily improving European champion Jeanette Duestad brought her experience to bear in a competition where she secured bronze.Meanwhile Stankiewicz, at 28 the eldest shooter in the final, had moved into the lead after the second elimination round before producing round after round of consistently high scores, including a 10.8 and four 10.7s.She secured the greatest triumph of her career so far with 253.3 points, as Wang, despite two concluding 10.7s, remained well off gold on 252.6. “My first five shots weren’t the best so I had to run the girls,” Stankiewicz said. “My favourite shot was the 10.8, but there was a lot of 10.7s. It is all about the feeling inside you.”
Doha: President of the Qatar Equestrian Federation (QEF) Bader al-Darwish was elected as a member of the Solidarity Committee of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) during its General Assembly meeting held in Mexico on Tuesday.QEF participated in the FEI General Assembly meeting with the delegation including QEF Secretary-General Sheikh Ahmad bin Nooh al-Thani.Al-Darwish thanked the members of FEI General Assembly for electing him and for their confidence in the role played by QEF in the region and the Asian continent to develop and advance equestrianism. He noted that in recent years Qatar has continued to support international equestrianism by hosting many of the major championships.