Arab history-maker Samir Azzimani carries fellow skier over line for 'moment of the Games'

Tonga's Pita Taufatofua (L) and Morocco's Samir Azzimani (R) lift Mexico's German Madrazo onto their shoulders as they celebrate at the finish line in the men's 15km cross country freestyle at the Alpensia cross country ski centre during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN
Updated 20 February 2018

Arab history-maker Samir Azzimani carries fellow skier over line for 'moment of the Games'

PYEONGCHANG: Morocco’s Samir Azzimani was involved in what might just be the defining image of this year's Winter Olympics.
Mexico’s German Madrazo was heroically skiing last to the line, proudly brandishing the flag of his country and smiling jubilantly. After crossing the finish after 15 kilometers of gruelling freestyle cross-country racing on Friday, he was lifted high into the air and onto the shoulders of two other athletes, including Azzimani, for whom just getting to the end was an achievement in itself.
The 43-year-old Madrazo came 116th out of the 116 who made it home, fully 25 minutes 51.5 secondss behind the winner Dario Cologna of Switzerland.
Two other competitors failed to finish and one was disqualified, underlining the achievement of even ending the race.
So as Madrazo, who had never even worn skis until a year ago, approached the finishing line in just shy of an hour, a large Mexican flag was thrust into his hand and a beaming smile formed on his exhausted face.
Spectators and athletes cheered and applauded him on his lone race to the finish.
There, Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua, who finished 114th, and Azzimani (111th) hoisted Madrazo into the air, all three smiling and laughing.
Azzimani made history by becoming the Arab world’s first dual-sport Olympian after competing in the alpine skiing event
at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Taufatofua, famous for peeling off and baring his chest at the Olympics, hoped he wouldn’t ski into a tree in his Winter Games debut. He also wanted to finish before it got dark.
Well, Taufatofua kept this clothes on for once and ticked both boxes, finishing 114th — almost 23 minutes behind the gold medallist, Swiss legend Cologna, but crucially avoiding the wooden spoon.
“I’m just happy I finished,” the 34-year-old told reporters. “Relieved. I mean, that was a long race. I’d rather finish toward the end of the pack with all my friends than be somewhere in the middle by myself,” said the Tongan beefcake, who competed in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Games but lost in the first round. “We fought together, we finished together.”
Taufatofua laughed off suggestions he might be the most popular man at the Games after entering the stadium for the opening ceremony like a gladiator and brandishing the Tongan flag as if it were a spear.
“I don’t know about popular but I’m the coldest man,” said the self-confessed beach bum, teeth chattering.
Taufatofua, born in Brisbane but fiercely proud of his Tongan heritage, turned to cross-country skiing after Rio to make an unlikely Olympic return.
His sense of relief was palpable when he finished in one piece.
“I didn’t fall,” said Taufatofua, who revealed that he ate some “fiery kimchi” before the race to help keep warm.
“I was coming into the last lap thinking ‘please God, not in front of everyone, let me finish strong’.
“But I finished with the guys and that was important for me.”
Taufatofua, who used to strap planks of wood to his feet to mimic skis in sweltering Australia, was looking forward to sharing race tales with Madrazo and Azzimani.
“Everyone was at the front racing to come first,” said Taufatofua. We were racing not to come last but we’ll have a good laugh over it over dinner.”


The Open canceled for first time since World War II due to virus

Updated 06 April 2020

The Open canceled for first time since World War II due to virus

  • The 149th Open was scheduled to take place at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Kent in July
  • Both this year’s Masters and the PGA Championship were postponed in March because of the health crisis

LONDON: The Open has been canceled for the first time since World War II due to the coronavirus.
The 149th Open was scheduled to take place at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Kent in July.
But with the pandemic ripping the 2020 sporting schedule to shreds, the event has became the first of the sport’s four majors to be canceled this year.
Golf’s oldest major will now be hosted at the same Sandwich venue in July 2021.
“The Open was due to be played in Kent from 12-19 July but it has been necessary to cancel the championship based on guidance from the UK Government, the health authorities, public services and the R&A’s advisers,” organizers R&A said in a statement on Monday.
St. Andrews will still host the 150th Open, but a year later than scheduled in 2022.
“Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in the Open. We care deeply about this historic championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said.
“We have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible.
“We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organizations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.
“We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world but we have to act responsibly during this pandemic and it is the right thing to do.”
The Open is the latest high-profile tournament to be axed because of the virus.
Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since World War II last week, while Euro 2020 and the Olympics have been pushed back a year until 2021.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry won last year’s Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that I won’t get to defend the Open Championship this year but I feel the R&A have made the right decisions based on people’s health and safety. See you all in Royal St. George’s in 2021,” Lowry tweeted.
Royal St. George’s has hosted the Open 14 times, most recently in 2011, when Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke won the event.
Both this year’s Masters and the PGA Championship were postponed in March because of the health crisis.
It is believed organizers still hope to play those events later in the year.
The US Open is currently set to be played from June 18-21 at Winged Foot in New York.
However, the United States Golf Association (USGA) is expected to announce a decision on staging the tournament soon.