Australian swim star McKeon, New Zealand cyclists dazzle at Commonwealth Games

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Gold medalist Aaron Gate of New Zealand gives a thumb up sign after winning the men's 4000m individual pursuit final cycling event of the Commonwealth Games in London on July 30, 2022. (AFP)
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Victor Kiplangat of Uganda celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's marathon at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, on July 30, 2022. (AP)
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Australia's Emma McKeon, Mollie O'Callaghan, Shayna Jack and Madison Wilson show the gold medals they won in the women's 4x100m freestyle relay swimming event of the Commonwealth Games. (AFP)
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Updated 31 July 2022

Australian swim star McKeon, New Zealand cyclists dazzle at Commonwealth Games

  • New Zealand dominated the track cycling events at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London, winning three of the four titles on offer
  • Victor Kiplangat marked himself down as a talent for the future on a bigger stage in delivering Uganda’s first-ever Commonwealth Games marathon gold

BIRMINGHAM, Britain: Emma McKeon needs just one more title to break the record for most Australian Commonwealth Games golds after yet another win in the pool on Saturday as New Zealand dominated on the cycling track.

McKeon, 28, swam the anchor leg as Australia won the women’s 4x100 meters relay to put her alongside Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill and Leisel Jones on 10 gold medals.

“It’s nice to do that 10th one in a relay,” she told Australia’s Channel 7.

“It’s kind of all a bit of a blur, I guess. It’s been over a long time. I mean my first one was 2014 and I was so young.”

Scotland’s Duncan Scott avenged his Olympic defeat at the hands of his friend Tom Dean.

Scott beat England’s Dean in a thrilling men’s 200m freestyle duel, pulling away from the Olympic champion in the final 50m to win in a time of 1min 45.02sec.

The 25-year-old returned to the pool to take bronze in the 400m individual medley behind New Zealand gold medallist Lewis Clareburt, who won in a time of 4:08.70.

South Africa’s Lara van Niekerk won the women’s 50m freestyle while compatriot Pieter Coetze triumphed in the men’s 100m backstroke.

New Zealand dominated the track cycling events at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London, winning three of the four titles on offer.

Aaron Gate won the men’s 4,000-meter pursuit, with compatriot Tom Sexton taking silver.

Bryony Botha won the women’s 3,000m individual pursuit and Ellesse Andrews took gold in the women’s sprint, beating Canada’s Olympic champion Kelsey Mitchell.

For both Gate and Andrews it was their second gold of the Games.

“My grandma and my grandad love coming to watch racing,” said Andrews. “This is my first elite result in front of them because they weren’t able to come to Tokyo (Olympics).

“To be able to go and give them a big cuddle afterwards, I can’t even explain how special that is.”

Gate and Andrews had waited just 24 hours to add to their gold collection — a blink of an eye compared to the 56 years it has taken a Trinidad and Tobago athlete to stand on top of the track cycling podium.

Nicholas Paul, 23, was the man to end the long wait since Roger Gibbon won two gold medals in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1966, storming home to win the keirin.

“To be able to race in London again, go to my second Commonwealth Games and to earn a gold medal is unbelievable,” he said.

The track athletics does not get under way until Tuesday but the marathons served as an appetizer.

Victor Kiplangat marked himself down as a talent for the future on a bigger stage in delivering Uganda’s first-ever Commonwealth Games marathon gold.

The 22-year-old even overcame a moment of confusion in going the wrong way inside the final mile and still had over a minute to spare over his nearest rival Alphonce Tibu of Tanzania.

“The people riding the motorcycles were confusing me,” he said.

“They told me to turn back.

“I believe Uganda is proud of me today. We have been waiting for this.”

Jessica Stenson has been waiting eight years to be crowned Commonwealth marathon champion and the plucky Australian finally experienced it after two successive bronzes.

The 34-year-old showed few signs of a recent bout of Covid-19 as she came home on her own and said having had a child had changed her perspective on life.

“I am doing this because I can,” she said.

“It’s a privilege. I feel fulfilled anyway and everything here is just a bonus.”

Hosts England, lifted by vociferous home support, won the women’s team gymnastics title to go with their triumph in the men’s event.

But the support was not just for English athletes as Indian weightlifter Mirabai Chanu found to her surprise as she won the 49kg category for her second successive title.

“Every athlete wants the crowd to back them and roar for them and I was taken aback that there was such a huge Indian presence in Birmingham,” she said.

“They were roaring their lungs out for me, and it pepped me on.”


In Pakistan’s southwest, two Pashtun women footballers score against taboos

Updated 02 December 2022

In Pakistan’s southwest, two Pashtun women footballers score against taboos

  • Rozi Bakht and Masnoora Kakar are the first female footballers in Balochistan from ethnic Pashtun families
  • The young sports women want to serve as an inspiration for other girls from their impoverished towns

QUETTA: Two women footballers in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province are shooting for greater inclusion for women from their ethnic Pashtun community, hoping that they can become an example for other girls from their impoverished hometowns who want to pursue sports.

Meet Rozi Bakht, 23, and Mansoora Kakar, 22, who are the only women footballers in Balochistan who hail from the conservative ethnic group, the Pashtuns.

“In my village, there are meager educational facilities for girls, so how can a girl even think about playing football or any other sport?” Bakht, who hails from the remote town of Tuba Kakari in Balochistan’s backward Pishin district told Arab News, outlining her battles against both poverty and the conservative values of her community.

This undated file photo shows Pakistani woman footballer Mansoora Kakar in action. (AN photo)

But the hurdles did not dampen Bakht’s enthusiasm and passion for the sport and she began to regularly attend practice sessions at the Balochistan Women’s Football Academy (BWFA).

For the last three years, she has been the captain of her team, whose coach is a man.

“It was very challenging for me to seek permission from my parents but despite negative criticism, including attacks on my character, my father allowed me to play because he trusted me,” Bakht said during a practice session with more than a dozen other girls at a small futsal ground in Quetta on a chilly evening last week.

Bakht is the only woman from her district who plays football at the provincial level, and hopes to be a source of encouragement for other girls in her village who have a passion for sports.

Just like Bakht, Kakar, another Pashtun girl who belongs to Kuchlak, a town on the outskirts of  Quetta, is also the first women footballer from her home district. She joined the Balochistan Women’s Football Academy two years ago.

Dressed in a black tracksuit that she paired with a red head scarf, Kakar cheered along with her teammates after scoring a goal during a practice match last Saturday. Now a forward player in the team, she too spoke about the hardships she had to face when she initially expressed her desire to join sports.

“I had a passion for football since my childhood, I used to play in my home but when I enrolled myself in college, I started playing there,” Kakar told Arab News. “But when I came to know that there is a football club [for females], I came here. Now it's been two years that I am in this team.”

“When I asked for permission to play football, my family refused because it was very difficult for me to commute for practices as the ground was 30km away from my home,” Kakar added.

“I come for my regular practice matches via a local bus which is the only affordable source of transportation for me because my father and brothers have their own work and can’t provide me pick and drop services.”

This undated file photo shows footballers Rozi Bakht, second left, and Mansoora Kakar, left, during a practice session in Quetta, Pakistan. (AN photo)

Many girls in Kuchlak, Kakar said, had a passion for sports, particularly football, but couldn’t play due to familial and cultural barriers.

But Muhammad Yasir Khan, 22, the head coach at the women's academy, hoped more girls would join the football club.

“The presence of sportswomen from the Pashtun belt,” he said, “is very limited which needs to be increased.”


Germany crash out of World Cup despite 4-2 defeat of Costa Rica

Updated 02 December 2022

Germany crash out of World Cup despite 4-2 defeat of Costa Rica

  • Germany took an early lead but briefly fell behind in the second half as coach Hansi Flick made a flurry of changes, reacting to the live score of the Japan v Spain game
  • Costa Rica led 2-1, but Germany hit back with a brace from Kai Havertz before Fuellkrug added another in the 89th minute to bring the score to 4-2

AL KHOR: Germany crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage for the second time in succession despite a 4-2 win against Costa Rica on Thursday.
The four-time World Cup winners came into the match needing a win but were also relying on the result of Japan’s game with Spain to progress.
But the Germans were eliminated due to goal difference as Japan followed up their defeat of Germany with another shock result by beating Spain 2-1.
Germany took an early lead but briefly fell behind in the second half as coach Hansi Flick made a flurry of changes, reacting to the live score of the Japan v Spain fixture.
The Germans started positively, with Flick’s all-Bayern Munich front line turning the screws early, battering the Costa Rica defense before Serge Gnabry got his head to a curling cross from Leipzig defender David Raum after 10 minutes to open the scoring.
Midfielder Leon Goretzka almost doubled Germany’s lead just five minutes later but his header was directly at Keylor Navas.
Complacency began to creep into Germany’s game. Keysher Fuller, Costa Rica’s goal-scoring hero in a 1-0 win against Japan, forced Manuel Neuer into a fingertip save after some half-hearted defending from Raum and Antonio Ruediger.
Flick moved Kimmich back to his familiar defensive midfield position at half-time, bringing on Lukas Klostermann at the expense of Goretzka, who like Kimmich started the match on a yellow.
Just seven minutes into the second half, word crept around the vast Lusail Stadium that Japan had scored two quick goals to take the lead against Spain, a result which would force Germany out of the tournament.
Flick reacted immediately, bringing on Niclas Fuellkrug and taking off another midfielder in Ilkay Gundogan.
Germany appeared disjointed as Costa Rica went on the counter on the 58-minute mark, the ball rebounding off Neuer and into the path of Yeltsin Tejeda, who slammed it home.
Flick continued to chase the game, making more changes but it was Costa Rica who scored next when Juan Pablo Vargas tapped a free kick past Neuer to put his side past Spain and into the Round of 16. The goal was later recorded as an own goal.
Germany hit back minutes later through Chelsea forward Kai Havertz to draw level.
Havertz scored again in the 86th minute and Fuellkrug added another in the 89th minute to bring the score to 4-2, but the side’s focus remained nervously fixed on the group’s parallel fixture.
The night ended with Germany losing out to second-placed Spain on goal difference.
It means Germany, who had not missed out on the knockout stages of a World Cup for 80 years until the 2018 tournament in Russia, have been bundled out in the group stage for the second World Cup in a row.


Japan in stunning 2-1 win over Spain as both teams reach last 16

Updated 02 December 2022

Japan in stunning 2-1 win over Spain as both teams reach last 16

  • Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka’s goals saw Japan mount a sensational comeback to win 2-1
  • Alvaro Morata had sent Spain ahead early on with a towering header

DOHA: Spain staggered through to the World Cup last 16 on Thursday despite a 2-1 defeat by Japan, who remarkably won Group E on a rollercoaster night which saw four-time champions Germany eliminated.
Japan secured another incredible triumph after beating Germany in their opening game, with their progression from the “group of death” one of the greatest achievements in the country’s footballing history.
For a few heart-stopping minutes Spain were poised to head out when Costa Rica were leading in the other game, but the 2010 champions squeezed through after Germany did them a favor by coming back to beat Los Ticos.
Spain and Germany ended on four points each, but La Roja progressed on goal difference.
Alvaro Morata sent Spain ahead early on with a towering header, but Japan dramatically struck back at the start of the second half.
Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka’s goals saw them mount a sensational comeback, just as they did against Germany.
Tanaka’s goal was highly controversial after the officials relied on VAR to decide Kaoru Mitoma had kept the ball in play by a hair’s breadth to set him up.
Spain struggled to create chances against a staunch Japanese defense in the final stages, with the Asian side aware that conceding another goal would see them eliminated.
Japanese players collapsed at full-time in celebration, exhausted and elated, while the substitutes raced on to celebrate.
Spain face Morocco in the last 16, while Japan play Croatia.
Both sides made five changes, with Luis Enrique bringing in Morata to lead the line, and handing Alejandro Balde and Nico Williams their full debuts.
Japan started with five at the back, hoping to keep Spain at bay, but pressed high in attack to try and capitalize on any mistakes.
Spain are sometimes guilty of glaring defensive errors and Pau Torres exemplified that with a sloppy touch which led to Japan’s first chance, fired into the side-netting by Junya Ito.
Morata sent La Roja ahead in the 12th minute with a towering header from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross, rekindling the connection which occasionally worked at Chelsea after the striker’s arrival in 2017.
Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu replaced the ineffective Takefuso Kubo and Yuto Nagatomo at the break with Mitoma and Doan, and it paid instant dividends.
Balde lost the ball under pressure and from the edge of the box winger Doan hammered past Unai Simon, who might have done more to keep it out.
Three minutes later and Japan had turned the game on its head, Tanaka bundling home from on the goalline after Mitoma had miraculously kept the ball in play as he crossed it — according to VAR.
Spain were shellshocked and struggled to react, with Luis Enrique making a raft of substitutions to try and regain control.
The coach, alone and perched on the edge of his technical area, was unaware that for a few moments his team faced elimination, when Costa Rica took the lead against Germany in the other game to go 2-1 ahead.
Spain survived, progressing thanks to their superior goal difference, on a night that was far more terrifying than they had anticipated — and Japan secured a hugely unlikely achievement.


Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test

Updated 01 December 2022

Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test

  • Four English batsmen scored centuries as the tourists cantered to 506-4 at the close of play
  • Australia in the past scored 494 against South Africa on the first day of a Test in Sydney in 1910

RAWALPINDI: Four England batsmen scored hundreds Thursday as the visitors piled up a record 506-4 on the opening day of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi.
Openers Zak Crawley (122) and Ben Duckett (107) set the tone with quick-fire tons against a hapless Pakistan bowling attack before Ollie Pope (108) and Harry Brook (101 not out) compounded the hosts' misery.
Ben Stokes was also not out, on 34, when bad light stopped play, having helped England break a 112-year-old record for the most runs on the first day of a Test -- beating Australia's 494-6 against South Africa at Sydney.
It was also the first time four batters scored hundreds on day one of a Test.
After winning the toss England went straight into "Bazball" mode, the brand of freewheeling, aggressive play taken from the nickname of head coach Brendon McCullum.
England's fiery batting -- with 73 boundaries and three sixes -- lifted the gloom over the start, which hung in the balance Wednesday after several of the tourists came down with a mystery virus.
As if the punishment from the top three wasn't enough, Brook -- playing only his second Test -- cracked six consecutive boundaries off one over from debutant spinner Saud Shakeel.
He is only the fourth batsman to score six consecutive boundaries in a Test, following West Indians Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya.
Brook reached his maiden century off just 80 balls, capping a highly entertaining day for a crowd of 6,000 that included around 150 "Barmy Army" fans.
He added 176 for the fourth wicket with Pope, who fell to pacer Mohammad Ali.
Pakistan fought back briefly in the second session when they dismissed Duckett, Crawley and Joe Root (23) in the space of 53 runs, but that was short-lived.
England have set their sights on even more runs.
"It was obviously a very good wicket to bat on," said Crawley.
"Hopefully, we can go on tomorrow and get more runs."
Debutant leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood was the most successful Pakistan bowler with 2-160 on an unresponsive wicket.
"The pitch was similar to the one we had against Australia, but it should have been a bit more supportive," said Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq, referring to the Test played earlier this year that yielded 1,187 runs for the loss of just 14 wickets over five days.
Duckett, who hit his maiden hundred after being recalled to the Test side following an absence of six years, was the first to go when he missed a reverse sweep off Mahmood and was trapped leg-before.
West Indian umpire Joel Wilson initially ruled it not out, only to change his decision on Pakistan's review.
Duckett, who hit 15 boundaries, put on 233 for the first wicket with Crawley -- an England record for the first wicket against Pakistan.
It beat the 1962 stand of 198 between openers Geoff Pullar and Bob Barber in Dhaka, then East Pakistan.
Crawley was bowled off a sharp delivery by Haris Rauf in the next over, the Test debutant's first wicket.
The lanky Crawley hit 21 boundaries in his quickfire 111-ball innings, his third Test hundred.
Former skipper Root also fell leg-before to Mahmood, unsuccessfully challenging the decision.
Crawley showed his intent right from the start, hitting three boundaries off Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah's first over of the match, and bringing up his half-century off just 38 balls.
He could have become the first England batter to score a century before lunch on day one of a Test but was left nine short.
England are on their first Test tour to Pakistan in 17 years.


Belgium crash out of World Cup after Croatia draw

Updated 01 December 2022

Belgium crash out of World Cup after Croatia draw

  • Croatia had a penalty award controversially cancelled by VAR early in a largely uneventful first half
  • Belgium saw their run of reaching at least the quarter-finals at four straight major tournaments come to an abrupt end

DOHA: Romelu Lukaku missed a string of late chances as Belgium crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage after a 0-0 draw with Croatia on Thursday which sent the 2018 runners-up into the knockout phase.
Croatia had a penalty award controversially canceled by VAR early in a largely uneventful first half.
The introduction of Lukaku at the interval changed the game, but he was guilty of three dreadful misses as Zlatko Dalic’s side rode their luck to hold on.
Croatia progressed as runners-up in Group F behind winners Morocco who beat Canada 2-1 to also qualify for the last 16.
Belgium, the world’s second-ranked side, saw their run of reaching at least the quarter-finals at four straight major tournaments come to an abrupt end.
Roberto Martinez’s men managed just one goal in the tournament in a fortunate opening 1-0 win over Canada.
Martinez dropped captain Eden Hazard to the bench as one of four changes which also saw Leandro Trossard and Dries Mertens start for the first time in Qatar.
The build-up to the match had been dominated by rumors of an altercation between senior Belgian players, involving Eden Hazard, which Martinez described as “fake news.”
Croatia almost took the lead inside the first 10 seconds, as the ball was played forward to Ivan Perisic after kick-off and the Tottenham man cut inside and drilled a shot just wide of the far post.
The likelihood of Belgium needing to win was increased when Morocco scored an early goal across Doha. Yannick Carrasco had a chance to open the scoring but his shot was blocked.
Mertens curled over after a trademark Kevin De Bruyne run and pass, before Croatia were awarded a penalty seconds later when Carrasco tripped Andrej Kramaric in the box.
But the decision was overturned following a lengthy VAR check which decided that a tiny fraction of Dejan Lovren’s shoulder was offside.
Desperate for a goal after a first half in which neither side mustered a shot on target, Martinez sent on Lukaku, Belgium’s record scorer, for Mertens at half-time.
They immediately carried more threat, with Lukaku, who struggled with injury in the build-up to the tournament, heading straight at Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Thibaut Courtois was then called into action for the first time, stretching to tip over Mateo Kovacic’s curling effort as the game opened up.
That also suited the Croatian attackers though and Courtois had to twice get down to keep out low shots from Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric.
Belgium should have taken the lead on the hour mark.
Carrasco almost bundled the ball in but was denied by Livakovic, before Lukaku contrived to hit the post with the goal gaping on the rebound.
Lukaku was guilty of an even worse miss two minutes later, heading over an empty net from six yards out, although replays suggested the ball may have been out of play when De Bruyne crossed it in.
Martinez also threw on Thorgan Hazard, Youri Tielemans and Jeremy Doku as Belgium searched for that all important goal.
Lukaku saw another chance come and go in the 87th minute, deflecting the ball wide from Thomas Meunier’s volley.
The striker, on loan at Inter Milan from Chelsea, still had another golden opportunity to be the hero, but he opted to chest the ball toward the open net from three yards out and directed it into the arms of Livakovic.