Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’

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At the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, Hamda Al-Qubaisi finished second in race three and sister Amna took third place. (Supplied)
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At the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, Hamda Al-Qubaisi finished second in race three and sister Amna took third place. (Supplied)
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At the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, Hamda Al-Qubaisi finished second in race three and sister Amna took third place. (Supplied)
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At the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, Hamda Al-Qubaisi finished second in race three and sister Amna took third place. (Supplied)
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At the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, Hamda Al-Qubaisi finished second in race three and sister Amna took third place. (Supplied)
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At the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, Hamda Al-Qubaisi finished second in race three and sister Amna took third place. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 December 2023
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Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’

  • Emirati history-makers Hamda and Amna reflect on their motorsport success

ABU DHABI: They have pulled off some impressive feats individually in the world of motorsport, but if you ask Amna and Hamda Al-Qubaisi what they consider to be the highlight of their careers, the Emirati sisters choose a moment in which they both got to shine.

“I would say Red Bull Ring, the first round in Austria, where we got to share a podium,” Amna, 23, told Arab News in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

“I shared the podium with my sister. It was an amazing feeling and I hope we can do the same again,” added Hamda, 21.

The older Al-Qubaisi sister is referring to the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, which saw Hamda finish second in race three and Amna take third place.

Earlier that day at Red Bull Ring, Amna claimed victory in race two, but stepping on the podium together with her sister in the next race ultimately proved more special to both of them.

From a young age, the Al-Qubaisi sisters have made a habit of making history.

At 18, Amna became the first Emirati female driver to race in single-seater competitions internationally when she joined the grid in Italian Formula 4.

In 2019, she became the first Arab woman to win a Formula 4 race when she topped the podium in the F4 UAE Trophy Round at Yas Marina Circuit during the F1 Grand Prix weekend, and in 2021, Amna took things further by becoming the UAE’s first female F3 driver.

Hamda made waves when she scooped six race wins across her first two full seasons in F4 UAE — 2020-2021 — but her big moment on the international stage came in June 2021 when she became the first woman in history to make the podium in the Italian F4 Championship, placing third in the first race at Misano World Circuit. She was just 18 years old at the time.

By the end of 2022, the careers of Amna and Hamda were in jeopardy as they struggled to find the necessary funding to keep racing. But then came the announcement of the launch of F1 Academy, an all-female racing series aimed at developing and preparing young female drivers to progress to higher levels of competition.

Both sisters were signed by Dutch team MP Motorsport for the inaugural season, which saw Hamda finish third in the F1 Academy championship and Amna secure P6.

“Honestly, it saved my career,” said Amna of the F1-supported initiative.

“I was about to stop racing and they saved my career by having the budget really low and the opportunity to race on extraordinary tracks. So a big thank you to Susie Wolff for creating the F1 Academy and giving me the opportunity to be back racing again.”

Hamda, who took four race victories in the inaugural championship, was also concerned either she or Amna would have to drop out of competing.

“For me, I think F1 Academy also saved my career. We were really low on budget and it was at a point we were choosing between us, who would race and who would stop,” said Hamda.

“So it wasn’t really a nice feeling and I’m happy we’re able to share the track together, as teammates as well, representing our country. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Since the start of their careers, Amna and Hamda had been competing in mixed competitions, side by side with male drivers, so switching their focus to an all-female series could have been considered a risky move. But Hamda feels her level has only gone higher, and her top-five finish in the F4 UAE Trophy Round with Yas Heat Racing in Abu Dhabi last weekend, which featured a competitive mixed grid, has helped her prove her point.

“F1 Academy has done great, I performed really well there, and it hasn’t done anything (negative) to the level I’m at,” said Hamda.

“Being an all-female series, people thought it would bring my level down but I’m here (at Yas Marina Circuit) competing in a mixed grid and I’m still at the top. So it goes to show how strong the grid was and how females can really perform in this category.”

But can an all-female series really be the right stepping stone for women looking to make it to Formula 1?

“Yes, I think for sure,” replied Hamda. “Because I’ve been through a lot of championships and to be honest F1 Academy has been one of the most competitive championships I’ve raced at. Considering I’ve raced on a 40-plus-car grid in F4 Italia, in F4 UAE, so to be in F1 Academy 15-car grid but still so competitive, it’s a really high level and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Hamda’s F1 Academy campaign was all the more impressive considering she had surgery for a broken wrist just six weeks before the season started. The doctors told her she would need four months to recover but Hamda somehow managed to make it in time for pre-season testing in Barcelona and she stood on top of the podium, winning a race in Valencia, just 75 days after going under the knife.

“At one point I was already in the fight for the lead of the championship,” said Hamda, reflecting on her season. “So for me it was amazing. I was able to perform really well at such a high level; especially as an Emirati woman in the sport, I showed what we’re capable of and I’m sure a lot of women here in the region can do the same.”

Arguably the fastest sister act in all of motorsport, the Al-Qubaisis have successfully navigated what could have been a very tricky dynamic as siblings, teammates and competitors.

“In the beginning it was quite tough,” admitted Amna. “I mean, in karting we used to take each other out. But I think we’ve matured and in single-seaters we really have an advantage to everyone else, being sisters. We really help each other on track and off track. So it’s really good to have a teammate that’s your sister.”

Hamda explained their nuanced approach to how they manage races that bring them mixed fortunes.

“It happened a few times, when I’m mad and she’s happy, she tries not to be as happy, to not make me feel worse, and vice versa,” said Hamda. “But at the same time we celebrate each other’s wins despite what happens to each other. So if she won I’ll be there for her, I’ll celebrate no matter what happens to me.”

Still only 21, Hamda walked away from her first season in F1 Academy with many lessons learned.

“For sure it’s more about dealing with the pressure, trying to stay focused no matter what and forget about people or outsiders, whatever they have to say. I made a few mistakes on my side, driving-wise, but then again, I can’t look at the people who criticize me and I have to forget it and think tomorrow’s a new day, start fresh and learn from my mistakes,” she said.

“That’s one thing I struggled with; I would always let the past haunt me but I’ve learned a lot this season. I’ve learned to trust the process and see how things go.”


Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

Updated 21 April 2024
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Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

  • The Nuggets continue dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings
  • Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers also win their NBA playoff openers

LOS ANGELES: The defending champion Denver Nuggets, powered by 32 points from Nikola Jokic, shook off a slow start to beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 in game one of their NBA playoffs first-round series on Saturday.
The Nuggets, who swept the Lakers in four games in the Western Conference finals on the way to their first title last season, continued their dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings.
The game was the finale of the first day of the playoffs, which saw the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Phoenix Suns 120-95, the New York Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104 and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic 97-83.
In Denver, Jokic added 12 rebounds and seven assists, Jamal Murray added 22 points with 10 assists and Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 for the Nuggets, who used a 13-0 scoring run to take charge in the third quarter — in which they limited the Lakers to 18 points.
James scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Anthony Davis added 27 for the Lakers, who cut a 15-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to six only for the Nuggets to pull away again.
Jokic’s only three-pointer of the game pushed the Nuggets’ lead to 103-93. He added a dunk over James, who took a hard fall with a minute remaining but stayed in the game to the bitter end.
“Mindset needed to change,” Jokic said of the Nuggets’ third-quarter resurgence. “I think for the second half defense was amazing.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the Nuggets’ 15-6 superiority in offensive rebounding was key as Denver piled up 18 second-chance points.
“You can’t allow them to get multiple possessions,” said Ham, who added that he still believed the best-of-seven series, which resumes Monday, will be a “hard fought” affair.
In Minneapolis, Anthony Edwards scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half as the Minnesota Timberwolves thrashed Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in their Western Conference clash.
Against a team that also had their number in the regular season, Minnesota’s Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert — bolstered by a strong supporting cast — turned the tables.
Towns scored 19 points, Gobert added 14 points and 16 rebounds and the Timberwolves reserves — led by 18 points from Nickeil Alexander-Walker — out-scored the Suns bench 41-18.
Up by 10 at halftime, the Timberwolves took full control in the third quarter, with Edwards scoring 18 points and taking the opportunity to needle Durant.
“I think everybody here knows that’s my favorite player of all time,” Edwards said of two-time NBA champ Durant. “That was probably one of the best feelings ever in my whole life, for sure.”
Durant finished with 31 points and seven rebounds. Devin Booker added 18 and Bradley Beal 15, but the Suns couldn’t find a way through the Timberwolves’ stifling defense keyed by Gobert.
“It’s just one game,” Edwards said. “They’re going to be ready the next time we play them.”
In New York, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart scored 22 points apiece for the Knicks and Miles McBride came up big off the bench with 21 — 13 of them in the second quarter.
The 76ers got a jolt shortly before halftime when NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid came down from a highlight reel dunk and appeared to hurt his surgically repaired left knee.
He returned for the third quarter coming up with a steal and feeding Kelly Oubre Jr. for a dunk that gave the Sixers a three-point lead late in the period.
The Sixers, led by 33 points from Tyrese Maxey, couldn’t stay in front, and with less than two minutes remaining Hart drilled a pair of three-pointers and OG Anunoby made another to help the Knicks seal it.
The Knicks host game two on Monday, with the Sixers breathing a sigh of relief that Embiid, who finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists, apparently will be ready as they try to even the series.
In Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers in a wire-to-wire victory that Allen hoped would set the tone for their Eastern Conference series.
“We keep saying ‘throw the first punch,’” Allen said in an on-court postgame interview. “I think it was the perfect example tonight.”
Orlando’s Paolo Banchero scored 24 points but had nine of the Magic’s 12 turnovers.


‘On a roll’: Travis Head blitz fires Sunrisers Hyderabad to 266 and big IPL win

Updated 20 April 2024
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‘On a roll’: Travis Head blitz fires Sunrisers Hyderabad to 266 and big IPL win

  • Hyderabad have twice broken records this season with IPL totals of 277 and 287

NEW DELHI: Australia’s Travis Head smashed 89 off 32 balls to lead Sunrisers Hyderabad to another huge IPL total of 266-7 in a crushing 67-run victory over Delhi Capitals on Saturday.
Hyderabad have twice broken records this season with IPL totals of 277 and 287 and threatened to breach the mark once again at Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium.
Delhi skipper Rishabh Pant won the toss and put Hyderabad into bat on a batting-friendly pitch, which produced the fourth highest total of the T20 tournament.
Delhi were bowled out for 199 in 19.1 overs, with left-arm quick T Natarajan returning impressive figures of 4-19.
Hyderabad jumped to second spot behind Rajasthan Royals with five wins in seven matches.
Head remained the hero after he blasted a 16-ball 50 in an explosive opening stand with fellow left-hander Abhishek Sharma to tear into the opposition attack as Hyderabad reached 100 in five overs and 125 in six.
“On a bit of a roll there,” Head said of his form after he took second place in the batting chart with 324 runs including a century and two fifties. “Enjoyable, boys are on a roll.”
He said: “When you’re in good form, just trying to keep it simple. Reacted to the ball.”
Head and Sharma hit 12 sixes between them as the innings witnessed a joint IPL record of 22 hit over the fence and Hyderabad equalled their effort from the previous match when they smashed 287-3 in a win over Royal Challengers Bengaluru early this week.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav checked the carnage with two wickets in the seventh over as he sent back Sharma, out for 46 off 12 balls, and then Aiden Markram, for one.
Hyderabad then lost two wickets in the space of two deliveries after Kuldeep dismissed Head and fellow spinner Axar Patel bowled Heinrich Klaasen, for 15, at the start of the next over.
Shahbaz Ahmed then steadied the innings and kept up the attack as he hammered an unbeaten 59 off 29 balls.
Ahmed, a left-handed batsman, put on 67 runs with Nitish Kumar Reddy, who made 37, before Kuldeep dismissed Reddy to finish with four wickets.
Hyderabad lost two wickets in the final over including skipper Pat Cummins to a run out but Ahmed reached his first IPL fifty with a four and ended the innings with a six.
“I think powerplay was the difference,” said Pant.
“We were just catching up throughout the match. That was the massive difference. Hopefully we will come back with more thought process and clear mindset.”
Washington Sundar came in as the impact player in place of Head as Hyderabad added a spinner to defend the total.
Sundar opened the bowling and was hit for four straight boundaries by Prithvi Shaw, who was Delhi’s impact player, but got his revenge on the fifth when he dismissed the opener for 16.
David Warner fell to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for one before up and coming Australian batsman Jake Fraser-McGurk smacked an 18-ball 65 and put on 84 runs with Abishek Porel, who hit 42.
Leg-spinner Mayank Markande dismissed the pair and the rest of the batting failed to live up to the challenge despite Pant’s 44.
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US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

Updated 21 April 2024
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US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

  • More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries
  • US first with 11 medals, Italy second with 14, France third with 6

RIYADH: American fencers won 11 medals to top the table of medal winners at the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which concluded in Riyadh on Saturday.
Sheikh Salem Al-Qasimi, president of the Asian and Arab Fencing Federations, and Abdul Muneim Al-Husseini, vice president of the International Fencing Federation, crowned the winners on the final day of the championships held in King Saud University’s Arena Hall.
More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries during the competition, which took place on April 12-20.


The US team won the gold medal in the Sabre (team) under 20, defeating Romania who won silver, while Italy won bronze.
Lamia Al-Fawzan, a member of the Saudi Fencing Federation board, and Ahmed Al-Sabaan, president of the Saudi Fencing Federation, awarded the winners of the Sabre (female teams) under 20. France won gold after beating Italy, while Hungary won bronze.
Al-Sabaan presented the championships’ flag to the representative of China as the upcoming hosts of the 2025 edition.
American fencers won four gold medals, two silver medals and five bronze medals. Italy came second on the table of medalists with 14 medals — two gold, five silver and seven bronze. France ranked third with six medals — two gold, one silver and three bronze.
The organizing committee honored the participating sponsors: MOTUS, Al-Arabiya, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospital, Gormet, Nova, and the Hadaya Alam Association.


Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

Updated 20 April 2024
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Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

  • Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal
  • Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time

LONDON: Bernardo Silva fired Manchester City back into the FA Cup final as the Portugal midfielder’s late strike sealed the holders’ 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal, but Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time.
Shaken by their Champions League quarter-final loss against Real Madrid on penalties in midweek, City took a while to shake off the gloom from the end of their treble bid.
They were hampered by the absence of Norway striker Erling Haaland after he suffered a knock against Real, with Julian Alvarez unable to make an impact as his replacement.
City were bailed out by Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson’s profligacy and Guardiola will hope the hard-fought success provides a timely lift as they chase a Premier League and FA Cup double.
City face Manchester United or Coventry, who meet on Sunday, in the final on May 25 and will retain the Premier League title if they win their last six games.
It will be City’s 13th final in the competition and potentially a repeat of last year’s 2-1 win over United in the Wembley Manchester derby.
Beaten by Liverpool in the League Cup final in February, Chelsea’s wait to win their first domestic trophy since the 2018 FA Cup goes on for another season.
It was a bitter blow for Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has endured a difficult first season in charge and remains without silverware in England.
The semifinal was billed as in-form Chelsea forward Cole Palmer’s chance to punish his old club for selling him to the Blues in September.
Guardiola said Palmer was asking to leave City for two years before he eventually joined Chelsea, where he has scored 23 goals in all competitions this, including 11 in his last six games.
Palmer, who scored four times in Monday’s 6-0 rout of Everton, was a constant threat for Chelsea, but ultimately it was his team’s lack of killer instinct that proved decisive.
Palmer’s pin-point pass sent Jackson racing into the City area early on, but his strike lacked the accuracy to beat Stefan Ortega in a miss that foreshadowed Chelsea’s fate.
Jackson wasted a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the goal their dominance deserved.
Enzo Fernandez’s pass split the City defense, but Jackson opted to go around Ortega rather than shoot and the chance was gone as Nathan Ake scurried back to clear.
Playing with more purpose and quality than City, Pochettino’s team threatened again as Palmer cleverly shimmied past Rodri for a low drive from 12 yards that was well saved by Ortega.
It was the first time lethargic City had failed to muster a first half shot on target since a game against Everton in February.
Jackson, in the midst of a terrible debut season, was put clean through on goal by Conor Gallagher immediately after the interval.
But the much-maligned striker’s shot was palmed away by Ortega, who clawed away a close-range header from Jackson seconds later.
City finally tested Djordje Petrovic through Phil Foden’s snap-shot, but the Serbian was equal to his powerful strike.
Chelsea appealed in vain for a penalty when Jack Grealish’s arm blocked Palmer’s free-kick, while Moises Caicedo was fortunate to escape a second booking for a crunching tackle that forced Grealish to limp off.
Grealish’s replacement Jeremy Doku drew an immediate save from Petrovic with a near-post blast.
Doku’s presence lifted City and the Belgian played a part as they stole the victory in the 84th minute.
Advancing with intent toward the Chelsea area, Doku slipped a pass to Kevin de Bruyne, whose low cross was pushed out by Petrovic to Silva for a close-range finish that deflected home as Guardiola punched the air in relief.


Mueller bags brace, Kane hits goal 33 as Bayern thump Union

Updated 20 April 2024
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Mueller bags brace, Kane hits goal 33 as Bayern thump Union

  • Just a week after Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen broke Bayern’s 11-year title run, the visitors were dominant and clinical in the German capital
  • Mueller, playing his 470th Bundesliga game for Bayern, scored both of his goals in the second half, either side of a strike from Tel

BERLIN: Harry Kane claimed his 33rd league goal of the season and Thomas Mueller scored twice as Bayern Munich hammered Union Berlin 5-1 away in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Just a week after Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen broke Bayern’s 11-year title run, the visitors were dominant and clinical in the German capital.
Kane blasted in an excellent free-kick and laid on a second-half goal for Mathys Tel and has now 51 goal involvements in all competitions this season, his best-ever mark.
In the Bundesliga, the England captain is eight shy of Robert Lewandowski’s single season record with four games remaining.
Bayern rested star attacking midfielder Jamal Musiala after Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Arsenal sent them through to the final four of the Champions League but they had no difficulty creating chances against the Union defense.
Handed a rare start, French teenager Tel set up Leon Goretzka’s 29th-minute opener, with Kane scoring a superb free-kick in first-half stoppage time.
Mueller, playing his 470th Bundesliga game for Bayern, scored both of his goals in the second half, either side of a strike from Tel.
Union, who faced Real Madrid and Napoli in the Champions League this season, pulled one back late through Yorbe Vertessen, have now won just one of their past eight and sit three points clear of the relegation places.
Earlier , RB Leipzig tightened their grip on fourth place, the final guaranteed Champions League spot, with a 2-1 win at Heidenheim as Lois Openda scored his 23rd goal of the season.
Leipzig striker Benjamin Sesko opened the scoring shortly before half-time, pouncing on some disorganized defending from the home side for his 10th league goal this term.
Heidenheim, who have beaten Bayern Munich and drawn with Dortmund twice in their first season in the top division, struck back with 20 minutes remaining, Nikola Dovedan heading in following a free-kick.
Leipzig, who are in a battle with Champions League semifinalists Dortmund for fourth place and host them next week, grabbed the winner with five minutes remaining when Openda tapped in a Mohamed Simakan pass.
Leipzig sit three points clear of Dortmund who host champions Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Fourth place is guaranteed to play Champions League but fifth could also qualify due to the strong performances of German sides in the competition this season.
RB captain Willi Orban was pleased his side made it through an “incredibly difficult match,” telling Sky “plenty of top sides have dropped points here, but we’ve taken all three — it was deserved.”
Elsewhere, a hat-trick from Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Robin Hack was not enough as his side lost 4-3 at Hoffenheim.
Hoffenheim led 3-1 midway through the second half before Hack scored twice in 11 minutes to level the score with just a minute remaining, but Anton Stach scored in stoppage time for the home side to snatch victory.
Bottom side Darmstadt won their first league match since October, beating second-last Cologne 2-0 thanks to goals from Oscar Vilhelmsson and Cristoph Klarer.
Despite the win, Darmstadt remain 10 points from safety with four games remaining.
Cologne’s chances of beating the drop are falling fast. They are five points away from 15th-placed Bochum, the final safe spot.
Bochum lost 1-0 at Wolfsburg, with Ralph Hasenhuettl’s side winning thanks to a goal from Jonas Wind.
Wind’s goal deepened Bochum’s woes a week after sacking coach Thomas Letsch, with the side just one point clear of the relegation spots.