Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard wins the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico race

Jonas Hansen Vingegaard - Team Visma - Lease A Bike, the winner of the race, celebrates on the podium with the Trident Trophy after the 59th Tirreno - Adriatico 2024 race on Sunday in San Benedetto del Tronto, Tuscany, Italy. (AP)
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Updated 11 March 2024
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Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard wins the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico race

  • After winning the sea-to-sea race, Vingegaard raised the giant trophy shaped like Neptune’s three-pronged trident
  • The next major race is the Milan-San Remo next Saturday, although Vingegaard does not plan to enter the single-day classic

SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy: Two-time defending Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard secured overall victory in the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico race on Sunday after winning the two big climbing stages.

Showing strong early season form, the Danish rider with the Visma team has now won both races he’s entered in 2024, after also taking the overall title and winning three of the four stages in the Gran Camino in Spain last month.

After winning the sea-to-sea race, Vingegaard raised the giant trophy shaped like Neptune’s three-pronged trident.

“Neptune’s trident is one of the best and most iconic trophies in cycling,” Vingegaard said. “It’s perfect for an ex-fisherman like me.”

It was a strong response to Tadej Pogacar’s dominating win in the Strade Bianche last weekend. Pogacar finished second behind Vingegaard at the Tour the last two years after winning cycling’s biggest race in 2020 and 2021. The pair likely won’t race against each other again until this year’s Tour starts in Florence, Italy, on June 29.

While Pogacar has added the Giro d’Italia to his program for this season, Vingegaard is still centering his season around the Tour.

“I like racing in Italy,” Vingegaard said. “I don’t rule out trying to win the Giro in the future.”

Vingegaard finished 1 minute, 24 seconds ahead of Spanish rider Juan Ayuso and 1:52 ahead of Jai Hindley, the 2022 Giro champion from Australia.

Vingegaard won the fifth and sixth stages.

With American rider Matteo Jorgenson winning the Paris-Nice stage race on Sunday, Visma became the first team to win Paris-Nice and the Tirreno-Adriatico in the same year.

Italian rider Jonathan Milan with Lidl-Trek won the seventh and final Tirreno stage in a sprint finish for his second victory of the race after also taking the fourth leg. Alexander Kristoff and Davide Cimolai finished second and third, respectively.

Richard Carapaz, the Ecuadorean who won the 2019 Giro and gold at the Tokyo Olympics, abandoned the race after a fall.

The next major race is the Milan-San Remo next Saturday, although Vingegaard does not plan to enter the single-day classic.


French authorities detain Russian man on accusations of planning to ‘destabilize’ Olympics

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French authorities detain Russian man on accusations of planning to ‘destabilize’ Olympics

A 40-year-old Russia-born man was arrested on Tuesday at his Paris apartment
He was charged with “conducting intelligence work on behest of a foreign power” with an aim to “provoke hostilities in France”

PARIS: French authorities say they have detained a Russian man on suspicion of planning to “destabilize the Olympic Games.”
A 40-year-old Russia-born man was arrested on Tuesday at his Paris apartment, a statement from the Paris prosecutor’s office said Wednesday.
He was charged with “conducting intelligence work on behest of a foreign power” with an aim to “provoke hostilities in France,” crimes punishable with 30-year sentence in France, the statement said.
During an official search of the suspect’s home in Paris, police agents found items that “raised fears of his intention to organize events likely to lead to destabilization of the Olympic Games,” prosecutors said.
It comes after the interior minister said earlier Wednesday that security authorities made an arrest and foiled a separate plot to attack the Olympics.
Minister Gérald Darmanin said the security authorities thwarted a plot against the Paris Olympics, two days before the official start of the Summer Games.
France has been on high alert over the past few weeks as preparations to host the 2024 Olympics hit the final stretch. The Games officially kick off with a lavish and high-security opening ceremony on the River Seine on Friday.
The Games’ organizers face security challenges, including cyberattack concerns, amid high international tensions because of the Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.
There are also elaborate disinformation campaigns orchestrated out of Russia, targeting the Olympics and France’s recent elections, according to French officials and cybersecurity experts in Europe and the United States.
Darmanin said in an interview Wednesday with French broadcaster BFMTV that a young man was arrested in Gironde, a region in the southwest of France, on suspicion of “planning a violent action against the Olympic Games.”
Police arrested an 18-year-old man Tuesday on accusations that he was planning to target the “organization of the Games,” Darmanin said.
He did not give details on the suspect’s potential targets or whether they were in Paris or in other French cities hosting Olympic events that run through Aug. 11.
“We are still working on this case ... (we) avoid giving details ... but we think there is a link,” Darmanin said. “It’s been established that this person wanted to attack the Olympic Games.”
Paris has deployed 35,000 police officers each day for the Olympics, with a peak of 45,000 for the opening ceremony. In addition, 10,000 soldiers are taking part in security operations in the Paris region.
A 10,000-strong military force is patrolling streets and sites in the Paris region and carrying out other security missions.
France also is getting help from more than 40 countries that together have sent at least 1,900 police reinforcements.

Palestinians are winners by just being at Paris Games, say athletes

Yazan Al Bawwab of Palestine, with a Palestine flag before training. REUTERS
Updated 24 July 2024
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Palestinians are winners by just being at Paris Games, say athletes

PARIS: The presence of Palestinian athletes at the Paris Olympic Games is already a major victory for the team amid the conflict in the Middle East, they said on Saturday, less than a week before the start of the Olympics.
The Palestinian team for the Games starting on Friday consists of six athletes who will be competing in boxing, judo, taekwondo, shooting and swimming, with slim hopes of a medal.”Whether a medal or not, we already win,” swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab told Reuters.
“The fact that we’re here. The fact that people don’t want us to be here, they don’t want us to play sports. They don’t want us to exist.”
“People don’t want Palestinians to exist. They look at the flag and they don’t want it. So to be here is a win,” said Al Bawwab, who will be the team’s flag bearer during the opening ceremony.
About 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were seized and taken as hostages to Gaza in an attack on southern Israel led by the Palestinian militant group Hamas last Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli military offensive launched in response in Hamas-governed Gaza has killed almost 39,000 Palestinians, health officials in the Palestinian enclave say. Israel says 326 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza.
In the run-up to the Paris Olympics, Palestinian athletes had been given support by Arab states, including Kuwait, Qatar, Libya and Egypt, to allow training in those countries.
Palestinian sports officials have said that since the start of the conflict in October 2023 more than 300 athletes, referees and sports officials have been killed and all sports facilities in Gaza demolished.
“I said it before but I’m one of the luckiest people in the world,” swimmer Valerie Tarazi said. “I have the opportunity to compete for my country, to raise the flag for my country.”
“My heart is with them. Every time I swim, every time I jump in the pool, I’m thinking about the people of Palestine, their struggles. And I just want to represent them in the best way possible.”


‘We love life’: Gaza’s war-weary footballers play on

Updated 24 July 2024
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‘We love life’: Gaza’s war-weary footballers play on

  • Referee Rami Mustafa Abu Hashish told AFP that football helped “restore a semblance of life” to Jabalia
  • In the courtyard of a school-turned-shelter, the two sides vied for a trophy one player said was salvaged from the rubble

JABALIA, Palestinian Territories: On an improvised pitch in war-ravaged Gaza, a young player and goalkeeper block out the boisterous crowd and focus solely on the football as they square off.
The referee blows the whistle and the penalty-taker fires the ball into the makeshift goal, sparking wild celebrations as spectators swarm him.
For fans and players, Tuesday’s match in the Jabalia refugee camp was a welcome distraction from the pangs of hunger and exhaustion endured over nearly 300 days of the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
Referee Rami Mustafa Abu Hashish told AFP that football helped “restore a semblance of life” to Jabalia, devastated by Israeli bombardments and fighting which have laid waste to schools, stadiums and homes, and uprooted families many times over.
In the courtyard of a school-turned-shelter, the two sides vied for a trophy one player said was salvaged from the rubble.
The game created a festive atmosphere, with spectators pulling out chairs and leaning over the railings of the three-story compound to cheer.
A group of boys packed onto an empty lorry bed for a better view.
“We will play despite hunger and thirst, we will compete because we love life,” read one child’s sign in both English and Arabic.
Jabalia was hit particularly hard in an Israeli offensive launched in May, part of a fierce campaign sweeping northern Gaza — an area the military had previously said was out of the control of Hamas militants.
As fighting rages, humanitarian agencies struggle to deliver aid and warn of a looming famine.
Residents have told AFP there is barely any food left in the north, and what little reaches them comes at an astronomical cost.
For the footballers, the match offered a rare escape from concerns about food and water shortages.
They have been unable to play since the October 7 outbreak of the war triggered by Hamas’s attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 44 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 39,145 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.
“Since the war on the Gaza Strip, we’ve stayed away from sports because all the clubs were destroyed, all the playgrounds were destroyed, but today, we made something out of nothing,” said Saif Abu Saif, one of the players.
The Gaza education ministry says 85 percent of educational facilities in the territory are out of service because of the war.
Many have been turned into shelters for war displaced as most of the besieged strip’s 2.4 million people have been uprooted multiple times.
Coach Wael Abu Saif said he was determined to attend Tuesday’s match despite still experiencing pain from wounds sustained in a February attack. Now in a wheelchair, he said he lost the use of both his legs.
“I’ve loved football since I was a child, I love tournaments, I love playing,” he told AFP.
“I want to prove to the whole world... that we continue to move forward with the most basic of our rights, which is to play football.”


Refugee Team canoeist Soltani turns heartbreak into positive spur

Updated 24 July 2024
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Refugee Team canoeist Soltani turns heartbreak into positive spur

  • Indeed the 28-year-old arrives at the Games as champion of Austria, the country where she sought asylum in 2022
  • “There’s an artistic swimming camp in Spain, and because of the security reason, I couldn’t go back anymore to Iran,” she told AFP

PARIS: Refugee Olympic team canoeist Saman Soltani told AFP that being unable to return to Iran two years ago could have either “broken you down” — or become, as it was for her, “an opportunity to improve.”
Indeed the 28-year-old arrives at the Games as champion of Austria, the country where she sought asylum in 2022 when she realized returning to her family in Iran was out of the question following an artistic swimming training camp in Spain.
She was provided safe haven there after a desperate call for help to Uwe Schlokat, whom she had met when he visited Iran five years previously. He was the only person she knew in Europe.
“There’s an artistic swimming camp in Spain, and because of the security reason, I couldn’t go back anymore to Iran,” she told AFP.
“So I only knew one person in Europe, and he was living in Austria. He is like my second father, and he helped me a lot.
“I go to Austria, and I asked for asylum. I integrated into this culture. And I have good friends and good people around me.”
Soltani is remarkably self-assured given she has not seen her family for a couple of years and is unlikely to see them in the forseeable future.
“Everything that happens to you has two sides, and it depends on you how do you look at the things,” said Soltani.
“So, you can see them as an opportunity to improve, or you can see them as something that breaks you down.
“Everything is about how you think about the things. Of course, it’s hard at first because we are all human with emotions, but I think the biggest achievement in my life is I always try to find a solution and keep going, and that’s why I’m here.”
She says that along with her fellow Refugee Team members — there are 36 in all — they are not just competing for personal glory but for a far greater cause.
“We represent more than 100 million displaced people, which I wanted to be a role model for them, to tell them, like, when the things look really bad, you just have to keep going,” she said.
“You should not get disappointed, and you should never give up.”
Soltani, who competes in the 500-meter Sprint on August 7, had already shown her prowess for Iran in both artistic swimming and then kayaking, winning silver in the latter at the 2018 Asian Under-23 championships.
Soltani — who has a degree in accountancy — showed her stubborn side when she was told she would never make it in kayaking.
“I was just watching the Iranian national canoe/kayak team that day and I just love it.
“I decided to start and everyone told me it’s too late, you cannot.
“Because everyone who do like professional sport, they started at a really early age.
“But what they didn’t think about was that I was a swimmer, an artistic swimmer. And I was multiple champion.
“So I started kayaking and this is another thing that maybe it looks impossible for other people but doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for you — so give yourself a chance in any situation.”
Yet she says her ambitions lie on a far higher plane — Olympic gold in Los Angeles in 2028, whether for Austria she does not know as despite being their national champion she has yet to be given Austrian nationality.
“I know I’m special, and I knew it from when I was a child, because I always liked to do big things,” she said.
“And so I knew it, and I’m excited to see what I will do in the future. Because I know I want to be world famous.”


Egypt sends biggest team ever to Paris Olympics

Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhy. credit: Egyptian Olympic Committee
Updated 24 July 2024
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Egypt sends biggest team ever to Paris Olympics

  • A total of 148 athletes will compete across 22 sports

Riyadh: Egypt is set to field its largest ever team at the Paris Olympics, which get underway on Friday.

Speaking at a press event on Tuesday, Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhy said Egypt had spared no effort in providing its athletes with the resources they needed to qualify for the Games and as a result it had the biggest team of any Arab or African nation.

A total of 148 athletes will compete across 22 sports. The team also features 16 reserves.

Sobhy said he was hoping for a record medals haul “to crown the efforts of the country in providing full support to our sports champions.”