Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year

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Spain's national soccer team players Aitana Bonmati, Salma Paralluelo and Ivana Andres after winning Team of the year 2024 at the Laureus Sports Awards ceremony in Madrid, Monday. (AP)
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Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic poses with the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award during the 25th Laureus World Sports Awards gala in Madrid on April 22, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year

  • Laureus rewarded Spain as the first all-female team to win the team award
  • American gymnast Simone Biles was given the comeback of the year award

MADRID: Spain’s first Women’s World Cup triumph last year earned two more major plaudits at the Laureus World Sports Awards on Monday.

Spain were chosen world team of the year for 2023 and midfielder Aitana Bonmatí was picked as the best sportswoman.

Novak Djokovic received the sportsman of the year at the ceremony in Madrid, and American gymnast Simone Biles was given the comeback of the year award.

Real Madrid forward Jude Bellingham earned the breakthrough prize, and Rafael Nadal won the sport for good award thanks to his foundation.

The Spanish women’s World Cup breakthrough last August in New Zealand and Australia was tarnished in the following weeks because of an unwanted kiss of forward Jenni Hermoso by then-federation president Luis Rubiales after the final.

Laureus rewarded Spain as the first all-female team to win the team award.

Before the World Cup, Bonmati also helped Barcelona win a second Women’s Champions League. She’s the first female soccer player to win the Laureus, after also receiving the Ballon d’Or and FIFA best player award.

“I want to thank all my teammates and the staff of my club and national team who have helped me a lot, and because of them I am here today,” Bonmati said.

Djokovic won his record-equalling fifth Laureus sportsman award — tying Roger Federer — after titles at the Australian Open, French Open and US Open to reach a record 24 Grand Slam singles triumphs. NFL great Tom Brady presented Djokovic the award.

Biles made a record-breaking return to competition last year when she won four gold medals at the world championships, including a record sixth all-around title.

Nadal’s foundation was rewarded for helping more than “1,000 vulnerable young people in Spain and India,” according to Laureus.

Teenager Arisa Trew won the action sportsperson award after becoming the first female skateboarder to land a 720 in competition.

Dutch wheelchair player Diede de Groot was selected as the sportsperson of the year with a disability after winning her third straight calendar tennis Grand Slam.


Grand Slam champions Osaka, Raducanu, Wozniacki and Kerber receive wild cards for Wimbledon

Updated 14 sec ago
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Grand Slam champions Osaka, Raducanu, Wozniacki and Kerber receive wild cards for Wimbledon

The grass-court tournament starts on July 1
Osaka — a four-time major champion and former No. 1 player — and three-time Grand Slam winner Kerber returned from maternity leave at the start of this season

WIMBLEDON, England: Former Grand Slam champions Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Emma Raducanu have all been awarded wild cards for Wimbledon.
The grass-court tournament starts on July 1.
Osaka — a four-time major champion and former No. 1 player — and three-time Grand Slam winner Kerber returned from maternity leave at the start of this season.
Currently ranked 113th, Osaka was the only player to take a set from top-ranked Iga Swiatek at the French Open and followed that up with a quarterfinal spot last week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, a warm-up event for Wimbledon.
Former US Open champion Raducanu made her breakthrough at Wimbledon by advancing to the fourth round in 2021. She will be playing there for the first time in two years after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery in 2023.
Kerber won the 2018 Wimbledon title and was runner-up at the All England Club in 2016. She is also a former top-ranked player.
Wozniacki returned from maternity leave last August. She’s never got past the fourth round at Wimbledon, where she will be playing for the first time since 2019.
British players Francesca Jones, Heather Watson and Yuriko Miyazaki were also included in the initial list of invitations. One main draw wild card remains to be allocated. Seven British players have been invited to play in the men’s draw, including last year’s junior champion Henry Searle.

Liberty Global to acquire Formula E from Warner Bros. Discovery

Updated 19 June 2024
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Liberty Global to acquire Formula E from Warner Bros. Discovery

  • The deal will give the company a controlling interest in the world’s leading electric motorsport series
  • Announcement follows unveiling of the Season 11 race calendar which features races in Miami, Jakarta and double-headers in Monaco and Shanghai

LONDON: Formula E has announced that Liberty Global is to acquire shares currently held by Warner Bros. Discovery in the all-electric racing series.

The acquisition will bring Liberty Global’s total share ownership in the series to 65 percent, giving the company a controlling interest in the world’s fastest-growing motorsport.

Formula E is the only FIA-sanctioned all-electric world motor racing championship, the world’s No.1 environmental, social and governance sport, and the first net-zero carbon sport from inception.

“First of all I’d like to offer my thanks to Warner Bros. Discovery for the support and guidance they’ve provided Formula E over the past nine years,” Jeff Dodds, Formula E CEO said.

“Liberty Global have a proven track record of building and growing businesses and their investment in us comes at the perfect time as we plan for a period of exponential growth. Having personally known and worked alongside the Liberty leadership team for over a decade, I’m thrilled to be able to further benefit from their expertise and their resources. This is a powerful vindication of the huge potential of our sport.”

In its 10th season of all-electric city racing, Formula E boasts one of the best and most diverse sporting calendars in the world, with 16 races in iconic city locations across four continents.

Now, with almost 400 million fans around the world, 11 teams and 22 world-class drivers on the grid, Formula E has become a destination for the best motorsport talent on the planet, including racing teams Jaguar TCS Racing, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team and NEOM McLaren Formula E Team.

At the recent Monaco E-Prix, Formula E revealed its new car for Season 11, the GEN3 EVO, capable of accelerating to 60mph in an incredible 1.82 seconds — around 30 percent faster than a current Formula 1 car.

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, said: “We’re excited to take a controlling interest in Formula E, a business we first invested in nearly 10 years ago. Formula E has massive potential for further growth while integrating the most advanced sustainability standards in sports. The investment continues our approach of disciplined capital rotation across our Ventures portfolio and our strategy of making long-term investments in highly attractive businesses.”

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval, with closing expected before year end.


Bellator Champions Series returns with two title fights in September

Updated 19 June 2024
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Bellator Champions Series returns with two title fights in September

  • Undefeated Usman Nurmagomedov to defend lightweight title against Alexander Shabbily in San Diego on Sept. 7
  • Middleweight championship on the line when undefeated Johnny Eblen takes on Fabian Edwards in London on Sept. 14

NEW YORK: Bellator Champions Series will return in September with two straight weeks of global action, headlined by two Bellator World Championship bouts.

First up, on Saturday, Sept. 7, Bellator Champions Series San Diego will feature a Lightweight World Championship main event. Usman Nurmagomedov (17-0, 1 NC) will attempt to retain both his undefeated run and his 155-pound title when he locks horns with Alexander Shabliy (23-3), a man who has not been beaten in eight years.

One week later on Saturday, Sept. 14, the Bellator Middleweight World Championship is on the line in the main event of Bellator Champions Series London, when undefeated Johnny Eblen (15-0) will once again face off against England’s Fabian Edwards (13-3).

Last year, Bellator was bought by the PIF-backed Professional Fighters League.

“September is set to be a huge month for Bellator Champions Series, and we’re continuing to step up our game to deliver incredible cards that we know the MMA community across the globe will love,” said Peter Murray, PFL CEO.

“Both San Diego and London are massive markets for us, and we’re confident we’ll put on a show that the fans in attendance, and those watching around the world on Max and DAZN, deserve.

“Our world-class roster has allowed us to hold two cards in two weeks, and you’re going to see that, as we announce more fights and events, the future is incredibly bright for PFL and Bellator. It’s going to be a September to remember, see you there.”

Additional contests for both cards will be announced shortly.

Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Alexander Shabliy

Originally set to take place at Bellator Champions Series Paris in May, this Lightweight World Championship fight has been highly anticipated ever since it was first mooted. At just 26 years of age, Usman Nurmagomedov has proven he is one of the sport’s most dominant champions. He is undefeated in seven fights with Bellator and has captured a world title in a division many consider the toughest in the sport. Dethroning former Lightweight World Champion Patricky Pitbull, the Khabib Nurmagomedov protege defended his title against MMA legend Benson Henderson en route to this matchup on September 7. A striking specialist who has gone 8-0 under the Bellator banner, Alexander Shabliy has also defeated the upper echelons of the 155-pound division, including the aforementioned Pitbull and Tofiq Musayev, and impressively scored a second-round knockout against former Bellator Lightweight Champion Brent Primus.

Johnny Eblen vs. Fabian Edwards

A rematch from 2023, Johnny Eblen and Fabian Edwards took each other to the limit during their first encounter in Dublin at Bellator 299, where Eblen finished the fight via TKO in the third round and emotions flew high in the immediate aftermath. Since then, the American Top Team standout has gone on to pick up a win over Impa Kasanganay at PFL vs. Bellator: Champs vs. Champs for the Middleweight Super Belt, while Edwards bounced back with a unanimous victory against Canada’s Aaron Jeffery this past March at Bellator Champions Series Belfast to earn his rematch.

The 2024 Bellator Champions Series schedule is as follows:

Saturday, June 22 — Bellator Champions Series Dublin — 3Arena

Saturday, Sept. 7 — Bellator Champions Series San Diego — Pechanga Arena San Diego

Saturday, Sept. 14 — Bellator Champions Series London — OVO Arena Wembley

Saturday, Oct. 12 — Bellator Champions Series Chicago — Wintrust Arena

Saturday, Nov. 16 — Bellator Champions Series Paris — ADIDAS Arena

Tuesday, Dec. 31 — Bellator Champions Series — TBD


Confident Americans open Super Eight playoffs against South Africa in T20 World Cup

Updated 19 June 2024
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Confident Americans open Super Eight playoffs against South Africa in T20 World Cup

  • The US qualified for the second round after its Group A wins over Canada and Pakistan
  • The US face a tough opponent in South Africa, who have won all four of their group games

NORTH SOUND: The United States opens the Super Eight playoffs against South Africa at cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday with American captain Aaron Jones sounding more confident than ever.
A win over 2022 runner-up Pakistan in the group stage, helping to raise the profile of cricket in the US, might do that to a team skipper.
“To be honest with you, a lot of people don’t really pay much attention to US cricket,” said Jones.
“Probably the whole world don’t already know how much talent we have here . . . but definitely I think that on any given day, once we play proper cricket, we believe that we can beat any team in the world for sure.”
The US qualified for the second round after its Group A wins over Canada and Pakistan, with favorite India also advancing from that group.
The eight teams are divided into two groups with defending champion England and co-host West Indies the other teams bracketed with the USand South Africa. The other group has unbeaten Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India — those teams either topped their groups or finished as runner-up in the original 20-team tournament.
The USfaces a tough opponent in South Africa, which won all four of its group games. But the Americans can take heart from the fact that South African batters struggled in their last two low-scoring matches against weaker opponents Bangladesh — when the Proteas won by four runs, and Nepal, who they beat by one run.
Despite all the mystery surrounding low-scoring drop-in pitches in New York and the wet weather in Florida, the US sent shockwaves in the cricketing world with its back-to-back wins against Canada and Pakistan in Dallas before losing to India on a tricky wicket in New York.
The rain gods also helped the US — the tournament co-hosts received a crucial one point from its rain-abandoned group game against Ireland that knocked Pakistan out of the tournament. It was the first time that Pakistan, the 2009 champions, had not qualified for the playoffs in eight versions of the tournament.
The other Super Eight match Wednesday has co-hosts West Indies playing England at Gros Islet, St. Lucia. On Thursday, Afghanistan plays India at Bridgetown, Barbados and Australia takes on Bangladesh at North Sound, Antigua to complete the first round of playoff matches.
All matches in the Super Eight round are being played in the West Indies, and later the semifinals and final. The championship match in the month-long tournament is set for June 29 at the century-old Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The Americans are longshots to be there, but don’t count them out.
Not many Americans knew they had a cricket team before Jones hit the headlines with his blistering score of 95 runs in the opening game against Canada that also featured 10 big sixes.
But admiration for the US team grew more, not only in America but also around the cricketing world after it defeated Pakistan in a super over at Dallas.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve been speaking about playing in the World Cup, playing more games against the full-member nations and stuff like that,” Jones said.
“Obviously qualifying for the Super Eights is really good . . . not only for us but the fans around America as well. We really appreciate them, and for the younger generation in America.”


Kane Williamson steps down as New Zealand captain

Updated 19 June 2024
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Kane Williamson steps down as New Zealand captain

  • Williamson has turned down a central contract for the 2024/25 season, relinquishing the captaincy of the Twenty20 and one-day teams
  • Williamson: Playing for New Zealand is something I treasure and my desire to give back to the team remains undiminished

WELLINGTON: Kane Williamson has stepped down as captain of New Zealand’s white-ball teams, the Black Caps said Wednesday, days after they crashed out in the group stage of the T20 World Cup.

Williamson has turned down a central contract for the 2024/25 season, relinquishing the captaincy of the Twenty20 and one-day teams. He will still, however, play international cricket.

It leaves the 33-year-old star batsman able to accept offers to play in lucrative overseas competitions.

“Pursuing an overseas opportunity during the New Zealand summer means I’m unable to accept a central contract offer,” he said in a statement.

He can still play for New Zealand, with the Black Caps scheduled to play Test matches against Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, India and England later this year.

Williamson said his decision to turn down a central contract and give up the limited-overs captaincy should not be interpreted as a sign he was losing interest in international cricket.

“Playing for New Zealand is something I treasure and my desire to give back to the team remains undiminished,” he said.

Williamson had skippered New Zealand in all three formats until he gave up the Test captaincy to fast bowler Tim Southee in late 2022.

Since making his debut in 2010, Williamson has played 100 Tests, 165 one-day internationals and 93 T20 games for New Zealand.