Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal

WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has revealed she contemplated suicide during her nine-month ordeal in a Russian jail that left her feeling “less than a human.” (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal

  • Griner made the revelation in excerpts of an upcoming interview with ABC Television released on Tuesday
  • “Yeah, I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” an emotional Griner said

LOS ANGELES: WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has revealed she contemplated suicide during her nine-month ordeal in a Russian jail that left her feeling “less than a human.”
Griner, who was detained in a Moscow airport in February 2022 on drug charges before being sentenced to nine years in prison, made the revelation in excerpts of an upcoming interview with ABC Television released on Tuesday.
“Yeah, I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” an emotional Griner said when asked by her interviewer on ABC’s 20/20 news show if she had considered “ending it all.”
In other segments of the interview, Griner, who was freed in late 2022 as part of a prisoner swap, gave an insight into the grim conditions of her incarceration at a Russian penal colony.
“The mattress had a huge blood stain on it. I had no soap, no toilet paper. That was the moment where I just felt less than a human,” Griner said.
Griner said at one stage during her imprisonment she was ushered into a room to find “a huge knife sitting on the table.”
“And I was like ‘Now, this is going to be a ride,’” she said. “You’ve got to do what you got to do to survive.”
Griner was arrested and charged by Russian officials for possessing vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage as she passed through airport security.
She later testified she had “no intention” of breaking the law and had packed the cartridges by accident.
Asked by ABC what she felt when she realized that she had left the cartridges in her luggage, she replied: “My life is over right here.”
Later in the interview, Griner recalls the moment she was handed her nine-year prison term.
“I was just so scared for everything because there’s so much unknown,” she said.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion, Griner was eventually released in December 2022 as part of a deal that saw her swapped for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout — known as the “Merchant of Death.”
At the time, Griner was one of several US-based players playing in Russia during the WNBA off-season in order to boost her income.
She has vowed never to play basketball abroad again for clubs following her jail sentence.
Griner’s full interview, which comes ahead of the release next month of a memoir by the basketball player detailing her ordeal, will be aired on May 1.


Towns, Edwards lift Wolves over Mavs 105-100 to avoid sweep in West finals

Updated 5 sec ago
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Towns, Edwards lift Wolves over Mavs 105-100 to avoid sweep in West finals

  • The Wolves avoided being the 16th team out of 21 to get swept after losing the first three games of a series that started at home
  • Luka Doncic had 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in his sixth triple-double of these playoffs, but he and co-star Kyrie Irving were just 13 of 39 from the field

DALLAS: Karl-Anthony Towns scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half and the Minnesota Timberwolves held off the Dallas Mavericks 105-100 on Tuesday night to avoid a sweep in the Western Conference finals.

Anthony Edwards had 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Wolves stayed alive in their first trip to the conference finals in 20 years, and just the second in the franchise’s 35 seasons.

Towns, who was shooting 28 percent from the field in the series coming in, was 9 of 13 from the field, including four of five from deep.

“He got himself going by going to the hoop,” coach Chris Finch said. “Played quick off the catch. Stayed confident. He didn’t really look much for his 3 until the second half. He just had his feet set. He was ready. And they were huge.”

Now third-seeded Minnesota head home for Game 5 on Thursday night to see if they can make the series even more interesting against No. 5 seed Dallas.

Luka Doncic had 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in his sixth triple-double of these playoffs, but he and co-star Kyrie Irving were just 13 of 39 from the field. Irving, who was 14-0 in his career in closeout games coming in, finished with 16 points.

“That game’s on me. Just didn’t give enough energy,” said Doncic, who was 7 of 21 from the field, including 1 of 5 in the fourth when he and Irving had combined as closers to build the 3-0 series lead. “They won one game. We’ve just got to focus on the next one.”

The Wolves have led in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter of every game in the series, and this time they finished.

Towns, who picked up his fifth foul midway through the third quarter, put the Wolves ahead for good on a 3-pointer with 5:41 remaining, then hit another from deep the next time down.

Edwards put the Wolves up five with a jumper just inside the arc with 39 seconds left, and Minnesota hung on despite Edwards fouling Doncic on a made 3-pointer for a three-point Dallas deficit with 12 seconds to go.

Doncic missed the free throw, and Naz Reid hit a bucket to push the margin back to five with 11 seconds remaining.

Towns appeared to be finding a rhythm, scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter before picking up his fifth foul for elbowing P.J. Washington Jr. in the face as Towns went up for a shot.

The call against Towns prompted a technical foul against Finch from the second row, where he’s been confined since the start of the second round of the playoffs because of a knee injury that required surgery. Assistant Micah Nori has been roaming the sidelines.

Finch flirted with a second technical, which would have meant an ejection, a few minutes later when Edwards was called for his fourth foul going for a steal against Daniel Gafford.

Towns fouled out in the final two minutes, while Edwards and Rudy Gobert finished with five apiece.

“We weathered a lot of foul trouble out there, which was frustrating to say the least,” Finch said. “Credit to our guys. They found a way to win the game. It was a lot like Games 1 and 2, and we were able to get it done tonight.”

The Wolves avoided being the 16th team out of 21 to get swept after losing the first three games of a series that started at home. Now they’ll try to be just the fourth to force at least six games.

Mike Conley scored 14 points for Minnesota, and Rudy Gobert had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Jaden Hardy scored 10 of his 13 points in a 3:38 stretch that spilled into the first bucket of the fourth quarter, a corner 3 that pulled Dallas within two. Four of the game’s 11 lead changes came in the fourth.

The Mavs were without rookie center Dereck Lively II, who injured his neck when Towns accidentally kneed him in back of the head in Game 3.

Maxi Kleber, who has been out since May 3 with a separated shoulder, returned to give Dallas another option inside. But Daniel Gafford didn’t have his regular tag team partner as a rim protector at center, and the Wolves shot series-best 53 percent from the field.


Former Olympic pole vault champion Thiago Braz banned for doping: AIU

Updated 21 min 31 sec ago
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Former Olympic pole vault champion Thiago Braz banned for doping: AIU

  • The 30-year-old had protested his innocence saying he had consumed it “through sports supplements containing the banned substance“
  • Braz, who was provisionally suspended by the AIU on 28 July 2023, will be barred from competing until 27 November, 2024

PARIS: Brazil’s 2016 Olympic champion Thiago Braz will not be able to attempt to regain his title in Paris this year having been banned for 16 months for doping on Tuesday by the Athletics Integrity Unit.
“The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has banned Rio 2016 Olympic champion Thiago Braz for 16 months for the presence of ostarine glucuronide,” read an AIU statement.
The 30-year-old had protested his innocence saying he had consumed it “through sports supplements containing the banned substance.”
Braz — who took bronze in the COVID-delayed Tokyo Games three years ago — has got off lightly as the AIU had sought a four-year ban “contending in particular that he was ‘reckless’ and acted with ‘indirect intent’.”
His lawyers said in a statement they had appealed the decision, in order to overturn the sanction or further reduce the period of ineligibility, so that Braz can “freely participate in the Paris 2024 Olympics.”
However, they described the reduced ban as “extremely positive.”
The AIU has said it will consider appealing the shortened period of ineligibility.
“Athletes from Brazil, including Mr.Braz, have been specifically educated about the dangers surrounding the use of supplements from compound pharmacies in Brazil,” said AIU Head Brett Clothier.
“This has occurred via AIU online forums and AIU athlete advisory notices. In the light of these very clear warnings, it is disappointing to be dealing with such a case.”
The Disciplinary Tribunal ruled that, while Braz had been “personally informed” about the high risk of contamination involved in using the supplements and had consequently “ignored this risk,” he was not deemed to have manifestly disregarded the risk because he had relied on his medical team for advice.
A majority of the panel determined he was not at “significant fault or negligence.”
Braz, who was provisionally suspended by the AIU on 28 July, 2023 after returning a positive result following an in-competition test at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm on 2 July, will be barred from competing until 27 November, 2024.


Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open

Updated 40 min 32 sec ago
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Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open

  • Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, a semifinalist in 2023, overpowered Russian teenager Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 in just 68 minutes
  • Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves

PARIS: Defending champion Novak Djokovic shrugged off his recent troubles to sweep to his 93rd career win at the French Open on Tuesday, extending his run of first round Roland Garros victories to a perfect 20.

Djokovic, chasing a fourth title in Paris and record 25th Grand Slam triumph, came through against 142nd-ranked French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

The 37-year-old, who saw career-long rival and 14-time champion Rafael Nadal exit the tournament on Monday, had arrived under a cloud.

For the first time since 2018, he is without a title and has yet to reach a final this season.

He has also endured recent misfortunes being accidentally hit on the head by a metal water bottle in Rome and then suffering stomach problems in Geneva.

“It was a solid performance,” said Djokovic. “I could have done better, especially on the return, but bravo to him for serving well.

“It’s a victory in three sets, that’s what matters at this moment. I felt better compared to the last few weeks. I was focused. I encouraged myself, I am satisfied with my state of mind.”

Djokovic, who has advanced to the French Open quarterfinals or better every year since 2010, will face Spain’s 63rd-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena for a place in the last 32.

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, a semifinalist in 2023, overpowered Russian teenager Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 in just 68 minutes under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier as heavy rain caused a five-hour delay to action around the grounds.

World No. 2 Sabalenka fired 27 winners past the 100th-ranked Andreeva and broke serve five times in a dominant display.

“I’m trying to do well on clay, it is tough conditions here but I enjoy playing here and I’m just trying to bring my best tennis every time — whatever the surface,” said Sabalenka.

The Belarusian has made at least the last-four at her past six Grand Slams and is expected to be Iga Swiatek’s toughest rival in the Pole’s bid for a fourth French Open title.

There was better luck for Andreeva’s younger sister Mirra, who went to the fourth round as a 16-year-old in 2023.

She swept past Emina Bektas of the US in straights sets.

Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud, who won clay-court titles in Barcelona and Geneva in the build-up to Roland Garros, cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves.

“It’s great to be back here at Roland Garros,” he said. “Hopefully I can make it another good year here.”

Ruud was beaten in straight sets by Djokovic in last year’s final following a one-sided loss to Nadal in the 2022 showpiece.

Frenchwoman Alize Cornet’s career ended with a straight-sets defeat by Zheng Qinwen in her record-extending 69th consecutive Grand Slam appearance.

Cornet was no match for China’s Australian Open runner-up Zheng, losing 6-2, 6-1.

She made her debut at Roland Garros as a 15-year-old in 2005 and had not missed a Grand Slam tournament since the 2006 US Open.

Cornet reached a career-high ranking of 11th in 2009 and enjoyed a surprise run to the 2022 Australian Open quarter-finals.

“I already cried yesterday watching Rafa,” said a tearful Cornet after seeing Nadal lose what was likely his last match at the French Open.

Over on Court Suzanne Lenglen, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina powered into the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Belgian Greet Minnen.

Kazakh world No. 4 Rybakina is the only player to defeat Swiatek on clay this season, in the Stuttgart semifinals in April.

There was no celebration for Argentine qualifier Roman Andres Burruchaga who has sporting success in the blood.

His father Jorge famously scored the winning goal for Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final against West Germany.

Ranked at 144, the 22-year-old came up short in a three-set loss to experienced Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.


Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes

Updated 29 May 2024
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Still plenty of fear for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti despite Champions League final successes

  • Ancelotti: First there is the joy of being here, then the concerns will come and the fear will come
  • Madrid, who also won the Spanish league and the Spanish Super Cup, are trying to win their sixth European Cup in 10 seasons, matching a feat the club also achieved from 1955-65

MADRID: Carlo Ancelotti is going into his eighth Champions League final, having won all but one of them.

He is the most successful coach in the competition thanks to four titles. He also lifted two European trophies as a player.

There is no lack of experience for the veteran Italian manager. But there is still plenty of anxiety and fear for Ancelotti ahead of yet another big game.

“It’s the same as it was the first time,” the 64-year-old Ancelotti said as Real Madrid entered the final week of preparations ahead of Saturday’s final against Borussia Dortmund in London.

“First there is the joy of being here, then the concerns will come and the fear will come,” he said. “But before they come we have to enjoy this week and I’m going to enjoy it. The cold sweat will arrive Saturday afternoon, it’s normal, I’m already prepared for it. And this team gives me a lot of confidence, I see them focused on the match, they are in Champions (League) mode.”

Ancelotti won the Champions League with Madrid in 2022 and 2014, and with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007. He lost the 2005 edition with AC Milan in a final in a penalty shootout against Liverpool after squandering a 3-0 lead.

His European triumphs as a player came with Milan in 1989 and 1990. He was also in the squad with Roma when it reached the 1984 final but he sat out injured.

Ancelotti said he will stick to his routine before the final at Wembley Stadium.

“I’m a bit superstitious but it’s very normal. I was told that it’s bad luck not to be superstitious,” he said. “I like to eat broccoli, salmon and pasta, and that’s what I’ll eat. Then I’ll have an hour’s nap, if I’m able to. And then I’ll start thinking about the match. Before the talk with the players, my heart will start to rise to 110 or 120 beats. It’ll stay up there until the start of the game, and when it starts it will go back to its normal rhythm.”

Ancelotti said some of his most memorable Champions League highlights are linked to his time with Madrid, including the incredible run in 2022, when it had to rally several times to make it to the final. He also mentioned the late comeback in the semifinal against Bayern Munich a few weeks ago, when Joselu scored in the 88th minute and in stoppage time.

Ancelotti said this season was especially difficult because of the long list of injuries to some of the team’s key players, including serious knee problems to Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militão and David Alaba. Also missing time because of injuries were Vinicius Junior, Jude Bellingham, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.

“Attitude and commitment have been the key to overcoming all the problems we’ve had,” Ancelotti said. “That’s what allowed us to have a fantastic season.”

Madrid, who also won the Spanish league and the Spanish Super Cup, are trying to win their sixth European Cup in 10 seasons, matching a feat the club also achieved from 1955-65.

Ancelotti said he prides himself more about the way he has managed his locker rooms than his teams’ tactics over the years.

“Personal relationships are more important than professional relationships,” he said. “I’m not a psychologist but I’m experienced as I’ve worked for many years in locker rooms. I try to treat people with respect not only in tactical aspects but also in personal aspects. I’m in an environment with 50 people and I spend more time with them than with my wife and children. So if there are not good relationships and there is not a good atmosphere, then I’m not doing my job.”


England and Pakistan’s T20 World Cup preparations blighted by fresh wash-out

Updated 28 May 2024
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England and Pakistan’s T20 World Cup preparations blighted by fresh wash-out

  • The woeful scenes in the Welsh capital followed another complete washout in the first of this four-match T20 series at Headingley
  • England remain 1-0 up with one to play at The Oval on Thursday after a 23-run win in at Edgbaston

CARDIFF: England and Pakistan’s Twenty20 World Cup preparations were again dented by bad weather as the third international in Cardiff on Tuesday was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
The woeful scenes in the Welsh capital followed another complete washout in the first of this four-match T20 series at Headingley.
England remain 1-0 up with one to play at The Oval on Thursday after a 23-run win in at Edgbaston but this latest abandonment came just a week before they begin their T20 World Cup title defense against Scotland in Barbados on June 4.
Rain in Cardiff on Tuesday started to fall steadily an hour before the scheduled 1730 GMT start, with a capacity 15,600 crowd expected at Sophia Gardens.
But the bad weather delayed the toss, with the pitch and square at Sophia Gardens remaining fully covered.
And minutes after a 1910 GMT inspection, the umpires abandoned the match due to a saturated outfield and persistent rain.
The teams will now travel to London for Thursday’s finale at The Oval in the hope of one last chance for competitive action ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Pakistan, the 2009 T20 World Cup winners, start this year’s tournament against co-hosts the United States in Dallas on June 6.