Lebanese shooter hoping to raise spirits back home with Tokyo success en


Lebanon’s trap shooter Ray Bassil says she is off to the Tokyo Olympics on a mission to win a medal and spread a little joy among Lebanese struggling amid economic crisis.

All hopes are pinned on the 32-year-old athlete in the Mediterranean nation, which has not brought home a medal in decades since a bronze in Greco-Roman wrestling in Moscow in 1980.

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia began the Tokyo 2020 Olympic football tournament on Thursday with a 2-1 loss to Ivory Coast at Yokohama International Stadium to leave them bottom of Group D ahead of the second match between Germany and Brazil later in the day.

The Saudis now have a mountain to climb if they are to reach the knockout stages with tougher tasks against the European and South American powerhouses coming up.

Saad Al-Shehri’s men had been the better team for the majority of the first, their energetic press not allowing the Ivory Coast players to settle on the ball or cause danger in the Saudi half.

However, it was the African team that took the lead when a seemingly harmless cross was turned into his own net by Saudi defender Abdulelah Al-Amri after 39 minutes.

The young Saudis responded almost immediately with Salem Al-Dossary, one of the U-23 squad’s three overage players alongside Al-Nassr colleagues Yasser Al-Shahrani and Salman Al-Faraj, scoring with a stunning curling effort from outside of the area just before the break.

Ivory Coast imporved in the second half and on 65 minutes some more indecisive defending by the Saudi backline almost gifted their opponent another cheap goal, but the ball somehow stayed out of the net from three rapid-fire shots.

Only a minute later, however, Ivory Coast took the lead for the second time in the match with a superb goal, AC Milan’s Franck Kessie spinning just inside the Saudi box before rifling a left-footed shot past Saudi goalkeeper Muhammad Al-Rubaie.

Saudi Arabia had a claim for penalty turned down and with 10 minutes left Ivory Coast had a chance to wrap the contest but Al-Rubaie cut out the danger.

Saudi had a golden opportunity to square the match on 84 minutes when Al-Dossary came within inches of scoring his second of the day, but his shot came off the Ivory Coast crossbar.

Despite some desperate Saudi attacks, Ivory Coast were left celebrating a priceless three points in the group’s opening match.

Saudi Arabia now plays Rio 2016 silver medalists Germany on Sunday, July 25, and reigning Olympic Champions Brazil three days later. Ivory Coast will play the reverse of these fixtures on the same days.

LONDON: British rower and gold medalist Mohamed Sbihi will on Friday make history when he becomes the first Muslim to carry the British flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, a role he will share with another gold medalist, sailor Hannah Mills.

Sbihi, 33, won a gold medal in the coxless four at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and claimed a bronze as part of the British crew in the men’s eight at London 2012.

Tokyo 2020 is the first Olympics in which each participating nation can nominate one male and one female athlete to carry its flag.

Sbihi, who received an MBE in the British Queen’s 2017 New Year’s Honors list, and Mills, a campaigner for clean oceans, now join famous names such as tennis star Andy Murray, rowers Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, and gold medal-winning swimmer Anita Lonsbrough — the first British woman to carry the flag at Tokyo 1964 — in having that privilege.

“It is such an honor to be invited to be the flagbearer for Team GB,” Sbihi said. “It is an iconic moment within the Olympic Movement — people remember those images.

“I certainly remember the images of Andy (Murray) from Rio and even before I was a rower, I remember seeing Sir Matt and Sir Steve, so it is something I am incredibly proud of,” he added.

Sbihi, who was born in Kingston upon Thames to a Moroccan father and British mother, gave notice of his talent as a rower at the age of 15 when he finished first in the junior men J15 category at the 2003 Great Britain Indoor Rowing Championships.

He continued to rise in the sport while studying sports science at St Mary’s College between 2006 and 2010, going on to become the first Muslim rower to represent Team GB and then take part in the London Olympics.

“It is going to be a surreal experience actually going to an opening ceremony but this year with the racing schedule it is actually manageable even if I wasn’t a flagbearer. It will be really special and will complete my Olympic puzzle.

“I’ve won a medal, been to the closing ceremony but now to actually turn up at an opening ceremony and be at the head of the team alongside Hannah will be a lifetime memory that I will never forget,” Sbihi said.

DUBAI: The Saudi Sports Company (SSC) has signed a contract with MBC Group to provide broadcasting services after launching new dedicated satellite channels.
The new channels will air football competitions in the Kingdom, including the Kings Cup, Prince Mohammed bin Salman League and Saudi Super Cup for the 2021-22 season.
Other games, sports competitions and international sporting events hosted by the Kingdom will also be broadcast.
As part of the contract, MBC Group will provide support in launching and operating the new satellite channels under the SSC’s name. It will also be responsible for the digital broadcast of these channels through its streaming platform, Shahid.
The announcement of the deal came after the Saudi Professional League and the Saudi Football Federation signed an agreement with the SSC giving the company satellite and digital rights for the Saudi sports competitions for the coming season.

For 33 Saudi athletes, and thousands of others from around the world, what is usually a tough, long four-year road to the Olympics Games turned into a five-year journey for Tokyo 2020. And it’s finally at an end.

For some, the year’s delay disrupted a carefully planned schedule to peak at just the right moment. For others, it proved an unexpected blessing in reaching a tournament they could not have expected to take part in a year earlier.

All have had to adapt one way or another to the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. But adapt they did, and though the games will be played out to empty stands and arenas, for many of these athletes, Tokyo 2020 will still represent the pinnacle of their careers.

In Japan, Saudi Arabia will have its largest ever Olympic delegation, with 11 individual qualifiers and the U-23 football team taking part in nine sports, surpassing the record of six at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

On Thursday, a day before the official opening of the games, the Saudi Arabian U-23 football team will be the first of the Kingdom’s entries in action, taking on Ivory Coast at Yokohama International Stadium.

Three points on the board would represent a outstanding start for the Young Falcons in their mission to qualify for the knockout stages, as formidable tasks await them against Rio 2016 silver medalists Germany, on Sunday, and reigning Olympic football champions Brazil on Wednesday, July 28.

The official opening day of the tournament, Friday, July 23, will see one of Saudi’s best hopes of success, rower Husein Alireza, grace the newly-built 2,335m Sea Forest Waterway in the Men’s Singles Sculls.

The following day Youssef Bouarish will take the plunge in the Swimming competition’s 100m Butterfly heats, and on the same day Ali Al-Khadrawi, one of Saudi’s earliest qualifiers to Tokyo 2020, will begin his quest for table tennis success.

Weightlifters Siraj Al-Saleem, in the 61kg category, and Mahmoud Al-Ahmeed (73kg), will enter the fray on July 25 and 28 respectively, carrying the nation’s hopes in every sense.

Tahani Al-Qahtani, the last of the Saudis to book her spot at the Olympics, takes part in the Judo competition starting on July 24, while Sulaiman Hammad – in his second Olympics after Rio 2016 – takes to the mat in the men’s Judo 73kg category on July 26. Meanwhile, Saeed Al-Mutairi, at 52, is the oldest Saudi participant in Tokyo and commences action in the Skeet Shooting competition on July 25.

Yasmine Al-Dabbagh will take part in the 100m heats on the first day of the Athletics competitions, Friday, July 30, and two days later Mazen Al-Yassin will face some of the world’s best short distance runners in the 400m heats, including South African Wade van Niekerk and Grenadian Kirani James, respective gold medalists at the last two Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and London.

Finally, on August 6, Tarek Hamdi, the most decorated athlete in the Saudi delegation with seven gold medals at various competitions, will begin his quest for medals in the Karate 75kg category.

Several of the other Saudi athletes will be hoping that even by then, two days before Tokyo 2020’s closing ceremony, their dreams of Olympic glory have not yet been extinguished.

Whatever happens in the next 18 days, it will be a journey that they will never forget.

LONDON: The Aramco Team Series continues to prove a big draw for the world’s leading golfers as the Ladies European Tour (LET) revealed a raft of international stars heading to Sotogrande, Spain for the second of its four $1 million tournaments.

European Solheim Cup heroes Georgia Hall, Charley Hull and Bronte Law have been confirmed for the three-day event — organized by Golf Saudi and the LET — taking place at La Reserva Club from Aug. 5 to 7.

They will be joined by their 2019 captain Catriona Matthew, with the Scot set to use the Aramco Team Series Sotogrande’s unique team format to run an eye over some of her key players ahead of September’s rematch with the US.

Hall, the 2018 AIG Women’s Open winner who finished fourth in the inaugural Aramco Team Series event in London, said: “I loved the experience in London. Outside the Solheim Cup it’s rare to have an opportunity to play team golf — so not only is this a fabulous innovation for the tour that’s exciting to continue to be a part of, but it’s also another great opportunity to impress the captain.”

Representing the US in the Aramco Team Series Sotogrande field will be 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship runner-up and four-time US Solheim Cup player Lizette Salas, with fellow American Alison Lee also in the field. They will be joined by Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn, the 2013 LPGA Rookie of the Year, and 2018 LPGA Rookie of the Year Lindsey Weaver.

The Aramco Team Series Sotogrande is the second of four events to take place this year, following its London debut two weeks ago. It precedes both the Aramco Team Series events in New York (Oct. 14 to 16) and Jeddah (Nov. 10 to 12), with the event in Saudi taking place just days after the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by the Public Investment Fund, held from Nov. 4 to 7. 

Each Aramco Team Series tournament sees 36 captains lead teams of four players, who together compete to shoot the lowest combined score over three days of golf.

All teams feature three LET players paired through a unique draft system, in which captains choose one player and are randomly assigned another. The fourth member of each team is an amateur golfer — a position open to all golfers in Spain for the Sotogrande event through the tournament’s world-first Team Up competition.

That means it could fall to an amateur golfer to hole an LET tournament-winning putt to secure prize money for the professional players, a feat unique to world golf.

London’s inaugural event saw Team Cowan — captained by Germany’s Olivia Cowan and featuring fellow German Sarina Schmidt, India’s Diksha Dagar and amateur Andy Kelsey — come out on top.

Marianne Skarpnord of Norway sank a 12-foot putt on her final hole to win the individual competition, her fifth LET title, and will also play in Spain.

“It was awesome to win and go down in history as this tournament’s first ever winner,” she said. “London was so much fun so I already can’t wait to do it again in Sotogrande next month.

“Events like the Aramco Team Series go to prove that so much great work is being done to elevate women’s golf, so I know the opportunities I have available for these magical moments are only growing, which is fantastic, and great to be a part of.”

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Lebanese shooter hoping to raise spirits back home with Tokyo success



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