By Miles SurreyThe Cyprus National Dragon Boating team will be returning on Tuesday from the 11th World Championship Dragon Boat Racing competition with two bronze medals and a lot of pride.The team of 35, in their first international appearance, were the clear underdog in Szeged, Hungary.Other teams were able to bring as many as 500 athletes, whose spots were paid for by various sponsors, and there were over 3,000 total participants in the championship.By contrast, the Cyprus team had no backers and had to fund their own travel and accommodations. Need compelled them to hold fundraising events at the Germasogeia Dam and they were only recognised in March as a national team by the International Dragon Boat Federation.The Cypriot team placed third in both the 500-metre and 200-metre mixed senior A races on Friday and Saturday respectively. These races are for competitors aged 40 years and above. These accomplishments were a great feat for a team pitted against other countries with years of experience in international competition.The only other countries that were appearing in their first world championships were Iran, Romania and Serbia.Debbie Theophanous, who helmed the women’s boat in the championships, was very pleased with the way the newcomers were treated by the rest of the dragon boating community.“What really impressed us was the hospitality, they’ve been so kind to us,” Theophanous told the Cyprus Mail.After the five days of gruelling competition, athletes enjoyed a day in Budapest before returning to their normal lives and regular jobs.Hopefully the team’s success overseas will translate into growing popularity for the sport on the island, and at the very least they deserve mountains of praise for their impressive accomplishment.
By Stephen WoodSunderland beat Manchester United 2-1 in a penalty shootout on Wednesday to book a place in the English League Cup final after United won a dramatic semi-final second leg 2-1 in extra time.Brazilian Rafael missed the decisive spot kick after two goals from Phil Bardsley and Javier Hernandez – and a David de Gea howler – in the dying moments of extra time had made the score 3-3 on aggregate following Sunderland’s 2-1 victory in the first leg.United’s Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj and Phil Jones also missed penalties in a remarkable shootout as Sunderland set up a final at Wembley against Manchester City on March 2.De Gea had earlier put Sunderland within touching distance of the final when he failed to stop a routine shot from Bardsley in the 119th minute and could only watch the ball squirm into the corner of the net.United hit back in the final minute of extra time, Hernandez sweeping home off the underside of the bar from Januzaj’s low cross to force the penalty shootout.Jonny Evans had given United a first-half lead with a header that looked like it would be enough to send the champions through on away goals until Bardsley popped up and De Gea endured another nightmare.
By Iain RogersREAL Madrid’s King’s Cup exit to Atletico on Thursday was more evidence Diego Simeone’s side have the measure of the European champions this season and left Real coach Carlo Ancelotti scratching his head for a solution.A resurgent Fernando Torres struck twice in a 2-2 draw with the holders at the Bernabeu that sent Atletico through 4-2 on aggregate and set up a clash against record winners Barcelona in this month’s quarter-finals.The Torres goals, his first against Real at their giant arena in the Spanish capital, came in the first minute of each half following the kind of defensive errors Real rarely commit.First, Pepe let Antoine Griezmann skip past him with a badly-timed lunge and then a wayward Sergio Ramos pass gifted possession to the France forward in central midfield.Real have played five matches against Atletico this season, losing 2-1 on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup and 2-1 at the Bernabeu in La Liga.Ancelotti said he was still searching for a way to get the better of Simeone this term, in contrast to last season when Real knocked Atletico out of the Cup and beat them in the Champions League final.“The key to the match was the two mistakes and that is something we have to correct,” Ancelotti told a news conference.“We found the right formula (against Atletico) last season but not yet this one,” added the Italian.“We know that they are a very strong team and we will try to plan the next game against them in the best way possible.”Real’s next outing is a La Liga game at Getafe on Sunday, when they will be seeking to protect their one-point lead over second-placed Barca with a game in hand.Atletico, who host Real in La Liga at the Calderon next month, are three points behind Barca in third after Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at the Nou Camp.Real are also through to the last 16 of the Champions League, the competition they won for a record-extending 10th time last season, and will play Schalke 04.They could meet Atletico, who were drawn against Schalke’s Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen, in April’s quarter-finals.“We made mistakes that we don’t usually make and we had problems bringing the ball out of our own half,” Ancelotti said.“It’s the first time this has happened and I don’t think it will happen again.”
By Katya GolubkocaThe Russian government has ordered 30 billion roubles ($560 million) in cuts in spending on the 2018 World Cup finals, Russian news agencies reported on Monday.No reason was given for the decision, but Russia has been hit by an economic downturn worsened by Western economic sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine and a fall in the global price of oil.The news agencies, quoting a decree issued by the government, said total spending on the tournament would now be 631.5 billion roubles ($11.8 billion).They later quoted Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko as saying the building and renovation of stadiums would not be affected and that savings would mostly be over work on hotels.President Vladimir Putin says he is confident Russia will host the finals despite investigations into alleged corruption at soccer’s governing body FIFA and probes of how Russia and Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2020 finals.
By Simon EvansEngland coach Mark Sampson says his Lionesses will need to have a ‘confrontational’ approach to beat defending champions Japan in their Women’s World Cup semi-final (Thursday, 2.30am Cyprus time).Japan wore out Australia in their quarter-final, forcing them to chase after their crisp passing for long stretches, but Sampson says, while the challenge will be difficult, his team have the physical attributes for the task.“It is tough but our team is in a good place, there is no sign of our team running out of steam at the moment,” the England coach told reporters.“We went right to the wire against Norway, right to the wire in our group games and then again against Canada, where we had to defend for our lives.“We are in a good place physically and the physical side is going to be really important.“We are going to need to be very confrontational, very positive in our play.”While England had to defend for most of the second half against Canada and had a slow start against Norway, Sampson knows his team will have to be at their peak against the world champions.“To compete against these top tier nations, we have really got to be at our best,” said Sampson. “We are really focused now on getting the players emotionally in that perfect moment to produce a huge performance, getting the game plan right and we are going to bring it.“We are going to really front up to this Japanese team and make their life as difficult as we can.”England captain Steph Houghton says it is the biggest game in English women’s football history.The Lionesses are the first England team, male or female, to reach a World Cup last four spot since 1990“We should be really proud of being the first women’s team to get to the semi-final,” Houghton, 27, said.“It’s the biggest game in English women’s football and I can’t wait.”The victory over Canada in front of a large and partisan crowd has clearly given England a massive boost in confidence but Sampson said it also illustrated the heart and personality of his team.“They have shown incredible character, resilience and togetherness throughout this tournament and they are determined to keep showing those qualities,” the England coach boasted. “We are a tough team to score against and we are also scoring goals.“We have scored two goals in each of our last four matches and we are in a great place to really attack this semi-final.”The United States and Germany met in the other semi-final in the early hours of this morning.
Son Heung-min scored twice and Dele Alli and Harry Kane also found the net as Tottenham Hotspur eased to a 4-0 win at Stoke City on Saturday to move up to fourth in the Premier League.Son was picked out by a fine pass from Christian Eriksen and had a moment to compose himself before beating Shay Given in the 41st minute to open the scoring.Tottenham steadily began to rediscover the fluid attacking football that made them such an irresistible offensive threat last season, adding a second in the 56th minute when Son finished powerfully after another fine interchange with Eriksen.Stoke, who had manager Mark Hughes sent off in the first half after he protested too vociferously against a decision, offered little going forward and remained rooted to the bottom of the table after Alli and Kane completed the rout.Results from the Premier League’s other games:Arsenal 2 – Southampton 1Bournemouth 1 – West Bromwich Albion 0Burnley 1 – Hull City 1Manchester United 1 – Manchester City 2Middlesbrough 1 – Crystal Palace 2West Ham United 2 Watford 4
Due to the Easter weekend holiday there is a midweek round of fixtures in the Cyprus football championship, with four games played on Wednesday and two more on Thursday.The big game on Wednesday will be played in Nicosia between Omonia and AEL where both teams have set their sights on fourth place, a position that may give them a ticket into European football next season. Omonia trail AEL by four points and anything other than a win will seriously dent their hopes of qualifying for European competition. Against Apoel on Sunday they were woeful and will need to improve considerably if they are to get the three points against a team that is well organised.AEL have two wins in as many games under new coach Bruno Baltazar and know that even a draw will be a positive result for them as they will maintain their four-point cushion over the Greens.Third-placed AEK are at home to bottom of the group Anorthosis, with the hosts expected to return to winning ways following their defeat by AEL.AEK have been inconsistent in recent weeks – something that has prompted a section of their fans to demand the replacement of their coach Imanol Idiakez for the new season.They outplayed and deservedly defeated leaders Apoel two weeks ago while last Sunday they lost out to AEL in a game that they were expected to win comfortably.The two games in the relegation group see Aris entertaining Karmiotissa at the Tsirion stadium while Ethnikos Achnas take on group leaders Ermis Aradippou.After two consecutive defeats Aris have begun to feel the pressure as Doxa Katokopias, the team currently occupying the final relegation slot, are just three points behind. Championship group:Omonia vs AEL (16.00), AEK vs Anorthosis (18.00)Relegation Group:Ethnikos Achnas vs Ermis, Aris vs Karmiotissa (both at 17.00)
Goi said in a statement that Waghi Tumbe is ready to take on the Vipers after a three weeks break on bye.“Over these three weeks, the boys have trained very hard to put up a very competitive game at Murray Barracks Oval on Sunday.“The long weeks on bye has prepared us well in both mental and physical fitness in order to meet the city boys. “And also it’s a good opportunity for the young and inexperienced boys who are purely home grown players to put up a good game against the most experienced boys from the city,” Goi said.He commended his coach Dusty Mokele for redeeming the Tumbes after four consecutive losses from round one. It’s been some good fixtures so far under our new coach.“We have lost very narrowly against a few of the established teams while on other fixtures, we have beaten most established teams with few Kumul players in them,” he added.Goi appealed to the people of Jiwaka and fans of Waghi Tumbe in the city to go and watch the game on Sunday.“We are aware our Jiwakans and diehard fans in Port Moresby have been longing to see Tumbes playing in Port Moresby and now they are here. Either lose or win is not necessarily important, we display a true sportsmanship despite all negatives.“Therefore, we appeal to Jiwakans and fans to come and cheer up for the boys on Sunday,” Goi appealed.
In an open letter to the WHO, 150 leading international scientists, doctors and medical ethicists said new findings about the mosquito-borne disease made it “unethical” for Rio 2016 to go ahead as planned.Representatives of institutions such as Oxford University and Harvard and Yale universities in the United States cite the failure of a mosquito-eradication programme in Brazil, and the country’s “weakened” health system as reasons to move or postpone the Games in “the name of public health”.”An unnecessary risk is posed when 500,000 foreign tourists from all countries attend the Games, potentially acquire that strain, and return home to places where it can become endemic,” the letter reads.The biggest risk, it claims, is if athletes contract the virus and return home to poor countries that have not yet suffered a Zika outbreak.In a statement, the WHO said: “Brazil is one of almost 60 countries and territories which to date report continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes.”People continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons.”The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice.”The letter also expresses concern that the WHO has a conflict of interest because of its partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has said it sees no reason to delay or move the Games because of Zika.Earlier this month, scientists in Brazil warned that Zika could be even more dangerous than first thought.Experts believe it could be behind several damaging neurological conditions – in addition to microcephaly – where babies are born with abnormally small heads because of restricted brain development – and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder which causes muscle weakness.Dr Tom Frieden, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which confirmed the link between Zika and microcephaly, says “there is no public health reason to cancel or delay the Olympics”.He has called on the US, however, to act faster to prevent pregnant women contracting Zika.This comes amid congressional deadlock over the release of $1.9 billion (£1.3 billion/€1.7 billion) in funding.Pregnant women are at particular risk due to a link with microcephaly.WHO, whose director general Margaret Chan declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency earlier this year, has advised women who are pregnant to not attend the Games.
The head cover, called the “Nike Pro Hijab,” boasts a single-layer pull-on design made from lightweight polyester in dark, neutral colors. The fabric’s tiny holes will make it breathable while remaining opaque, a requirement for hijab-wearing women.Nike (NKE) said it began developing the hijab after some Muslim athletes complained about wearing a traditional head scarf during competition.The design process took 13 months, and the final product will be available for sale in the company’s Spring 2018 season.Nike said the hijab is already being worn by Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari.”I was thrilled and a bit emotional to see Nike prototyping a Hijab,” Lari said in a statement. “I’ve tried so many different hijabs for performance, and … so few of them actually work for me. But once I put it on and took it for a spin on the ice, I was blown away by the fit and the light weight.”The move comes just weeks after a controversial Nike ad released in the Middle East.It featured five successful female professional from different parts of the Arab world pursing their athletic dreams while a voice asks, “what will they say about you?” It’s a rhetorical question that many young Arab women face if they step out of cultural and traditional norms.The video went viral with million of views on social media, prompting a debate over its message.