版权所有 - 中国日报�(ChinaDaily) China Daily <![CDATA[Ma, Liu lead China's charge]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533090.htm China on Monday announced a 10-member squad for March's World Team Championships led by reigning world singles champions Ma Long and Liu Shiwen.

The all-conquering team also features current men's and women's world No 1s Fan Zhendong and Chen Meng, as well as Grand Slam winner Ding Ning.

The 30-year-old Xu Xin, the highest ranked pen-hold paddler in the world, and teenagers Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha, both 19, were also named in the squad.

Wang is included at the expense of world No 4 Lin Gaoyuan, with men's head coach Qin Zhijian claiming the 19-year-old had impressed enough at last year's world championships to warrant selection.

"Wang Chuqin took part in the 2019 Budapest worlds, and claimed the men's doubles gold medal partnering with Ma Long as a world championships debutant," said Qin.

"He's young and aggressive, his technique and tactics are high quality and he's balanced in singles and doubles play. We coaches believe in him and want to give him the chance to further improve."

Both Qin and women's head coach Li Sun told media that the selection process involved a thorough discussion between coaching staff, with preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games taken into consideration.

"We discussed the possible rivalries at the upcoming team worlds and at the Olympics half a year later, and conducted a comprehensive evaluation of every player before making a decision on the team roster," Qin said.

"Everything we've done before and during the team worlds is to ensure we prepare in the best possible fashion for the Tokyo Games."

Full squad:

China's team for 2020 World Team Championships in Busan, South Korea (March 22-29):

Men: Ma Long, Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong, Liang Jingkun, Wang Chuqin. Women: Liu Shiwen, Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha, Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling.

Xinhua

Ma Long

 

 

Liu Shiwen

 

 

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2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Coach Li lays down the law]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533137.htm Just two weeks into his reign as Team China head coach, Li Tie's squad is already feeling the pace.

True to his name (tie means iron in Chinese), Li has been pushing his players to their limits during a tough winter training camp in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

"The training for the past two weeks has been very intense. And the players are very tired already. We've trained three times a day, five days a week," said Li.

"It's been especially tough for those players who played at the East Asian Football Federation E-1 Championship (in December).They barely had time to take a break. They are tired both mentally and physically, but they just keep going.

"Technically speaking, we could cut it to two sessions a day. But we want to improve the players' ability to cope with tough situations through such intensive training. I'm happy to see they are really trying hard. And many are in the best condition of their careers."

The Chinese Football Association initially installed Li on a caretaker basis following Marcello Lippi's resignation in November. Earlier this month, the former China international and Everton midfielder was confirmed as Lippi's permanent successor.

Li has described his appointment as a "dream come true", but he faces a monumental task in trying to qualify China for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

With four more first-round qualifiers to play, China is eight points adrift of Group A leader Syria and only leads third-place Philippines on goal difference. The eight group winners and four best second-place finishers will enter a second phase of Asian qualifying.

China is expected to bag three points against minnows the Maldives on March 26 and again against Guam five days later, before ending its campaign with crunch games against the Philippines and Syria.

China's current winter training block will end on Thursday, when players will return to their clubs.

"The two weeks of training is very important for us, because we will only have about a week to train ahead of the next qualifier," said Li. "The time for training is clearly not enough, but we are trying our best to prepare correctly.

"Another priority is to maintain good communication with the clubs. Players have made lots of improvements in terms of weight and their body-fat ratios, so I hope they can maintain it."

Last Friday, Li was named the 2019 Chinese Football Coach of the Year in recognition of his achievement in steering newly promoted Wuhan Zall to a sixth-place finish in the Chinese Super League and his subsequent promotion to the national team.

Due to his commitments in Guangzhou, Li was unable to attend Friday's ceremony in Beijing, so had his award delivered to him by former Team China head coach Zhu Guanghu.

Zhu, who coached Li with China's Jianlibao team-a now-defunct squad comprised of rising young talent in the 1990s-believes his former student possesses all the qualities necessary to succeed in the job.

"I saw his potential to become the Team China coach when he was still a player at Everton," said Zhu at the awards ceremony last week.

"Li Tie worked as an assistant coach with Lippi in 2012. Since then he has spent many years in the Chinese Super League. So he's very familiar with CSL players, which is a big advantage for him.

"Another advantage is his attitude. He always has the resolution of bringing honor to his country. Just like he said during his first media conference as the coach, he would've signed a one-day deal to take the job. He has had that spark since he was a kid."

Li, a veteran of the only Chinese men's squad to play at a World Cup finals (in 2002), dedicated the prize to his entire team of coaches.

"I'm so happy to receive the award from coach Zhu who has been my role model for years," said Li. "The award is not mine alone, but belongs to my coaching team. It's a huge responsibility to lead the national team and I will try my best."

Like his predecessor Lippi, Li's options have been bolstered by the addition of two naturalized players-Ai Kesen and Li Ke.

However, Brazil-born attacker Ai Kesen has so far not quite lived up to expectations in the national team, leaving some fans to question whether naturalization is a good fit for Chinese soccer.

Zhu, though, believes China should persist with the policy.

"Lots of countries have imported naturalized players, even in Europe," said Zhu. "Naturalization is a process of soccer development. For the current situation, introducing naturalized players is helpful to Chinese soccer."

 

New Team China head coach Li Tie addresses his players in Guangzhou on Monday. Li says his "intense" three-times-a-day training sessions have left his squad "very tired". XINHUA

 

 

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2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533092.htm SOCCER

CFA: No plans to move qualifiers from Wuhan

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has no plans to move the upcoming 2020 Olympic women's qualifiers out of Wuhan, where coronavirus-related pneumonia cases have been reported, a CFA source said on Monday.

Australia, China, Thailand and Chinese Taipei are set to play a series of qualifying matches in Wuhan from Feb 3 to 9.

"For the time being, there are no plans to hold the qualifiers at different places or on different dates," the source said. "If any decision is made, it will be announced soon."

The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first case of novel coronavirus infection (2019-nCoV) was identified, confirmed a fourth death on Tuesday.

As of Jan 19, 198 cases had been reported in Wuhan, of which 25 had been cured and discharged from hospital.

TENNIS

Djokovic indebted to ace tutor Ivanisevic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic said he had been taking tips from serving maestro Goran Ivanisevic after he hammered down a series of aces in his first-round win at the Australian Open.

Djokovic smacked 14 aces and had a first-serve percentage of 65 percent in his grinding 7-6(5), 6-2, 2-6,6-1 win over Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff.

The Serb credited his work with Croatian Ivanisevic, who served up more than 10,000 aces in his career and joined the 16-time Grand Slam winner's team last year.

"Throughout my career my serve was maybe a little bit underestimated because of the quality of the returns and the baseline play," he told reporters late on Monday.

"There were times I was struggling with an elbow injury and I had to change the technique of my serve and a lot of things were happening, but in the last year and a half I feel great serving.

"Obviously I pray to have serving days like I had today all of the time. I know it's not possible but I can back up my serving game from the back of the court."

Irritated Osaka unloads on booing Twitter 'hater'

Naomi Osaka wasted no time striking back after a Twitter user named "Dianne Porrello" reacted to a tweet about the defending Australian Open champion by writing: "Boooooooooooo."

"U big mad or little mad Dianne?" the 22-year-old Japanese shot back on the social media platform.

Asked about the tetchy exchange after winning her opening Melbourne match in straight sets against Czech Marie Bouzkova, Osaka said: "She was hating. What would her children think?

"You're just going to come on the internet and boo me for no reason. I didn't do anything to you.

"I also wonder, people like this, if they see you in person, I wonder what they would do?"

World No 4 Osaka will next face China's Zheng Saisai, who beat Russia's Anna Kalinskaya 6-3,6-2 in her opener.

Player pilloried for banana-peel request

Asking a ballkid to peel your banana is a big no-no at the Australian Open, as Elliot Benchetrit quickly found out.

The Frenchman, dubbed 'Bananaman' by Australian media, handed a piece of fruit to a young ballgirl during a qualifying match at Melbourne Park after apparently struggling to get the skin off with his bandaged hands.

But umpire John Blom wasn't impressed and told him to do it himself, a decision applauded by tennis great Martina Navratilova on Twitter.

"What's next-grapes? #entitlement," she said. "John did the right thing, that's for sure."

BASKETBALL

Kemba ends LeBron hoodoo in Celtics win

Kemba Walker scored 20 points to end a career-long personal losing streak against LeBron James, and Jayson Tatum scored 27 to lead the Boston Celtics past the Los Angeles Lakers 139-107 on Monday night and send the top team in the Western Conference to its biggest loss of the season.

Jaylen Brown scored 20 points and Enes Kanter had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Boston, which snapped a three-game losing streak. The Celtics gave up the first eight points of the game but turned things around when Anthony Davis went to the bench with a pair of fouls 49 seconds apart early in the first quarter.

James had 15 points and 13 assists for the Lakers, who had won 10 of their previous 11 games. But the Celtics made 13 of their first 22 3-point attempts to open 103-75 lead in the third quarter-the biggest against Los Angeles all season until Boston made it a 34-point game in the fourth.

Walker had gone 0-28 in his career against James-second in NBA history only to Sherman Douglas' 0-30 head-to-head record against Michael Jordan.

Xinhua - Agencies

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2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Golden girl Gu's got great expectations]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533107.htm Gu Ailing bagged her first Olympic medal for China on Monday and now can't wait to try to repeat the feat at Beijing 2022.

The American-born youngster won the women's freeski halfpipe competition at the Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday with a score of 93.00-China's second gold of the Games following Yang Binyu's victory in the mass-start speed skating competition last Thursday.

Li Fanghui (85.66 points) made it a Chinese one-two by claiming halfpipe silver, with American Hanna Faulhaber third (77.33).

Born to a Chinese mother and an American father in San Francisco, Gu, better known as Eileen in the States, completed a naturalization process to become a Chinese athlete last June.

Now, the 16-year-old is excited about the prospect of representing her mom's native country at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

"One of the main reasons I switched to China was I felt like I had more opportunity to inspire young girls," Gu told Olympic.org after Monday's victory.

"I have a really deep connection to Beijing so being able to compete in 2022 there, hopefully, means the world to me.

"I am really excited to be able to inspire a lot of people and be inspired by the people who I am skiing with."

Having already secured gold before her last run, Gu tried out a new trick in her final routine, scoring 90.00 points.

Better known as a slopestyle expert, Gu admitted she rarely practices halfpipe.

"I was happy, I just wanted to test my new trick," said Gu.

"The (halfpipe) venues are hard to find, so I always do 'match practice' (during competitions)."

Gu said she developed the new trick last week while training at Chongli district's Secret Garden Resort, a Beijing 2022 venue.

"I performed those tricks neat and nice today. Every time I am in competitions, I can master several new skills," she said.

Prodigious talent

Having first encountered the fun of a ski resort when she was just 3 years old, Gu quickly proved to be a prodigious talent on snow.

She was crowned an American national junior champion at the age of 9 and was admitted to the USA Snowboard and Freeski Association's adult training program when she was 13.

In August last year, Gu represented China for the first time at an International Ski Federation (FIS) event in Cardrona, New Zealand, where she won both slopestyle and halfpipe gold medals at the Australian New Zealand Cup.

Now busy juggling her roles as a high-school student, freestyle skier and part-time model, Gu reckons her hectic schedule will aid, rather than detract from, her preparations for 2022.

"I think it's really important to have a well-rounded life and to be able to do multiple different things. I enjoy doing it," she said.

Meanwhile, silver medalist Li said she had showed improvement in Monday's event, executing her first and second runs cleanly before tumbling in her final routine.

"The result was good, but I still need to improve my landing stability," said Li.

In the women's snowboard halfpipe, Japan's Mitsuki Ono and Manon Kaji took gold and silver respectively.

Mitsuki was the only rider to register a score of over 90 points during the whole event, by posting 95.33 in her third run.

Kaji was second with 85.33, and Switzerland's Berenice Wicki third with 81.33.

 

Gu Ailing poses at the medal ceremony on Monday. XINHUA

 

 

Gu Ailing in action during her gold medal-winning performance in the women's freeski halfpipe event at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne on Monday. XINHUA

 

 

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2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Cheating champs cause shock waves]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/22/content_37533116.htm They call it "The Saracens Way", a list of core values that the club from north London says helped transform a "chronically underachieving organization" to become a dominant force in European rugby.

One of the core values Saracens pride themselves on is "honesty", which might be something of an affront given the state the team finds itself in amid one of the biggest scandals in the history of English rugby.

In a case which, in scale and repercussions, is being described as English rugby's equivalent of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, it was announced on Saturday that Saracens would be relegated from England's top division at the end of this season for their breach of salary-cap regulations.

Saracens are the reigning English and European champions. They have won four of the last five English titles and three of the last four European Cup titles, the kind of dual dynasty never previously seen from an English club. They own some of the most high-profile players in the sport, like England captain Owen Farrell and World Player of the Year nominees Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola.

On the field, these players demonstrate honesty every week. Check out, for example, the tackles and long-busting runs Itoje, Vunipola and Farrell made in helping England win that memorable Rugby World Cup semifinal against New Zealand three months ago.

However, the paymasters at Saracens haven't shown the same integrity as their players.

Sarries have essentially been punished for spending above their means over the past three years in building a world-class squad that obliterated all rivals. To start with, the club was deducted 35 points ahead of the English league season and fined more than 5 million pounds ($6.5 million).

Asked to dramatically cut their playing budget and let external auditors analyze their finances, Saracens didn't want to do either and have chosen to accept the fate of being demoted to the second-tier RFU Championship instead.

So much for honesty.

Speaking of which, the leaders of the English game hardly come out of this looking great, either. The lack of transparency in the whole process has been glaring, with rugby authorities failing every step of the way to explain the depth of Sarries' transgressions.

Even the statement by Premiership Rugby on Saturday raised more questions than answers. What was the extent of the cheating? How hard has the club tried to deal with their sanctions over the past four months while still competing in high-level competitions? What happens to the trophies won during the period they have breached rules?

The rugby public is still waiting for the answers, just like in English soccer with the conclusion of UEFA's investigation into Manchester City's alleged flouting of financial fair play rules and possible deception of authorities set to be published in the coming weeks.

What we do know is that Saracens' expensively assembled squad will be broken up.

"There's no doubt the bunch of players we've got in our squad now aren't going to be the same bunch of players we have in the Championship next year," Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said.

"We have got some time to plan for a new era, a new journey, and that is the optimistic way of looking at it."

Where superstars like Itoje, Farrell and the Vunipola brothers-Billy and Mako-go, if they have to leave, is another matter entirely. Will they be sent out on loan for a season in case Saracens gain promotion at the first attempt? Will they go to France, where the salaries are the biggest in Europe but from where England players aren't allowed to play for their country?

Wales fullback Liam Williams is already heading back to Llanelli-based Welsh club Scarlets at the end of the season.

Sarries' downfall also impacts the international game, with England coach Eddie Jones potentially faced with the choice of selecting people for his squad who are playing in the second tier of the domestic game.

The Rugby Football Union has said that players from that level are eligible to play for England, but what will outspoken Australian Jones think about that?

"Is he prepared for people to be playing in the Championship?" McCall said of Jones.

At the end of next season, the British and Irish Lions will tour South Africa and many of the players that would make up that squad are currently in the Sarries team. Warren Gatland, recently appointed for a third spell as Lions coach, might also be faced with difficult choices.

Then there's the fallout for the domestic game, with Saracens having to fulfill their remaining schedule in the English Premiership despite knowing they are getting relegated no matter the results. Does this affect the integrity of the competition?

The likes of Leicester, Wasps and Harlequins-huge names in English club rugby-were in danger of relegation but not anymore. With only one team demoted each season, they can breathe a sigh of relief.

The ultimate insult could come in May, when the final of the European Champions Cup is held in Marseille. Saracens reached the quarterfinals on Sunday when they beat French team Racing 92 27-24 despite playing for the majority of the game with 14 men, illustrating the strength and depth of the English team.

Imagine if Sarries conquered Europe again, with a squad that has been proved to be non-compliant with domestic salary-cap rules. Nothing could stop Sarries from keeping their best players fresh for the upcoming European knockout games by resting them for English league matches.

It would leave English rugby leaders even more red-faced then they already are.

As for Saracens, the club says its aim now is to "rebuild confidence and trust" and "come back stronger".

"The board must embody the values of the club," said a club statement, issued a day after its fate was announced.

For fans and rival clubs, it's far too late for that.

AP Via Xinhua 

Saracens' Jamie Goerge (left) and George Kruis celebrate their European Champions Cup victory over Racing 92 in London on Jan 19.Domestically, though, all is not well for Sarries, with the club set to be relegated from England's top flight for salary-cap breaches. REUTERS

 

 

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2020-01-22 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Under-23s earn some respite]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533016.htm China's men's under-23 squad have been come in for heavy criticism after missing out on qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, however they can still count on the backing of at least one prominent soccer figure-former national team coach Zhu Guanghu.

The Under-23s last week provoked fresh ire from fans after finishing bottom of Group C and failing to score a single goal at the Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship, which was a qualifying event for Tokyo 2020.

Zhu, though, says the public should recognize the gap in quality between China and Asia's elite teams and reckons the squad could not be faulted for lack of effort.

"People should know the situation of the under-23 team, so I'm generally satisfied with its performance," Zhu told media at the 2019 Chinese Footballer of the Year Awards in Beijing on Friday.

"After the first game, many observers, including some foreign media, recognized the potential that the team has shown in terms of its control of the game, its counterattacking and the pressing of opponents.

"If they had better attacking ability, the result could have been different. The players are growing and I believe in their potential."

There had been high hopes for the team when the Chinese Football Association hired Dutchman Guus Hiddink as head coach in 2018.

However, the 73-year-old won only four of his 12 official games in charge and was dismissed after a year at the helm. With little time to prepare his charges, Hiddink's successor Hao Wei has ultimately been unable to make a difference.

Zhu coached Hao with China's Jianlibao team-a squad comprised of rising young talent-in the 1990s, when they spent time in Brazil to further their soccer education.

These days, Zhu keenly follows the progress of Hao's career.

"I have never missed one match of the under-23 squad," Zhu added. "I always want to see what my former players can achieve when they become coaches.

"Hao has done his best. We've been communicating all this time, and I know he has tried all he could in terms of tactics."

 

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2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533055.htm SOCCER

Messi gets Setien reign off to winning start

Quique Setien may want a different Barcelona but he needed the same old Lionel Messi on Sunday as the Argentine gave his new coach a winning start in a 1-0 victory over Granada.

Messi's 76th-minute strike decided a cagey contest at Camp Nou and prevented the much-anticipated launch of Setien's new era becoming something of a damp squib.

Victory also sent Barca back to the top of La Liga on goal difference, after Real Madrid had briefly claimed first place following its win over Sevilla on Saturday.

"I have seen many things from the team today that I want to see," said Setien. "But I already saw some of them against Atletico (last weekend) because Barca has been doing great things for many years."

Liverpool title charge gains more momentum

Mohamed Salah ripped off his Liverpool jersey at a freezing Anfield after completing a 2-0 victory over Manchester United in stoppage time on Sunday, rousing fans on the Kop to sing: "We're gonna win the league."

It's been a 30-year wait but there is no longer any trepidation from the Liverpool supporters as their team moved 16 points in front at the Premier League summit.

"Now you're gonna believe us," they chanted.

Even with Liverpool unbeaten through 22 rounds and with a game in hand, the players aren't as bullish as their fans in declaring the title a done deal.

"I think everyone wants us to say something about it but we won't," said Virgil van Dijk, who opened the scoring with a first-half header. "In the squad we cannot, and we won't. It is one game at a time."

AMERICAN FOOTBALL

Chiefs slight favorites for Super Bowl LIV

The Kansas City Chiefs opened as slight favorites over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night for their matchup in Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Feb 2.

Sportsbooks at PointsBet, Bet America and DraftKings each installed the Chiefs as a 1.5-point favorite minutes after the 49ers wrapped up a 37-20 home victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

Earlier on Sunday, the Chiefs ended their 50-year wait for a Super Bowl return in a 35-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC championship.

It's a heavyweight matchup featuring one of the NFL's best offenses versus one of its best defenses. The Chiefs scored 86 points in two playoff games after earning the No 2 seed in the AFC following a 12-4 regular season.

San Francisco was the top seed in the NFC after going 13-3 in the regular season, when the 49ers ranked second in the NFL in total defense (281.8 yards per game) and eighth in scoring defense (19.4 points per game).

TENNIS

Monfils blames hand injury on video game

Gael Monfils is nursing a swollen hand after he lashed out in frustration while playing a video game-but does not expect the bizarre injury to hamper his Australian Open.

The 10th seed from France, who faces Chinese Taipei's Lu Yen-hsun in his Melbourne opener on Tuesday, suffered the injury last month.

The 33-year-old played in the ATP Cup at the start of the year but told reporters on Sunday that his hand is still not quite right and he cannot volley as much as he would like.

"I was playing a video game in my bedroom and I hit my right hand against the headboard (of the bed)," Monfils said.

"The real treatment would be rest, but since I can't, I have taken anti-inflammatory drugs and put ice on it."

BOXING

South Africa's first black world champ dies

Peter 'Terror' Mathebula, the first black South African boxer to win a world title, has died aged 67 near Johannesburg, his family said on Sunday.

"Our beloved father passed away three weeks after being admitted to hospital," his daughter Thembi told AFP without disclosing the cause of death.

Mathebula created history in Los Angeles in 1980 when he won a 15-round split decision over South Korean Kim Tae-shik to be crowned the World Boxing Association flyweight champion.

Recalling the historic triumph years later, Mathebula said: "I thought I was dreaming and nearly collapsed after being overcome by joy."

His reign lasted only three months before losing to Argentine Santos Laciar in Soweto.

White wants McGregor rematch with Khabib

After three years without a victory, Conor McGregor needed only 40 seconds to reclaim his place at the center of the UFC world.

The Irish superstar stopped Donald Cerrone on Saturday in Las Vegas and now seems eager to make up for lost time after three years of inactivity and outside-the-cage misbehavior.

"The whole world lights up when I fight," McGregor said. "So I want to get back out there again."

The contenders are already lining up, but UFC boss Dana White wants McGregor to wait for a fight against lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who beat McGregor in October 2018. Russian Nurmagomedov is booked to face Tony Ferguson in April.

 

Lionel Messi

 

 

Conor McGregor

 

 

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2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Under-23s earn some respite]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533027.htm China's men's under-23 squad have been come in for heavy criticism after missing out on qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, however they can still count on the backing of at least one prominent soccer figure-former national team coach Zhu Guanghu.

The Under-23s last week provoked fresh ire from fans after finishing bottom of Group C and failing to score a single goal at the Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship, which was a qualifying event for Tokyo 2020.

Zhu, though, says the public should recognize the gap in quality between China and Asia's elite teams and reckons the squad could not be faulted for lack of effort.

"People should know the situation of the under-23 team, so I'm generally satisfied with its performance," Zhu told media at the 2019 Chinese Footballer of the Year Awards in Beijing on Friday.

"After the first game, many observers, including some foreign media, recognized the potential that the team has shown in terms of its control of the game, its counterattacking and the pressing of opponents.

"If they had better attacking ability, the result could have been different. The players are growing and I believe in their potential."

There had been high hopes for the team when the Chinese Football Association hired Dutchman Guus Hiddink as head coach in 2018.

However, the 73-year-old won only four of his 12 official games in charge and was dismissed after a year at the helm. With little time to prepare his charges, Hiddink's successor Hao Wei has ultimately been unable to make a difference.

Zhu coached Hao with China's Jianlibao team-a squad comprised of rising young talent-in the 1990s, when they spent time in Brazil to further their soccer education.

These days, Zhu keenly follows the progress of Hao's career.

"I have never missed one match of the under-23 squad," Zhu added. "I always want to see what my former players can achieve when they become coaches.

"Hao has done his best. We've been communicating all this time, and I know he has tried all he could in terms of tactics."

 

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2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Roses raring for shot at redemption]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533050.htm Wang Shuang is determined to put the disappointments of 2019 behind her by helping China reach the Tokyo Olympics.

The women's national team kicks off its Group B qualification campaign against Thailand in Wuhan on Feb 3, following by matches against Chinese Taipei (Feb 6) and Australia (Feb 9), with the top two finishers advancing to March's playoffs.

A below-par showing at last year's Women's World Cup and the recent failure of their male counterparts to secure their Tokyo tickets has placed added pressure on the 'Steel Roses' to avoid a slip-up.

As the team's biggest star, former Paris Saint-Germain playmaker Wang feels like she has an extra point to prove following a year that dipped slightly below her lofty standards.

"2019 was not the highlight of my career. Compared with the two previous years, I encountered many difficulties and setbacks," said Wang at an awards ceremony in Beijing last Friday after being named the 2019 Chinese Women's Footballer of the Year.

"The national team players are trying our best to prepare for the Olympic qualifiers. Shortly after we come back from our warm-weather training camp in Australia, we will face the first match in Wuhan in early February, which is our top priority.

"Our goal is to top our qualifying group and then achieve a good result in Tokyo."

After a year-long stint in Europe, Wang is now back in the Chinese Women's Super League with Wuhan Chedu Jiangda.

The 24-year-old, dubbed 'Lady Messi', made global headlines in 2018 when she transferred to PSG.She was soon earning plaudits both in France and back home after becoming the first Chinese to score in the Women's Champions League.

But while Wang was excelling on the pitch, off it she was having difficulty adjusting to her new life, and her unhappiness ultimately appeared to affect her form for China at last summer's World Cup in France.

A 2-0 last-16 defeat to Italy at the tournament suggested China was no longer the force it once was in the women's game, having finished runner-up at the 1999 World Cup and 1996 Olympics.

Working hard

National team coach Jia Xiuquan, though, has declared himself satisfied with his players' reaction to their struggles in France.

"Since the World Cup, we have been reviewing where we went wrong and trying to learn from it," Jia told Xinhua last week. "I really want to thank my players who have been working very hard in training."

Improving stamina and the pace of their passing have been focal points of the training, Jia revealed.

"After the World Cup, we realized we needed to up the pace of our game, which requires the players to be quicker both in movement and thought," Jia added.

"I've been telling them to consider each qualifier as an Olympic final. We plan to be in peak condition to guarantee top spot in the group. And we're ready for all situations."

Last year's World Cup woes prompted a wave of criticism from fans and pundits, but Jia says his charges remain as motivated as ever thanks to their unwavering courage and sense of pride in the national jersey.

Jia bore the brunt of that backlash, but he insists that, by always doing his utmost for the squad, he "has a clear conscience".

One of the few positives from the World Cup was the performance of goalkeeper Peng Shimeng, who became a household name with a number of superb displays between the sticks to help China advance past the group stage.

Peng, though, believes her best is yet to come.

"As the goalkeeper, I have to be more stable," she said. "I feel like I just reached the basic level for playing at high-level competitions last year. I hope to improve myself through training this winter.

"I really want to help our team qualify for the Olympics-even if that means I can barely have holidays over the Spring Festival. It doesn't matter because all of us in the team are working toward the same goal."

 

Wang Shuang delivers her acceptance speech after being named the 2019 Chinese Women's Footballer of the Year in Beijing last Friday. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Coach backing China to soar at home Olympics]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533041.htm Ski jumping coach Heinz Kuttin says China can dare to dream of Olympic glory off the ramp at Beijing 2022.

A 10th-place finish for 16-year-old Zhou Fangyu in the women's individual event at the Winter Youth Olympic Games on Sunday suggested there is still a sizable gap between China and the sport's powerhouses.

However, Austrian Kuttin, who took charge of China's national team in 2018, says Zhou is improving steadily and, with continued hard work and dedication, can become a podium contender.

"We always have to believe in dreams. If you want to compete in the Olympics, every child, every athlete, every coach is dreaming of medals. We have to work, concentrate and do it," Kuttin told Xinhua at the Lausanne Youth Games' French ski jumping venue, Les Rousses, on Sunday.

"It was very good today. Zhou arrived two days ago. She had a little bit of jet lag and was very tired. But until this competition she was improving very good step by step.

"With a bit more luck, especially in the second round, she could've done even better."

Russia bagged gold, with France second and the Czech Republic third.

The 49-year-old Kuttin knows exactly what it takes to make it to the top in ski jumping. He won three Olympic medals during his career and bagged two golds at the 1991 Nordic world championships.

He and Zhou had set a top-10 target before the season began and now the Austrian believes further improvements will depend primarily on Zhou's determination to put in the hard graft.

"In future, she has to do very hard training on her body condition," said Kuttin. "She can jump very long. If she trains well, she will gain more power and more self-confidence."

A hectic schedule of competition, however, means finding time to train can be tricky.

"We are traveling all over the world. We have only two training jumps, and then the next jump is in the competition. This is way we have had to train," said Kuttin.

"But she is focused on the right things. She is not thinking too much about what can happen. She is just doing. This is a very positive thing."

A number of injuries have taken their toll on the national squad, and Kuttin added: "I have Li Xueyao and Zhou Fangyu, and some other girls injured now. I hope they will come back soon. We need a team. We need more athletes to train and fight together. Then we can improve step by step."

Kuttin is mindful of the pressure his charges will be under at a home Olympics in two years' time and urged the public to have patience with their progress in the build-up to the Games.

"Austria has a very long tradition in ski jumping. In China, we also have some girls who have been jumping since 8 or 9 years old," he said.

"Now the focus is on the 2022 Olympics. There is a lot of pressure on these girls as everybody is watching.

"We have to go on working day by day. We have to trust and believe in our girls. We also need rest. We need some days off not thinking about ski jumping and let the body rejuvenate. Then you can go up step by step.

"What we're doing now is competing in international competitions because we have to go to and fight to this level. We are on this path now.

"We are going to compete in these competitions and acquire different experiences everywhere. This is what we have to learn this season."

 

Chinese ski jumper Zhou Fangyu takes flight during the women's individual event at the Winter Youth Olympics in Les Rousses, France, on Sunday. The 16-year-old finished 10th. XINHUA
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2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Record-breaking Liu rekindles Tokyo belief]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/21/content_37533052.htm China's "swimming goddess" Liu Xiang cemented her status as an Olympic gold-medal contender by setting a new Asian record over the weekend.

The elite-field FINA Champions Swim Series concluded its Beijing leg on Sunday with Liu stealing the show by shaving one hundredth of a second of her own 50m freestyle continental mark.

The 23-year-old touched first in 24.03 ahead of London 2012 Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands (24.38) and compatriot Femke Heemskerk (24.79) at the Olympic Center Natatorium in the capital.

The performance capped a superb week for Liu, who also won Saturday's 50m backstroke and the same two races at the series' opening leg in Shenzhen last Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I didn't expect to break the record now as I am way off my best condition physically midway through the winter training program," Liu said in disbelief.

"I thought my old record was already the best I could do. Swimming faster today really helps get my confidence back and rekindles my hopes for the Tokyo Olympics," said Liu, who set her first Asian mark (24.04) at the 2017 National Games in Tianjin.

Liu's 50m free time-which surpasses Australian Cate Campbell's previous season-leading mark of 24.08-would've been good enough for victory at last year's FINA World Championships, where Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom clocked 24.26 to win gold and Liu failed to even reach the final.

Sunday's time, therefore, sounds a strong warning to Liu's rivals ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, and has inevitably led to expectations that she could challenge Sjostrom's world record (23.67), which was set at the 2017 worlds in Budapest.

Typically, though, the soft-spoken Guangzhou native chose to keep her feet on the ground.

"The disappointing 2019 worlds campaign was a big blow and made me doubt myself and whether I could still push for improvements," said Liu.

"Now with my confidence back, I think I can still improve a lot in my core strength, my starting and my underwater kicking.

"I won't think too much on how fast I can swim (in Tokyo). I will only focus on how much I can push myself in training."

Regarded as an exceptional backstroke sprinter early in her career, Liu shot to prominence at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, where she became the first woman to break the 27-second barrier in the 50m back (26.98).

The standout performance saw the photogenic star dubbed a "swimming goddess" by fans, however, she shies away from talk about her supermodel looks.

In a recent interview with Tencent, Liu said she'd rather earn fame purely for her swimming ability than be considered a "vase in the pool".

Four golds at the Champions series' Shenzhen and Beijing stops over the last week sends a strong signal to Liu's international rivals, according to Liu's coach, He Xinzhong.

"She's now more confident than ever and that came from a solid physical training program which has produced encouraging results," said He, who has coached Liu since 2010.

With 50m back not included in the Olympic program, He said that Liu will only focus on freestyle in the build-up to Tokyo, with her training tailored to enhancing her leg strength.

This is the second edition of the FINA Champions Swim Series, which requires a higher entry benchmark than the World Cup circuit. With no heats, each event is contested by just four swimmers.

China scooped four more golds on Sunday to bring its total haul to nine at the two-day Beijing meet.

Three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang dominated the men's 400m freestyle, taking the lead after two laps to win in 3:44.98 ahead of compatriot Ji Xinjie (3:47.04) and Danas Rapsys of Lithuania (3:49.62).

"Three titles in five days, I am pretty happy with my performance as I've managed to stay smooth and steady in every race," said Sun, who also claimed golds in the 200 free in Beijing and the 400 free in Shenzhen.

"It is the only international event we can have before the Olympic Games, it is like a rehearsal for us," added the Chinese captain.

Yu Jingyao collected gold for China in the women's 100 breaststroke in 1:07.18, while Yang Junxuan broke the Chinese national record by winning the women's 200 free in 1:54.98.

 

From top: China's Liu Xiang, Sun Yang and Yang Junxuan celebrate their victories in the 50m, 400m and 200m freestyle races respectively at the FINA Champions Swim Series' Beijing leg on Sunday. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

 

 

]]>
2020-01-21 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Ski-crazy locals lay on warm reception]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/20/content_37532824.htm It's hard not to be beguiled by the rustic charm of the ski-centric French village of Les Rousses.

Situated in the Jura Mountains near the border with Switzerland, the village's Les Tuffes Nordic Center hosted biathlon, ski jumping and Nordic combined during the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, which concluded on Sunday.

The enthusiasm with which the locals engaged with the competitions made it an extra special venue.

As cross-country skiers powered over the biathlon course, people rang bells and roared "Allez!" (Go!), while cries of "Oui!" (Yes!) rang out as athletes hit their targets in the shooting section.

"The crowds pushed us forward. Without doubt we could use it to gain some seconds in skiing," said French biathlete Jeanne Richard, who along with Mathieu Garcia won gold in the single mixed relay race.

"I'm not surprised because I know people here really appreciate biathlon and all sports. They are here to support all athletes, not only the French athletes," said Marie-Laure Brunet, a retired French biathlete who won a bronze medal in the women's pursuit at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

All the biathlon events at Les Tuffes were free for the public to attend.

"It's very important for these young athletes to live the Olympic experience, to be supported by everybody. With free entrance, it's easier to attract crowds. It's a good thing for the young, for schools, for the crowds and for families," Brunet added.

Around 3,500 local school kids were invited to watch Tuesday's men's and women's sprint races."We are quite happy to be here," one kid said.

Chinese competitor Shi Yuanyuan was pleasantly surprised when, after finishing an interview, he was surrounded by kids asking for his autograph.

"It's the first time for our athletes to be interviewed and be surrounded by autograph hunters like that," said Jiang Yang, an official in charge of the Chinese biathlon team.

"The atmosphere felt pretty good here. Kids would shout 'hurray' as athletes hit the target. It felt like being at a World Cup meet."

It wasn't just the Chinese team which was feeling the love.

"Everything about the vibe here is really positive. We are supposed to leave tomorrow, but we don't want to leave," said Russian competitor Denis Irodov.

"It's almost a perfect place for biathlon, especially during the Youth Olympics. I really hope this venue will have many more competitions in the coming years."

Tony Estanguet, president of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics' organizing committee, hailed the cross-border cooperation between France and Switzerland.

"This is the first time such an Olympic event has been held by two countries working together. There has been a fantastic collaboration between the two countries and the two organizing committees," he told Xinhua.

"The result is just amazing. The crowds are very excited. The athletes are very happy."

 

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2020-01-20 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Federer figures his record will be surpassed]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/20/content_37532854.htm DUBAI, United Arab Emirates-Roger Federer, for one, figures questions about whether Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic-or both?-will surpass his men's record for most Grand Slam singles titles are moot.

That's because he's sure it's going to happen. And he's OK with that. Ending up in third place, Federer insists, would be just fine.

"I think the way it's going, obviously, Rafa and Novak will win more, because they're that good," Federer said matter-of-factly during a recent interview with Associated Press in Dubai, which he uses as a preseason training base. "And the season they had (in 2019), again, shows that there is more to come for them."

He didn't say this with a wistful sigh or a disappointed glance at the floor or a trace of regret. That's just the way he sees things at the moment. Entering the Australian Open, scheduled to begin today in Melbourne, Federer leads the list with 20 majors, followed by Nadal with 19, then Djokovic with 16.

So by the end of the Aussie Open, Nadal could pull even with Federer for the first time.

Whether or not it truly matters who comes out on top when all is said and done, everyone is going to be paying attention to how it shakes out. Including Federer, who surpassed Pete Sampras' old standard of 14 a decade ago.

Don't mistake an honest outlook for disinterest.

"I guess you do care, to some extent, just because it's normal," Federer said, then mentioned how much it meant to him that Sampras was sitting in the Centre Court stands at Wimbledon for No 15.

"I looked up to him so much that I felt, also, uncomfortable maybe, sometimes, breaking his records. It's not something I ever wanted to do. It just happened to be like this. But of course I knew it was a big, big-time moment in our sport. And I think those are the moments you will remember," Federer said.

"Now, at the end, if somebody else would pass you, I mean, I guess it's OK, because that's what sports is all about. It's a lot about numbers. It's a lot about records. But I had my moment and I always said everything that comes after 15 was, anyway, a bonus. And especially after the knee injury (in 2016), everything that came after that was a bonus. I would have taken one more Slam, and I was able to get three more-and three amazing ones."

Nadal, currently No 1 in the ATP rankings, and Djokovic, who is No 2 ahead of Federer, each took home two major trophies last season.

Djokovic won the Australian Open (beating Nadal in the final) and Wimbledon (beating Federer in the final after saving two championship points).

Nadal won at Roland Garros (beating Federer in the semifinals) and the US Open (facing neither of the other two).

"I always say the same: I would love to be the one who wins more,"Nadal said, "but I am not thinking (about it) and I'm not going to practice every day for it."

After his seventh championship in Australia a year ago, Djokovic said:"I do want to definitely focus myself on continuing to improve my game and maintaining the overall well-being that I have-mental, physical, emotional-so I would be able to compete at such a high level for the years to come, and have a shot at eventually getting closer to Roger's record."

Federer's most recent Grand Slam triumph arrived at Melbourne Park in 2018.

He is 38, an age at which no one has won a Slam title in the professional era; he doesn't feel compelled to quit anytime soon. Still, time is certainly on the side of Nadal, 33, and Djokovic, 32.

"I honestly think it's going to be quite exciting to see how much longer can they go. How much more can they win? They might have some more incredible years ahead of them. That's my assumption," Federer said."It's a bit of a golden time for tennis right now, no doubt."

Also of particular interest is when a new face will emerge from the crop of 20-somethings who have been rising in the rankings. There hasn't been a first-time male champ at a major since 2014.

Ask Federer to name names, and he offers several, calling them "that whole group of guys".

Among those he mentioned were Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov, Stefanos Tsitsipas-who upset Federer at the Australian Open last year-Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov.

"It's an elite group of 10 now, which is nice. It's not just maybe one or two that we thought were pretty good,"Federer said. "So I think it's changed a little bit in the last, sort of, 18 months. It's just really, really hard to predict who's going to win."

Here's something Federer is certain of, though: One day, someone will come along and accumulate majors the way no one ever had until he, Nadal and Djokovic rewrote the record book.

"It's going to happen, inevitably,"Federer said, shaking his head."And it's almost not going to be that hard, maybe, anymore, later on, for some reason, I just feel like, because the players will have seen what we did. And they didn't see just one guy doing it, once every 30 years. They saw like three guys doing it, in the shortest period of time, right after 'Pistol' (Sampras).

"So I just think players are going to believe more. I think maybe the surfaces in some ways also allow you, maybe, if you're on a hot streak, just to run through more years of domination, like what Novak, Rafa and me, we've all done."

Impossible to know who, though. Or when. After all, Federer never saw the magnitude of his own success-or those of his rivals-coming.

"I didn't predict I was going to have this many majors. I was hoping to maybe have one, to be quite honest, at the very beginning of my career. When I played Novak, I thought, 'Yeah, he's good. He might win a major.' You know? 'Rafa, he's probably going to win the French. Maybe once. Or a few times.' But you don't go 12 times there. Or, you know, streaks of not having lost matches on hard or clay for, I don't know, nine months. It's just stuff that eventually builds," he said. "So, hard to tell, but there's a group of guys that I see now probably winning at least, like, four or five majors-which then can lead to 15 or more, of course."

 

From top: Roger Federer reckons Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, or both, will surpass his record 20 Grand Slam titles.

 

 

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2020-01-20 00:00:00
<![CDATA[SCALING NEW HEIGHTS]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/20/content_37532835.htm Snow-capped mountains, blue skies and clear water-as Suolang Chodron surveys the scenery she feels like she could be at home. But rather than chasing sheep on the Tibetan Plateau, former shepherd girl Suolang has been chasing Olympic glory in the Swiss Alps, on the shores of Lake Geneva.

The 17-year-old came desperately close to realizing her podium dream in ski mountaineering at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Games, but just missed out on bronze medals in both the individual and sprint races on Jan 10 and 13.

Considering she first stepped onto a pair of skis just three years ago, her fourth-place finishes were something of a minor miracle. "I love ski mountaineering. It's special, I think, to climb and climb and climb..." said Suolang.

Years of herding sheep in Xainza county, Nagpu, as a youngster have conditioned Sualong for this unforgiving sport, which is usually dominated by Europeans and North Americans.

In fourth grade, she was selected to attend Nagpu's sports school due to her long-distance running ability, with her parents relieving of her herding duties.

Suolang also harbored hoop dreams and she later earned a call-up to the Tibetan Sports School's basketball team. "Basketball has always been my favorite," she said.

Despite her lack of skiing experience, Suolang's outstanding athleticism led her to be picked for the Tibet Ski Mountaineering Team in 2017.

Relentless

Coach Ngawang Tashi was awestruck by her work ethic."She didn't rest even when she was sick. If I asked her to stop, she'd cry," said Tashi. "At night she'd practice transitions in the climbing section, switching from carrying the skis to wearing them or vice versa.

The China Mountaineering Association soon came calling and picked Suolang for the Lausanne Games.

The national team training was another level of intensity, but even that didn't phase Suolang."In every drill I kept reminding myself of what the coach said. If I couldn't do it this time, I'd try again. If I couldn't do it that day, I'd go to sleep and pick up where I left off the next day."

It's not simply sheer determination, however, that makes Suolang so suited to ski mountaineering, according to Jin Yubo, coach of the Chinese youth team.

"You can tell how much she loves the sport. Ski mountaineering requires athletes to be detail-oriented, and she's doing well at almost every detail. That's what has taken her this far," said Jin.

Homesick

Being far from home, however, takes an emotional toll on Suolang, who carries Tibetan trinkets with her wherever she trains or competes. On the journey to Lausanne, she brought a khata (traditional scarf) and a whip from her shepherding days as good-luck emblems.

"If I'm missing home badly, I can't really go home," she said."Then I think I'd better get good results. I don't want to let my parents down."

In Lausanne, Suolang's rival competitors were mostly from traditional ski powerhouses like Norway, France and Switzerland. Most started skiing at age 3 or 4 and took up ski mountaineering from age 12 or so.

After crossing the finish line in the sprint, Suolang appeared overcome with emotion as she knelt down and insisted:"I'm not crying. I just couldn't help it when my coach came to me."

Despite her disappointment at missing out on the top three, Suolang had plenty to be proud of.

Wang Yongfeng, vice-president of the China Mountaineering Association, said her results were inconceivable three years ago. Back then, simply making it to the finish line was an achievement for the Chinese contingent.

Because of her deficiencies in the downhill section, Suolang puts extra effort into climbing, with her lightning-quick ascents getting her noticed in the Alps. "That's the very fast Chinese girl!" people said as she bounded up the slope.

Olympic dream

Ski mountaineering is not an official Olympic sport yet, but that is expected to change following its debut at the Youth Games-possibly as early as the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy, when Suolang and her teammates will be in their prime.

"It's thrilling to watch such a fierce competition. Also, ski mountaineering could be adopted as a practical skill in some Chinese regions that have heavy snowfall, like it is in Europe," said Jin, who is optimistic about the sport's chances of being included in the Winter Olympics.

Suolang has not thought that far ahead. Apart from honing her mountaineering skills, she also has her sights set on going to university.

"My brother's in university now. We have a video call every night except for competition days. I often read a book word by word to him," she said.

In years to come, Suolang might well be video-chatting with her sibling with an Olympic medal hanging around her neck.

 

 

 

]]> 2020-01-20 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Dettori not ready to ride off into sunset]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/20/content_37532836.htm LONDON-Frankie Dettori says instinct rather than a historic third Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Enable this year will be the decisive factor in telling him when to call time on his legendary riding career.

The 49-year-old Italian's flying dismounts, his unabashed display of emotions in victory or defeat and his association with Enable has given racing a much-needed high-profile superstar.

His resilience in also cheating death in a plane crash in 2000, and a failed drug test in 2012 has also earned widespread admiration. Of the latter episode, he says: "When you are cornered, you fight."

"I am 49 now, this (his body) is what decides for me how long I can keep going," he said in a wide-ranging interview conducted in the Hari Hotel in central London.

"In every sport, it's actually the sports who retires you, once the people realize that maybe you're not good enough to do it, you're getting too old, and slowly you start to lose your business."

Dettori looked far from cooked last year as he racked up 19 Group One wins and reached the landmark of 250 career Group One victories on Champions Day at Ascot in October-the racecourse near London he calls "home" and where in 1996 he memorably went through the seven-race card.

"At the moment I'm still at the top of my game, I'm still riding the best horses so I'm going to carry on," he said. "I have no set date, realistically it's going to be between three and five years because 50 is the magical age, so fingers crossed, I get another few years."

'I should have been dead'

Dettori has forged close bonds with Enable's trainer, John Gosden, and former jockey Ray Cochrane, who is now his agent.

It was Cochrane who pulled him from the wreckage of the plane when it crashed at Newmarket on the way to Goodwood racecourse in Sussex on June 1, 2000.

"I was lucky that I didn't die in the crash itself," said Dettori.

"I broke my leg and I was lucky that Ray managed to drag me out of the plane and then it exploded. The pilot died, so I was lucky twice.

"We've been through something that you can't explain, put into words, the experience. It was very hard to get out of it, it took me two years.

"We hardly ever talked about that because it's something that only me and him understand. I should have been dead so I have to thank God I am still here."

Dettori puts his astonishing success with Gosden-who is 19 years his senior and in terms of temperament the polar opposite-down to a natural chemistry.

"John can read me like a book because he knows me so well.

"So he can put an arm around me when I'm feeling a bit low or he can wring my neck when I get too cocky, so we have this great working relationship.

"I feel very comfortable riding for him. I feel respected and loved. I feel much better when part of a team."

Together they have been an almost unstoppable force in the past few years. Latterly with Enable, who Dettori says has "taken him to places emotionally he has never been before (in racing)", but Golden Horn's Derby win in 2015 was a huge moment because it made his decision to carry on after the "bad time" in 2012 worthwhile.

"I was 44 and I never thought I would get another chance to win the Derby," Dettori said.

"That was my biggest thrill I ever had on a horse in a race.

"To a point that when I knew I was going to win, the last 200 meters, my body felt like somebody had zapped all the energy out of me, I felt like jelly and it was an amazing feeling.

"I'll never forget when I left (Epsom racecourse) my kids had a big banner saying 'come on daddy, try to win it again'."

He finally succeeded in winning his first Epsom Derby at the 15th attempt on Authorised in 2007.

It was the race that had inspired him to take up riding thanks to an unusual carrot being dangled in front of him by his father, 13-time Italian champion jockey Gianfranco Dettori.

He promised his then 14-year-old son if he was to win the Epsom Derby he would give him a white Piaget watch he had received for being crowned Italian champion jockey. Gianfranco kept the watch in a safe and only wore it once a year.

"It became cemented into my brain as a kid winning the Derby because of that thought and true to his word when I won it he had it engraved and gave me it," he said.

"It is such a symbol of my career. It has special meaning to me. That was probably the seed in my brain to become a jockey and to win the Epsom Derby."

 

Frankie Dettori cruises to victory on board Wilamina in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom in England in June 2018. AFP

 

]]> 2020-01-20 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/20/content_37532838.htm SWIMMING

Sun shines as golds flow for host in Beijing

Sun Yang delighted the home fans as he led China's charge at the two-day FINA Champions Swim Series' Beijing stop over the weekend.

The three-time Olympic champion stormed to victory in the men's 200m freestyle in a time of one minute and 45.55 seconds on Saturday and then won the 400m freestyle on Sunday in 3:44.98.

Sun had to settle for 200 silver behind Rapsys at the series' opening meet in Shenzhen last Tuesday.

"I did not think of it as revenge since I lost to Danas in Shenzhen by 0.03 seconds. It is a good competition with the strongest rivals in the world. To me, Danas is very tough and also a respected friend," said Sun, who is expecting a verdict to be delivered in his Court of Arbitration for Sport case this month.

China won five golds on Saturday, with two-time world champion Xu Jiayu tying for first place in the men's 100m backstroke with longtime idol Ryosuke Irie of Japan in 52.97. Matt Grever of the United States finished third in 53.71.

BASKETBALL

Africa to produce more stars, says Biyombo

The National Basketball Association's investment in Africa will result in more star players from the continent shining in the NBA, Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo said on Friday.

The Congolese player will feature in the first NBA game in France as the Hornets face the Milwaukee Bucks in Paris next Friday.

"I think we will soon have an NBA match in Africa," the 27-year-old told a conference call.

The NBA and the sport's governing body FIBA have set up the Basketball Africa League, which is due to tip off in March.

"The most important thing is to get that new league started," said Biyombo.

Cameroon's Pascal Siakam helped the Toronto Raptors win the NBA Finals last year and Biyombo believes there is more to come from Africa."Now the young African players won't necessarily need to go play in China or Europe to show themselves, the NBA scouts are going to come to Africa," he said.

Teague happy to help Hawks as Trae's backup

Jeff Teague said he couldn't be happier to be back with his adopted hometown team.

Teague, in his 11th NBA season, was hoping to return to his original club as a free agent this summer, but a trade from Minnesota two days ago landed him back with the Atlanta Hawks earlier than expected.

No longer a starter, Teague entered Saturday's game against the Detroit Pistons midway through the first quarter to a modest standing ovation, playing alongside fellow point guard Trae Young, the NBA's third-leading scorer. The Hawks' plan, though, is to mostly use 31-year-old Teague as Young's primary backup.

"I always wanted to come back,"Teague said."Those things just kind of run through your head. I looked at their team, their need and things like that. I thought they might need me, a backup veteran that can help a little bit and try to help lead the guys. I thought that would be my role."

SOCCER

Gattuso 'scared' for free-falling Napoli

Gennaro Gattuso said he was "worried and scared" as Napoli fell 2-0 at home to Fiorentina on Saturday, leaving last season's Serie A runner-up scrambling to save its season.

A third consecutive defeat saw the southern giant slump to 13th position. Napoli sits closer to the relegation zone than the Champions League places. The club is without a league win at its Stadio San Paolo home since Oct 19 ahead of hosting Barcelona in the Champions League in a month's time.

For Gattuso the "soulless, unwatchable and embarrassing" defeat was his fourth in five league games since replacing Carlo Ancelotti on Dec 11, when the team was in seventh spot.

"I'm very worried," admitted the 42-year-old former AC Milan coach.

"We have hit rock bottom and we need to understand what we are going towards. We're not looking at the Champions League, we're looking at the scary ranking. We're playing with fire."

Haaland hits hat-trick on Dortmund debut

Norwegian rising star Erling Braut Haaland came off the bench to claim a hat-trick inside 20 minutes on his Borussia Dortmund debut and inspire a 5-3 comeback win at Augsburg on Saturday.

The 19-year-old, who was heavily linked with Manchester United before choosing Dortmund, showed why the German team paid Red Bull Salzburg 20 million euros ($22 million) for him last month when he came on in the 56th minute with his new team 3-1 down.

"I am pretty relaxed about it... I don't really know why," said Haaland, who is not even deemed fully fit by Dortmund.

"I'm at a fantastic club with great teammates and good people around me. I came here to score goals and it was a good debut for me."

Dortmund's victory left them fourth in the Bundesliga standings, level on points with defending champion Bayern Munich and Schalke, but seven points behind leader RB Leipzig, which opened a five-point gap at the top with a 3-1 win over Union Berlin.

Xinhua - Agencies

Sun Yang

 

 

Jeff Teague

 

 

Erling Braut Haaland

 

 

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2020-01-20 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Lausanne Games 'boost Beijing 2022 buildup']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532600.htm LAUSANNE-The president of the organizing committee of the ongoing Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne says the Chinese delegation's experiences at the Games will bolster preparations for Beijing 2022.

"As we Swiss are a traditional winter sports country, we have this experience. I am sure you'll be able to bring back what you've learned and organize a wonderful Games," Virginie Faivre told Xinhua.

The 3rd Winter Youth Olympic Games will close on Sunday, and Faivre has been impressed by what she's seen from Chinese athletes at the event.

"We're really happy to have them around. They're observing and will mostly be competing in the next Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. So it is really interesting to see their progress and also the development of winter sports in China," she said.

"We've seen this development and we're really happy to be able to accompany and support Beijing on your way to the Games."

The 37-year-old Faivre is a former world champion in freestyle skiing, and says promoting winter sports as a lifestyle choice will be key to China's ambitions on the ice and snow.

"I first put on skis when I was 2 years old, like many kids here in Switzerland. So, I think it's just a lifestyle. We're surrounded by these mountains. People here love the winter and snow. They follow the Swiss team around the world. We have some great athletes. I think it helps also to create strong support from the population," she said.

"I think that the next generation really matters. I hope the new talents of tomorrow will be able to take up sports professionally or just for leisure. But I think that's a way to engage the population around the sport and winter sports and the Olympics."

Faivre has never been to China but is intrigued by the development of winter sports in the world's most populous nation.

"I know there's the alpine test event coming really soon (World Cup meet, Feb 15-16 in Yanqing). I am really looking forward to seeing it as I've heard the downhill is really steep," she said. "It's gonna be really technical and so it is really exciting.

"The Games must adapt to the region, not the opposite way around. And for us it's really important to leave some legacy behind."

Xinhua

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2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Chinese player makes a little hockey history]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532655.htm China's Zhang Xinyue claimed a silver medal in the women's mixed team 3-on-3 ice hockey competition at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne on Wednesday.

Zhang was part of Team Black in the event, which teams players from different countries and regions together. The competition was introduced to the Games by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Olympic Committee in a bid to give developing hockey nations a chance to play at a high-level event.

Zhang and Team Black suffered a 1-6 defeat to Team Yellow in the final, but the 15-year-old was thrilled to make history-initially as the first Chinese player to participate in ice hockey at a Winter Youth Olympics, and then as the first to win China's maiden Olympic medal in the sport.

"Before I came to Lausanne, I couldn't have imagined this could happen," said Zhang."I am proud of standing here with a medal to represent my country. It will be the motivation for me to keep playing hockey.

"I want to share this medal with my Chinese teammates, and I have really enjoyed playing in Team Black during this tournament."

Zhang was selected for the Games by the IIHF's sport department after passing a series of skill tests conducted by the Chinese Ice Hockey Association.

Team Blue beat Team Brown 6-4 to take the bronze medal.

In the men's competition, Team Green won the gold with a 10-4 victory over Team Red, while Team Brown edged Team Black with a last-second winner to bag the bronze medal.

Xinhua

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2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[NBA aiming to slam-dunk Chinese New Year festivities]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532626.htm The National Basketball Association announced that the ninth NBA Chinese New Year Celebration (Jan 21-Feb 9) will include all 30 of the league's franchises and feature new television and digital productions.

The teams will celebrate Chinese New Year with various in-game elements, fan giveaways, musical performances, social media content, Chinese food, courtside signage, concourse decorations and sponsor events.

Former NBA champions Bruce Bowen, Shawn Marion and Alonzo Mourning, as well as eight-time NBA All-Star and NBA global ambassador Dikembe Mutombo, visited China last week to start the festivities early, conduct basketball clinics and interact with underprivileged children.

On Thursday, the NBA debuted three television and digital spots in China featuring some of the league's biggest stars as part of its "Holiday Heroes" series.

In Sketches, two-time All-Star Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers makes a surprise visit to a fan's home. Six-time All-Star Paul George stars in a piece entitled Bus Ball, with the Los Angeles Clippers forward coming to life from a magazine advertisement. In Morning Game, 2018 All-Rookie First Team and Slam Dunk champion Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz helps a mother wake her son to watch NBA games.

Major matchups

The celebrations officially tip off on Jan 20 as the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers visit the Boston Celtics in their first matchup of the season. The 20-daylong festivities will close with the visit of Kawhi Leonard's high-flying Clippers to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

'Season of Giving'

As part of the NBA Cares Season of Giving initiative, NBA China will conduct 20 "legacy projects" throughout the year, including donating equipment and educational resources to underprivileged schools in Sanya, Haikou and Ding'an in Hainan province, Neijiang in Sichuan province, Shanghai and Beijing.

TV treats

A new series called Basketball Love, featuring stories of basketball's impact across China, will debut on Jan 17. Subsequent episodes will air every other day on the NBA's official social media platforms in China throughout the Chinese New Year.

The documentaries will include a look back at the Washington Bullets' historic visit to China in 1979 with never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews, the inspiring tale of a junior NBA basketball squad in Sichuan, and a profile of community hero Mr. Tang, who has taught basketball and math at a rural school for the past 38 years.

Other special programming will include a special Chinese New Year-themed edition of NBA Study Hall, a new NBA China-produced daily digital show, and the roll-out of the six-episode Junior Jump Squad animation series.

Online fun

Beginning on Jan 18, fans will be able to participate in the "Shoot for the New Year" social media campaign on Douyin, including a player-led fan challenge. From Jan 20, fans can also join the "NBA CNY Red Envelope" sweepstakes on Weibo to win Chinese New Year-themed gift packs and NBA merchandise and apparel.

On the NBA App, fans can also play a special Chinese New Year-themed "Pick 'Em" contest to win special prizes.

 

Li Xiaolin (center), president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, met with NBA China CEO Derek Chang (second right) and three-time NBA champion (2003, '05 and '07) Bruce Bowen, formerly of the San Antonio Spurs, on Monday. CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Under-23s sink to new goalless low]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532635.htm A few days after missing out on qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, China's Under-23 squad failed to rescue any pride as it ended its miserable Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship campaign with a third straight defeat.

To add to the ignominy, Wednesday's 1-0 loss to Iran in Songkhla, Thailand, meant China had failed to score a single goal at the tournament as it finished bottom of Group C and was eliminated.

The scoreless performance was a historic low for a Chinese under-23 team. Previous squads have registered only one win between them in the previous three editions of the championship, but all managed to at least hit the net-twice in 2013, four times in 2016 and another four in 2018.

The tournament acts as a qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics, with the top three finishers booking tickets to this summer's Games in Japan.

Last weekend's 2-0 defeat to Uzbekistan ended China's slim hopes of reaching Tokyo 2020. That result followed an opening 1-0 loss to South Korea.

Wednesday's disappointment proved overwhelming for many of the Chinese players, some of whom wept at the full-time whistle. Team coach Hao Wei said he could not fault his players' effort but admitted they lacked quality.

"I want to thank my players for fully executing my plans. Despite us losing all three games, our players still love soccer and we will never give up until we fulfill our shared dream of qualifying for the Olympics," said Hao.

"It's my responsibility, not the players'... There are gaps in many aspects, and we still need to improve both the attack and defense... Our players need to keep their dream alive and be better prepared in the future."

Despite their coach's words of consolation, the defeat hit the Chinese players hard.

Midfielder Huang Cong rued his missed opportunities, although striker Duan Liuyu was less downcast as he endeavored to take some positives from the tournament.

"It has been a test of my skills, physically and mentally," said Duan. "I can sense the gap between us and other teams. We need to keep practicing and think more."

There had been high hopes for the squad when the Chinese Football Association hired Dutchman Guus Hiddink as head coach of the under-21 squad, the bulk of which would eventually move on to the under-23s.

The former Real Madrid and Chelsea boss was tasked with steering China to its first Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games, when it qualified automatically as host.

However, the 73-year-old won only four of his 12 official games in charge and was dismissed after a year at the helm.

With little time to prepare his charges, Hiddink's successor Hao has ultimately been unable to make a difference.

CFA president Chen Xuyuan tried to rally Hao's crestfallen players after the game.

"First of all, I hope you can recognize the clear gap between us and the stronger Asian teams. You all need to work harder to level up your strength after you return," Chen told the players, according to NetEase Sports.

"You should never be sluggish. You should grow to become more disciplined and professional. You are still young and have more big games to play in the future. You will be the new blood of the national team to fight for appearing at future World Cups."

Following the Spring Festival break, the young players will begin preseason training with their respective clubs and the mission of qualifying for the Olympics will be passed on to the next generation.

During Chinese club soccer's offseason, the CFA has been busy developing new measures to try and invigorate the youth ranks.

With the influx of expensive foreign players blamed as one reason for the country's stagnating youth scene, the CFA has installed a 3 million euros ($3.3 million) salary cap on imports, while the national governing body is also encouraging Chinese Super League clubs to give more playing time to homegrown youngsters.

In 2018, the CFA launched an under-23 league for clubs in the country's top three tiers.

Next season, CSL teams will be required to register at least three under-21 players in their squads; in the second and third tiers that quota is set at two and five respectively.

In the top tiers, teams will be required to have at least one under-23 player on the pitch during games, while it will be necessary for third-tier sides to field at least one under-21 player.

 

Hu Jinghang of China and Mojtaba Najjarian of Iran battle for possession during Wednesday's final Group C match at the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship in Songkhla, Thailand. China lost 1-0 to end the tournament winless, pointless and goalless. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

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2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Phil still feels he belongs with the best]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532634.htm Phil Mickelson says despite his fast-approaching 50th birthday he's determined to stay on the PGA Tour while he can "bomb" golf balls and yearns for a Ryder Cup berth.

"When I stop hitting bombs I'll play the (50-and-over) Champions Tour," said Mickelson, nicknamed "Lefty" for his left-handed grip, on Wednesday.

"But I'm hitting some crazy bombs right now. No, I still have speed. There's no reason I couldn't play out here. I hit the ball every bit as far."

Mickelson, who turns 50 on June 16, spoke on the eve of the American Express tournament, where he serves as host. The three-course event in the California desert will be contested at the PGA West Nicklaus and Stadium layouts and at LaQuinta Country Club.

The US left-hander won the 2013 British Open and then went nearly five years without a victory before taking the 2018 WGC Mexico Championship. Last year, he added his fifth Pebble Beach Pro-Am title for his 44th career US PGA crown.

But he failed to qualify for last month's Presidents Cup in Australia, the first US team event Mickelson has missed since the 1993 Ryder Cup.

It has made him extra hungry to qualify for this year's Ryder Cup against holder Europe on home soil at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, but so far Mickelson ranks 28th on the points list, 20 spots below the last automatic qualifier.

"I don't often voice too many goals, but one of them is to make the Ryder Cup," Mickelson said. "It should be a pretty obvious goal so I need to play enough tournaments out here and play well to be able to achieve that particular goal."

Mickelson can make an impression on US captain Steve Stricker this week but he isn't seeking a captain's selection.

"He knows how bad I want to be on the team, but I don't want to be a pick. I've got to earn it," Mickelson said.

"I'm at the point where I've got to earn my spot. There are eight spots out there and if I play well I'll make it. If I play to the level that I believe I'm capable of I'll make the team."

Mickelson had "a rough few months" after Pebble Beach last year but looks forward to his 2020 debut this week.

'Best I've felt in years'

"I had a great offseason, I'm excited to start the year," Mickelson said.

"I'm curious as probably anybody is to see how well I play. I've tried to address a lot of weaknesses and my motivation is back-this is the best I've felt in years, maybe even decades-and physically there's nothing holding me back from playing some of my best golf.

"So now it's on me. Can I get the best out of me again? I believe I can, I'm excited for the challenge. And I respect and understand how talented and great players these young guys are, but I also enjoy the challenge of beating them and I think I'm ready to do that."

Mickelson will play at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Saudi Arabia and then defend at Pebble Beach but hasn't set much of a schedule after that.

He could play Champions Tour events after he makes yet another try at completing a career Grand Slam by winning the US Open-an event where he has finished second a record six times.

"It's nice to have the option to move over to another tour, but it's also nice to have the challenge of competing out here," he said.

"I'm curious to see how the first six months go. And then I'll start to weigh some decisions. But there's a chance that if I do what I expect then I may end up competing for years out here.

"There's a chance maybe I'm misguided in my thinking and I should move over. But a lot will be decided or seen in the first six months, because I feel like I'm ready to play."

Agence France-presse

 

 

 

 

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2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/17/content_37532636.htm BASKETBALL

Beijing Royal Fighters kings of the capital

The Beijing Royal Fighters continued to outperform crosstown rivals the Ducks in the CBA on Wednesday.

The Royal Fighters, coached by Ducks legend Stephon Marbury, edged to a 102-100 victory over the Shenzhen Aviators in the capital after Yang Linyi narrowly failed to grab the visitor victory by missing a last-gasp 3-point attempt.

The triumph keeps the fifth-place Royal Fighters (18-9) ahead of the Ducks (17-10), who lost 115-92 at the Qingdao Eagles.

Kyle Fogg scored a game-high 24 points for the Royal Fighters. Sun Yue added 19 points while Wang Shaojie had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

For Shenzhen, Allerik Freeman grabbed a team-high 22 points, Gu Quan contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Yang added 13 points.

RALLYING

Sainz rules in desert to stretch Dakar lead

Spanish veteran Carlos Sainz stretched his lead atop the overall Dakar Rally standings by winning the 10th stage through the dunes of Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter on Wednesday.

The 57-year-old Mini driver clocked 2 hours 3 minutes and 43 seconds on a stage shortened by high winds to a 233-kilometer special between Haradh and Shubaytah, finishing ahead of Poland's Jakub Przygonski (Mini) and South African Giniel de Villier (Toyota).

Sainz took full advantage of navigational problems by closest rivals Nasser Al-Attiyah, the defending champion, and France's 'Mr. Dakar', Stephane Peterhansel.

Peterhansel, who has won the Dakar 13 times (seven times in a car and six times on a bike), finished 11:48 off the pace, while Qatar's Al-Attiyah was further back, at 17:46. The result means Sainz, with two stages to go, now sits 18:10 ahead of Al-Attiyah and 18:26 in front of Peterhansel.

SOCCER

Barcelona closing on Brazilian teen Couto

Barcelona is poised to sign Coritiba and Brazil Under-17 right-back Yan Couto in a deal that would see the teenager arrive at Camp Nou next summer.

Coritiba will receive at least 6 million euros (around $6.7 million) for the transfer, which is expected to be confirmed within days, according to media reports in Brazil.

Couto turns 18 in June meaning he will be free to join his new teammates for preseason training in July, under UEFA rules that prevent the transfer of minors.

"We are working on two fronts. The first is to renew his contract and the second is the international transfer," said Couto's agent, Marcelo Robalinho.

Barcelona is understood to have beaten off interest in Couto's signature from Arsenal and Bayer Leverkusen.

Mbappe returns to haunt former club

Kylian Mbappe scored twice to take his season tally to 20 as the French World Cup winner shone in a 4-1 rout of his former club Monaco on Wednesday.

The victory kept PSG eight points clear at the top of Ligue 1.

Monaco came away from PSG with a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw in the French capital last weekend but failed to pose a similar threat just three days later.

Mbappe was on target in the 24th and 90th minutes, with Neymar tucking away a penalty in first-half stoppage time.

Pablo Sarabia added another in the 73rd minute, just seconds after coming on as a substitute.

"In every area, we were better than Sunday," said PSG coach Thomas Tuchel.

"It's a deserved victory, we had lots of possession."

Tuchel fielded his 'Fab Four' attack of Mbappe, Neymar, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria.

Xinhua - Agencies

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2020-01-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Chinese youngsters in hockey heaven]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532422.htm LAUSANNE-Having first picked up a hockey stick three years ago, Zhang Xinyue can't quite believe she's already chasing a gold medal in the sport at the Winter Youth Olympic Games.

On Tuesday, Zhang and her "Black" team advanced to the final of the mixed 3-on-3 competition thanks to a victory over "Team Brown".

In order to give developing hockey nations a chance to play in high-level competitions, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee have introduced the 3-on-3 event at the Lausanne Games.

"It's the first time for Chinese ice hockey players to participate in the Youth Olympic Games, and I am proud of be part of it," said Zhang.

"I've never previously played 3-on-3 but I am really enjoying it. It's so fast and exciting and just a lot of fun.

"Playing the final means a lot to me and my teammates. I hope I can win the gold and show it to my family and friends back home."

China's hockey squad at the Lausanne Games is comprised of one boy and four girls, who were all selected by the IIHF's sport department based on a series of skills tests conducted by the Chinese Ice Hockey Association.

Teaming up with 12 other players from different countries and regions, the Chinese youngsters have also been enjoying themselves off the rink.

"My English is not very good, so I have to use a translation app to communicate with my teammates," said female player Zhang Shuqi.

"But language is not a problem-my teammates taught me how to dance and we dance together!"

While Zhang was busy making new friends, compatriot Nie Xinrui was catching up with old acquaintances.

Nie, who represented China at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Under-18 Women's World Championship, saw a familiar face in her "Red" team.

"Beatrice Storesund from Norway is my best friend in this team," said Nie.

"We met each other when we played the world championship in Poland. We had a lot of fun this time."

 

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2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532486.htm SOCCER

World's oldest pro Miura renews contract

Former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura, who turns 53 next month, has renewed his contract with Yokohama FC to extend his record as the world's oldest professional soccer player.

The veteran, admiringly nicknamed "King Kazu" for his spirited on-field style, will kick off his 35th career season this year, the club announced over the weekend.

Miura, who has played for Yokohama FC since 2005, has said he won't hang up his boots until he turns 60.

He played for the club three times last season but did not find the net.

In a short statement, Miura said he was concentrating on enjoying his soccer and keeping the club in the top league. "I'll do my best to contribute to the team winning," he said.

In 2017, Miura surpassed soccer's previous professional longevity record and became the oldest player to score a competitive goal in a professional match. Both records were previously held by English legend Stanley Matthews.

Miura left Japan for Brazil in 1982, making his pro debut with Santos.

BASKETBALL

Clark hobbles out of CBA debut for Xinjiang

A suspected groin injury to Ian Clark overshadowed the Xinjiang Flying Tigers' 132-118 victory over the Fujian Sturgeons in Urumqi on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old Clark was making his CBA debut, having been sidelined four months ago by a right-hand finger injury, while Zhou Qi returned to Xinjiang's starting lineup after missing the last four games.

Clark had handed out four assists in the opening quarter as Xinjiang raced into a 21-11 lead, but hobbled off the court in pain in the second period and never returned.

Jarnell Stokes had a career-high 46 points for Xinjiang, with Zeng Lingxu adding 21 points and 11 assists for the host. Fujian's Eugene Jeter and Wang Zhelin each scored 33 points.

"We did a great job to limit the opponents' fast breaks, that's why we held on to win," said Xinjiang head coach Murat Adiljan.

NBA fines Detroit's Rose for pen throw

Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose was fined $25,000 by the NBA for tossing a pen into the stands, executive vice-president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe announced on Tuesday.

Rose threw the pen across the court and into the crowd with 37 seconds to play in Monday's 117-110 overtime loss to the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.

The incident occurred after Detroit called a timeout following a New Orleans basket. A dejected Rose walked over toward the bench and stopped near a media table. He then picked up a pen that belonged to one of the Pistons' coaching staffers and flung it to the other side of the court.

Rose had 23 points and eight assists in the contest but the Pistons lost for the 12th time in the past 15 games. He has scored 20 or more points in six straight games.

TENNIS

Doubles specialist Farah tests positive

Top-ranked doubles player Robert Farah has revealed he tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid.

Farah made the announcement on social media hours after he pulled out of the Australian Open for what he initially said were personal reasons.

Farah said the International Tennis Federation had informed him of the finding.

The 32-year-old Canada-born Colombian, who won last year's men's doubles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, said he tested positive for Boldenona, which he claimed was the result of eating Colombian meat.

"I will not be able to play at the Australian Open, an event for which I had been preparing since December," Farah wrote in remarks translated from Spanish on Twitter.

"A few hours ago the ITF informed me of the presence of Boldenona in a test that I did on October 17, 2019 in Cali."

ICE HOCKEY

Washington re-signs assists ace Backstrom

The Washington Capitals re-signed center Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year, $56 million contract on Monday.

The Swede was in the final year of a 10-year, $67 million deal signed in 2010. The new agreement carries an average annual value of $9.2 million.

Backstrom, 32, is the franchise's all-time leader in assists (668) and trails only teammate Alex Ovechkin (1,255) in points (908). The Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.

Backstrom is the only active NHL player with at least 50 assists in each of the last six seasons.

He has 26 assists and nine goals in 39 games entering Thursday's home game against the New Jersey Devils.

Drafted fourth overall by Washington in 2006, the Swedish star has scored 240 goals in 934 games since making his debut in 2007-08.

Backstrom also has 106 points (36 goals, 70 assists) in 123 playoff games.

TABLE TENNIS

Video-review tech to be used at Tokyo Olympics

Video reviews will be used in table tennis at the Tokyo Olympics, allowing players to challenge umpire decisions.

A combination of ball-tracking technology, similar to tennis, and reviews of slow-motion replays, as in top-level soccer, will be introduced at Tokyo 2020 and other major events this year, the International Table Tennis Federation said on Tuesday.

"We felt it was important to implement a new technology that will ensure a fair competition for all the athletes, empowering them to challenge any decision made by the umpire," the governing body's chief executive, Steve Dainton, said in a statement.

The technology has been officially named Table Tennis Review (TTR), and will check if the ball touched the net or the table edge, struck a player's body or if a service was legal.

 

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2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Bach to basics for teenage skier Yi]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532437.htm Teenage Chinese skier Yi Xiaoyang earned words of encouragement from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach at the Winter Youth Olympics in Switzerland on Tuesday.

As the only male skier in China's alpine team, Yi failed to finish his slalom race after making a mistake on one of the last gates.

Some consoling words from Bach just outside the finishing zone, however, helped ease the 16-year-old's frustration following the disappointment.

"Mr. Bach encouraged me to keep on going," said Yi. "He said it's a common mistake to make in a slalom race, and he hopes to see me at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing."

Yi admitted he struggled with the icy conditions on the piste at Les Diablerets resort.

"The course was akin to that of high-level races and meets, which adhere to FIS standards, but I'm not used to such conditions in my daily training," said Yi, who had just a few days training on a similar piste prior to the race.

Now, Yi plans to compete in more international races to improve his technique on icy slopes.

Yi started skiing at the age of 3, and began training as a professional two and a half years ago. He is currently the top-ranked Chinese male skier of his age group in the FIS standings.

Yi's Swiss coach Armando Stohr said his Chinese pupil is now making rapid progress and urged him to keep his performance at the Games in perspective.

"Now, Yi's race skills are growing really fast. For our Switzerland skiers, we are more familiar with a hard and icy piste, but for Yi it's just a start, so it's important he realizes this," said Stohr.

Yi finished 43rd in the giant slalom on Monday, when 24 of the 77 starters crashed, including Norway's Mikkel Remsoey and France's Auguste Aulnette, who shared the gold medal in the men's combined event.

"Really, it's a pity, but he will become strong-hearted by encountering failures," said Yi's mother.

 

Yi Xiaoyang in action during Tuesday's slalom at the Winter Youth Olympics. XINHUA

 

 

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2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Record-chasing Serena in ominous form Down Under]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532462.htm MELBOURNE-Serena Williams is back to winning ways as she looks to finally complete her long quest for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

The American has been on the cusp of history since 2017, when she won her 23rd major in Melbourne, but after returning from giving birth has suffered straight-sets defeats in four Slam finals.

The signs are good for the 38-year-old Williams, who broke a three-year title drought at last week's Auckland Classic-a result that will not have gone unnoticed by her younger rivals.

Australia's world No 1 Ashleigh Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka are among her genuine challengers, but pressure and expectation will also pose problems for Williams as she pursues the 24 Grand Slam titles won by Australian Margaret Court between 1960 and 1973.

"That was really important for me and I just want to build on it," Williams, now ranked ninth in the world, said after triumphing in Auckland on Sunday.

The former world No 1, who celebrated on court with daughter Olympia, donated her $43,000 winner's check to victims of the Australian bushfires.

Practice and qualifying have been disrupted in Melbourne this week because of toxic air pollution from the deadly fires, but organizers are confident the tournament will proceed as planned.

Williams has now won 73 WTA titles over four decades and although she is scaling back the number of tournaments she plays, there is no indication she plans to retire imminently.

Williams' latest Grand Slam final heartbreak came at the US Open, where she was stunned by Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu.

Williams-the highest-paid female athlete in the world last year with earnings close to $30 million, according to Forbes-afterwards played down her bid for Court's record.

"I'm not necessarily chasing a record," she said. "I'm just trying to win Grand Slams."

At least she will not encounter the 19-year-old Andreescu, who is out of the Australian Open with a knee injury.

Pressure on Barty

Of Williams' main rivals, Barty will also have to deal with great expectations from the Melbourne crowd.

The 23-year-old Australian, who once took time off tennis to play professional cricket, won her maiden major at Roland Garros last year.

But Barty has had a patchy start to the year after losing her season opener last week, going down in straight sets in Brisbane to American qualifier Jennifer Brady.

Afterwards, Barty dismissed the hype in Australia surrounding her.

"It doesn't change the way that I practice, it doesn't change the way that my team and I prepare, it doesn't change me as a person," Barty said.

Japan's Osaka arrives for her title defense accompanied by her fourth coach in less than a year, Belgian Wim Fissette.

The 22-year-old squandered a match point in losing to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the semifinals in Brisbane on Saturday.

The 27-year-old Pliskova goes into Melbourne under the radar but the world No 2 beat American Madison Keys in the final to close the gap on Barty at the top of the rankings.

However, she is yet to win a Grand Slam and her best appearance in a major was back in 2016, when she lost the US Open final to Germany's Angelique Kerber.

There will be added interest in Caroline Wozniacki.

The former world No 1 won her first and only Grand Slam in Melbourne two years ago and will retire after this year's tournament at the age of 29.

On Tuesday, the Dane pulled out of the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne, citing soreness.

 

Serena Williams has her hands full with daughter Olympia and another winner's trophy after beating Jessica Pegula in the Auckland Classic final in New Zealand on Sunday. AP

 

 

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2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Sun keeping his eyes on the prize]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532448.htm Sun Yang is optimistic 2020 will bring more Olympic glory as he waits for the cloud of his pending court case to lift.

On Tuesday, the 27-year-old opened the Olympic year with a narrow defeat in the Shenzhen leg of the new FINA Champions Swim Series, losing out to Lithuania's Danas Rapsys by three-hundredths of a second in the 200m freestyle.

Sun, the reigning Olympic and world champion in the event, seemed to have the gold around his neck with 50 meters to go, only for the late-surging Rapsys to overtake him and win in 1:46.50.

The result saw Rapsys avenge his final loss to Sun at last year's world championships, where the Lithuanian touched first but was later disqualified for a false start.

Sun, though, declared himself pleased with his performance, given he is in the middle of a tough winter training regime and is endeavoring to keep thoughts of the looming decision in his Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) case out of his mind.

"Today's result was actually not bad and it should be put into perspective that I am far from my best racing shape at the moment. I just approached the race as a practice," Sun told CCTV.

"I am OK with the time and I think I've done better on certain details, such as starting and turning, which I've been working on during the winter program.

"Hopefully, the hard work will pay off in March at the Olympic trials."

Sun's appearance in the new FINA series drew huge domestic media attention this week as the three-time Olympic champion had reportedly been set to skip the meet, with a CAS ruling on his doping case imminent.

At a November CAS hearing in Switzerland, Sun was accused by the World Anti-Doping Agency of failing to cooperate with doping testers at his home in September 2018. If found guilty, he faces a ban of two to eight years.

However, the 27-year-old remains optimistic that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing, with his sights firmly set on continuing his gold-winning streak at his fourth Olympics in Tokyo.

"The start of the Olympic year means something special for every athlete and I will take every possible opportunity, such as the Shenzhen meet, to gauge my training and try to improve upon each race," said Sun, who claimed the 400m and 1,500m free gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics and 200m free title at the 2016 Rio Games.

If free to compete in Tokyo, Sun will bid to add at least one more title, in either 200 or 400 free, to become the first Chinese man in history to win gold medals at three consecutive Olympic Games.

Sun said the best way of keeping his mind off the CAS ruling is to simply push harder in training every day and focus on his Tokyo preparations.

"My career goal now is to finish on top of the podium at three Olympics in a row," Sun told news portal people.cn last week after attending a pep rally for the Tokyo Games at the Chinese Olympic Committee's headquarters in Beijing.

"That will be an extremely tough challenge but I am going to enjoy the process. If I do the process right, I believe the result will take care of itself."

Citing their lack of authorization and credentials, Sun refused to cooperate with testers during an out-of-competition drug test conducted by FINA-contracted International Doping Test and Management on Sept 4, 2018 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

Sun denied any physical confrontation with the testers and maintained his innocence at the CAS hearing, a procedure triggered by WADA's appeal against an earlier FINA ruling in January 2019 which cleared Sun of any wrongdoing.

Under the shadow of the controversy, Sun competed at July's world championships in South Korea, where he won gold in the 200 and 400 free to take his long-course title total to 11 since his worlds debut in 2009.

During the meet, some foreign rivals, led by Australia's Mack Horton, who beat Sun to 400 gold at Rio 2016, snubbed the Chinese star by refusing to join him on the podium or shake his hand.

Despite Sun's close call at the Shenzhen Universiade Natatorium, there were plenty of other Chinese victories for the home fans to cheer.

The host bagged five golds on day one of the FINA series, with two-time world champion Xu Jiayu winning the men's 100m backstroke (53.01) and world-record holder Liu Xiang storming to victory in the women's 50m backstroke (27.36).

The 2020 season-opening circuit heads to Beijing for its second leg this weekend.

 

Chinese star Sun Yang reacts after losing out to Lithuania's Danas Rapsys by three-hundredths of a second in the 200m freestyle at the Shenzhen leg of the 2020 FINA Champions Swim Series on Tuesday. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

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2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA['Fierce competition' boosts biathletes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/16/content_37532470.htm China's young biathletes are confident the steep learning curve they encountered at the Winter Youth Olympic Games will benefit them in future competitions.

Ding Yuhuan, China's flag bearer for the opening ceremony, was the best-placed Chinese in Tuesday's action, the penultimate day of biathlon events, with a 34th-place finish in the women's 6-kilometer sprint.

"I've discovered what I lack compared with my opponents. I should learn from them in the coming days," said the 16-year-old.

"Competing against around 100 rivals, it felt quite fierce. I've gained experience from it, which will be a big help for me when I compete in national events."

For Ding's male counterparts, Tuesday's 7.5km sprint proved a real struggle. Shi Yuanyuan was the highest-ranked Chinese in 57th place, with teammates Gou Zhendong and Liu Zhaoyu 59th and 60th respectively.

Shi shot clean in the prone, but incurred four penalty loops in the standing section.

"After shooting perfect in the prone, I became a little impatient. The result was below my expectations," Shi said. "I kind of feel bad about it because I didn't perform to my personal-best level at the Games."

Gou misfired all his shots in the standing position, including three which hit the target next to his.

"I was just too nervous then," said Gou, who competed in three events in four days.

"I need to improve my shooting performance," he added. "I didn't find a major difference between myself and other competitors in skiing, but that wasn't the case in shooting. We have much to do on the fundamentals."

The 17-year-old Gou has set his sights on representing his country on home snow at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"I need to improve in all aspects in future training and competitions to bridge the gap. I hope to move up another level and make contributions for the team in 2022," he said.

Liu also regards the Youth Games as a stepping stone to improved performances in future.

"It's my first time competing in such a major tournament. I've gained experience from it," Liu said.

Jiang Yang, an official in charge of the team, admitted that the Chinese athletes have a long way to go to catch up with biathlon's elite nations but said there were plenty of positives to take from the Games.

"We are far behind those high-level teams on shooting accuracy," Jiang said. "But these young athletes have gained experience from international competitions, which has laid a solid foundation for their future.

"They learned technical moves from high-level opponents, and they have also made friends here, which is beneficial to their growth."

 

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2020-01-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Yang battles weather to bag bronze]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532364.htm ST. MORITZ, Switzerland-Chinese speed skater Yang Binyu won bronze in the women's 1500 meters at the Winter Youth Olympics on Lake St. Moritz on Monday.

Starting on the inner lane with eventual gold-medal winner Myrthe de Boer of the Netherlands in the final pairing, Yang clocked 2 minutes 10.93 seconds-0.49 seconds behind her Dutch rival.

Japan's Takahashi Yuka, who was paired with 500m gold medalist Isabel Grevelt of the Netherlands, claimed silver in 2:10.58.

Yang struggled with the windy conditions on the lake, with her time some five seconds slower than her personal best indoors.

"I couldn't push myself too hard in the beginning so I kept chasing in the following rounds," said Yang.

"I might have been a bit lucky to start on the outside lane today due to the wind direction but, anyway, this is an outdoor competition and everyone has to deal with it."

China's head coach Liu Kai praised Yang for giving it her best shot in the difficult conditions.

"0.49 seconds is not a huge gap in a 1500-meter race," said Liu. "Her skating pose did not help her in the wind and she had to become stronger to overcome these difficulties to reach the podium."

Yang will go for glory again in Thursday's mass start race.

In the men's 1500m, China's Sun Jiazhao clocked 1:58.10 to finish ninth. The 17-year-old couldn't hide his disappointment with the result and admitted he had not felt in peak condition during training.

"I'm feeling a bit tired and I could see how far I fell behind from those top skaters," said Sun. "The wind made me three to four seconds slower but this should not be an excuse for my poor performance."

The team sprint and mass start races will take place on Wednesday and Thursday on the natural ice rink on Lake St. Moritz.

Xinhua

Chinese speed skater Yang Binyu in action at the Winter Youth Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Monday. XINHUA

 

 

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2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA['Fantastic Four' can't mask PSG's comical defending]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532398.htm The compliments have been pouring in for a Paris Saint-Germain strike force nicknamed the Fantastic Four because of its destructive impact on oppositions defenses.

Led by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, and very ably supported by winger Angel Di Maria and prolific poacher Mauro Icardi, the quartet has notched 32 goals in the past seven games.

It's not hard to see why they are revered by fans and French media-hence the nickname. The four have been working so well together that coach Thomas Tuchel has even seen fit to leave PSG's 198-goal, all-time leading scorer Edinson Cavani on the bench.

Yet the Fantastic Four's honeymoon period could be coming to an end after Monaco spoiled the party on Sunday night with a 3-3 draw.

It was the first time for several weeks that PSG had been tested by such a quality side, and the way Monaco carved holes in the host's defense will have been noticed by PSG's next opponent in the Champions League, Borussia Dortmund.

Because, for all of PSG's undoubted attacking thrust, its defense remains glaringly fragile.

This will be a concern for Tuchel, especially since cash-rich PSG has not reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League in the last three seasons, with the German former Dortmund boss under pressure to ensure at least progress into the last eight.

The defending against Monaco, a side brimming with attacking flair yet only eighth in the French league, looked muddled, hasty and even panicky. A team with more self-belief would doubtless have come away with a victory.

Every time Monaco attacked at speed, combining with quick passes or stretching the back line by switching flanks, a sense of panic invaded a creaking PSG defense marshaled by 35-year-old Brazilian centerback Thiago Silva.

The visitor had enough chances to win, and Silva was fortunate his late handball following a Monaco corner went unpunished when a penalty appeared the correct decision.

The game produced a number of worrying stats for Tuchel. It was the first time PSG has conceded three goals this season and the first time since May 2012 that it has conceded twice inside the first 15 minutes of a league game. Monaco's 16 shots, meanwhile, was the highest allowed by PSG since October 2018.

It was not all the defense's fault, which is where Tuchel needs to be more decisive.

Playing with the Fantastic Four is very entertaining to watch but it means PSG is top-heavy in attack, which in turn impacts on the midfield and that can mean less help for the defense.

Tuchel has some thinking to do over whether to continue playing his four forwards together.

Impressive debut

Robert Moreno showed impressive tactical nous and intuition during his first league game in charge of Monaco.

Had it been a boxing contest, he would have beaten his opposite number Tuchel on points.

With his team trailing 3-2, he replaced former Arsenal and Barcelona playmaker Cesc Fabregas with ex-Leicester City striker Islam Slimani. Five minutes later, the slick Slimani equalized.

Moreno then protected the draw by hooking his best player, the French league's 14-goal top scorer Wissam Ben Yedder, and replaced him with Adrien Silva for the last 10 minutes.

Combative midfielder Silva won tackles, selflessly harried and generally put himself about, thus taking the pressure off a tired Monaco side.

By contrast, Tuchel appeared too conservative in his decision making.

Striker Icardi had a very quiet game yet Tuchel waited until the 86th minute to substitute the Argentine. When Cavani replaced Icardi in the 86th it immediately galvanized PSG, but it was too late to unsettle Monaco which had by then gained in confidence.

Moreno said he was not overawed by playing at defending champion PSG, which leads nearest rival Marseille by five points at the top of the Ligue 1 standings.

"I don't think it's a problem playing at Parc des Princes. If you want to play with style you can do that anywhere," he said on French TV. "That's what I said to my players: that we can win every game."

The teams meet again on Wednesday at Monaco's Stade Louis II.

AP Via Xinhua

From left: Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria form Paris Saint-Germain's potent attacking quartet. AP/REUTERS

 

 

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2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532365.htm SOCCER

Valverde fired, Setien hired at Barcelona

Barcelona replaced Ernesto Valverde with former Real Betis manager Quique Setien on Monday in a rare mid-season coaching change for the Catalan giant.

The move came four days after Barca's loss to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals. Barca leads La Liga on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid and is through to the Champions League last 16, where it will face Napoli next month. Former Barca players Xavi and Ronald Koeman were also linked with the job.

Spaniard Setien, 61, is known for playing an attacking brand of soccer. He led Betis to wins over Barca, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid last season before being fired at the end of the campaign.

"Throughout his career he has been a proponent of possession-based, attacking football that has been attractive to the fans," Barcelona said in statement.

Valverde is the first manager to be fired by Barcelona mid-season since Louis van Gaal was dismissed in January 2003.

Veron insists he has no beef with Maradona

Former Manchester United midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron has played down reports of his supposed feud with Diego Maradona and wished the Argentina legend well in his role as head coach of Gimnasia.

"Relationships always change. I will always respect Maradona the player for what he gave me in my adolescence," Veron told reporters on Monday.

"Everything he says and does has no impact on me. I wish him well with Gimnasia and hope he saves them from relegation because it's very important for the city (La Plata)."

Veron and Maradona were both teammates at Boca Juniors in the 1990s. They were reunited with Argentina's national team from 2008 to 2010 when Maradona was head coach and Veron was at the end of his playing career.

However, the pair fell out in 2016 over a disagreement related to the running of the Argentine Football Association. Later that year they had a heated verbal exchange on the pitch during a charity match in Rome.

BASKETBALL

Clark's return boosts Xinjiang's title chase

Former New Orleans Pelicans guard Ian Clark is replacing Kay Felder as the Xinjiang Flying Tigers' international player, the CBA club announced on Monday night.

Clark is renowned for his 3-point shooting ability. He averaged 6.7 points in 16.2 minutes last season for the Pelicans before moving to Xinjiang.

The 29-year-old has been sidelined for four months after injuring a finger in training.

Clark, who was due to make his CBA debut against the Fujian Sturgeons on Tuesday, is a welcome addition for second-place Xinjiang as it chases the defending champion Guangdong Southeast Tigers at the top of the standings.

ICE HOCKEY

Women's 3-on-3 added to NHL All-Star game

Women's national team players representing the United States and Canada will compete in a 3-on-3 event at the NHL All-Star game in St. Louis in two weeks' time, a source said on Monday.

The source spoke to Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the NHL isn't scheduled to make an announcement until later this week. ESPN.com first reported the development on Sunday night.

It's unclear when the scrimmage will be held during the weekend of festivities. The All-Star game, featuring a series of 3-on-3 games, is Jan 25, a day after the skills competition.

The addition of a women's 3-on-3 game is seen as the latest step in the league's bid to promote women's hockey.

BASEBALL

Astros fire managers over cheating scandal

Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow have both been fired following their suspension for a cheating scandal, team owner Jim Crane said on Monday.

Crane confirmed the dismissals of the duo shortly after Major League Baseball announced 45-year-old Hinch and 53-year-old Luhnow had been suspended for the entire 2020 season for sign-stealing during the Astros' 2017 World Series-winning campaign.

"I have higher standards for the city and the franchise, and I am going above and beyond the MLB's penalty," Crane told a media conference on Monday.

"Today I have made the decision to dismiss AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow. We need to move forward with a clean slate. We will not have this happen again on my watch."

Crane, who was cleared of any knowledge of the cheating scandal in an MLB report released on Monday, said he was "very upset" by the revelations.

Xinhua - Agencies

 

 

]]> 2020-01-15 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Savvy Zahavi shines bright]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532372.htm When media or fans reel off the names of the Chinese Super League's biggest stars, Eran Zahavi rarely gets a mention.

That could be construed as more than a little strange considering the Israeli holds the CSL's single-season scoring record and has twice won the league's Golden Boot award.

But as the CSL ushers in a more frugal, less superstar-focused era with the introduction of a new 3 million euros ($3.3 million) foreign-player salary cap, the 32-year-old Zahavi is hoping he will finally get the credit he deserves.

With a record 29 goals in 28 CSL appearances last season, the Guangzhou R&F hotshot is mightily proud of outgunning the league's priciest imports.

"This is a very special league, because many players with very high quality have come to China and they haven't been able to reach the level they expected," said Zahavi in an interview with China Global Television Network last weekend.

"I think the challenge is quite tough on a mental level. You always need to work hard and things don't come easy. The level is not the same as England or Italy, but it's not easy to score goals here. When you play with better players, it's easier to score goals than players with less quality.

"You need to be really intelligent and patient to understand the game and analyze the Chinese league. You need to wait for your moment and be sharp and ready all the time... You need to be good with your teammates-don't criticize them too much and support them to show them a good example."

The much-traveled Zahavi started his career at Hapoel Tel Aviv after coming through the club's youth ranks. His sparkling form in his native country earned him a move to Italian minnow Palermo in 2011 and a year later he returned home to join Maccabi Tel Aviv before R&F came calling in 2016.

Zahavi arrived in Guangzhou as a virtual unknown and for a relatively modest transfer fee reported to be in the region of 7 million euros ($8 million). However, he quickly caught the attention of fans by netting on his debut off the bench.

The goals haven't stopped flowing for Zahavi since. He finished the 2017 season as the CSL's top scorer with 27 goals before breaking Elkeson's 28-goal all-time single-season record (set in 2014) last term-an achievement all the more impressive considering R&F finished the campaign in 12th spot.

"I almost broke the CSL record in my first full season when I scored 27 goals, and the record was 28," said Zahavi.

"From that time, it was my first priority. It's very difficult to try to be better if you don't have a target in your mind. So I always try to find the next target."

Now the Israeli is aiming to bag some silverware for R&F.

"Of course the personal target is really nice to achieve, but team titles are much more satisfying," Zahavi added. "Your teammates will feel really special and they will be part of the achievement. I believe we can do much better and we deserve much better."

The muted response to Zahavi's Golden Boot triumph last season was in stark contrast to the fanfare that greeted Chinese striker Wu Lei's top-scoring feat the previous year.

Wu's 27 goals ultimately earned him a move from Shanghai SIPG to Spanish top-flight outfit Espanyol, where the China international has defied expectations to make a name for himself in Europe.

As much as Wu's progress has lifted the spirits of long-suffering Chinese soccer supporters, CSL fans have been left craving a new homegrown hotshot to cheer.

Last season, Guangzhou Evergrande's Wei Shihao was the only Chinese player to feature among the CSL's top 20 scorers.

The Chinese Football Association last week said it hoped the new regulations on foreign players will help the scoring chart return to its pre-2012 appearance, when about half of the top 20 were Chinese.

"Many teams have been dependent on foreign players in their forward lines," said Liu Yi, the CFA's secretary-general.

"The midfielders simply need to get the ball and pass to the foreign strikers. So we have to restrict the importation of the priciest foreign players.

"It's important to have the 3 million euros salary cap, because too many big-money foreign strikers means the disappearance of domestic strikers."

 

Eran Zahavi has outshone many of the Chinese Super League's priciest imports, with the Israeli striker breaking the league's single-season scoring record last term with 29 goals for Guangzhou R&F. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Plucky pensioners pursue their passion for pucks]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532370.htm SHENYANG, Liaoning province-The thawing ice signals the end of another hockey season for 69-year-old Wang Daming and his friends at their local park in Shenyang.

"This winter is shorter, so we have had less time to play hockey. The only thing we can do is to wait for the next winter," said Wang.

"The youngest one in our team is 56 or 57 years old, and the oldest one is 74. Most of us work or worked as factory workers, and we have others who were professors, policemen and technical engineers."

Without boards, goals and a smooth surface, Wang and his buddies rely on their smarts and ingenuity to overcome their lack of facilities and enjoy the sport they love here every winter.

For such an elderly bunch, their skills on the ice are something to behold-although perhaps not for Wang's wife.

"I focus fully on playing ice hockey every winter. My wife asked me to go to Hainan with her for winter and my son-in-law wanted to take me to Chengdu, but I said that I am not going. Shenyang is the only place that I will stay at in winter," Wang said.

Hailing from winter sports stronghold Heilongjiang province, Wang is no stranger to icy pursuits.

"I grew up in an ice hockey family in Heilongjiang. My three younger brothers served for the Mudanjiang professional team in their youth and their best finish was second at the National Games of the People's Republic of China," said Wang proudly.

"If a national family ice hockey game was ever staged, my family would definitely take the championship."

But with the ice disappearing for another year, Wang must now content himself with watching games from North America's National Hockey League via a CCTV app, which his son-in-law helped him install on his phone.

In two years' time, he hopes that a new generation of his family get the hockey bug, with Wang planning to take his grandson to watch the action at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Xinhua

A group of pensioners hold a team talk ahead of one of their regular hockey games in Shenyang, Liaoning province. PAN YULONG/XINHUA

 

 

A makeshift ice rink in a Shenyang park has become a winter playground for a group of hockey-mad pensioners, who range in age from 56 to 74 years old. PAN YULONG/XINHUA

 

 

A makeshift ice rink in a Shenyang park has become a winter playground for a group of hockey-mad pensioners, who range in age from 56 to 74 years old. PAN YULONG/XINHUA

 

 

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2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Barcelona leapfrogs Madrid in 'Money League']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/15/content_37532397.htm LONDON-Barcelona has overtaken Real Madrid to top the Deloitte Football Money League for the first time and become the first club to break the 800 million euros ($890 million) revenue barrier.

The 23rd edition of the table shows an 11 percent rise in combined revenues, excluding transfer fees, for the top 20 clubs who enjoyed combined turnover of a record 9.3 billion euros for the 2018-19 season.

Real Madrid has dropped to second, generating income of 757.3 million euros, while Manchester United remains third.

Arsenal has slipped out of the top 10 for the first time.

Barcelona's rise to the top with income of 840 million euros is a clear sign of "a club adapting to changing market conditions" by bringing merchandising and licensing activities in-house, according to Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

"Barca has reduced the reliance on broadcast revenue and is focusing on growing revenues within its control," he said.

"With the club expecting further growth of 30 million euros in commercial revenues and total revenue of almost 880 million in 2019-20 we expect them to retain the top spot next year.

"Barca is on course to achieve its stated ambition to be the first one billion Money League club in years to come."

Bayern Munich remains in fourth position, with Paris Saint-Germain entering the top five ahead of Manchester City.

Champions League winner Liverpool is seventh, one place ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, which the Reds beat in the final.

Tottenham's 521.1 million euros income pushes it ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal, making it London's highest revenue-generating club for the first time since the 1996-97 season.

Once again the Premier League's eye-watering television broadcast deals have enabled it to dominate the Money League with eight clubs inside the top 20.

Spain's La Liga and Germany's Bundesliga both have three, while Italy's Serie A has four. Juventus is the highest-placed Serie A club, in 10th, while the Turin giant's domestic rival Napoli has moved into the top 20.

Juve's revenue increased 17 percent to 459.7 million euros, helped by the arrival of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. PSG and Lyon are the only representatives of France's Ligue 1 on the list.

While Jones says revenue growth in Europe's big soccer leagues continues to outpace other sectors, mainly because of broadcasting rights, there is a marked concentration of increase at the top-the combined revenue of the top five clubs is greater than the combined total of the clubs ranked 10th to 20th.

"What is notable in this edition of the Money League is the apparent continuing emergence of 'mini-leagues' within the Money League," he said. "The largest revenue-generating clubs continue to pull away from the rest."

The highest-ranked club outside the big five leagues is the Netherlands' Ajax, in 23rd place.

Reuters

 

 

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2020-01-15 00:00:00
<![CDATA[China facing up to terrible treble]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/14/content_37532198.htm China's quest to widen its international sporting prowess has hit a "big-ball" bump after defeats in volleyball and soccer left the nation facing up to an embarrassing triple whammy of Olympic qualification failures.

Just two weeks into the Olympic year, China's men's volleyball and soccer teams saw Tokyo tickets slip from their grasp at their respective 2020 Olympic qualifying tournaments, with the nation's men's basketball squad widely expected to follow suit at their qualifying event in June.

At the AFC Under-23 Championship in Thailand on Sunday, a 2-0 defeat to Uzbekistan ended China's hopes of booking a spot in the men's soccer tournament in Tokyo. Combined with an opening 1-0 loss to South Korea, the result means China cannot emerge from its group to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament, where only the top three finishers earn qualification for the Tokyo Games.

China has competed at the Olympics' soccer tournament twice-in 1988 in South Korea and in 2008 in Beijing.

About two hours earlier, China's men's volleyball team also missed out on the Games-for the first time since competing as host in 2008-by losing 3-0 to Iran in the final of the Asian zone qualifying event in Jiangmen, Guangdong province.

China's men's basketball team look set to complete a hat-trick of failures in June when it faces global heavyweights Canada, Greece and Turkey at a six-team qualifying tournament where just one Tokyo spot is up for grabs.

China's hoopsters find themselves in this predicament because of their failure to emerge from their group at last year's FIBA World Cup, where Iran secured Asia's only direct Olympic berth.

Gou Zhongwen, director of the General Administration of Sport of China, has said raising China's performances in the three so-called "big-ball games" is a priority for the country's central and regional sports authorities.

"By investigating challenges at the grassroots level, learning from the experiences of elite programs in other countries and hearing suggestions from all levels, we should build long-term development projects suited to our country's own conditions to improve performances in big-ball games as soon as possible," Gou said at a meeting of sports bureau chiefs last month in Beijing.

Since dominating the 2008 Olympics' medal table with 51 golds (with three in weightlifting stripped in 2017 for doping violations), China has shifted its sporting focus from maintaining supremacy in events it excels at-such as table tennis, badminton and gymnastics-to making breakthroughs in sports that are more popular worldwide-such as swimming, athletics and the big-ball games.

A series of reforms in domestic leagues in recent years have failed to yield instant results, with observers warning that greater attention needs to be paid to grassroots investment.

"Without breakthroughs at high-profile big-ball events, China will not cement its status as a global sporting power, even though we have won a lot of medals," said Yang Hua, a sports sociology professor and former president of Beijing Sport University.

"The development of these kinds of sports takes years of effort in building a pyramid system connecting grassroots participation with top leagues. There is no shortcut."

Waves of online outrage invariably follow China's sporting failures. However, national team soccer player Gao Lin last week urged the public to put the disappointments in perspective.

"If China had 10,000 players as good as I am at the moment, the level of our soccer team would've been much better than now and I wouldn't be worthy of so much money as I am paid," Gao told Soccer News.

The lack of grassroots participation and shortcomings in youth training should instead be held accountable, Gao stressed.

Despite being a lucrative destination for foreign players, soccer's Chinese Super League consistently fails to develop enough talent for the national program, with the majority of investment directed toward luring big-name imports rather than nursing homegrown talents.

The Chinese Basketball Association has been guilty of a similar reliance on foreigners to the detriment of its young hoopsters, underlined by the host's FIBA World Cup debacle last year.

Aimed at curbing excessive spending on foreign imports and providing local talents more minutes in league matches, both the CSL and CBA have introduced salary caps to further limit the use of imported players starting from next season.

The CBA has also been expanding its summer league since the tournament's debut in 2017 to involve more players who have been developed from youth programs, such as the collegiate system and regional amateur leagues.

Hoops legend Yao Ming, who was voted CBA chairman in early 2017, said the governing body won't compromise on its commitment to build a solid foundation for the sport despite the national program's disappointments in 2019.

"Only by improving the quality of the league can we develop more talent for the national program. The poor performance of the national team at the World Cup won't discourage us to keep building our league in the right way," Yao told Xinhua on Sunday during the CBA All Star Weekend in Guangzhou.

 

Team China basketball players struggle to come to terms with defeat to Venezuela at the FIBA World Cup on Sept 4 last year in Beijing. The loss left China with an almost impossible task of reaching this summer's Tokyo Olympics via a tough qualifying tournament. XINHUA
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2020-01-14 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Djokovic downplaying Melbourne expectations]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/14/content_37532199.htm SYDNEY-Defending champion Novak Djokovic said there are no clear favorites for next week's Australian Open despite his flying start to the season.

The world No 2 was in fine touch at the ATP Cup, leading Serbia to victory in the new men's team event as it overpowered Davis Cup champion Spain in the final in the early hours of Monday.

Djokovic's march included wins over rising Canadian star Denis Shapovalov, world No 5 Daniil Medvedev and the top-ranked Rafael Nadal.

Despite last week's triumphs and his dominance at Melbourne Park, where he has won the season-opening Grand Slam seven times since 2008, Djokovic said there were plenty of players capable of being crowned champion.

"Look, the last hard-court Grand Slam was in New York, and Rafa won it," he said of the US Open final where Nadal edged Medvedev in five sets.

"So, you know, I think it's really open, the Australian Open or any other Slam.

"I don't think there are really clear favorites. You have obviously Federer, Nadal, myself because of the experience and everything and the rankings that we get to be probably named the top three favorites.

"But then you have Medvedev, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem that are really showing some amazing tennis."

Djokovic pointed to the season-ending ATP Finals in London where Tsitsipas battled back from a set down to beat Thiem.

"They showed that they matured on the big stage, that they can challenge the best players in the world and win against them," he said.

"So everybody keeps on talking about a NextGen player winning a Slam. You know, it seems like it's getting closer. Hopefully not this year. We'll see."

Djokovic hugely enjoyed the ATP Cup, a different start to how he usually begins his season, reveling in the team spirit and the thousands of Serbians in the crowd, who chanted, sang and recreated the atmosphere of a soccer stadium.

He called it the "perfect preparation" for a tilt at an eighth title at the Australian Open, which starts on Jan 20.

"I didn't know what to expect from the event. Obviously I didn't know how deep we would go and I was hoping we would pass the group stages and see how it goes," he said.

"But these kind of team competitions are really, truly special, and I'm personally over the cloud with my emotions, and hopefully I can take that positive energy and use it for Australian Open."

Rafa wants merger

Nadal renewed his call on Sunday for the new ATP Cup to merge with the Davis Cup, urging tennis chiefs to fix it "for the health of our sport".

The inaugural 24-team ATP Cup, played in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth in a revamped start to the season, has proved a hit with many players and fans.

But it took place just six weeks after the new-look Davis Cup in Madrid, won by Nadal's Spain, which also has countries competing against each other in a round-robin format.

Last week's event was run by the men's tour, the Association of Tennis Professionals, while the Davis Cup is run by the International Tennis Federation.

Nadal, along with Djokovic, believe the tournaments are too close together.

"I think it (the ATP Cup) is a great competition, but at the same time I can't change my mind that two World Cups in one month is not real," said Nadal after he lost in straight sets to Djokovic 6(4) in the ATP Cup final.

"It is not possible. We need to find a way to fix it and we need to find a way to make a big deal with ITF and ATP to create a big World Team Cup competition, not two World Cups.

"I think that's a confusion for the spectators, and we need to be clear in our sport. And for the health of our sport and for the benefit of our sport, in my opinion, it is mandatory that we fix it."

The issue of merging the two was first mooted by Shapovalov this month and backed by Djokovic, who heads the ATP players' council.

"We need to have one Super World Cup event, whatever you want to call it," he said.

"That's not going to happen next year as well. But if the two sides, the ITF, the Davis Cup, and the ATP get together very quickly, it can happen possibly for 2022.

"I hope it will happen because it's kind of hard to get top players to commit to play both events."

Asked when would be the best time to hold a combined event, Nadal was non-committal.

"I can't tell you my real opinion, because it will not make sense today. And it's not that easy. It needs a little bit of a longer conversation."

But he did hint that holding such a grueling competition at the start of the year was not ideal.

"It's a long competition. It's a tough way to start the season. I don't know."

 

Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns to Spain's Rafael Nadal during their singles match in the ATP Cup final at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday. Djokovic overpowered long-time rival Nadal 6-2, 7-6(4) to lead Serbia to victory in the inaugural tournament, capping a perfect buildup to his Australian Open title defense. REUTERS

 

 

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2020-01-14 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Super League sacrificing pulling power for prudence]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/14/content_37532253.htm The Chinese Super League has been an attractive destination for some of the biggest names in world soccer in recent years, but now its free-spending days look over.

The likes of Carlos Tevez, Oscar, Ramires, Hulk, Javier Mascherano, Marek Hamsik and Marko Arnautovic have all ditched Europe's major leagues for the CSL, and last summer superstar Gareth Bale looked like following in their footsteps.

Real Madrid ultimately pulled the plug on that deal, and now the chances of Bale reviving the move seem slim to none after the Chinese Football Association last month introduced a salary cap of 3 million euros ($3.3 million) after tax on foreign players.

No longer being able to attract the game's biggest names is sure to affect the CSL's marketability. However, sacrificing some of the league's pulling power in favor of a more stable and sustainable financial environment is a compromise the CFA is willing to make-especially considering the influx of foreign talent has done little to improve the national team's fortunes, with China failing to qualify for the World Cup since its debut appearance in 2002.

"We conducted a survey which found that most of our clubs spend 60 to 80 percent of their money on foreign imports," said Liu Yi, the CFA's secretary-general at a workshop to discuss the new regulations in Shanghai last week.

"The salary cap on foreign players will be the most effective method to help the clubs to deflate their financial bubbles.

"Many teams have been dependent on foreign players in their forward lines. The Chinese midfielders simply need to get the ball and pass to the foreign strikers. So we have to restrict the importation of the priciest foreign players."

The CFA also revealed in Shanghai that it plans to strictly enforce the new cap with the aid of governmental guidance.

"We are working with the Ministry of Public Security and the State Taxation Administration and invite them to help us with the financial supervision," Liu added. "Without implementation and supervision, a policy will be meaningless."

While the salary cap is undoubtedly set to limit the kinds of foreign players clubs can target in the transfer market, the CSL is keen to stress it is not designed to cut the number of foreigners plying their trade in the top flight.

Indeed, foreign-player quotas have actually been increased-next season, CSL clubs will be permitted to register six foreigners, with five of those eligible in match-day squads (up from four last term) and four allowed on the pitch at any one time (up from three last year).

The CFA hopes the changes strike the right balance between quality and quantity to allow Chinese clubs to maintain their competitiveness in Asia's AFC Champions League.

"With one more foreign player, league matches will be more competitive with a quicker pace," said Liu. "What matters is that it will help our domestic players to level up their strength in a more competitive environment... many Asian leagues use more foreign players than we do."

It remains to be seen how the salary cap will immediately affect the CSL's biggest imports-such as Shanghai SIPG duo Hulk and Oscar, who arrived for fees of around 58.5 million euros and 60 million euros in 2016 and '17 respectively.

And while fans should not be expecting the likes of Bale, who earns a reported 14 million euros a year at Madrid, in a Jiangsu Suning or Beijing Guo'an shirt next term, 3 million euros in wages should still be enough to lure some lesser lights to China.

According to the 2019 Global Sports Salaries Survey, published by the Sporting Intelligence, the average salary in the English Premier League was almost $4 million while the median salary was $2.9 million.

And while Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are not afraid to splash the cash with average salaries of around $12.3 million and $11 million respectively, La Liga's average wages worked out at a relatively modest $2.5 million, with a median salary of about $980,000.

"The CFA's new policy is designed to encourage CSL clubs to invest more sensibly and nurture more young domestic soccer talent," said Chinese soccer commentator Yuan Ye. "The 3 million euros salary cap for foreign players should be good enough and allow clubs to sign the top players in Asia.

"Many of the foreign players in the South Korean and Japanese toptier leagues normally earn 2 to 3 million dollars. We don't need the world's top-level players in the CSL."

With less focus on the big-name foreigners, it's hoped young domestic talent will have a better chance to shine.

Last week's CFA discussion in Shanghai highlighted that about half of the top-20 scorers in the CSL prior to 2012 were Chinese.

That number has dropped to one or two in recent years, but the CFA reckons its new measures can lay the foundations for a new generation of Chinese strikers to step up and hit the net.

"Before 2012, we nurtured a group of great Chinese strikers such as Li Yi, but then we imported more and more super strikers who became the core players of Chinese clubs," said Liu. "The quality and quantity of domestic strikers dropped dramatically."

 

Shanghai SIPG's Brazilian attacker Oscar remains the Chinese Super League's most expensive import at a reported fee of around 60 million euros. XINHUA

 

 

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2020-01-14 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Wristy business spoils Liu's history bid]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/13/content_37532118.htm Liu Siyun played through the pain until her dad's sensible intervention saw history narrowly elude the rising star.

The 20-year-old amateur was last week on course to become the first female to earn status of any kind on a PGA Tour-sanctioned circuit.

Liu was 19th after the second round of the PGA Tour Series-China's qualifying tournament at Foison Golf Club in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, with the top 15 players on Friday earning cards for the circuit's 2020 season and places 16-45 receiving conditional status.

However, with the pain of a wrist injury becoming unbearable during her third round, Liu decided to call it quits on her father's advice.

"I tried to push through. I didn't think I would be able to finish today, and my dad told me to stop. Even after taking two sets of ibuprofen, I still had a lot of pain, but I wanted to finish the round and see," she said.

"Injuries have been a nagging problem since the very beginning of my career.

"Sometimes I have to have pain killers to finish a tournament. The most serious injury was a torn wrist ligament which sidelined me for three months. I'm used to injuries."

The China series is one of the PGA Tour's developmental tours, with the top five players at the end of the season earning promotion to the Korn Ferry Tour-the gateway to the PGA Tour proper.

Playing with the men didn't phase Liu at all.

"Honestly, it's not as different as I thought it would be," said the Shanghai native, who played off the same tees as the men.

"Everyone hits it so much farther than I do, that's for sure, and I expected that, but I was just playing my own game because I know that everyone else is kind of playing a different golf course than I am doing. It helps me relax."

Liu is currently a senior student at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. After receiving treatment for her wrist, she will return to the US to resume her studies and play in university team the Demon Deacons' spring tournaments.

"We were so close to winning the national championship last year, so my goal this year is to definitely try to win the team championship," said Liu who was a key part of Wake Forest's NCAA runner-up squad last season.

"Since my main reason for playing this tournament was to prepare for my spring (college) season, and with advice from my dad, I decided to retire," she said.

"I really wanted to play, and it's been very exciting, but I didn't want my arm to hurt so much that if affects my spring season. I'm the captain, and I need to play for the team."

Liu first picked up a golf club as a 6-year-old during a family vacation in Hainan province and played in her first tournament just two months later.

Now, she has the LPGA Tour in her sights and has not ruled out taking another shot at joining the men on the PGA Tour-Series China.

"If I have any chance in the 2020 season, I would love to play on PGA Tour China. If I can get a sponsor's exemption or play in a Monday qualifier to earn a spot, I would definitely play here again," she said.

"My main goal right now is to try to qualify for LPGA events, but I really like the PGA Tour-Series China, and it would be fun to play some tournaments here."

And despite injury putting a dampener on her potentially historic weekend, Liu was still focusing on the positives.

"The PGA Tour-Series China is like a big family. Everyone is very friendly and I love playing here," she said. "The layout of the course is a bit more challenging for female players, but I really enjoyed the experience and the atmosphere of the competition."

 

Liu Siyun tracks a drive during last week's PGA Tour Series-China Q-School at Foison Golf Club in Guangzhou. CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2020-01-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Jiang tops qualifying in Guangzhou]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/13/content_37532145.htm Rutgers University senior Jiang Zhijie shot a closing-round 73 to secure a one-shot, wire-to-wire, victory over Wang Yichen at the PGA Tour Series-China qualifying tournament in Guangzhou on Friday.

After an opening 66, Jiang carded rounds of 71-69 to hold a commanding five-shot advantage with one round to play at Foison Golf Club.

Wang came close to catching Jiang at the end after making five consecutive birdies on the back nine that helped him shoot a closing 64 but Jiang prevailed with a 5-under total.

The top 15 finishers all earned full status for the 2020 season, while those in positions 16 through 45 picked up conditional membership status.

Amateur Tang Junyi shot a 68 to take third, at 2-under, four ahead of Li Yaqiao (75), Aaron Du (73) and Pu Xi (74).

Sixteen-year-old Pu was the youngest player in the field.

Guan Tianlang, who made headlines when he made the cut at the 2013 Masters and Zurich Classic of New Orleans at age 14, tied for 10th after rounds of 72-71-72-79.

Despite having full status, Jiang is excited to return to New Jersey for his final semester as he hopes to help his team reach new heights.

He will turn pro following the conclusion of the college season.

"My game is good, and it's a nice little confidence boost going back to college," said Jiang.

University of Arizona sophomore Guan, who holds the PGA Tour record for youngest player to make a cut, said: "It feels pretty good to get full status. I didn't really play my best today but I got the job done.

"There's a good chance I might play the season-opener in Sanya. I think I will turn pro soon. I might also balance schoolwork and play professional events."

 

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2020-01-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/13/content_37532119.htm OLYMPICS

Competitive instinct inspiring IOC's Zhang

Zhang Hong may have hung up her skates a few years ago but the sporting impulse continues to permeate her life.

"The sports spirit has guided me through difficult times, whether in competition or in life," said the 2014 Olympic champion speed skater following a questions-and-answers session at the ongoing Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"I feel that the sports spirit has been with me and will influence my entire life. For example, when I started to learn English two years ago, I couldn't remember all the words. Then I pushed myself as hard as I would in athletic training. I set small objectives and tried step by step, and it worked."

Zhang was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee in 2018, and describes her job as "very busy and requiring a lot of learning".

With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics fast approaching, Zhang has backed China to put on a superb show.

"We will surprise the world in two years," said the 31-year-old.

SKELETON

China's Geng makes breakthrough in France

China won its first ever skeleton World Cup medal on Friday when Geng Wenqiang bagged bronze in La Plagne, France.

The 24-year-old shared third place with 2018 Olympic champion Yun Sung-bin of South Korea, with the pair both 1.39 seconds behind winner Alexander Tretiakov of Russia.

Tretiakov clocked a track-record 59.28 seconds to beat Latvia's Martins Dukurs, the previous track-record holder, by 0.37 seconds. China's Yan Wengang ranked 15th.

Russia's Elena Nikitina won the women's race in 1:01.35, with Austrian Janine Flock taking silver and Germany's Jacqueline Loelling claiming bronze. China's Lin Huiyang finished 19th.

WUSHU

China wins annual Sanda championship

China beat Egypt to retain the Horus Wushu Sanda Championship title in Cairo on Saturday.

The annual competition was organized by the Chinese Embassy's Cultural Center in the Egyptian capital in cooperation with the wushu associations of both countries.

This year, each team was comprised of eight male and two female athletes, with China roared on to a 6-4 victory by a sizable contingent of spectators from Cairo's Chinese community.

The championship was attended by Egyptian Youth and Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhy, Chinese ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang, Chinese Cultural Counselor to Egypt Shi Yuewen and a number of Egyptian officials.

China's coach, Wu Wenjun, said wushu's recent inclusion in the 2022 Youth Olympic Games necessitated more such exchanges. "This kind of martial art has become recognized at the Youth Olympics, so we have an obligation to make this sport more popular," Wu told Xinhua.

DIVING

Governing body draws on ex-champs' expertise

The China Diving Association (CDA) was established in Beijing on Saturday, with Olympic great Zhou Jihong elected as chairwoman.

"We will work on the further development of diving and try to maintain our fighting momentum to reach high standards," said Zhou, who won women's 10m platform gold at the 1984 Olympics.

China's 'Dream Team' has won 40 gold medals over the last nine Olympics, with the CDA keen to draw on that expertise as it seeks to continue the country's dominance of the sport. 2004 Athens Games winner Hu Jia is one of the CDA's four vice-presidents.

"We will try to carry on our diving spirit with dedication, self-motivation and teamwork. At the same time, we will promote the development of the sport based on its own characteristics and make our sport more popular in China," said Hu.

ATHLETICS

Kipsang suspended for 'whereabouts failure'

Kenyan marathon runner Wilson Kipsang has been handed a temporary suspension by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for anti-doping breaches.

The former world-record holder has been banned from competing "for whereabouts failures and tampering" until his hearing has taken place, the AIU said in a statement issued on Friday evening.

Anti-doping regulations demand that athletes inform testing authorities of their whereabouts for a onehour window of every day. Three failures in 12 months leads to an automatic ban.

Kipsang's management team, Volare Sports Running, dismissed the suspension and said: "The accusation regarding alleged/attempted tampering concerns an explanation that was given in the results management process regarding a possible whereabouts failure and does not concern tampering with a doping test itself."

Kipsang is the sixth fastest marathon runner of all time (2 hours 3 minutes and 13 seconds) but has not won over the distance since 2018.

BASKETBALL

Harden passes 20,000 points as Rockets roar

James Harden scored 32 points in three quarters to surpass the 20,000 mark and the Houston Rockets rolled to a 139-109 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

Houston led by double figures for most of the game and used a huge run in the third quarter to put it out of reach and bounce back after a lopsided loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday night.

Harden is the 45th player in NBA history, and the seventh-youngest, to reach 20,000 points. He entered the game 10 points away and reached the milestone in fitting fashion, on a step-back 3-pointer midway through the second quarter. He also had 12 rebounds and eight assists.

Already without Clint Capela because of a bruised heel, the Rockets lost fellow starter PJ Tucker early in the first quarter when he fell hard on his right shoulder. However, Houston was just fine without them thanks to another big game from Harden and a 30-point performance by Russell Westbrook.

 

Wilson Kipsang

 

 

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2020-01-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Hoops legends come along for the slide]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/13/content_37532123.htm Two former NBA All Stars found sliding stones a lot more difficult than shooting hoops as they endeavored to get to grips with the sport of curling in Beijing last Friday.

Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo were renowned for extending themselves to grab rebounds and block shots in their prime, but stooping down to glide stones across the ice proved a stretch too far for the towering duo.

And that was even with the help of China's 2009 world champion team skipper Wang Bingyu.

Despite their wayward efforts, the crash course piqued the basketball greats' interest in the sport.

"I think that's one of the best experiences that will stay in my memory for the rest of my life," Mutombo, a Hall of Famer who played on six NBA teams before retiring in 2009, told China Daily at 2022 Winter Olympics venue Shougang Industrial Park on Friday.

"We appreciate Wang, who tried to teach me the game and the fundamentals and gave me all the advice she can.

"For me to be able to become a champion student is always a good experience," added the 7-foot-2 Congolese-American, who won NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times (1995, '97,'98 and 2001).

Mourning and Mutombo were guests at Shougang's National Winter Sports Training Center, where they observed Chinese curlers train and learned the rules from Wang. Later, they struggled to keep their balance as they fired stones toward the target area, or the "house"-which is about five times longer than the distance between the basket and the NBA 3-point line.

Mourning, a seven-time All Star, said that Wang's hands-on tutelage had sparked his interest in the sport

"She is a world champion and an amazing host. She made me and Dikembe feel very welcome," said the 49-year-old, who was on the Miami Heat's 2005-06 NBA championship-winning team.

"Curling is pretty fun and it's much tougher to play than it seems."

As China's most recognized curling star, Wang shot to prominence in 2009 by leading the nation to glory at the women's world championship in South Korea, before skippering the squad to a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The 35-year-old, known as "Betty" in the curling community, retired from competition after the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and is now busy in her new role as the sport's program director for the Beijing 2022 Games.

"It's my pleasure to introduce curling to two such famous basketball stars, who are probably the most unexpected visitors to this facility so far," said Wang.

"It's really a fun interaction and hopefully more people can get to know the sport through what they've experienced."

Curling is contested between two teams of four players (or two in mixed doubles) who take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones across sheets of ice toward the house with the aim of placing their rocks as close to the mark as possible.

After their curling experience, Mutombo and Mourning visited the Beijing 2022 organizing committee's headquarters at Shougang Industrial Park to learn more about the logistics and venues of the Games before hanging out with fans at a basketball game played by committee staff.

Leaving the park impressed by its transformation from an old steel mill into a winter sports hub, both Mutombo and Mourning put a return to the Chinese capital as Winter Olympics spectators on their to-do lists.

"Just going to the simulation center, where I got a chance to see where the city, the highway and all the resorts will be, it made me become more interested in Beijing 2022," said Mutombo.

"Maybe I will bring my wife and kids to visit the Games. I am not going to participate because they don't have the shoe size of 22 for me to fill it! But I would love to come and see it."

 

Former NBA stars Alonzo Mourning (right) and Dikembe Mutombo try their hand at curling at the National Winter Sports Training Center at Shougang Industrial Park in Beijing last Friday. CHINA DAILY
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2020-01-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[PGA Tour Series-China to tee off in Hainan as 2020 schedule revealed]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/13/content_37532122.htm The PGA Tour Series-China has announced its 2020 schedule, the circuit's sixth since its inception in 2014.

The season will consist of 14 tournaments, with a schedule that runs from late March to late September and features an official event outside the Greater China area for the first time-the Phuket Championship in Thailand.

The season begins in Sanya, Hainan province, and closes for a second consecutive year in Macao.

"It's always rewarding to announce a new schedule, knowing another PGA Tour Series-China season is right around the corner," said Greg Carlson, executive director of the PGA Tour Series-China.

"This is going to be a significant season for a variety of reasons, most notably because we're playing outside Greater China for the first time while also taking our players throughout the Chinese mainland, with visits to Hong Kong and Macao also key components of our season.

"This is a strong schedule, and we're excited to play on courses and in cities our players know well while sprinkling in new cities, courses and partners."

The season will get underway at Yalong Bay Golf Club in Sanya from March 26-29-the first of two tournaments on Hainan, with Mission Hills Golf Club Haikou on the island's north side hosting the Haikou Classic the following week.

Players will then travel to Chongqing Poly Golf Club for the Chongqing Championship (April 9-12) before completing a busy four-tournament-in-four-weeks run in Guangzhou, at Nansha International Golf Club for the Guangzhou Open (April 16-19).

"There is great pacing to this schedule, with players getting in a rhythm quickly with these first four tournaments," Carlson continued. "The tournaments in the early part of the season are at courses we know well, and we're excited to take our high-quality golf back to these venues."

There will be a two-week break after the Guangzhou stop, with the tour resuming with a three-tournament stint, starting in Hong Kong for the Clearwater Bay Open (May 7-10).

The following week (May 14-17), Laguna Golf Phuket will host its first official PGA Tour-China Series tournament-the Phuket Championship. The tour then returns to China for the Beijing Championship (May 21-24).

Players will play consecutive tournaments in June (11-14 and 18-21) at cities and courses yet to be determined.

Venues for tournaments on July 16-19 and July 23-26 will be announced at a later date.

The season will finish with three tournaments in three weeks, beginning with the Suzhou Open (Sept 10-13), followed by the first series event held within the Shanghai city limits-the Shanghai Open at Agile Golf Club (Sept 17-20).

For the second consecutive year, the season will conclude at Caesars Golf Macao (Sept 24-27), where the top points earners over the course of the season will receive their 2021 Korn Ferry Tour membership cards.

"We know a strong class of players has just moved to the Korn Ferry Tour, and we look forward to new players and those returning to battle in 2020 for the right to play on the Korn Ferry Tour. Our schedule is ideally set up for that to happen," Carlson said.

 

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2020-01-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Pregnant Wie planning mother of all comebacks]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/13/content_37532124.htm HONOLULU-Michelle Wie always thought if she ever had children, that would be the end of her golf.

Now the American is more inspired than ever to return.

Wie, who married Golden State Warriors executive Jonnie West in August, announced they are having their first child-a girl-this summer.

"I do know, especially now having a baby girl, the motivation to come back is even stronger," Wie said during a conference call on Friday. "Because I'm having a girl, I want her to see me play, and be a strong woman. That's really important. I always thought I'd be the person that I'm going to quit when I have kids. Now it's different."

Wie has been one of the most recognizable players in women's golf from the time she was a teen prodigy in Hawaii, coming within one shot of making the cut at the Sony Open on the PGA Tour as a ninth-grader at nearby Punahou School.

Her surprise announcement on Instagram capped off 10 months she described as a whirlwind.

On the golf course, she never fully recovered from wrist surgery and played only four tournaments. Her last event was the KPMG Women's PGA at Hazeltine, where she opened with an 84 and tearfully wondered how much longer she could keep going.

Off the course, life was never better. Wie and West, the son of Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West, announced their engagement in March. They were married in August and Wie, who graduated from Stanford, moved back to the Bay Area. And now they're starting a family.

"I'm so blessed-2019 could have been a bad year for me," Wie said.

Wie, who turned 30 in October, has five victories on the LPGA Tour. The biggest was the US Women's Open in 2014 at Pinehurst No 2, one week after the men's US Open on the Donald Ross design.

But her career has been slowed by injuries, even as a teenager, and the most recent injury raised speculation she might be done.

Wie worked for Golf Channel in the studio during the Solheim Cup, and CBS Sports announced late last year it was adding her to its broadcast team, including a role on one of its platforms at the Masters, though specifics have not been revealed.

Having a daughter on the way has changed her outlook.

Wie said the first trimester was a struggle-"I don't think they should call it morning sickness. It's 24/7," she said with a laugh-but she even raised the notion of playing before the baby arrives.

She says she has chipped and putted, but mostly stayed in the house since learning she was pregnant.

"Ideally, I would love to have the experience of playing while pregnant. We'll see," Wie said. "I'm not ruling anything out."

Wie says she has long admired women on the LPGA Tour who have played after having children, notably Solheim Cup captains Juli Inkster and Catriona Matthew, most recently Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller. She always wanted to fashion herself after Lorena Ochoa, who retired at No 1 in the world because she wanted to start a family.

"When she did that, I thought that was pretty cool," Wie said.

She also thought about Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who stepped away from golf when she had a son, returned at the urging of Matthew and made a seven-foot putt on the final hole to win the Solheim Cup for Europe.

And she thought about Tiger Woods and the moment he shared at Augusta National in April.

"I see Tiger winning the Masters again, the comments he made about how special it was that his kids were out there and saw him play. Things like that motivate me," Wie said. "It's definitely a dream for my kids to be in the crowd and watch me play."

For now, she is keeping busy with various projects. Along with her golf, Wie is known for her artistic flair-from painting to fashion. But her spare time does not include making clothes for her daughter.

"I will not be knitting baby clothes. I'll be buying," she said. "I don't have the patience."

 

Michelle Wie, pictured in action at the ANA Inspiration in California last April, plans to return to the LPGA Tour after giving birth to her first child. AP

 

 

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2020-01-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[CFA building a foundation for the future]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531926.htm The Chinese Football Association is confident its latest reforms will build a sturdier foundation for domestic soccer to grow and safeguard the game's long-term health.

Last month, the CFA unveiled a series of new regulations for the country's professional leagues, including a salary cap and restrictions on the use of naturalized and imported players.

On Thursday, a panel of officials and experts explained the logic behind those measures at a "Professional League Governance Workshop" in Shanghai.

"A professional soccer league is like a skyscraper, which needs toplevel design at the very beginning," said Liu Yi, the CFA's secretary-general. "Our professional leagues have not had such a quality and comprehensive development plan from the top level.

"So the CFA was effectively more like a residential property management company. Its everyday work was to fix small problems in the building. After we fixed the wall, then there would be another problem in the beam or the door. We have to be very clear what we want."

Among all the new policies, the salary cap has attracted the most headlines. The salaries of foreign players will be capped at 3 million euros ($3.3 million) after tax, applying to contracts signed from Jan 1 this year.

The salary cap for domestic players will remain at 10 million yuan ($1.43 million) before tax, or 12 million yuan for Team China internationals.

The salary cap could curb the influx of big-name foreign players to the Chinese Super League, but while it is likely to deter the likes of Gareth Bale making a move for mega wages, some observers expect the steady flow of imports to continue.

However, the CFA's Liu says the cap is also designed to help clubs keep their finances in order and facilitate the development of domestic players.

To illustrate the CFA's concerns, Liu cited how the top flight's goalscoring charts have come to be dominated by foreigners.

Before 2012, about half of the top-20 scorers were Chinese, but that number has dramatically dropped to one or two in recent years as the spending spree on foreign players accelerated.

"Many teams have been dependent on foreign players in their forward lines," said Liu. "The midfielders simply need to get the ball and pass to the foreign strikers. So we have to restrict the importation of the priciest foreign players."

A number of other financial restrictions are also being implemented. Clubs will not be permitted to spend more than 1.1 billion yuan on their operations annually, with salaries not to exceed 60 percent of that amount. In 2021, that limit will drop to 900 million yuan, with salaries not exceeding 55 percent.

The CFA has also adjusted its rules on youth players as it seeks to create an environment that is more conducive to nurturing new talent for the national team.

Next season, Chinese Super League teams will be required to register at least three under-21 players in their 2020 season squads; in the second and third tiers that quota is set at two and five respectively.

In the top tiers, teams will be required to have at least one under-23 player on the pitch during games, while it will be necessary for thirdtier sides to field at least one under-21 player.

"We want to guarantee young players more playing time, and we hope there will be a constant flow of new talent in the league," added Liu. "We want young players to stay hungry. And as long as they have longer playing time, we encourage them to have higher salaries."

Nic Coward, the former secretary-general of the English Premier League, spoke at the workshop to share his experiences of youth development in Britain. Coward cited the EPL's Elite Player Performance Plan as a good example of how to build a comprehensive youth development system that encourages investment.

"There should be a system to reward clubs investing in the training and education of young players," said Coward. "It's not only legitimate but also required that national associations enable, incentivize and reward investment in youth development."

Next season, CSL clubs will be permitted to register six foreign players-five of those can be used in match-day squads (up from four last term) and four can be on the pitch at any one time (up from three last year).

The CFA insists these changes are designed to make the action more competitive.

"With one more foreign player, league matches will be more competitive with a quicker pace. That will not affect the development of domestic players," said Liu.

"But it's important to have the 3 million euros salary cap, because too many big-money foreign strikers means the disappearance of domestic strikers."

 

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2020-01-10 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Wushu eyes global gains after Youth Olympics inclusion]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531953.htm Wushu will make its debut as an official sport at the 2022 Dakar Youth Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed on Wednesday.

The sport, widely known as Chinese kung fu, will comprise of two men's and two women's medal events at Dakar 2022 in Senegal-the first Olympic competition to be staged in Africa, which will take place Oct 22-Nov 9 that year.

The secretary-general of the International Wushu Federation (IWF), Zhang Qiuping, hailed the decision as a sign of the world's recognition for the martial art, while the IOC emphasized that wushu's wide global reach had made it a particularly attractive option.

"The International Wushu Federation has 39 national federations in Africa and 120 million practitioners around the world. Wushu is popular among youth, and it has a good gender balance, so we expect that it will have a very good show in 2022," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

The IOC has also approved the competition format for wushu, with 48 athletes to battle in four events: men's and women's changquan and men's and women's tai chi.

In an interview with Xinhua, Zhang described wushu as a treasure of Chinese traditional culture.

He said that the IOC sees wushu as a youth-oriented sport and it is very popular all over the world now, especially in Africa.

Wushu's inclusion at the Dakar Games in Senegal, therefore, provides the sport with an especially good opportunity to expand more on the continent, Zhang added.

Zhang, who is also president of the Chinese Wushu Association (CWA), hopes that the Olympic recognition can help promote a truer representation of wushu, which is sometimes misunderstood as purely a combat sport.

"In the promotion of Wushu, we emphasize that it is not for fighting but for fitness," said Zhang.

"No matter who is competing, opponents always bow toward each other at the beginning and end of a bout, which is the embodiment of wushu's philosophy and spirit.

"The aim of wushu is to prevent the use of force."

Wushu, which featured at the All-Africa Youth Games in 2018, has had to wait patiently for its Olympic breakthrough.

The IWF first submitted an application for inclusion to the IOC in 2001, followed by two more failed bids in 2008 and 2011.

The first two applications were rejected by the IOC at the initial stage. The third application in 2011 made it to the final round of voting for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but fell agonizingly short and missed out again.

Wushu's cause, however, was greatly aided by its appearance as an exhibition sport at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics.

Zhang said that, in preparation for Dakar 2022, much work now needs to be carried out by the Olympic committees of various countries and regions.

"The 2022 inclusion demands higher technical requirements of the International Wushu Federation," he said.

"Next, we should further reform the competition rules and performance level of wushu according to Olympic standards.

"So we will soon launch new international classification criteria for young people, and based on these elements, we will design more routines that young people will like."

With deep roots in the country's cultural and spiritual traditions, wushu elegantly unites the body and mind-making it one of China's most popular cultural exports.

Thanks in large part to the promotional efforts of the IWF and CWA, wushu has gained a diverse following totaling about 120 million worldwide, with young people especially drawn to its mix of athletic and philosophical elements.

Now, China hopes official Olympic recognition will accelerate wushu's internationalization.

Last year, China proposed building the nation into a wushu powerhouse, and prioritized efforts to have wushu "enter the Olympic Games as soon as possible".

This week's announcement brings China another step closer to that goal.

Over the years, the IWF has carried out a lot of international promotion work with strong support from the State General Administration of Sport of China.

The administration not only provides technical support to national wushu federations, regularly sending experts to these countries and regions to supplement their training camps, but also provides a large number of wushu equipment free of charge.

Every year, many local groups are sent abroad to stage performances and shows, striving to improve the influence of wushu overseas.

Last month, an IOC executive board meeting approved the addition of breaking (aka breakdancing), skateboarding, rock climbing, surfing and karate for the 2022 Youth Games in Dakar, and said that it would continue to evaluate the possibility of adding wushu, with Wednesday's announcement completing the process.

 

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2020-01-10 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Quality key as China's marathon boom reaches crossroads]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531958.htm Last Sunday, over 35,000 runners participated in the Xiamen Marathon, World Athletics' first "gold label" road race of the year.

First staged in 2003, the race has grown into a major international event, mirroring the rise in popularity of long-distance running in China over the past ten years. However, whether the nation's marathon boom will continue apace into the new decade is unclear.

According to the China Athletics Association (CAA), the country hosted 40 times as many marathons in 2018 than in 2014.

"Preliminary data shows that 1,900 running races were held in 2019. These events attracted a total of 7.2 million participants," said CAA deputy secretary-general Shui Tao.

Shui added that the CAA had forecast there would be 1,900 races and 10 million participants in 2020, generating a revenue of 120 billion yuan (about $17.2 billion) from related industries. He added that some targets had already been reached in 2019.

Wang Li, director of sports at China Foreign Affairs University, said that the increase in popularity of marathons is directly related to rising living standards.

"As Chinese become richer and richer, they are placing greater importance on their health. Running is a popular exercise activity, both for its social element and its low barrier to participation," Wang said.

Chen Yuanding, a member of the CAA's information committee, noted that China's GDP per capita surpassed $5,000 in 2011, paving the way for endurance running's rapid growth.

Indeed, such is the demand for places in Chinese marathons that entries are often decided by lottery. For this year's Xiamen Marathon, for example, only 28.8 percent of applicants were granted a place on the starting line.

"There is still more scope for China's marathon industry to grow," Wang said. "The number of marathons in China is still not at the level of the US or Japan, although it has increased a lot in recent years."

Platinum push

While the Xiamen race has been awarded "gold label" status by World Athletics, no Chinese marathon features on the governing body's more prestigious "platinum label" list.

"We might have done a better job in terms of organization and infrastructure," Shui conceded, "however, there are many criteria for platinum-label races, such as the number of top runners, runner services and publicity."

Shui added that to obtain platinum status Chinese marathons will have to improve their international reach.

"Twenty years ago, we went to the New York City Marathon to learn from their experience," he recalled. "Among the 30,000 participants, 10,000 were New York citizens, 10,000 were participants from other states and the rest were foreigners.

"But for the Beijing Marathon, which also had 30,000 participants, there were only 500 foreign runners."

Some experts contend that China's demand for professionals in managing and operating marathons exceeds the supply.

Shui said that the CAA has established a marathon college at Shanghai University, which has produced over 2,000 professionals skilled in marathon organization and medical services.

Top tech

China's marathons, though, are distinguishing themselves from their global rivals with their technical innovations.

"The CAA is launching a pilot project with a heart-rate monitoring system for road races. With a data platform to check runners' physical condition, running will be safer," said Shui.

"China is leading the way in introducing new technologies to the marathon," added Chen. "There are convenient apps for races, while facial-recognition technology and extensive video monitoring are widely used, which helps identify and remove cheaters."

Wang is certain that the future looks bright for marathon running in China, but predicts the current long-distance running craze will slow down.

"In the new decade, China's marathons will move from a high-speed boom towards a trajectory of stable and quality development," said Wang.

 

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2020-01-10 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Female hoopsters leaving nothing to chance in Tokyo qualification bid]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/10/content_37531976.htm With their male counterparts almost certainly set to miss out on the 2020 Olympics, China's women's basketball team are determined to avoid another embarrassment for the nation by going all out to seal their spot at the Games.

As the country begins to wind down for Spring Festival, the team showed no signs of letting intensity levels slip during a Wednesday training session in preparation for next month's Olympic qualifying tournament.

China will take on Spain, Britain and South Korea during the four-day tournament, which tips off on Feb 6 in Foshan, Guangdong province, with three Olympic tickets up for grabs.

This year's Olympics will features 12 teams, with 10 entries, barring the host and reigning women's World Cup champion the United States, decided by four qualifying events around the world next month.

And after watching China's men lose Asia's only direct Tokyo berth to Iran last year, the women's team is acutely aware of how much is at stake for basketball's profile in the country, where sporting officialdom remains obsessed with Olympic success.

"The pressure is now on our shoulders and we can literally feel the weight of it," team captain Shao Ting said after Wednesday's workout.

"Actually it helps us lock in and stay focused on the mission. By studying our opponents and positioning ourselves we are confident we can make it to Tokyo," said Shao, a prolific forward who played with the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA regular season just passed.

China's women have qualified for every Summer Olympics since their debut at the 1984 edition in Los Angeles, with the squad widely expected to add Tokyo to the list by finishing in the top three at the four-team qualifying event.

In contrast, the men's squad faces something of a mission impossible after its World Cup flop left it vying with Canada, Greece, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Uruguay in a qualifying group that awards just one spot for Tokyo 2020.

Women's team head coach Xu Limin, however, is cautioning his players against complacency.

"We definitely have to prepare for the worst-case scenario because the mental game could be tricky under this kind of situation where everybody believes you can progress," said Xu, who was an assistant coach when China's women finished 10th, their worst Olympic showing, at the 2016 Rio Games.

"It's not about having confidence or not, it's about preparing technically and mentally for all three opponents as best we can and producing our best under pressure."

With World Cup bronze winner Spain a big favorite to top the group, China expects to at least beat South Korea and to compete for the runner-up spot against Britain in Foshan.

Spearheaded by prolific scorer Shao, China will lean on young centers Han Xu and Li Yueru in a bid to outplay the smaller but faster South Korean team under the rim as it seeks to avenge a one-point loss at last November's Asia-Oceania pre-qualifying tournament in New Zealand.

The 20-year-old Han, a 6-foot-10 center boasting a silky shooting touch and long defensive range, was selected by the New York Liberty at 14th overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft, while Li, also 20, was picked 35th by the Atlanta Dream but chose to stay in the domestic league.

Han featured in 18 games off the bench with the Liberty during the past WNBA regular season. She averaged three points and 0.8 rebounds in 7.9 minutes of action, showing she still has a long way to go to adjust to the league's pace and intensity.

"I think going through the qualifying process is a great test for our young players with the level of competition and physicality building up to prepare them for the real show at the Olympics," said Xu, who led Beijing to three WCBA titles in a row from 2015-17.

 

Center Han Xu leaps high to collect a rebound during a practice session at the national team's training base on Wednesday in Beijing. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY  

 

 

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2020-01-10 00:00:00
<![CDATA[From street kid to kung fu crusader]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/09/content_37531823.htm Fabrice Mba grew up in poverty on the streets of the southern Cameroonian town of Sangmelima. With his single mom unable to properly take care of him, 8-year-old Fabrice left for the capital Yaounde with his elder sister in 1987. Little did he know back then, this would be the start of his journey to Shaolin enlightenment.

Every morning, little Fabrice saw a Chinese man performing slow-motion movements on the square of the Yaounde Conference Center-a landmark building in the city, which was built in the 1980s with Chinese aid money. He and his friends-all barefoot and wearing torn T-shirts-soon began to imitate the foreigner. "It was very beautiful," recalled Fabrice.

One day, the man summoned Fabrice and his buddies and asked them to try to assume a specific posture-knees slightly bent and arms positioned as if holding onto a tree trunk. "We stood facing the wall. It hurt our feet, shoulders and arms so much that my friends fled and I was left alone," said Fabrice.

The stance in question is called zhan zhuang, a basic kung fu training technique. Its practitioner was a technician assigned to Cameroon to maintain the conference center.

Fabrice began returning every morning to learn more from his new teacher. "He was very thin but at the same time very strong," recalled Fabrice of his tutor.

A year later, Fabrice returned to Sangmelima. His big brother was a projectionist there, and Fabrice often helped him sweep the movie theater, where he caught his first glimpse of Shaolin monks on the screen. "It spoke to me very loudly," he said.

After completing school, Fabrice returned to Yaounde to endeavor to eke out a living. However, life hurt him more than the zhan zhuang stance.

Jobs came and went so earning to enough to eat was a struggle. His friend, who worked at a bakery, sometimes kept bread crumbs for him, which a famished Fabrice would ravenously devour. "I had crumbs on my hands, face and in my nostrils," he said of those lean times.

Despite food being scarce, Fabrice managed to continue to practice martial arts, learning from videos and training in front of the conference center, just as his Chinese teacher once did.

In 2011, a professor from the Confucius Institute encountered Fabrice as he practiced his moves and invited him to the institute to learn about Chinese language and culture. Soon, Fabrice became friends with the Chinese teachers, who encouraged him to pursue his passion for martial arts. "I finally had the feeling of becoming me," he said.

Four years later, Fabrice was awarded a scholarship to be trained in martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine at the Shaolin Temple in Henan province.

"It was just like what I saw in the movies," said Fabrice. "The great masters of Shaolin really edified and enlightened me."

Between 2015 and 2019, Fabrice went to the temple three times for training. Back in Yaounde, he is now a physiotherapist and, when he's not busy with his patients, teaches free kung fu lessons at the Confucius Institute and several schools.

Many Africans think of kung fu purely as a combat system, so Fabrice is keen to stress its true meaning.

"What kung fu basically teaches is the production of a man of morality," he said. "When a man is rich in moral values, it is easier for him to be surrounded by people who love him and to have advancements in life," said Fabrice.

It's a principle his eager young pupils are keen to follow.

"He teaches us to be a man of integrity, hardworking and respectful. If you have a problem with your friend, you have to keep cool and take a step back," said student Emmanuel Ze.

In 2017, Fabrice published a collection of poems, entitled Breach in a Stone Wall. The poems reflect on his years of hardship and express gratitude towards China for helping him through those difficult days.

"I come with a story, which is more and more similar to that of a million Africans, to whom China opens its doors, to whom China changes (their) destiny," he wrote in the anthology.

Now Fabrice is trying to help others change their destiny too. He is currently preparing a program which will offer free training in physiotherapy to disadvantaged youngsters.

The program is called "Lotus and Water Lily", because "these are the only flowers able to grow in a polluted environment and succeed in producing white flowers," Fabrice explained.

"I was a street kid, destined to be a bandit or a robber, but I discovered kung fu which teaches me to become a man of moral excellence even if I had no money," he added.

"All these children who are in difficulty like I once was, who are destined for a bad life, can become lotuses and water lilies if they are given the opportunities."

 

Fabrice Mba tends to one of his patients at his physiotherapy practice in Yaounde, Cameroon. Mba grow up on the streets but credits Chinese martial arts for helping him turn his life around. XINHUA

 

 

Fabrice, who has trained at the Shaolin Temple in Henan province, hopes that by teaching kids kung fu's principles he can give them a solid moral grounding. XINHUA

 

 

A youngster grimaces as Fabrice assists him with a stretch. Fabrice is in the process of establishing a program which will offer free training in physiotherapy to disadvantaged youngsters. XINHUA

 

 

Shaolin disciple Fabrice Mba shows kids some kung fu basics in Yaounde, Cameroon. Born into poverty, Mba's love of martial arts was nurtured at Yaounde's Confucius Institute and he now teaches kung fu for free in his spare time. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

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2020-01-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[HOOPS SPRING ETERNAL]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/09/content_37531820.htm In a tumultuous year for Chinese hoops, Wukesong Arena has witnessed the historic lows and, more recently, the hope-inducing highs that point to brighter days for the nation's basketball fans.

The western Beijing stadium was the scene of Team China's miserable defeats to Poland and Venezuela which precipitated the country's worst ever performance at an international event-a 24th-place finish among 32 teams which saw China lose Asia's only direct Olympic qualification berth to Iran.

These days, though, there are rarely glum faces to be seen in the Wukesong crowd as fans flock to the 18,000-seat venue to cheer on the high-flying Beijing Ducks-evidence that the wide-ranging reforms implemented by the Chinese Basketball Association in the wake of the World Cup debacle are having the desired effect.

With Team China suddenly finding itself in the same vacuous limbo as the country's perennially underachieving men's soccer squad, it was clear CBA chairman Yao Ming was determined not to let standards slip any further.

Asked after China's final World Cup game who was to blame for the host's woes, a grim-faced Yao responded: "Me! It is me and my association that disappointed the fans.

"We have been forced to open our eyes to realize how far the world has gone in front of us.

"However, we should never let the disappointment shake our faith in carrying on the efforts in professionalizing the league, improving youth and coach training programs while expanding school participation."

Yao's courtside presence throughout that miserable Cup campaign was a constant reminder of just how far China had fallen. The former NBA superstar, who retired in 2011 due to a foot injury, inspired China into the last eight of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, its best international performance.

Having qualified for every Olympics since its debut at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, China now looks almost certain to miss out on Tokyo 2020. Its only remaining route to the Games in Japan is to upset the odds against a plethora of global heavyweights, such as Greece, Canada and Turkey, in a 24-team qualifying tournament in June, when only the four group winners will book their Tokyo tickets.

Reforms

The gloomy short-term outlook for the national team, however, has been offset in recent months by mounting excitement in the CBA league, where attendances and online viewing figures are on the rise, to offer Yao and his colleagues renewed hope that rebuilding the game's tarnished image is achievable.

With the focus on sharpening efforts to hone domestic talent and improving the overall fan experience, the CBA introduced a series of reforms before the start of current season. These included flexibility on tip-off times to cater to broadcasting, an extension of the regular season to a lighter schedule to allow more recovery for players, and new regulations to improve officiating.

The league has hired five full-time professional referees for the first time and has introduced video replays to scrutinize the performances of refs, who are now regularly evaluated for potential wage raises or cuts.

Various other changes to league operations, which have been agreed upon but have yet to be implemented, include a salary cap for domestic players and further limiting the use of imported players starting from the 2020-21 season.

According to the plan, unanimously approved during a club owners' meeting in October, the initial cap will be 36 million yuan (around $5.2 million) for each team, but teams will be allowed a buffer of 12 million yuan, so the ceiling can be raised to 48 million yuan.

Each team can have only one foreign player on the court at any given time, down from two this season, although each franchise will be allowed to register a maximum four, up from two this year.

It's hoped capping wages and reducing clubs' reliance on foreign players' offensive capabilities can push local talent to level up their game and, in turn, bolster the national program.

"The changes we've made might not necessarily yield quick results. Instead, we should focus on consistent investment and effort over the long run to eventually make the league the top professional sports competition in our country," said Yao, China's only Basketball Hall of Famer, who was inducted in 2016.

The CBA's determination to curb the dominance of imported players on the court has been echoed by clubs, who are rethinking their policy on foreign recruitment.

Rather than focusing on signing big-name former NBA players in the twilights of their careers to sell tickets or market franchise brands, CBA clubs are now more interested in acquiring leaders in their prime, who can potentially better blend in with the culture and help local teammates develop.

The release of Kenneth Faried by the Zhejiang Lions in December after just seven appearances and the firing of Amare Stoudemire by the Fujian SBS after 11 outings-both due to declining form and poor chemistry with their Chinese teammates-underlined that CBA clubs are putting this philosophy into practice.

Still, the arrival of fan-favorite imports such as the Ducks' Asian-American guard Jeremy Lin, who inspired "Linsanity" in early 2012 with the New York Knicks, and veteran forward Lance Stephenson, who plays for the Liaoning Flying Leopards, has helped level up competition in the league and boosted its domestic and global profiles.

According to league figures, over 12 million people tuned in to watch this season's curtain-raiser between the Guangdong Southeast Tigers and the Flying Leopards, while online streaming of the game attracted 33 percent more viewers than it did for the corresponding fixture 12 months earlier.

Breakthroughs

Despite the World Cup disappointment, it wasn't all doom and gloom for China in international competition last year, with the country's 3x3 ballers delivering plenty of cheer.

Considered more of a fun pursuit than a serious competition, the 3x3 game saw its profile significantly enhanced in China after the nation's women's squad won the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Cup, beating Hungary 19-13 in June's final in Amsterdam.

The historic triumph was the first major international basketball title won by any Chinese team.

Both China's men's and women's 3x3 national teams have qualified for the event's eight-squad Olympic debut in Tokyo directly through the FIBA rankings, which are calculated by totaling players' individual ranking points gained at FIBA-sanctioned events.

Aimed at making the Games more appealing to young people, the International Olympic Committee voted in June 2017 to add the 3x3 game to the Olympic program, starting with the Tokyo 2020 edition.

CBA's 3x3 league reached out to 300 cities across the country in the 2019 season, involving over 100,000 players in two age groups, for both men and women, before concluding with the national finals in July.

The country's 3x3 program is hopeful that the 5x5 national team's leader Yi Jianlian, who in May became the first Chinese in six years to be named CBA Finals MVP, might realize his dream of playing at a fifth Olympics by signing up for the half-court discipline.

"For us the goal is to compete for a podium finish at the Olympics to further boost the discipline's popularity in the future," said Chai Wensheng, director of the CBA's 3x3 department.

Meanwhile, China hopes to unearth more Yi Jianlians in schools via mini basketball-a miniature version of the sport aimed at children under 12 years old using lighter balls and smaller courts.

The grassroots game enjoyed increasing popularity in 2019, with 180,000 kids involved in a school program, up from 100,000 the previous year.

 

Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming celebrates a crucial score during China's 77-73 victory over South Korea during the FIBA World Cup in Guangzhou on Sept 6. XINHUA

 

 

China's players proudly parade the national flag after victory over Hungary in the women's final of the FIBA 3x3 World Cup at the Museumplein in Amsterdam on June 23. AFP

 

 

Jeremy Lin has lived up to expectations with the Beijing Ducks after the former NBA star's switch to the CBA in a deal worth a reported $3 million per year. XINHUA

 

 

Former NBA player Lance Stephenson of the Liaoning Flying Leopards has lit up the CBA since his arrival from the Los Angeles Lakers in August. XINHUA

 

 

Amid the national team's travails, Guangdong's relentless leader Yi Jianlian remained a shining light for Chinese hoops and could yet appear at next year's Olympics-as part of China's 3x3 team. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

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2020-01-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Rural Qinghai embracing US coach's ace expertise]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531591.htm China's tennis boom over the last decade has primarily been a big-city phenomenon. However, American coach Joshua Robinson is showing that the sport's growth needn't be confined to urban areas.

Every afternoon after school, children flock to a tennis court in Qinghai province's rural county of Huzhu to attend Robinson's classes.

Thirty-seven years old and rarely seen in anything other than sportswear, Robinson hails from Wisconsin, USA, and graduated from the University of Milwaukee, where he studied Chinese, in 2013.

A passionate sportsman, he began playing tennis at the age of 12, and also enjoys baseball, rugby and swimming.

Influenced by his mother, Robinson became fascinated by China. The American first arrived in the country in 2009 to study Chinese in Inner Mongolia's capital Hohhot, and also worked as a private tennis coach in Beijing.

Judging from the fluency of his Chinese, it's hard to believe he isn't a native speaker.

"In the autumn of 2013, I came to Qinghai province for the first time," he said. "The blue sky, white clouds and snow mountains impressed me. What surprised me even more was that a remote county such as Huzhu had clay courts just like at the French Open."

Afterwards, Robinson returned to Beijing where he continued working as a tennis coach. The job was easy and well paid, but ultimately he felt unfulfilled.

"I wanted to teach more children to play tennis, but there's no shortage of good coaches in a big city like Beijing. I wanted to go to a place where I could make a difference," he said.

In 2017, Robinson came to Huzhu, renting local tennis courts and beginning his new career. However, things did not initially go to plan.

"Tennis is no longer a new sport for children in big cities, but children here are still unfamiliar with it. I went round schools and handed out leaflets, but only two children enrolled," he said.

Although frustrated by the lack of interest, he remained devoted to coaching and also taught English.

Soon, news spread that a foreign coach had come to the remote county and, by the spring of 2018, Robinson had nearly 20 students attending classes. Many parents, however, had enrolled their children primarily so they could learn English.

"Teaching both English and tennis attracted more parents and children, but I just wanted to focus on tennis coaching. Eventually I decided not to teach English anymore, and many children gave up," he said.

At present, Robinson teaches both junior and senior classes, with his students raging in age from 4 to 13. At weekends, he often takes students to compete in events in large cities like Xi'an, Lanzhou and Chengdu.

Robinson also holds winter and summer training camps in Huzhu, which attract children from as far afield as Chongqing, Beijing, Hunan and Guangdong.

But even within Robinson's Qinghai classes there is great diversity, with children from Tu, Tibetan and Korean ethnic minorities on the court, something that fascinates the Wisconsin native.

"Many people living around me still do farm work at home. During the busy season, some of my coaches have to go home, digging potatoes to help their families," said Robinson, adding that he hopes more local coaches can be trained to boost the sport's development in remote areas.

"Learning tennis not only improves children's fitness, but also teaches them to overcome stress and challenges from an early age. I hope tennis can give some of them a better life."

 

Children practice serving as coach Joshua Robinson watches on during one of the American's tennis classes in Huzhu county, Qinghai province. XINHUA

 

 

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2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Masters record-breaker Guan going for glory at q-school]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531594.htm China's Guan Tianlang will compete in this week's PGA Tour Series-China Chinese mainland qualifying tournament at Guangzhou's Foison Golf Club nearly seven years after becoming the youngest player to make a cut at a modern-era PGA Tour event.

In April 2013, Guan stunned the golf world when he made the cut at the Masters while still enrolled in middle school.

The Guangzhou native was just 14 years, 5 months and 18 days old when he qualified for the weekend. Guan still remains the youngest player to make a cut at any PGA Tour-sanctioned event, let alone the sport's most prestigious major.

Guan has had an impressive amateur career, bursting onto the scene by winning the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand to earn his Masters spot. Two weeks after making the cut at Augusta National, Guan also made the cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

After completing two years at the University of Arizona, Guan is aiming to win one of 15 full cards available for the 2020 PGA Tour Series-China season this week, while finishers between 16th and 45th, and ties, will be awarded conditional status.

"I've been training in China for the past few months, and I arrived here a bit earlier to play a few rounds and I feel like I'm ready now," said Guan. "It's just one tournament, and you just have to try and play your best. Hopefully I can have a good week and get one of the full cards."

The 21-year-old is still contemplating when-or even if-he might turn pro should he earn a card when the 72-hole stroke-play event concludes on Friday.

"I'm still not yet decided on turning pro at the moment. I might turn pro but finish school. There are still a lot of options so I'm not sure yet. Maybe a good week this week might affect my decision," said Guan, who played alongside Liu Siyuan, the only female golfer in the field, on Tuesday.

PGA Tour Series-China veteran Bai Zhengkai chose the "finish school" route, turning pro last summer but remaining enrolled in college, at the University of Central Florida.

Foison also hosted the Chinese mainland qualifying tournament in 2019, with Jin Cheng winning by seven shots.

The first global q-school will begin next month at Mission Hills Resort Haikou, Hainan province, (Feb 25-28), followed by a tournament at Laguna Golf Phuket in Thailand (March 3-6). The 14-stop regular-season schedule will be announced shortly.

The PGA Tour established PGA Tour Series-China in 2014 as its third international tour, following in the footsteps of PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada. Official World Golf Ranking points are up for grabs on the Chinese circuit.

 

China's Guan Tianlang tees off during the first round of the PGA Tour Series-China Chinese mainland qualifying tournament at Guangzhou's Foison Golf Club on Tuesday. CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Tactical learning gap a bridge too far, laments Gao]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531615.htm Veteran China international Gao Lin has likened the national team's players to "high school students" who were unable to comprehend the tactics of their "college professor" ex-coach, Marcello Lippi.

Former World Cup winner Lippi resigned from the job for a second time in November following a disappointing start to China's 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Italian and the players have come in for heavy criticism from fans, but in an interview with Tencent Sports this week, Gao attempted to deflect blame away from his former coach.

"Lippi can be considered a world-renowned professor and some sort of leader in the area. He has many strategies and good ideas," said Gao.

"But for Chinese players, we are still like high school students. We might not fully understand the coach's tactics or we are not capable of carrying out his tactical plans 100 percent.

"We must acknowledge that if players in the top-level European leagues are graduates or postgraduate students, we are not at that level yet... We have to face the gap directly and try our best to improve."

Lippi delivered little to cheer about in his first term in charge, failing to steer the national team to the 2018 World Cup finals before resigning last January following more lackluster performances at the Asian Cup.

The 71-year-old was persuaded back as head coach in May, but submitted his resignation again in November, following a 2-1 defeat to Syria that has badly damaged China's chances of reaching the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Last weekend, former China and Everton midfielder Li Tie was appointed as Lippi's successor.

Gao, though, has cautioned that changes to the coaching staff can only go so far in turning around China's fortunes on the pitch.

"Yes we can always have another new coach, but what actually matters is what kind of players the new coach can choose from," said Gao.

"When a head coach has hundreds of high-level players to choose from, it's easy for him to have great results. But if there's just dozens to choose from, no one can make a real difference. Not even Lippi."

At 33, Gao has started to think about life after his playing days end, with the Guangzhou Evergrande striker hopeful of pursuing a career in youth coaching.

"If I can coach a group of 8-and 9-year-old kids and be with them till they are 18 years old, and then watch them achieve big things in their professional career, I believe that would be the proudest achievement in my life," said Gao, who won his first Chinese cap in 2005.

Talent pool

On Monday, the Chinese Football Association revealed its latest efforts to boost youth soccer. The governing body has established a talent pool of 64 players with the aim of analyzing the technical characteristics of Chinese players at different ages.

The players have been mainly selected from Chinese Super League clubs. The CFA said an additional eight young players will be "closely observed and assessed", while a talent pool of young Chinese playing abroad is also in the pipeline.

"The CFA is trying to get an idea of the actual condition of Chinese soccer players and their technical characteristics," read the CFA announcement.

"We will track the development of Chinese soccer players over longer terms to devise a better development process."

Chris Van Puyvelde, the CFA's technical director, believes Chinese soccer needs to inspire the next generation of coaches and players.

"I believe China has a big future in football, but it will take time," said the Belgian last weekend following Li's appointment as head coach.

"Go step by step and you will see the results. China has a big future, I'm sure of it. Otherwise, I would not be here."

As well as youth development, the CFA has begun to recruit naturalized players in a bid to improve the national squad.

So far, the additions of Evergrande's Brazil-born forward Ai Kesen (aka Elkeson) and Beijing Guo'an's England-born utility player Li Ke (aka Nico Yennaris) have not quite had the impact many had hoped for.

However, Gao has urged fans to get behind the team's new foreign-born recruits.

"When the naturalized players join us, we should just consider them as one of our own. And we should not always think too much about whether he's naturalized or not," said Gao.

"They have already become Chinese and they are our compatriots. There's no difference."

Van Puyvelde concurred, saying: "Naturalized or domestics, we are talking about the same players who want to win for the team. Players are the same."

 

 

 

 

 

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2020-01-08 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Formula One series zooms into view]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/08/content_37531649.htm Engines vroom and tires squeal as 20 Formula One cars jostle for position at Shanghai International Circuit. Commentators raise the volume when the action heats up at turns, and spectators clap for smart passes or successful defenses.

In reality, the racers are sitting in car-shaped simulators on a laser-lit stage, with their hands gripping the wheels and their eyes glued to screens.

Welcome to the virtual form of the fastest car race on Earth.

Last Sunday, Shanghai student Tang Tianyu took the checkered flag first to win the Formula One E-sports Series' inaugural China Championship at Hui Space in Shanghai Stadium.

The triumph earned Tang a prize of 135,000 yuan ($19,300) and a ticket to the Formula One E-sports 2020 Pro Draft in London later this year.

"I started playing this game on computer in 2017, and have been practicing three to four hours every day lately for this championship," said Tang, who is a junior studying finance at Shanghai International Studies University.

Tang first fell in love with F1 after watching the 2004 Chinese Grand Prix, the sport's debut race in China, but it was not until two years ago that he truly immersed himself in its e-sports version-when he purchased a simulator for practice at home.

"I haven't decided whether to go into it professionally yet, but it's worth trying since I got this chance-my dream is being chosen by the Ferrari team," Tang said, adding that Chinese e-sports racers still have a long way to go to catch up with their Western counterparts.

Guillaume Vergnas, e-sports manager of Renault Sport Racing, said he was impressed by the performances of Chinese players given the relatively short time the country has been exposed to F1 e-sports.

"We will be looking at their performance and keep an eye on them in the draft," said Vergnas.

Zhou Guanyu, the Renault F1 team's first ever Chinese development driver, worked as a commentator at Sunday's final.

"I play this game in my spare time, and keep up-to-date with e-sports. Many of the racers are pretty good," said Zhou, adding that real-life Formula One racers also use simulators to familiarize themselves with different circuits.

"This China Championship gives people another way to enjoy Formula One, and it will definitely draw more attention next year."

This year's championship was launched in August in conjunction with Shanghai Juss Sports Development (Group) Co Ltd, and attracted 100,000 participants and 6 million online spectators.

Over 5,000 racers contested the qualifying rounds in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu in Sichuan province, and Foshan in Guangdong province.

"The beauty of Formula One e-sports is that, unlike other e-sports games, it has a lot of parallels to the real world, and all Formula One teams have their e-racing teams," said Julian Tan, head of digital business initiatives and e-sports at Formula One.

"It's also providing a more accessible way for people to engage in motor sports… because people cannot just jump into a Formula One car, but e-racing helps us bridge the gap."

Formula One is using e-sports to attract more fans, with China identified as a key market, according to Tan.

"We are beginning to see more and more Chinese fans start to embrace Formula One through e-racing," he said.

"I am confidant that we will see a Chinese driver, whether in real life or in the virtual world, make it to Formula One in the future."

 

 

 

 

 

]]> 2020-01-08 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Ultra-focused Dou has 2020 vision]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531482.htm Such is his attitude towards life that Dou Zecheng is the kind of player who is more likely to see his golf ball as being in the middle of the fairway rather than in an unlucky divot.

The rising young Chinese star has been to golfing heaven and back over the past three seasons, but remains undeterred after narrowly missing out on a quick return to the PGA Tour via the Korn Ferry Tour last term.

Dou, who turns 23 in January, finished 28th in the Korn Ferry Tour regular-season points list, which was an agonizing three rungs short of earning a PGA Tour card.

What may have stung more was the fact that he won the season-opening tournament, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay, and sat comfortably inside the top 25 for most of the year.

Inexplicably, from the joy of winning his second Korn Ferry Tour title, Dou's fortunes took a drastic dive, missing 15 cuts over his next 23 starts to kill his PGA Tour dream for another season.

"A lot of media have been asking me the same question," said Dou.

"Although it was up and down, I see it as a successful year. I didn't see it as a failure although I ended up not getting the card.

"If I hadn't have played good in the Bahamas, I could've been back playing in China as I didn't have full exemption on the Korn Ferry Tour. Winning was a good thing."

Dou is preparing to resume the grind on the Korn Ferry Tour, which he views as a perfect platform to hone his skills.

His record of four cuts from 23 starts during his 2018 stint on the PGA Tour told him he simply wasn't good enough to compete at that level.

"I don't want it to happen so fast. If I get my card back, it's like maybe too fast. I want to take it slowly. Maybe slow and steady wins the race," he said.

After the dust settled on his 2019 season, Dou reviewed all his hard work with coach Cameron McCormick, who also works with Jordan Spieth. For work ethic, Dou gave himself full marks.

"When I played on the PGA Tour, I didn't spend enough time doing what I needed to do. And then coming out with a win in early 2019, I kept working hard and focused on my fitness. I might play around 20 events in 2020 and see how it works out. I played a lot in 2019 and at one stretch played 14 of 15 weeks and maybe that got to me."

Dou is working with McCormick in Dallas, and said their association is already yielding results.

"He introduced this fitness program, so I now go to the gym three times a week. My body started feeling really good and we're making changes in my game, focusing on my swing plane with the aim of creating more consistency with my ball striking and putting.

"I see Cameron once a week now which is good and there's not a day at home where I don't have anything to do. I'm always working on something, trying to get better all the time."

Dou has an opportunity to get this year's campaign off to a flier with his title defense in the Bahamas. "I feel good with my game. I finished second twice on the China Tour and I had three good rounds at the WGC-HSBC Champions. I feel confident about getting my PGA Tour card," he said.

But while Dou, who hails from Henan province, is enjoying his golfing education in the US, he admits that being far from home can be tough at times.

"Living in Dallas, golf is the biggest thing. There are good courses, good coaches, good players around you, which is big," he said. "However, being Chinese out here, the hard part is you think about your family all the time. It can be tough if you're not doing well and it can get hard."

 

 

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2020-01-07 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Li eyes new horizons with IMG deal]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/07/content_37531452.htm Li Haotong has signed with New York-based sports agency IMG in a deal the Chinese No 1 hopes can extend his brand's reach "beyond golf".

Since turning professional at the age of 16, Li has enjoyed a record-breaking career.

He won the inaugural PGA Tour Series-China order of merit in 2014, and, after capturing his second European Tour title at the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, became the first Chinese player to break into the world's top 50.

Li represented China at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and in December became the first player from the Chinese mainland to play in the Presidents Cup, for Ernie Els' International Team.

"I am very happy to announce that I am joining the team at IMG," Li said.

"Both in China and as I've played around the world, I have been impressed by everything IMG does in golf.

"From the CGA-HSBC junior program I played in as a kid, to the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, to the tournaments I'm playing in the Middle East this month, their strength in China as well as their truly global reach is what makes them stand out in the industry.

"I am also excited to see how I can benefit from their incredible network across sports, entertainment and content and utilize their unique expertise to take advantage of new opportunities reaching out beyond golf too."

Jay Danzi, head of golf clients at IMG, said: "Li Haotong, along with the likes of Feng Shanshan and Liang Wenchong, is helping to inspire a whole new generation of young Chinese golfers with his achievements.

"We are proud to announce him as an IMG client and look forward to working with him to help him continue to break records on the course while growing his brand off it, using our extensive reach across entertainment and sports to deliver for him both in China and internationally."

 

 

 

]]> 2020-01-07 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Li seeking 'selflessness' from China's underachievers]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/06/content_37531300.htm Li Tie is on a mission to restore pride in the red jersey, with the newly installed Team China coach stressing slackers won't be tolerated in his squad.

A series of limp performances have left China's chances of qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup hanging by a thread and left many fans questioning whether players put as much effort into matches for their country as they do for their clubs.

Facing the media for the first time since being officially appointed as Marcello Lippi's full-time successor in the job, Li made it clear reviving the team's flagging spirits is his top priority.

"Not having the right mentality has been a persistent problem for the national team, I hope that my arrival can help our players fulfill their potential when they play for the national squad," said Li at a media conference in Beijing on Sunday morning, before heading to a national team training session in Guangzhou.

"During the player selection process, our focus will be on those who are willing to play for their nation with selflessness. We want players who can devote themselves to the national team.

"Some players produce brilliant performances for their clubs in the league, so they need to learn to cope with the huge pressure in the national team.

"We'll endeavor to help them to adapt to that pressure during our training sessions and we will also turn to experts in this area to help them too."

The Chinese Football Association appointed Li as the permanent successor to Marcello Lippi on Thursday after initially installing the former Everton midfielder on a caretaker basis following Lippi's resignation in November.

Whether Li remains in the job beyond the expiration of his contract in June looks likely to depend on how the team performs in the remainder of the World Cup qualification campaign.

With four more first-round qualifiers to play, Team China is eight points adrift of Group A leader Syria. The eight group winners and four best second-place finishers will enter a second phase of Asian qualifying. China is currently ranked as the sixth best runner-up team.

The addition of Brazil-born naturalized star Ai Kesen has so far not quite had the impact many had hoped for, with China still struggling to break down teams in crunch games-such as November's 2-1 defeat to Syria in Dubai.

However, Li, whose team resumes its qualification campaign against the Maldives in March, attempted to steer attention away from the naturalization policy, saying: "The door of the national team is open for everyone who is capable.

"It doesn't matter if he's born in China or he's a naturalized player. I only have one standard-as long as he's good enough."

As for his own qualities, Li was keen to emphasize what he has learned from his Italian predecessor, not how he differs from him.

"I really don't want to talk about the difference between domestic and foreign head coaches. For a soccer coach, the only thing that matters is whether you can handle your job," said Li.

"If you can, you will be the coach. If you can't, you'll leave the position. For me, my advantage is that I'm very familiar with the current Team China players.

"From 2012, I worked with Lippi for five years. Three years in the Evergrande and two years in the national team. I've learned a lot from both positions, and the most important thing was his strong desire for victory."

Li was a member of the only Chinese squad to ever play at a World Cup, in 2002. After retiring as a player, he began his coaching career at Evergrande before taking head-coaching positions at Hebei China Fortune and Wuhan Zall.

The Shenyang native has long had his eye on the national team job, revealing his ambitions to Chinese media in 2011.

Now the 42-year-old is determined to show he can outlast his six-month contract.

"Being the national team coach is the highest honor for me, and it also means a huge responsibility," said Li. "I was very excited when I knew that I had the chance of becoming Team China's head coach.

"This has always been my dream. When I have the chance to serve my country, I don't consider other things too much. Even if the CFA had only offered me a one-day contract, I'd still have signed it without hesitation."

Chris Van Puyvelde, the technical director of the CFA, believes Li can be an inspiration to those eyeing careers in coaching.

"I'm really happy that we have a young Chinese coach. Not too young, but a coach with experience," said Van Puyvelde. "And I believe there will be more Chinese coaches in the future that can be very high-level coaches. I think the head coach can be an example to the future coaches of China. I believe China has a big future in football, but it will take time."

 

Head coach Li Tie (right) presents Zhang Xizhe with an invitation to the national squad in Beijing on Sunday. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2020-01-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Fan and Zhu reign as young guns shine in 'world's toughest test']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/06/content_37531301.htm China's top paddlers opened Olympic year the hard way by slugging it out at arguably the world's toughest table tennis tournament-The Marvelous 12.

With China still the sport's undisputed powerhouse, last week's domestic trials for March's World Team Table Tennis Championships in South Korea are in many ways considered a bigger test for the nation's elite than major international events.

And the tournament again lived up to that billing as world champions fell prey to their hungry young compatriots in a fiercely contested competition in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

World No 1 Fan Zhendong stormed to the men's singles title by reeling off four straight victories, most significantly against multiple doubles world champion Xu Xin in the final.

Fan's red-hot form extended his winning streak to 35 matches since his triumph at an International Table Tennis Federation World Tour leg in Germany in October.

The women's event saw former world No 1 Zhu Yuling end an 18-month title drought, which stretched back to the World Tour's South Korea stop in July 2018.

As well as confirming their berths in the squad for the Busan worlds, Fan and Zhu each walked away with winner's checks of 1 million yuan (around $144,000). The total prize pool of 5 million yuan is the sport's biggest purse.

"Even though it's a domestic competition, the atmosphere with live broadcasting in a packed stadium makes it a very different experience," Fan said after being crowned champion at Luohu Sports Center on Saturday.

"This is a tougher challenge than sometimes facing overseas opponents internationally. To pull this off means a good start for me entering the Olympic year and I've gained new confidence preparing for the Games," added Fan, who turns 23 on Jan 22.

Jointly presented by the Chinese Table Tennis Association and Tencent Sports, The Marvelous 12 is designed to provide China's best with a tougher test than they would face overseas, with the tournament assuming extra importance in an Olympic year.

The annual event, promoted and marketed by Tencent Sports since its debut in 2017, attracts huge numbers of online viewers and on-site spectators every year.

In a bid to encourage China's most promising up-and-coming young paddlers, players have to first pass two single elimination rounds before reaching a final round-robin stage.

Reigning Olympic and world singles champion Ma Long fell victim to the next gen when he slumped to a 4-3 second-round loss against the unheralded Zhou Qihao, while on the women's side, Olympic champ Ding Ning also lost in round two, to eventual winner Zhu.

"It's really the best of the best in the world and it's probably, maybe, one of the toughest tournaments in the world to win," said ITTF CEO Steve Dainton in Shenzhen.

"The domestic competition just pushed us to go harder physically and mentally to become more resilient and consistent in tough matches as every opponent you are facing is of world-champion class," said Fan.

"It's a healthy competition that keeps our level up there for the long term."

The next gen's rise bodes well for China's hopes of sweeping all five gold medals-men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles-in Tokyo this summer.

However, CTTA chairman Liu Guoliang is warning against complacency. The legendary former player and coach stressed that Olympic host Japan's rising young talents, who stunned China's established stars on multiple occasions in 2018, are a force to be reckoned with.

"We still have huge room for improvement in terms of our management system, daily standards and performance during competitions. Also, the skills of our players are still not good enough," Liu said earlier last month after China won four of five gold medals on offer at the World Tour's Grand Finals in Zhengzhou, Henan province.

 

 

 

]]> 2020-01-06 00:00:00 <![CDATA[KICKING OFF A NEW CHAPTER]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/06/content_37531313.htm Chinese soccer chiefs hope the introduction of a foreign-player salary cap and new regulations on imported and naturalized stars will foster better conditions for the next generation of domestic talent to thrive.

The Chinese Football Association last week published details of the new measures which were agreed with clubs at a December meeting in Beijing.

According to the CFA, the salaries of foreign players will be capped at 3 million euros ($3.3 million) after tax, applying to contracts signed from Jan 1 this year.

The cap is expected to significantly curb the influx of expensive imports to the Chinese Super League, which for many observers has been detrimental both to the development of domestic talent and the financial health of clubs.

From now on, CSL clubs will be permitted to register six foreign players per season, but only five of those can be used in match-day squads and just four can be on the pitch at any one time.

The restrictions will not apply to naturalized players so long as one of his biological parents or grandparents was born in China. A naturalized player who has been selected for the national team may also be exempt from the foreign quota-although clubs can only apply this classification to one player. Guangzhou Evergrande and Team China's Brazil-born striker Ai Kesen (aka Elkeson) would meet this criterion, for example.

The salary cap for domestic players will remain at 10 million yuan ($1.43 million) before tax, or 12 million yuan for China internationals.

Clubs will not be permitted to spend more than 1.1 billion yuan on their operations annually, with salaries not to exceed 60 percent of that amount. In 2021, that limit will drop to 900 million yuan, with salaries not exceeding 55 percent.

It is hoped that by keeping domestic players' wages in check, more might be encouraged to test themselves in major foreign leagues. At the moment, Wu Lei is the only Chinese player plying his trade in one of the world's top leagues-with Espanyol in Spain's La Liga.

Sustainable growth

Club owners have widely backed the measures.

"Having a salary cap can help teams develop more sustainably. Regulations are necessary in a professional environment," Li Ming, general manager of Beijing Guo'an, told Xinhua last month.

"The Chinese Football Association really values our opinions. They spent all day with us discussing how to make this new policy viable. It was the first time something like this has happened since I became manager of Guo'an six years ago."

Support for the reforms also appears to extend beyond the CSL's big guns. "Smaller soccer clubs can't function if they lose billions of yuan each year. I think having a salary cap can benefit us in the long run," said Yang Nan, a representative of Henan Jianye.

Dong Zheng, the leader of the CFA's policy-making team, says the new measures are designed to put an end to the precarious financial situations that some clubs find themselves in.

"The purpose of making new policies is to ensure the healthy growth of our professional leagues and keep them dynamic," said Dong.

"We are working to give our clubs healthier finances and facilitate the growth of young players. We hope to reach an agreement with our clubs and achieve the goal together. This is not like ordering our clubs to do something."

Youth focus

Ensuring more playing time for young talent and developing youth training are key elements of the plan.

CSL teams will be required to register at least three under-21 players in their 2020 season squads; in the second and third tiers that quota is set at two and five respectively.

In the top tiers, teams will be required to have at least one under-23 player on the pitch during games, while it will be necessary for third-tier sides to field at least one under-21 player.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education, says that efforts to invigorate soccer in schools are starting to pay off.

Over the last five years, a total of 27,059 primary and middle schools have provided at least one soccer class each week for over 20 million students, according to the ministry.

Thirty-eight pilot zones for school soccer reform have been established, and 160 counties or districts have been selected as pilot areas for promoting soccer on campus.

Another 3,000 kindergartens will be selected as youth soccer hubs by the end of next year as the authorities seek to nurture more talent from an early age.

"We've made some progress in terms of youth soccer in schools for the past five years, but generally speaking, the number of students who actually play soccer is still very limited," said Wang Dengfeng, head of the ministry's department of physical, health and arts education.

"Playing soccer is not just for those who want to become professional athletes-anyone can take it up. And for kids it can be very beneficial for their health and overall development."

The Ministry of Education also revealed last month that, from 2015-18, China completed the construction and renovation of 32,432 soccer pitches in schools.

An additional 28,545 pitches are expected to be completed by the end of this year. As of September 2018, a total of 120,960 pitches have been built in schools of all levels across the country.

"Any country that is strong at soccer starts training early and has a strict talent selection process," said Li Chunman, deputy director of the National Campus Soccer Expert Committee.

"Based on the current situation of our country, we should establish a comprehensive youth training system. We should focus more on high-quality campus soccer training in the longer term."

CSL excitement

The CSL served up plenty of excitement last season, with fans gripped by a dramatic three-way title race that went right down to the wire.

Guangzhou Evergrande emerged victorious on the final day of the season to depose Shanghai SIPG and win a record-extending eighth CSL crown ahead of runner-up Guo'an.

According to the league's online rights holder, PP Sports, all 240 of last season's CSL games were viewed a total of 1.59 billion times on all platforms-a 12.1 percent increase on the previous campaign.

Evergrande featured in all of the top five most-watched games, with its 3-1 August victory over Guo'an in Beijing top of that list with over 32 million views online. A bumper 57,000-plus crowd watched the action inside the capital's Workers' Stadium.

Dalian Yifang boasted the "most local" fan base last term, with 23 percent of its official supporters' group hailing from the Liaoning province city, according to PP Sports.

Yifang's late-season slump under coach Rafa Benitez made it the most-talked-about CSL team online. Dalian received the highest number of online comments-280 million-below videos of their matches last season.

Of all the city's without a topflight team, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province has the highest number of CSL fans, accounting for 3.4 percent of the league's nationwide total.

 

Guangzhou Evergrande fans had plenty to cheer last year as their side claimed a record-extending eighth Chinese Super League title. The introduction of new regulations on foreign players is sure to add fresh intrigue to next season's CSL battle. XINHUA

 

  

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2020-01-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[A very happy Wu year!]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/06/content_37531317.htm Wu Lei's European adventure hit new heights after the trailblazing Chinese striker added the mighty Barcelona to his list of conquests.

Wu came off the bench to fire home a superb 88th-minute equalizer and grab Espanyol a 2-2 draw in a dramatic Catalan derby on Saturday night.

"A magical night, a new year, a good start," Wu wrote on Instagram after the game.

The strike sees Wu become the first Chinese player to hit the net in a competitive fixture against Barca and gives last-place Espanyol a much-needed point in its battle against La Liga relegation.

"I am so excited not only because the goal was against Barca but also the point means a lot for our team at the moment," Wu told Espanyol's website.

"I hope the result can help us regain our confidence and put us back on the right track in the league.

"I can feel that our morale is back in the locker room with such an important point gained against Barca. The vibe within the team right now is very positive. I believe we can play better and with more togetherness starting from today."

The goal was the 28-year-old's third in all competitions this season for Espanyol and sixth since he became the first Chinese to permanently sign for a Spanish top-flight club in a reported 2-million-euro ($2.25-million) deal from Shanghai SIPG last January.

Since then, Wu has been busy racking up the milestones. He opened his La Liga account against Real Valladolid in March, and in October became the first Chinese man to score in a major UEFA club competition, excluding the qualifying rounds, by netting in a 2-0 Europa League victory at CSKA Moscow.

Rays of light

Wu's feats in Europe are rare rays of light for Chinese soccer amid the national team's ongoing struggles, with new Team China coach Li Tie quick to acknowledge the forward's latest inspirational moment.

"Wu Lei is the best Chinese player right now and the only one who can play in a topflight European league," said Li at a media conference in Beijing on Sunday before flying to Guangzhou for a Team China training session.

"I watched his game last night-he produced a great performance, earned honor for China and impressed Chinese fans. I hope he can carry on this momentum."

Wu's goal immediately became the top-searched topic on Weibo, with the plaudits flooding in from fans and pundits alike.

"In one of the darkest times of Chinese football, a goal from Wu Lei sparks such joy. Come on, Chinese football!" wrote CCTV commentator He Wei on his microblog.

Last season, Wu popped up with vital goals and assists to help steer Espanyol away from relegation trouble and ultimately earn the team an unexpected Europa League berth.

Currently bottom of the pile in La Liga and four points from safety, Espanyol has its work cut out to beat the drop again this term, but Wu's heroics certainly give it renewed hope.

After opening the scoring through a 23rd-minute David Lopez header and managing to keep Lionel Messi relatively quiet, Espanyol found itself staring down the barrel of another defeat in new coach Abelardo Fernandez's first game in charge after two moments of brilliance from Luis Suarez.

A neat half-volley from the Uruguayan brought Barca level in the 50th minute before Suarez deftly crossed for substitute Arturo Vidal to head the visitor in front in the 59th.

However, the sending-off of Dutch playmaker Frankie de Jong for a second yellow card in the 66th minute opened up the game and put an extra spring in Espanyol's step.

Wu was introduced for Oscar Melendo in the 74th minute and immediately tested Barca goalkeeper with a well-directed header that just lacked for power.

The China international proved a real handful for Barca's defense and, after showing fine anticipation to run onto a Matias Vargas through-ball, Wu found the net with a precision finish from a difficult angle to send the home fans into raptures.

In a thrilling end-to-end finale, Wu should have had a chance to bag the winner but teammate Jonathan Calleri blazed over when squaring to the unmarked Wu looked the wiser option.

'Turning point'

"It's a turning point for these players who have suffered so much," said Fernandez, Espanyol's third coach this season following the firings of David Gallego in October and Pablo Machin on Dec 21.

"They gave it their all against a great team. The expulsion of de Jong helped us, but my team was never out of the match and deserved the point. If we compete like this, we will be hard to beat."

Suarez was left to rue his team's capitulation in the first-versus-last matchup. "The hardest thing to do is to turn a game around when playing on the road," Suarez said. "We let these points slip away."

Sunday's draw leaves Barca top of the standings, but now only leading second-place Real Madrid on goal difference. Zinedine Zidane's Madrid won 3-0 at local rival Getafe.

 

 

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2020-01-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/05/content_37531119.htm BASKETBALL

Former NBA chief Stern dies aged 77

Former NBA commissioner David Stern has died at the age of 77, the league said on Wednesday.

Stern, who served 30 years as the NBA's longest-serving commissioner before being succeeded by Adam Silver in February 2014, had been in a serious condition after undergoing surgery on Dec 12 in New York following a sudden brain hemorrhage.

Stern oversaw the NBA's extraordinary growth with seven new franchises, a more than 30-fold increase in revenue, a dramatic expansion of national TV exposure and the launch of the female WNBA and NBA Development League.

"Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today," Hall of Famer Michael Jordan said.

Jiangsu coach facing ban over fan clash

Jiangsu Dragons head coach Memi Becirovic was ejected for an altercation with a fan during his team's 111-103 CBA defeat to the Liaoning Flying Leopards on Wednesday night.

The Slovenian appeared to shove a spectator during the third quarter before being restrained by players and staff.

After a video review, the referee demanded that Becirovic leave the arena. The fan was also ejected, with the pair continuing their spat as they departed.

Local media reported that the fan had directed an offensive gesture towards Liaoning's Lance Stephenson before engaging in a verbal altercation with Becirovic's wife, who was also sitting courtside. Becirovic now faces an automatic one-match courtside ban, which could be extended after the CBA further investigates the incident.

Jiangsu sits 13th in the CBA, with a 9-14 win-loss record.

Cavs optimistic of dealing forward Love

The Cleveland Cavaliers ended 2019 with renewed hope that they will be able to trade forward Kevin Love, it was reported on Wednesday.

The New York Times' Marc Stein tweeted he "heard some fresh optimism" the Cavs could complete a deal for Love before the Feb 7 NBA trade deadline.

Love, 31, signed a reported fouryear, $120 million extension with the Cavaliers in the summer of 2018. It is believed the combination of the 12-year veteran's age and salary might discourage teams from pursuing a deal.

Love is averaging 16.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 28 games this season for the Cavs (10-23). He's shooting 44.8 percent overall and 37.5 percent from 3-point range.

The five-time All-Star has career averages of 18.2 points and 11.2 rebounds in 685 career games with the Minnesota Timberwolves (2008-14) and Cavaliers.

RUNNING

Cheruiyot chasing 1,500m world record

World champion Timothy Cheruiyot has pledged to join forces with Kenyan teammate Elijah Manangoi in a bid to break one of athletics' longest-standing world records.

Cheruiyot had been playing second fiddle to his training partner and friend Manangoi until a hamstring injury denied the latter the chance to defend his 1,500m world title in Doha, Qatar, in October.

The 24-year-old Cheruiyot capitalized on Manangoi's absence by romping to gold at the worlds in 3 minutes 29.26 seconds.

But with Manangoi now returning to action, Cheruiyot wants the pair to take on Moroccan legend Hicham El Guerrouj's 1,500 mark of 3:26:00, which has stood since 1998.

"I know the record has been there for a long time and Kenyan athletes have been around the top of the leaderboard over the distance, so it would be nice if we can work together to attempt to break it," Cheruiyot said in Kericho, Kenya, on Tuesday.

"The focus should now be on how to train and for sure the record. What I know is it will go down at some time."

Xinhua - Agencies

David Stern

 

 

Kevin Love

 

 

Timothy Cheruiyot

 

 

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2020-01-05 14:37:13
<![CDATA[Yang stresses importance of education]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/03/content_37531113.htm Speed skating great Yang Yang believes her experiences during her glittering career in the rink will give her an extra edge in the global fight against doping.

The 43-year-old became the first Chinese to assume a leadership role in the World Anti-Doping Agency when she was elected vice-president of the organization on Nov 7 in Poland.

And as she began her work this week, the two-time Olympic champion immediately made improving athletes' anti-doping education one of her top priorities.

"I used to be an athlete, so I totally understand the importance of education both on a technical level and a moral level," said Yang, who became China's first Winter Olympic gold medalist when she sped to 500m short-track gold at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

"There are two levels of education-the technical level, which incorporates food safety and the correct use of medicine, and more importantly the moral level," Yang said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

"It's not only about the top-level athletes. It's more about young athletes, even kids. From an early age, we have to let more people understand the value of being honest and being clean athletes. WADA has already established many good programs. In the future we will continue to further promote these programs."

In November last year, WADA published the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code and International Standards, which will come into force on Jan 1 next year.

Yang believes the new code will help athletes better understand their rights and how to protect themselves in potential conflicts.

She also stressed that athletes' support teams should be absolutely clear on the importance of anti-doping procedures and how they operate.

"Athletes often exist in a cocooned environment, so the people around them have great influence on them," said Yang. "In some places, doping is even a 'culture' in which some believe if others use drugs and you don't, you will be disadvantaged.

"This is a very serious problem and comes with huge risks. One focus of WADA's future work is to punish the illegal actions of athletes' support teams."

Yang hailed China's renewed efforts on the anti-doping front, and has been busy letting the world know about the nation's tough new measures at several international meetings.

"Chinese athletes have to pass an anti-doping knowledge exam to qualify for international and major national events. I heard two athletes were disqualified from this year's National Youth Games because they failed the test," Yang said.

"As China now plays a more important role in international sports, we are also doing a better job in the anti-doping sector.

"WADA and the International Olympic Committee hope China can assume more responsibility in the world's fight against doping."

China is preparing to establish a national anti-doping lab in Shanghai-an example which, Yang believes, many other countries and regions could learn from.

"At Rio 2016, 10 percent of medalists were from countries and regions that had no anti-doping centers or labs," said Yang.

"They lack access to anti-doping education and are not subject to anti-doping tests in everyday life. This is not fair for athletes who constantly undergo doping tests."

WADA intends to provide financial support to such areas "to help build their anti-doping systems, which is critical for the global anti-doping effort," she added.

Since hanging up her skates in 2006, Yang has remained active in the world of sports. She was elected an IOC member in 2010 and has served in several other sports organizations.

The WADA role is her most high-profile appointment yet, and she admits the pressure is on to deliver.

"For me, there's a lot of work to be done in the future," said Yang. "It's just beginning and I'm already feeling the pressure. However, I relish such pressure!"

Xinhua contributed to this story.

 

Yang Yang

 

 

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2020-01-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Li installed as Lippi's successor]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/03/content_37531118.htm The Chinese Football Association has confirmed Li Tie as Team China's new head coach, but warned that a fundamental change in mindset, not just personnel, is required if the nation is to end its wait to qualify for a World Cup.

The former China international and Everton midfielder was on Thursday appointed as the permanent successor to Italian Marcello Lippi, having initially been installed on a caretaker basis following Lippi's resignation in November.

"The Chinese Football Association will fully support head coach Li Tie and his team. We believe with coach Li at the helm, the national squad will maintain its honor and stick to its mission," read a CFA statement published on Weibo on Thursday afternoon.

"The coach intends to lead the squad with rigorous and scientific training, and will be prepared for the games to come.

"Li Tie is an outstanding representative of Chinese soccer."

Shenyang-born Li was a member of the only Chinese squad to ever play at a World Cup, in 2002. At club level, he began his career at hometown club Liaoning before moving to England, where he made 40 appearances for Premier League club Everton in four seasons.

After retiring as a player, he began his coaching career at Guangzhou Evergrande as an assistant to Lippi before taking head-coaching position at Hebei China Fortune and Wuhan Zall.

CFA secretary general Liu Yi tried to cool expectations that Li's appointment alone can solve the problems of the national team.

"Previously, many people wanted Team China to have a world-class foreign coach, as they believed as long as we could find such a coach, Chinese soccer could make a breakthrough," Liu told Xinhua.

"But even by hiring such expertise, China could not rely solely on the head coach.

"The idea that a world-class coach will be a game changer must be changed. We have to solve the problem that the national squad has struggled to win significant games since 2002. That needs a change of our system and mindset."

Liu added that the CFA plans to establish a comprehensive support team for the national squad, which will include conditioning and tactical coaches, sports science experts and a psychology team.

News of Li's appointment went viral on Chinese social media, with related topics viewed over 30 million times on Weibo within an hour of the CFA announcement.

The 42-year-old had been widely expected to get the role on a full-time basis after temporarily taking charge of the squad for December's East Asian Football Federation E-1 Championship in South Korea.

Li faces a huge task to revive China's fortunes. A 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Syria in November prompted Lippi's sudden resignation and left China's qualification chances hanging by a thread.

Team China, which is eight points adrift of Group A leader Syria, resumes its campaign in March with easy-looking games against the Maldives and Guam. However, crunch clashes against the third-place Philippines and Syria in June look set to decide China's fate.

The eight group winners and four best second-place finishers will enter a second phase of Asian qualifying. China is currently ranked as the sixth best runner-up team.

One of Li's priorities will be trying to rebuild the squad's damaged morale.

He will begin that task at a training session in Guangzhou on Sunday with a 39-man squad that does not include star striker Wu Lei, who is omitted due to his club commitments with Espanyol in Spain, or 39-year-old veteran Zheng Zhi, whose international career would now appear to be over.

 

Team China head coach Li Tie

 

 

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2020-01-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Fears for Yifang as Wanda cuts funding]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/03/content_37531132.htm Dalian Yifang's future is in serious doubt after Wanda Group announced it is pulling the plug on its investment in the Chinese Super League club in favor of building its own team.

Speculation has been rife in recent weeks that Wanda was about to halt its funding of Yifang and the wider soccer scene in Dalian, Liaoning province.

On Wednesday, the multinational property giant, which has never owned any shares in the club, issued a statement to clarify its position.

"For multiple reasons, Wanda Group can still not acquire Dalian Yifang's shares, and many of the club's old problems could not be solved," read the statement.

"Under such circumstances, Wanda Group will no longer continue to support Dalian Yifang as it has been doing.

"Wanda has built world-class soccer infrastructure in Dalian and top-class youth teams in the city. We also have a long-term commitment to supporting campus soccer in schools in the city of Dalian.

"We will not withdraw from Dalian soccer. Instead, we will seek to build our own club and continue to support soccer's development in Dalian."

The news has been hotly debated on Chinese social media, with related topics viewed over 20 million times on Weibo. Many fans have expressed concern for Yifang's future and accused Wanda of reneging on its commitment to soccer in the region.

However, Wanda, which began its association with Yifang at the start of the 2018 CSL season when the club's shareholders withdrew financial support for the team, firmly rejected such notions.

"For the past two years, Wanda Group has been paying for the high operating costs of the Dalian Yifang club, and we have spent 2 billion yuan (about $287 million) to establish a soccer youth training center in Dalian," the statement from Wanda continued.

"We have also invested 1 billion yuan to establish more than a dozen youth teams of various age groups, from 12 to 21 years old, and totaling about 350 youth players.

"We have also signed a decadelong deal of 500 million yuan to support soccer's development in 10 primary schools in Dalian. If Wanda has not been serious about soccer, how could we have made such long-term plans?"

 

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2020-01-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[OLYMPIC VISION BECOMING REALITY]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37531007.htm With venues taking shape and test events underway, China's preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics made huge strides in 2019 as organizers' focus shifted from construction to operation.

The impressive progress is perhaps best illustrated at the National Aquatics Center, the 2008 Summer Olympics venue known as the Water Cube that has recently been transformed into an "Ice Cube" following a year-long renovation project.

Now, four ice sheets lie over the center's original main pool, which has been filled by steel structures to host curling at the Winter Games.

After staging a national junior curling tournament last month, the center this week opened its Olympic-standard curling tracks to the public for experience sessions, making it one of the earliest completed facilities for 2022.

All 13 competition venues will be ready by June this year, according to the 2022 organizing committee.

The Games will be held in three zones, with downtown Beijing staging all ice sports, and the northwest Yanqing district and co-host city Zhangjiakou in Hebei province staging all the snow events.

About 90 kilometers northwest of downtown, the newly built National Alpine Skiing Center at Yanqing's Xiaohaituo Mountain is also a hive of activity these days, with organizers busy grooming the slopes in preparation for an International Ski Federation World Cup meet on Feb 15-16, the first of 15 official test events for the Olympics through early 2021.

Beijing 2022's readiness for competition has also seen FIS World Cup meets for freestyle skiing and snowboarding staged at the Big Air ramp at the capital's Shougang Industrial Park and the halfpipe slope in Zhangjiakou's Chongli district.

Organizers said the smooth progress on venue construction and refurbishment has pushed the ahead-of-schedule preparatory work into a new phase, focused on management and operation.

"Our venue preparation has progressed efficiently over the past year, which has laid a solid foundation for organizing the Olympics to the highest possible standard," said Liu Yumin, director of the planning, construction and sustainable development department of the 2022 organizing committee.

The productive year was capped by the opening on Monday of a high-speed railway line connecting the Games' three competition zones.

Boasting a maximum speed of 350 kilometers per hour, the 174-km line slashes travel time between downtown Beijing and Zhangjiakou from over three hours to about 50 minutes.

Taizicheng Station is the line's final stop in Chongli, where the 2022 venues for cross-country skiing, biathlon and ski jumping are all in shuttle-bus range.

"The high-speed railway will help improve the efficiency of our work, promote China's winter sports industry, and boost the ice and snow economy," Yang Yang, chairwoman of the 2022 organizing committee's athletes commission, said on Monday, after being among the passengers on the line's first official train journey to Chongli.

Other milestones for organizers last year included the launch of a global recruitment campaign in early December which is searching for around 27,000 volunteers for the Olympics and 12,000 for the Paralympics.

Over 600,000 applicants have already applied via the official online portal vol.beijing2022.cn, according to Yan Cheng, the organizing committee's human resources director.

The committee recruited 231 new employees in 2019 to grow to its staff to 705 in total; 175 of those were sent to work on internship programs at 14 international events for practical training over the past year, added Yan.

Games mascots-a panda in an ice suit named Bing Dwen Dwen for the Olympics, and a lantern-like cartoon kid called Shuey Rhon Rhon for the Paralympics-were also unveiled last year, kicking off a marketing blitz that is expected to yield impressive revenues.

While preparing for a "fantastic, extraordinary and excellent" Games, as underlined by the central government, the country is also sparing no effort to roll out a national plan of involving 300 million people in winter sports and recreation in the build-up to 2022 and beyond.

Landmark 2008 Olympics venue the National Stadium, aka the Bird's Nest, has switched into winter mode, providing entry-level curling, skating and ice hockey activities for the public as part of the second "Meet in 2022" Ice and Snow Cultural Festival.

The renovated Bird's Nest will host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2022 Games.

China plans to build 650 skating rinks and 800 ski resorts by 2022, up from 334 and 738 respectively in June 2018, to help facilitate the mass winter sports promotion while stimulating consumption in associated businesses.

"It has been really inspiring for us to see how the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics have been a catalyst to creating real interest in winter sports participation in China," FIS secretary-general Sarah Lewis told China Daily during her visit to Beijing last month.

"The work has been done in a very professional and intelligent way so the long-term legacy is already truly up and running even before the Games, which means when the Games come around there is already more knowledge, interest and excitement for winter sports.

"There has been so much activity and engagement for winter sports in this country. Winter sports will become part of the daily routine of the Chinese."

This year, the 2022 organizing committee will launch designs for the Games' slogans and medals, while theme songs and the route of the torch relay will also be released.

 

The new Big Air ramp at Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park lights up the night skyline. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY/XINHUA/RAO QIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

 

 

Youngsters enjoy the fun of skating during the Ice and Snow Festival outside the National Stadium in Beijing on Dec 26. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY/XINHUA/RAO QIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

 

 

Curlers compete in a junior tournament in the National Aquatics Center, which has been transformed into a 2022 Winter Games venue. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY/XINHUA/RAO QIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

 

 

 

 

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2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[ON TRACK FOR A HEALTHY 2020]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37530980.htm Around 10,000 hardy souls got 2020 off to an energetic start at the Run the Track half-marathon in Shanghai on Wednesday.

First staged in 2015, the annual race around Shanghai International Circuit, the home of Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix, is one of the hottest tickets in town on New Year's Day.

The first runner signed up for this year's event just 29 seconds after registration had opened, with the race fully booked up within 50 minutes.

Run the Track attracts runners of all ages-the youngest this year was 5 years old, while the oldest was 81. Runners could choose from four different levels-an elite 21.6-kilometer race with a two-hour time limit, a regular 21.6km run, a 5.4km experience run and a 3km family run.

Despite the debut of the elite race, Run the Track remains primarily a fun-focused event, with the emphasis on promoting healthy living.

The 400 spots (double that of last year) for the family race sold out in just 16 minutes. The category was open to kids aged between 5 and 10 years old accompanied by at least one parent.

For participants like Tu Wenrui and his son, the event has become an annual bonding session.

"The first time we were here, I had to drag him to finish line," said Tu. "Last year, he was already faster than me and did not leave me behind. He knew to look after me. He stopped and asked me if I can make it, and that's when I knew he had grown up."

Tu's son is now studying abroad as a high school student, and this year the teenager had his dad's persistence to thank for making it to the start line.

"Due to the slow net speed, I failed to register for this year's event and I could sense my son's disappointment when I told him," said Tu, who was awarded entry into the race after explaining the situation to organizers. "How it worked out was beyond our expectation!" he added.

The hot demand for places now was unthinkable for organizers five years ago.

"I still remember the registration of the inaugural edition in 2015 when we opened 8,000 spots for runners. It took about two days for all the spots to become booked up," said George Wei, the general manager of co-organizer Bright PR Shanghai.

"After the first morning, there were at most 2,000 people registered, and the process was quite agonizing for us. We were not even sure if there would be enough runners to make the event feasible."

F1 pilgrimage

For F1 fans, of course, Run the Track is an extra special treat, with hardcore petrol heads particularly in abundance in the earlier editions of the race.

"It was true that most of the runners of the first year were F1 fans who only watched F1 races on TV, so it was a dream come true for them to run the track," Wei said.

"We even had a Michael Schumacher fan who had memorized how Schumacher made every turn in Shanghai. So he followed Schumacher's racing-car route on the track, instead of keeping to the inner ring like the other runners."

Nowadays, Run the Track attracts a more diverse cross-section of participants.

"The key to our growing popularity is the comprehensive service we have been providing and runners' quality experience during the event," said Wei. "Honestly speaking, the proportion of F1 fans among our runners is decreasing.

"The uniqueness of our event is attracting people who have never had such an experience of running an auto racing track.

"The Shanghai circuit is shaped like the Chinese character 'Shang', which means up and growing. So, many runners hope to finish Run the Track to bring more luck for the New Year."

Lu Beilu was one of those initially attracted to the event because of its Formula One association.

"I really love F1 and Kimi Raikkonen. The Finnish 'Iceman' has always been my favorite driver," said Lu, who has run each edition since 2015. "So it's a great privilege for me to run on the F1 track that my hero competes on each year."

When Lu signed up for her first Run the Track, she had barely any experience of long-distance running. And having now developed into a regular runner, she feels a close connection to Run the Track for igniting her passion for fitness.

"I've only participated in long-distance running for six years-not long," said Lu. "There's an event that I joined from the first edition, which is pretty meaningful for me. I'll keep coming to run as long as this race continues to be staged on New Year's Day."

Upping the pace

This year Lu chose to run as a pacemaker, known as a 'rabbit'.

"As someone who has never missed a Run the Track event, this year I signed up as a pacer," said Lu.

"I was very happy when I was selected as a pacer and I tried my best to finish all the training. The whole process is about double the effort of a regular runner's preparation work."

Next year, Lu is planning to run with her 8-year-old daughter.

"My daughter was too young when I first started running, so I have not taken her to any official events yet," added Lu. "Next year, I'd like to take her to experience Run the Track's family race. It's about time for her to start."

The popularity of Run the Track is typical of China's ongoing long-distance running boom.

According to the Chinese Athletics Association, a total of 1,581 marathon events, each with fields of over 800 runners, were staged in 285 cities nationwide in 2018, attracting at total of 5.83 million entries.

Over 120,000 people ran full marathons for the first time in 2018, while there were about 400,000 newcomers to half-marathons.

Meanwhile, Chinese running enthusiasts are increasingly seeking to test themselves in prestigious international events. The Abbott World Marathon Majors series said that, in 2018, 6,155 runners from China ran its illustrious races in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.

 

A birdseye view of the Run the Track half-marathon event at Shanghai International Circuit on Wednesday. Around 10,000 people took part in the annual race around the Formula One track. CHINA DAILY

 

 

 

 

Run the Track attracts runners of all ages-the youngest this year was 5 years old. CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[China's medal momentum bodes well for 2022 targets]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/02/content_37530990.htm With the Beijing Winter Olympics just two years away, Chinese athletes spared no effort over the past 12 months to build momentum for a strong home performance in 2022.

Impressive results on the ice and snow suggest China's hopes of qualifying for all 109 events at the Games and beating its previous best gold-medal haul (five in Vancouver 2010) may not be too ambitious after all.

Leading the charge is China's traditionally strong short-track speed skating team, which has contributed 10 out of 13 gold medals won by China since the country's Winter Olympics debut in 1980 at Lake Placid, New York.

Led by a reshuffled coaching staff overseen by four-time Olympic champion skater Wang Meng, China's short-track squad has won eight gold, six silver and seven bronze medals at the past four legs (Salt Lake City, Montreal, Nagoya and Shanghai) on the International Skating Union's 2019-20 World Cup series.

Wang, who won four golds at two Olympics (2006 and 2010), was appointed in May as manager of a merged national speed skating team consisting of the short-and long-track squads, which had previously been separate entities.

Wang's arrival ended the 13-year tenure of her former coach Li Yan at the helm of the short-track team after the squad finished the 2018-19 season without a single gold at major events.

A group of international experts, including South Korea's short-track specialist Kim Sun-tae, Canada's former men's short-track coach Derrick Campbell and long-track trainer Rutger Tijssen of the Netherlands, have been hired to assist Wang.

The resurgence of veterans Fan Kexin and Han Tianyu, who claimed golds in the women's 500m and men's 1000m respectively at the World Cup's Shanghai stop last month, has proven the new coaching staff effective.

Having also won silver in the men's 1500m in Shanghai, Han made a strong return to Olympic gold contention after taking a year off from skating to get married and start a family.

In figure skating, two-time world champion pair Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won their first ISU Grand Prix final with a high-difficulty routine in Turin, Italy, in early December, showing red-hot form on their quest to win a third world championship gold in Montreal in March.

Hampered by a foot injury to Sui, the Chinese pair had to settle for silver at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea behind Germany's Bruno Massot and Aliona Savchenko.

The Chinese duo's goal for Beijing 2022 is to top the podium and emulate retired husband-and-wife pair Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue's gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

However, Zhao, now head coach of China's figure skating team, is endeavoring to keep expectations in check.

"We are making progress, but we are far from becoming a major force in the world with our men's, women's and ice dancing skaters all struggling to catch up with the world's best," he said.

Compared to the ice events, China is still taking baby steps in the majority of snow sports-with the exceptions of freestyle skiing and snowboarding.

The snowboard halfpipe team and freeski aerials squad have maintained their competitiveness this season, highlighted by multiple podium finishes in the 2019-20 World Cup series.

Liu Jiayu and Cai Xuetong thrilled home fans by winning gold and silver respectively at the Chongli leg of the snowboard halfpipe World Cup series last month, while Xu Mengtao and Qi Guangpu claimed the women's and men's titles at the freeski aerials World Cup meet in Changchun on the same weekend.

Other notable breakthroughs for Chinese athletes last year included 20-year-old speed skater Ning Zhongyan's victory in the long-track men's 1500m at a World Cup event in Kazakhstan on Dec 8, and female bobsled pilot Ying Qing's gold medal in the third race of the 2019-20 single-race monobob series in Germany on Dec 19.

Both wins were firsts for China in international competition.

 

Short-track speed skating star Fan Kexin in action.

 

 

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2020-01-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Moyes determined to prove doubters wrong]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530898.htm LONDON-David Moyes returned as West Ham United manager on Monday, saying he was a winner determined to revive the club's Premier League fortunes and secure his own long-term future at the east London club.

The 56-year-old saved the Hammers from relegation in a six-month stint in 2017-18 and returns with the task of lifting a side languishing in 17th in the standings and a point above the drop zone.

Moyes said he had been given a second chance on the back of what he had achieved last time around, when he had been disappointed not to be retained, and could not wait to get started.

"This time I'm going to make it where there's no choice that they will always want to renew in the future," the Scot told reporters.

"I'm really that thrilled to go again and I'm going to make it impossible that the clause can't be implemented," Moyes said of an 18-month contract that contains an extension clause. "That's my plan and now it's for the players to carry it out."

The Hammers turned to Moyes on Sunday after firing Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who had been in charge for 18 months.

The club said on Monday that its director of football Mario Husillos and coaching staff members Ruben Cousillas, Enzo Maresca, Jose Cabello and Felix Cao had all left with Pellegrini.

Moyes said former assistant and fellow Scot Alan Irvine would be part of his backroom staff with former West Ham defender Stuart Pearce also in the frame.

"He's certainly one of the people who is under consideration," said Moyes of Pearce, who has other commitments to resolve. "It might just take us a few days to get things sorted."

Moyes' first game will be on Wednesday at home to fellow struggler Bournemouth, and his appointment has had a lukewarm response from fans on social media.

The former Everton, Manchester United and Sunderland boss responded to the doubters by saying West Ham was getting one of the most experienced Premier League managers available.

"I think there's only two or three managers with a better Premier League win record.

"That's what I do, I win. And I'm coming here to West Ham initially to try and get us wins and away from the wrong end of the table," he declared.

"My bigger picture is to have a strong team, a really good footballing team, attacking team and all those things I have to bring to the table and hope to do so."

 

David Moyes

 

 

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2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530919.htm WINTER OLYMPICS

Chinese New Year feel for opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics will combine elements of Chinese New Year, the Great Wall and the Games, organizers said this week.

The ceremony will be staged at the National Stadium, aka the Bird's Nest, during the Spring Festival holiday on Feb 4.

"We aim to deliver a unique opening ceremony that invites people from all over the world to share the joy and excitement of Chinese New Year with us," said Chang Yu, head of media and communications for the Beijing Games.

The 2008 Olympics also opened at the Bird's Nest, with Beijing set to become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

TENNIS

Sharapova to return to action in Brisbane

Former world No 1 Maria Sharapova will return to tournament action at the Brisbane International next month after being awarded a wild card to play in the Australian Open warm-up event.

The five-time Grand Slam champion, who last played a competitive match in August, has dropped to 133rd in the world after an injury-hit season.

The 32-year-old Russian will join current world No 1 Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova in a strong field at the Queensland Tennis Centre from Jan 6-12.

Sharapova's lowly ranking means she will also need a wild card to get directly into the main singles draw for the Australian Open, which begins on Jan 20.

SOCCER

Goalkeeper Yang to leave Beijing Guo'an

Veteran goalkeeper Yang Zhi is calling time on his 14-year spell at Beijing Guo'an but has yet to decide on his future plans, the capital team confirmed on Tuesday.

Yang, who will turn 37 next month, joined Guo'an in 2005. He recorded an impressive 173 clean sheets in 418 appearances, helping Guo'an win the Chinese Super League in 2009 and the CFA Cup in 2018.

Injuries and his advanced age meant Yang did not see any game time in the last two seasons for Guo'an.

Yang's contract is due to expire on Dec 31, with Guo'an saying it is preparing a farewell ceremony for him.

China names squad for Asian under-23 tourney

China's U-22 national team has revealed its final 25-player squad for the upcoming AFC Under-23 Championship, with Zhu Chenjie leading the team.

Zhu, voted the Chinese Super League's best young player in 2019, joins Guangzhou Evergrande striker Yang Liyu and Shandong Luneng playmaker Duan Liuyu in receiving call-ups from head coach Hao Wei, while Cao Yongjing and Lin Liangming missed the cut.

The championship will be played in Thailand from Jan 8-26. The top three teams will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, together with host Japan.

China, which qualified for the tournament with an unbeaten record of two wins and one draw, is in Group C along with defending champion Uzbekistan, Iran and South Korea. Hao Wei's side opens its campaign on Jan 9 against South Korea.

DPRK pulls out of Olympic qualifiers

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has withdrawn its women's team from the final round of 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers being staged in South Korea in February, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has said.

The AFC said on Tuesday the DPRK had sent a letter informing it of its withdrawal and that global governing body FIFA is also aware of the decision.

The third round of group-stage matches for the qualifying tournament will be held from Feb 3-9 in South Korea and China.

DPRK was drawn in Group A alongside host South Korea, Vietnam and Myanmar. Australia is in Group B with China, Chinese Taipei and Thailand.

The top two teams from each group advance to a two-legged playoff in March. The two playoff winners will join host Japan at next year's Olympics.

BASKETBALL

Jilin reloads with sharp shooter Jones

The Jilin Northeast Tigers have recalled the CBA's leading scorer Dominique Jones to their squad in place of Denzel Bowles.

Jones had averaged a league-leading 38 points per game, along with eight rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.7 steals.

But Jones was sidelined after suffering a muscle strain earlier this month, with fellow American Bowles called up to fill Jilin's overseas-player quota.

Bowles averaged 22.5 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in his two appearances for Jilin.

After 22 rounds of CBA matches, Jilin sits 11th in the standings, with 12 victories and 10 defeats.

Tianjin apologizes for youth players' brawl

The Tianjin Basketball Association has apologized for a brawl involving several of its young players on Monday.

Video clips posted on social media showed the Tianjin players pushing and hitting a member of a rival club following a game in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province.

According to a TBA statement, the incident took place on Dec 26 during a winter training session for its under-16 team.

The fracas allegedly began following a game when the member of the rival club demanded compensation from Tianjin for damage to the venue's bench seats.

In addition to issuing an apology and providing compensation for losses incurred, the association suspended the team's head coach, and vowed that all its players would be subject to a disciplinary process.

 

Maria Sharapova

 

 

Dominique Jones

 

 

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2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Liverpool 'must keep foot on the gas']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530904.htm English Premier League leader Liverpool is determined not to let complacency creep into the hunt for its first domestic top-flight title in 30 years, midfielder Adam Lallana has said.

The Merseyside club is on 55 points with 19 games left to play, 13 points clear of second-place Leicester and 14 ahead of defending champion Manchester City, who have both played a game more.

Liverpool became only the third team to go unbeaten in 50 consecutive home games in the English top flight when it beat Wolves 1-0 on Sunday and Lallana said it would be more of the same in 2020.

"We want to maintain that form going into the new year and keep Anfield a fortress," Lallana told the club's website. "We can't take our foot off the gas."

Most pundits already regard Liverpool as champion-in-waiting.

However, Lallana says the Reds are not looking too far ahead and are fully focused on Thursday's league match against Sheffield United and Sunday's FA Cup tie against local rival Everton.

"We've got a couple of huge games at home in the next week-Sheffield United, who has had a fantastic season, and then the derby in the Cup," he said.

Midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri missed the Wolves game with a hamstring problem and manager Jurgen Klopp said the Swiss could be out for about 10 days.

 

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2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[TEARS 'N' CHEERS]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530908.htm  

Having settled for silver in 2013 and 2015 and bronze in 2017, table tennis star Liu Shiwen can't contain her emotions after beating compatriot Chen Meng to finally win singles gold at the ITTF World Championships in Budapest on April 27. XINHUA

 

 

Left: Zheng Shuyin celebrates winning+67kg gold at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Moscow on Dec 7. Right: Zheng sobs after being controversially beaten by Briton Bianca Walkden in the +73kg final at the world championships on May 17 in Manchester, England. XINHUA

 

 

Top: China's 4x100m relay team (Ge Manqi, Kong Linghui, Liang Xiaojing and Wei Yongli) pose for photos after making the final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha on Oct 4. Bottom: The next day Ge was in tears after her mistake resulted in the team's disqualification. XINHUA

 

 

Top: Qingdao Huanghai coach Oscar Cespedes is doused in beer by one of his players after the team clinched the second-tier China League One title in Shanghai on Nov 2. Bottom: Shenzhen FC player Lyv Haidong is inconsolable after his team's relegation to League One on Nov 27. XINHUA

 

 

Left: Wang Wei is all smiles after helping China to modern pentathlon team gold at the 7th Military World Games in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Oct 24. Right: Wang's week got even better two days later when she accepted a marriage proposal from teammate Wu Hepeng. XINHUA

 

 

Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are the picture of happiness after winning pairs gold at the ISU Figure Skating World Championships in Saitama, Japan, on March 21. The duo also topped the podium at this month's ISU Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy. XINHUA

 

 

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2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[The NBA's East is loaded at the top]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2020-01/01/content_37530916.htm The West is used to being loaded at the top. The East, not so much.

But a new year is arriving with a new look in the NBA's Eastern Conference. The league will wake up on Wednesday-the first day of 2020-with six teams with winning percentages of .600 or better, the first time that's been the case on New Year's Day since 1998.

"This is a tough part of the country, a tough part of our league," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said.

He didn't say "finally," but he could have.

Just last spring, Brooklyn got the No 6 seed in the East playoffs at 42-40. This season, it won't be inconceivable if two teams in the East reach 50 wins and start the playoffs on the road anyway-which would be amazing, considering that every 50-win team in the East since 1998 has gotten a top-four seed.

Has there been a power shift from one conference to another? And can what seems to be happening in the East race last until April?

"My gut feel is, I think it can," Brown said. "To your overall question, is there a power shift, I'm biased but I think quite possibly."

That one could easily be argued. Going into 2020, the basic structure of the standings in each conference is basically the same.

There's a team that has broken a bit away atop the pack-Milwaukee in the East; the Los Angeles Lakers out West.

Then there are five teams jostling for spots 2 through 6-Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia and Indiana in the East; Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston, Dallas and Utah in the West.

There's a team around.500 hovering in seventh-Brooklyn in the East, Oklahoma City in the West.

And then there's a below-.500 team in eighth-Orlando in the East, Portland in the West.

The East and West have split the last eight NBA Finals, so it's not like there's been a huge disparity in talent at the very top. But the West, top to bottom, has unquestionably been the stronger side of the league for some time.

Things seem different now.

"It's really competitive and you have to like this," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You have to enjoy it as a competitor. People have been disparaging the Eastern Conference for so long. You have some really good teams here in the East and the teams are proving it."

There were seven different franchises with at least one NBA championship in the 2010s, Golden State leading the way with three followed by Miami with two.

San Antonio was one of the five clubs with one-but a case could be made for the Spurs being the team of the decade.

The Spurs had the most wins in the 2010s, whether just counting the regular season or adding both the regular season and the playoffs together. Oklahoma City was No 2 in regular-season wins, followed by Golden State, Houston and Miami.

The fewest wins? That would be Sacramento, followed by Minnesota, Brooklyn, Phoenix and New York. But a special decade-long award for futility goes to Detroit, the only team in the NBA that didn't win a playoff game in the 2010s. The Pistons have lost 14 consecutive postseason contests since winning Game 4 of the 2008 Eastern Conference finals.

Other highlights from the 2010s:

Most points-Devin Booker scored 70 points for Phoenix against Boston on March 24, 2017.

Most rebounds-Kevin Love had 31 for Minnesota against New York on Nov 12, 2010.

Most assists-Rajon Rondo had 25 for New Orleans against Brooklyn on Dec 27, 2017.

Most steals-Lou Williams had 10 for the Los Angeles Clippers against Utah on Jan 20, 2018, and Draymond Green had 10 for Golden State against Memphis on Feb 10, 2017. Green's was part of a most unique triple-double; he also had 11 rebounds and 10 assists, but only four points.

Most 3-pointers-Klay Thompson made 14 for Golden State against Chicago on Oct 29, 2018.

Most blocks-Poor Chicago. JaVale McGee had 12 for Washington against the Bulls on March 15, 2011, and Hassan Whiteside had 12 for Miami against the Bulls on Jan 25, 2015.

 

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2020-01-01 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Frank exchange inspired Chelsea's derby fightback]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530815.htm LONDON-Frank Lampard revealed a feisty halftime exchange inspired Chelsea to ruin Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta's home debut with a thrilling fightback in a 2-1 London derby win on Sunday.

Lampard was furious with Chelsea's lethargic first half at Emirates Stadium after the Blues fell behind to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's early goal.

The Chelsea boss was so frustrated he changed his side's formation in the 33rd minute, hauling off Emerson and sending on Jorginho.

That switch proved an inspired move as Chelsea gradually took control and equalized in the 83rd minute after Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno's mistake allowed Jorginho to tap in.

Tammy Abraham clinched the points with a cool finish four minutes later as Chelsea cemented its grip on fourth place and ended a dismal run of five defeats in seven Premier League matches.

Lampard and his players were all smiles as they celebrated with Chelsea's fans after the final whistle, but the former England international said the win had been sparked by his stern halftime team-talk and the subsequent exchange that triggered between his players.

"We were so awful for 30 minutes, slow lethargic, nervous. The second half was nothing to do with tactics, it was all to do with spirit and desire," Lampard said.

"From my point of view you can accept a missed pass but you can't accept lethargy in a London derby. The players were told that and they delivered. I said my piece and it was pretty firm. You can't come here and have nothing about you. We are Chelsea, we can't just roll up. The lads started talking and it was a bit aggressive, which was a good thing.

"We made the change and it got better. We controlled everything in the second half, the fight and desire was there."

Rocked by a dismal Boxing Day home defeat against Southampton, Lampard had questioned himself and his players.

He urged them to use this victory, which came a week after their impressive success at Tottenham, as the springboard for a more consistent run.

"The thing at the moment is you do worry if we are going to score. We needed a mistake to score and that gave us the confidence," he said.

"It will only be a turning point if we show it going forward. We won at Tottenham playing great football and today we showed some fight. If we can put the two together we will have something."

It was a bittersweet afternoon for Arteta, who was encouraged by the way his team dominated the early stages but finished frustrated by their failure to see out the result.

"I'm pleased with a lot of things we trained that actually happened in the game. That shows they are buying into what we are telling them," Arteta said.

"But we have to sustain that for longer periods against a very physical team like Chelsea.

"We were defending much deeper than I like. I'm really disappointed with the way we conceded the goals."

Arteta admitted Leno was feeling low after his blunder and he refused to blame the German.

"When an error costs a team it is harder. He will be down and we have to lift him," he said.

Arteta felt the key moment was not Leno's mistake, but Jorginho avoiding a red card when he committed a clear foul having already been booked before scoring.

"For me it was very clear, that's it. I prefer not to talk about it," he said.

Lampard conceded Chelsea had been fortunate, saying: "Maybe we got a bit of luck."

The Gunners have just one win from their last 15 games in all competitions. They sit 11 points off the top four and six points above the relegation zone.

Arteta admitted the Gunners were far from Chelsea's quality.

"It is tough to match the level that Chelsea play at. It's not that they didn't want to do it or were scared," he said.

 

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard celebrates the Blues' 2-1 win over Arsenal. REUTERS

 

 

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2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530817.htm SKIING

Heilongjiang trio rule at National Games

Heilongjiang province skiers swept the women's slalom events at the Chinese National Winter Games in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia.

Zhu Tianhui clocked a combined time of 1 minute 45 seconds over two races for victory. Kong Fanying was 2.17 seconds back in second, with Ni Yueming a further 0.78 seconds behind in third.

The Heilongjiang trio also monopolized the podium on Saturday in the women's giant slalom, with Ni claiming gold.

Jilin veteran Zhang Yangming won the men's slalom in 1:36.78, with Heilongjiang's Wang Yu taking second, at 1.25 seconds back. Jilin's Murat Akcholi, the giant slalom winner on Saturday, was third, 2.59 seconds adrift of Zhang, who finished fourth in Saturday's giant slalom.

BASKETBALL

Injury-plagued Ducks swap Lin for Hamilton

The Beijing Ducks have swapped point guard Jeremy Lin for center Justin Hamilton ahead of schedule because of the team's deepening injury crisis.

With CBA teams afforded two overseas players, the Ducks had planned to rest Lin in January, and use Hamilton and Ekpe Udoh.

However, that rotation has been brought forward, with a Ducks statement on Sunday reading: "Due to extensive injuries sustained by post players, the Beijing Ducks have immediately activated Justin Hamilton for the upcoming matches. Jeremy Lin's rotation has taken place ahead of schedule."

NBA champion Lin has averaged 24.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists and two steals per game for the Ducks. The former Toronto Raptors player is expected to return to the side around Chinese New Year in late January.

Lin's rotation won't affect his scheduled appearance at the CBA All-Star Weekend (Jan 11-12) when the 31-year-old is set to start for the Northern Conference.

CRICKET

South Africa snuffs out England's mini-revival

Host South Africa defeated England by 107 runs with over a day to spare in the first Test at Centurion on Sunday.

England was 121-1 overnight facing a target of 376, raising faint hopes of a Headingley repeat, when Ben Stokes led the English to one of Test cricket's most memorable come-from-behind wins in the Ashes series against Australia in August.

But South Africa struck twice in the first session of the fourth day at SuperSport Park, bided its time waiting for the new ball after lunch, and then ran through England's lower order, taking the last six wickets for 46 runs in 12 overs.

England was all out for 268 and lost nine wickets for 147 on the day.

"We needed that," said South Africa captain Faf du Plessis. South Africa had lost its last five Tests and had rushed in a new coaching team led by Mark Boucher to stabilize its squad less than two weeks before the start of the England series.

SOCCER

US tycoon Friedkin poised to buy Roma

US billionaire Dan Friedkin is poised to buy a majority stake in Italian club Roma in a deal worth up to 780 million euros ($872 million), according to reports in Italy.

The 54-year-old Texas-based businessman will imminently take over the Serie A club from a US consortium led by fellow American James Pallotta. Gazzetta Dello Sport and Sky Sports Italia reported that a preliminary agreement has been reached between both parties. There was no official confirmation of the deal from Roma, but in November the club said it was in "preliminary talks with potential investors".

Friedkin is the chief executive of Friedkin Group, the owner of Gulf States Toyota, an independent vehicle distributor in the US.

Roma is fourth in Serie A, seven points behind leader Inter Milan.

NFL

49ers fend off Seattle surge to clinch top spot

Raheem Mostert rushed for two second-half touchdowns and the San Francisco 49ers made a late defensive stand to claim the NFC West crown and No 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with a 26-21 victory at Seattle on Sunday night.

The Seahawks got a first down inside the San Francisco 1-yard line with 23 seconds remaining, but after quarterback Russell Wilson spiked the ball, Seattle took a delay of game to make it second-and-goal from the 5. After a pair of incomplete passes, tight end Jacob Hollister was stopped inches short of the goal line on a fourth-down reception with nine seconds remaining.

Officials reviewed the play for several minutes before announcing that Hollister indeed had been downed just before the ball crossed the goal line. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw made the division-saving play. The 49ers (13-3) will get a bye in next weekend's wild-card round while the Seahawks (11-5) get the No 5 seed and will play at No 4 seed Philadelphia (9-7) on Sunday afternoon in the final game of wild-card weekend.

 

Jeremy Lin

 

 

Raheem Mostert

 

 

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2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Hapless Hammers turn to Moyes again]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530844.htm Struggling West Ham United said on Sunday it had appointed David Moyes as manager for the second time in a bid to safeguard its place in the English Premier League.

Former Everton and Manchester United boss Moyes succeeds Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who was fired after a 2-1 defeat to Leicester on Saturday that left the Hammers just one point above the relegation zone.

The 56-year-old Scot has been without a club since leaving West Ham after a six-month spell in the 2017-18 season.

Moyes guided West Ham to safety that season after Slaven Bilic was dismissed in early November and will be tasked with doing the same for a second time.

"It's fabulous to be back," said Moyes in a club statement.

"I'm feeling very proud that I'm back here at West Ham. But I think more importantly I'll be looking to see what I can do and what I can make improvements to."

Moyes won nine and drew 10 of his 31 previous games in charge of the club.

He made his name in 11 successful years at Everton, but was fired after less than a year as Alex Ferguson's successor at Manchester United.

Moyes also struggled in short spells at Real Sociedad and Sunderland before taking the West Ham job first time round on a short-term contract.

He was not offered a new deal despite comfortably keeping the club up by finishing 13th.

However, West Ham's ambitious appointment of former Real Madrid and Manchester City boss Pellegrini did not pay off as the Chilean was let go on Saturday after a run of seven defeats in nine Premier League matches.

 

David Moyes

 

 

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2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[DECADE OF DOMINANCE KING JAMES REIGNS SUPREME]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/31/content_37530869.htm He left Cleveland for Miami, finally became a champion, went back to his beloved northeast Ohio, delivered on another title promise, then left for the Los Angeles Lakers and the next challenge. He played in eight straight finals. No NBA player won more games or more MVP awards over the last 10 years than he did. He started a school. He married his high school sweetheart.

"That's all?" LeBron James asked, feigning disbelief.

No, that's not all. Those were just some highlights of the last 10 years. There were many more, as the man called "King" spent the last decade reigning over all others-with no signs of slowing down.

James is the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Decade, adding his name to a list that includes Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and Arnold Palmer. He was a runaway winner in a vote of AP member sports editors and AP beat writers, easily outpacing runner-up Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

"You add another 10 years of learning and adversity, pitfalls, good, great, bad, and any smart person who wants to grow will learn from all those experiences," James, who turned 35 on Monday, told AP. "A decade ago, I just turned 25. I'm about to be 35 and I'm just in a better (place) in my life and have a better understanding of what I want to get out of life."

Usain Bolt of Jamaica was third for dominating the sprints at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, soccer superstar Lionel Messi was fourth and Michael Phelps-the US swimmer who retired as history's most decorated Olympian with 28 medals, 23 gold-was fifth.

James was revealed as the winner on Sunday, one day after Serena Williams was announced as AP's Female Athlete of the Decade. During the Lakers' victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, the night before his 35th birthday, James became the ninth player in NBA history with 9,000 assists, while he remains among the NBA's scoring leaders.

"When LeBron James is involved," Denver coach Michael Malone said, "I'm never surprised."

Including playoffs, no one in the NBA scored more points than James in the last 10 years. He started the decade 124th on the league's all-time scoring list. He's now about to pass Kobe Bryant for No 3. No 2 Karl Malone and No 1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are within reach.

Is Abdul-Jabbar in his sights? Is catching him the new decade's goal?

"I would be lying if I said I don't see it," James said. "Obviously I'm not trying to say, 'OK, well if I play this amount of time, if I average this'... I'm not doing that because I've never done that with my career. I've always just kind of let it happen. Whatever happens, happens. But I see it. I do see it."

His work ethic, even now, makes even those closest to him marvel.

Here's a typical day this past summer for James, who remains obsessed with working even though fame and fortune found him long ago: He'd wake up at 3 am and be at the Warner Bros. lot by 3:45-where a weight room and court, built just for him, were waiting. He'd be lifting by 4 am, getting shots up by 5:30 and be ready to start another day of shooting the remake of Space Jam that he has been planning for years by 7 am.

"That's who he is," said Mike Mancias, one of the longest-tenured and most-trusted members of James' inner circle, tasked for more than 15 years with keeping James fit. "He does whatever it takes when it comes to fulfilling his commitments to everything-especially his game and his craft."

The 2010s for James started with The Decision, the widely criticized televised announcement of his choice to leave Cleveland for Miami. (Lost in the hubbub: The show raised more than $2.5 million for charity.) He was with the Heat for four years, went to the NBA Finals all four times with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, finally won the title in 2012-"it's about damn time," he said at the trophy celebration-and led the way in a Game 7 win over San Antonio to go back-to-back the following year.

"He grew immensely here as a leader," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He impacted winning as much as with his leadership as he did with his talent. I think that was the most important thing he learned with us. And he's been able to take that to different franchises and continue using that as a template."

Cleveland was devastated when he left. It forgave him. James returned home in 2014, took Cleveland to four consecutive finals, then led the Cavaliers to the 2016 title and came up with one of the biggest plays of his life by pulling off a chase-down block of Golden State's Andre Iguodala in the final seconds of Game 7 of that series.

And in 2018, he was off to LA.

Going Hollywood made so much sense-he's making movies, has a production company, has a program called The Shop as part of his 'Uninterrupted' platform featuring an array of guests from Drake to California governor Gavin Newsom, who signed a bill on the show that will allow college athletes to get paid for the use of their likeness and sign endorsement deals.

"There's a lot of moments from this decade that would be up there, winning the two Miami championships, winning a championship in Cleveland, the chase-down block," James said. "But the best moment? Definitely marrying Savannah. That would be No 1."

James and longtime partner Savannah Brinson got married six years ago. They already had two sons-both are very good basketball players-and added a daughter in 2014.

James also spent most of the last decade as a lightning rod for critics.

He used his voice often on social matters, speaking out after the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and campaigning for Hillary Clinton. He supported Colin Kaepernick's methods of protesting police brutality and racial injustice.

"I don't live in regret," James said. "There's no moment in this last decade that I wish I could have back. If a situation was bad or you feel like you could have done better, then I learned from it."

He doesn't know how much longer he'll play. He laments missing time with his children. His "I Promise" school that opened in 2018 in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, has been an immediate success story, and he wants to see that enterprise continue growing. Some love him. Some don't. He doesn't mind.

"When you believe in your calling or you believe in yourself, then it doesn't matter what other people say or how other people feel," James said. "And if you allow that to stop you or deter you from your mission, then you don't get anywhere."

And in the 2010s, nothing deterred James.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-31 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Super Serena aces Female Athlete of the Decade honor]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530701.htm Serena Williams dominated the decade, on the court and in conversation.

There were, to begin with, the dozen Grand Slam single titles-no other woman had more than three over the past 10 seasons-and the three and a half years in a row at No 1 in the WTA rankings.

And then there was the celebrity status that transcended tennis, making everything she did and said newsworthy, whether it was the triumphs and trophies and fashion statements or the disputes with tournament officials, the magazine covers or the Super Bowl ad with a message about women's power, the birth of her daughter or the health scare that followed.

Still winning matches and reaching Grand Slam finals into her late 30s, still mattering as much as ever, Williams was selected by Associated Press as the Female Athlete of the Decade on Saturday after a vote by AP member sports editors and AP beat writers.

"When the history books are written, it could be that the great Serena Williams is the greatest athlete of all time," said Stacey Allaster, CEO of the WTA from 2009-15 and now chief executive for professional tennis at the US Tennis Association, which runs the US Open.

"I like to call it the 'Serena Superpowers'-that champion's mindset. Irrespective of the adversity and the odds that are facing her, she always believes in herself.

"Whether it was health issues; coming back; having a child; almost dying from that-she has endured it all and she is still in championship form," Allaster said. "Her records speak for themselves."

Four-time Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles, the 2019 AP Female Athlete of the Year, finished second to Williams in voting for the decade honor.

Five-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky was third.

Two ski racers were next, with Lindsey Vonn finishing fourth and Mikaela Shiffrin fifth.

Three of Williams' five AP Female Athlete of the Year awards came during the last decade-in 2013, 2015 and 2018. She also won in 2002 and 2009.

"She's been my idol growing up," Biles said.

"She's remained humble. She's stayed true to herself and her character and I think that's really neat about an athlete. Once you start winning, some get cocky, but she's stayed true to herself, win or lose."

It's the defeats that seem to drive Williams, helping propel her to heights rarely reached by any athlete in any sport.

"Whenever I lose, I get more determined, and it gives me something more to work toward," Williams said in a 2013 interview with AP.

"I don't get complacent, and I realize I need to work harder and I need to do better and I want to do better-or I wouldn't be playing the game."

With a best-in-the-game serve, powerful groundstrokes and relentless court coverage, Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, more than anyone else in her sport's professional era, which began in 1968.

More than half came from 2010-19: four at Wimbledon, three apiece at the US Open and Australian Open, and two at the French Open. That includes a run of four in a row from the US Open in 2014 through Wimbledon in 2015, her second selfstyled "Serena Slam".

Williams also was the runner-up another seven times at major tournaments over the past decade, including four of the seven she's entered since returning to the tour after having a baby in 2017.

In all, she made the final at 19 of the 33 majors she entered during the decade, a nearly 58 percent rate.

Associated Press

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2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Alpine expertise bringing China's skiers up to speed]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530727.htm Foreign expertise is giving the Chinese National Winter Games an upgrade as organizers bring the event in line with International Ski Federation (FIS) standards.

"China is less experienced in Alpine skiing, so we invited top specialists from abroad to guarantee world-class organization," said Guo Junchang, the chief umpire of the Alpine skiing race, as the Games began at Mylin Valley Ski Resort on Saturday.

"The top technical experts can upgrade the level of the Games. We are organizing domestic competitions in line with FIS standards and this will help attract more FIS events to China.

"The quality organization will benefit the skiers and also the development of the sport in China."

Hansjorg Plankensteiner, the Italian head coach of China's Alpine skiing team, was the event's technical director, while Austrian Gunther Gerhard was taking care of the flag pole positioning.

Italian Nicola Paulon is also active at Mylin Valley, training the Xinjiang team.

Paulon is the manager of Snowsport South Tyrol Italy, a sports management company which has been working in China since last year.

"I first had cooperation with China last year when I was training kids at Wanlong Ski Resort in Hebei province," said Paulon, who has worked as a coach at four Olympic Games.

That led to Paulon being entrusted with a project to train China's Alpine skiing team.

"We trained about 50 athletes who had been converted from other sports, for China's last snow season. That was a big project and very satisfying."

Xinjiang's Alpine skiing team next came calling for Paulon, who enlisted the help of former Olympians Marin Simari of Argentina and Italian Massimiliano Valcaregg.

"We've high hopes for the Xinjiang team, especially the boys-they are in good physical condition and highly motivated," said Paulon.

"I chose the two coaches from Argentina and Italy. Why did I choose them? They're not only good coaches, but they are also very good demonstrators.

"The athletes in Xinjiang don't have much experience, so they need good demonstrators."

Paulon had previously worked for skiing's international governing body the FIS for six years, an experience which ultimately led him to China.

"After the Sochi Olympics, Chinese organizers were approaching the FIS for information, to learn how to do things correctly. I met more and more Chinese at FIS technical meetings," Paulon explained. "These contacts helped me learn a lot about China and the business potential of the country."

Mylin Valley staged three medal events over the weekend-giant slalom, slalom and the team competition.

Paulon acknowledges that the Games are a vital way of leveling up the national team, but also suggests China needs to quickly start targeting the next generation of skiers.

"The level of regional teams is very important. If we can improve the regional teams, the national team will improve a lot," said Paulon, who owns Kronplatz Racing Center, a top ski club based in northeastern Italy.

"What's missing in China is the level of children's skiing, so the country needs to work much more with kids if it wants to have a bright future.

"Maybe not quite in the near future, but in the next four to five years, China can have athletes capable of competing at the World Cup.

"I saw some children in Wanlong who are already at a good level. I'm optimistic about Chinese skiers. I think you can have a lot of athletes competing at the 2026 Olympics in Italy after Beijing 2022."

Xinhua

Murat Akcholi, from Jilin province, swooshes down the slope on his way to victory in the men's giant slalom at the Chinese National Winter Games in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, on Saturday. Akcholi's winning time was 2 minutes 4.70 seconds. XINHUA

 

 

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2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Start-time confusion can't keep Shiffrin from glory]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530706.htm LIENZ, Austria-Mikaela Shiffrin wrapped up an eventful return from her 11-day break from World Cup racing on Saturday, dominating a giant slalom for her 63rd career victory and moving into outright second place on the women's winners list.

After nearly arriving too late for the opening run, Shiffrin posted the fastest time in both legs to win by a big margin of 1.36 seconds.

Having misread the local start time of 10:15 am, the American three-time overall champion was preparing for a 10:30 start.

Shiffrin had to interrupt her usual warm-up routines to make it to the start gate in time but made no mistake once on the course.

And she doubled her advantage in the second run.

After finishing, Shiffrin briefly looked up to the large video wall displaying the times, then crouched down for a few seconds, briefly pumped her fist and lay down in the snow.

"It was a big fight today. It's the way I like to ski," Shiffrin said. "I did the very, very best that I could do. And it was some of the best GS skiing I have ever done."

Marta Bassino of Italy, who won the GS in Killington last month, finished second, while Austria's Katharina Liensberger finished 1.82 back in third to match her career-best result.

The victory moved Shiffrin into outright second place on the women's winners list. Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell won 62 times in the 1970s and 80s.

Lindsey Vonn holds the women's record of 82 wins.

Shiffrin opted out of the Val d'Isere races last weekend after finishing a disappointing 17th in a midweek GS in another French resort, Courchevel.

The events in Val d'Isere were then canceled because of bad weather.

"It sounds pretty stupid to say I lost a lot of confidence after the last year," said Shiffrin, referring to her record-breaking season with 17 World Cup wins.

"I was so mad at myself for making some of the decisions about the schedule that I did," said Shiffrin, adding she put herself "in a position in Courchevel where I was not even able to perform in the right way".

Shiffrin trained a few days in Courchevel, took three days off, and had a four-day training camp in Italy to get ready for the final races of the calendar year.

"I had a lot of doubts. The training I had the last week was really good so I trust in that," she said. "I wasn't really expecting to win today. I was just trying to do better than what I did in the last GS."

Shiffrin's preparations paid off, as she had an attacking but near-flawless first run, managing to carve out a commanding lead over Italian rivals Bassino and Federica Brignone by 0.61 and 0.74 seconds, respectively.

Shiffrin came wide on a sharp left turn which caused many racers problems, but she got back to the ideal race line without braking.

In the final run, she initially had her lead over Bassino reduced to one-third of a second but accelerated in the second part to add a full second to her lead.

Eight years ago, this was the race where a 16-year-old Shiffrin earned her first World Cup podium.

Associated Press

Mikaela Shiffrin after victory in Lienz, Austria, on Saturday. AFP

 

 

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2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Injured Murray 'gutted' to miss Australian Open]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530708.htm Andy Murray has withdrawn from next month's Australian Open because of a pelvic injury, the three-time Grand Slam champion's management team announced on Saturday.

The former world No 1, who has been making an inspirational comeback after hip resurfacing surgery, has decided not to travel to Melbourne after the injury he sustained at the end of the season failed to improve as he had hoped.

Murray, who has been able to train on court this week, will miss the Jan 20-Feb 2 Grand Slam where he has been a five-time losing finalist and will also not play for Britain in the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia, starting on Jan 3.

"I've worked so hard to get myself into a situation where I can play at the top level and I'm gutted I'm not going to be able to play in Australia in January," Murray said on Saturday.

"After the AO(Australian Open) this year, when I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to play again, I was excited about coming back to Australia and giving my best, and that makes this even more disappointing for me.

"Unfortunately I've had a setback recently and as a precaution, need to work through that before I get back on court competing."

His management team said in an email: "It was always going to be a tight turnaround, but the team took the decision not to rush back, so he'll continue hitting on court and building up fitness in January."

At last year's Australian Open, a teary Murray told reporters he was in such pain from a chronic hip problem that the tournament might be the last event of his career.

Yet, the 32-year-old had looked on course to play in his first Grand Slam singles event since Melbourne after his recovery from major hip surgery 11 months ago had seen him climb to No 125 in the world.

After returning to competitive singles action in August, he won the European Open in Antwerp to secure his first triumph for more than two years.

Yet Murray has not been in action since Britain's opening tie at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid last month when the pelvic bruising flared up. The Scot will now not play until February at the earliest, with his first tournament scheduled to be the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.

Reuters

Andy Murray, pictured during the Davis Cup Finals last month, will miss the Australian Open due to injury.

 

 

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2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[BOWING OUT ON TOP? FEDERER NOT FUSSED ABOUT PERFECT FINALE]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530707.htm Roger Federer arrived for his interview at the precise appointed time, steering his white sedan into a parking spot in an industrial area dotted by art galleries about 15 minutes from his luxury apartment in Dubai.

After obliging a selfie request from someone on the street, Federer makes his way up to a secondstory loft area and sits. He crosses his legs, kneads his right calf and winces.

"Just started training. I'm surprised I could walk the stairs as good as I have," Federer said with a laugh. "My calves are, like, killing me. Just getting back into it. The shock on the body is, I don't want to say 'immense', every time, but I've been on vacation for two weeks. The shock just hits you hard."

Ah, the ravages of age.

Federer, who won the first of his record 20 Grand Slam titles when he was 21 and now is 38, explains that he must "go back to the drawing board" after "just missing out on The Big One," a reference to his fifth-set tiebreaker loss to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final in July.

So all of just two days into Federer's preparation for next season-he flies to Melbourne on Jan 9, a week before the Australian Open draw-he is taking a 48-hour break, sitting out his twice-daily fitness sessions.

No one this old has won a Grand Slam title in the professional era.

As a younger man, Federer said, he didn't allow himself such a respite, working six or eight days in a row to get going. But now? The "waves", he calls them, making an undulating motion with his famous right arm-time on, then time off-offer his body a chance to recover.

They also let him "go through the wall" on the day before a rest period, because "otherwise, you maybe would hold back just ever so slightly, because you just don't know how you're going to feel the next day".

Federer recognizes that continuing to play tennis at a high level long past the age when many greats of the past were done (his idol, Pete Sampras, competed for the final time at 31) means he repeatedly faces questions-from fans, from the media, from those around him-about how long he will continue on tour.

And while he can't provide a definitive answer-because, quite simply, he says he doesn't have one-Federer is willing to discuss this aspect of the subject: He does not consider it important to walk away at the top of his game and the top of his sport.

When he's told about a newspaper opinion piece from 2013 that posited he should quit then to avoid ruining his legacy, Federer just smiles and waves his hand.

He knows, of course, that he's managed to reach another seven Grand Slam finals since the start of 2014, winning three.

But he also believes the notion that an older athlete could harm his or her status by hanging around too long is nonsense, no matter what the decline looks like.

"I don't think the exit needs to be that perfect, that you have to win something huge... and you go, 'OK. I did it all.' It can be completed a different way, as long as you enjoy it and that's what matters to you," Federer said.

"People, I don't think, anyway, remember what were the last matches of a John McEnroe, what were the last matches of a Stefan Edberg. Nobody knows. They remember that they won Wimbledon, that they won this and that, they were world No 1. I don't think the end, per se, is that important."

That doesn't mean, of course, that he isn't as competitive as ever or doesn't want to win a 21st major championship-above all, No 9 at Wimbledon, after it slipped away despite two match points in 2019-or his first Olympic singles gold at the Tokyo Games next year.

Or win any tournaments, for that matter, which would push him closer to Jimmy Connors' professional-era record of 109 trophies (Federer has 103).

The Swiss is still good enough, after all, to be ranked No 3-having spent a record 310 weeks at No 1, he is currently behind top-ranked Rafael Nadal and No 2 Djokovic-and to go 53-10 with four titles in the season just passed.

If it seems as though the rest of the world is insisting it needs to know when and how retirement will arrive, Federer insists it's not something on which he expends a lot of energy. Not anymore, anyway.

"I mean, I don't think about it much, to be honest," Federer said. "It's a bit different (now) that I know I'm at the back end of my career. But I feel like I've been toward 'the back end of my career' for a long, long time."

So much so that when he got sick during a skiing trip in January 2008 with what eventually was diagnosed as mononucleosis, he vowed to stay off the slopes, a decision he stuck to, although not without some regret.

His children-twin daughters, 10, and twin sons, 5-all ski, and he and his wife, Mirka, have a home in a resort in his native Switzerland.

Yet Federer sticks to his role as "the chief 'getting the kids ski-ready' operator guy".

"I was like, 'OK, you know what? That's a sign. I'm going to stop skiing, because I don't want to get hurt at the back end of my career. Maybe I have another four good years left in me. This was 12 years ago now.

"So it shows you how long ago I've been thinking: 'Maybe I have another four years. Maybe I have another three years. Maybe I have another two years.' ... I've been on this sort of train for long enough for me not to actually think about it a whole lot," he said.

"But sure, sometimes with family planning, discussions with my wife, we talk a little bit sometimes. But never like 'what if?' or 'what are we going to do?' Because I always think, like, we have time for that and then we'll figure it out when that moment comes."

Even his agent, Tony Godsick, who has represented Federer since 2005, raises the topic.

"It would help make my job easier," Godsick said in a telephone interview. "I don't want to know for my own personal travel. Or I don't want to know to have the scoop before anyone else. I want to know so I can plan. I mean, he won't go on a retirement tour, but I'd like to have some advance notice, maybe throw some more cameras around when he's out playing, so we can capture some more footage."

Godsick pauses, then spaces out the next five words for emphasis: "But. He. Really. Doesn't. Know."

"I really do think he has the flexibility to actually not decide ... until he feels like it's the time. And that will come when Mirka says, 'I can't do it anymore,' and 'I can't be on the road with the kids,' and 'The kids are not enjoying it.' Or his body might say, 'Hey, Rog, stop pushing me so hard,'" Godsick said.

"Maybe it's a time when he realizes on the practice court he doesn't either have the motivation or the ability to get better. And at that point, then maybe he says, 'I certainly have squeezed all the juice out of this lemon in terms of innovating and getting better.' And I don't think that time is there yet. Which is good news."

Associated Press

Roger Federer poses with the Dubai Championship trophy in March-the 100th title of his career. XINHUA

 

 

The Swiss great can't contain his emotions after winning the Basel Open on home soil in October. REUTERS

 

 

Federer kisses the Miami Open trophy in March, the 28th Masters title of his career. USA TODAY SPORTS

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Big gains forecast from FIFA, AFC events]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/30/content_37530710.htm With China set to host an expanded FIFA Club World Cup in 2021 and the AFC Asian Cup in 2023, authorities are confident the events will improve the country's soccer infrastructure and ultimately the level of the national team.

The 2021 FIFA Club World Cup will for the first time feature 24 teams, with matches to be played in Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Shenyang, Jinan, Hangzhou and Dalian in June and July.

The 2023 Asian Cup will also feature 24 teams, but this time of the national variety. Matches will be staged in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Xi'an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen and Suzhou, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) revealed on Saturday.

"Hosting the Club World Cup and the Asian Cup will be a major boost to China's soccer industry and infrastructure," a CFA spokesman told Xinhua.

China has already featured at the Club World Cup, with Guangzhou Evergrande qualifying for soccer's global club showcase in 2013 and 2015, finishing fourth on both occasions.

"It is a huge event for Chinese soccer, sport and the whole country as well. The CFA will work together with FIFA and the host cities to present a successful, wonderful and perfect event," the spokesman added.

Hosting major international events is one of the main elements of the Chinese government's 2015 plan for soccer reform and development, which aims to transform China into a soccer powerhouse by 2050.

Team China is currently 76th in FIFA's men's world rankings, with its chances of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar looking faint.

Italian Marcello Lippi resigned as the squad's head coach in November following a damaging 2-1 defeat to Syria in Dubai.

China sits second in Group A, eight points behind leader Syria and level on points with the Philippines, with four games to play. The top two teams in each group will progress to a second stage of qualifying.

The CFA is reportedly set to install caretaker coach Li Tie on a permanent basis. China resumes its campaign at home to the Maldives in March.

The growth of Chinese soccer, though, is not just reliant on success on the pitch. With more and more Chinese brands going global, the soccer industry is increasingly focused on the world's most populous nation.

Seven Chinese companies sponsored the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and China has already announced its intention to bid to host a future edition of the tournament.

 

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2019-12-30 00:00:00
<![CDATA[SHRINE TO 'SAINT' DIEGO]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530671.htm For some, Diego Maradona is the greatest soccer player in history; for others-mainly English-he is the cheating possessor of the 'Hand of God'. In Italy, however, he is and always will be the patron saint of Naples.

And just as saints have their altars so Maradona has his museum, an extraordinary treasure trove of artefacts that includes the left boot with which the Argentine scored twice against Belgium in the semifinals of the 1986 World Cup.

You can also find his first Napoli contract and even the sofa from his Naples apartment where singer Julio Iglesias once sat. It's all there in the cellar museum.

Maradona arrived at Napoli as a then world-record $10.5 million signing from Barcelona in July 1984.

His time in Catalonia had been difficult and Naples was a refuge. He was to stay seven years, captaining the team to its first and only Serie A title in 1987.

They did it again three years later and during Maradona's stay the southern club also won the Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup and Italian Super Cup.

It was a golden age which Napoli has never come close to repeating, so it is no surprise to find a museum that commemorates such a rich epoch.

Massimo Vignati's museum, though, is one of a kind.

It does not appear on any map of Naples, nor is it in travel guides, and entry is free. And yet, this basement of a typical building in Secondigliano, a tough neighborhood in the north of the city, breathes all things Diego.

It is a delightful melange of Maradona mania featuring photos, pennants, balls, armbands and shirts, some washed or signed, others not.

Some items equate almost to holy relics-the bench on which Maradona changed at Stadio San Paolo and the K-Way jacket which features in the memorable footage of him ball-juggling to the sound of Opus' Live is Life during an incredible warm-up before facing Bayern Munich in 1989.

Family guy

This astonishing hoard also testifies to the unique bond between the Argentine genius and a family which was at the heart of his seven-year stay in Naples.

"I was fortunate that for 37 years my dad was the caretaker of Stadio San Paolo and the Napoli changing rooms. And my mother was Maradona's housekeeper and cook," Vignati told AFP.

His sister took care of Diego's daughters, Dalma and Giannina, while Massimo, as a child and then adolescent, rubbed shoulders with the city's idol on a daily basis.

"We were with Diego from Monday to Sunday," said Vignati, looking at the photos of a time when the Argentine's apartment on the heights of the upscale Posillipo district, was like his second home.

"He and his wife gave us all these things because they knew we were a lot of children, five boys and six girls.

"I was a ballboy during Maradona's seven seasons. On Mondays, I went to play five-a-side, I did not go to school.

"And on Tuesdays, sometimes he took me to the Napoli training session-'Diego, let's go in the Ferrari!'"

For a long time, the wonders now on display in the Vignati cellar were locked away at the San Paolo.

"My father had two rooms," says Vignati, whose second son is called Diego. "One for all these memories and one for drinking a good Neapolitan coffee.

"After his death, I brought everything here. But the club knows that this place exists.

"If they make a museum, I will always be ready. I hope everything can go back to the stadium, it was my father's dream."

During his last visit to Naples in 2017, Maradona fell into the arms of Lucia, Vignati's mother, whom he calls his "Neapolitan mamma".

"These are just beautiful memories," she said.

"He was kind, someone good, very passionate. When he left, it was as if I had lost a son."

Nothing for sale

For the time being, the collection will remain in the family, whether it is at the San Paolo or down in the cellar.

"I could live on my annuities if I had accepted all the offers that were made to me," said Vignati.

"But these are memories of my father and my family, nothing is for sale.

"It is a place dedicated to someone we love as a brother. For us, Diego is the 12th brother."

This season, Napoli has battled through to the last 16 of the Champions League but is struggling in Serie A and, as a result, recently fired head coach Carlo Ancelotti. The fans can only dream of a return to the golden age.

"With everything that is going on, there would have to be a Maradona, who takes everything on himself," said Massimo.

"He is a child of Naples, he is of the people. We are found in him.

"If he comes, there will be 90,000 people at the stadium. Maradona... even if you talk to kids today, they know. He's in the DNA of the Neapolitans.

"Maradona is San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples. He is immortal."

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2019-12-29 12:11:21
<![CDATA[Tiger's uplifting tale comes up trumps]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530601.htm A Green Jacket. A heart-melting embrace. A stirring return to the top of golf by one of the sport's all-time greats.

In choosing Tiger Woods' victory at the Masters as The Associated Press sports story of the year, voters went with the uplifting escape of a great comeback over options that were as much about sports as the issues that enveloped them in 2019: politics, money and the growing push for equal pay and rights for women.

The balloters, a mix of AP member sports editors and AP beat writers, elevated Woods' rousing victory at Augusta National over the runner-up entry: the US women's soccer team's victory at the World Cup. That monthlong competition was punctuated by star Megan Rapinoe's push for pay equality for the women's team and an ongoing war of words with US President Donald Trump.

Rapinoe's efforts to use sports as a platform to discuss bigger issues was hardly a one-off in 2019. Of the top 12 stories in the balloting, only three-titles won by the Toronto Raptors, Washington Nationals and University of Virginia basketball team-stuck mainly to what happened between the lines.

All the rest-including the blown call that cost the New Orleans Saints a chance at the Super Bowl, a California law that threatens to upend the NCAA and Simone Biles' dominance at gymnastics' world championships, set against the backdrop of the sex-abuse crisis consuming the sport in the US-were long-running sagas that went beyond a single day or event. They painted sports not as an escape from the world's problems but merely another window into them.

It's no stretch to say that the whole of the Woods saga-namely, the sordid, pain-riddled, decadelong prelude to his victory at Augusta National in April-would fit into that category, as well.

His downfall began in the wee hours the day after Thanksgiving in 2009, when he ran over a fire hydrant outside his house in Florida, triggering an avalanche of stories about infidelity that would lead to the breakup of his marriage and play into the near-destruction of his career.

Part 2 was the injuries. Woods came close but did not return to his dominant form after his return to golf following the breakup with his wife. And as time went on, his physical condition deteriorated. He didn't play in 2016 or 2017, and at the end of '17, he conceded his back was so bad that his days of competitive golf might be behind him.

There were four risky back surgeries. Woods also required a good deal of inner healing after an embarrassing DUI arrest in 2017 that exposed his reliance on painkillers.

Through it all, Woods somehow kept nurturing his love for golf. And eventually, he found his game again. He climbed his way back to the top. He had close calls at two majors in 2018-the British Open and PGA Championship-and then won the season-ending Tour Championship, as good a sign as any that, at 43, he could take on the best and win.

But regular tournaments are not the majors, and no major is the Masters.

It was on those hallowed grounds at Augusta National where Woods set the marker, starting a decade of dominance that would redefine the game. He blew away the field by 12 strokes in 1997 to win the first of what has become five Green Jackets and 15 major titles.

On that day, Woods came off the 18th green and wrapped himself in a warm embrace with his father, Earl, whose death in 2006 left an undeniable void in the player's life.

Though there had been a handful of close calls between his US Open victory in 2008 and the start of 2019, it was clear that if there was a single course where Woods could conjure the old magic and end a major drought, it would be Augusta National. As a four-time champion, Woods built a career on studying every inch of the layout, knowing every fault line and every sneaky twist and turn of the slickest greens on earth.

But where, at one time, he might have overpowered the course and intimidated the competition, in 2019, he simply outlasted them both. He avoided mistakes while everyone else was making them. Instead of taking a lead into the last day, then never giving anyone a whiff of hope, this was a comeback. He started the day two shots behind.

As AP golf writer Doug Ferguson wrote in his wrap-up of the final day: "Woods never missed a shot that mattered over the final seven holes, taking the lead with a five-iron to the fat of the green on the par-5 15th for a two-putt birdie, delivering the knockout with an eight-iron that rode down the ridge by the cup and settled two feet away for birdie on the par-3 16th."

When it was over, Woods came to the same spot where he'd met Earl 22 years before. He scooped up his son, Charlie, and held him in a long embrace, then did the same with his 11-year-old daughter, Sam, and mother, Tilda.

"For them to see what it's like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope that's something they will never forget," Woods said.

Very few golf fans will. And in a sports year dominated by weightier topics, Woods at the Masters stood out-a comeback story that left people smiling at the end.

]]> 2019-12-29 12:11:21 <![CDATA[Pochettino's dismissal 'ungrateful', says Veron]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530599.htm Juan Sebastian Veron believes his former Argentina teammate Mauricio Pochettino has reason to feel hard done-by after being fired as manager of Tottenham Hotspur last month.

Pochettino paid the price for a poor start to this season and has been replaced by Jose Mourinho.

The dismissal of Pochettino had stunned many Spurs fans, considering he had overseen four straight top-four domestic finishes and last term took the north London club to its first ever Champions League final, where it finished runner-up to Liverpool.

And former Manchester United playmaker Veron reckons Spurs were too hasty in pulling the trigger on his compatriot.

"Football, in a way, is ungrateful. For me, Mauricio did a great job at Tottenham, but many times they demand results," Veron told Xinhua during his recent trip to China.

"Now it's up to Jose Mourinho, another great coach. I hope he has more luck."

Veron won 73 caps for Argentina but did not manage to win any major titles for his country, just like current Albiceleste superstar Lionel Messi.

Like many observers, Veron reckons Qatar 2022 will likely be 32-year-old Messi's final opportunity to win the World Cup.

"The 2022 Qatar World Cup may be his last chance. As the last chance, he will have to see how to reach the goal," he said.

Veron is now chairman of the hometown club where he started his career, Estudiantes de La Plata. He recently persuaded compatriot Javier Mascherano to join Estudiantes after the former Barcelona player served out his contract with Hebei China Fortune.

"We are good friends. Javier wants to take care of his family," Veron explained.

Veron was in China to serve as a brand ambassador for the inaugural FISU University World Cup, which was staged in Fujian province from Nov 21 to Dec 1.

"For me it is a new experience, especially seeing boys and girls who are not going to have the possibility of playing at the FIFA World Cup. It is an important university championship," said the 44-year-old, who is planning to cooperate with Fujian Chaoyue (Broncos) to conduct youth training programs.

"When I was thinking about what I would be after I retired from the beautiful game, I was not attracted to being a coach. What I liked was the fact that I could develop a project in this case, in my club," said the two-time South American player of the year.

"The development of football in China is still at an early stage. I believe that a project is needed. The youth training takes time, that's essential. You need to train and play lots of games. If you work hard, you can improve in football.

"We plan to take the (Chinese) kids to Argentina, so they can have training and participate in competitions there."

At the peak of his powers, Veron was considered one of the finest long-range passers of his generation, however injuries affected his career during spells with Manchester United and Chelsea.

After leaving England, he rediscovered his best form at Inter Milan and went on to prolong his career until the age of 42.

"I cherish all the experiences I had at these clubs, which are all important memories in my life," Veron said, adding that "personal care, will and desire to always want more" were the secrets behind his longevity.

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-29 12:11:21
<![CDATA[Crabtree & Evelyn launches new holiday campaign]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/29/content_37530589.htm British lifestyle brand Crabtree & Evelyn launched a new round of holiday campaign on Nov 11, exploring what makes this period of the year so special and unique across the world.

Understanding that the world is united by a feeling of celebration during this period but that each place does so in its own special way, Crabtree & Evelyn works with eight artists from different locations to give their artistic interpretation of the festive season in their cities. These handpicked artists have captured the spirit of the holidays in their cities with a bespoke design for eight limited-edition gift boxes.

Inside the gift sets are some of the brand's best-selling favorites from its four product collections: the Evelyn Rose, the Crabtree, the Gardeners and the Cult Collection. The special travel-focused designs and curated product selections in the gift sets, as well as a selection of candles and perfumes, make ideal presents to connect with those you love celebrating with-or those you wish you could be celebrating with-in your city.

This year, Crabtree & Evelyn China has selected two products from the Evelyn Rose Collection and worked with Hua Jia, a famous independent designer, to create the limited Shanghai Christmas gift set. This gift set not only showcases a new interpretation of the city of Shanghai, but also echoes with the concept of the Evelyn Rose collection: "reject the ordinary, embrace the thorns and unleash the unique nature".

The Evelyn Rose Velvet Body Melt is one of the products in the gift box with transformative powers that combine the best of the skincare essence. This one-of-a-kind hydrator is infused with multiple moisturizing ingredients, starting life as an indulgent cream before melting to oil. Since its launch, the product has become the sales champion of the brand, gathering the favor and recommendations from many beauty bloggers and skincare experts.

The other product in the gift set is Evelyn Rose Satin hand cream. It is an ultimate moisturizer for creating soft and supple hands. The product is an improved version of the brand's existing formula, and has increased hydration and soothing properties, creating the perfect balance of moisture and radiance. These two products help to keep the body hydrated for the whole winter and provide an unique sensual experience for consumers.

The package of the gift set is designed by Hua Jia. To appreciate the spirit of her home city, Shanghai, Hua Jia has multifaceted concepts in her design, where she uses her personal characteristics and innovative materials, technologies, textures and colors to depict the skyline of the Bund, a renowned landmark of Shanghai. The combination of the classic and the innovation highlights the vitality of the city and echoes with the concept of the Evelyn Rose Collection perfectly. Through the collision of the new and the old, the unique charm of the Christmas season is interpreted in a different way, and the festive joy is conveyed to every corner of the world.

From Nov 25 to Dec 1, Crabtree & Evelyn conducted its 2019 campaign, "Glowing Paradise", at Taikoo Hui Shanghai, creating an immersive skincare experience for consumers. This event revealed the new Shanghai Christmas limited gift set, encouraging everyone to glow confidently in this festive season.

During the weeklong campaign, Crabtree & Evelyn had a variety of interactive sessions, including offering free ice cream, distributing free product samples through capsule toy machines and creating a product experiential zone. The whole event lasted for an entire week and attracted numerous customers to participate actively, creating a spectacular scene.

At the event, Crabtree & Evelyn also invited visitors to take the time to recall the vibrancy of their home cities during the holiday season, sharing their own unique celebratory stories, while discovering the dynamic celebrations and traditions that happen across the world.

 

 

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2019-12-29 12:11:21
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/28/content_37530604.htm BASKETBALL

Serious knee injury for China ace Abdusalam

Chinese international Abdusalam Abdurexit faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after rupturing the ACL in his left knee, his club the Xinjiang Flying Tigers announced on Thursday.

The 23-year-old was injured after falling awkwardly during Xinjiang's 88-87 CBA victory over the Beijing Ducks on Wednesday night.

Abdusalam was stretchered off court before being taken to hospital for CT and MRI scans.

"We will discuss a treatment program with sports medicine experts and select the best hospital to help Abdusalam get back to the court as soon as possible," read a statement from the Tigers.

This season, Abdusalam has averaged 16.8 points and 5 rebounds in 20 games, with Xinjiang currently sitting second in the CBA behind the Guangdong Southeast Tigers.

Embiid in the zone as Sixers bury Bucks

Joel Embiid outplayed Giannis Antetokounmpo in Philadelphia's first home Christmas game in 31 years, collecting 31 points and 11 rebounds to help the 76ers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 121-109 on Wednesday.

Tobias Harris sank five 3s, Josh Richardson and Furkan Korkmaz each had four and even Embiid hit three as part of Philly's season-high 21 3s (on 44 attempts) against a Bucks team that had the best record in the NBA.

Harris and Al Horford hit 3s over the final 90 seconds to push back a late Bucks run, and the Sixers improved to 16-2 at home.

Khris Middleton scored 31 points for Milwaukee, and Antetokounmpo had 18 points and 14 rebounds. Antetokounmpo got flustered over a perceived missed call and was whistled for a technical in the fourth.

WINTER OLYMPICS

Yanqing venues to be completed in 2020

The construction of competition venues and auxiliary projects in Yanqing for the 2022 Winter Olympics will be completed by the end of 2020, local authorities said on Wednesday.

Located in the northern suburbs of Beijing, Yanqing will host the Alpine skiing, bobsleigh and luge competitions during the Games.

At present, 25 of the 28 construction projects are underway, according to Yu Bo, head of the district.

Already, some racing tracks at the National Alpine Skiing Center have been put into use, and the main structure of the National Bobsleigh and Luge Center has been completed, said Yu.

To tune up for the Games, Yanqing will host five test events, with an Alpine skiing World Cup meet being the first, slated for February 2020.

Biggest-ever Chinese team for Youth Games

China will send 53 athletes to the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, more than doubling its representation from the previous two editions.

"It's a good test for China's attempt to participate in all 109 events in the 2022 Winter Olympics. We can gain experience and improve ourselves from Lausanne 2020, which provides a talent pool for the Beijing Winter Olympics," Li Jianming, head of the Chinese delegation, told a media conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

Li also stressed the fair-play philosophy and zero-tolerance stance on doping, saying "playing true and clean comes as the top priority".

Lausanne 2020, which runs from Jan 9-22, is scheduled to feature 1,872 athletes aged 15 to 18 representing 79 Olympic members and competing in eight sports, 16 disciplines and 81 events.

CELEBRITY

Vonn to marry again after Subban says 'yes'

Lindsey Vonn popped the question to hockey star PK Subban on Christmas Day.

"Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!! On our 2 year anniversary, in a 'non traditional' move, I asked PK to marry me and he said, Yes," Vonn tweeted. "Yes (bashful emoji)! Women aren't the only ones who should get engagement rings!"

The former ski racer closed the tweet with the hashtags "Merry-Christmas" and "equality".

Vonn linked a picture of herself and Subban with the ring, with the couple wearing matching striped pajamas in front of a Christmas tree with three dogs in the foreground. She also posted a closeup of Subban flashing the ring, with the words "drip drip" and a blue teardrop.

Vonn also said on social media in August that they were engaged.

The 35-year-old Vonn recently retired from a skiing career that included three Olympic medals, four overall World Cup titles and 82 World Cup race wins, a record for a woman.

The 30-year-old Subban currently plays for the New Jersey Devils. He won the 2013 Norris Trophy with the Montreal Canadiens as the NHL's top defenseman.

Vonn had a high-profile relationship with Tiger Woods. She was previously married to former ski racer Thomas Vonn, and kept his last name after they separated.

 

Abdusalam Abdurexit

 

 

Joel Embiid

 

 

Lindsey Vonn with PK Subban

 

 

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2019-12-28 14:59:57
<![CDATA[About Crabtree & Evelyn]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/27/content_37530602.htm Crabtree& Evelyn, or C&E, is a modern British lifestyle brand founded by Cyrus Harvey in 1972. A global rebranding initiated by C&E in July 2019, with a new identity underpinned by one key message-"Born curious, grown wild". This ethos is a way of life that speaks to the brand's beginnings in exploring the world for new ingredients and its spirit for growing wildly and adapting to the world around it, just like its consumers. Recommitted to its heritage, the brand is a community of constant explorers. C&E is committed to bringing its customers unexpected experiences and challenging perspectives. Honoring its rich heritage, the brand has an eye to the future. Not selling soaps, but selling stories, the brand aims to connect with every place and customer along the way.

&#xa0;

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2019-12-27 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Plucky puck rookies find their feet on the ice]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530323.htm Start'em young and keep it fun.

It's a maxim that applies to the entry level of all sports, but especially hockey. And it's a philosophy that China is embracing as the nation aims to one day become a global force on the ice.

But for the 4-and 5-year-olds chasing the puck at the inaugural Hebei provincial Ice and Snow Games in Chengde last weekend, dreams of the Olympics or NHL seem distant. Hockey is first and foremost a great way to help these kids grow-both physically and mentally.

"My son has played hockey for just four months, and I can see the change it has had on him, especially in terms of the team work," said Li Jia, one of the dozens of parents who drove hundreds of kilometers from Langfang to attend the tournament.

"He's still very young, but I can feel his passion for hockey. He always tells me that practicing is very tiring, but every time I ask him if he wants to quit, the answer is 'no'."

Indeed, the Langfang kids' enthusiasm for the sport only increased despite their first competitive outing ending in a 10-0 defeat on Saturday, against a home team of bigger children aged 8 to 10.

The parents, too, couldn't hide their pride in their little warriors, who were barely as tall as the four-foot nets.

Hockey, of course, is not for the faint-hearted, but its toughness is a plus rather than a negative for mom Li.

"First of all, our country is promoting ice hockey along with many other winter sports as the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics approach. Kids now enjoy a much better environment to pursue winter sports," she said.

"Despite there being no sports DNA in our family, both me and his father believe hockey is a sport that will help our son become a real man. I'm not worried about watching him fall down on the ice. He needs to learn how to get up when he falls down."

The youngest and smallest of all Langfang's players, Li's son Liu Ziyang earned a big hug from mom for his bravery. The little guy admitted he was shaking in his skates as his taller opponents hurtled towards him, but shouts of encouragement from his coach saw him through.

Last weekend's tournament attracted nine mixed teams, with the only stipulation being that players be under 12 years of age.

"We formed this team just two months ago and we have overcome many difficulties," said Chengde coach Han Sicheng.

"Many of our young players had never played hockey before, and some did not even know how to skate.

"However, all the kids fell in love with the game when they played. The parents, schools and local government all gave us great support. Our coaching team is also hosting training clinics in local schools trying to promote the sport and trying to find more talents.

"Without ice rinks in schools, we teach basic knowledge and other skills on land. Now we have 36 kids officially on the team, and many of them are really talented.

"There's still a big gap between Chinese ice hockey and the world's powerhouses in the sport like Canada. But I believe, with a consistent effort from all aspects of society, we are closing the gap."

Last weekend's event is indicative of improvements at grassroots level, while further up the chain, the inaugural edition of China's first professional domestic league this year is another big step forward.

According to coach Han, one of the major obstacles is the lack of suitable rinks. The opening of last weekend's venue in July was, therefore, a major boost for hockey in the region.

Boasting a training rink in addition to a main arena, Chengde's 46,036-square meter Ice Sports Center took over two years to build at a cost of 250 million yuan (around $35 million).

The center is capable of hosting international hockey tournaments, as well as major curling, speed skating and figure skating events. The main arena can also be used for summer sports like basketball and volleyball.

When it's not hosting competitions, the venue will be open to schools and the public for winter sports training and education.

"We are fully facilitating the venue for ice and snow sports in our city," said Wang Qihong, the deputy director of Chengde Sports Bureau.

"In all our districts and counties, we have skating rinks and different levels of winter sports tournaments. In 2020, our districts and counties will have indoor skating rinks and venues to meet the growing demand of the people."

 

Youngsters chase the puck during an under-12 hockey game as part of the inaugural Hebei provincial Ice and Snow Games in Chengde last weekend. CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530383.htm VOLLEYBALL

Tianjin and Shanghai seize semifinals edge

Tianjin and Shanghai took the early lead in the semifinals of the Chinese Women's Volleyball Super League on Tuesday.

Ace spiker Zhu Ting looked fully recovered from the right wrist injury she sustained at the Women's Club World Championship two weeks ago as she led Tianjin with a game-high 23 points in a 3-0(25-15, 25-19, 25-23) triumph over Beijing.

Li Yingying scored 17 points for Tianjin while Rachel Rourke and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley had eight points each for Beijing.

The night's other semi was a much closer contest, with Shanghai Bright Ubest overcoming visitor Guangdong Evergrande 3-1 (25-23, 29-27, 24-26, 31-30).

Both Game 2s are scheduled for Saturday.

BASKETBALL

Lance leads Liaoning to win over Zhejiang

The Liaoning Flying Leopards rallied from 19 points down to beat the Zhejiang Lions 114-111 in Hangzhou on Tuesday.

Lance Stephenson was unstoppable for Liaoning in the fourth quarter with 16-of-36 shooting, while Guo Ailun and Zhao Jiwei added 16 points each for the visitor.

New signing Dezmine Wells scored a game-high 38 points for Zhejiang, but the American failed to force overtime when he missed his final attempt from beyond the arc.

Zhejiang led 94-75 at one point before a 39-15 Liaoning run tied the game at 99-all as Stephenson moved up the gears with 16 points.

Liaoning edged ahead with 7.5 seconds remaining on the clock as Wells failed to drain his last-ditch 3-point attempt.

Celtics rookie Tacko conducts orchestra

Boston Celtics player Tacko Fall made his debut as a guest conductor during the renowned Boston Pops Orchestra's holiday concert.

The 7-foot-6 center took the stage to lead the orchestra in a rendition of the song Sleigh Ride at Boston's Symphony Hall on Monday night. Fall was wearing a custom-made extra-long tuxedo.

Fall used a baton that was given to him by conductor Keith Lockhart, who wrote "Congratulations to Tacko!" on it in green marker, the Boston Globe reported.

Lockhart called Fall "the tallest person to ever conduct the Boston Pops" before inviting him on stage.

The audience cheered during Fall's performance as he did a spin and wiggled his arms in time with the music.

TENNIS

Record prize money for Australian Open

The world's best players will compete for a record $49.1 million at the 2020 Australian Open, officials announced on Tuesday.

Tournament champions in both the men's and women's singles will take home $2.84 million, while runners-up will receive $1.42 million.

"This year, as we do every year, we worked with the tours to establish the weighting for prize money which increases round by round, and we pushed to reward players competing early in the tournament in both singles and doubles," said tournament director Craig Tiley.

Players exiting in the first round will now receive $62,000, while those who make it to the semifinals will earn $719,000.

Additionally, those bowing out early in the first round of qualifiers will walk away with $13,800, a 33.3 percent year-on-year increase from 2018. Next year's tournament will take place at Melbourne Park from Jan 20 to Feb 2.

BASEBALL

Mets and Betances agree to one-year deal

The New York Mets have reached an agreement with free-agent reliever Dellin Betances on a one-year contract with a player option for 2021.

The Mets announced the deal with the four-time All Star on Tuesday. Betances is guaranteed $10.5 million under the contract.

The 31-year-old New York native spent his first eight seasons in the majors with the Yankees.

He missed most of 2019 because of injuries. Betances' season ended after just eight pitches. He tore an Achilles tendon in his first appearance back from a lat injury that had sidelined him since spring training.

Betances was the first reliever in MLB history to have 100 or more strikeouts in five consecutive seasons (2014-2018). The right-hander led all major-league relievers in strikeouts in each year from 2014-2016.

Xinhua

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2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Hebei busy building a lasting legacy]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530328.htm With Olympic preparations proceeding ahead of schedule, Hebei province is already looking beyond 2022 to ensure a lasting legacy for winter sports.

Co-host city Zhangjiakou will stage 51 events, with 73 of its 76 venue construction projects for the Games underway, including a new high-speed rail link to downtown Beijing.

Meanwhile, testing has begun at existing venues. Last week, Genting Resort Secret Garden switched into competition mode by staging the FIS Freeski and Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup events.

"All of our competition sites are up to Olympic standard," said Shu Wen, a senior vice-president of Genting resort. "We are also upgrading our infrastructure. For example, we've finished building a hotel that will be used as a media center for the 2022 Winter Games.

"And we will have about 3,000 hotel rooms available over the next few years, which will also meet the demand for the Games."

Shu is confident the resort's Olympic courses will impress athletes, spectators and the Games' global TV audience.

"It's because we have the most professional teams to build and maintain the slopes here," he added. "For example, we are working with the best halfpipe design and building experts in the world. After years of operation, we have also nurtured many local talents in the sport."

During the 2018-2019 ski season, the city hosted a total of 143 domestic and international events, with more high-profile competitions upping the ante this term.

"So far in the 2019-2020 snow season, we plan to host three World Cups, seven national tournaments and more than a dozen international events," said Su Yue, the deputy director of Zhangjiakou Winter Sports Administrative Center.

"Moreover, we will organize over 100 public events for all winter sports lovers. So this snow season, we plan to host over 150 international and domestic events.

"We will train and test our operation team through hosting highlevel meets. In terms of public events, we hope to involve more people in winter sports."

Public participation

The strategy of enticing the general public onto the ice and snow forms an integral part of the Olympic preparations.

Last week the city of Chengde co-hosted Hebei's inaugural Ice and Snow Sports Games, which featured six sports and three demonstration events, with four different classifications-youth, university, society and professional.

The aim was to not only provide a platform for the province's top athletes but to also encourage winter sports lovers of all age groups.

"It's nice to have this chance to compete and the outdoor skating rink in Chengde is good enough for hosting this level of competition," said 15-year-old Li Zihang from Handan, who competed in the youth-level speed skating competition last Saturday.

"I started roller skating in 2008 and last year fell in love with speed skating. It wasn't too difficult to make the transition, and most importantly, skating on ice feels much better than skating on land.

"I thought about becoming a professional just like my hero, Olympic champion Wu Dajing.

"If I fail to achieve that, I still want to stick with it and become a coach one day to teach more young skaters."

Hebei's Ice and Snow Games are a perfect example of how local authorities are getting on board with the country's bid to involve 300 million people in winter sports.

"The Games are a new way to boost the development of winter sports in the province," said He Wenge, the deputy director of Hebei Sports Bureau.

"They welcome the participation of all winter sports lovers as we have established different levels of competition. In other words, as long as you want to join, you will find a competition that suits you.

"More importantly, we have put a lot of effort into organizing youth-level competitions, given the next generation is key to the future of winter sports.

"We have also been working on promoting winter sports in primary and middle schools."

All these initiatives have not gone unnoticed by the International Olympic Committee.

"Firstly, it's a dream to inspire 300 million people to practice and get involved with winter sports, and it's happening from school level to the top athletes. That promise is really happening. The legacy of the Winter Games has been delivered even before the Games," said IOC vice-president Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. during a visit to China earlier this month.

"Secondly, the Olympics is not only about top athletes, it starts from school. It's a way of life and philosophy…It's very impressive and they (2022 organizers) are way ahead of what they promised. We are so convinced that the Beijing 2022 Games will be an extraordinary success."

 

A skier takes on the slopestyle course at Genting Resort Secret Garden, one of venues for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA['World's best midfielder' Pogba can spark United, says Solskjaer]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530358.htm LONDON-Paul Pogba has been hailed as the "best midfielder in the world" by Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the Frenchman returned from a long injury layoff.

The World Cup winner was in action for United for the first time since late September as a substitute in the chastening 2-0 defeat at Watford on Sunday.

The 26-year-old could be in the starting XI against Newcastle on Thursday as Solskjaer desperately seeks the creativity United needs to break down stubborn opposition defenses.

"Let's see how he reacts to this, how he feels," said Solskjaer. "He did really well when he came on. Big, big plus and it might be that we do get him in from the start."

Pogba, who had only played twice since the end of August due to an ankle injury, was introduced on Sunday with United already trailing by two goals and went close to scoring during a late attacking flurry from the visitor.

"He can play anywhere, he can play the whole midfield," said Solskjaer.

"He's a box-to-box midfielder. He can drop deep, get it, play long passes. He can get it higher up and combine like he did today."

"That's the beauty of having Paul, because he is the best all-round midfielder in the world," added the United boss, who has insisted the former Juventus man will not be leaving in the January transfer window despite continuing links with Real Madrid.

Solskjaer said he was looking for a reaction from his players against Newcastle after United again failed to turn possession into a positive result at Watford.

"One of the good things about the team this year, we have reacted after bad results," he said.

"We haven't kept the consistency as we would have liked the other way but we've never gone on a big (bad) run like we did towards the end of last season so there will be a reaction, definitely."

United is struggling in eighth place in the Premier League, seven points behind fourth-place Chelsea despite recent morale-boosting wins against Tottenham and Manchester City.

Solskjaer admitted progress had been slower than expected but said he was focused on developing a team that could dominate and break down opponents.

"It's taken Liverpool a few years to get to that stage and we need to keep on building because that's what we want to get to," he said.

"Yes, we're good at counterattacking. Yes, we've got pace and fast players. We should always keep that because that's in our tradition. Now we need to be better at breaking lower blocks."

Agence France-Presse

Paul Pogba applauds fans after Manchester United's 2-0 English Premier League loss at Watford on Dec 22, when the Frenchman made his comeback from an injury layoff. ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS

 

 

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2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Runaway Reds halfway to heaven]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530340.htm World champion, European champion… English champion?

Liverpool's players are sweeping all before them as they seek to restore the team's status from the 1970s and '80s as club soccer's preeminent force.

But there's one trophy they really want. One trophy that keeps slipping from their grasp. One trophy that hasn't been in the cabinet at Anfield since 1990.

Surely this is Liverpool's season to end its wait for England's top-flight title and be champion for the first time in the Premier League era (starting 1992).

A season after missing out to Manchester City by a single point, Liverpool has moved up a notch-in terms of results, if not performances-and takes a 10-point lead into Christmas. Jurgen Klopp's red machine even has a game in hand over second-place Leicester and reigning champion City, which is a point further back in third.

Liverpool is unbeaten-winning 16 of its 17 games and drawing the other at fierce rival Manchester United-and has simply forgotten how to lose.

Crowned European champion for the sixth time in June, the Reds won the FIFA Club World Cup last weekend in Qatar and, as is becoming their trademark, left it late to seal victory in the final against Flamengo in extra time.

On only three occasions in the last 11 years has a team failed to win the Premier League when leading the standings at Christmas. Each time, it was Liverpool (2008-09, 2013-14, 2018-19) but the class of 2019-20 might be Liverpool's strongest team in a generation.

"We helped Liverpool to make this step with incredible, top players," said City manager Pep Guardiola, whose team won the league with points totals of 100 and 98 in the past two seasons. "And now it is the level you have to reach."

Here's how a season of 506 goals, five managerial changes and a curious shortage of clean sheets has shaped up so far.

Best player

It is hard to look past Jamie Vardy. The Leicester striker has 17 goals-six more than closest rivals Tammy Abraham of Chelsea and Southampton's Danny Ings. Vardy is well on course to surpass the 24 he netted in the team's improbable title-winning campaign in 2015-16. His hottest patch came from Oct 19-Dec 8, when he scored in eight straight league games.

The 32-year-old appears to be benefiting from his decision to retire from international soccer with England, leaving him fresh for club duty. England manager Gareth Southgate could yet come begging ahead of the European Championship next June and July, however.

Biggest surprise

Sheffield United is playing its first season of top-flight soccer in 12 years. You'd never know. The Blades start Christmas in fifth place, four points off the Champions League qualification positions and above the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Chris Wilder's team of journeymen and previously unheralded youngsters are hard-working and coached brilliantly. A tactic of encouraging his central defenders to surge forward has paid off handsomely for Wilder's United, which hasn't lost any of its first nine away games, something never before achieved in the Premier League by a newly promoted club.

At home, the vociferous support of the Bramall Lane crowd has helped United take the scalp of Arsenal and hold Manchester United to a draw.

Biggest disappointment

Take your pick-there have been plenty. How about Manchester City, which has failed to maintain its form of the past two seasons by losing four of its first 16 games amid injuries to key players such as defender Aymeric Laporte. There's Arsenal, which is languishing in 11th place and on course for its worst finish in the Premier League era, and Everton, which-despite another offseason of heavy spending-is just four points above the relegation zone. Both teams have just changed managers. Meanwhile, eighth-place Manchester United is still struggling to break down the league's lesser lights. The biggest regret, however, might be the lack of a challenge to Liverpool.

Champions League chase

Three places appear sewn up-Liverpool as well as its two nearest rivals, Leicester and Manchester City. There's a 10-point gap between City and fourth-place Chelsea. Then it all depends on whether Frank Lampard's youthful Chelsea, which is four points clear of the chasing pack, can hold it together through the second half of the season. Expect Sheffield United to finally tail off, leaving Tottenham, Manchester United, and potentially Wolves-currently in sixth place, five points off the top four-to challenge Lampard's Blues.

Best goal

It can only be Son Heung-min's stunning solo effort in Tottenham's 5-0 win over Burnley, which saw the South Korea forward pick up the ball at the edge of his own penalty box, chart a course right through the heart of the Clarets' admittedly sluggish defense, and apply a finish from just inside the area. Twelve seconds, 12 touches, 80 meters, one dazzling goal.

Relegation scrap

Watford looked a certainty for relegation just a few weeks ago but a second change of manager this season-bringing in former Leicester coach Nigel Pearson-might be a clever move. The last-place Hornets were unlucky to lose at Liverpool 2-0 on Dec 14 and, last Sunday, beat Manchester United 2-0 for just their second win this term. They are six points from safety and finally have some momentum. Norwich, tied on points with Watford, has been exciting to watch in its return to the Premier League but the Canaries' leaky defense makes them team a big favorite for the drop. Similarly, third-to-last Aston Villa is conceding too many goals at present and, after losing coveted midfielder John McGinn to injury, could make an immediate return to the second tier.

Associated Press

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson hoists the FIFA Club World Cup trophy after the Reds defeated Brazil's Flamengo in the final at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Dec 21. REUTERS

 

 

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy

 

 

Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson

 

 

Tottenham's Son Heung-min

 

 

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2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Willian a real winter warmer for Chelsea]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/26/content_37530381.htm LONDON-Willian's performance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last weekend highlighted just why Frank Lampard is keen to see the Brazilian's future at Chelsea resolved.

While much of the focus this season has been trained on the outstanding contribution of the youngsters in Blues manager Lampard's squad, Willian's performances on the right of a front three have been consistently excellent.

The attacking midfielder had lost his way a little in recent seasons, particularly last term when he struggled for consistency under Maurizio Sarri and appeared in danger of leaving the London club.

This campaign has been different, though, and Lampard will hope the player can inspire a return to home form when Southampton visits Stamford Bridge on Thursday following Chelsea's impressive 2-0 defeat of Jose Mourinho's Spurs.

Willian was certainly the standout performer in a display Lampard admitted was probably his side's best of the season after a worrying run of form that had brought four defeats in the previous five Premier League games, included home losses to Bournemouth and West Ham.

There were always going to be frustrating periods for Lampard and his players in what is a season of transition for Chelsea, which is nevertheless now fourth in the Premier League.

The task of bedding in a number of academy graduates against the backdrop of the preseason transfer embargo has inevitably presented challenges.

Willian, though, has maintained impressively high levels, appearing rejuvenated under the club's new manager.

Certainly Lampard appears to have found the key to drawing the best out of the 31-year-old whose work on the right has contributed to striker Tammy Abraham making such a significant impact in his breakthrough season at Chelsea.

Willian's work ethic had been questioned previously, with his failure to track back and support the fullback highlighted last season.

This time around, there can be no doubt about his willingness to put in the hard yards.

The 31-year-old, who arrived at Chelsea from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala for around $39 million in 2013, has strengthened his hand in his contract negotiations as he seeks a new deal that will keep him at the Bridge beyond the end of this season.

Willian's existing deal runs out in May, along with those of fellow thirty-somethings Pedro and Olivier Giroud.

With Chelsea's two-window transfer ban having been halved, leaving the club to bring in new recruits next month, Giroud is likely to leave in a bid to find the regular first-team minutes he believes will boost his chances of being selected for world champion France's Euro 2020 squad.

Pedro has been reduced to a fringe player and is also expected to move on at the end of the season.

Willian, though, is a different matter and while Chelsea is notoriously reluctant to offer extended deals to players over the age of 30, the Brazilian could become an exception.

For his part, Lampard has made it clear he wants the South American to stay.

And while the manager has no intention of shifting his policy of promoting young players, he knows the value of experience.

"He's a very important member of the club and of course I want it to be done but obviously both sides have to be happy for that," said Lampard when asked last month about Willian's future.

Meanwhile, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta faces a late fitness test for the Southampton game. The Spanish defender injured a hamstring in the win at Spurs.

Saints could be without striker Shane Long for the whole of the Christmas schedule because of a knee injury the Irishman sustained in last week's win at Aston Villa.

Agence France-Presse

Chelsea's Willian

 

 

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2019-12-26 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530168.htm SOCCER

Napoli ace Zielinski open to Everton switch

Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski could be reunited with his former boss Carlo Ancelotti at Everton, according to a report in Poland.

Polish international Zielinski had a good relationship with Ancelotti at Napoli before the Italian coach was fired earlier this month due to the Serie A team's poor domestic form.

Ancelotti was last week confirmed as Everton's new manager, with Polsat Sport TV's Marcin Feddek claiming Zielinski has told him he would be open to linking up with his old boss again at the Merseyside club.

"We talked to each other when Napoli played Liverpool in the Champions League. In the past, Zielinski was linked to Liverpool as (manager) Jurgen Klopp really appreciates him. They even held talks about the transfer. Now there is a chance he will play in Liverpool, but for Everton," said Feddek.

Ancelotti has reportedly been promised funds in the January transfer window as the Italian seeks to steer the Toffees away from a potential relegation fight.

Video official's home attacked after game

The Greek Football Federation has condemned an attack on the home of a video assistant referee only hours after a controversial topflight match decision.

No one was hurt in the house attack early on Monday.

Police said attackers smashed a window and threw a firecracker into the Athens home of the VAR official after title contender Olympiakos' 0-0 draw at Volos in central Greece on Sunday. A goal by Olympiakos was disallowed for offside early in the second half.

The federation said the "mafia-style" attack by "thugs (was) aimed at intimidating football officials".

The head of the Athens referees association, Panagiotis Varouchas, told Associated Press he has repeatedly asked authorities for additional police protection for his members.

"They ignored us, so what happened was to be expected," Varouchas said.

Fan arrested for alleged racist abuse of Son

A Chelsea fan was arrested during Sunday's Premier League game at Tottenham for allegedly racially abusing Spurs' South Korean striker Son Heung-min.

It was the only arrest for racism made by the Metropolitan Police at the London derby where Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger reported being subjected to monkey chants.

The abuse reported by Rudiger came during the second half after he was kicked in the chest by Son, who was sent off as a result.

There was no immediate indication when any racism toward Son happened.

"Chelsea Football Club will not tolerate any form of racism, nor is there a place at this club for anyone who is found to have engaged in such behavior," the Blues said in a statement.

Tottenham said on Monday that its investigation into the alleged Rudiger racism was "inconclusive".

TENNIS

Serena, Wozniacki to play doubles together

Long-time friends Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki will play doubles together for the first time at the WTA Tour's ASB Classic in Auckland beginning on Jan 6.

Former No 1 Wozniacki has started her season in Auckland every year since 2015 and has made the hard-court tournament the first stop of her short farewell tour.

The 29-year-old Dane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after winning the 2018 Australian Open and will retire from tennis after playing the Melbourne major next month.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, has not played doubles with anyone other than her sister Venus since a Fed Cup match in 2015. Her last WTA tournament in doubles without Venus was in 2002.

The pair are close friends. Williams was Wozniacki's bridesmaid at her wedding earlier this year and will play an exhibition in Copenhagen in May, Wozniacki's final match before retirement.

Xinhua

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2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[FIVE STORIES YOU MAY HAVE MISSED]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530217.htm Sports made the front pages as well as the back pages all around the world in 2019 with the rugby and cricket World Cups, the World Athletics Championships and the women's soccer World Cup to name just a few. Amid the year's major headlines, however, there were a number of inspirational stories that you may have missed.

Coast to coast

Since Matthew Webb first swam across the English Channel in 1875, over 1,800 people have gone on to plough their way across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Only one, however, has crossed from England to France four times non-stop.

Take a bow Sarah Thomas, a 37-year-old American breast cancer survivor, whose 209-kilometer swim in September took 54 hours to complete.

Thomas, who had previously swam two single crossings, underwent treatment for an aggressive breast cancer in the summer of 2018.

She said the hardest part of the swim was dealing with the saltwater, which left her throat and mouth sore, while she also got stung in the face by a jellyfish.

Going the extra mile

Step aside Eliud Kipchoge and stand up Zach Bitter-arguably the finest long-distance runner in the world.

That's a big statement but the 33-year-old American is a truly remarkable athlete, having broken two distance records within the space of 40 minutes.

At an indoor track in Milwaukee, in his home state of Wisconsin in August, Bitter broke the record for the 100 miles (161 kilometers), completing the distance in 11 hours, 19 minutes and 13 seconds, knocking almost nine minutes off Oleg Kharitonov's previous record of 11:28:03, set back in 2002.

Bitter completed 363 laps of the track averaging a mile pace of 6:48, which is faster than running a sub-three-hour marathon. He carried on running to claim the world record for distance covered over 12 hours, in his case 104.8 miles (168.66 km).

Colossus of cricket

The selection of Antiguan off-spinner Rakheem Cornwall to play his first Test for the West Indies against India in August was greeted with an element of curiosity. Who was this giant?

The emphasis was most certainly on "giant"-Cornwall stands at over 2 meters tall (6-foot-6) and weighs over 140 kilograms.

A player of his bulk is rare in cricket and he cuts an unlikely figure as a spin bowler where the stereotype is all wisp and cunning.

But Cornwall is a seriously good cricketer. He took three wickets in the first innings of that Test and then followed up with match figures of 10-111 against Afghanistan in November.

He has guile, rip and supreme control, with his height providing him with extra bounce.

The 26-year-old also has buckets for hands and a broad pair of shoulders that allows him to clatter a cricket ball towards the wicket.

Perfect 10

The world and his dog have heard of multi-decorated gymnast Simone Biles. Much fewer will know about Katelyn Ohashi who this year retired from the sport at the age of 22.

Ohashi was a six-time All-American, four-time USA Gymnastics junior national team member, and the winner of the American Cup.

For some years, she was a genuine sporting rival to Biles.

The 4-foot-10(1.47-meter) Ohashi won five golds at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships and the all-round gold at the 2013 FIG World Cup.

Then came a shoulder injury which saw her drop out of elite competition. It didn't stop her competing though and her infectious smile and swagger made her a smash hit on YouTube.

The video of her "perfect 10" floor routine at the 2019 Collegiate Challenge has had over 74 million hits.

Ohashi's graduation from UCLA in April brought down the curtain on a sparkling career. She is currently working on two books including a collection of her poetry.

A good innings

Cecil Wright's name will not rank alongside West Indies cricket legends Viv Richards, Gary Sobers and Frank Worrell, but for longevity he outranks them all.

The fast bowler known affectionately as "Cec" only retired at the end of the English summer-at the ripe old age of 85.

In his heyday, Wright represented Jamaica against Barbados, lining up against Sobers and Wes Hall.

He moved to England in 1959 and launched a career as a professional in the Central Lancashire League for Crompton, ending his career with Uppermill in the Pennine League.

He took over 7,000 wickets during a career spanning more than 60 years.

At one point he took 538 wickets in five seasons, averaging one every 27 balls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Offbeat assortment]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530201.htm Matches held up by wildlife and underwear protests, chickens in danger in Croatian soccer and offside armpits. AFP Sport looks back at 10 of 2019's best offbeat sporting moments:

Oh deer!

The kick-off in a Scottish soccer match was delayed after a herd of wild deer left excrement all over the pitch.

"Kick-off suspended due to the ref being delayed, the pitch currently waterlogged-and covered in deer faeces," Nairn County, which play in the Highlands League, tweeted ahead of the game at Fort William.

The match in April eventually ended in a 6-2 defeat for hapless Fort William, its 29th loss in 31 games.

Sue are you?

When Sue Barker won the Roland Garros women's title in 1976 she became Britain's most recent champion in Paris-or did she?

An eagle-eyed photographer spotted that Barker is listed as Australian and not British on the list of champions whose names are engraved on the Suzanne Lenglen Trophy presented each June to the French Open women's champion.

"Last time I checked, Sue Barker was British-are my eyes deceiving me?" tweeted Ella Ling, who snapped a photo of the cup which has classed Barker as 'AUST' rather than 'GBR' for the last 43 years.

"I mean seriously....how has no one noticed!"

Red alert

Dimitris Giannakopoulos, the owner of Greek basketball club Panathinaikos, was fined 3,000 euros ($3,324) for leaving a pair of red women's underwear on the empty bench of rival Olympiakos before a game.

"It was an act that defamed the sport," said the sports judge who handed down the ruling.

Giannakopoulos made the move after Olympiakos, which plays in red, failed to show up for a February contest in Athens.

Strike it lucky

Players of Mexican soccer club Veracruz went on strike in the opening minutes of a league game, allowing grateful opponents Tigres to walk in two goals unchallenged.

Veracruz decided on the radical action to protest over unpaid wages. As a result, Eduardo Vargas and Andre-Pierre Gignac put Tigres 2-0 up inside three minutes on their way to a 3-1 win.

At the end of the game, Veracruz sarcastically applauded their opponents who they claim reneged on a promise to respect their strike.

"They knew that we were going to stay still for three minutes," said Veracruz defender Carlos Salcido.

Hamilton's movie misery

Lewis Hamilton had to put his ambitions to be a Hollywood movie star on hold because he was too busy winning Formula One titles.

The six-time world champion claimed he had to turn down a role in Top Gun: Maverick, which is scheduled for release next year and stars Tom Cruise, due to lack of time.

The 34-year-old Briton's part in the film was expected to be bigger than in his previous movie cameos, which came in Zoolander 2 and Cars.

That sinking feeling

British golfer Eddie Pepperell's Turkish Open bid came to an abrupt and early end when he ran out of golf balls.

Pepperell put five balls into the water at the fourth hole before telling playing partners that he was quitting the course.

Offside armpit

Liverpool maintained its lead at the top of the Premier League in early November with a last-gasp win over Aston Villa but came perilously close to being denied a victory-by an offside armpit!

Jurgen Klopp's Reds were trailing to Trezeguet's opener when Roberto Firmino thought he had tapped home the equalizer seven minutes later.

However, the linesman raised his flag and a VAR check confirmed the decision to the rule out the goal, with the Premier League revealing that Firmino's armpit "was marginally ahead of the last Villa defender".

The decision looked like it would lead to Liverpool losing its first league match of the season, before Andy Robertson headed home an 87th-minute equaliser and Sadio Mane snatched the points deep in stoppage time.

"It's not right that we laugh about it. Managers get sacked over it," Klopp said of the VAR ruling.

Fowl play

A Croatian soccer player "accidentally" kicked a chicken to death during a semi-pro match.

The incident took place when a brood of chickens ran onto a pitch in the eastern part of the country.

Ivan Gazdek, of home team NK Jelengrad, ran after the birds, kicked one with his foot and then chucked it over the fence in a flurry of feathers.

"I ran towards the chickens to chase them away, swung my foot and accidentally killed one," said Gazdek.

Pope and glory

The New Orleans Saints got a surprise shout-out from Pope Francis, with fans and at least one player taking the inadvertent tag as a good omen for the NFL team.

Francis created five new saints in October in a canonization ceremony at the Vatican.

"Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new#Saints," he posted on Twitter-with the combination of a hashtag and the word 'Saints' automatically adding the New Orleans team's fleur-de-lis logo.

Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone wrote on Twitter: "Wow, are we blessed or what?!??", and, after a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team tweeted: "Couldn't lose after this.#Blessed and highly favored."

Bad buzz

A swarm of bees sent players taking cover on the pitch during a Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and Sri Lanka in Durham, England.

"It's very funny. Looks like someone's just had a machine-gun through all the players on the field and everyone is down on the ground," said South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis.

"You are not brave enough when there is a swarm of bees flying. I'm brave, but not that brave."

Agence France- Presse

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2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Barca tops salaries league as Juve wage bill soars]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530199.htm SYDNEY-Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid and Italy's Juventus are the world's best-paid sports teams according to the 2019 Global Sports Salaries Survey.

The 10th edition of the survey, conducted by sportingintelligence.com, finds Barcelona atop the list with an average basic salary of $12.8 million for first-team players.

That figure is down on last year when Barcelona was also first with an average of $13.7 million, swelled by the basic pay check of Lionel Messi, which exceeds $65 million.

Madrid retains second place with an average of $11.6 million and Juve, ninth on the list last year, is up to third with $10.54 million. The other soccer teams in the top 20 are Paris Saint-Germain at 12th and Manchester City at 13th.

The figures used in the survey do not include signing or performance bonuses and other extras.

Teams from the NBA fill the remaining seven spots in the top 10 and take 15 of the top 20 places. In 2017 the top three teams in the survey were the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, while in 2018 three NBA teams broke the average pay ceiling of $10 million per player.

This year, the Portland Trail Blazers are in fourth place at just over $10.4 million, Golden State fifth at $10.28 million, while Oklahoma City drops to sixth at $9.83 million.

Among teams ranked 21 to 30 this year, nine are from the NBA, joined by soccer's Bayern Munich at No 22.

Juventus was ranked No 32 in 2017 but leapt to 10th spot last year with the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo and other high-priced players.

The biggest risers in the latest survey were the NFL's Buffalo Bills, who climbed 60 places to 92nd, and the Atlanta Falcons, up 59 spots to 64th.

Four of the five biggest falls were recorded by Major League Baseball teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, who are down 123 places to No 172.

The New York Yankees were the top-ranked team in the inaugural survey in 2012.

The NBA has extended its lead as the top-paying league with an average salary of ($7.6 million), ahead of cricket's Indian Premier League ($4.9m) and MLB($4.4m).

The English Premier League remains the world's best-paying soccer league at fourth on the overall list, with average salaries in the 2018-19 season at $3.9 million (or $74,000 per week).

The next best-paid leagues are the NFL, Spanish soccer's La Liga and hockey's NHL. The top soccer divisions in Italy (Serie A), Germany (Bundesliga) and France (Ligue 1) complete the top 10.

Associated Press

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2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Relentless Niners primed for Seahawks showdown]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/25/content_37530182.htm SANTA CLARA, California-The San Francisco 49ers would have it no other way.

The regular season has come down to this: Win the season finale at Seattle and the Niners will seize the top seed in the NFC playoffs and home-field advantage; a loss would send San Francisco on the road as a wild card.

"That is what you play football for," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said.

"These are the kind of games that you dream about when you are a kid. We are really looking forward to that, and it would mean a lot to get the W."

It won't be easy as the 49ers (12-3) have lost eight straight games in Seattle since winning on Christmas Eve in 2011, including a defeat in the NFC title game following the 2013 season.

The only player left in San Francisco from that last win is left tackle Joe Staley.

But this year's version of the Niners is far different from past years as evidenced by a thrilling win earlier this month in New Orleans or the come-from-behind 34-31 victory on Saturday night over the Los Angeles Rams that set the stage for this showdown against the Seahawk (11-4).

The 49ers overcame an 11-point deficit, two interceptions from Jimmy Garoppolo and some defensive breakdowns to win it on Robbie Gould's 33-yard field goal on the final play.

That kick came after Garoppolo converted a pair of third-and-16s on the game-winning drive with completions to Kendrick Bourne and Emmanuel Sanders.

"You just win, whatever it takes," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "Whether it's a point, half a point, quarter of a point, three points, 40, that's a win. That's what we need, especially going down the stretch, you got to win these weird games. You got to learn how to win every way you can. That's what you got to do in the playoffs. This was another great lesson."

What's working

Late game offense. Garoppolo shook off an otherwise off-night by going 6 of 8 for 134 yards and a TD on the final two drives of the game. He drove San Francisco 91 yards to the go-ahead touchdown when he scrambled away from pressure to create time for George Kittle to break open for the TD catch. He then set up the winning field goal with a 46-yard pass to Sanders despite getting hit on the arm as he threw. Garoppolo has led four fourth-quarter comebacks this season, also doing it against Pittsburgh, Arizona and New Orleans.

What needs help

Offensive line. With center Weston Richburg sidelined for the season with a knee injury, the Niners have struggled a bit in pass protection, especially on the interior. The Rams' Aaron Donald and Atlanta's Grady Jarrett had lots of success the past two weeks. The Rams put heavy pressure on Garoppolo, beating every lineman at times. Garoppolo was sacked a season-high six times against the Rams and has gone down 22 times the past seven games.

Stock up

Linebacker Fred Warner was everywhere against the Rams, with 11 tackles a pass defensed and an interception returned 46 yards for a touchdown that gave the Niners their first lead of the game. It was Warner's first pick-six since his junior year at Brigham Young University and his first interception in two years as a pro.

Stock down

The Rams picked on cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in coverage all night. Witherspoon was beaten on both of Jared Goff's TD passes: a 10-yarder to Brandin Cooks and a 22-yarder to Cooper Kupp.

Injured

Safety Tarvarius Moore remains in concussion protocol and his status for this week is in question. ... Defensive end Dee Ford is expected to miss one more game with a hamstring injury. ... Mike Person (neck), Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) and Jullian Taylor will all try to practice this week.

Key number

16-The Niners completed two third downs with 16 yards to go on the game-winning drive after a single one that long since Week 3 in 2017. They were the first team to convert two third downs that long on a game-winning drive since Cleveland did it against Buffalo on Nov 4, 1984, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Next steps

Figuring out how to win in Seattle. The Niners have been outscored by 17 points per game during their eight-game skid at the Seahawks' home.

Associated Press

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2019-12-25 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530129.htm WINTER SPORTS

Double delight for China at World Cup

China's Qi Guangpu and Xu Mengtao claimed their second gold medals in as many days at the FIS Freestyle Aerials World Cup at Shimao Lotus Mountain Ski Resort on Sunday.

Having scooped both titles on Saturday, the Chinese pair repeated the feat in Sunday's session, with Qi finishing best of 21 competitors in the men's competition and Xu again dominating the women's final.

"I just performed as usual, hoping to improve gradually," said Qi, who scored 128.05 points for a routine rated 4.525 for difficulty. Russia's Maxim Burov (126.70) took second, while China's Jia Zongyang, a silver medalist at the 2018 Winter Olympics, was third (123.90).

Xu scored 110.77 points to top the women's podium ahead of Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya (97.07) of Belarus and China's Kong Fanyu (92.35).

BASKETBALL

Lin-sanity prevails as Beijing batters Shanxi

Jeremy Lin shook off recent sluggishness as the Beijing Ducks sailed to a 93-78 road victory over the Shanxi Brave Dragons on Sunday.

Lin's 5-for-21 figures in Friday's defeat to the Zhejiang Golden Bulls was his worst shooting performance of the season. But the American bounced back in style to convert 12 of 18 shots against Shanxi for a game-high 32 points.

Beijing went 14 of 29 from behind the arc, with Zhu Yanxi draining seven 3-pointers to bag 22 points; Zhai Xiaochuan and Fang Shuo added 15 and 12 points respectively.

The Ducks led 23-15 after the first quarter and 45-31 at halftime, while a 12-point streak from Lin in the third and four 3s from Zhu in the final period easily kept Shanxi at bay.

Elsewhere, the Shenzhen Aviators snapped the Shandong Heroes' eight-game winning streak by triumphing 104-95.

Isaiah suspended over Sixers fan clash

Washington Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas was suspended by two games without pay by the NBA on Sunday for entering the spectator stands to confront hecklers, the league announced.

Thomas was ejected with 2:53 remaining in the fourth quarter of Washington's 125-108 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday after confronting 76ers' fans in the stands for what he later said were obscene comments and gestures.

"I said: 'Don't be disrespectful. I'm a man before anything. Be a fan.' His response was, 'I'm sorry, I just wanted a Frosty,'" Thomas said, referring to the frozen dessert Sixers fans are awarded if an opposing player misses two free throws in the second half.

Thomas later greeted the news of his suspension with a foulmouthed one-word tweet. Two spectators involved in the incident have been banned by the 76ers from their arena for one year and had their season tickets revoked.

SOCCER

Milan mauled in worst defeat for 21 years

AC Milan slumped to its biggest Serie A defeat in 21 years as it was humiliated 5-0 at local rival Atalanta on Sunday.

It was only the fourth occasion Milan had lost a Serie A game by a five-goal margin, with the last time coming in May 1998 against Roma.

"We got our whole interpretation of the match wrong, we faced it in the wrong way and it became difficult to change our attitude," Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. "On a tactical level, a technical level and a physical level, Atalanta was better than us.

"This is a defeat which really hurts. We are responsible for our performance and today we played well below our level. A game like this should not be allowed to happen. We have to put in performances on the pitch worthy of the shirt that we wear."

Atalanta moved into fifth place, four points behind Roma and the final Champions League berth, heading into the winter break. Milan is 11th, 10 points behind Atalanta.

NFL

Thomas breaks catch record in Saints win

Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes, and Michael Thomas set an NFL single-season record for pass receptions as the visiting New Orleans Saints overcame a 14-0 deficit and beat the Tennessee Titans 38-28 on Sunday.

Brees, who became the NFL's career leader in touchdown passes six days earlier, increased his career total to 544 and upped his lead over New England's Tom Brady and the retired Peyton Manning by five.

Thomas caught Brees' third touchdown pass on the day and finished with 12 receptions for 136 yards, giving him 145 catches, two more than Marvin Harrison had in 2002.

With the win, the NFC South champion Saints (12-3) remained in contention for a first-round playoff bye and the top overall seed in the NFC. They finish the regular season at Carolina on Sunday.

Xinhua - Agencies

Qi Guangpu

 

 

Jeremy Lin

 

 

Michael Thomas

 

 

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2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[China's riders rising to the challenge]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530130.htm A Chinese one-two-and a sense that it should have been all three-at last weekend's home World Cup meet have pumped up the nation's snowboard halfpipe team to go the extra mile at the 2022 Olympics.

Liu Jiayu and Cai Xuetong thrilled the hardy home fans who braved the freezing wind at Genting Resort Secret Garden in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, on Sunday by bagging gold and silver respectively in the women's competition at the 2022 venue.

Team China's head coach Pekka Koskela, however, wasn't quite in the mood to celebrate due to the perceived injustice of Wu Shaotong's fourth-place finish behind American prodigy Maddie Mastro.

"Today I am happy we got the first and second, but also frustrated because we should've had the third place too," Koskela told China Daily before approaching the judges for an explanation.

"Wu should've had her first podium here. She was riding amazingly well, making us even more excited than winning the gold and silver."

The dissatisfaction of the Finnish coach, who has been working with the Chinese squad for five and a half years, reflected the high hopes for the team in halfpipe-one of the very few snow disciplines that China excels in.

Liu, who finished runner-up behind American Chloe Kim at the Pyeongchang Games last year to earn China its first Olympic snowboard medal, cemented her position as the team's leading rider on Sunday.

After taking a year off last season, Liu has shown no rust in her comeback after becoming the first woman on this year's Cup tour to 'break nine' (a term for exceptionally well-executed routines scoring 90-plus points).

That second run earned her 90.8 points for a combination of stunning tricks, including as the Haakonflip 720 mute (an inverted 720-degree rotation) and frontside 720 stalefish (two full rotations with her back hand grabbing the board).

Following her second-place finish at the season opener in Copper Mountain, Colorado, Liu now tops the overall Cup standings ahead of Spain's Queralt Castellet, who failed to qualify for the Genting finals.

"I'm feeling pretty stoked. It's always awesome and a proud feeling to win on home soil at a resort I consider my backyard," said Liu, who is an ambassador for Secret Garden.

"The journey to 2022 has just started. I will take it one step at a time to try to peak at the Olympics. I hope to surprise the home fans when the time comes."

After stepping back from competition last season, Liu said she's come back feeling refreshed and recharged, and on a mission to catch Kim in the buildup to 2022.

"I've had enough rest and will set out on my next goal fully concentrated. I am looking forward to all possibilities in the future," said the 27-year-old Liu.

Kim is the only female snowboarder to have won the world championships, the Youth Olympics, the Olympics and X Games with world-leading difficulty in tricks.

The 19-year-old California native of South Korean descent is taking a break this season to focus on her study at Princeton University.

Koskela attributes Liu's early-season surge to a solid offseason program and believes she could match Kim's competitiveness.

"Jiayu is looking pretty good at the moment," he said. "We had a good training camp in the summer which has started to pay off."

"We want to get the gold and of course she wants to beat Chloe. With her staying off this year, I think it's a good chance for us to catch her by doing the things right."

Young rider Wu's fourth-place finish on Sunday, her best Cup result since joining the tour in 2016, served notice to the world that more elite Chinese riders are in the making.

"I feel so happy today, not for us winning medals but for the rise of a next-generation rider in Wu, who thoroughly deserved a podium spot today," said Cai, who bagged silver with a third run that scored 89.2 points.

"I am excited about the fact that we have a group of youngsters coming up strong following in our footsteps. They have worked extremely hard and it's time for them to announce their arrival big time," added Cai, 26, who finished atop the Cup's overall standings last season for a fifth time.

In the men's competition, Australia's Olympic bronze medalist Scotty James won gold with a thrilling third run that scored 97.8 points, after being pushed all the way by the Japanese duo of Yuto Totsuka (95.8) and Ruka Hirano (92.6).

Zhang Yiwei, the only Chinese man to qualify for the finals, retired hurt after crashing into the edge of the pipe on his second run.

Koskela later revealed that Zhang was not seriously injured and should be able to return to competition soon.

 

Liu Jiayu takes off on her way to winning the women's halfpipe competition at the 2019-20 FIS Snowboard World Cup in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, on Sunday. Liu won with a score of 90.80 points, with teammate Cai Xuetong second (89.20). XINHUA

 

 

China's Liu Jiayu (right) and Scotty James of Australia pose with their gold medals after winning the women's and men's titles at the 2019-20 FIS Snowboard World Cup in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, on Sunday. CHINA DAILY

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Racism storm overshadows Lampard's tactical triumph]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/24/content_37530079.htm LONDON-Frank Lampard called for strong action to be taken after Antonio Rudiger allegedly suffered racist abuse in Chelsea's 2-0 win at Tottenham, but that did not stop Jose Mourinho mocking the defender's role in Son Heung-min's dismissal.

Rudiger appeared to be subjected to monkey chants from Tottenham fans after he was involved in a second-half clash with Son that triggered the South Korean's controversial red card.

Son kicked out at Rudiger after they collided and the German centerback hit the turf clutching his stomach.

The incident was followed by the alleged racist barracking, which Rudiger reported to referee Anthony Taylor via Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta.

Taylor spoke to both managers, while the public-address tannoy made three announcements warning that "racist behavior among spectators is interfering with the game".

It is the latest incident of racism to scar European soccer this season, overshadowing the Willian double that gave Lampard a memorable triumph at the expense of his former Chelsea manager Mourinho.

Blues boss Lampard wants firm action from the authorities, but he insists there was never any question of his team walking off the pitch in protest.

"All I know is Toni Rudiger said he heard racist chanting. I haven't had a conversation with him. Of course I support him," Lampard said.

"I don't know if it is getting worse (in soccer). Of course we know there is a protocol. It needs to be dealt with strongly no matter what stadium it is."

"It's just such a shame that racism still exists in 2019. When will this nonsense stop?" Rudiger tweeted.

"I really hope that the offenders will be found and punished soon, and in such a modern football ground like the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with dozens of TV and security cameras, it must be possible to find and subsequently punish them.

"If not, then there must have been witnesses in the stadium who saw and heard the incident."

In a four-part message on Twitter, Germany international Rudiger, who joined Chelsea from Roma in 2017, stressed that the issue should not be swept under the carpet.

However, he insisted the racism he allegedly experienced during the London derby was the actions of a minority.

"I don't want to involve Tottenham as an entire club into this situation as I know that just a couple of idiots were the offenders," he said.

Tottenham manager Mourinho made it clear he can't abide racism, but he then took a swipe at Rudiger, effectively accusing him of playacting to get Son sent off.

"I hate racism in society, I hate racism in football. I'm disappointed that things like that can happen. The club is a very proud club in this kind of situation and internally we will try to deal with it," he said.

Pressed on Rudiger's theatrical fall, Mourinho said: "For me it is not a red card. For me it was really bad and basically kills the game."

With a heavy dose of sarcasm, the Portuguese added: "Rudiger for sure is having scans in the hospital on the broken ribs because it was really a violent situation!

"One of the reasons I fell in love with this country was we don't call this kind of player a clever player, we call them other things that I refuse to say."

Lampard disagreed, saying: "It was a red card. Sometimes in football you have instinctive moments and it was that moment for Son. I would not have any words said about how Rudiger dealt with that."

'Thorough investigation'

Tottenham later said it was "conducting a thorough investigation" into the alleged racism that would include liaising with Chelsea players and staff.

"Any form of racism is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our stadium," a Spurs statement said.

"We take any such allegations extremely seriously and shall take the strongest possible action against any individual found to be behaving in such a way, including stadium bans."

Later on Sunday, the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) called for a government inquiry into racism in the sport.

"Now more than ever we must unite and stand strong and together to confront, challenge and eradicate racist abuse in our stadiums and in our country," said a statement from the players' union.

"The PFA calls for a government inquiry into racism and the rise in hate crime within football."

All the talk of racism meant Lampard was unable to fully savor the moment after masterminding the best result of his first season in charge of Chelsea.

Switching from a 4-3-3 to a 5-2-3 formation, Lampard outwitted Mourinho so effectively that Chelsea dominated from start to finish.

A run of four defeats from their last five league games had raised doubts about Lampard and his young team.

But Willian's superb opener was followed by a clinical penalty from the Brazilian as Chelsea held onto fourth place and moved six points clear of seventh-place Spurs.

Mourinho claimed Lampard's tweak copied the formation used by one of his Chelsea predecessors, Antonio Conte.

But the current Blues chief said: "That didn't factor in at all...I'm not trying to clone someone's system."

Asked if the acrimonious afternoon had damaged his relationship with Mourinho, Lampard added: "Still buddies? Yes."

 

Tottenham's Son Heung-min appeals his innocence after a clash with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger, who is seen writhing in apparent pain, during the Blues' 2-0 Premier League win. Son was sent off for the incident while Rudiger claimed he was racially abused by fans. REUTERS

 

 

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2019-12-24 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Taking fast track to freeski success]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/23/content_37529921.htm Nurtured by one of the sport's most decorated coaches, China's fledgling freeski halfpipe team is determined to do the country proud at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. And with renowned American coach Elana Chase at the helm, the squad's podium ambitions are more than just wild dreams.

Chase has masterminded multiple Olympic golds for the United States, and with a number of World Cup medals already in the bag this season, it hasn't taken long for the Chinese team to reap the benefits of her expertise.

"I try to bring all of that information with me to Team China and provide this young team with as much knowledge as I can in two years so we perform well at Beijing 2022," Chase told China Daily on Friday during the World Cup's third leg at Genting Resort Secret Garden in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province.

Competing under blue skies and calm winds at the Olympic venue which will stage freestyle skiing and snowboarding, Chinese teenager Li Fanghui executed a smooth combination of spinning tricks to win the women's bronze medal with 86.5 points behind Russian winner Valeriya Demidova (92.5) and Canada's Rachael Karker (88.75).

That podium success follows firstplace and runner-up finishes for teammates Zhang Kexin and Eileen Gu at the season opener in Cardrona, New Zealand, in September.

The freeski halfpipe involves athletes launching themselves off a U-shaped ramp to perform aerial tricks.

Judges rate the runs on amplitude, difficulty, variety and execution. Each competitor has two runs in the qualifying round and three in the final.

The Chinese team is comprised entirely of teenagers, with Mao Bingqiang the oldest at 18.

Compared to their foreign counterparts, who generally start skiing as early as 3 years old, the Chinese are all relative latecomers to the sport, having first taken to the snow aged 10 or older.

However, Chase is confident her charges are still pliable enough to be molded into Olympic medal contenders. "I think being young is an advantage because with good coaching and training they can create new good tricks and new good habits," she said.

"We don't have to try to break old bad habits, so it's only good stuff moving forward. I think they have a good opportunity with such a young team."

Honing her coaching knowledge at the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail in Colorado, Chase has helped multiple American teenagers mature into champions, such as two-time Olympic gold medalist David Wise (2014 and 2018), Torin Yater-Wallace, who at 15 in 2011 became the youngest Winter X Games medalist, and 2019 X Games winner Alex Ferreira.

In total, Chase's charges have amassed 20 X Games medals over the past two decades. Now she is focused on adding young Chinese talent to that list.

"We helped them transition from unknown skiers to famous skiers. We are trying to do the same with Chinese skiers," she said.

By tailoring training to each skier, Chase has managed to make an instant impact with Team China.

Just a month into her tenure, Mao won his first international meet-the Australia New Zealand Cup at Cardrona in August-with a run that included two 1260 tricks (threeand-a-half rotations).

"She's really hands-on in training and she will be there at each critical spot in the pipe to observe and help you correct your skills once you are developing a new trick," said Mao, a native of snowy Heilongjiang province who finished 20th out of 27 athletes on his Olympic debut in Pyeongchang last year.

Mao was the only Chinese male to successfully negotiate Friday's qualifiers, but with Chase on side, he's sure he'll soon have company from teammates in future finals.

"I believe the lack of presence of Chinese men in the final runs of major events won't last long," Mao said.

"It is my biggest motivation to prove that China also belongs to the top group of men's halfpipe."

While China's halfpipe freeski squad is a work in progress, the nation has been a major force in freestyle aerial skiing since Han Xiaopeng's Olympic gold at the 2006 Turin Games.

Last weekend, China showed it remains an aerials powerhouse, with veterans Xu Mengtao and Qi Guangpu claiming the women's and men's gold medals respectively at Shimao Lotus Mountain Ski Resort in Changchun, Jilin province.

China's 2018 Olympic silver medalist Jia Zongyang finished second in the men's event.

 

China's Li Fanghui executes a routine on her way to a bronze medal at the FIS Freeski Halfpipe World Cup meet at Genting Resort Secret Garden in Chongli, Hebei province, on Saturday. XINHUA

 

 

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2019-12-23 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Bayern's 'refugee baby' already coming of age]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/23/content_37529939.htm Since arriving at Bayern Munich in January, Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies has outstripped expectations to catapult to stardom with the Bavarian giant.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness has hailed the 19-year-old as "the discovery of the season", who is already "on his way to being world class", while sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said Davies "is the future" of the club.

The future has come faster than anticipated for the Ghana-born son of Liberian refugees. Less a month after signing from the Vancouver Whitecaps on a four-year contract for a base fee of $13.5 million (which could rise to $22 million), he made his Bundesliga debut off the bench against Stuttgart.

Davies, whose mother still calls him her "refugee baby", netted his first Bayern goal in March and now finds himself earning rave reviews after making the leftback position his own.

Injuries to Niklas Suele and Lucas Hernandez prompted Bayern to switch David Alaba to centerback, with Davies filling on the left.

And Davies has seized his opportunity in stunning style, with his athleticism and speed prompting teammates to compare him to sprint legend Usain Bolt.

Leon Goretzka labeled Davies a "machine", while fellow Germany international midfielder Joshua Kimmich said the youngster is "already on the top level", with his passing and tackling stats frequently over the 90 percent mark.

Davies is not just impressing against the lesser lights of the Bundesliga, with stellar performances against top talent such as Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and Tottenham's Son Heung-min making the world sit up and take notice.

Very much in the mold of the modern fullback, Davies is also adding an extra dimension to Bayern's attack and already seems indispensable for the five-time European champion.

He has started every game since Hansi Flick was appointed Bayern's interim head coach following the firing of Niko Kovac in early November.

"He is of great value for us as we can count on his extraordinary speed," Flick said.

Davies' rapid rise to prominence is all the more remarkable considering his upbringing.

Born and raised in a refugee camp in Buduburam, Ghana, Davies lived in a small wooden hut with his parents, who had escaped Liberia's civil war. As a 5-year-old, he played on dusty pitches without shoes.

In Canada, he had to care for his younger sister and brother, which "made him grow up fast as there was no choice". Soccer, he said, helped him overcome shyness in his new homeland.

"I am thankful to my parents as they had no easy life. If they hadn't dared to leave Africa, I wouldn't have made my way in professional football," said Davies.

Canadian coaches quickly realized they had a special talent on their hands, and at 15 years and 3 months, Davies became the second-youngest debutant in North American professional soccer.

A global audience was amazed when he managed to catch Tottenham striker Son, one of the game's fastest forwards, after a blistering run back from midfield during Bayern's 3-1 Champions League win earlier this month.

"What is happening to me right now is like a dream," said Davies of his new-found fame. Bayern will hope that dream is just beginning.

 

Ghana-born Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies (left) has been a revelation at leftback for Bayern Munich this season. AFP

 

 

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2019-12-23 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Still waters run deep for reluctant superstar Dressel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/20/content_37529708.htm In the post-Michael Phelps world, Caeleb Dressel fits snugly into the successor's slot.

Coming off two dynamic performances at the world championships, Dressel figures to be one of the biggest stars at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Yet he is reticent to step into the spotlight. He puts up his guard when it comes to his personal life. He really has no desire to be compared to the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.

"I don't want to say I just brush it off, because I know it's going to be inevitable," Dressel said in an interview with Associated Press. "But that's not why I'm in this sport. It's not to beat Michael. It's not to go faster than Michael."

Sitting across the table from Dressel at a bustling sandwich shop near Emory University, it's doesn't take long to recognize that he runs a bit deeper than many athletes.

"A thinker" is how his coach, Gregg Troy, describes him.

Dressel is an avid reader. His infrequent posts on social media are often quoted from whatever book has his attention at the moment.

"I can get the physical exercise done with practice and staying in shape," he said. "But you've got to sharpen the mental side. I like to learn."

Recently, he read Ryan Holiday's The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.

"The good thing about true perseverance is that it can't be stopped by anything besides death," Dressel tweeted.

Another recommendation from Dressel's book club is The Wright Brothers, a 2015 work by historian David McCullough chronicling the life and times of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Dressel was taken with these lines: "All were extremely proud of the brothers, not because that was the fashion of the moment, but because of their grit, persistence, and their loyalty to conviction. Above all, because of their sterling American quality of compelling success."

That's a quality Dressel knows something about.

At the 2017 world championships in Budapest, he joined Phelps and Mark Spitz as the only swimmers to win seven gold medals at a major international meet.

This summer in South Korea, Dressel picked off six golds and two silvers-making him and Phelps the only swimmers to claim eight medals at either the Olympics or the worlds. Most impressively, Dressel won three titles in a single night.

"He's such a dynamic swimmer," said Bob Bowman, who was Phelps' coach throughout his career and now leads the swimming program at Arizona State. "The way he jumps off the block. The race is over when he hits the water. He's so strong. I think of power when I see him swim."

Now, as Tokyo approaches, Dressel is 23 years old.

The same age as Phelps heading into the 2008 Summer Games.

But Dressel quickly shoots down any thought of making a run at Phelps' most iconic record-those eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

Two of Dressel's eight events in Gwangju (50-meter butterfly and 4x100 freestyle relay) aren't on the Olympic program.

He's pondering whether to swim the 200 free at the US trials, in the hope of putting up a time that would earn consideration for a spot on the 4x200 free relay. But it looks like seven events is the absolute ceiling he'll consider for Tokyo.

Dressel shrugs off speculation that he might attempt the 200 individual medley, saying it just doesn't work out schedule-wise.

So Phelps' record is safe. Not that it's ever been on Dressel's radar.

"It's not about Michael for me," he said. "It never has been."

The third of four children, Dressel grew up in Green Cove Springs, Florida, a community just south of Jacksonville along the St. Johns River. He played a variety of sports, including football, track and soccer, but swimming was his destiny.

"To put it simply, this is what I'm supposed to be doing," he said. "I don't know if it chose me or I chose it. But I couldn't walk away from it, even at the points where I didn't enjoy it."

There were certainly times when he struggled to find joy in the sport-most notably during his senior year of high school, when he was one of the nation's top swimming prospects but shockingly decided to drop out for about six months.

Dressel clams up when asked about that time in his life.

"I genuinely missed it," is about all he'll say. "I've sort of beat around the bush with my answers. Maybe one day I'll actually come out and give the full story. But right now, I'm not ready."

He returned to swimming, of course, with a scholarship to compete right down the road at the University of Florida. That's where he hooked up with Troy, the school's longtime coach, and began a partnership that would produce some staggering returns.

Dressel earned his first Olympic berth in 2016 and led off the gold medal-winning 4x100 free relay team that also included Phelps, who retired for good after Rio with 23 gold medals from his brilliant career.

Dressel earned a second gold by swimming the preliminaries of the 4x100 medley relay. In his only individual event, he finished sixth in the 100 free.

The last two world championships gave Dressel a chance to expand his horizons.

He's gotten a taste of what it means to be one of the faces of US swimming.

"He dealt with the pressure of being the star," Troy said. "Now, I think, he's kind of the complete package."

While Dressel doesn't seem to care much about medals, there is one possession that he's never without at the biggest meets-a blue and black bandanna imprinted with images of cows.

It belonged to Claire McCool, one of his math teachers at Clay High School. She died in 2017 after a twoyear battle with breast cancer.

The bandanna was one of several she wore while undergoing treatment. Her children each got one. Her husband, Mike, wanted Dressel to have one, too.

"It's just something special that I get to hold on to that represents her, something physical," he said. "I needed something physical. I'm glad I got the bandanna."

But, like that time when he quit swimming, Dressel prefers to keep his bond with McCool close to the vest.

"I'd rather not speak too long on Mrs. McCool, if that's all right," he said. "Her classroom was a safe haven. I can't tell you how many classes I skipped because I was hanging out in her classroom."

 

 

 

]]> 2019-12-20 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Youngsters beating the odds to flourish in Palestine's pools]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/20/content_37529737.htm Eleven-year-old Maya Khalil spread her collection of medals over her bed and proudly listed her latest achievements in the pool-new personal bests in three different 50-meter races as well as the 100m breaststroke.

The results have earned Maya a place in Palestine's youth swimming team-a feat made all the more impressive given the lack of sporting infrastructure and facilities in the troubled region.

"I was so happy when I realized I had narrowed my new record by almost 10 seconds this time," Maya told Xinhua at her home in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "I know we fall short in too many areas, but I'm excited to train and join the Palestine youth team."

Raed Milad, vice-president of the Palestinian swimming federation, told Xinhua there are over 80 swimmers spread over 14 teams in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

They train in 25-meter pools because there is not a single Olympic-size 50m pool in Palestine.

"I believe Maya will have a remarkable future with her skill," he said of the young prodigy.

Milad lamented the poor swimming infrastructure in Palestine, including a lack of basic facilities such as international-standard starting blocks. However, he prefers to emphasize the positives, and added: "We are not short of emerging talents."

As news of Maya's call-up to the squad spread, she encouraged her schoolmates in Ramallah to take the plunge and join the local youth team.

"It's very important to learn how to swim because it's a very important life skill," said the youngster. "Everybody should be able to swim, not necessarily for winning a gold medal."

The Ramallah team now has eight members who train twice a week, while Maya trains 90 minutes each day.

Maya's mother, Dina Jawhar, said that her daughter's passion for swimming has grown significantly in the past year and she is now focusing more on building her stamina and improving her technique.

"It made us so happy to watch her speed during the race, we were truly anxious, but really she made us proud," said Dina.

"This achievement made us believe that hard work pays off, even amid a lack of appropriate infrastructure to help our children achieve their dreams.

"The spillover effect of Maya's achievement is that there are more and more kids daring to try swimming, despite the lack of adequate training conditions in the West Bank," she added, urging local authorities and parents to look out for exceptional talents who "can beat the odds when given the chance".

Palestine has participated six times in the Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games when it was represented by just two athletes.

At the 2016 Rio Games, the Palestine team had six athletes, including two swimmers.

 

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2019-12-20 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Northwest ski resorts open for business]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/19/content_37529556.htm Although this year's heavy snowfall has yet to arrive, Anning Ski Resort in Lanzhou, Gansu province, has already been open for a number of weeks.

The newly refurbished resort covers 60,000 square meters and features runs that cater to all levels-from beginners to intermediate to advanced.

"Relax, bend your knees and push forward the center of your body weight," said Wei Jing, a 27-year-old amateur skier, as she taught her nephew Chen Yuan some basics during the resort's opening weekend of the new season earlier this month.

Wei used to drive for hours with friends and family to resorts in the remote suburbs of Lanzhou or neighboring cities like Baiyin and Linxia, so Anning's proximity to Gansu's capital is welcome.

"I want them to experience the fun. Winter sports such as skiing have gradually become popular, not just among professional athletes but also among ordinary people," said Wei.

With the government aiming to involve 500 million people in winters sports in the build-up to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing and Zhangjiakou, the public's enthusiasm for snow and ice activities continues to grow, with northern provinces such as Gansu particularly seeing a spike in participation numbers.

According to Anning's management department, the resort welcomed an average of 500 visitors per day since opening this year on Nov 30. On weekends, that number surpasses the 2,000 mark.

Wei spent 206 yuan ($29 dollars) on renting ski equipment and a three-hour practice session.

And it wasn't taking long for Chen to find his feet on the slopes, despite inevitably taking a few tumbles in the beginning.

"That was hard, especially when you don't know how to stop after accelerating," said the youngster. "I fell down several times, but that was exciting."

 

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2019-12-19 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Halfpipe heroes primed for World Cup test]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/19/content_37529588.htm Even with some top names hanging up their snowboards to focus on the Summer Olympics, this week's halfpipe World Cup event in Chongli still boasts enough star power to serve fans a real treat at the 2022 Winter Games venue.

The four-day meet, which kicks off on Thursday at Genting Resort Secret Garden in Hebei province, features a field packed full of Olympic medalists and world champions-although American Shaun White and Japan's Ayumu Hirano are notable absentees as they continue their preparations for skateboarding's debut at next year's Tokyo Games.

The hair-raising discipline of halfpipe involves skiers and snowboarders executing air tricks by launching themselves off a 185-meter semicircular ramp. Judges score performances based on criteria such as trick execution, variety and amplitude.

China's first snowboarding Olympic medalist Liu Jiayu, who claimed silver in women's halfpipe at last year's Games in Pyeongchang, is expected to draw the biggest applause at Secret Garden.

The meet is Liu's first competition on home soil since taking a year off following her Olympic heroics in South Korea, with the 27-year-old already back in the groove thanks to a runner-up finish at last week's World Cup's season opener in Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Spanish veteran Queralt Castelle, who won gold at Copper Mountain, and American prodigy Maddie Mastro are considered the biggest threats to Liu's chances of a home win, with reigning Olympic champion Chloe Kim of the US stepping back from competition this season to focus on her studies.

Also hoping to thrill the home fans will be Liu's national teammate Cai Xuetong, who last year made history by finishing the season top of the World Cup standings for a fifth time.

The 26-year-old Cai, a two-time world champion (2015 and 2017), is determined to show she's still a force to be reckoned with, having picked up 23 podium finishes and 10 victories during her decade-long career on the tour.

There's plenty of local interest, too, in the men's pipe, with daredevil rider Zhang Yiwei raring to take on international juggernauts such as Australia's three-time world champion Scotty James and Japanese teenager Yuto Totsuka, the winner of the overall Cup standings for the past two years.

Although hampered by a series of foot injuries in recent seasons, Zhang, the first Chinese man to win a halfpipe World Cup leg (2015 in Utah), is not giving up on his dream of emulating the success of his female compatriots at the 2022 Games.

"Having the Olympic ramp ready so early has provided us with an advantage to get used to it and to work on the consistency of our jumps," said the 27-year-old Zhang, the first boarder in the world to execute a triple cork (three flips front side off the jump) in halfpipe, in 2015.

In the freeski competition, Chinese teenager Zhang Kexin enters the event in red-hot form after winning September's season opener in Cardrona, New Zealand, and finishing fourth at Copper Mountain to top the women's standings.

Zhang, who won last year in Chongli, is expected to face stiff competition from American Devin Marie Logan, a slopestyle gold medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and her compatriot Annalisa Drew.

 

China's Olympic silver medalist Liu Jiayu trains at Genting Resort Secret Garden in Chongli, Hebei province, on Wednesday ahead of this week's FIS halfpipe World Cup meet at the 2022 Olympic venue. CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2019-12-19 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Nation's track and field stars set sights on Olympic glory]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/19/content_37529591.htm After an encouraging 2019, Chinese athletics is looking forward to next year's Tokyo Olympics with a renewed sense of optimism.

That was the main message from a Chinese Athletics Association (CAA) meeting on Monday in Xiamen, Fujian province, where some of the nation's top athletes reaffirmed their determination to do the nation proud in Tokyo.

"If I had to grade myself on this season, I could only give myself 80 points out of 100," said world champion shot-putter Gong Lijiao, who won 12 golds and one silver at the 13 meets she entered in 2019.

"Honestly speaking, my winning throw of 19.55 meters at the world championships in Doha was well below my expectations. In better conditions, I could easily have exceeded 20 meters.

"At these competitions, I just wanted to tune up in order to have a better performance next year.

"It's all about confidence. I want others to know as long as I'm competing, I will have the championship title."

The 30-year-old is showing no signs of relinquishing her grip on the sport and says she won't even think about retirement until the next generation of Chinese shot-putters are making their mark on the global stage.

"I will only retire when our younger athletes grow strong enough," said Gong. "Even if I can achieve my dream of winning gold in Tokyo, I will not retire if no one can take my place.

"Our younger female shot-putters are still not stable enough. Some can't even guarantee an 18m performance... so as long as our country needs me, I will gear up and fight."

According to the CAA, one world record, five Asian records, six Chinese national records and 11 national under-20 and youth records were refreshed by Chinese athletes in 2019.

Liu Hong became the first woman ever to break four hours (3:59:15) in the 50-kilometer race walk in Huangshan, Anhui province, in March.

In September, Liu claimed her third world 20km race walk title in Doha, one of three gold medals for China at the championships in the Qatari capital.

After winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Liu took a break from the sport to give birth to her daughter.

The 32-year-old returned to competition early this year and proved in Doha she still has what it takes to top the podium.

"The Chinese team won three gold, three silver and three bronze medals at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, finishing fourth in the medal table with a total of 99 points," said Yu Hongchen, vice-president and secretary general of the CAA, in Xiamen.

"It was our best performance at the world championships since the 1993 edition."

Javelin thrower Lyu Huihui improved her own Asian record three times this year to 67.98m, while pole-vaulter Li Ling renewed her continental record to 4.72m, at May's Shanghai Diamond League meet.

Sprinter Xie Zhenye became the first Chinese to dip under the 20-second mark in the 200m when he clocked 19.88 at July's London Diamond League meet. The result knocked 0.09sec off the previous Asian record achieved by Qatari Femi Ogunode four years ago.

Apart from the breakthroughs at elite level, grassroots athletics in China has also had plenty to cheer about this year.

Over eight million people participated in over 1,900 CAA-sanctioned road races in 2019, according to Xinhua. Twenty-four of those events featured on World Athletics' calendar-representing the biggest share for a single country or region.

CAA vice-president Wang Nan became the first Asian woman to be elected to the council of World Athletics, while Chinese sprinter Su Bingtian was appointed to the global body's athletes commission.

"The role you have played for so many years in helping us globalize athletics has been absolutely central to the development of our sport," said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe in a video message played at the two-day meeting in Xiamen.

The Englishman added: "Thank you for everything that you have done for so many years. And as president of World Athletics, I look forward to working particularly closely with you for many years to come."

 

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2019-12-19 00:00:00
<![CDATA[England's heartache fueling Parris' quest for excellence]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/19/content_37529555.htm LONDON-As Nikita Parris reflects on a transformative year for English women's soccer, not ending 2019 as a world champion still hurts.

It's even harder to banish that lingering sense of disappointment when the scene of the Women's World Cup semifinal loss to the United States is also her new home in France.

And, yet, transferring to Lyon after the World Cup is just what Parris feels was necessary to continue improving and ultimately help England win its first major women's title.

"It's seeing how, day to day, the best go about being the best," Parris said. "One of my goals when going to Lyon is to learn how to win at the crucial time in the big games, how to perform and ... to understand what it takes to be the elite of the elite."

Lyon's status as Europe's elite women's club is undisputed as the four-time defending winner of the Champions League and 13 successive years as the French league champion.

"They're the moments, the high-pressure moments, that I'm going to learn the most about myself, my teammates, and ultimately how to respond and react," said Parris, who scored in a 6-0 win over Metz on Sunday that took Lyon five points clear of Paris St-Germain.

Among her teammates are compatriots Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood. They have reflected on helping England achieve a third successive major tournament semifinal. But, also, on how they could have prevented falling to the Americans 2-1 five months ago.

"The disappointment, it was huge," Parris said after wandering past Women's World Cup memorabilia at the London headquarters of Visa. "It took me a long time to get over that semifinal defeat. I felt we were so much in the game. We believed wholeheartedly that we would go on to win the World Cup. So, it was a hard pill to swallow."

The remedy is yet to be discovered for a side that left France on a low after losing to Sweden in the third-place game.

"We fell short, so we have to find out what we missed, and that was definitely a lot of soul-searching," Parris said. "There's been a post-World Cup comedown. There's no denying that. We're in that in-between stage where we're trying out new things and we're trying to find a way to close the gap on what we missed in the World Cup."

Since then, the English have won only twice in six games, which were all friendlies because they had already qualified for the 2021 European Championship as hosts. Before then, there is the hope of being selected for the English-led British team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"It's a time for trial and error in order to make sure we've got the right recipe going into 2021 because ultimately that's where we want to win," Parris said. "We have to find a solution quickly."

The solution is not changing manager, with former England and Manchester United defender Phil Neville backed by Parris to lead England into a third year.

"We stick together. We have a strong mentality and ultimately, we believe in each other," Parris said. "We believe in Phil. He believes in us."

The scrutiny on Neville's future reflects growing interest in the Lionesses who attracted a crowd of 77,768 at Wembley for the 2-1 loss to Germany last month.

Parris missed a penalty in that friendly when Germany was leading 1-0. It is a sign of her resolve that she has continued with spot-kick duties despite also missing two at the World Cup after netting from one in the opening win over Scotland.

"Inside our camp we know what kind of journey we are about to go on," Parris said, "and it's going to be ups and downs. But we 100 percent have each other's backing and belief."

Playing for England, Manchester City and Lyon has enabled Parris to see the benefits of greater investment in the women's game. But there is a wider, selfless aspiration heading into 2020.

"Making sure that the gap in women's football doesn't grow so the top teams don't continue to grow and the lower teams continue to fade away," Parris said. "And ultimately that every league across the world grows."

The Liverpool-born 25-year-old is still in the prime of her career. But she flew to London to discuss her post-playing career during two days of brainstorming by 16 of Europe's top female players at the Team Visa Summit.

Parris was told by a coach at Everton to always have a Plan B when starting out her career. For now, that plan will see Parris work to ensure women's soccer is introduced into more schools at a young age.

"I put myself in the best position to be able to transition smoothly into my second career path," Parris said. "You can't stay in the present. Each and every day you have got to be better than you were yesterday. That's both on the pitch and off the pitch. So I definitely look ahead." 

 

 

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2019-12-19 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Sherrock strikes bullseye for equality]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/19/content_37529570.htm Farron Sherrock said she'd proved women could compete with men after her historic victory at the PDC World Darts Championship in London on Tuesday night.

The 25-year-old Englishwoman became the first female to win a match at the championship, the sport's most prestigious tournament, with a thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 victory over compatriot Ted Evetts.

Struggling to hear her TV interviewer's questions above the cheers of the typically raucous Alexandra Palace crowd, who gave her a standing ovation, Sherrock told Sky Sports: "I'm speechless, I don't know what to say. Thank you, everyone!

"I feel really happy because I've made something for women's darts now, like I proved that we can play the men and we can beat them.

"So hopefully, fingers crossed, that puts us in the right direction. I'm over the moon and I can't believe it. And to be on the biggest stage there is-wow!"

She later wrote on Twitter: "I'm buzzing! I can't believe I've made history tonight... done it for the girls, that was amazing."

Sherrock, a former runner-up in the BDO Women's World Championship, had fans on their feet in the first set with an outstanding 106 checkout but still found herself 1-0 down as Evetts kept his cool.

After tying the match at 1-1, Sherrock missed four darts to take the lead as the 22-year-old Evetts seized a 2-1 advantage.

"Obviously I was gutted that I missed it, but I just thought to myself, just forget about that set and just focus on trying to get the next set back and try and get it to 2-2," said Sherrock.

"And then once you get it to 2-2, just try and hold it together."

Sherrock took the fourth set with a stunning 13-dart leg and then held her nerve at 2-1 up in the deciding set by taking out double 18 to write her name into the history books.

"I've loved every minute of it and I'm so happy that I can continue it rather than go out in the first round," said Sherrock, who had six maximum 180 scores and averaged 91.12.

Asked how she coped with the pressure in the final leg, she replied: "I just went with the experience that I've had in the BDO(tour) and stuff like that and the practice that I've put in. With the practice, I've mentally prepared myself, like I'm thinking 'this is to win', 'this is to hold it together' and stuff like that."

Next up for Sherrock, who hails from Milton Keynes near London, is 11th seed Mensur Suljovic of Serbia on Saturday night.

"The fact that I've got to play one of the best in the world next, I mean, to me that's such an achievement," said Sherrock, who is now guaranteed at least 15,000 pounds (around $20,000) in prize money.

"But the fact that I've just made history I just can't believe it and it feels I've made a great achievement for ladies' darts."

The only other female player in the first-round draw at the annual championship, which will conclude on New Year's Day, was Japan's BDO world champion Mikuru Suzuki.

The 37-year-old came agonizingly close to beating James Richardson but lost 3-2 following a thrilling final-leg decider on Sunday.

 

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2019-12-19 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Carter racking up the milestones on NBA farewell tour]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/19/content_37529582.htm The milestones are piling up, and running out, for Atlanta's Vince Carter.

The Hawks' 143-120 defeat at the New York Knicks on Tuesday was the 1,504th game of his career, tying John Stockton for fourthmost in NBA history.

Barring injury, Carter will pass Dirk Nowitzki later this season for No 3 on the career list.

Third place is the ceiling for Carter; assuming he doesn't change his mind about retirement and play again next season, he can't catch No 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) or No 1 Robert Parish (1,611). Nowitzki retired after 1,522 games.

It has not been the ideal start to the farewell season. Tuesday's loss to fellow strugglers the Knicks was the Hawks' fifth straight defeat and left them bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 6-22 record.

But Carter's last lap around the league has undoubtedly been worth celebrating.

"Many different teams, many different highlights, many different moments of his career, too many to count," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. "But we're going to cherish and appreciate what we have this year."

There are more milestones to reach: Carter is also 60 points away from passing Alex English for 19th on the league's career-scoring list. He has an outside chance of climbing a couple more rungs on that ladder as well.

The league hasn't said yet if Carter will get the All-Star Game curtain call that Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade got last season in their farewells.

But savvy fans know that when Atlanta comes to their town for the last time this season, it'll almost certainly be the last time they can applaud Carter.

In Miami last week, fans paid tribute to him twice with long ovations. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the story of how back in his scouting days for Miami, one of his assignments was Toronto-when Carter played for the Raptors.

How long ago was that? "I don't remember those two years of my life," Spoelstra said.

Opposing players are taking notice of the moment as well, knowing they soon won't be able to face off with Carter again.

"I love that guy," Miami's Jimmy Butler said. "I'm so glad that the fans showed him love as well. What he's done for the game of basketball, his career, legendary, Hall of Famer, all that stuff. He's a great human being."

His place in history is secure. All that's left to decide are the final numbers.

New markets

The G League is where the NBA tinkers with various ideas to see what works.

It bears wondering if the Mexico City move is a test balloon as well.

On the surface, the decision to have a G League team there-the Mexico City-based Capitanes join the league next season-seems logical for a lot of reasons. Growing the game around the world, including Latin America, is a very real priority for the NBA. Mexico City's population is roughly the same as New York, and the city is a major player in the global economic markets.

But this isn't about the G League. This is about seeing if the NBA will work there.

There are no active plans to expand the NBA past its current 30 teams. But if this experiment works-and the league does acknowledge that Mexico City has been a discussion point in previous expansion conversations-expect growth to become a very hot topic.

The NBA has long had at least some level of interest in expanding past the US and Canada, and tapping into a new marketplace will show if revenue streams in Mexico City exist to support putting an NBA team there one day.

It might be of popular sentiment to bring a team back to Seattle or put one in Las Vegas, but that won't do much for the bottom line when it comes to the national TV deals that have helped salaries soar in recent years.

The easiest way for the league to find new money may be to take the game to a totally new locale.

There are countless challenges in Mexico City-the altitude (NBA teams have brought hyperbaric chambers with them, something G League teams likely don't have the budget for) and the water among them.

But if this works, it makes sense to believe that the NBA will be there for real one day.

"I have no doubt, the league, at whatever time the tables turn to look at expansion, Mexico City will be on our list," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

LeBron v Giannis

Shoutout to the NBA schedulemakers. They knew what they were doing this week.

And the annual Christmas schedule hype for the league is getting an early start.

The Los Angeles Lakers visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, a showdown of the league's best two teams so far, a matchup between reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and reinvigorated past MVP LeBron James.

The Bucks are 24-4 after their 18-game winning streak was snapped on Monday by Dallas. The Lakers will be no worse than 24-4, depending on what happens Tuesday in Indiana. It'll be the first time in NBA history that two teams with fewer than five losses apiece will play this deep into a season.

This is the fifth time that two teams have had records this good through 28 games. The last time it happened was 2008-09, when Boston started 26-2 and Cleveland-with James leading the way-opened 24-4.

The other instances came in 1993-94 (Seattle 25-3, Houston 24-4), 1972-73(Celtics 25-3, Lakers 24-4) and 1971-72 (Lakers 25-3, Bucks 24-4). 

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2019-12-19 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Tiger roars again after year of redemption]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/18/content_37529464.htm MELBOURNE-Two years ago the future for Tiger Woods looked bleak to the point of darkness.

Four back surgeries, countless knee operations, marital strife and run-ins with the law meant Woods had not won a major since 2008, had no tournament victories since 2013 and had seen his world ranking plummet to 656.

But on Sunday, Woods capped a year that has seen one of the most memorable comebacks in sporting history by captaining his United States team to a 16-14 victory over Ernie Els' Internationals in the 13th Presidents Cup in Melbourne.

The second coming of Tiger began with a drought-ending victory at the Tour Championship 15 months ago and accelerated with a 15th major and fifth Green Jacket at the US Masters in Augusta.

Having returned to the world's top 10, Woods needed yet more surgery to his troublesome left knee in August before writing another remarkable chapter of his storied career.

In his first tournament appearance after the arthroscopic operation, Woods equaled Sam Snead's record of 82 US PGA Tour wins when he won the inaugural Zozo Championship in Japan.

"It's been an amazing year," a beaming Woods told Golf TV in Melbourne. "I'm speechless.

"To have won a major championship, a Green Jacket, to have tied Sam and to have won a cup with all these guys, I couldn't have asked for a better year."

The road to redemption began with his long-awaited win at the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup finale, at East Lake, Atlanta, in September 2018.

Woods had endured two years out of the game and shuffled out of his tournament return in February 2018-the Dubai Desert Classic-with back spasms, causing observers to question whether he could compete again at the highest level.

Dark days

The thought had also crossed the mind of Woods.

Less than a year earlier he had hobbled into the Champions Dinner on the eve of the 2017 US Masters nursing yet another back injury, telling those assembled: "I'm done, I don't think I'll ever play golf again."

But two-and-a-half years later, Woods was unsurpassed at Royal Melbourne as he won all three of his matches and overtook Phil Mickelson for the most wins in Presidents Cup history.

"How about that? I like that stat," smiled Woods, after being told his win-loss-tie record in the tournament was now 27-15-1 against his great rival Mickelson's 26-16-13.

It left Els, not for the first time in his career, having to pick up the pieces after a defeat to Woods.

The 50-year-old South African, who has been widely praised for his captaincy which saw the Internationals lead after every session until Sunday, might also regret his words on the eve of the tournament.

"I don't think today (Woods) has the same kind of aura he had in the past," Els had said.

Young Mexican Abraham Ancer is another player who might want to be more careful about what he says in future.

"I would like to play against Tiger," Ancer said before the Presidents Cup began. "Winning a match in the singles would be very special."

He came up against a ruthless Woods who won 3&2.

"Abe wanted it," chided Woods. "And he got it."

Woods will celebrate his 44th birthday on Dec 30.

Next year promises to be a continuation of the second coming of Tiger, with the American set to resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major titles.

Woods has hinted there could also be a crack at Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games.

But first he can be forgiven for putting his feet up. "I am now retired for the year," laughed Woods, before heading off to join the US team's celebrations.

Simmering rivalry

Meanwhile, the battle between the world's top two players is shaping up to be one of golf's most intriguing storylines in 2020.

Last year, the top-ranked Brooks Koepka won his fourth major at the PGA Championship, while No 2 Rory McIlroy claimed four titles and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Koepka insists it's not a rivalry, but McIlroy begs to differ.

"He (Koepka) talked about trying to be the dominant player in the game... and I thought: 'He's going to have to go through me first'," Northern Ireland's McIlroy said after beating Koepka at the Tour Championship.

But the American hit back, saying: "I've been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn't won a major since I've been on the PGA Tour. So I just don't view it as a rivalry."

They are joint-favorites to win the year's first major, April's Masters.

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-18 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Vlhova reigns in Shiffrin's absence]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/17/content_37529338.htm ST. MORITZ, Switzerland-Petra Vlhova took advantage of Mikaela Shiffrin taking the day off to win a World Cup parallel slalom event on Sunday.

Vlhova rallied from a slower start in the final to edge ahead of Anna Swenn-Larsson by just 0.02 seconds at the line.

They had filled the podium places behind Shiffrin in a traditional slalom two weeks ago at Killington, Vermont.

The Slovakian racer's 10th career World Cup win was the first in a season where she shapes as the biggest rival to Shiffrin winning a fourth straight overall World Cup title.

"I had some difficult times the last two weeks so this victory is really important," said Vlhova, who clutched her right hand in pain in the finish area.

In the third-place race, Franziska Gritsch beat Meta Hrovat to take her first career podium finish.

Shiffrin won the parallel event at St. Moritz last year, but said Saturday after placing third in super-G she would rest and manage her upcoming schedule in France. A giant slalom was due to be raced on Tuesday at Courchevel and Val d'Isere stages downhill and Alpine combined races next weekend.

Still, Shiffrin retained a big lead in the overall standings with almost twice as many World Cup points as her nearest competitor after nine of 41 scheduled events.

With a sixth-place finish on Sunday, Federica Brignone rose to second in the standings. She was also runner-up in a super-G on Saturday when Shiffrin was third.

In Val d'Isere on Sunday, Alexis Pinturault won his first World Cup slalom in almost six years by a big margin after American prospect Luke Winters could not sustain an unexpected challenge.

Pinturault extended his first-run lead to finish 1.44 seconds ahead of Olympic champion Andre Myhrer. Stefano Gross was third, a further 0.03 back.

On seeing his time in the finish area, Pinturault celebrated by throwing both of his ski poles high into the air.

"This one is pretty important," said the 28-year-old Frenchman, who now leads the overall standings after eight races as the only man with two wins.

The race was made more dramatic by Winters, who soared wearing start bib No 40 to be second-fastest in the opening run.

An aggressive second run saw the 22-year-old from Oregon make errors that dropped him to 19th place and out of contention for a first American podium in men's slalom since March 2011. 

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2019-12-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[All roads lead to China for Africa's runners]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/17/content_37529310.htm NAIROBI-Africa has long been the main force in distance running, with Western races traditionally the preferred hunting ground for the continent's elite racers.

That, however, is changing as China's running boom presents a new and lucrative route to glory for Africa's athletes, particularly those from marathon powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia.

Increasingly, Africans are signing up with Chinese agencies to secure places in Chinese races keen to boost their global profiles by attracting the sport's biggest names.

Tao Camp, one of China's leading athlete management companies, now has over 140 elite runners from Kenya and Ethiopia on its books.

"China is in Kenya for business. It is a mutual agreement where athletes enter races in China, and their tickets, accommodation and food are paid by their agents, and all they need to do is to run and win," said Athletics Kenya vice-president Paul Mutwii.

"Then they share the prize money, which sometimes is around 40,000 US dollars."

In 2015, 134 marathons were staged in China, according to official records. In 2016 that figure stood at 328 and has been increasing at a rapid rate since.

Now the race is on for a Chinese marathon to be added to the Abbot World Marathon Majors list, with the Chengdu Marathon currently under consideration to join Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City on the elite global series.

Reigning New York City champion Geoffrey Kamworor believes top Chinese races are earning the right to be mentioned in the same breath as the majors.

"Kenya has so much talent. Up-and-coming athletes who have not made a name for themselves in Europe find China as an alternative and this is boosting the level of competition in China," said Kamworor, who won gold for Kenya at the 2015 World Cross-Country Championships in Guiyang, Guizhou province.

"Soon top runners will be starting in China before considering other races, especially if they improve on the prize money," said Kamowror. "Marathons in China have opened more opportunities for Kenyans."

Chemabwai Sang, a retired middle-distance runner from Kenya, says the Chinese running boom is shaping a new era in athletics.

"Back in our day, Kenyans had very little information about races in China. Besides, there were no agents promoting China, and so Kenyan athletes only knew of European meets," said Sang.

"That is changing with the entry of Chinese agents, working with local coaches here in Eldoret."

In recent years, a number of Chinese athletes have been training in Eldoret, a western Kenyan city where over 300,000 runners are based.

Italian coach Renato Canova was behind a project to train 16 members of China's national women's distance-running team there, in preparation for the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing.

In Eldoret, running is an industry that easily rivals the local farming or manufacturing sectors.

The city has produced a disproportionate number of long-distance legends, including Eliud Kipchoge, who in October became the first man to run a marathon in less than two hours.

With the assistance of 41 pacemakers, Kipchoge clocked an unofficial 1:59.40 in Vienna, while on the same weekend in Chicago his compatriot Brigid Kosgei set a women's marathon record of 2:14.04, breaking Briton Paula Radcliffe's 16-year-old mark.

Kipchoge and Kosgei lead a horde of Kenyan runners who have made a good living out of road racing.

With limited races to enter on the track, road running and marathons have become a more viable option for African athletes, with some events offering prize purses in excess of $250,000, on top of appearance fees.

Endorsement contracts with sportswear brands, such as China's Li-Ning, can generate additional income, with the success of these athletes inspiring others to take the marathon route to riches, according to Kenyan distance great Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot.

"In Kenya and Ethiopia and other major athletics and running countries, people are using the sport to improve their lives and lifestyles," said the former New York City and Boston marathon champion.

 

China is fast emerging as major destination for African marathon runners, who chase big prizes in increasingly high-profile races such as the Zhengzhou International Marathon (pictured) in Henan province. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-17 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Plenty of upsides to downhill downtime]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/17/content_37529292.htm BEAVER CREEK, Colorado-To unwind, Italian downhill racer Dominik Paris sometimes screams into a microphone.

Not so much screams as hauntingly growls out lyrics he wrote himself.

Being the lead singer of a heavy metal band called Rise of Voltage is just a way for Paris to give his mind a break from thinking about racing.

Look around the World Cup tour and athletes rely on all sorts of tactics to unplug: American Travis Ganong opened a coffee business; teammate Tommy Ford is into art; Alice Merryweather gives tarot-card readings when she's not strumming her ukulele; Canada's Laurence St-Germain immerses herself in college courses (she's working on her second degree) and three-time overall World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin does a little bit of everything (sings, plays instruments, learns new dances, even tries to juggle).

All these endeavors provide a measure of stress relief as they wait days, sometimes even weeks, before going fast again in a race. That's a long time to dwell only on results.

"The key thing is they're able to diversify their self-identity, so they're not just ski racers," said Jim Taylor, a former ski racer who's now a sports psychologist.

"The bigger piece of the pie that's devoted to the sport, the more dangerous that can be in terms of over-investment. If their athletic identity represents, say, 80 percent of their self-identity and they have a bad day? That's an existential threat to who they are.

"But if there are some other things in their life that they can fall back on, it will enable them to get over the result and move on."

Music strikes just the right note with Paris, who jots down song lyrics whenever inspiration hits. He and his band practice and perform whenever they can. They have an album out called Time-a fitting title considering Paris' career is based on it.

"Music is good for my concentration to keep calm," said Paris, who's among the favorites for the overall World Cup title this season following the retirement of Austrian great Marcel Hirscher. "It gives me a lot of inspiration and power to ski fast."

Once a race is over-whether it's a podium finish or not-and it's analyzed, the goal is to not think about those hundredths of a second another instant.

"If you're always thinking about ski racing it drains you mentally," Ganong said. "It's nice to have something else you can work on."

Ganong co-founded Pacific Crest Coffee in Truckee, California, with professional snowboarder Ralph Backstrom. When he's on the road, Ganong promotes their products, and when he's at home, he works behind the register.

"It's super fun doing something completely different than what I do as a professional ski racer," said Ganong. "It's really cool seeing the company grow and morph into something pretty special."

Merryweather travels with a deck of tarot cards and frequently gives readings. Always lighthearted and nothing too deep or serious.

And no, she won't do a reading on herself before an event.

"I think that if I were to read the night before a race, whatever card I pulled would be in my head," Merryweather said.

She also plays the ukulele, but not as much these days with teammate Laurenne Ross-a guitar player/singer-sidelined with an injury.

"If I'm focused on racing and training 100 percent of the time, I tire out and lose my passion pretty quickly," Merryweather said.

"I think that putting energy into something else, like an instrument, tarot reading, or other hobby, can help maintain and reset the competition/performance part of my brain, and actually make me more focused and productive on the hill."

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety has found another way to take to his mind off racing-chasing after his young son.

"I don't know if that adds pressure or takes pressure away," cracked Ligety, who also runs a company called Shred that makes goggles, sunglasses and gloves. "But that's a good piece for me."

For St-Germain, it's hitting the books. She has a computer science degree from Vermont and is now working toward a biomedical engineering degree through the University of Montreal. She's currently taking a chemistry class with her final set for next week while she's in Switzerland. Her ski coach will monitor her exam.

"I thought when I was done (at Vermont) I'd be free of school," she said in a phone interview. "But it just kind of seemed weird for me not to continue with school.

"Even if it's busy on the road and there's a lot to do, I just like how I can get my mind off skiing and zone out."

A look at how some others decompress: American Bryce Bennett recently took up bow hunting (he's reading books on the subject); Ford draws, cooks and rock climbs; Ross takes photos; Steven Nyman runs Fantasy Ski Racer (fantasy football for World Cup ski racing); and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway has been known to pick up the guitar.

"Having other activities and interests and passions takes their mind off of the 24/7 mindset of their sport," Taylor said.

"It basically relieves them of a lot of pressure."

 

 

]]> 2019-12-17 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Nation's resurgence still not meeting Liu's lofty standards]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/17/content_37529348.htm Chinese paddlers finished the season on a high by winning four of the five gold medals on offer at last week's ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Zhengzhou, Henan province.

The performance showed the nation is restoring its dominance in the sport following a worrying lapse last year when Japanese talent ruled the tables.

However, Chinese Table Tennis Association chairman Liu Guoliang is warning against complacency, with the legendary former all-conquering player and coach claiming he was not entirely satisfied with the manner of China's victories.

"Results-wise we achieved our goals, but the process of winning was not satisfying enough," said Liu on Sunday.

"First of all, it's about our players' mentality and ability to cope with pressure, especially in our women's squad-throughout the season, sometimes this one was better and sometimes that one, but no one has absolute dominance.

"We still have huge room for improvement in terms of our management system, daily standards and performance during competitions. Also, the skills of our players are still not good enough."

Major strides, however, have been made since the 2018 season when Team China wilted in the face of the rising Japanese challenge.

That prompted a series of reforms from chairman Liu, who introduced a tough results-based evaluation system for coaches and split both the men's and women's squads into two teams.

According to Liu's system, the four teams can only score points by winning gold medals at international tournaments. The world championship offers the greatest number of points (4,000), with 18,000 up for grabs across all competitions.

A total score of less than 12,000 ranks as a failure and could result in a coach being demoted and having his or her salary halved. Liu agreed to forego his entire salary as CTTA chairman should any team fail the evaluation.

"We earned 17,500 points of the 18,000 available by the end of the season," said Liu.

"The coaches and the players worked closely this year. Honestly speaking, to not fail the evaluation system looked like quite a challenge for us at the beginning.

"We thought it would not be easy to even score 14,000 points, but in the end we had 17,500, which exceeded our expectations. However, despite achieving our goal, the process was still not good enough."

Now, Team China is targeting a clean sweep of titles at next year's Tokyo Olympics. Liu is under no illusions just how difficult that will be.

"Our main rival, the Japanese squad, has also been trying to make a major breakthrough this season," said Liu.

"World table tennis has improved greatly over the past year. Some young players, both male and female, are progressing quickly.

"There are only small gaps between us and others in terms of skills and mindset. So there's still room for improvement in a lot of details and problems need to be solved in the run-up to the Olympics."

Of the five golds up for grabs at the Games, the mixed doubles, which will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo, appears to be the toughest task for China.

Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen reigned last weekend but Liu said: "The mixed doubles win in Zhengzhou deserves praise but we need to pay more attention to this discipline, as it's still not enough now.

"Although Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen have had great results so far, they don't have a big advantage. They are not where we want them to be yet. There will be only one mixed doubles team for each country in Tokyo, so each match for them will be like a final."

 

 

]]> 2019-12-17 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Ramping up Olympic preparations]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/16/content_37529202.htm China's commitment to hosting a truly exceptional Winter Olympics was on display over the weekend as the world's finest freestyle snowboarders and skiers served up a spectacular Big Air showcase at a stunning new 2022 venue.

After three days of daredevil jumps, spins, flips and tricks at the Air& Style Beijing FIS Big Air World Cup meet, Canada's Max Parrot and Japan's Miyabi Onitsuka grabbed the men's and women's snowboard titles, with Norwegians Birk Ruud and Johanne Killi crowned the freeski champions.

Apart from the breathtaking action at the regenerated Shougang Industrial Park, Olympic officials were left awestruck by the strides made by 2022 organizers-and, in particular, how plans to leave a lasting winter sports legacy are taking shape.

"It has been a wonderful time so far visiting the Winter Olympics community here in Beijing, which is a living demonstration of two things," said Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, on Friday.

"First, it's a dream to inspire 300 million people to practice and get involved with winter sports, and it's happening from school level to the top athletes. That promise is really happening. The legacy of the Winter Games has been delivered even before the Games.

"Second, the Olympics is not only about top athletes, it starts from school. It's a way of life and philosophy… congratulations, Beijing. This is really happening."

Last week's festival-like event was the 10th edition of a competition that has become a firm favorite with winter sports enthusiasts since it first arrived in Beijing in 2010, in the form of the Air& Style global series. The meet was added to the World Cup calendar in 2017, with freeski making its debut this year.

The new ramp is the first permanent construction of its kind and will host Big Air snowboarding and freeski at the 2022 Games.

The state-of-the-art structure, which cuts an impressive outline next to the former steel-mill site's old smokestacks, garnered rave reviews all weekend.

"It's very impressive and they (organizers) are way ahead of what they promised. We are so convinced that the Beijing 2022 Games will be an extraordinary success," added Samaranch.

"Beijing is doing extraordinary work, but not only for the 16 days of Olympic competition. What's difficult is maintaining efforts and energy after the Games.

"You can see the results of Beijing's impressive efforts even before the Olympics have started in Shougang Park or in the training center I saw this morning for speed skating. And you will see it in decades to come after the Olympics. This will leave an extraordinary legacy for Chinese people."

Athletes also gave the new Big Air venue a big thumbs-up.

"I believe the permanent slope will not only benefit the sport's promotion and development in Beijing, it will be meaningful for Big Air worldwide," said 15-year-old snowboarder Su Yiming, who was the best-placed Chinese finisher after ranking 11th in Thursday's qualification round, just failing to make the final by one spot.

"This new slope will be the venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics and it will be open to the public at the same time, which will have a very positive influence on the development of the sport."

Steep learning curve

Maintaining the new venue, which stands 164 meters long and 60 meters tall, will be no easy task.

"To ensure the new venue meets all the requirements, we have been communicating with experts from the IOC, the FIS and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games organizing committee," said Shougang slope official Liu Yuchuan.

"We have collected in-depth analysis on the design of the slope, in terms of all the systems such as protection, lighting and snow preservation. Now the new venue is capable of hosting top-level international events."

Last week's World Cup meet was the first time the new venue, which seats 6,000 spectators, has staged a competition.

"We have used this meet as a chance to train our team and test all the equipment," added Liu. "We asked our team to run this tournament just like the Olympics. We will keep improving and gaining more experience in the coming years to guarantee the quality of the 2022 Games.

"This is a permanent slope that will keep operating even after the Olympics. At the very beginning, we had to consider that it will be used for other winter sports apart from Big Air. It will also be used for national team training.

"We will also explore its business value, such as hosting entertainment activities like music concerts and other extreme sports events like skateboarding and BMX."

With temperatures not quite cold enough last week, Shougang's snowmakers were among the busiest workers at the meet.

"The detachable ramp at the Bird's Nest, which was used in previous years, needed 2,000 cubic meters of snow, but the permanent slope at Shougang needs 6,000-three times as much," said Liu Shuang of the snowmaking team.

"It's more difficult for us given the temperature of Beijing. The original plan was to finish the work in six days and in the end we just had three days to finish. The addition of freeski this year required us to make more snow."

 

Norway's Birk Ruud pulls off some winning moves on his way to freeski glory at the Beijing FIS Big Air World Cup meet at Shougang Industrial Park on Saturday. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

 

 

 

 

]]>
2019-12-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Tiger comes up trumps as US reigns at Presidents Cup]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/16/content_37529203.htm The International Team suffered a gut-wrenching 16-14 Presidents Cup loss to the United States in Australia after the Americans staged a historic final-day fightback, led by playing captain Tiger Woods.

Fifteen-time major winner Woods, who picked himself in Sunday's first match at Royal Melbourne, beat the previously undefeated Abraham Ancer 3&2 to rally his team from two points down to win the singles session 8-4.

It was the first time a team has won the Presidents Cup when trailing at the start of Sunday's singles.

Woods surpassed Phil Mickelson for the most wins in the tournament's history, with 27. The 43-year-old was undefeated for the second time in the event, going 3-0 this week. He was 5-0 in 2009.

Leading 10-8 overnight after some inspired performances in the fourball and foursomes sessions, the Internationals, captained by Ernie Els, could not prevent the US juggernaut from claiming its eighth straight victory, with Matt Kuchar clinching the winning half point thanks to a tie with Louis Oosthuizen in the penultimate match.

South Korea's Im Sung-jae enjoyed a successful Presidents Cup debut by contributing 3.5 points. That included an impressive 4&3 victory over reigning US Open champion Gary Woodland, which for a while provided the International Team with a glimmer of hope.

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama let slip a 4-up lead through 10 holes against Tony Finau to settle for a tie, while the Chinese mainland's Li Haotong went down 4&3 to world No 2 Dustin Johnson. Chinese Taipei's CT Pan fell 4&2 to Patrick Reed as his debut ended with a 2-1-0 record.

Els was proud with how his International Team, which featured seven rookies, battled against the powerful American side.

"It's been an incredible week. The players were just incredible. They were open to a new formula, so to speak, and embraced what I said to them. You know, we lost 16-14 and we've got to swallow that," said the South African legend.

"But great strides were made, especially in our team play. I really felt that our team play was really the core of our team, and that never was previously. We never felt like we could play foursomes or fourball together as a team. We did that well.

"I think the US Team, and I think you guys (the media), and the people around the world will look at these (International) guys in a different way.

"If you compare our team on paper with other teams in other sports, you would have laughed us out of the building. But we gave it a hell of a go and we came mightily close to winning and upsetting one of the greatest golf teams of all time.

"If you look at their record and where these guys are at the moment, they are going places.... we had guys playing for the first time, and I can only see their futures going in a great manner."

Im, the 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, was disappointed to be on the losing team despite his impressive debut.

"I really tried my best to score a point for the Internationals, and I'm happy to have done that and I really wanted to beat Gary. It was a good match," said the Korean.

"I was hitting the ball so well, especially when I was warming up on the range. I felt like my ball-striking was so good and I knew that if I putted well, the match would end well. So I'm incredibly happy with the way things turned out."

Li, the first golfer from the Chinese mainland to feature in the Presidents Cup, was let down by his short game in his defeat to Johnson.

"I actually felt good, especially on the back nine. I made a lot of mistakes on the front side and gave him a few holes," said Li.

"Although I played only two matches this week, I feel really good now. I hope I can play some good golf on such occasions next time. I don't know how many more President Cups I will play in the future. This is just the beginning."

 

 

 

]]>
2019-12-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Ski jump supremo expects China to soar]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/16/content_37529184.htm China's women's ski jump supremo Heinz Kuttin says his charges are making sound progress and could even challenge for a podium place at the Beijing Olympics.

Kuttin, a winner of three Olympic medals for Austria in the early 1990s, was appointed as China's head coach last year and believes, with enough hard work, his squad can stun the world's ski jump powerhouses at the 2022 Games.

Kuttin is particularly hopeful about the chances of Chang Xinyue, China's first Olympic ski jumper who ranked 20th at last year's Pyeongchang Games.

Chang is currently sidelined due to injuries, but, speaking at an FIS World Cup meet in Klingenthal, Germany over the weekend, Kuttin said: "She (Chang) could return at the end of this season or next season. She should be ready to start in April next year to train with the team.

"Li Xueyao and Zhou Fangyu are both high-potential girls. The team can work together. I think we can fight for a medal with one of these ladies.

"Every athlete has the Olympic dream. I know how hard it is to achieve good results at Olympics. You have to establish big goals and work hard every day. But you also have to remain calm in your mind and sometimes rest."

Kuttin can't fault the squad's commitment to their physical conditioning, and is now focused on improving technical details.

"Ski jumping is not a sport that requires the highest level of physical training. You need good technique. It's all about speed, and if you make a tiny mistake you could fall to serious injury."

Li had a disappointing weekend at Klingenthal, ranking bottom of the 39-woman large-hill standings on Saturday-a poor result Kuttin put down to the windy weather in southern Germany.

"She was not lucky today. When she was competing, the weather condition was not good. You always need to have a chance no matter what kind of wind you are in," he said.

Li usually trains on so-called "normal hills" (90-100 meters). She placed 17th off a 97m hill at a World Cup meet in Rasnov, Romania, last season, and was 25th off a 140m hill in Lillehammer, Norway, earlier this month.

"It's not easy for Li. She came back for skiing in October and we were preparing for 100m hills. We should train more on big hills. She can reach top-30 or even top-20 when she performs well, but she is a bit unstable and had two or three falls last season," said Kuttin.

"The ski jump World Cup schedule is very intense and the team is not 100 percent ready for the new season. It'll take lots of energy to compete continuously and we have to get used to it. We have a better plan next year when we will be more stable and stronger."

Austrian Chiara Hoelzl claimed the women's individual title on Saturday.

The 22-year-old was crowned champion after jumping 141 meters to score 124.6 points. Slovenia's Ema Klinec was second (129m, 118.9 points), with Germany's Katharina Althaus third (131.5m, 118.6 points).

After three tournaments, Norwegian Maren Lundby leads the overall World Cup standings on 245 points, five ahead of Hoelzl. Klinec is third on 180 points.

Poland won the men's team competition with 968.7 points ahead of Austria and Japan.

 

]]>
2019-12-16 00:00:00
<![CDATA[The Premier League castoffs sparking Schalke's title surge]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/15/content_37529142.htm GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany-Sat in the Schalke dressing room, Welsh forward Rabbi Matondo and English defender Jonjoe Kenny are clearly enjoying life outside their comfort zones, fighting for the Bundesliga title.

Matondo and Kenny are the latest British exports to Germany's top flight, following the successful path of Jadon Sancho, who made the England team after impressing for Borussia Dortmund.

After three years at Manchester City, Cardiff-born Matondo, 19, joined Schalke in January for 11 million euros ($12.2 million).

The teenager was part of the Wales squad that qualified for the Euro 2020 finals and scored his first Schalke goal in a shock 3-1 win at then-leader RB Leipzig last August.

"Some might have thought 'oh, he is just following other people who have gone to Germany, but I saw Schalke as the right place to come and improve," said Matondo.

He describes the training as "pure hard work, you have to be on it every day", while Kenny feels "quicker, stronger and fitter" thanks to Schalke's training regime.

"It's more intense, we do double days on Tuesdays-that only happens in preseason in England," said Kenny.

After spells in and out of the Everton team, Liverpool-born Kenny, 22, has started all 14 league games at Schalke on his season-long loan stay.

Rookie award

The rightback was voted the Bundesliga's rookie player of the month in August after scoring a superb goal in a 3-0 victory over Hertha Berlin.

He puts his success down to the faith shown in him by former Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner, who describes Kenny as one of his "best signings" since becoming Schalke coach this season.

"It's gone perfect, but it's all down to the coach for me-he had the confidence to play me straight away," said Kenny.

Kenny, who was part of the England team which won the Under-20 World Cup in 2017, is full of praise for the Bundesliga, where Schalke sits fourth, six points behind surprise leader Borussia Moenchengladbach.

"People (in England) don't realize how much of a good a league it is," he said. "I was happy playing in England, then an opportunity like Schalke came along.

"It's a chance to become your own man on and off the pitch. I came here not knowing what was round the corner and it was something I thrived on."

German lessons three times a week help the pair tackle the language, but there were blank looks when asked by this writer to translate 'Merry Christmas'.

"A lot of the lads make it easy by speaking English," said Kenny.

"When the coach is speaking, you know a little bit more each time and can pick up what he is saying, but obviously it's a good skill to have outside of football."

As to whether Schalke can win the Bundesliga for the first time, Matondo gives a resounding "yes!"

"There is a long way to go and a lot of good sides, but we have a special team which can do something good, but we have to remain humble and see how the season pans out," he added.

Both men are looking forward to the approaching four-week winter break-a novelty having previously played through December and January at their respective English Premier League clubs.

"It's more the mental side, it gives you a little bit more energy knowing that there is a break coming up," said Kenny.

Schalke faces Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday, then Wolfsburg and Freiburg in their last games of 2019.

Euro 2020 ambitions

When the league resumes, Schalke will have its challenge tested by hosting Gladbach, then traveling to seven-time defending champion Bayern Munich in late January.

"We know it'll be tough against Frankfurt (this Sunday) and have to prove how good we are by getting the win," said Kenny.

However, he acknowledges that Bayern's recent league defeats to Leverkusen and Gladbach present their rivals with a chance.

"Everyone knows the quality Bayern Munich has and how good they have been for so long by dominating the Bundesliga, but when they lose, it opens up the gate for everyone else."

As for his Wales career, Matondo hopes to play at Euro 2020.

When Wales reached the semifinals of Euro 2016 in France, he was "back home, watching the lads", adding: "Some of whom I am playing with now, getting to the semifinals, which was a big deal.

"It was all incredible-the celebrations, the fans, making the country proud-and hopefully we can do that again this summer."

 

 

 

British duo Rabbi Matondo (left) and Jonjoe Kenny have shone for Schalke in the Bundesliga this season. AFP

 

 

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2019-12-15 14:17:34
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/15/content_37529131.htm BASKETBALL

Guangdong survives scare to tame Lions

Victory belonged to the home teams in all seven of Thursday's CBA matches, including the league-leading Guangdong Southeast Tigers.

Ren Junfei's buzzer-beater earned Guangdong its 12th straight triumph with a 108-106 win over the Zhejiang Lions. He finished with 19 points while teammate Marshon Brooks starred with 28 points and nine rebounds. Marcus Denmon had a game-high 29 points for Zhejiang. Zhu Xuhang added 18.

Despite the defeat, Zhejiang coach Liu Weiwei praised the Lions' defensive performance against a team that has averaged over 120 points per game this season, thanks to the prolific scoring of Brooks and captain Yi Jianlian.

"We had a good game," Liu said. "We did not give up when we were behind and managed to tie the game, but we were not experienced enough and left a player unguarded at the crucial moment."

SOCCER

Australia, NZ confirm Women's World Cup bid

Australia and New Zealand have submitted a joint bid to host the 2023 Women's World Cup.

Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football announced the co-confederation bid on Friday in Melbourne, hours before the official bid book was to be submitted to FIFA.

Soccer's world governing body has plenty of contenders to host the first 32-team Women's World Cup, with other bids expected to be submitted from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Japan and South Korea, which could be a joint project with DPR Korea.

FIFA will conduct inspections of all bids in January and February ahead of a FIFA Council vote expected in May.

Veteran Ribery to undergo ankle surgery

French midfielder Franck Ribery will undergo surgery after suffering serious ligament damage to his right ankle, his club Fiorentina confirmed on Thursday.

Ribery, 36, had to be helped off the pitch after a clash with Lecce midfielder Panagiotis Tachtsidis on Nov 30.

"In order to solve the problem, a joint-stabilization surgical treatment has been proposed which will be performed in the next few hours," Fiorentina said.

"At the end of the procedure, the times for resuming competitive activity will be announced."

Some Italian media said the former Bayern Munich star will be sidelined for two months.

Fiorentina is on a run of four consecutive defeats and is 13th in Serie A, just five points above the relegation zone.

TENNIS

Murray's preseason stalled by groin injury

Britain's Andy Murray has canceled his training block in Miami because of a groin injury that has left him unable to practice on the court, according to a report on Thursday.

The former world No 1 suffered a bruise to his pelvic bone during Britain's Davis Cup campaign in Madrid last month, The Times newspaper said. He played one singles match before missing the rest of the event.

Murray's Grand Slam comeback at next month's Australian Open, which starts on Jan 20, is apparently not in doubt, however.

The three-time Grand Slam champion, currently ranked 126 in the world, will likely receive a wild card to compete in Melbourne.

The 32-year-old Scot is due to travel to Australia in late December to prepare for the new ATP Cup team competition, which starts on Jan 3.

GOLF

Saudi Arabia to stage first women's pro event

Saudi Arabia will host its first professional women's golf tournament in 2020 with a prize fund of $1 million, the Ladies European Tour (LET) announced.

The Jeddah Royal Greens Golf and Country Club will stage the March 19-22 tournament, featuring three-time Tour winner Carly Booth.

The Briton and four of her fellow professionals have agreed to act as ambassadors for the tournament despite the divisive issue of women's rights in the conservative kingdom.

"I'm looking forward to being part of history with the other ladies on the tour," said the 27-year-old Booth.

"I have visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions and been lucky enough to spend some time teaching local women and girls how to play."

The men's European Tour made its first foray into Saudi Arabia this year.

However, superstars Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have both refused to play in the 2020 edition.

 

 

 

]]> 2019-12-15 14:17:34 <![CDATA[Pelicans plunging as Williamson's absence drags on]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/14/content_37529130.htm NEW ORLEANS-Zion Williamson was supposed to be making his highly anticipated NBA debut by sometime next week, if not earlier.

That looks unlikely now, given the overall No 1 draft pick has yet to practice with the New Orleans Pelicans since having surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee on Oct 21.

The reeling Pelicans could certainly use him. They've lost 10 straight heading into Friday night's game (Saturday morning Beijing time) at Philadelphia to fall to 6-19, but coach Alvin Gentry said this week that he could not forecast a return date.

"I don't have any idea," Gentry said. "I know that he's here every day and know that he's working his butt off.

"We're not going to rush anything with him," Gentry continued. "We're going to be overly cautious."

Williamson's initial prognosis was for his rehabilitation to last six to eight weeks. This Monday will mark eight weeks since surgery.

"We have been much more cautious with him in terms of how quickly we've ramped him up from stage to stage because he's 19 and he's still growing and he was 285 pounds when he had the surgery," David Griffin, the Pelicans executive vice-president of basketball operations, recently told Fox Sports.

"But there's been absolutely no setback and no other mission afoot than to get him on the court as soon as possible."

Griffin also has said Williamson won't play on consecutive nights in the early days after his return to the court.

Caution is understandable considering the long-term potential of the 6-foot-6 Williamson, who took college basketball by storm in his lone season at Duke and who hardly seemed to have trouble adjusting to the NBA during the preseason.

He averaged 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in four games, went right at highly respected defenders, including Utah's Rudy Gobert, and produced his share of above-the-rim highlights.

Pelicans players say they have urged Williamson to practice patience during his rehabilitation, but they also express excitement over the effect they expect him to have when he is able to play.

"I told him to play the same way when he gets back. Don't change. Keep putting pressure on the rim and when guys collapse in, kick out for open 3s," Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball said, referring to Williamson's showing in the preseason.

"You saw what he did during preseason," Ball continued. "We could definitely use that."

Guard Frank Jackson said getting Williamson back will be "huge".

"Any time he's on the floor, he's a threat to anyone," said Jackson, who also played at Duke. "So we're looking forward to getting him back."

The Pelicans' top brass, however, has sought to take pressure off Williamson.

"We expect for him obviously to inject some energy into our team and do some things like that, but we don't expect that all of a sudden he's going to be the cavalry and everything's going to change," Gentry said.

"We have to change before he gets back on the floor and he would just be an additional positive thing."

Gentry said Williamson has remained highly engaged with the team, watching every practice, walking through offensive and defensive sets with coaches and even verbalizing frustration after losses. He's even traveled to road games recently, and Gentry said a lopsided loss in Dallas last Saturday "bothered him as much as anybody".

"I do think he'll be more of a voice," Gentry said. "For the most part, obviously, we've got really quiet guys, but I don't see him being a quiet guy.

"He's not afraid to speak his mind. It's just one of those things where he's just who he is and he's a natural," Gentry continued. "The players will embrace that, too, because he's a good guy and he's here every day."

 

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2019-12-14 00:00:00
<![CDATA[BIG AIR BUNCH AIMING SKY HIGH]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/14/content_37529116.htm This week's Air & Style FIS Big Air World Cup meet in the stunning surrounds of Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park is providing a mouth-watering taste of what's to come at the Winter Olympics in three years' time.

It's also illustrated the sizable gap between the top Chinese riders and the world's elite, with none of the home hopes making it through to Saturday's snowboard final at the newly built 2022 venue.

That's not particularly surprising, given China remains a relative newcomer to Big Air, (which also includes freeski), and there are encouraging signs that the nation's young talents are beginning to gain ground on the globe's snowboard superpowers.

Fifteen-year-old Su Yiming narrowly failed to emerge from his heat, missing out on the final by one spot after finishing 11th overall in a tough qualification competition that featured the likes of Canada's Olympic silver medalist Max Parrott, who ranked third in his group, and experienced American Chris Corning, who topped the group to advance.

"This is the first time that I've competed in Beijing and I'm just thrilled to join the World Cup," said Su. "The ramp and the weather were perfect. And there were a lot of spectators cheering for me when I made my last jump, which made me even more excited."

Following his parents' passion for the sport, Su started snowboarding when he was just 4 years old in the chilly northeast province of Jilin, traditionally a cradle for winter sports stars.

"I'm from Jilin, so I enjoyed a great snowboarding environment," said Su. "I learned how to snowboard when I was 4 and started Big Air when I was 7 or 8. I joined the national team one and a half years ago."

Making it this far has not been easy. Constant travel abroad for training and competitions makes finding time for his academic life particularly tough.

However, the thought of representing China at the 2022 Winter Olympics is all the motivation Su needs to persevere.

"My goal is to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics and, if I make it, I will try my best to win glory for our nation," said Su. "My family and the national team have been supporting me and they are what motivate me.

"Snowboarding is an indispensable part of my life-in fact, it's my lifestyle. This is a challenging sport and snowboarders must have big hearts. Despite all the injuries I've picked up over the years, it has taught me a lot."

Not all China's contingent at this week's World Cup meet began boarding at such a young age.

Zhai Yue is a former gymnast who converted to snowboarding after falling in love with the exhilaration of lifting off from a Big Air ramp.

A quick learner, Zhai already finds herself competing against the likes of Austria's reigning Olympic champion Anna Gasser, who was fifth in qualifying, and Japan's 15-year-old phenom Kokomo Murase, who topped the women's standings.

"I used to do gymnastics. When you do gymnastics, you always have help and protection from your coach, but you are all on your own when you lift off from the Big Air slope," said Zhai.

"Honestly speaking, it was quite terrifying for me the first time I stood on the Big Air ramp. Progressing from smaller and lower ramps to the higher slopes, I've gradually improved. I would just turn on my music when I was stressed and got a little terrified when I stood on one of the bigger slopes.

"You know, it's easy to get addicted to snowboarding. When you pull off a good jump, that moment gives you an enormous sense of satisfaction and achievement."

Regardless of when they first bound their feet to a board, all the Chinese talent share a common dream of competing and winning a medal at the 2022 Olympics.

That's why testing themselves against the best in the business this week is so crucial to their development.

The Air& Style global series first arrived in Beijing in 2010, with the event upgraded to a World Cup meet in 2017. It was previously staged on detachable ramps at Beijing's Bird's Nest and Workers' Stadium.

"I've participated in the World Cup for three years, and this year's venue and competition environment is better than ever," said Zhang Tong, who like Zhai found the going tough in the women's heats.

"I have been improving each time I come to this event. But there's still a gap between us and the world's top riders. After all, they took up the sport much earlier than us.

"Now I spend a lot of time training in foreign countries, especially during the summer when China has no snow. In those countries, the kids start snowboarding when they are very young. To improve the level of snowboarding in China, we also need to attract more young kids to the sport."

 

Snowboarders show off their moves on the newly built Big Air ramp at Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park, which will be used as a venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2019-12-14 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Sun still perplexed by 'bizarre' doping test]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/13/content_37528953.htm Fifteen months on, Sun Yang still struggles to process the events of the night that has become a legal nightmare for China's Olympic champion.

"Everything that happened on the night of September 4, 2018 looked bizarre," recalled Sun after his morning training session in Beijing on Wednesday.

"The doping officials didn't have sufficient credentials, one official had never received any training in doping control, and they agreed not to take away my samples because they lacked the proper credentials.

"The funny thing is that they brought with them a foam box like one for storing seafood, instead of a standard collection box," added the three-time Olympic and 11-time world champion.

Sun was tested by Chinese anti-doping officials on Tuesday night, his 25th check of the year. He said the Chinese officials "performed their duty exactly as required by the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) code and used standard testing equipment".

The 28-year-old has been tested nearly 200 times since 2012, including 28 tests in 2017 and 31 in 2018.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on Tuesday that its verdict in the WADA case against Sun is not expected until mid-January, partly because it is taking so long to prepare a written transcript of the Nov 15 hearing, which was marred by poor translation.

Sun refused to complete a doping test conducted by international testing company IDTM at his home on Sept 4, 2018 after discovering that the doping-control officer (DCO) and her assistants lacked sufficient authorization and credentials.

The three testers signed a statement with Sun on the morning of Sept 5, which specified that the test was "incomplete" and that they would not take away the swimmer's samples.

Sun's case was later heard by swimming's world governing body FINA, which in January 2019 decided that the swimmer was not guilty of anti-doping rule violations. WADA disagreed, appealed the decision and asked the court to ban Sun for between two and eight years.

At Sun's request, last month's hearing in Montreux, Switzerland, was only the second public proceeding in the history of CAS.

Sun said that he wanted the hearing to be made public to let the world know what happened and to prove his innocence.

In an earlier interview with Xinhua, Sun said he couldn't trust testers that did not have sufficient documentation to prove who they were.

"I refused to take a urine test in front of a man who wasn't a real tester," Sun said.

"When I take a urine test, I have to roll up my sleeves up to elbows and have my pants down to my knees. I can show my body to doctors or official testers. How can I urinate in front of a total stranger who isn't a tester or doctor?"

Missing testimony

One of the doping-control assistants (DCA) on the night, who asked not to be named, told Xinhua that he was a construction worker by profession, had never been trained in doping control, and was only at Sun's home on the night in question at the request of the DCO, who was a former high school classmate of his.

On Wednesday, the same person, who again spoke on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that he had been willing to testify at the Nov 15 CAS hearing but nobody contacted him.

"I told them I would like to give my testimony via telephone or video conference as they suggested. I was ready, however nobody ever contacted me," he said.

"I felt like they did not seriously expect me to show up and give my words in the court. Maybe they just asked me in a casual way."

He added: "My daily job is doing construction work at construction sites. I am so busy that I don't have time to travel to Switzerland for public hearings. No one had ever spoken to me about doping control, not to mention any such kind of training. It is unnecessary for me."

The stand-in DCA said he had provided a written statement in mid-October, outlining what he knew and experienced on the night of the test.

"It was the first time someone from the international organization asked me about this matter in a year. I just got to know this case was upgraded to an international appeal," he said.

During the CAS hearing, it was alleged that a DCA had signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with IDTM.

However, the temporary DCA said: "Did someone say that? I was totally unclear about it. What does NDA mean and what is in it? I have no idea and no one had talked about it with me.

"My classmate came to me a couple of times in the early morning on September 5, 2018, and showed me something on the iPad. It was all in English! I could not understand it at all, so I returned it to her. I did not sign my signature on it. Is that what you call an NDA?

"I am an honest person. I am a construction worker, I have never previously been associated with doping-control matters-no training, no DCA, no NDA, no IDTM."

 

Sun Yang addresses the crowd at a Chinese Basketball Association game between the Beijing Ducks and the Guangdong Southern Tigers at Wukesong Arena in Beijing on Dec 1. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Advantage Internationals as Asian debutants shine]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/13/content_37528969.htm Im Sung-jae, An Byeong-hun and CT Pan enjoyed winning starts in their Presidents Cup debuts as an inspired International Team stunned the United States 4-1 in the opening day's fourballs at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia on Thursday.

South Korea's Im produced a glorious chip-in eagle on the first hole as he and Canadian partner Adam Hadwin edged Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay 1-up in the second match.

An, a late call-up to replace the injured Jason Day, teamed with home hero Adam Scott to defeat Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau 2&1, while Pan and Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama earned a fourth point for Ernie Els' team with a thrilling 1-up win over Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson.

Louis Oosthuizen and Abraham Ancer, one of seven debutants in the team, also delivered a point for the Internationals.

US playing captain Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas won the first point of the session with a 4&3 win over Marc Leishman and Joaquin Niemann.

This is the first time since 2005 that the Internationals, whose solitary Presidents Cup win came at Royal Melbourne in 1998, have led after the first round.

South African legend Els still holds Royal Melbourne's course record (60), and the 21-year-old Im credited his captain's expert knowledge for his flying start.

"Surprisingly I wasn't too nervous. I was going to hit a 3-iron off the tee but Ernie came up and advised me to hit a driver since the pin was to the left and obviously it worked out really well. I'm really happy about my results and I'm excited for tomorrow," said Im, who will partner Cameron Smith in Friday's foursomes against Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler.

"I feel like our teamwork was great. When I wasn't playing well, Adam (Hadwin) would cover for me and vice versa. I think our teamwork really helped make our match great."

An was delighted to start his first Presidents Cup on a winning note alongside Scott.

"It was crazy. I was a little bit nervous. It was fun playing in front of a home crowd, and then playing with Adam calmed me down a lot, and that's why I was able to hit some great shots in the first couple of holes," said the Korean.

"We got in the mood and got some birdies going. Overall we played great. When he's not playing well the first couple holes, I had him covered, and when I was struggling in the middle, he got some birdies going," said An.

Pan was the last pairing out on course as he and Matsuyama fought tooth-and-nail against Reed and Simpson.

The 28-year-old said watching highlights of the International Team's 1998 victory on Wednesday night had rallied the squad.

"The video, even after last night, I watched it a couple of times because I loved it. It's been 21 long years, and I know it's day one, but we still have a lot of work to do. That video definitely pumped and excited everyone on the team," said Pan.

"It's incredible, especially the last match to finish on 18, as well. The crowd are absolutely amazing and the people, the feeling, it's making me like speechless. Yeah, I played great. We're very happy to earn this point."

With their match tied through 16 holes, Matsuyama drained a 28-foot birdie on 17 to regain a 1-up lead and burst into a fist-pump celebration which ignited one of the loudest cheers of the day.

"Hideki, he's such a clutch putter. I was close but he made that tough putt. That was so crucial," said Pan.

Li Haotong has also been left out of Friday's foursome pairings, but Els proclaimed the first Chinese mainland player to be selected for the Presidents Cup would be "raring to go" on Saturday.

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Im Sung-jae high-fives caddie Steve Hale at the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday. The South Korean won his fourball match as the International Team took a 4-1 lead over the United States. BEN JARED/PGA TOUR/GETTY IMAGES

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2019-12-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Ice-making masterclass from a smooth operator]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/13/content_37528985.htm XINING-Joachim Fritz can't remember every international curling tournament that he has attended-but he has no trouble telling you every little detail about the ice that he makes in the arena.

Fritz was the chief ice technician at this week's Qinghai International Curling Elite tournament which concluded on Tuesday at Duoba National Highland Physical Training Base in northwest China's Qinghai province. As a major international event, the 16 competing teams expected top-class facilities, including perfect ice.

With 23 years' experience in ice-making behind him, Fritz was undoubtedly the man for the job.

The German and his team began work early each morning by pebbling, scraping and nipping the sheets to ensure the ice was ready for curling.

"Pebbling the ice looks easy. But when you are actually carrying 15 kilos of water on your back and going backwards at a good pace on the ice, that's a different story," said Fritz as he unloaded his backpack sprayer.

Ice makers need to re-pebble the surface prior to each match. With 64 matches to take care of in Qinghai, the technicians had to work around the clock.

But the 65-year-old Fritz starts his job long before the matches begin, building up a supply of curling-grade ice that requires much more than just frozen water to produce.

Curling ice has to be perfectly level so that the rocks can curl-after all, a 20-kilo granite stone cannot defy gravity. "It's all about perfection when it comes to making curling ice," said Fritz.

To produce fresh and perfect sheets, the team spends seven days and nights flooding, painting, spraying and scraping. Each step has to be repeated several times, with the greatest possible delicacy.

But for Fritz, each job is never the same, as every arena poses a different challenge.

"There is no criteria for making the ice," said Fritz, noting that there are many variables to consider-from room temperature to the number of spectators. "People have no clue how much work we put in," he said.

And things don't always go to plan-even for Fritz.

Humidity is the enemy of ice makers, with the slightest atmospheric shift making all the difference. At the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, for example, Fritz had to contend with heavy rain, with the resulting humidity leading to the cancelation of one match.

Fritz learned how to make ice from a Canadian technician back when he was coach of a German curling team. He began his ice-making career in 1996 and worked his way up to international tournaments such as the Winter Olympics and world championships.

Just like he learned from his Canadian teacher, Fritz has been passing on his knowledge and experience to assistants in Qinghai, Ming Laisheng and Hu Yue.

"It's hard work and experience that make a good ice maker," Fritz said, adding that his Chinese students are getting better at the job every year.

Russia's women and the United States's men emerged victorious on the final day of competition in Qinghai, when, ever the perfectionist, Fritz showed up two hours before the action began to prepare the tracks with the same thoroughness he has exercised over the last two decades.

"There are many little things that should be taken care of to make the event better," said Fritz, who is already looking forward to the 2020 edition. "I would be honored to come back next year," he added.

 

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2019-12-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Franklin no longer a fish out of water]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/13/content_37528929.htm Missy Franklin can still light up a room.

She'll start off with that big, broad smile.

Then comes the bubbly laugh, summoned from deep in the belly.

Finally, there's a boundless, almost childlike passion for whatever is on her mind.

"The thing that people always ask me about her, after they first meet Missy and she's so nice, they wonder, 'Is she like that all the time?'" said Jack Bauerle, her former coach. "Yes, that's what she's like all the time."

Even now, when she has every reason to be bitter about a broken-down body that snuffed out her brilliant swimming career, Franklin still glides easily to the sunny side to life.

"One of the hardest things about retirement is having a lot of people ask-and I know they don't always mean it negatively-but there's this connotation of, 'What are you going to do now?'" Franklin told Associated Press during a recent interview. "People are assuming that I've already peaked."

She wants everyone to know that's not the case.

At 24, she feels like she's just getting started.

"I can really make an impact outside the pool," Franklin said. "That is one of the coolest things."

For sure, her swimming peak was a sight to behold.

As a 17-year-old, high school senior-to-be, she turned in one of the greatest performances in Olympic history at the 2012 London Games, capturing four gold medals as well as a bronze.

Franklin was even better the following summer, just before she went off to college at the University of California, Berkeley. At the world championships in Barcelona, she became the first female swimmer to win six golds at the second-biggest meet after the Olympics.

The female version of Michael Phelps, it seemed.

But Franklin's body would not let her fully realize her potential.

After a dismal showing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she qualified in just two events and won her only medal as a relay swimmer, Franklin underwent surgery on both shoulders. She transferred from Cal-Berkeley to the University of Georgia, hoping a change of scenery and working with Bauerle would help spur her comeback.

Unfortunately, her shoulders continued to hurt. When doctors told her she could undergo another surgery, but there was a less-than-50-percent chance it would relieve her pain in the pool, Franklin decided to retire-just from swimming, not from life.

In September, Franklin married former swimmer, Hayes Johnson. On Monday, she wrapped up her final class at Georgia, earning a degree in religion. On Wednesday, she and her husband packed up and headed for suburban Denver, where Franklin grew up and the newlyweds have purchased a home.

"I would've loved to keep going as a swimmer," Franklin said. "But I know I made the right decision."

She is convinced that her best is yet to come, even if she doesn't have the same sort of audience that she did in an Olympic pool.

Next summer, Franklin will attend the Tokyo Olympics to work with sponsors and spread a message about protecting the environment and dealing with climate change. She's not quite clear where life is going to take her, but it's clear that she wants to stay involved with swimming-especially if it gives her a chance to work with young people.

She has a story to tell. A complete story.

"I remember coming off of London, that was one of the hardest things for me," Franklin said. "I would have people come up and say, 'Swimming has just been so hard, I don't love it anymore, I want to quit, what did you do when you felt like that?' Well, I'd never felt like that before."

Then came Rio.

Franklin had never been through anything like that before. There were plenty of tears, even as she tried to maintain her smiling, upbeat facade.

"It was brutal," she recalled. "You are literally on the biggest stage in the world and falling short of every single goal you've set for yourself. You truly feel like you're embarrassing yourself."

Yet, that was when Franklin found something deep inside, something she always hoped was there but wouldn't really know until she went through such a trying ordeal.

"It's really easy to inspire people in success and when you're doing well. It's really hard to inspire people when you're failing, when you're falling on your butt," she said. "Now I have to show up and be that person I always said I wanted to be in a situation like this."

While this has been a solitary journey in many ways, Franklin's husband has helped greatly in easing the transition from competitive swimming.

When his wife-to-be was contemplating whether to have another surgery, he pointed out that there were far more important things still to come, that had nothing to do with being a star athlete.

"There's always going to be a part of me that's still working through it, still reflecting and seeing what else I can take away from it," she said.

"But he was almost like the sunshine at the end of the tunnel. I had gone through all this work and now I had a person to share it with, experience it with, communicate with and kind of help push me the rest of the way, to really show me what was on the other side."

Maybe life didn't turn out the way Franklin envisioned it while standing atop the medal podium in London.

That's OK.

In so many ways, it's turned out better.

"The way I have been able to interact and connect and share my story, my experience in Rio and what's happened since, has made me so grateful for it," Franklin said, her voice rising with enthusiasm.

"I truly, in my heart, feel like I needed that experience as a human being. I needed to go through something like that so I can help other people go through it."

Franklin isn't swimming anymore, but she can still light up the room.

 

Four-time Olympic champion Missy Franklin, pictured at the 2016 Rio Games, was forced to retire from swimming due to shoulder problems. After enduring some dark days, she is now enjoying life outside the pool again by educating people about climate change. AP

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-13 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Volvo China Open secures three-year Shenzhen stay]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/12/content_37528815.htm Shenzhen Genzon Golf Club in Guangdong province has been selected as the venue for the Volvo China Open for the next three years.

At a news conference in Shenzhen on Tuesday, it was also announced that the tournament is renewing its title sponsorship with Volvo Cars. Next year's edition, which takes place from April 23-26, will mark the 89th time Volvo has sponsored a European Tour tournament.

Founded in 1995, the Volvo China Open was the first international professional golf event to be staged in the Chinese mainland, and remains one of the highest-profile events in the country.

"The 2020 Volvo China Open will be the final test for Chinese players in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, so it will be a wonderful opportunity for them to strive for the opportunity to represent their motherland in the Olympic golf competition," said Pang Zheng, secretary-general of the China Golf Association.

Genzon has previously hosted the China Open in 2014 and this year, when Finland's Mikko Korhonen was victorious.

"We are extremely excited to join hands with the Volvo China Open for the next three years. Shenzhen is a highly advanced city with open, inclusive and innovative cultural characteristics, and there are now many creative entrepreneurs based in the city," said Deng Xueqin, chairman and president of Genzon Group.

"Our market and cultural background actually promotes the development of golf. We insist on transmitting the true spirit of the game, and by combining with the city of Shenzhen we are able to showcase the essential charm of the sport.

"It is our firm commitment to join hands with the Volvo China Open for the next three years. We have significant and invaluable experience in staging international tournaments."

The total prize fund of the 26th Volvo China Open is 20 million yuan ($2.8 million).

"There will be a strong field next April. We welcome golf enthusiasts to come to Shenzhen and to watch this high-profile international competition, and we also welcome Shenzhen citizens to come to Genzon Golf Club for an entertaining weekend," said Zhao Qin, chairman of the Volvo China Open Board and vice-president of corporate communications at Volvo Car Asia Pacific.

The Volvo China Open has been an important platform for domestic talent, with Cheng Jun (1997), Zhang Lianwei (2003), Wu Ashun (2015) and Li Haotong (2016) all past champions.

Wu and Li have gone on to establish themselves among the world's elite by playing regularly on the European Tour.

"The 25-year history of the Volvo China Open is a testament to the collaboration between Volvo and the China Open," said Yuan Xiaolin, senior vice-president of Volvo Car Group, and president and CEO of Volvo Car Asia Pacific.

"Over the years, a growing number of Chinese players have competed and excelled on this international stage. Meanwhile, the tournament and the sport itself have become more popular and gained a strong fanbase locally.

"As the Volvo China Open grows year after year, the collaboration between Volvo and the China Open has also continued to deepen."

The Swedish auto giant is also supporting a plethora of other golf tournaments next year, including the Volvo China Junior Challenge at Mission Hills in Hainan province (Feb 12-14), the Volvo China Open Amateur Qualifying Final (Feb 17-19), the international qualifying event (March 9-11) at Nansha in Guangzhou, and the domestic qualifying event (March 23-25) at Qinglong Nanshan in Chongqing.

 

Pang Zheng, secretary-general of the China Golf Association, believes Chinese golfers will use the 2020 Volvo China Open as a tuneup for the Tokyo Olympics.

 

 

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2019-12-12 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Lifting off to rave reviews]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/12/content_37528844.htm "Amazing", "totally cool", "awesome"-the superlatives keep coming for Beijing's Big Air ramp as the world's top snowboarders and skiers test-ride the newly built Olympic venue this week.

Located among disused smokestacks at Beijing's regenerated Shougang Industrial Park, the world's first permanent construction of its kind will make its competitive debut at the FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Cup meet, which runs from Thursday to Saturday at the former steel-mill site.

The annual event is welcoming a total of 146 athletes from 25 countries and regions, including some of the sport's brightest stars, such as Olympic champions Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland and Anna Gasser of Austria.

"It's totally cool," enthused freestyle skier Hoefflin at the venue on Tuesday.

"This is really a good jump and it's quite different because it's a permanent structure. Everyone who's been up there loved the jump. It's awesome and I really like it."

Rising young local talents are naturally thrilled to have such a stunning facility on their doorstep.

"The new venue is an amazing building for me," said 15-year-old snowboarder Su Yiming. "And as a Chinese athlete, I'm so proud to see that we can have such an incredible venue in Beijing. Because it's also a 2022 venue, it makes me even more excited. I spend a lot time training and competing in foreign countries, so it's great to be able to come back home.

"My goal this weekend is to qualify for the final and then I hope to produce my best performance.

"When I'd just started out in the sport, I used to go Beijing to watch this event years ago. At that time, my dream was to compete in the World Cup one day. And that dream is now coming true. I'm finally here and I'm so excited."

The new ramp will be used for the Big Air disciplines of snowboarding and freeski at the Olympics. It will be the only 2022 snow sports venue located in Beijing's downtown area, with the other snow events to be staged at co-host Zhangjiakou in nearby Hebei province.

"This World Cup meet is the high-end level and you have the best riders and skiers in the world here," said FIS contest director Roberto Moresi on Tuesday.

"What's been amazing to see actually is what organizers have delivered in such a short period of time.

"I have heard so many good words from the athletes so far about what they've seen and how they've been riding on the new venue.

"I'd really like to thank the Beijing Sports Bureau, Shougang Industrial Park and the Chinese Ski Association to be putting on this massive event and giving the riders and skiers the chance to show their skills."

Founded in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1993, the Air and Style global series first arrived in Beijing in 2010, with the stop upgraded to a World Cup meet in 2017. It was previously staged on detachable ramps at Beijing's Bird's Nest and Workers' Stadium.

"Seeing the progression of the event over the past decade is really amazing," said Saskia Schnorrenberger, the director of global operations for event co-organizer Air and Style Company. "We've chosen the best location for its 10th anniversary... and for sure we want to stay in China."

The new venue can seat up to 6,000 spectators, with a rock concert featuring local bands on the final day expected to create a festival atmosphere this weekend.

Big Air, which made its Olympic debut at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, involves athletes hurling down a snow-covered ramp to perform aerial tricks off a massive kicker before landing.

Chinese athletes are working hard to close the gap to the sport's elite and are hopeful of making a breakthrough in 2022.

"I've just been doing Big Air for about two years, but I believe we will catch up with the best athletes in the world," said hotly tipped 15-year-old skier Yang Shuorui, who is competing this week.

"It's very comfortable to jump on the new ramp. Each venue is different, but this one feels very good to me, especially on landing.

"I hope I can make it into the final, but it's not an easy task. In the longer term, I hope I can develop quickly enough to have good performances at the 2022 Winter Olympics to win honor for our country."

After the World Cup, the new slope will be used as a professional training base and to host other events. In the meantime, it will also be open to the public, tying in with the national fitness campaign.

 

A nighttime view of the Big Air slope at Shougang Industrial Park in Beijing. The 2022 Olympic venue this week stages an FIS World Cup meet. LIU PING/FOR CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2019-12-12 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Walking in the footsteps of Messi]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/12/content_37528831.htm Soccer wasn't always Lionel Messi's favorite activity.

When he was a child in the modest neighborhood of La Bajada in his Argentine hometown of Rosario, he spent his time cycling with friends, building forts out of branches and stones, playing hide and seek-and occasionally stealing lemons from a neighbor to make juice.

Those stories and others are the focus of a new tour being offered by Rosario to celebrate their 32-year-old hometown hero, an international sports superstar who this month won an unprecedented sixth Ballon d'Or as world soccer's player of the year.

The tour, put together by Rosario's city hall, is free of charge and available via an app translated into several languages, guiding fans through 10 stops.

Few houses are higher than two stories in La Bajada, a middle-class neighborhood in the city that is located 300 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires.

Halfway down Israel Street stands a gray house, closed off by shut curtains and protected by railings. There is no sign outside indicating it was Messi's home, and no one lives there now, though it still belongs to his family.

The neighbors aren't so shy about the Messi connection, however. Colorful paintings dedicated to the soccer star stand in front of houses and there are sidewalks colored in the blue and white of Argentina's national team with Messi's jersey number, 10, painted in black.

Messi's neighbors and friends are often willing to share stories with visitors.

"Leo was normal and ordinary like other people here," Diego Vallejos, one of Messi's childhood friends, told Associated Press on a sandy soccer pitch of the El Campito club as three youngsters enjoyed a kick-about. "We fell, we scratched ourselves riding bikes. We went to the street with water bombs and threw them at buses," said Vallejos, who is one year older than Messi.

Also on the tour is the school Messi attended and the Abanderado Grandoli club, where he learned his first soccer moves.

The city long had a somewhat distant relationship with Messi, and officials say the tour seeks to change that. Rosario's city hall said Messi's family did not take part in the creation of the tour.

"What we want to emphasize is that Leo is a product of his city, and that there is a life and many stories behind the superstar," said Santiago Valenti, who works for Rosario's tourism agency.

Messi was born on June 24, 1987, in Rosario's Hospital Italiano Garibaldi. He lived in the city until 2000, when he moved to Barcelona.

A recently opened sports museum, a few blocks from Messi's old home, offers an interactive tour of the lives of local stars in racing, boxing, basketball and soccer.

Messi's section of the museum is introduced by a painting that mixes monuments from Rosario and Barcelona, and the sentence: "All that I did, I did for soccer."

Two giant screens display classic Messi goals and testimonials from teammates.

"The idea is not to pay a tribute to his sporting success," said museum coordinator Juan Echeverria. "It is to value the path he walked, everything that an athlete has to go through to get to the tip of the iceberg that we see when he is on the podium."

The museum has contacted Messi's family and the player's father said he would donate more memorabilia.

One of the items on display is a small red coat with a white collar. Below it is Messi's official register as a Newell's Old Boys academy player and a picture of him smiling.

Downtown is the Malvinas compound where Newell's has its soccer academy. It was there the young Messi was filmed out-dribbling much bigger opponents.

"This is where it all started," said Lisandro Conte, an employee at the academy.

Messi did not play for Newell's. "At that time there were players who looked more promising, and the bet was placed on them," Conte said.

Still, Messi has said he wants to finish his career at Newell's, playing for his hometown club in his own country after a professional career in Barcelona's storied Spanish league team.

Fans visiting Rosario might even be able to catch a match between teams like the recent clash between Newell's and arch-rival Rosario Central. Among the 14 youngsters chasing the ball might be Rosario's next star.

 

A jersey worn by Lionel Messi when he trained with Newell's Old Boys as a youth is displayed in the Museum of Sport in Rosario, Argentina. Messi never played for Newell's because the club refused to pay for his hormonal treatment and he was eventually snapped up by Barcelona. AP

 

 

An image of Lionel Messi is shown on a digital screen in Rosario's Museum of Sport. Messi's section of the museum is introduced by a painting that mixes monuments from Rosario and Barcelona, and the sentence: "All that I did, I did for soccer." Two giant screens display classic Messi goals and testimonials from teammates. AP

 

 

Three girls stand outside Lionel Messi's modest childhood home in the La Bajada neighborhood. Few houses are higher than two stories in the middle-class area in the city of Rosario, which is located around 300 kilometers northwest of Argentina's capital Buenos Aires. AP

 

 

A boy pops a wheelie as he rides his bike past a Lionel Messi mural in the Barcelona superstar's old neighborhood of La Bajada in Rosario, Argentina. A new Messi-themed tour of the city reveals that cycling was one of the forward's favorite activities as a kid-as well as building forts out of branches and stones, and playing hide and seek. AP

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-12 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Developmental Public-Private Partnership tipped as new solution]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/12/content_37528829.htm China's first theoretical book for developmental PPP-an innovative method of public-private partnership-was released recently in Beijing. It aims to help boost the sustainable development of cities and contribute to people's well-being amid the wave of urbanization across China.

Developmental public-private partnership, according to the book, is a long-term partnership between the government and private companies, to provide infrastructure and city operation services. Enterprises take the responsibility of management and obvious risks. The return on investment will come from the fiscal revenue newly created by the partnership and will be linked to performance assessment and incentive compatibility.

The book was released at the second Developmental PPP Model Forum co-organized by the Society of Public Finance of China and Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences in late November. More than 200 experts and company executives shared their insights about theoretical research and application of PPP models.

Meng Chun, director of the China PPP research center of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and a researcher of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said the book provides good advice for policy-making such as budget management that can help boost high-quality development of PPP models.

Zhang Shufeng, executive president of major property operator China Fortune Land Development, or CFLD, said at the forum that the book is a theoretical summery based on successful experiences and a milestone for the promotion and application of developmental PPP.

CFLD has invested and operated in 77 regions, 30 of which are enrolled in PPP projects of the Ministry of Finance. Its five projects were titled demonstration projects of PPP by the ministry: Gu'an county of Hebei province; Lishui district of Nanjing, Jiangsu province; Nanxun district of Huzhou, Zhejiang province; Tuanfeng county of Hubei province and Xinzheng city of Henan province.

CFLD's developmental PPP model has operated in those regions and achieved spectacular achievements. In Huzhou's Nanxun district, Zhejiang province, CFLD helped Shenzhen Efonlong Optronics Display to initiate its ultra-thin glass substrate deep processing project, with an investment of more than 10 billion yuan ($142 million). The aim is to develop advanced industries and promote industrial reformation and upgrading in Nanxun, the company said.

Lishui district of Nanjing is another region codeveloped by the local government and CFLD. CFLD helped Sunwoda Electric Vehicle Battery build its large-scale power battery base in the district this year, which helped boost the local new energy vehicles industry. The project brought an investment of 12 billion yuan. In Lishui, CFLD is working on constructing the NEV industry and related battery, electrical machinery, electronic control and auto parts industries.

Gu'an county of Hebei province was another major developmental PPP project of CFLD, which kicked off in 2002. The partnership has helped promote sustainable and high-quality development of the local economy. In May 2018, the Gu'an project was named one of 60 typical cases for people-oriented sustainable development worldwide by the United Nations.

Wang Hai, Party secretary of Gu'an county, said at a forum in Zhengzhou, Henan province, in October that its partnership with private enterprises under the developmental PPP model since 2002 has contributed to the leapfrogging economic and social development of the county.

Wang added Gu'an has developed from a poor county that relied on agriculture into an economically strong county in Hebei province.

"In the new round of high-quality development of regional economy, Gu'an county will further promote and apply the developmental PPP model," he said.

Chinese county economies face a lack of capital, talent, technologies and industries. In those cases, CFLD provides planning and design consultancy, land resources management, infrastructural construction, public facilities construction, industrial development and city operation services, to build specific competitiveness of each region and help it attract high-level industries, techniques and talent, to boost high-quality development of regions, according to Zhang.

Zhang said CFLD has formed a mechanism featuring self-support, incentive compatibility and incremental reward. Under this mechanism, the government does not need to spend money, provide guarantees and financing, or undertake any debts.

All investments in regions involved in developmental PPP model come from private enterprises that demonstrate high-quality development performance. This guarantees that the government can realize the ultimate goal of high-quality development of the regions, he added.

In other words, in such a model, the government authorizes private enterprise to invest in and develop regional economy and assess its performance from the aspects of fiscal revenue, GDP, people's livelihood, employment and ecology. It would only have to pay for the public-private partnership services if private enterprise meets the requirement of each category. The payment would come from the new fiscal revenue created from the partnership. If private enterprise fails to bring in new fiscal revenue, the government doesn't have to pay for it, according to CFLD.

The model solves the problem of insufficient financial investment in underdeveloped regions, spares the government risk and realizes win-win results, according to the company.

Yang Yingming, executive director for China at the World Bank Group, said that CFLD's developmental PPP model has changed the traditional investment model of local governments in China in civic construction. It also gives inspiration to the World Bank to provide financial support for China's urbanization and infrastructure construction in developing regions.

 

China's first theoretical book for developmental PPP, an innovative method of public-private partnership, is released at the second Developmental PPP Model Forum in Beijing in late November. CHINA DAILY

 

 

Zhang Shufeng, executive president of property operator China Fortune Land Development, gives a speech at the Fourth China PPP Forum held in Beijing in November.

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-12 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Chinese junior duo dare to dream Down Under]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/11/content_37528567.htm Xu Andi and Jin Bo say their experience of playing in the Junior Presidents Cup has made them more determined than ever to one day compete in the senior version.

The hotly touted Chinese mainland pair won their singles matches on Monday but couldn't prevent their International Team losing 11-13 to the United States in a prelude to this week's main event.

Xu, who lost his first two matches on Sunday, bounced back to edge this year's Rolex Junior Player of the Year, Maxwell Moldovon, 1-up, while Jin secured his second win in the tournament by beating Benjamin James, 3&2.

"It's really special to play in an event which mirrors the Presidents Cup. This is the best event by far that I've played in and it's something I'll never forget," said the 17-year-old Xu, who hails from Guangzhou.

"The first day was pretty tough as our long game wasn't good and we struggled. It's really about learning how to manage on this golf course, your distance control and where to hit it. I made some mistakes which I think can help me in the future as I'll know how to perform better."

Xu will remain in Australia over the next few days to watch Tiger Woods' American team defend its Presidents Cup title against Ernie Els' Internationals, which features Chinese No 1 Li Haotong.

Next year, Xu will attend the University of San Diego, where he hopes to sharpen his game in preparation for turning professional.

"I'm going to watch the practice round here and the first round of the Presidents Cup. Before going back to the US I hope to learn from the guys. It's my hope to get to the PGA Tour some day. If I play well in college, I definitely want to turn professional and get to the Presidents Cup will be a good goal to aim for," he said.

Jin, whose brother Jin Cheng won the 2015 Asia Pacific Amateur Championship, was delighted with his performances in Melbourne. He will attend Oklahoma State University next year.

"It's my first time to Australia and it feels so good. The whole setup in this tournament astonished me … the grandstands, the course setup were really impressive," said Jin.

"I am glad I won today as I played quite good. It's such a great experience being here. Stuart (Appleby) is a great captain, and he gave us a lot of advice."

Chinese Taipei's Lin Chuan-tai lost 7&6 to Ian Siebers but had good reason to hold his head high.

A product of the CT Pan junior golf program, he will head to the University of Washington next year. "I actually played pretty good overall, but today I kind of misread the wind direction. It's a special week to play in the Junior Presidents and it will help my career."

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Xu Andi of China tracks a drive during the Junior Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club on Monday in Melbourne, Australia. PGA TOUR

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2019-12-11 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Benitez reaffirms Dalian dedication as rumors swirl]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/11/content_37528610.htm Rafa Benitez has ruled himself out of the running for managerial jobs at Arsenal, Everton and West Ham, with the Spaniard insisting he is "really happy" at Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang.

After initially steering Dalian away from the CSL relegation zone upon his arrival from Newcastle United in July, Benitez struggled to stir his team in the second half of the campaign, with the Liaoning province club eventually finishing a disappointing ninth.

The slump led to rumors that Benitez could be on his way back to the English Premier League. The firings of Unai Emery at Arsenal and Marco Silva at Everton, as well as Manuel Pellegrini's tenuous position at West Ham, have added fuel to the speculation.

But speaking in London, where he was working as an analyst for Sky Sports' live broadcast of Arsenal's 3-1 win at West Ham, Benitez reaffirmed his commitment to Dalian and said he was enjoying masterminding its Wanda-backed rebuilding project.

"I can be very clear-there is no chance I will come back now because I'm really happy," said the 59-year-old Benitez.

"I'm really pleased Dalian Yifang trusts me. We have a lot of staff working on a big, big project. We want to leave a legacy and it's a challenge for me. I'm quite happy at the moment.

"In the future I would like to come back to the Premier League because I like the league."

Benitez is held in high esteem in English soccer, having steered Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005.

His wife and daughters still live in the Merseyside area, and he admitted that, in the future, he could be tempted to work nearer to his family home if Everton came calling.

"Obviously I have Liverpool connections, that is very clear. But at the same time we are involved in the city, we have a lot of friends in the city, Evertonians and Liverpudlians," he said.

"So I don't have any problem with the fans, with the people there. Obviously we are closer to Liverpool but in the future... I am a professional... so in the future, you never know.

"Imagine I want to stay in England, I want to stay close to my family, I cannot get a job, then you have a job there close to you."

The former Real Madrid boss has also been strongly linked with West Ham, where Chilean manager Pellegrini appears to be on the brink after second-half goals from Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at London Stadium on Monday left the free-falling Hammers just a point above the drop zone.

However, although he almost joined the Hammers four years ago before heading to Madrid, Benitez said there was no chance of the east London club tempting him away from China.

"It was in the past, it's true that I was nearly there (at West Ham)," he said. "Then Real Madrid came, and I needed a couple of days to know exactly what was going on.

"Obviously I couldn't say no to Real Madrid, but it was a good time and it's a massive club. Everybody can see both teams (West Ham and Arsenal) have problems, but both are massive clubs and they will do well at the end."

Bankrolled by construction giant Wanda Group, Benitez has been tasked with restoring the glory days at Dalian, which in its previous incarnation dominated Chinese soccer in the 1990s.

However, despite the expensive acquisitions of Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamsik from Napoli and Belgium's ex-Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco, Dalian remains a long way off the CSL's elite, finishing a sizable 32 points outside the automatic qualification places for the Asian Champions League.

Pinning his hopes on strong financial backing in the winter transfer window, Benitez is hopeful of a better finish next term and has been effusive in his praise of Dalian's overall development strategy.

"Wanda is behind the team and they will have a new training ground in December with 14 pitches, two indoor pitches, and everything is top class," Benitez told BBC's Football Daily podcast last month.

"We have another project in which we are bringing 10 coaches from Spain for the schools and we have around 10 more coaches from Spain to make sure we have the methodology and the way that we coach and do things in Spain. They want to replicate all these things in the academy, in the schools, reserve team and first team.

"Dalian Yifang is a new club in name only but the reality is that they won seven or eight trophies in the past... and they want to go back to the same level. The fans are very passionate and they love football. Dalian is maybe the biggest city for football in China."

Pereira in demand

Meanwhile, Everton is reportedly targeting another top CSL coach-Shanghai SIPG's Vitor Pereira.

After firing Silva last Friday, the Toffees have appointed club legend Duncan Ferguson on a caretaker basis, with the Scot delivering some much-needed cheer to Goodison Park with a 3-1 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

However, Sky Sports claims the Toffees want Pereira installed as Silva's permanent successor before Sunday's Premier League trip to Manchester United.

Negotiations are reportedly underway with Pereira, who is also on Arsenal's radar. However, SIPG is determined to hang on to the Portuguese and could easily trump Everton in the financial stakes. Sky Sports reports the 2018 CSL champion is offering Pereira a new contract worth 25 million pound ($33 million) per year.

The British broadcaster also claims the 51-year-old former Porto and Olympiacos coach has received the backing of his family to remain in China for another year.

AFP contributed to this story

 

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-11 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Injury-troubled Yan blocking out pain for China's cause]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/11/content_37528594.htm Yan Ni has vowed to keep playing through the pain as Team China bids to retain its Olympic title in Tokyo next year.

The veteran middle blocker has been troubled by nagging shoulder and waist injuries in recent years, leading to persistent rumors that she is poised to call time on her career.

However, the 32-year-old is adamant she has no plans to quit just yet and says she is more determined than ever to answer the nation's call.

"I've been suffering a lot with pain and injuries recently. Sometimes, when it has hurt badly, I've thought about giving up, but then I felt it was my responsibility to hold on and fight hard because the team and the coach need me," she said.

"The feeling of being needed makes me happy."

Yan also finds the strength to carry on from the example of coach Lang Ping, who endured dozens of surgeries both during and after her illustrious playing career as a star of the all-conquering Chinese teams of the 1980s.

"It's not easy for her," Yan said. "Once I told her I needed to take painkillers every day to keep on training, and she said, 'I also need to take a lot of medicine every day'. When she is on the training court, I am motivated and encouraged to keep going."

Yan's stunning form helped China to glory at September's World Cup. Averaging 0.94 stuff blocks per set, she won the tournament's Best Middle Blocker award and joined teammate and captain Zhu Ting in the Dream Team.

Yan was also named Best Middle Blocker at last year's world championship, when China finished third behind Italy and winner Serbia.

"It was so exciting to win the World Cup again, it was a great team effort," Yan said. "We fought hard on the way to victory, but we will face a tougher challenge at the Olympic Games next year.

"I did not expect to be named Best Middle Blocker again. Actually, I did not realize it was me when the announcer said my name at the ceremony. Then Zhu told me: 'It's you!' That was really a sweet surprise.

"My statistics at the World Cup were encouraging, but I am not totally satisfied with my blocking skills. I have a lot to learn from other top middle blockers around the world."

Standing 192cm (6-foot-3) tall, Yan, who plays her club volleyball for Liaoning, was first selected to the national team in 2009. However, it wasn't until the appointment of Lang as head coach four years later that Yan began to fulfill her potential on the international stage.

"When I was a kid, I dreamed of joining the national team. My mother was a huge fan of volleyball with Lang Ping as her idol," she said.

"But it was a tough road. I was selected and dropped out a few times. I think I had not been able to impress because I was not good enough. I told myself to train harder, and I believed I would have my chance one day."

Yan truly blossomed at the 2015 World Cup, where she starred in a decisive victory over Russia with 14 points and six stuffs.

"I was so nervous, because the 2015 World Cup was my first major international tournament. I had dreamed of playing Russia twice during the tournament," Yan recalled.

"When coach Lang asked me to prepare myself to start against Russia the day before the match, I was nervous and excited and looking forward to playing. When the match finally began, I was still very nervous. Fortunately, we had an incredible start and I was able to cool off."

China went on to beat Japan in the final round to win the title, and Yan's fine form continued at the 2016 Rio Olympics where the team bagged gold.

Yan and Lang will continue to work side by side as China prepares to defend its title at next year's Tokyo Games. Yan is under no illusions just how tough that will be.

"For sure the Olympics will be more difficult than the World Cup," she said.

"All the best teams will be there and will be trying their best. It is important for us to improve ourselves and get ready for any challenges we will be facing. I will get myself ready too."

 

Yan Ni unleashes a spike during a World Cup match against Argentina in Osaka, Japan, on Sept 29. LI ZHIYAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-11 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Patriots apologize for video violation in Spygate sequel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/11/content_37528592.htm FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts-The New England Patriots acknowledged on Monday night that a video crew working for the team filmed the Cincinnati Bengals sideline during Sunday's game, a violation of league rules that echoed the team's 2007 Spygate scandal.

In a statement posted on Twitter and the team website, the Patriots said that a three-person crew for a web series, titled Do Your Job, "inappropriately filmed the field from the press box" as part of a feature on the scouting department.

The filming took place "without specific knowledge of league rules," the statement said.

The team also said that while it was granted credentials for the crew from the Browns, the home team, "our failure to inform the Bengals and the League was an unintended oversight". When confronted, the team said the crew "immediately turned over all footage to the league and cooperated fully".

"The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road. There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose," the statement said. "We accept full responsibility for the actions of our production crew at the Browns-Bengals game."

The Patriots were fined $250,000 and docked a first-round draft pick in 2007 for violating NFL rules against using video to steal signals. Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000.

The scandal, dubbed Spygate, helped fuel a widespread distrust of the team that reverberated a decade later when the team was accused of illegally deflating the footballs used in the 2015 AFC championship game. Quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games, and the team was fined $1 million and docked another first-round draft pick.

The latest allegations came to light when Bengals coach Zac Taylor, whose team plays New England on Sunday, confirmed that the league was investigating the crew's activities. An NFL spokesman did not immediately respond to a request from Associated Press seeking comment.

Asked about the reports during his WEEI radio show on Monday, Belichick said that the video crew was completely separate from the football staff.

"We have absolutely nothing to do with anything that they produce or direct or shoot," said Belichick, who did appear on camera in an earlier episode of the series.

"I have never seen any of their tapes or anything else. This is something that we 100 percent have zero involvement with."

 

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2019-12-11 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Ding's the daddy with third UK title]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/10/content_37528420.htm Ding Junhui ended a two-year title drought in stunning style on Sunday and immediately dedicated his return to snooker's top tier to his baby daughter.

The Chinese No 1, who became a father for the first time in August last year, won the prestigious UK Championship for a third time with a 10-6 victory over Scotland's Stephen Maguire in York.

Winning his first ranking event since 2017 propels Ding back into the world's top 10 (No 9), secures his place at January's Masters and raises expectations that the 32-year-old could finally end his wait for a maiden world title at the Crucible next year.

However, family was first and foremost in Ding's thoughts after pocketing a winner's check of 200,000 pounds ($263,000).

"My family give me support and take the pressure," said Ding, who lost his mother to cancer in 2017.

"I want to do my best for my daughter so that when she grows up she thinks that she has the best daddy.

"I was full of confidence the whole week, I had a very clear mind and I've also been in a very happy mood. I still want to win the world championship but this is also a big one.

"For the last two years people have doubted me, asking whether I would win again. Now I believe I can win more, and this is a good start."

Ding's previous UK triumphs came in 2005 and 2009, when as a youngster many had tipped him to go on and dominate the game.

However, that scenario failed to materialize and although the soft-spoken Sheffield-based player, who was born in Yixing, Jiangsu province, has won 14th ranking titles, just four of those were so-called Triple Crown events and the last before Sunday's win was at the 2011 Masters.

There had been little to cheer in 2019 for Ding either, with the Chinese potter suffering three first-round defeats this season.

However, he looked a different player in York and was cueing brilliantly as he accounted for defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan and rising Chinese star Yan Bingtao on his way to the final.

In Sunday's decider, Ding led 5-3 after the first session and won the first two frames of the evening session. A break of 103 earned Maguire frame 11, but Ding countered to make it 8-4 at the interval.

Maguire fought back with 103 and 124 to close to 8-6, but missed a tough red to a center pocket in the next frame. Ding punished the Scot with 131 to go three up with four to play before completing his victory to a standing ovation with his fourth ton (103) of the final.

"I have had to wait a long time to lift a trophy again, and this is a big one," said Ding.

"It has been an amazing week and I have played fantastic snooker. It means everything to me. When Stephen came back to 8-6 he looked strong, but I stayed calm and waited for my chances."

Ding becomes the fifth player to win the UK Championship on three or more occasions, joining O'Sullivan (seven), Steve Davis (six), Stephen Hendry (five) and John Higgins (three).

Maguire paid tribute to Ding's superb break building, saying: "Every time you let him in he scores 100. I told him a couple of frames ago, 'It's not darts we're playing, it's snooker'."

Retired six-time world champion Davis, the man Ding beat to lift his first UK title 14 years ago, reckons the Chinese star could be celebrating Crucible glory next year.

"A lot of people had written Ding off for the world championship but that has been blown right open now," Davis told the BBC.

"I think Ding on his best form is a match for anybody in the world. He's a real headache for the top players."

 

Ding Junhui poses with the UK Championship trophy after beating Stephen Maguire 10-6 in Sunday's final in York-10 years after the Chinese star last won the prestigious tournament. XINHUA

 

 

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2019-12-10 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Shanghai's Giro sampler proves a real smooth ride]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/10/content_37528463.htm Organizers of the inaugural Giro d'Italia Ride Like A Pro event in Shanghai have praised the efforts of the local authorities for making the event a success.

Over 3,000 amateur riders of all ages took part in competitive races and fun rides over the weekend at the National Convention and Exhibition Center in Shanghai's Qingpu district, while a "Legends Race" on Sunday featured the likes of Alberto Contador, Alessandro Ballan, Andy Schleck and Oscar Freire.

"Many of the riders we spoke to today said this is the first time they've seen road closures for such a cycling event in China. No major city in China has ever closed its roads for a 70-kilometer cycling circuit," said Greg Hooton, the event director and vice president of race organizer IMG.

"The roads are not closed completely for some of these events in Italy. To do so is a huge logistical undertaking and the Qingpu government has just been fantastic. We couldn't have done this without them."

Hailing the efforts of the local authorities as "perfect", Enrico Fili, the chief executive officer of RCS Sports-the owner of the Giro d'Italia brand-said that Ride Like A Pro is aimed at promoting not just cycling but also Italian culture to the Chinese market.

A host of Italian brands, including coffee giant Lavazza, added a festival feel to the event, with organizers keen to expand future editions to include more race categories, lifestyle offerings and entertainment options.

"China for us is a very important market because there are many amateur riders and cycling enthusiasts," said Fili.

"During the Giro d'Italia, cyclists travel through Italy and get to see many different traditions, products and ways of life. We want to bring this experience abroad and create a little village in which people can taste Italian coffee and other products. We are trying to put together the best of Italy and showcase this through cycling."

Noting that the growing popularity of cycling in China, Fili added that future editions could even accommodate up to 10,000 riders, while Hooton reckons a Chinese cycling boom is in the making.

"Not many people ran marathons in 2011. Now, you can't even get a spot in the marathon," Hooton said.

"The same is happening here with cycling. The demand is already there. For instance, we had to cap the participation numbers at 3,000 for this first edition and we were completely sold out."

According to Hooton, organizers have an agreement with the local government to host Ride Like A Pro for another four years.

Contador, one of the most successful cyclists of his generation and a two-time Giro d'Italia and Tour de France champion, won the Legends Race on Sunday.

The Spaniard, though, insisted that he hasn't missed the thrills of professional racing since he retired in 2017.

"Whenever I'm at a competition I always try to win. But I'm happy to have ended my competitive career. I gave cycling my all for 15 years and now it's time for other things in life. I still train three days a week but only because this is my passion," he said.

Contador said that he has been kept busy since his retirement-commentating for Eurosport, fulfilling commercial commitments for several brands, as well as working on various projects for his Alberto Contador Foundation.

The non-profit organization currently works with three cycling teams, and the 37-year-old suggested there could be scope to work with Chinese sports bodies in the future.

"The highest level of competition is in Europe. My foundation would be able to help aspiring Chinese riders achieve that level. China needs to have a good strategy to build its talent and we're open to opportunities," he said.

Ballan, who finished second in the Legends Race, also reckons China has the potential to compete on the sport's biggest stages.

"I think China has a big opportunity to put its riders on the world stage-it is a really big country," said the Italian. "It's possible to have an all-Chinese team at the UCI World Tour or Tour de France, but they need get their steps right."

 

A kids' race was one of the many family-oriented activities that were staged as part of the Giro d'Italia Ride Like A Pro event in Shanghai's Qingpu district over the weekend. CHINA DAILY

 

 

Alberto Contador celebrates winning the "Legends Race" on Sunday. CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2019-12-10 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Kerr sees window of opportunity in Warriors' woes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/09/content_37528190.htm Steve Kerr is teaching. And learning. That is his silver lining from this season.

After five consecutive years of being No 1 in the Western Conference-and ending up as NBA champions in three of those seasons-the Warriors are at the bottom of the standings.

Everyone knows why: Kevin Durant left, Stephen Curry got hurt, Klay Thompson got hurt, D'Angelo Russell got hurt, Andre Iguodala got traded, Shaun Livingston retired, DeMarcus Cousins left... it goes on and on.

"You can't have worse luck than they've had," Orlando coach Steve Clifford said.

But to Kerr's credit, the Warriors are desperate to make the best of their situation.

This will be a losing season for Kerr, his first in more than a quarter-century. He was a winner almost every year as a player, a winner in each of his three seasons as an executive in Phoenix, a huge winner in his first five seasons as coach.

He won five titles as a player, three more as a coach. And next year-with Curry and Thompson back, a top-five lottery pick likely, plus new faces that the Warriors will be able to add when some money frees up-he could be a title contender again.

What he's going through this year will make him ready for next year and beyond.

"I think I've learned how to be a better coach, honestly," Kerr said. "I haven't had to coach a situation like this and it's a good reminder that every circumstance is different, every year is different.

"The last five years, we've been a championship contender, so it meant that I had to manage the team through the season, prepare for the playoffs and try to get guys rest when we could. This is much more about teaching and developing young players."

Kerr lost 15 games in his first regular season with the Warriors, 15 more in his third season. The Warriors won the NBA title in each of those years.

With about a quarter of this season gone, they've already amassed 19 losses, with just five wins. Golden State wasn't planning to push the reset button this term but found itself with no choice.

"It's the way of life in pro sports, unless you're the Patriots," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Everybody else, you have to, at some point, recalibrate, retool and reinvent, get back at it-which they will. Even right now, even though they've been decimated by injuries, the tenets and standards that they have had, you can see those habits being built."

Spoelstra and the Heat beat Golden State last week. Spoelstra knows a thing or two about seeing a perennial title contender head in a different direction, after Miami was forced to rebuild things once LeBron James left in 2014 and Chris Bosh's career came to a premature end a couple years later because of blood clots. After the win over the Warriors, he pulled Kerr aside and offered some words of encouragement.

"I've admired Steve just because he's been around winning teams basically his entire career as a player, as an executive and as a head coach," Spoelstra said.

"It's extremely hard to do what they did, even with talent. It's really hard to accumulate that talent but then to get the talent to play together the way they did, it was exquisite basketball that changed the league in many ways."

The basketball isn't exquisite right now.

But when the Warriors are truly back, Kerr will be even better prepared for whatever challenges they face.

"I'm lucky. I've got a great staff," Kerr said. "Mike Brown and Ron Adams have really helped me this year because they've both been through this before, coaching really young teams that have struggled. And I'm learning a lot myself. It's a good dynamic for my own career, to go through this and to feel it."

 

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr has led the Warriors to three NBA championships in the last five years but his team is among the worst in the league this season, with a 5-19 win-loss record. AP

 

 

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2019-12-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Cashing in on game's growth]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/09/content_37528246.htm With Chinese women increasingly a force to be reckoned with on the international stage, and more and more young girls picking up golf clubs, the growing market value of the sport has piqued the interest of the commercial world.

Last week's Women's China Open, which concluded on Sunday in Xiamen, Fujian province, attracted 29 partners, with household furniture giant Red Star Macalline Group installed as the title sponsor for the first time.

"In 2019, we welcomed a new partner as the tournament's title sponsor, and Red Star Macalline is the first domestic title sponsor of the championship," said Tseng-Kwan Pen, the honorary vice-president of the China Golf Association and chairman of the China LPGA Tour.

"Just as the Women's China Open is a national brand, the tournament in turn needs support from the country's national enterprises. The social responsibility and dedication of these enterprises will make Chinese sports stronger."

Macalline's participation was also welcomed by Chinese No 1 Feng Shanshan.

"This is the first time that the tournament's title sponsor is a Chinese domestic brand, so I really want to thank Red Star Macalline for creating the opportunity for me to join the tournament again," said former world No 1 Feng.

Macalline hopes its association with Chinese golf proves to be a lasting one.

"This year, Red Star Macalline stands along with the country's top women golfers to present the best tournament to all the fans," said the group's president, Li Jianhong.

"We hope that our participation will contribute to Chinese women's golf and our golfers' preparations for next year's Tokyo Olympics."

Song Dan, the deputy general manager of marketing for Red Star Macalline Group, said: "About 70 percent of customers in our membership schemes are female, and that proportion is growing.

"So, through the Women's China Open, we hope to improve our relationship with our female consumers.

"We can see the improving development of Chinese women's golf, and that's been proven by the growth of top Chinese golfers such as Feng Shanshan and Zhang Weiwei, who now consistently produce impressive performances at high-level tournaments.

"We will continue to follow the development of Chinese women's golf, hoping that Chinese golfers have a brighter future."

 

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2019-12-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Lin reigns with historic triumph]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/09/content_37528226.htm Lin Xiyu wrote her name into the history books on Sunday when the Guangdong native became the first Chinese mainland player to win the country's national championship-the Macalline Women's China Open.

The LPGA Tour regular closed with a round of even-par 72 for a four-under 284 score and a two-stroke win. The victory for the 23-year-old, her seventh China LPGA title and first win since 2015.

Similar to the history of the US Open where it took 17 years for an Americanborn player to win the tournament, Lin became the first Chinese mainland winner of her country's national championship since it debuted in 2006.

Players from South Korea dominated the Women's China Open for the first 11 years, while Lee Min (75) of Chinese Taipei won last year.

"I am so proud that I can win my national Open in my home country, especially as I am only playing a couple of tournaments (in China) a year," said Lin, who is coming off a personal-best season in the US where she made 19 of 23 cuts.

"More importantly to myself, the last two years I have been through a really tough time. I lost my LPGA Tour card and my world ranking was probably the lowest ever.

"This has been a good year but I couldn't think of a better result than winning a tournament to finish my season."

Xiamen native Liu Yan finished runner-up for the second consecutive year when she closed with a 71. Feng Shanshan, the world No 22 and top-ranked player in the field, was two shots further back after shooting 71 and finishing even-par for the tournament.

Guangdong teenager Ren Yue (72) and Thai Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul (75) were equal fourth at five strokes back.

Lin, who goes by the name of 'Janet', started the day with a two-shot lead and closed with a round that featured four birdies and four bogeys, including one at the last.

"All week, if I put my real Janet hat on, I will say today I am not doing my best and I have so many things to be improving," said Lin, who struggled with her putting throughout the championship.

"My weakness is still pretty obvious, but it's winning the tournament that counts. It means I can handle it the best on the course no matter what happens. Overall, this is a really big week for me in the way I handle everything."

Determined not to finish "runner-up again", Liu came out strong in front of her home crowd with consecutive birdies starting at the 364-yard first to get to three-under.

The 21-year-old then went bogey-double bogey-bogey over the next three holes to drop to one-over. Four more birdies and a bogey at the last hole followed.

"I had a great start and made two birdies in a row, but that double bogey was bad. It showed that I was inexperienced," she said.

"Without that double I could have contended with Lin Xiyu. Those two dropped shots gave me a lesson, which might be a great thing for the future."

 

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2019-12-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Putting talent on path to success]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/09/content_37528227.htm Since its inception in 2006, the Macalline Women's China Open has been an important platform for Chinese talent to launch themselves onto the international stage.

Chinese No 1 Feng Shanshan credits the tournament for playing a pivotal role in her early development, helping her gain valuable experience before she eventually went on to top the world rankings.

After staging its latest edition last week at Orient Xiamen Golf& Country Club in Fujian province, where local star Lin Xiyu ran out a winner on Sunday to pocket a check for 315,000 yuan ($44,790), organizers have big ambitions for the event. They hope that one day it will be held in the same regard as majors such as the US Women's Open and Women's British Open.

"Many people consider the tournament as the cradle for young talent because the Women's China Open is our flagship event," Tseng-Kwan Pen, the honorary vice-president of the China Golf Association and chairman of the China LPGA Tour, told China Daily.

"With a big purse and 50 world ranking points up for grabs, all the best players try to come back for this particular tournament.

"But the LPGA has the highest world ranking points because it has the best players. So how do we break that monopoly? There's a vacuum in Asia. What we want to do is to create a new market in Asia where all the best players can come during their offseason."

Pen reckons southern China's favorable climate for golf is a major reason his organization's ambitious plans for the Women's China Open could ultimately be realized.

"During December, January and February, you have no tournaments in the US, Europe, Japan and Korea because it's too cold. But in southern China, the weather is still fine. So the strategy is to use the offseason time.

"The top Asian players who play the LPGA Tour all return home, so they have the time to play here. We can also attract players from the US and Europe if our purse is high enough. If we can get enough sponsors, we can contact all the best players in the world and invite them to come here.

"The world ranking points available are based on who is playing at your tournament. If we can invite all the world's top players, then we'll have high world ranking points."

However, considering that Chinese golf remains in the infancy of its development, Pen believes that the sport must look beyond traditional methods of promotion to broaden its appeal in the world's most populous nation.

Attracting more sponsors and opening more golf courses would help, but embracing the digital world, he contends, could be a real game-changer.

"It's not just about golf video games, you want something real. So, that's why we should introduce and promote golf simulators," explained Pen.

"You can't simulate basketball or soccer, but golf is different because you don't have to run. You stand there and you hit the ball.

"Nowadays, simulators are very advanced. They can break down your swing, speed and power. They offer analysis and statistics so you can learn how to be a better player. Simulators are not just for education and entertainment, they will eventually evolve into a new type of tournament.

"On a real-life golf course, you can only have about 150 players maximum competing on a single day. On a simulator, you could have 10,000 competing at the same time."

Before that future arrives, however, playing on foreign tours in a bid to emulate Feng's feats remains the best option for China's up-and-coming talent.

Rio Olympics bronze-medalist Feng was the main attraction last weekend in Xiamen, where she finished four shots off Lin's total in third. LPGA Tour star Feng said she was delighted to return to the tournament that has aided so much.

"The Women's China Open was the highest level of tournament I had ever played years ago," said Feng. "For me at that time, I learnt a lot in the tournament. Now I have to make more contributions to Chinese golf."

The 30-year-old reckons it's time for a new generation of Chinese golfers to make a name for themselves on the world stage.

"I've actually witnessed the growth of many young sisters who competed at the Women's China Open. When I played the Women's China Open for the first time, many of them hadn't even started to play golf," she said.

"We need more Chinese players who can shine on the international stage and win honors for our country. That will prove Chinese golf is as good as any country in the world.

"We need more new faces. After all, people must be tired of just hearing the names of our generation of players.

"Every time, there is a discussion about Chinese golf, there are just one or two names."

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China's Lin Xiyu poses with the Macalline Women's China Open trophy after her victory in Xiamen on Sunday. CHINA DAILY

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2019-12-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Austria's 'old guy' Reichelt still living downhill dream]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/09/content_37528242.htm BEAVER CREEK, Colorado-At this precise moment, nothing hurts or aches for Hannes Reichelt.

The 39-year-old Austrian ski racer counts that as a big victory in itself. One of the oldest competitors on the World Cup scene this season, he's hardly feeling his age-for now.

His goal? Race against these youngsters until the 2021 world championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

His provision to that goal? Only if he remains competitive. Any signs of slowing down will force Reichelt to reconsider that decision.

To be back in Beaver Creek, makes him feel young again. This was the spot where he won his first World Cup race, a super-G, in 2005. In all, he's had three super-G victories at the venue and captured his only world championship title on the hill in 2015. Indeed, the slope provides a little fountain of youth for him.

"He looks really young-for his age," teammate Vincent Kriechmayr cracked after a downhill training run on Wednesday where American Ryan Cochran-Siegle turned in the fastest time.

"I can learn many things from this old guy. He's one of the best. He's an idol for many kids."

Through all the bumps, crashes and spills, Reichelt still feels remarkably good. Maybe even the best he's felt in a while. There are no nagging injuries-he broke his toe before last season-and he's coming off a quality prep period. Plus, that cloud hanging over his head has faded.

Reichelt was recently questioned by authorities investigating a blood doping ring in sports. Reichelt denied wrongdoing in the case known as Operation Aderlass. It was reported that Reichelt was questioned over contacting cross-country ski coach Gerald Heigl about training programs.

Heigl has been implicated by cross-country skier Johannes Duerr, whose interview with German broadcaster ARD in January fueled the investigation.

In an Instagram post on Oct 16, Reichelt wrote "the false allegations are officially off the table today".

Reichelt said last week in an interview at the team hotel that authorities combed through his phone records for nearly five months before he was cleared.

It was a weight off his shoulders.

"I can focus," said Reichelt, who finished 1.93 seconds behind Cochran-Siegle's top time on Wednesday. "Sometimes you get the questions and then you're thinking about that. It's a little bit always in your head. But it's away, and it's much better."

Missing from the team this season is Marcel Hirscher, who retired after winning eight straight World Cup overall titles.

No Hirscher means more media coverage for the rest of the team.

"Marcel was taking a lot of pressure off our team," Reichelt said. "But I think the team is good enough to work with the pressure and it's good for our team that we also have more visibility now."

These younger racers keep getting faster and making it harder to keep up. Case in point: Reichelt finished 1.94 seconds behind downhill winner Thomas Dressen of Germany in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend, and 1.61 seconds slower than super-G winner and teammate Matthias Mayer.

"It's still fun," Reichelt said. "This summer was pretty good for me. Hopefully that helps me so that I can compete against the young guys."

Since making his World Cup debut in 2001, Reichelt has been on the podium 44 times, including 13 wins. The one prize that's eluded him, though, is an Olympic medal. His best finish was 10th at the 2006 Turin Games.

Things remaining on his World Cup wish list include: A downhill victory at Beaver Creek and a win in Val Gardena, Italy.

Reichelt will get another shot at Val Gardena later this month. Over the weekend, he finished fourth at Beaver Creek, with Switzerland's Beat Feuz first and Johan Clarey of France and Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria tying for second.

"It's bad that I didn't reach the podium here, because maybe it's the last time here," said Reichelt, who was 0.02 seconds away from a podium position.

As for his long-term plans, that's easy-slow down and enjoy family life. He and his wife welcomed a son in April.

"When you come home, skiing is not the important thing," Reichelt said. "It's only family and that's very nice."

 

Austrian Hannes Reichelt, 39, takes flight during a men's World Cup downhill race at Lake Louise in Canada on Nov 30. AP

 

 

Veteran racer Hannes Reichelt, 39, takes a breather during last weekend's FIS Ski World Cup meet at Beaver Creek in Colorado, where he finished fourth in the downhill. USA TODAY SPORTS

 

 

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2019-12-09 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Genetics of success fueling Liu's Olympic ambitions]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/08/content_37528151.htm Golf can be a lucrative career for those that manage to reach the sport's top echelons, but it's Olympic glory not the LPGA's riches that tops teenage prodigy Liu Wenbo's list of ambitions.

At the 2016 Rio Games, Feng Shanshan pocketed China's first Olympic medal in the sport-a bronze-and now a new generation of golfers are being inspired to follow Feng onto the podium.

However, Liu's Olympic ambition burns brighter than most because of her family upbringing. Liu's mother, Cui Yongmei, was a star player on the great Chinese volleyball teams that competed at the 1988 Seoul and 1996 Atlanta Games, while her father, Liu Feng, is a former professional handball player.

"My mom participated in two Olympic Games and she came back with a silver and a bronze, so I dream one day I can win an Olympic gold and achieve what my mom did not. It would complete both our dreams," Liu told China Daily on Thursday at Orient Xiamen Golf & Country Club, where she is competing at the Macalline Women's China Open.

"Although I might not be able to play at the Tokyo Olympics next year, I'm still young and I will have many chances to fulfill that dream.

"For me, winning an Olympic gold is the most important goal of my professional career. Of course, I want to win as many championships as I can. But if I had to choose one, my dream has always been the Olympic gold."

Liu, who is a member of China's reserve Olympic squad, is already accustomed to doing her country proud, winning an individual silver and a team bronze at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

Cui is proud of her daughter's lofty ambitions, but also realizes they will not be easily achieved.

"Because of her living environment with us, she has always thought highly of Olympic gold," said Cui. "We did not win gold because our generation faced a very strong Cuban team, but our country has a strong tradition in women's volleyball. Golf, however, is still in its infancy in China, and it's not easy to win.

"The journey of being a professional golfer is also very different from being a volleyball player. In volleyball, the coach, team leader and supporting teams take care of everything, but many golfers must make those arrangement all by themselves."

Liu turned professional in September 2018 and admits that adapting to the pro ranks has been tough. A tie for second at last year's Buick LPGA Shanghai has been a rare highlight of the youngster's fledgling career, but, typical of her fighting spirit, the hard slog is making her even more determined.

"My mentality has changed since I turned pro," said Liu. "Playing golf has become a serious career for me, and I take the results of each tournament very seriously. So I feel a lot more pressure. I overthink sometimes, which has affected my performances this year.

"I need to improve both my skills and mentality, and I think to have a more stable mentality is more important for me now. During the first half of this season, I always thought too much about my ranking points and other issues, but I feel like I've been better in the second half."

Liu has now set her sights on joining the Symetra Tour in the United States-a possible pathway to the LPGA Tour.

It's a plan that has got mom's seal of approval.

"Golf is not my profession so I cannot give her too many suggestions on how to play the sport," said Cui. "Also, it's very hard to coach your own daughter. She always just considers you as her mom instead of a coach.

"But I think the experience in the US will be very valuable for her growth. Since she turned pro, her mentality has changed, wanting to win too much. She is facing difficulties now and the pro career is much tougher than she expected, but I believe she will make it through."

 

 

 

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2019-12-08 10:07:37
<![CDATA[Teen titans to showcase potential at junior Presidents Cup]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/08/content_37528138.htm The future of Chinese golf will be on full display when Jin Bo and Xu Andi represent the Chinese mainland and the International Team at the Junior Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia this weekend.

The teenage duo are among five Asian junior golfers, including India's Kartik Sharma, Chinese Taipei's Lin Chuan-tai and South Korea's Lee Jang-hyun, selected to compete in the two-day competition against the United States Team in what is the prelude to the Presidents Cup, which takes place at the same iconic venue from Dec 9-15.

While Li Haotong, China's No 1, will feature in the showpiece event, all eyes will be on Jin and Xu, both 17, who are touted as rising stars in the game.

Jin, who comes from Beijing, was a finalist at the US Junior Amateur this year and also finished third at the Junior Players Championship. He has verbally committed to Oklahoma State University, which counts PGA Tour stars Rickie Fowler, Charles Howell III and Viktor Hovland among its alumni.

"It's definitely a great honor. It's always been one of my goals to play in the Junior Presidents Cup and it's great to have the opportunity to represent my home country and the International Team," said Jin.

He hails from a family with significant golf pedigree. His brother Jin Cheng won the 2015 Asia Pacific Amateur Championship to earn a start at the 2016 Masters, and was also victorious on the PGA Tour Series-China in 2014 as an amateur.

Jin is excited at the opportunity to play under the captaincy of Australian Stuart Appleby, a nine-time PGA Tour winner and five-time International Team member in the Presidents Cup.

He is also keen to tackle the challenging Alister MacKenzie-designed Royal Melbourne masterpiece.

"It'll be an honor being part of Stuart's team. I'm sure he'll share his experiences with us and show what it's like to play alternate shot and the strategies required for match play," said Jin, who considers Tiger Woods as his hero.

"My brother has been down there previously and says the golf course plays completely differently and I'm interested to see how it'll work out."

Ultimately, Jin hopes to find his way to the PGA Tour.

"The goal is to make the PGA Tour and another goal is to play in the Masters, which will be awesome. My brother competed in the Masters after he won the Asia Pacific and I've set it as one of my goals to get there as well," he said.

Xu, who has verbally committed to the University of San Diego, is equally excited at the opportunity to feature in the Junior Presidents Cup.

"To represent the International Team is truly awesome. I've not been to Australia previously and I'm looking forward to the whole atmosphere and experiencing the culture," said Xu.

"I will ask Stuart how to play well under pressure and how to manage it and turning that into something positive."

Like Jin, Woods is also Xu's idol. Fifteen-time major winner Woods will become only the second playing captain in the Presidents Cup when he leads the US Team against an Ernie Els-led International Team next week.

"He's a legend, he's just incredible," said Xu. "He's dominated for so many years and he's my favorite player."

Xu hopes to also feature on the PGA Tour in a few years' time. "I feel that if I keep grinding and work hard every day, I feel that it's definitely possible. I feel you can't force it and you just have to trust the process. It'll eventually come," said Xu, who hails from Guangzhou.

"I want to improve my overall health and fitness level. I didn't work out previously and now I realize how important it is to get fitter and to be able to hit it far is very important. I've been working on my overall physical health and minding my nutrition as well."

 

 

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2019-12-08 10:07:37
<![CDATA[RAISING THEIR GAME]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/07/content_37528137.htm  

Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria glides through the air during the men's downhill race at an FIS Men's Alpine Skiing World Cup meet at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Canada on Nov 30. USA TODAY SPORTS

 

 

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker steals the ball from Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo during an NBA game in Boston on Dec 4. AP

 

 

Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier gets his head to the ball despite the flailing arms of Bournemouth's Jefferson Lerma during an English Premier League game in London on Nov 30. REUTERS

 

 

Myanmar's Naing Aung Myo pulls off an acrobatic move during a sepak takraw (aka kick volleyball) match against Laos at the Southeast Asian Games in Olongapo, Philippines, on Dec 4. REUTERS

 

 

San Jose Sharks left wing Marcus Sorensen eyes the puck as Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov lurks behind him during an NHL game at SAP Center at San Jose on Dec 3. USA TODAY SPORTS

 

 

Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers hurtles over Will Parks of the Denver Broncos during an NFL game in Denver on Dec 1. AP

 

 

Lewis Hamilton enjoys a celebratory glug, along with second-place Max Verstappen (left) and thirdplace Charles Leclerc, after winning Formula One's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec 1. REUTERS

 

 

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2019-12-07 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/07/content_37528152.htm SNOOKER

Ding rattles Ronnie to reach UK quarterfinals

China's Ding Junhui ousted defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-4 to book a quarterfinal berth at the UK Championship in York on Thursday.

England's world No 2 O'Sullivan failed to pot a single ball as the 32-year-old Ding raced into a 3-0 lead with breaks of 81, 52 and 110.

O'Sullivan, who turned 44 on Thursday, fought back to level at 4-4 but could not halt a reinvigorated Ding closing out victory in the next two frames.

Ding, who entered the tournament in terrible form, will next face compatriot Liang Wenbo, while China's 19-year-old Yan Bingtao was due to take to on Scottish veteran John Higgins after stunning two-time champion Neil Robertson of Australia 6-1 on Wednesday.

FIGURE SKATING

Sui, Han take early lead at Grand Prix Final

World champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took the lead in the pairs competition after Thursday's short program at the ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix Final in Turin.

The Chinese duo scored 77.50 points despite an error on their throw triple flip when Sui put her hand down on the landing.

They are seeking to end their wait for a pairs gold at the Final, having won silver two seasons ago in Nagoya, Japan.

Sui and Han were being chased by three Russian pairs, with Alexandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovsky second on 76.65, Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin third, and Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galliamov fourth.

BASKETBALL

Aviators ascend with backcourt buzzer beater

He Xining's backcourt buzzer beater earned the Shenzhen Aviators a 98-95 victory over the Sichuan Blue Whales on Thursday.

With the game tied at 95-all with seven seconds on the clock, Courtney Fortson missed a layup for the Whales before He gathered the rebound and launched his amazing long-range winner for the host with one second left.

He Xining finished with 17 points, with Shen Zijie contributing 23 points and 17 rebounds for Shenzhen. Fortson had a game-high 26 points while Mo Mengchen added 17 from the bench for Sichuan.

The Aviators led 27-14 after the first quarter and, despite eight straight points from Mo in the second, were 46-34 up at halftime.

SOCCER

Brighton piles misery on abysmal Arsenal

Free-falling Arsenal slumped to a 2-1 home loss to Brighton in the Premier League on Thursday, extending the Gunners' winless streak to nine games in all competitions-their worst run since 1977.

Interim coach Freddie Ljungberg clearly hasn't found a quick fix to all the problems that plagued the team under Unai Emery-who was fired last week-and the Gunners looked completely shorn of confidence against the Seagulls, who dominated large parts of the game.

"I don't know what to say. I have the feeling that whatever we do it doesn't come out right," Arsenal rightback Hector Bellerin said. "I am lost for words a little bit."

The loss leaves Arsenal in 10th place after 15 games, 10 points outside the top four and just five points above the relegation places.

OLYMPICS

Infantino nominated to IOC, but Coe must wait

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been proposed as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but World Athletics boss Sebastian Coe will have to wait, IOC chief Thomas Bach announced on Thursday.

Bach said Infantino will be officially put forward as a candidate in January, when he will face a vote from IOC members.

Bach added that Coe has not been proposed for the next session after worries over "the risk of conflict of interest", adding the "door is still open" for the Englishman at the IOC session before next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Infantino's FIFA predecessor Sepp Blatter, who resigned from the governing body amid a major corruption scandal, was an IOC member, but since succeeding the Swiss in 2015, Infantino has yet to follow suit.

 

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2019-12-07 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Xu issues rallying cry for Olympic qualifiers]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/06/content_37528056.htm Team China head coach Xu Limin has urged his players to believe in themselves more ahead of next February's FIBA Women's Olympic qualifying tournament in Foshan, Guangdong province.

"Our players need to build confidence. I feel the team didn't show it enough during the recent Asia-Oceania Olympic prequalifying tournament. We need to build it through training and daily work," Xu told Xinhua.

China will take on Spain, Britain and South Korea in Foshan, with the top three teams earning Olympic berths.

With third-ranked Spain big favorites to top the group, Xu is targeting victories over the Brits and Koreans.

"I wouldn't call it a 'group of death' exactly, but indeed it's difficult, as everyone is strong," he said.

"We will mainly set our sights on Britain and South Korea, but it doesn't mean that we will give up against Spain.

"We can expect an intense matchup in this competition, and anything is possible."

Xu is particularly relishing renewing China's rivalry with South Korea. During prequalifying, China lost its opener against its Asian arch-rival before gaining revenge with two victories to advance as the top finisher.

"The loss (to South Korea) was not beyond my expectations," said Xu. "Our young group was not quite used to their style. We were prepared but failed to reproduce our preparatory work on the day.

"We will meet again in the qualifiers. We need to prepare better for the difficulties ahead.

"Every coin has two sides. We didn't perform to our level because we were overly concerned about South Korea's game. Then we simplified things and played our own game against New Zealand."

For Xu, bouncing back from adversity is an important part of the team's development.

He also hopes that his players can harness the fans' energy in Foshan, but cautioned: "The home advantage is a double-edged sword.

"Everything should go our way if we deal with it properly, but it could pose us huge pressure in the opposite scenario. We have to consider how to motivate our potential at home."

 

Xu Limin

 

 

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2019-12-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA['Calm' challenger vows no celebration]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/06/content_37528095.htm Anthony Joshua said on Wednesday he will not celebrate if he regains his world heavyweight title, as he faced off with rival Andy Ruiz Jr. in a final media conference before their rematch in Saudi Arabia.

On Saturday, Joshua will seek to win back the IBF, WBA and WBO titles that he lost to Ruiz Jr. in a shock June defeat in New York.

The British boxer, 30, said he was "hungry, determined and focused" as he appeared alongside Ruiz Jr. at a news conference in Diriyah, close to the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"I am not here to put on a show, I am here to win," he said.

"When I regain those belts... I am going to keep calm, stay focused. It's not a time to celebrate. It's a time to keep that challenger mindset and move on to the next target."

But Ruiz Jr. insisted he would stay unbeaten.

"There's no way that I'm going to let these belts go," he said.

"I am going to die trying and do anything that's possible. It's been a long journey and a long roller coaster in my life, and now that my dream has come true I will never let this go."

Ruiz Jr. said all the pressure was on Joshua ahead of the rematch.

"I know (Joshua) is going to come with a different game plan, I know he's prepared and I know he's motivated," he said.

"I know he's lost weight and will try to box me around, but it's just my job to prevent that. I'm ready for whatever comes my way."

The rematch will take place in Diriyah, home to a UNESCO World Heritage site and a dramatic contrast to the iconic Madison Square Garden which hosted the first fight, which ended in a seventh-round stoppage.

 

Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua pose in front of promoter Eddie Hearn on Wednesday. ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS

 

 

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2019-12-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Feng challenges next gen to follow in her footsteps]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/06/content_37528094.htm Feng Shanshan says it's time for new Chinese talent to make a name themselves on the world stage-not least because the humble major winner reckons people must simply be bored of hearing her name.

The former world No 1 is the main attraction at this week's $290,000 Macalline Women's China Open, which teed off on Thursday at Orient Xiamen Golf & Country Club in Fujian province.

This week, the 30-year-old again found herself fielding questions about her possible successor as China's No 1.

And while she's not quite ready to relinquish that mantel yet, Feng has urged China's young pretenders, many of whom are gunning for glory in Xiamen this weekend, to take the next step to greatness.

"I've actually witnessed the growth of many young sisters who are competing here. When I played the Women's China Open for the first time, many of them hadn't even started to play golf," Feng told media on Wednesday.

"It'd be great if the young players could produce great performances and one of them win the tournament, because China needs more Feng Shanshans and more Li Haotongs (China's No 1 men's golfer).

"We need more Chinese players who can shine on the international stage and win honors for our country. That will prove Chinese golf is as good as any country in the world.

"We need more new faces. After all, people must be tired of just hearing the names of our generation of players. Every time, there is a discussion about Chinese golf, there are just one or two names.

"There are many young players who are very beautiful and talented, and they will become the idols and stars of our sport and help to level up the overall development of golf in China."

CLPGA order of merit leader Zhang Weiwei is one of the most likely future idols. The 22-year-old has won four CLPGA titles this season, including the back-to-back victories on the tour's two previous stops. Victory at the season-ending tournament in Xiamen would make Zhang the first player in the Chinese circuit's history to claim three titles in a row.

"I would use three words to describe my performances this season: calm, confident and unyielding," said Zhang. "I'm actually not very satisfied with my performances this season, but I've never given up during any tournament.

"I want to win the Women's China Open the most. Also, I have never finished a season as the order of merit leader before. If I can win both this season that would be a great result, which just makes me want it more."

Despite her decades of experience in golf, Feng is uncomfortable with being referred to as a veteran of the sport and still feels she has yet to fully realize her potential.

"I always remember the years when people introduced me as a young player, and suddenly one year people started calling me a veteran," Feng added. "Then people started to call me 'big sister Shanshan' or 'China's No 1 women's golfer'.

"I thank everyone who supported me like that but, honestly speaking, as a professional athlete, I still have not reached the peak of my career. I always believe, to the end, golf is a sport that you have to challenge yourself. I believe I can still improve."

Feng's next major goal is returning to the Olympic podium in Tokyo next year, having bagged a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games.

However, asked if winning Olympic gold is the biggest ambition of her career, Feng was clear where her main priority lies.

"For me the most significant goal has always been becoming the world No 1 player," Feng told China Daily. "Because, there can be only one world No 1 player at any time, which means at that time you are the best in the world.

"I was the world No 1 player, which has been great recognition for my professional career. It was also a huge confidence booster and encourages me to improve and compete with younger players."

Now ranked 22nd, reclaiming top spot would be a monumental feat for Feng. Her triumph at July's Thornberry Creek Classic in Oneida, Wisconsin, was her first victory on the LPGA Tour since 2017.

However, while admitting that she has struggled for consistency of late, Feng also points out that embarking on a winning streak is more difficult than most people probably imagine.

"If golf was an animal, it would be a chameleon to some degree," said Feng. "Just like a chameleon that changes its color all the time, each golf course is unique with different grass and terrain.

"The weather is also different at each tournament, so we constantly have to adjust our tactics to cope with different weather, grass and temperatures."

 

Zhang Weiwei is going for a hat-trick of CLPGA titles at this week's Macalline Women's China Open in Xiamen. CHINA DAILY

 

 

World No 22 Feng Shanshan is the main attraction at this week's Macalline Women's China Open in Xiamen. CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2019-12-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Wu optimistic amid Espanyol's Spain pain]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/06/content_37528093.htm MADRID-Chinese striker Wu Lei reckons his struggling Espanyol team has what it takes to drag itself out of the relegation mire.

Although Espanyol has breezed through its Europa League group, playing in two competitions appears to have taken its toll on a thin squad. The Barcelona-based outfit finds itself second from bottom in La Liga, with just nine points from 15 matches and five points from safety.

Last weekend, Espanyol plumbed new depths when, after surrendering a 1-0 lead at home to Osasuna, it went on to lose 4-2, despite the visitor playing the final 40 minutes with 10 men.

That prompted coach Pablo Machin to publicly cast doubt on his players, but ahead of Saturday's intimidating trip to Real Madrid, Wu is staying optimistic.

"It's a delicate moment for the team. We never imagined we would be in this situation, but I am confident and we all should be confident, because the squad is good enough," Wu said during an online questions-and-answers session to promote a video game this week.

"We really need a win and I'm sure that when we win a game everything will change."

Wu arrived at Espanyol from Shanghai SIPG in January, and says the only difference between his life in Spain and in China is that "here I go to Spanish class once a week".

Despite Team China's struggles in World Cup qualifying, the 27-year-old has been a rare shining light for the national side and remains hopeful it can turn its campaign around and reach the 2022 Qatar finals.

"It would be a dream come true for me and for all of our fans," said Wu, who also had praise for Lionel Messi after the Barcelona superstar won his sixth Ballon d'Or trophy on Monday.

"When you play against him on the pitch, it's not like seeing him on the television," said Wu. "When you face him you can feel his talent and his strength."

 

Espanyol's Wu Lei

 

 

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2019-12-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[United ends Mourinho's honeymoon]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/06/content_37528085.htm MANCHESTER, England-Marcus Rashford spoiled Jose Mourinho's return to Old Trafford on Wednesday night, scoring twice as Manchester United beat Tottenham Hostspur 2-1 to end its former manager's perfect start to his tenure at the north London club.

The England forward put United in front early in the first half and converted a second-half penalty to restore its lead after Dele Alli's exquisite equalizer as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side leapfrogged Spurs, climbing to sixth in the Premier League standings.

Spurs had won its first three games under Mourinho, who replaced the fired Mauricio Pochettino last month.

Struggling United had made its worst start to a season in 31 years but played with energy and adventure and deserved its win.

Smiling manager Solskjaer hailed his youthful side.

"The three points are massive for us," he told the BBC. "We've had too many draws this season and given too many points away from winning positions. It's a great lesson the last two games (Sheffield United and Aston Villa) and we came back in a great manner.

"We've started the rebuilding. We've made decisions that we had to and we're looking to build this club to be better again and I can't think short-term when I'm trying to do that."

The home side deservedly took the lead when Rashford beat Spurs goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga at his near post in the sixth minute-the forward's 11th goal in his past 13 games for United and England.

United could easily have stretched its lead but Gazzaniga made amends by touching a thunderous Rashford shot onto the crossbar.

Tottenham was on level terms six minutes before halftime when Alli pounced on a Serge Aurier rebound to apply a clever finish for his fourth goal in three games.

United was back in front in the 49th minute when Rashford sent Gazzaniga the wrong way from the spot after being brought down by Moussa Sissoko.

United surged forward in search of the winner, with Rashford a constant threat down the left and Daniel James also looking dangerous.

Mourinho threw on unsettled midfielder Christian Eriksen in search of an equalizer as the game remained in the balance, but despite some late pressure against a nervy United, Spurs left Old Trafford empty-handed.

The new Spurs boss, fired by United last December, described his reception at Old Trafford as "nice and polite".

"It's a step back against a team that is playing with the same objective as us, trying to get up the table and reach the top six," he said. "We need to keep going. We made mistakes but it's not good to be crying about them now."

Mourinho won his first three matches in charge of Spurs, with his team scoring 10 goals in the process but he has problems to sort out at the back as he targets a Champions League spot.

United is also eyeing the top four despite a big gap to close. It remains eight points behind fourth-place Chelsea and just seven points above the relegation zone.

 

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford converts a penalty in the 2-1 win over Tottenham. AP

 

 

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2019-12-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Joshua's journey back to basics]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/06/content_37528081.htm Anthony Joshua didn't just lose three world heavyweight titles and an undefeated record when he was beaten by Andy Ruiz Jr. in one of boxing's biggest upsets in a generation. He also lost his aura, his growing sense of invincibility.

So Joshua has had to reinvent himself, strip everything back and, in a sense, start all over.

That began by going back to his roots in Nigeria.

"Because of boxing, I've never had time to go there," Joshua told Associated Press of his first return in 17 years to the homeland of his parents and where he briefly went to boarding school at the age of 11. "In Nigeria, the people love you for you, not for what you have."

At the lowest point of his professional career and with people starting to question him for the first time, Joshua needed time to reflect and to have a dose of reality. He visited Makoko, a slum just off mainland Lagos that is largely a floating community of wooden homes on swampland.

Joshua is adored there, and they mobbed their icon.

"It was good to see hope," Joshua recalled. "Anyone that can bring hope to you, they appreciate it and they appreciate my journey so far. That's what I liked. We are on a journey."

Joshua's journey took an unexpected detour with that loss to Ruiz Jr. in June. But it may well be the making of him.

The Briton heads into the rematch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday as something of a changed man. More humble, more accepting of vicissitudes of his sport, and eager to learn from his mistakes.

Joshua accepts there were plenty of them before the first fight in Madison Square Garden.

He still won't say exactly what went wrong that night in New York, but acknowledges he "wasn't prepared" for the challenge of Ruiz Jr.-a portly Mexican with a big heart, fast hands and unexpected power.

Ruiz Jr., who stood in as a late replacement after Jarrell Miller failed multiple doping tests, knocked down Joshua four times before the fight was stopped in the seventh round, leaving the defeated champion somewhat dazed and disheveled.

Joshua has ignored some calls to dispense with his long-time trainer, Rob McCracken-the pair go way back, to before Joshua won an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Games-but has changed his sparring partners, his routines and his mentality.

"Last time when I lost, I understood why," Joshua told AP in a phone interview after arriving in Riyadh. "I took it like a man, I'd say. I took it like a champion should. Because I understood my mistakes. And I've changed them, I've rectified them.

"If anything wasn't to go my way this time, I just have to say the man is better than me. He is a tricky customer but I think I'm a better fighter than him, even though I didn't get the decision last time. I went straight back in. I didn't say, 'Ah, I need a warm-up fight.' I knew where I went wrong. I know how to improve it, and I've done that."

Time will tell, but there's a sense Joshua is more comfortable in Saudi Arabia than he was in the bright lights of New York five months ago, when he was making his US debut and, maybe, took his eye off the ball.

While retaining that chiseled physique that could not contrast more with Ruiz Jr.'s, Joshua looked slimmer and lighter during his public workouts in Riyadh this week.

And because he is having to prove himself all over again, Joshua said he compares this fight with the first of the 23 in his pro career.

"I have erased the old fight from my memory and I'm approaching it like I'm fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world, which I am. I'm not looking at it as a rematch," Joshua said.

"Even though I've had a belt around my waist, I've always had that challenger mindset because even in my 15th fight, I challenged for the British title. The 16th was for the world title-defend, defend, challenge again-so it's part and parcel of the game now. I'm used to the tough challenges."

Another loss to Ruiz Jr.-in a fight with a reported $70 million purse and being televised by the DAZN streaming service-and there would be serious questions about Joshua, one of Britain's most celebrated sportsmen and someone whose career trajectory was only heading one way until last summer. Fights with the likes of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury would be further away then ever.

But he's not thinking that way. He's embracing taking boxing to a relatively new audience in Saudi Arabia, which in July staged a WBC international welterweight title fight between Britain's Amir Khan and Australian Billy Dib, which was won by Khan.

"Of course people doubt me," Joshua said. "But the main thing is I'm still here. I'm not discouraged. That's all I can say."

 

Anthony Joshua addresses reporters ahead of his heavyweight world-title fight against Andy Ruiz Jr. in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS

 

 

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2019-12-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/06/content_37528059.htm BASKETBALL

CBA champion Ji Zhe dies of cancer at 33

Former Beijing Ducks player Ji Zhe died of lung cancer early on Thursday.

"2:14 am, Dec 5, 2019, after fighting against lung cancer for over a year, Ji Zhe left us," the Ducks said in a statement on social media.

Ji, a three-time CBA champion, was diagnosed with the disease last August, before going to the United States for treatment.

"Ji has gone. He will love basketball as always, like he's never gone. His No 51 jersey will stay here forever," added the statement.

Ji joined the Ducks in 2007. The 6-foot-7 power forward was regarded as a brilliant rim protector, contributing at both ends of the court with his jumpers, 3-pointers and rebounds, and always impressing with his passion and spirit.

He claimed the CBA championship title with the Ducks in 2012, 2014 and 2015 along with Stephon Marbury, now the head coach of the Beijing Royal Fighters.

"This moment I feel saddened for your family members who love you. My bro, my teammate, my companion, my captain, I hope everything is smooth in the other world," Marbury wrote in a touching tribute on social media. "I pray that your family members can bear the pain of loss, and hope they can stand in braveness. They can feel the energy by people who love you everywhere in the world. R.I.P."

SNOOKER

Chinese teenager Yan stuns Robertson

Chinese teenager Yan Bingtao stunned world No 4 Neil Robertson 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals of the UK Championships in York on Wednesday.

Yan raced into a 5-0 lead against Australia's 2010 world champion before Robertson finally opened his account in the sixth frame.

Rising star Yan, who won his first ranking title at the Riga Masters earlier this season, snubbed out Robertson's hopes of a comeback by closing out victory in the seventh.

The 19-year-old, a native of Zibo in Shandong province, will face Scotland's four-time world champion and three-time UK champion John Higgins in the last eight.

China's Liang Wenbo also booked a place in the quarterfinals by beating compatriot Li Hang 6-4. He will next take on either Chinese No 1 Ding Junhui or defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan.

VOLLEYBALL

Guangdong loses but semi hopes still alive

Guangdong Evergrande lost its second group game at the FIVB Women's Club World Championship on Wednesday night, going down in straight sets (25-16, 25-22, 25-21) to Imoco Volley Conegliano of Italy.

The victory sealed Conegliano's semifinal spot at the eight-team week-long tournament in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province.

Paola Ogechi Egonu had a matchhigh 19 points for Conegliano, with Kimberly Hill adding 15.

Eczacibasi Vitra Istanbul of Turkey blanked Itambe Minas of Brazil 3-0(25-17, 25-23, 25-16).

Eczacibasi lost its first match to Conegliano, so Friday's match against Guangdong, which beat Minas in its opener, will decide the second team to advance from Pool A.

SOCCER

Too late for Madrid move, says Lewan

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has ruled out playing for Real Madrid in the future, saying "it is too late" to join the Spanish giant.

Lewandowski has long been linked with a move to Los Blancos, but with Bayern unwilling to let its top marksman leave, the Pole now finds himself contracted with the Bundesliga club until June 2023.

"It's too late for me to play at Real Madrid. I'm 31. I will be playing for a few years and I'm focused on winning trophies for Bayern," Lewandowski said on Wednesday.

"Five years ago something was up between me and Real, but now I'm happy in Munich. I play for one of the greatest clubs in Europe, so there is no need for me to change the team. Here I have everything I need."

Lewandowski has rediscovered his best form this season, scoring 27 goals in 21 games for Bayern and helping Poland qualify for the European Championship finals.

NFL

Announcer suspended for 'dark skin' comment

The San Francisco 49ers have suspended radio analyst Tim Ryan for one game for saying Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson was adept at carrying out fakes because of his "dark skin color with a dark football".

Ryan made the comments on Monday in an interview on the 49ers' flagship radio station KNBR when describing Jackson's ability to fake handoffs and keep the ball on runs that hurt San Francisco in a 20-17 loss to the Ravens last week.

"He's really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing," Ryan said on air. "I mean you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point."

Ryan issued a statement of apology through the team on Wednesday

The 49ers said in a statement that they are "disappointed" in Ryan and that he won't broadcast Sunday's game at New Orleans.

 

Ji Zhe

 

 

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2019-12-06 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Ronaldo's sister fails to see funny side of Virgil's jibe]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/05/content_37527851.htm MILAN-Cristiano Ronaldo's sister failed to see the funny side after Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk joked that the Portuguese forward was "not really a rival" in the Ballon D'Or award voting.

Dutchman van Dijk finished second behind Lionel Messi in Monday's ceremony in Paris, with Ronaldo third.

Juventus forward Ronaldo was absent from the presentation for the prize he has won five times, preferring to go to Milan where he was voted Serie A's Player of the Year.

Asked by a Dutch reporter about Ronaldo's absence, van Dijk replied: "Why, was he a candidate?", provoking an Instagram tirade from Ronaldo's sister, Katia Aveiro.

"Dear Virgil, from where you are now, Ronaldo has come and gone one thousand times," she said.

"Cristiano was three-times league champion in that country where you have played for years and still haven't put your hands on 'the tin'," she said, referring to her brother's Premier League titles with Manchester United.

After listing more Ronaldo achievements with Real Madrid, she said: "Now, Virgil, go and win some of those titles that really matter and we will talk again. When you have a hand full of them, maybe you can sit at the same table as Cristiano."

Ronaldo netted 21 Serie A goals last season to help Juve win an eighth successive Italian top-flight title.

'Pretty close'

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes van Dijk would have been a worthy winner of the Ballon d'Or but understands why Messi lifted it for a sixth time.

"I see it slightly different and a lot of people see it slightly different but that's absolutely no problem," said Klopp. "Lionel Messi, I've said probably 500,000 times in my life already, is probably the best player I saw in my lifetime.

"But I cannot remember a more impressive season from a defender ever. Honestly. So it would have been right if Virg won it. I heard it was pretty close."

Klopp's men are likely to be in contention for awards again next year should they finally end a 30-year wait to win an English topflight league title. Before Wednesday night's visit of Everton, Liverpool led the Premier League standings by eight points.

Messi playing at 37?

Meanwhile, Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni on Tuesday said that he hopes the 2020 Copa America won't be Messi's last appearance at the tournament.

The Barcelona forward will turn 33 during the Copa's 47th edition next year but Scaloni suggested that Argentina's record scorer could still be around in 2024.

"I don't know if it will be his last Copa America, hopefully not," the Albiceleste boss told reporters after the group stage draw ceremony in Cartagena, Colombia.

Messi is still aiming for his first major trophy with Argentina, having been a part of Albiceleste teams that finished as runners-up at the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 Copa America tournaments.

"Argentina-not just Lionel Messi-needs the title," Scaloni said.

After receiving his sixth Ballon d'Or award on Monday, Messi admitted that retirement was "getting closer", though he also said that he intends to keep playing for "many more years".

 

Virgil van Dijk

 

 

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2019-12-05 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Hungary apologizes for athlete's offensive social media post]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/05/content_37527889.htm The Hungarian National Skating Federation has apologized after one of its athletes made an insulting remark about China that prompted the team's Chinese coach to resign.

Olympic champion short-track speed skater Csaba Burjan is facing disciplinary action for the offending social media post, the Hungarian governing body said on Tuesday.

Burjan, a member of Hungary's men's 5,000m relay gold-winning team at the 2018 Winter Olympics, is alleged to have used foul language to curse China in an Instagram post that featured a picture of people waiting to pass through a passport check at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

The short-track team's Chinese coach, Zhang Jing, was so incensed by the comment that she immediately offered her resignation.

Burjan, who later deleted the post, had traveled with teammates from Japan to the Chinese city to compete at this week's Shanghai leg of the International Skating Union World Cup series.

"As a result of Burjan's insulting behavior to China, Zhang, head coach of the Hungarian national short-track team submitted her resignation," read a statement from the Hungarian federation's website on Tuesday.

"The council of the federation apologizes for the attitude, which is completely unacceptable from a national athlete.

"The council decided that, as per the request of the team manager, a disciplinary proceeding will start against Burjan. The result of the proceeding will be communicated to the public."

However, Zhang, known as Lina in Hungary, is not likely to leave the post she took over in 2012 anytime soon after the Hungarian federation said her resignation was not accepted.

The statement added that team manager Akos Banhidi has dropped Burjan from the team for the Shanghai meet, which runs from Friday to Sunday.

Burjan also offered his apologies in a Tuesday social media post, which read: "Deeply sorry for yesterday's post. Was tired after a long trip ... didn't mean it. Hope everybody understands. Sorry again".

Zhang initially announced her resignation on her WeChat account, stating that she was astounded and outraged by Burjan's inappropriate comments.

"I can't tolerate a Hungarian skater, especially a Hungarian Olympic champion making such offensive comments against China," Zhang told Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper on Tuesday.

When asked if she might reverse her resignation decision, Zhang replied: "There is no doubt that they won't let me leave, but my future will depend on their attitude on how to resolve the incident."

A former Chinese national team skater who represented her country at the 1994 Winter Olympics (Lillehammer, Norway), Zhang has seen her coaching career flourish after moving to Hungary.

She has helped the European nation win over 150 short-track medals, including its first Winter Games gold (5,000m relay) claimed by Burjan, Viktor Knoch and Chinese-Hungarian brothers Sandor Liu Shaolin and Liu Shao'ang.

In recognition of her efforts at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Hungarian President Janos Ader invited Zhang and the team to the presidential palace in Budapest for a celebration banquet.

 

Zhang Jing

 

 

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2019-12-05 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/05/content_37527888.htm VOLLEYBALL

Tianjin chucks away lead to drop opener

Chinese and Asian champion Tianjin Bohai squandered a two-set lead to crash to defeat in its opening match at the FIVB Women's Club World Championship in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, on Tuesday.

Tianjin, captained by Team China superstar Zhu Ting, appeared to be cruising to victory when it claimed the first two sets, 25-17 and 25-15, against Italy's Igor Gorgonzola Novara.

However, the Italians dragged themselves back from the brink, thanks mainly to a drastically improved service performance, as they reeled off the next three sets (18-25, 15-25, 11-15) for victory.

Zhu and Li Yingying scored 20 points apiece for Tianjin, with Yuan Xinyue adding 16.

Guangdong Evergrande gave the home fans something to cheer when they defeated Brazil's Itambe Minas 3-1 (25-22, 28-26, 23-25, 25-22).

SNOOKER

Ding to face O'Sullivan at UK Championship

Ding Junhui set up a last-16 encounter with defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan by beating Ali Carter 6-4 at the UK Championships in York on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old Chinese No 1, a two-time UK champion, raced into a 4-0 lead with a top break of 104. Carter, though, wasn't going down without a fight and battled bravely to trail 4-5 before Ding closed out victory with a break of 116.

"I'm looking forward to it. I like playing Ding," said world No 2 O'Sullivan, who beat Thailand's Noppon Saengkham 6-2. "He looked like he was playing good. It should be fun."

China's Liang Wenbo and Yan Bingtao also advanced, with victories over Eden Sharav (6-4) and Jack Lisowski (6-3), respectively.

NFL

Soaring Ravens rated top team in media poll

Lamar Jackson and the surging Baltimore Ravens passed their latest test.

The Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 on Sunday for their eighth consecutive victory and, as one of five teams with a 10-2 record, are the unanimous choice as the top team in the latest Associated Press Pro32 poll.

The Ravens earned all 12 first-place votes for 384 points in balloting on Tuesday by media members who regularly cover the NFL.

Despite the loss, the 49ers remained third in the poll.

The Seattle Seahawks climbed two spots to No 2 after a 37-30 win on Monday night over the Minnesota Vikings, who dropped four spots to No 10.

The New Orleans Saints remained at No 4. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots dropped three places to No 5.

BASKETBALL

Free-falling Warriors axed from TV schedule

The Golden State Warriors are no longer must-see TV.

The NBA is taking two upcoming Golden State games off the North American TV schedule, with the injury-riddled former dynasty owning the worst record in the league.

Golden State was scheduled to play on ESPN against Utah on Dec 13 and against Portland on Dec 18. The league announced on Tuesday that both games would be replaced.

The Warriors are playing without the injured Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, while Kevin Durant departed for Brooklyn in the summer. All that upheaval means they have been forced to use a number of unfamiliar players.

Golden State was one of the league's biggest draws during its run to five straight NBA Finals but is currently 4-18.

 

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2019-12-05 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Team USA skier making British switch]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/05/content_37527874.htm Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who competed for the United States at the last two Winter Olympics, said on Tuesday he hopes to represent Britain at the 2022 Games.

The 28-year-old dual citizen, who was born to a British mother and American father, won a silver medal in slopestyle at Sochi in 2014 for Team USA but said he would make the switch for the Beijing Olympics.

"This is definitely going to be my last-my swansong if you will-and I just want to do it for my mum," he told Sky Sports News.

"She has been my number one supporter. She learned how to ski when I learned how to ski. She was 40 and I was three, and it was this thing that we fell in love with together."

Kenworthy said he would be in better shape for the Games thanks to Britain's less-demanding qualifying process.

"I compete in multiple disciplines, and for the US our qualifying process is right up until the Games. It is rigorous and my body was basically destroyed right up until the last Olympic Games," he added.

Kenworthy, who came out as gay in 2015, said he hoped to be an inspiration to the next generation of LGBTQ athletes with dreams of Olympic glory.

"It's not easy to come out-it's quite scary-and I think, because there is a lack of people that have done it, that makes it even more scary," he said.

"There certainly is a stigma that surrounds it and, if you're in a team sport, then there's a fear that you are going to mess up the team dynamic, and that things are going to change or shift, and you don't want to be responsible for that.

"If you're in an individual sport, you're worried about losing endorsement deals or being judged poorly, so all those fears are valid unfortunately.

"But once you do come out and take that leap of faith, people will tell you that it's very liberating, that it's very freeing and usually you perform better."

 

Gus Kenworthy

 

 

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2019-12-05 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Taking the scenic route to endurance-running glory]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/05/content_37527886.htm At over 150 kilometers long, the BMW Hood to Coast China Relay is high on the list of must-run races for most endurance addicts.

To meet the soaring demand for the 24-hour team test, which staged its third edition in Hebei province in July, organizers have this year added a second race, which takes place on the island province of Hainan this weekend.

Starting from Saturday midnight, a total of 400 teams comprised of 2,000 domestic and international runners will take on the grueling challenge in the picturesque Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone.

A grand party awaits those who manage to reach the finish line at Yalong Bay Central Square Beach.

"For runners from all the different countries, it's a wonderful experience to come to a warm coastal city during winter time," said Felicia Hubber, the chairwoman and race director of Hood To Coast Relay and Race Series.

"I checked the track in Hainan with our partner Starz Sports in late 2016, and I was impressed by the scenic view and distinctive natural beauty-from the mountains to the coastline. I'm looking forward to standing with the runners at the start line on Saturday and I hope all the participants have a great experience in Hainan."

The original Hood to Coast Relay, founded in 1982, takes place in the US state of Oregon every August. The series debuted in China in 2017 when 805 runners participated; a year later the field grew to 1,280.

Completing the race requires a cohesive effort from the five-member teams. Each of the Hainan course's 15 sections must be completed by one team member while the other four travel by car and interchange at the end of every leg.

The BMW Hood to Coast China Relay staged its third edition at 2022 Winter Olympics co-host city Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, in July.

The race attracted 1,800 runners, making up 360 teams. Starting at Thaiwoo Ski Resort, the field traversed tough mountain terrain and bucolic grasslands before finishing at Senado Field.

Hainan will be quite a different racing environment, with its route through rainforest and coastline likely to be a new experience for the majority of the field.

It is the first time Hainan is hosting such a long-distance relay, with local organizers seeing it as a great opportunity to boost the island's tourism industry.

"The combination of sports and tourism also means the combination of sports and the city's local economy, culture and geographic features," said Li Lu, the general manager of Starz Sports Running Culture.

"As an international event, Hood to Coast has a long history and the relay has reached runners from over 40 countries and regions in the world.

"With the relay's steady development and growth in China, we believe the race in Hainan will be attractive to runners from all over the world. It will not only help to build a new sports brand in Hainan, but will also benefit the local economy."

For those not quite ready to take on the 150.4-km challenge, organizers are also staging an easier run which is open to teams of three who are tasked with completing just three of the main event's 15 legs.

 

 

 

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2019-12-05 00:00:00
<![CDATA[China's champion pair pursuing perfection]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/05/content_37527885.htm China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are striving for perfection as they bid to win their first ever gold medal at the International Skating Union's (ISU) Grand Prix Final, which starts on Thursday in Turin.

After an impressive season on the circuit, the two-time world champions are tipped to top the podium in Italy but can expect tough competition from compatriots Peng Cheng and Jin Yang, who were runners-up last year in Vancouver. Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, as well as emerging Russian duo Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii, are also expected to challenge for medals.

Sui and Han, who won silver at last year's Olympics, have triumphed this year at the Cup of China and NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan, and arrive in Italy with a season's best of 228.37 points.

However, despite their favorites tag, they are taking nothing for granted in Turin.

"Even though we won two trophies in a row at home and in Sapporo, we feel we still have room to improve," Sui told China Sports Daily.

"We mad some tiny errors during our Sapporo routine which helped expose a technical issue which was hampering the consistency of our execution.

"Our goal is to perform to the best of our ability in Turin and, from there, to go for the best possible result at the world championships (in Montreal in March)."

Hanyu's history bid

In the men's competition, Japan's Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu will bid to become the first skater to win five golds at the GP final.

Hanyu returns to the elite six-skater event after a two-year absence looking to topple US rival Nathan Chen.

Hanyu, who turns 25 this week, won four consecutive Grand Prix Final titles between 2013 and 2016, and a fifth would see him overtake Russian great Yvegeny Plushenko and Irina Slutskaya.

The two-time Olympic champion has been in fine form with two of the highest scores this season and wins at Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy.

Two-time world champion Chen, 20, also has two victories-at Skate America and the French Grand Prix-as he targets back-to-back titles in the Final.

Chinese champion Jin Boyang, a two-time world bronze medalist, s also expected to be in contention for a podium place, but Hanyu has no doubt who is main rival will be.

"I know it will be a fight between Nathan and me," he said.

Chen toppled Hanyu at last year's worlds and has been on a winning streak since finishing fifth at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

'Quad Queen'

In the women's event, Japan's Rika Kihira and US newcomer Bradie Tennell will bid to thwart Russia's Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova, who wants to reclaim the title she lost last year to 17-year-old Kihira in Vancouver.

Russia's Alena Kostornaia, Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova are also a threat in their first senior season, with two wins each in the Grand Prix series.

Trusova-dubbed the "Quad Queen"-has been attempting four quad jumps in her program on her way to wins at Skate Canada and the Cup of Russia.

In ice dancing, four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, are on course to reclaim the title after record scores this year.

They missed last year's final through injury, with Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue the defending champs

AFP contributed to this story.

 

China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong perform in the pairs short program during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Sapporo, Japan, on Nov 22. AP

 

 

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2019-12-05 00:00:00
<![CDATA['Monster' Xu certain best has yet to come]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/05/content_37527887.htm China's only reigning professional world boxing champion, Xu Can, believes his journey in the ring has only just begun.

Xu, known as "the Monster", successfully defended his WBA featherweight title for the second time with a unanimous decision against American Manny Robles III last month in California.

The 25-year-old threw an astounding 1,562 punches in the fight-a new featherweight record and the sixth-highest total in all divisions, according to CompuBox stats. His blitz was even more impressive given he didn't seem to tire as the fight went on, throwing (125) and landing (46) the most punches in the 12th and final round.

"I didn't know that I did that. My eyes were hit in round eight, so from then on I could barely see him or focus on anything," said Xu at his M23 Boxing Club in Beijing on Monday.

"I got lost in the panic for about 10 seconds. Then I came back."

Xu did indeed regain his composure, steadily wearing down Robles with quick-fire combinations that invariably ended with sharp hooks to Robles' body-a technique he has learned from famed Cuban coach Pedro Diaz.

"I can feel that Pedro has very strong power inside him," said Xu. "He helped me to become a more confident man, to show who I am in the ring."

This new-found confidence is also aiding Xu's preparations. In the past, he was prone to pushing himself too far in training but now tries to limit the self-torture as much as possible.

Xu called out Britain's IBF titleholder Josh Warrington after the Robles victory as the Chinese brawler looks to level up to the more prestigious 'Super' champion category.

2019 has been a whirlwind year for Xu. He became China's first WBA champion by dethroning Jesus Rojas of Puerto Rico by unanimous decision in Houston, Texas.

In May, Xu retained his belt in his hometown of Fuzhou, Jiangxi province, by seeing off Japan's Shun Kubo via technical knockout. November's defense further enhanced Xu's credentials, with his promoter claiming the boxing world has now really taken notice.

"Xu Can is a real man of steel. He has many valuable qualities that you can find in every top professional athlete," said Lu Xiaolong, CEO of Max Power Promotions.

"Maybe it's how the Chinese professional market runs: you need to prove yourself constantly, then the market will eventually admit you and accept you."

 

Xu Can

 

 

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2019-12-05 00:00:00
<![CDATA[2022 Beijing Games launching worldwide search for volunteers]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/04/content_37527573.htm Beijing is launching an 18-month global recruitment drive as it looks to hire around 27,000 volunteers to work at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

An online application system will be available from Thursday, which coincides with the United Nations' annual International Volunteer Day, and will be open to both domestic and overseas applicants.

Successful candidates will be trained to assist organizers in 12 job categories specifically during the 17-day Olympics as opposed to the build-up to the Games, including international liaison, competition organization, media operation and venue service, in Beijing and co-host Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, according to the organizing committee's human resource department.

It's envisaged that many of the volunteers will also serve at the 10-day Winter Paralympic Games.

Drawing on its experience of hosting the 2008 Summer Games, the 2022 recruitment push will further promote the country's volunteering spirit, said Yan Cheng, human resource director of the 2022 organizing committee.

"With stories of the 2008 Games' volunteers still warming our hearts, we are embracing yet another opportunity with the 2022 Winter Olympics to raise greater awareness of volunteering service in society, which is no doubt inherited from the Olympic legacy," said Yan, who also oversaw work on the 2008 volunteer program.

In 2008, a total of 100,000 volunteers served at competition venues, while an additional 400,000 city volunteers were stationed at major transport hubs, hotels, malls and scenic spots across the capital.

The 2022 volunteers are expected to be mostly comprised of domestic college and high school students, overseas Chinese and international applicants. The entire recruitment process will last one and a half years, with the deadline set for June 30, 2021.

Offline applications will be possible via the organizing committee's partner agencies worldwide, while basic tests and background checks will be conducted before quality assessment and professional training.

The 2022 organizing committee is encouraging retired winter sports athletes to apply for positions involving professional and technical skills at competition venues.

"We welcome anyone who respects and obeys Chinese laws, is enthusiastic about volunteering, and is physically and mentally capable of working in a team to join us for the 2022 Games," said Yan.

A special logo and theme song for will be launched for the volunteer program on Thursday at a grand ceremony staged at western Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park, one of the 2022 venues.

As part of the overall 2022 volunteer program, which was initiated at the 1,000-day countdown to the Games in May, the organizing committee has already recruited 130 people to work at its Shougang headquarters and since October 2018 has assembled 300 amateur skiers to service the slopes at mountain resorts during the Games.

"Hopefully, what we are doing today will leave a great human-resource legacy for urban development, social service and the winter sports sectors in our country beyond 2022 just like the 2008 Games did," said Yan.

 

Beijing 2022 volunteers will be comprised mostly of domestic students, overseas Chinese and international applicants. XINHUA

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Messi eyeing more golden years]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/04/content_37527642.htm PARIS-Lionel Messi said he hoped to carry on undimmed by age after claiming a record sixth men's Ballon d'Or award at the age of 32 in Paris on Monday, while USA World Cup superstar Megan Rapinoe took the women's prize.

Rapinoe was not at the Chatelet Theatre in the French capital, unable to make the trip back to the country where she led the USA to victory in July.

However, Messi was there with his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, and two of their children. It is Messi's first Ballon d'Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

"It is 10 years since I won my first Ballon d'Or here in Paris and I remember coming here with my three brothers. I was 22 and it was all unthinkable for me what I was going through," Messi said on stage after receiving the award from last year's winner Luka Modric.

"I hope I have several years left to keep enjoying my football. I am aware of the age I have and these moments are all the more enjoyable because the moment when I have to retire is getting closer and that is difficult.

"All going well, I'll have several years left but at the moment time seems to be flying and everything is happening very quickly.

"I hope to keep enjoying my football, my family, facing my rivals and all of this life that I have."

The Barcelona No 10 won this year's prize-organized by France Football magazine and voted for by a panel of journalists from around the world-ahead of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, with Ronaldo third.

It is the first time since 2010 that Ronaldo has failed to rank in the top two.

Having starred in the Liverpool team that won the Champions League, van Dijk finished second to Messi just as he did in the voting for FIFA's equivalent prize, The Best, in September.

"Unfortunately there are a couple of players like him who are a bit unnatural. Six times Ballon d'Or-you need to respect greatness as well," said van Dijk.

Van Dijk was one of four Liverpool players in the top 10, with Sadio Mane fourth, Mo Salah fifth and Alisson seventh. The latter won a new prize for the goalkeeper of the year, named after former Soviet Union icon Lev Yashin.

Messi has scored 46 goals in 54 matches so far in 2019, and netted 36 times in 34 La Liga matches last season as Barcelona won the Spanish title.

He did not enjoy a successful Copa America with Argentina but was also the top scorer in last season's Champions League with 12 goals.

As if any reminder of his brilliance was required, on Sunday he scored a wonderful late winner for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid.

'Incredible year'

This is just the second year that a women's Ballon d'Or-voted for by 48 journalists-has been awarded, with Rapinoe succeeding Norway's Ada Hegerberg.

Rapinoe was the star of the Women's World Cup both on and off the field, winning the Golden Boot for top scorer, with six goals, and Golden Ball for best player.

She scored the opening goal as the USA beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.

But the 34-year-old feminist icon made headlines with her outspoken criticism of US President Donald Trump during the tournament and has led calls for her team to be paid the same as their male counterparts.

"It's been an incredible year," said Rapinoe in a video message.

"I want to say a huge thank-you to my teammates, the coaches, the US Soccer Federation, for all of the support to allow me to be who I am and do what I do on the field but also be the person who I am off the field."

Rapinoe was one of four members of the US side that lifted the World Cup to be nominated for the prize, along with Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle and Alex Morgan, who finished third on Monday. England's Lucy Bronze came second.

Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt, the ex-Ajax star now at Juventus, succeeded Kylian Mbappe as the winner of the Kopa Trophy for the best player aged under 21.

 

Lionel Messi poses with his six Ballon d'Or trophies during the annual awards ceremony to crown soccer's best player at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Monday. REUTERS

 

 

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2019-12-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/04/content_37527574.htm BASKETBALL

Zhou, Franklin scoop November CBA awards

Zhou Qi and Jamaal Franklin have been named the CBA's players of the month for November.

Zhou was honored among domestic players with an average of 22.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.5 blocks as the Team China international led the Xinjiang Flying Tigers to a 10-2 record, the second-best in the league.

Franklin scooped the best foreign player prize after averaging 31.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 10 assists and 2.1 steals with the Shanxi Brave Dragons.

"I'm excited about winning the player of the month, but I'm more excited about our team playing well right now. We've got to be a team taking one game at a time and staying together. We are nobody from nowhere. Just stay together," Franklin said in a video message.

SNOOKER

Trump toppled by Bond at UK Championship

World No 1 Judd Trump crashed out of the UK Championship in York on Monday, losing 6-3 to fellow Englishman Nigel Bond in the last 16.

It looked like Trump would cruise to victory after easing into a 3-1 lead, however the reigning world champion suddenly lost momentum as veteran Bond reeled off the next five frames for victory.

"I "m really happy with the way I played. It was great to score well today," said the 54-year-old Bond, who spends more time coaching than competing nowadays.

"Coaching is a good distraction for me. I cannot practice seven or eight hours a day. I'm too old for that," said Bond, who is ranked 98th in the world.

China's Li Hang was in hot potting form, racking up two breaks of 131 en route to a 6-4 triumph over Marco Fu. Stuart Bingham ousted China's Zhao Xintong 6-1 while John Higgins saw off Ian Burns with the same scoreline.

BADMINTON

Momota, Chen the top seeds at Tour Finals

Kento Momota of Japan and Chen Yufei of China will be the top seeds at this month's BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou.

The top eight-ranked players in each category, will do battle at the $1.5 million season-ending tournament, which begins on Dec 11.

Reigning world champion Momota will be seeking his second Finals title after lifting the trophy in Dubai four years ago, with China's Chen Long seeded fourth.

World No 1 Chen is the player to beat in the women's draw, which features defending champion PV Sindhu of India.

China's Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen will defend their men's doubles crown as fifth seeds, while their teammates Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping will go for mixed doubles glory. In the women's doubles, China's Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan will defend their newly gained world No 1 ranking in front of the home fans.

SOCCER

Spurs star Son wins third Asian accolade

South Korean Son Heung-min was named the AFC's Asian International Player of the Year for the third time in Hong Kong on Monday.

The Tottenham striker, who was also awarded the accolade in 2015 and 2017, has been a shining light for his club again this year.

The 27-year-old scored 12 goals and provided six assists as Tottenham finished fourth in the Premier League last term and reached the Champions League final in Madrid, where Spurs lost to Liverpool.

Qatari forward Akram Hassan Afif, who plays for Al Sadd on loan from Spanish club Villarreal, and Lyon's Japanese midfielder Saki Kumagai, who fended off competition form China's Li Ying, won the AFC men's and women's Player of the Year awards, respectively.

TENNIS

Federer on the money with Swiss coin honor

Roger Federer is to become the first living Swiss to have a coin minted in their honor, with a commemorative 20 franc ($20.02) silver piece bearing his image being issued in January.

Swissmint confirmed that 55,000 of the coins, featuring Federer delivering a backhand, will be produced and are now available for pre-order until Dec 19.

"Roger Federer's sporting achievements, his charitable commitments, his easygoing nature and his accessibility to his fans have prompted Swissmint to dedicate this 20-franc silver coin to him-the first time it has done so with a living person," said a Swissmint spokesperson.

"Thank you Switzerland and Swissmint for this incredible honor and privilege," Federer wrote on Twitter.

Ex-Olympic champion jailed for sexual abuse

Austrian judoka and two-time Olympic champion Peter Seisenbacher was sentenced to five years in prison for the sexual abuse of minors and the abuse of his authority in Vienna on Monday.

Seisenbacher, 59, showed no reaction to the ruling, although his fans and associates from the Austrian judo scene were visibly stunned by the verdict. In his ruling, judge Christoph Bauer explained that the witnesses for the prosecution had all made "a very credible impression".

The abuse took place in Vienna between 1999 and 2004. The women filed charges in 2013 but Seisenbacher had fled the country before the first trial date on Dec 19, 2016. He was captured on the Ukrainian-Polish border earlier this year.

The two-time Olympic champion had written Austrian sports history by winning consecutive gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and in Seoul in 1988.

 

Zhou Qi

 

 

Chen Yufei

 

 

Roger Federer

 

 

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2019-12-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Li raring to make most of Melbourne matchup]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/04/content_37527612.htm Li Haotong says he will be bursting with pride when he becomes the first Chinese mainland golfer to play in the Presidents Cup next week.

The 24-year-old is part of the Ernie Els-captained International Team bidding to interrupt American dominance of the biennial event by beating the Tiger Woods-led United States Team in Australia from Dec 9-15.

Li is raring to showcase Chinese golf to the world at Royal Melbourne-the scene of the Internationals' solitary Presidents Cup victory in 1998-and is also dreaming of the day his own country might be host. Since the event began in 1994, South Korea remains the only Asian nation to stage the tournament, in 2015.

"As Chinese golfers, it is our responsibility and obligation to promote Chinese golf to the world and I'm proud to be one of them. I think we should try hard with better performances to show Chinese golf," said Li.

"I think such events will help promote Chinese golf a lot. I'm looking forward to having the Presidents Cup in China one day. Chinese golf should be impacted positively."

A two-time European Tour winner, Li qualified automatically as one of the top eight players for Els' 12-man squad and is determined to produce a memorable debut.

"Everyone in the team must play as best as we can. Then we may have a chance to win. It definitely means a lot to me to be on this team," said Li.

"I was quite close to being on the team in the last edition. I feel I put in a lot of effort to get into this team. I just want to go there and show my golf to the world."

Li initially shot to prominence by winning the inaugural PGA Tour Series-China order of merit title in 2014 and has since blossomed into a leading international star, ranked 64th in the world.

One of his most memorable triumphs came at the 2018 Dubai Desert Classic, where he defeated four-time major champion Rory McIlroy with a final-hole birdie after battling head-to-head in the closing round.

The Presidents Cup is a matchplay event, and Li is certainly no slouch in that format either.

Earlier this year, the tenacious Chinese overcame Ryder Cup star Alex Noren and world No 1 Brooks Koepka to reach the knockout phase of the World Golf Championships Match Play in Austin, Texas. Representing Asia at the 2018 Eur-Asia Cup in Malaysia, Li was unbeaten in three matches, owning a 2-0-1 record.

Li has forged a close friendship with South African legend Els, whom he played with in the final round of the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale, where the then-unheralded Chinese announced himself to the world by closing with a final-round 63 to finish third-his best result to date in a major.

"Ernie is a very special person to me personally. He has a lot of experience and I can learn a lot of great things from him. It's my honor to be part of his team," said Li.

"Hopefully I can get some points, especially against Tiger and the best golfers in the world. I'm very excited to get there. To be fair, our team is not as strong as the US Team. So we just want to play our best and hopefully beat them."

With CT Pan of Chinese Taipei also making his debut for the Internationals, there is every likelihood that Li and Pan will be paired by Els in either the four-ball or foursome sessions.

Li is looking forward to returning to Melbourne where he received plenty of local support when China finished joint second at the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf in 2016.

"I have talked a lot with CT during tournaments. It would be great (to play together)," he said. "I've been there a couple of times and I just want to be back again. It will be incredible for sure and the people will support us."

Charity

The Presidents Cup is a unique golf event in that there is no purse or prize money. Players are not paid for their participation, but each competitor allocates an equal portion of the funds generated to charities of his choice.

Since the event's inception, more than $49.1 million has been raised for charity from event proceeds, as well as contributions made on behalf of the tournament, including a record donation of $10.7 million from the 2017 event alone.

To purchase tickets to the Presidents Cup or learn more about travel packages, please visit PresidentsCup.com.

 

Li Haotong, pictured in action at The Memorial Tournament in Ohio in June, will become the first Chinese mainland golfer to play in the Presidents Cup when he tees off for the Ernie Els-captained International Team. GETTY IMAGES

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Ronaldo reigns in Italy]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/04/content_37527575.htm Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Italian league's player of the year on Monday following his debut season at Juventus.

Ronaldo was at the Gran Gala del Calcio in Milan to collect his prize, instead of attending the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris where he was third in the voting for best player in the world.

The Juventus forward turned up about an hour before the main award was announced, arriving more than two hours after the other guests, and waited outside in the car until the moment came for him to go on stage to pick up the prize for his place in the team of the season.

"It's an honor to hold this award," Ronaldo said in Italian. "I thank my Juventus teammates.

"I'm very happy to play in Italy, it's a very difficult league. Thanks to everyone for having voted for me. I want to do as well this year, too."

For the first time at the Italian ceremony there were also awards for female players. Roma and Italy forward Manuela Giugliano won the top prize.

All the awards are voted for by a mix of players, coaches, referees and journalists.

Ronaldo signed for Juventus from Real Madrid in July 2018 and helped the Bianconeri to their eighth successive Serie A title.

The 34-year-old scored 28 goals in all competitions for Juve, including 21 in the league.

Gian Piero Gasperini won the award for best coach after leading Atalanta to third place and a Champions League berth.

Bergamo-based Atalanta was the team of the season, ahead of Juventus and Italian Cup winner Lazio.

"This award I share with the whole club, all the players, the whole of Bergamo because we did something really amazing, all of us together," Gasperini said.

Gasperini beat former Juventus coach Max Allegri and Bologna boss Sinisa Mihajlovic.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

 

 

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2019-12-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[PSG boss quizzed by police]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/04/content_37527641.htm GENEVA-Paris Saint-Germain chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi and FIFA's disgraced former secretary-general Jerome Valcke were being questioned on Monday by Swiss prosecutors probing alleged corruption in the attribution of soccer broadcasting rights.

The Swiss attorney general's office (OAG) described the interrogations as "final examination hearings" in the criminal investigations opened in March 2017.

Al-Khelaifi, who is also the boss of Qatari television channel BeIN Sports, is suspected of giving inappropriate gifts to Valcke-including rent-free access to a luxury property-in order to secure broadcast rights to prestigious events, including the World Cup.

Valcke, formerly ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, is suspected of awarding those rights in exchange for bribes.

A third, unnamed suspect in the case-described by Swiss prosecutors as "a businessman in the sports rights sector"-is also accused of paying bribes to secure broadcast rights.

"All three suspects complied with the OAG's invitation to appear in person," the statement said.

It added that it was not yet clear whether formal indictments would be filed against any of the suspects or whether the cases would be abandoned.

In a statement, BeIN said the accusation that Al-Khelaifi had secured a favorable deal for the TV rights in the Middle East and North Africa for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups "has no single basis in law or fact".

"For this reason a motion to dismiss proceedings will be filed by Mr Al-Khelaifi's lawyers this week," the statement added.

Valcke's lawyer said the former FIFA official denies the accusations.

Al-Khelaifi was separately charged in May by French prosecutors in connection with Doha's candidacy to stage the World Athletics Championships.

French prosecutors are looking specifically at two payments of $3.5 million (3.18 million euros) in 2011 by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment, a company run by Nasser's brother Khalid Al-Khelaifi, to a sports marketing firm run by Papa Massata Diack.

Diack's father, Lamine, was president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (now known as World Athletics) from 1999 to 2015 and a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Valcke, who worked with Blatter from 2003-2015, has been banned from soccer for 10 years for failing to cooperate with investigators, the resale of World Cup tickets and inflated expenses.

 

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2019-12-04 00:00:00
<![CDATA[2022 preparations peak in mountains of Yanqing]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/03/content_37527299.htm Despite strong winds and a bitter winter chill, the construction site of the National Alpine Ski Center is bustling with workers and machinery busy grooming snow trails that wind down Xiaohaituo Mountain in northwest Beijing's Yanqing district.

In just two months' time, the resort, nestling in forest at over 1,200 meters above sea level, will make its debut by hosting an International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Ski World Cup meet from Feb 15-16. Crucially, the event will serve as an early test run for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The venue, China's first Olympic-standard Alpine resort boasting a vertical drop of 900 meters, will have seven ski runs measuring 10 kilometers in total by 2022, providing tracks for 11 disciplines-including downhill, giant slalom and Super G-which have never before been staged in China.

A massive development operation, which has mobilized 117 snow-making machines and 19 snowcats (or snow groomers), progresses day and night. Organizers estimate that 260,000 cubic meters of man-made snow will have been produced by the end of this month, with track grooming to commence early next year.

"The preparatory work for the World Cup event is well underway and will be completed ahead of time for pre-race tests and installation of ancillary facilities in January," said Liu Qianxun, secretary-general of venue operation of the World Cup event's local organizing committee.

"To prepare for an Alpine ski race at World Cup level, which has never been done before in our country, provides a steep learning curve for all of us to understand the complexity of work organizing such a highly technical event," said Liu, who is also an official with the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics organizing committee.

The Yanqing leg of the FIS World Cup series, the first of 15 official test events for the 2022 Games, has attracted 111 skiers from 19 countries to compete in men's downhill and Super G.

One of the fastest Winter Olympic events, Alpine skiers can reach speeds of up to 140 kph on hair-raising courses with gradients as steep as 70 degrees.

Still a novice in the Western-dominated event, no Chinese skiers have qualified for the World Cup meet, but the host is hopeful the new Yanqing center can be a breeding ground for new talent.

"After the Cup meet, the center will help our own athletes improve their skills and boost their resolve through training runs on the Olympic slopes," said Liu.

As one of three venue zones for the 2022 Games, the mountain cluster in Yanqing will be linked to downtown Beijing and co-host city Zhangjiakou in Hebei province via a new high-speed railway, which is scheduled to open in a month.

Generally speaking, progress has been smooth in Yanqing, but the sophisticated nature of Alpine course preparation has meant organizers have had to lean on an experienced team of 85 foreign experts, led by Russian Nikolay Belokrinkin, who are working on site in areas ranging from snow-making to in-competition course maintenance.

Li Junjie, a local snowcat operator who participated in a 15-day training program in New Zealand in August, said the foreign expertise is invaluable.

"They helped shed light on the complexity of the job," said the 35-year-old, who has previously worked at Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Zhangjiakou.

"Despite the lack of natural snowfall in Yanqing, the Alpine courses require the use of densely packed artificial snow that can generate equal levels of speed and consistency for each skier. We had no clue about this before."

The 2022 organizing committee is also testing new cableways, training 286 domestic technical officials and installing ancillary facilities such as hillside medical stations, broadcasting blocks and mixed interview zones.

Owner Beijing Enterprises Group (BG) envisages that the new Alpine center will develop into a major sports and tourism hub beyond 2022.

According to the district government, 49 start-up companies operating in sectors such as winter sports training, equipment manufacturing and tourism had moved into a new industrial park in Yanqing by early November, while over 10,000 beds at hotels and homestays will accommodate visitors leading up to 2022.

The district now has six primary and middle schools recognized as "national level" pilot institutions offering compulsory physical education classes in winter sports, and since 2014 has organized a junior skiing program that trains up to 3,000 students annually at two resorts.

Protective netting is laid on Xiaohaituo Mountain in northwest Beijing's Yanqing district on Thursday. Construction of the National Alpine Ski Center continues in the area, with the 2022 Olympics venue set to stage an FIS World Cup meet in February. WANG JING/CHINA DAILY
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2019-12-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/03/content_37527309.htm TABLE TENNIS

Fan fends off teen Tomokazu for treble

World No 1 Fan Zhendong is relishing being the man to beat in table tennis after snubbing out the challenge of Japanese upstart Harimoto Tomokazu to win his third ITTF World Cup title in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Sunday.

Fan prevailed 4-2 (9-11, 11-4, 6-11, 11-8, 11-2, 11-7) against the 16-year-old and admitted roles had been reversed since he first won the prestigious tournament-considered one of the sport's top three events along with the Olympics and world championships-in 2016.

"It has been quite different from my first World Cup victory," said Fan, who was also crowned champion in 2018.

"I realize that the situation has changed in the past three years. I'm no longer the surprise figure for the world's veterans but the one to target for the younger generation.

"With more eyes on me, I must be humble, stay focused and play more impressive table tennis."

GYMNASTICS

Gao bounces into the trampoline record book

China's Gao Lei claimed a historic fourth straight men's individual title at the FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo on Sunday.

The 27-year-old Rio Olympic bronze medalist defended his title with a high-difficulty routine, scoring 61.705 points to edge Belarusian 18-year-old Ivan Litvinovich by 0.185.

The victory means Gao is the first man to win four men's trampoline world titles in succession.

"When I climb on a trampoline I feel very calm. I didn't used to but now I feel very confident," he said.

China also pocketed a bronze medal in the team all-around final with a total of 24 points, with Russia grabbing gold and the United States claiming silver.

SPEED SKATING

China bags World Cup relay gold in Japan

China had to wait until the final medal race of the weekend to win gold at the ISU World Cup Short-Track Speed Skating meet in Nagoya, Japan.

China finally clinched victory in the 5,000m relay, with South Korea second and Russia third.

Earlier, Han Yutong won bronze in the women's 1,500m (division 2), with Dutch star Suzanne Schulting topping the podium and Canadian Lee Sarault taking silver.

A winner of the men's 1,000m on Saturday, South Korea's Park Ji-won earned another gold by winning the men's 1,500m (division 2) on Sunday ahead of second-place compatriot Lee June-seo and Japan's Ibuki Hayashi in third.

Canada's Kim Boutin led from start to finish in the women's 500m final to win her third straight World Cup title over the distance this season.

Italy's Arianna Fontana was second, with South Korea's Kim Ji-yoo third.

NFL

Watson wows as Texans trump Brady's Patriots

Deshaun Watson has long admired Tom Brady for his talent and resilience.

Watson beat Brady on Sunday night by not only throwing touchdown passes, but by catching one, too. "I told them I'm an athlete... the more you can do, the longer you play in this league," Watson said. "So I can do it all."

Watson threw three touchdown passes and had the first TD reception of his career as the Houston Texans frustrated Brady in a 28-22 victory over the New England Patriots.

Texans coach and former Patriots assistant Bill O'Brien got his first win in six tries against New England coach Bill Belichick. It was Houston's second win over the Patriots and first since Jan 3, 2010.

Justin Tucker booted a 49-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Baltimore Ravens to an eighth straight NFL victory on Sunday, 20-17 over the San Francisco 49ers.

Fan Zhendong
]]>
2019-12-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[China's finest teeing up for Xiamen showdown]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/03/content_37527300.htm Feng Shanshan will lead home hopes at the $290,000 Macalline Women's China Open, which tees off on Thursday at Orient Xiamen Golf & Country Club in Fujian province.

The former world No 1 feels a close connection to the tournament, having made a name for herself at the 2006 edition as a precocious 17-year-old amateur, when she stunned the field to tie for 11th.

"Years ago, the Women's China Open was once the highest-level event that I had ever played in. The platform allowed me to play with domestic and international professional players. It was a great chance for me as a teenager to learn from the best," said Feng, who now has 10 LPGA titles, including one major, to her name.

"I'd come back every year to play and support this tournament if I could. In the past, that hasn't been possible due to my tight schedule, but this year I finally got the chance to return and compete."

Feng, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, looks to be enjoying her golf again after claiming her first LPGA Tour victory in nearly two years at July's Thornberry Creek Classic in Oneida, Wisconsin.

Feng admitted that triumph was a much-needed morale booster.

"Last season my ranking went from No 1 to like, I don't know, 30s maybe. Then I just couldn't stop it from going down," said the 30-year-old world No 22.

"I was missing the cuts at the majors, and of course that's going to hurt rankings. But what I was always thinking was I just need to get my ball striking back, because my putting wasn't that bad. My ball striking was just a little bit lost, a little off."

Chinese Olympian Lin Xiyu, who competed at the 2016 Rio Games, will again be hoping to scale the heights on the Oriental Xiamen leaderboard after her third-place finish at last year's tournament on the same course, while CLPGA order of merit leader Zhang Weiwei will bid to add to her impressive list of five victories this season.

And just as a teenage Feng did, plenty of young guns are hoping to upstage the established stars this weekend. One of those is 20-year-old Sui Xiang.

"I feel so lucky to have competed in the Women's China Open at such a young age and I feel lucky to have been able to stick with golf till now," said Sui, who played in the 2014 tournament when she was just 15.

"Every time that I compete I can pinpoint my weaknesses and things that I need to improve upon. I hope that I can develop quicker and win the first championship of my career as soon as possible.

"I didn't understand too much back then when I wasn't as mature. I was so nervous playing with the professionals, but I feel privileged to have had that experience."

One player disappointed not to be on the fairways in Xiamen this week is China's No 2, Liu Yu.

She too has fond memories of the tournament and feels she owes it a debt of gratitude.

"The Women's China Open has always been an important tournament in my professional career and I was so honored to participate in such a high-level event when I was 14 years old," said world No 35 Liu, who along with Feng is only one of two Chinese female golfers ranked in the top 50.

"In 2009, I qualified for the tournament at the first attempt. Although I ultimately finished down the field, the experience of playing in the tournament has always been a great memory for me."

Also absent due to a tight schedule, is rising star Shi Yuting, who amazingly made her China Open debut as an 11-year-old in 2011.

Shi's connection with the Orient Xiamen club goes a lot deeper than merely her past results and performances on the course.

"The experience of competing at the Women's China Open widened my horizon and helped me gain a new and a more comprehensive understanding of golf," said Shi.

"I've competed at the tournament on eight occasions-each year at the same golf club, so I'm familiar with the environment and the people who work there.

"It feels like every time I return there I'm meeting with family. It's so warm!"

From left: Chinese No 1 Feng Shanshan and Olympian Lin Xiyu head a strong domestic contingent at this weekend's Women's China Open in Xiamen, Fujian province, where rising stars Liu Wenbo and Du Mohan will also test themselves against an international field. CHINA DAILY ]]>
2019-12-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[History-chasing Shiffrin slays her slalom rivals again]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/03/content_37527306.htm KILLINGTON, Vermont-Mikaela Shiffrin's winning margins in World Cup slaloms just get more remarkable.

One weekend after finishing 1.78 seconds ahead of her opponents in Finland, Shiffrin was a massive 2.29 seconds clear of her biggest rival, Petra Vlhova, in the United States on Sunday.

Shiffrin's success for a fourth straight year at Killington was the 62nd World Cup win of her career, which tied her for second on the all-time women's list.

The 24-year-old American drew level with Annemarie Moser-Proell, the Austrian downhill great of the 1970s, and now trails only Lindsey Vonn's 82 wins.

"The records keep going, don't they?" Shiffrin said, laughing. "We're just doing the best we can every day. When it pays off and it shows in these kinds of records and making history like that, it is special for sure."

Shiffrin took a 1.13-second first-run lead over Vlhova and more than doubled it second time down a windswept Super Star course in temperatures of minus-6 Celsius.

Anna Swenn Larsson was third, trailing 2.73 behind Shiffrin. No other skier was within three seconds of Shiffrin.

The time gap was almost unthinkable for any other modern racer to set but was short of Shiffrin's record World Cup slalom margin.

She won by 3.07 seconds four years ago also on American snow, at Aspen.

For comparison, in the only traditional slalom Shiffrin failed to win last season, she was runner-up to Vlhova by just 0.15 at Flachau, Austria. Vlhova called that "my best day ever."

Shiffrin stood calmly in the Killington finish area to check the leaderboard, waved to a noisy crowd and gestured as though she had been close to the limits of staying on the course.

"I was really fighting," she acknowledged. "I really didn't think it was going to be fast. I do fight because it, I don't know, feels more sweet to come to the finish like that."

Shiffrin's record-extending 42nd win in World Cup slaloms, for men or women, followed a familiar path.

Vlhova was runner-up to Shiffrin in six World Cup events last season, and Swenn Larsson took silver when Shiffrin won her fourth straight slalom title at February's world championships.

Wendy Holdener was the distant runner-up to Shiffrin last weekend at Levi, Finland, and sat third after the morning run on Sunday.

However, the Swiss racer's challenge in the afternoon lasted just seconds before her skis straddled the second gate.

Shiffrin's maximum 200 points from the first two slalom races this season has created a 192-point lead already in the overall standings for the three-time defending champion.

Second place is held by Michele Gisin of Switzerland, who placed ninth on Sunday, 4.28 seconds behind Shiffrin.

The World Cup circuit moves on for three speed races next weekend at Lake Louise in Canada where Shiffrin got her only career downhill win two years ago.

Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States takes a selfie after winning the women's slalom at an FIS Ski World Cup meet in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday. AFP
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2019-12-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Cannavaro revels in title glory after season of tumult]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/03/content_37527308.htm After a dramatic season packed with plenty of plot twists, Fabio Cannavaro made sure to script a happy ending on Sunday.

The Italian won the first major honor of his managerial career by leading Guangzhou Evergrande to a record-extending eighth Chinese Super League title, killing off second-place Beijing Guo'an's slim hopes by two points.

A 3-0 victory at home to Shanghai Shenhua got the party started inside a jubilant Tianhe Stadium-scenes which would have been hard to imagine in October when Cannavaro was temporarily relieved of his coaching duties to attend "a corporate culture class" amid an alarming slump in Evergrande's form.

Now, Cannavaro's job is looking a lot more secure, with the 2006 World Cup winner even entertaining the idea of seeing out the remaining three years on his Guangzhou contract.

"Why not? I have a contract till 2022. There are three more seasons to go," Cannavaro was quoted by Tencent Sports.

"I hope others can say, 'Cannavaro is trying hard to improve himself.' This team will always be with me. This year we used four different tactical systems, to handle all sorts of emergencies and we played at a very high intensity.

"In China, I won the second-tier title with Tianjin. In my second year, I steered the team to a place in the AFC Champions League. Now I've won the CSL title with Guangzhou. Basically, I've always been happy. I will stay with Evergrande for three more seasons."

The former Juventus and Real Madrid defender, however, can't have been so pleased when an Evergrande mini-slump almost cost him his job.

Confusion abounded in late October when, after a 2-2 draw with Henan Jianye, club bosses ordered Cannavaro to "attend a study class on Evergrande's corporate culture", with captain Zheng Zhi appointed interim head coach.

Cannavaro was then restored to the job after a period of "deep reflection and profound self-examination", according to an Evergrande statement.

"It sounds a little bit drastic, but in Chinese companies this is a usual management method for high-ranking positions," said Cannavaro. "I talked with the boss and the problems were solved. The players were good, and they had no excuse. They were also not affected by my hiatus and became even more determined. We won the last three games of the season."

Evergrande has dominated Chinese soccer over the last decade, winning eight CSL titles since 2011.

This year's victory, however, is the first major trophy of Cannavaro's coaching career, with his compatriot and former Team China and Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi among the first to congratulate the 46-year-old.

"Although Fabio faced difficulties at the end of the CSL season, I'm still happy for him," said Lippi, according to Tencent Sports. "He brought his value to his team. Praise him!"

Aside from wresting the title back from Shanghai SIPG, one of Cannavaro's biggest tasks this season was to build a younger team as Evergrande looks to lay strong foundations for a more sustainable future.

"Our priority is to help nurture more young Chinese players," said Cannavaro. "When you face difficult situations, you will be questioned. So, for us, the goal is to win whatever we could win.

"You even can't imagine these situations. We have many young players and we also have a veteran (Zheng Zhi) who's nearly 40 years old. At one stage, we had nine players sidelined with injuries, and we can only have two foreign players on the pitch at the same time. But my boys and I made it here. We called it a 'Youth Storm' and we finished the impossible."

Among all Evergrande's young stars, Wei Shihao, who scored the first goal on Sunday, is perhaps the most promising.

"This is my first championship title since joining Evergrande and the first league title of my life, so I'm very happy," said the 24-yearold.

Earlier in his career, Wei had garnered reputation for recklessness and being something of a hot head on the pitch. However, the youngster has matured under Cannavaro's guidance and now looks to have a very bright future ahead of him.

"I really want to thank my head coach," said Wei, who finished the season as the CSL's top domestic scorer with 11 goals.

"He led our young players to achieve what he wanted. I missed some matches this year, so I believe I can play better next season. All my teammates helped me to score."

Wei later wrote on social media: "This was truly a hard year. I was questioned and faced all the pressure. I made it through. Thanks everyone."

Evergrande stalwart Zheng hinted this could be his last season in Guangzhou's red, saying:

"Winning all these titles with a team like Evergrande is a big source of pride for me," said the 39-year-old. "We experienced a lot this year and we have many young players this season. We still need to cooperate better and everyone has to remain united.

"My professional career is nearing its end, so I enjoy the process of each season. It's an honor to help the team win all these trophies."

Guangzhou Evergrande head coach Fabio Cannavaro celebrates after his team won the Chinese Super League title for a record-extending eighth time on Sunday. XINHUA
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2019-12-03 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/02/content_37526933.htm WINTER SPORTS

Chinese boarders dominate in Chongli

China bagged three gold medals at the FIS Snowboard Parallel Asian Cup meet which concluded at Taiwoo Ski Resort in Chongli, Hebei province, on Saturday.

Olympian Gong Naiying defeated her Chinese teammate Zang Ruxin to claim the women's parallel slalom title, while Kan Binbin overcame Yu Yunhan for bronze as the host completed a sweep of the podium places.

Chinese boarders also dominated the men's parallel slalom, with Sun Huan defeating defending champion Bi Ye in the final, and Zhang Xuan coming out on top in the third-place contest.

In Friday's women's parallel giant slalom event, the 25-year-old Zang, who competed at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, held off Jeong Hae-rim of South Korea to grab gold. China's Dong Xue defeated countrywoman Xu Xiaoxiao to take bronze.

The only event the host failed to win was the men's parallel giant slalom, with South Korean Lee Sang-ho overcoming China's Sun Huan for gold. Bronze went to Bi after he out-dueled South Korea's Choi Bo-gun.

Dressen stuns rivals in downhill comeback

In a stunning return from serious injury, Thomas Dressen won a World Cup downhill race in his comeback meet at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada on Saturday.

Dressen returned to action exactly one year to the day after he blew out his right knee and dislocated a shoulder crashing at Beaver Creek, Colorado.

The German was just 0.02 seconds faster than Dominik Paris of Italy, who looked sure to extend his World Cup downhill winning streak to four, stretching back to January.

"It is just crazy," said Dressen, adding he still feels pain walking up and down stairs. "Even top 10, top 15 would have been great for me, a great result."

Paris had earlier denied what shaped as a fairytale win for the Switzerland team, finishing 0.24 faster than Beat Feuz and Carlo Janka. They tied for the early lead and shared third place.

SPORT CLIMBING

China's Song secures Tokyo 2020 ticket

China's Song Yiling narrowly missed out on a place in the women's final at the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Combined Qualifier in Tournefeuille, France, but still secured a ticket to next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Japan's Ai Mori led the overall standings, advancing to the eightwoman final along with compatriot Futaba Ito, who finished fifth.

But the Japanese duo automatically qualify for the 2020 Games as part of the host's team, while second-place Slovenian Lucka Rakovec had earlier sealed his Tokyo ticket at the world championships.

Therefore, as a ninth-place finisher, Song was among the five additional climbers to qualify for Tokyo at the French meet. Russia's Iuliaa Kaplina topped the women's speed qualification, clocking 7.370 seconds, with Song second at 7.421.

BASKETBALL

CBA victories for Shenzhen, Zhejiang

Lester Hudson contributed a game-high 34 points and 12 assists as the Shandong Heroes thrashed the visiting Shanghai Sharks 119-85 on Saturday to snap their two-game CBA skid.

The host led 36-15 in the first quarter before Hudson and Li Jingyu combined for 27 points to put Shandong up 55-41 at halftime.

Six Shandong players registered double-digit tallies, with the Heroes totaling 13 3-pointers compared to Shanghai's five. Lithuanian Donatas Motiejunas registered a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Sharks.

Elsewhere, the Shenzhen Aviators cruised past the Zhejiang Lions 113-97 thanks to a game-high 26 points from Gu Quan. Shandong was 12-of-28 from the 3-point line.

SOCCER

China's FIFA ranking slides after Syria loss

Team China has dropped six places to 75th in the latest FIFA rankings, which were released on Thursday.

China, whose Italian head coach Marcello Lippi resigned following a 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Syria in Dubai last month, remains the ninth-ranked team in Asia-Oceania.

Japan (28) leapfrogged Iran (33) to become the top-ranked Asia-Oceania team. South Korea is third (41) in the region, followed by Australia (42), Qatar (55) and Saudi Arabia (67).

The top five positions remain unchanged, with Belgium holding onto top spot, followed by France and Brazil. England is fourth, one place ahead of Uruguay.

Southgate: Croatia will not fear Wembley trip

England manager Gareth Southgate scoffed at suggestions Croatia will be afraid of playing his team at Wembley in their opening game at Euro 2020 after they were drawn together in the same group on Saturday.

England and Croatia will face off at Wembley on June 14 in Group D, which will also include the Czech Republic and a playoff winner.

Croatia beat England 2-1 in last year's World Cup semifinal before the Three Lions beat the Balkan side 2-1 at home in the Nations League and drew 0-0 away.

After being told Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic had said he feared opening his side's campaign in London, Southgate responded: "I think he's been tactically economical with the truth there.

"We have had three really good games, really tight games with them, with very little between the teams all three times."

 

 

 

 

]]> 2019-12-02 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Firebrand Rapinoe can crown whirlwind year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/02/content_37526979.htm Megan Rapinoe will complete an unprecedented clean sweep of honors on Monday night if the trailblazing World Cup star and feminist icon adds the Women's Ballon d'Or to her collection of accolades.

The 34-year-old striker was the star of this year's Women's World Cup, scoring six goals as the United States successfully defended the title won in 2015.

Rapinoe's tournament goals tally earned her the Golden Boot for top scorer while she was also awarded the Golden Ball for the tournament's best player.

Rapinoe picked up FIFA's Best Women's Player award in September, and is now the favorite for what is only the second edition of the Ballon d'Or Feminin, won by Norway's Ada Hegerberg in 2018.

Victory in Paris would crown a remarkable year for Rapinoe which has seen her enhance her reputation as a warrior both on and off the pitch.

Her performances at the World Cup were a critical part of the United States' title defense, most notably a two-goal display in a 2-1 victory over host France in the quarterfinals.

But Rapinoe has garnered almost as much attention in 2019 for her unflinching advocacy of social justice off the field.

That readiness to speak her mind famously brought her into conflict with US President Donald Trump during the World Cup in June.

Rapinoe had provoked Trump's ire in comments made several months before the tournament when she stated bluntly that she would not attend a White House reception for the US team if it brought home the World Cup.

"I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women's Soccer," Trump wrote on Twitter. "But Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!"

Rapinoe did indeed go on to finish the job several days later, scoring the opening goal in a 2-0 defeat of the Netherlands in the final in Lyon to seal back-to-back World Cup triumphs.

Calls for unity

Since then, Rapinoe has happily kept on talking.

At a victory parade in New York in July, Rapinoe, who is gay, saluted the diversity of the all-conquering US team while calling for unity.

"We have to be better," Rapinoe told a cheering crowd of thousands. "We have to love more, hate less. We got to listen more and talk less.

"We got to know that this is everybody's responsibility. Every single person here, every single person who's not here, every single person who doesn't want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn't agree. It's our responsibility to make this world a better place."

Rapinoe returned to that theme at an awards ceremony earlier this month, when she was honored as one of Glamour magazine's "Women of the Year".

Rapinoe used the event to draw attention to the plight of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick ignited controversy in 2016 after kneeling during the US national anthem in a protest against racial injustice.

Rapinoe was one of the first athletes to kneel in solidarity with Kaepernick, who has effectively been frozen out of the league since his season of protest.

Rapinoe said Kaepernick's plight made her determined to continue her fight for social justice and equality.

"It would be a slap in the face to Colin, and to so many other faces, not to acknowledge, and for me personally, to work relentlessly to dismantle that system that benefits some over the detriment of others, and frankly is quite literally tearing us apart in this country," she said.

Back in the sporting arena, Rapinoe has eased her way back into the fray.

Exhaustion and a sore Achilles left her sidelined until September, when she returned to play for Seattle's Reign FC in the National Women's Soccer League.

Rapinoe returned to the US team for two October friendlies against South Korea, and is expected to be a key member of the US squad for next year's Olympics, where she will be chasing a second gold medal.

 

Team USA and Reign FC striker Megan Rapinoe's determination and passion-both on and off the pitch-have earned the 34-year-old international acclaim. AFP

 

 

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2019-12-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Relentless Zhang grinds way to glory]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/02/content_37526939.htm For a fighter on the comeback trail, going the distance to secure a win is often better than scoring a quick knockout.

Such was the case for Chinese heavyweight Zhang Zhilei on Saturday night in Monaco, where the 6-foot-6 southpaw from Zhoukou, Henan province, took the full 10 rounds to pound out a lopsided unanimous decision over Ukraine's Andriy Rudenko to retain the WBO Oriental title.

The 36-year-old Zhang, aka 'The Big Bang' improved to 21-0 by scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93 against the durable Rudenko (32-5), who has never been stopped.

Fighting for the first time in 14 months, Zhang was cool as a cucumber in the early rounds, adroitly moving in and out of the pocket to repeatedly land left-hand power shots to the body while negating Rudenko's efforts to close the gap.

Zhang's relentless aggression kept Rudenko on his back foot for the first half of the fight, and in the fifth round the Ukrainian was sent reeling into the ropes when Zhang capped a nine-punch flurry with a solid right hook to the temple.

Going into this fight, Zhang, who won the silver medal for China at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and lost a split decision to future world champion Anthony Joshua at the 2012 London Games, had banked just 55 rounds since turning pro in 2014 and had never been past round six in any of his bouts.

He remained out of the ring for so long due in large part to visa issues that kept him from re-entering the US for nearly a year.

Zhang lives in northern New Jersey when he's preparing for fights, and in August he finally reconnected with veteran trainer Shaun George at True Warriors Boxing in Paterson, New Jersey.

"It was awful," Zhang told boxingscene.com of his time out of the ring. "I was frustrated and depressed. There were days I felt like my boxing career would come to an end. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what my goals were. That's how frustrated I was.

"As soon as I got the notification that my US visa was approved, my family told me I looked like a totally different person on that very day. My eyes looked like those of a warrior ready to go into battle. As soon as I returned to the US, I just trained like crazy."

While some degree of ring rust was obvious when Zhang started breathing through his mouth in round seven, he still had enough fuel left in his tank to make Rudenko pay for every mistake.

The Ukrainian was backed up by a straight left to the jaw midway through the ninth, and 70 seconds into the final round Zhang wobbled him again with a crushing right hook but couldn't deliver the finish.

The 36-year-old Rudenko took this fight on barely one week's notice after Russia's Sergey Kuzmin (15-1) was forced to pull out after sustaining a foot injury during training.

While Saturday's result will go a long way toward reestablishing Zhang as a viable challenger for any of the division's multiple champions, it also underlined his need for better conditioning and more willingness to let his hand speed match his fleet feet.

On several occasions, Zhang's quick lateral movement put him in position to blast through Rudenko's lazy counters and do some serious damage, but he just wouldn't let his hands go. Not an insurmountable problem, but one that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

"I don't know what people will say about me after this fight," said Zhang, who is co-promoted by Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports and Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing.

"That's not something I can control. But I would like to have people say, 'Wow! This Chinese dude can really fight!' I want to impress them."

 

China's Zhang Zhilei faces up to Ukraine's Andriy Rudenko during the weigh-in for Saturday's WBO Oriental heavyweight title fight in Monaco. The unbeaten Zhang retained his belt via a unanimous decision, with scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93. BOXINGSCENE.COM

 

 

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2019-12-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[No shortcuts to success for Shanxi]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/02/content_37526961.htm Coach Cesar Ruperez Garcia insists Shanxi is still "a long way" off becoming a championship team despite the Flame's excellent start to the season.

The Spaniard, who won three WCBA titles with the club from 2012-2015 as assistant coach, has returned for a second stint with the Taiyuan-based team, and results so far have been impressive. Saturday's 94-84 triumph over Zhejiang kept Shanxi perfect after four WCBA games, along with Beijing and Guangdong.

However, in an interview with Xinhua last week, Garcia cautioned that rediscovering Shanxi's glory days will not be straightforward.

"We cannot take shortcuts. We need to go step by step," Garcia said on Wednesday.

"Everybody expects to win the championship, especially after the amazing seasons we had four years ago. But inside the team, we are not very focused on the championship. It's a long way to get there.

"We spent four amazing seasons here, and in three of them we won the WCBA championship. So we have great memories and have kept in touch almost every year with the club's owner. I spent a great time here. It's a great place to be a basketball coach."

Shanxi's current roster is a much younger bunch than the last title-winning squad four years ago.

"We have a young team, especially in the perimeter positions, where almost everybody is young. They need to gain experience and learn how to play tough games," Garcia said.

"We need to keep developing them. We hope that they will get better step by step and gain experience, which is very important if you want to be part of a winning team.

"First of all, we are trying to gel as a team and develop good chemistry between everyone. Then we need to be able to become a winning team, a team able to fight and compete in almost every game."

As for when that might happen, Garcia is reluctant to set a time frame.

"I don't know when we will be able to win a championship," he added. "But if we work hard, the team will get better and have a greater opportunity to get the championship."

Despite his youthful appearance, Garcia is a coaching veteran. He has coached for over two decades after his playing career ended prematurely due to a serious knee injury.

"Basketball is my life, from being a player to assistant coach and now head coach. For me it's not a job, it's my passion. Every time I go to the court to be an assistant coach or head coach, I enjoy myself."

Garcia's on a mission to inject that passion into his charges at Shanxi.

"Everything I'm trying to teach them, I try to do it with passion. If you don't play basketball with enough passion, then technical matters are irrelevant," he explained. "The most important thing is to be able and ready to fight. If you don't play with passion, then you cannot fight and win.

"It's a young team to try to improve. It's a long way from being a winning team. Step by step, I want to develop players and the playing style to become a winning team, then we will be one step closer to getting the championship.

"In the last couple of seasons, especially last season, the team was not a winning team. They won games, but they were not the kind of team that normally won."

After leaving Shanxi in 2015, Garcia was hired by Russia's Dynamo Kursk, which he led to a Euro Women's League crown in 2017.

Adding to his experience of working under Lucas Mondelo at Shanxi, he now feels well equipped to handle whatever the job throws at him.

"The challenge always comes with a lot of pressure. If you are not able to overcome the pressure, you cannot be a head coach," Garcia said.

Despite Garcia's reservations about his young team, Shanxi should not be overlooked as WCBA title contenders this season for one simple reason-6-foot-8(203-centimeter) center Liz Cambage.

"She is a difference-maker," Garcia said of the Australian. "When she's on court, everybody goes around her. Defensively, it's easy with her in the paint because other teams cannot score easily.

"Offensively, it's all going on around her, because when you don't pay attention to her, she can score 40 points."

Garcia sees Cambage as the team's all-round leader, but is also urging his homegrown players to contribute more.

"I expect her to be a kind of leader of our team, and to try to engage everybody to play like a team. I don't want her to be the best scorer every time and everybody else just looks at her," Garcia said.

"The domestic players need to seize their opportunities. They have to know it's not just foreign players scoring or doing everything. Chinese players need to understand that they also can be important players in their teams."

 

Shanxi Flame head coach Cesar Ruperez Garcia has steered the three-time WCBA champion to four victories in its opening four games this season, but says his team still lacks championship-winning steel. CHINA DAILY

 

 

 

 

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2019-12-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Guangzhou glory]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/02/content_37526959.htm  

Wei Shihao whips off his shirt in celebration after scoring Guangzhou Evergrande's first goal in a 3-0 title-clinching victory over Shanghai Shenhua in Guangzhou on Sunday. Park Ji-Soo and Ai Kesen also hit the net as the Fabio Cannavaro-coached Evergrande sealed a record-extending eighth Chinese Super League crown in convincing fashion. Beijing Guo'an, which recovered from a two-goal deficit to beat Shandong Luneng 3-2 on Sunday, finished two points back in second, with last year's champion Shanghai SIPG third. XINHUA

 

 

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2019-12-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Imposing Cambage sparking the Flame]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-12/02/content_37526976.htm Liz Cambage is determined to make up for lost time by helping the Shanxi Flame end its four-year WCBA title drought.

The Australian signed with the Taiyuan-based franchise last year, but had to wait until this season to make her debut due to an ankle injury.

The 6-foot-8 center has been the star of the show for the Flame this season, helping her team stay perfect so far this term. Cambage again provided the spark on Saturday, contributing 30 points and 13 rebounds as Shanxi defeated Zhejiang 94-84 for the three-time champion's fourth straight win.

Shanxi's domestic players also showed their shooting form, with Guo Zixuan and Liu Jiacen netting 16 points apiece.

"I always want to win a WCBA championship," Cambage told Xinhua on Wednesday.

"Shanxi is a very strong team and I feel lucky to be part of it. But I was very upset that I couldn't play last season. I was injured and didn't play for eight months. It was a very tough year."

Having also plied her trade with Zhejiang, Beijing and Shanghai, Cambage is no stranger to the WCBA, and speaks highly of both the league and China as a whole.

"It's a very strong league. I've loved my time in the WCBA. It has taught me a lot about myself," said the Aussie. "Because there is a rule that there can only be one foreign player in each team, that puts a lot of pressure on me.

"I'm very thankful for my time because it has made me a killer, a strong scorer on the court. And I've got to see so much of this country. If I didn't play basketball here, I wouldn't have gotten the chance to see China, so I'm very grateful."

Cambage has come up against plenty of her WCBA rivals and teammates on international duty, an experience she describes as "like playing against my sisters".

"China's coach (Xu Limin) was my coach in Beijing. It's great to see familiar faces when I go against China. They have very strong girls and a lot of talent," she said.

Cambage has been utterly dominant in the paint this term. Last Thursday against Tianjin, she shot 13 of 19 from the field to score a game-high 31 points in less than 24 minutes, with Tianjin coach Miroslav Popov admitting that his team simply "didn't have the tools" to cope with the towering Aussie. On Saturday, it was Zhejiang's turn to suffer.

"I just focus on my game. I try to rebound, block shots and make my points," said Cambage. "A lot of teams are worried about me. It opens up the court for other girls. It's not just about me. I like to play a team game."

In July last year, Cambage set a WNBA single-game scoring record with 53 points for the Dallas Wings.

However, she has tried to play down expectations that she might repeat the feat in China.

"I don't go out to break records. I go out to win games. If it happens one day, it happens. But right now we just focus on winning as a team," she said.

Cambage's bid for a WCBA title has been made more difficult by a rule that restricts foreign stars to playing three quarters against certain opposition.

"In some games, I'm not allowed to play a quarter. Every game is tough," said Cambage.

"But our team is great and our girls are strong, so we will do well."

 

Shanxi's Liz Cambage goes for a basket during Saturday's game against Zhejiang. The Australian scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Shanxi won 94-84. HU YUANJIA/FOR CHINA DAILY

 

 

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2019-12-02 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Shorts rule relaxed in sweltering South Africa]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/30/content_37526735.htm Golfers were allowed to wear shorts during a European Tour event for the first time on Thursday because of sweltering temperatures.

The decision to relax rules at the 2020 season-opening Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa was made after discussions between players, European Tour CEO Keith Pelley, and tournament host Johann Rupert. It applies for this event only.

Temperatures are predicted to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) over the next few days at Leopard Creek Country Club, which borders the Kruger Park wildlife reserve in northern South Africa.

"We felt that in this situation it was a good move," said the European Tour's David Williams, the tournament director. "The temperatures will increase as the week goes on, which is uncomfortable and could be a health issue for the players.

"A lot of players were concerned about it. In these temperatures it can be pretty uncomfortable out there in trousers."

In 2016, the European Tour allowed players to wear shorts for practice rounds and pro-ams but not tournament play. The PGA Tour brought in the same policy this year.

Four-time major winner Ernie Els said allowing shorts this week was "common sense" and hoped it wouldn't be the last time in a tournament.

"It's going to get up to 40 degrees here and it's the right thing to do," Els said. "It's been talked about for so long on all of the tours around the world... I think this could be a gamechanger for golf which could end up enhancing the product."

When the PGA Tour announced in February it was allowing shorts for practice and pro-ams, it said it noted the opinions of leading players.

Asked for his view on allowing shorts, Tiger Woods said: "I would love it. We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet."

Rory McIlroy said: "It makes the guys a lot more comfortable. I don't think there's anything wrong with professional golfers showing the lower half of their leg."

]]> 2019-11-30 00:00:00 <![CDATA[More doors opening for Chinese tour's top talent]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/30/content_37526749.htm Korn Ferry Tour players who have qualified for the circuit via the PGA Tour Series-China will now have the chance to enter more tournaments.

As one of three PGA international tours, the Chinese circuit offers Korn Ferry Tour status to the top five finishers on its order of merit.

This week the PGA announced that those qualifiers, as well as those from the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, and the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, will have "enhanced playing opportunities" on the Korn Ferry Tour "with immediate effect".

"We have done extensive research, and we've looked at the international tour players' performances on the Korn Ferry Tour. It became very clear that these three tours have been producing so many good players that we had to improve their access into Korn Ferry Tour tournaments," said Rob Ohno, the PGA Tour's senior vice-president of international tours.

The PGA Tour's policy board voted in June to adjust playing spots in certain eligibility categories, beginning in 2020, to help facilitate this change. These modifications will improve the prospects of players getting into Korn Ferry Tour tournaments. The board ratified the changes on Nov 18.

"When we looked at the data, the international tour players were having comparable success with players who were earning Korn Ferry Tour membership via the qualifying tournament," Ohno continued.

"With these players coming off the international tours achieving at the next level and then on to the PGA Tour, the policy board approved the changes to reward them and improve their playing possibilities."

This season, alumni of the international tours comprised the majority of both the top 25(14) and the top 75 players (39) on the final points list.

"The international tours are doing exactly what they were intended to do when the PGA Tour created all three in successive years, beginning in 2012," added Ohno.

"These players are coming out of the international tours after playing in PGA Tour-caliber events only staged on a smaller scale, ready to play and ready to win, which we've seen them do.

"We are also watching these players, who just a few years ago were playing in Latin America, Canada and China, playing at the game's highest levels."

Next month's Presidents Cup will feature three players who graduated from the international tours-Li Haotong (PGA Tour Series-China) and CT Pan (Mackenzie Tour) on Ernie Els' International team, and Tony Finau (Mackenzie Tour) on Tiger Woods' United States team.

This year, 14 international tour alums won 16 tournaments on the Korn Ferry Tour, which is the pathway to the PGA Tour proper. In the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, six alums (Adam Long, Martin Trainer, Keith Mitchell, Corey Conners, Pan and Nate Lashley) won six tournaments.

Already in 2019-20, alums Sebastian Munoz, Lanton Griffin and Tyler Duncan have won on the PGA Tour, while Joaquin Niemann, played extensively on PGA Tour Latinoamerica as an amateur, triumphed at The Greenbrier.

The PGA Tour Series-China mainly features Asian players, although members come from all over the world.

It is operated by the PGA Tour in partnership with Shankai Sports, and sanctioned by the General Administration of Sport of China.

]]> 2019-11-30 00:00:00 <![CDATA[FOCUS, FIGHT AND FLAIR]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/30/content_37526753.htm

Poland's world champion Dawid Kubacki takes flight during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup in Wisla, Poland, on Nov 22. REUTERS

The visor of New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara reflects a huddle prior to kickoff against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Nov 24. USA TODAY SPORTS

Bloodied British boxer Tom Farrell battles on during his defeat to Sean Dodd in Liverpool, England, on Nov 23. REUTERS

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones attempts a flying tackle on Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin during an NFL game in Atlanta, Georgia, on Nov 24. Jones missed and Godwin scored in a 35-22 win for the Bucs. AP

Mississippi forward Khadim Sy launches himself into a pass after sidestepping Penn State guard Myles Dread during an NCAA college semifinal at the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament in New York on Nov 27. AP

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski celebrates netting his fourth goal of the night during the Bundesliga's side 6-0 rout of Red Star Belgrade in Serbia on Nov 26. The victory kept Bayern perfect in Group B, as well as perfect and yet to concede a goal in four games under interim head coach Hansi Flick. AP

]]> 2019-11-30 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Digest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/30/content_37526768.htm SOCCER

Hebei bids Lavezzi, Mascherano farewell

Hebei China Fortune has confirmed veteran Argentine duo Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Mascherano will leave the club at the end of the season.

The Langfang-based club staged a brief farewell ceremony for the pair before Wednesday night's 3-1 Chinese Super League defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande, featuring video highlights of their time in China on big screens inside the stadium.

Striker Lavezzi added another highlight during the game with a fine long-range header for the host's only goal of the game in the 81st minute.

"I want to thank everybody here, my teammates, coaches, the club staff and all the others I've met here. I have many fond memories of my time here since I joined four years ago," said 34-year-old former Paris Saint-Germain star Lavezzi, who has been linked with a move to Turkey's Fenerbahce but is also reportedly considering retiring.

Former Barcelona and Liverpool midfielder Mascherano, 35, who has been snapped up by Estudiantes in his homeland, said: "I'm grateful for the hospitality shown by all of you over the past two years. I wish the club all the best."

Twelfth-place Hebei concludes its CSL campaign with a trip to Wuhan Zall on Sunday.

Kante sues ex-agent over alleged fraud

The Paris prosecutor's office says France and Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante has filed a lawsuit against his former image agent, citing fraud and breach of trust.

The complaint filed this week by the 28-year-old against Nouari Khiari also includes "attempted fraud" and "illegal exercise of the profession of sports agent".

According to L'Equipe newspaper, which first reported the story, Kante was introduced to Khiari by friends and family members. The pair started their working relationship in July 2016 but tensions soon arose and Kante decided to put an end to their partnership a year later, agreeing to pay 150,000 euros ($165,000) for Khiari to sever their ties.

According to the sports daily, Kante claims that his former associate kept all the copies of their deal and later pressured him for more money.

TRAMPOLINE

China on course for full Olympic quota

China earned full quotas for both the men's and women's individual semifinals at the FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo on Thursday, boosting its hopes for next year's Olympic Games.

"Our goal here is to gain the full quotas to Tokyo 2020. Today is a good start for us," said Lu Chunlong, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist who manages the national team.

Established Chinese trampolinists Gao Lei, Dong Dong and Tu Xiao all breezed through qualification for the men's individual competition, just behind reigning Olympic champion Uladzislau Hancharou of Belarus.

Despite Zhu Xueying's error in her second routine, China also filled a three-place quota in the women's individual event. Liu Lingling and teammate Huang Yanfei topped qualification, while Li Dan followed Japan's Mori Hikaru in fourth place. Both semifinals will take place on Saturday.

SWIMMING

Hosszu axes coach, goes solo for Tokyo

Hungary's three-time Olympic champion Katinka Hosszu has split with coach Arpad Petrov and will prepare for next year's Tokyo Games alone, local media reported on Thursday.

"At this year's World Cup, my confidence in my coach was shaken because I felt he didn't want victory as much as I did," Hosszu explained in a statement published by Hungarian news agency MTI.

"I've been trying to overcome this feeling in recent months, but the underlying problem has persisted. During my time with him, it became clear that he can't grow up to the task," she continued.

"I expected more attention from him both professionally and humanly, so there is no going back. In the run-up to the Olympics, I cannot bear the burden of carrying someone on my back again."

Hosszu will compete at next week's European Short-Course Championships in Glasgow without Petrov.

BASKETBALL

CBA wins for Lions and Monkey Kings

The Zhejiang Lions bagged their fifth straight win after overpowering the Shandong Heroes 101-78 while the Nanjing Monkey Kings defeated the Shenzhen Aviators 101-92 in Thursday night's CBA action.

The Lions led by at least 20 points for most of the third quarter and extended the margin to 30 in the fourth. Shandong used a 11-2 run to cut the deficit but it was too little, too late as the Lions comfortably held on for victory.

Kenneth Faried led the Lions with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Aaron Jackson scored 17 points and dished out 11 assists; Liu Zheng added 13 points. James Mays scored a team-high 18 points for Shandong, while Jia Cheng and Tao Hanlin contributed 14 points each.

In Nanjing, Shenzhen's Dwight Buycks scored a game-high 39 points but could not save his team as the host prevailed. Joseph Young notched 31 points (shooting 11 for 18), six rebounds and eight assists for the Monkey Kings.

Elsewhere, Marcus Denmon scored a career-high 54 points to help the Zhejiang Golden Bulls to a 123-118 triumph over the Qingdao Eagles.

Lavezzi (left) and Mascherano

N'Golo Kante

Katinka Hosszu

Kenneth Faried

]]> 2019-11-30 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Zhang can hit the jackpot in Monaco]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/29/content_37526548.htm Undefeated Chinese heavyweight Zhang Zhilei will roll the dice on the biggest fight of his career at Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco on Saturday night.

After a 14-month hiatus, Zhang-aka "Big Bang"-is putting his 20-0 record (16 KOs) on the line against Ukraine's Andriy Rudenko (32-4, 20 KOs) in a clash for the WBO Oriental championship that will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.

"This is my time-I'm thrilled to be fighting in Monaco on the Matchroom Boxing card on Nov 30," Zhang this week told worldboxingnews.com.

"It's always been a dream of mine to chase greatness and make the world aware that the Chinese heavyweight is coming to do damage. I have been preparing and training hard for whoever they put in front of me. The heavyweight division is wide open now and I'm here to make my presence known."

Heavyweight boxing has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, with Americans Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr and Britain's Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury grabbing the imagination of fight fans and living up to the hype by delivering drama in the ring.

Last Saturday, Wilder produced a devastating seventh-round stoppage of Cuba-born American Luis Ortiz to retain his WBC title and set up a February rematch with the unpredictable Fury. On Dec 7, the division will be further clarified when Ruiz defends his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO titles against Joshua in another eagerly awaited rematch in Saudi Arabia.

Roc Nation Sports promoter Dino Duva is already anticipating Zhang going toe to toe with the division's big guns next year.

"This is Zhang's time and opportunity to shine and convince everyone that he's ready to become China's first world heavyweight champion," said Duva.

"The heavyweight division is rocking right now. It's perfect timing for him, with this bout sandwiched between the Wilder-Ortiz and Joshua-Ruiz title fights.

"We all know what Zhang is capable of and have always believed in him, but now it's time for him to step up and show the world what he can do. And if he performs on Saturday like I know he can, 2020 will be a historic year for him because he'll be right at the top of the list of worthy challengers."

The 6-foot-6, 260-pound southpaw from Zhoukou, Henan province, won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and dropped a close split decision to gold medalist and future world champion Joshua at the 2012 London Games.

The 36-year-old Zhang was ranked in the world's top 10 early last year. He was in ruthless mood in his last bout in September in Changsha, Hunan province, where he knocked out American Don Haynesworth in the third round to retain the WBO Oriental title. Rudenko's last fight was a narrow points defeat to Germany's Agit Kabayel in Magdeburg, Germany.

A victory over the veteran Rudenko, who has scored as many knockouts as Zhang has wins, would put the Chinese brawler right back in the mix.

"I can't wait to get back in the ring," Zhang told boxingscene.com this week. "I've had an excellent training camp and I am ready. I'm very confident. I want to make ring history as China's first world heavyweight champion, so every bout is crucial."

Zhang's adviser, Tommy Lane, said Saturday's result will impact the entire heavyweight division.

"Boxing fans will pay attention to this fight because they know it has enormous implications," said Lane.

"Zhang is one big win from returning to the top tier of title challengers, which means monster fights for him in the coming months."

Chinese heavyweight Zhang Zhilei will defend his WBO Oriental title against Andriy Rudenko on Saturday. CHINA DAILY

]]> 2019-11-29 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Memories of 'Nana' are giving Shiffrin's golds an extra glow]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/29/content_37526609.htm Mikaela Shiffrin doesn't lose often. Rarer still, she doesn't lose to the same person over and over.

Growing up, the two-time Olympic gold medalist just couldn't beat a certain someone in Scrabble, Boggle or the card game UNO.

Grandma always won. She even playfully kept the scorecards around as proof.

It's a warm memory Shiffrin has of the person she affectionately called "Nana", who died Oct 22 at 98.

Along with this one: Her grandmother watching her race at a World Cup event in person for the first time at Killington, Vermont, three years ago. Shiffrin won that day and tears filled her eyes when she hugged Nana.

Her grandmother will be in Shiffrin's thoughts during this weekend's races at Killington. She's always close to Shiffrin's heart.

"I have a million memories," Shiffrin said of her grandmother, Pauline Mary Condron, who played tennis, was an avid bowler and of course always a big fan of skiing. "They are all incredible."

Like her breakfasts ("best in the world," Shiffrin boasted).

Or the time Nana tipped over in a kayak years ago and lost her glasses. Shiffrin's mom/coach, Eileen, frequently recounts that story ("I was so young but it's so cute when my mom tells the story!")

Or how Nana always won at board games.

"She loved to keep track of the score and save them with the games," Shiffrin said. "If we left the game out on the table when we weren't playing she would randomly open it up and look over the scores-and remind everyone how often she won."

These days, Shiffrin wins about that often on the slopes.

Last weekend in Levi, Finland, she set the World Cup record for most slalom wins by any ski racer. The 24-year-old from Colorado earned her 41st career slalom victory to top Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, who won 40 slaloms between 1974 and 1987. Shiffrin amassed her total in just seven years.

With her victory in Levi came another prize-a reindeer to add to her growing herd. She named the previous ones Rudolph (2013), Sven (2016) and Mr. Gru (2018).

The name of the newest member? Ingemar, naturally-a tribute to Stenmark.

All these records she's breaking still catch her a little off guard. More could possibly be attained at Killington.

With 61 career World Cup wins, she's one away from tying Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second on the all-time women's list. The women's record of 82 is held by the retired Lindsey Vonn. The overall mark of 86 belongs to Stenmark.

"I still find it a little insane that I'm at the point in my career to be surpassing any of these records," Shiffrin said. "More than anything it just makes me smile to know I'm living my dream as a little girl of being one of the best in the world."

Shiffrin can't help but marvel at being one of the "veterans" on the circuit these days. It's hard for her to compute.

"I'm not old, but I am still considered a veteran even though sometimes I still feel like a rookie," said Shiffrin, who's aiming for her fourth straight World Cup overall title this season. "Every time I see a new young athlete have a breakthrough performance I think, 'Hmmmm, what am I going to do to have another 'breakthrough' performance?'"

Know this about Shiffrin: She doesn't reflect on past accomplishments. She's looking forward to stay a step ahead of the competition.

"I still haven't been able to process my first podium, or my first win, or my first world champs or Olympic gold," said Shiffrin, who's slated to compete in Saturday's giant slalom and Sunday's slalom. "These milestones seem to just melt together into more things that I can't seem to process so I've sort of stopped trying.

"But I'm also OK with that because I'd rather enjoy the moments that I'm living now or look to the future instead of dwell on the past."

Being back at Killington rekindles so many powerful emotions. It's a place where she's won slalom races in 2016,'17 and'18.

It's hard to top that first time Nana was able to attend. Her grandmother had a warm seat to watch her win.

After the race, Nana was taken outside to congratulate her granddaughter.

Nana's smile. Their embrace. It's a moment Shiffrin will always cherish.

"It was so fun. Such a nice celebration to have all the people that I love the most right there," Shiffrin recounted. "Seeing my Nana's face right after my race, getting to hug her, hearing her voice, it just put everything in perspective and that made the whole day so, so much sweeter. It was so incredible to have her there."

]]> 2019-11-29 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Benitez future in doubt as dark clouds gather at Dalian]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/29/content_37526549.htm Dalian Yifang's 5-1 thrashing at Tianjin Tianhai on Wednesday has fueled mounting speculation that Rafa Benitez's days at the northeastern club could be numbered.

Having successfully steered Dalian away from the relegation zone since arriving from Newcastle United in July, Benitez has seen his side struggle to make further inroads in the latter stages of the campaign.

The team's expensively assembled foreign front three-Marek Hamsik, Salomon Rondon and Yannick Carrasco-again failed to fire on Wednesday as struggling Tianhai ran riot.

Incredibly, the host found itself 4-0 up by halftime, with the introduction of Emmanuel Boateng for the ineffective Carrasco after the break failing to inspire a Dalian comeback. Indeed, things went from bad to worse for the visitor when midfielder Cui Ming'an saw red with 14 minutes remaining.

The defeat leaves Dalian in 10th spot in the Chinese Super League, with just one game remaining, against already-relegated Beijing Renhe on Sunday.

The combination of Dalian's shocking capitulation and British reports that Benitez is being lined up to replace under-fire West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini have left many fans believing Sunday's game could be the Spaniard's last in China.

Earlier this month, Benitez told BBC podcast Football Daily that he was looking forward to his second season in the CSL, although admitted that adjusting to the language had proved a challenge both on and off the pitch. He also voiced concerns that Wanda-funded Dalian would have to perform well in the next transfer market in order to boost the squad's quota of homegrown talent.

"The foreign players can make a difference but it depends on the others.... If you don't have very good Chinese players it's very difficult to compete," Benitez told the BBC.

According to dongqiudi.com, Benitez was furious in the dressing-room after the Tianhai defeat, blasting his players for lacking fighting spirit.

The 59-year-old was at a loss to explain the limp performance in his post-match news conference, adding that he hoped to see a drastic improvement next term.

Benitez refrained from singling out specific players for criticism, but added that the very least he demands from his team is effort and a positive attitude, before hinting that some members of his squad could be headed for the exit door in the offseason.

Star playmaker Hamsik described his team's display as "unacceptable".

"We cannot lose a match in this way. For the fans, this is not acceptable. We have to react in the right way in Sunday match's and produce a good performance!" said the former Napoli conjurer.

However, the result of a match kicking off hours earlier in London may well have a bigger bearing on Benitez's future.

Defeat for struggling West Ham at Chelsea on Saturday could see the Hammers board finally lose patience with Pellegrini, with British media widely reporting that Benitez could be the man to succeed the Chilean.

Benitez is still held in high esteem in England, having famously led Liverpool to the 2005 Champions League trophy and performed admirably with a limited budget in his last Premier League job at Newcastle.

Benitez's family still lives in England, and the Daily Mirror has reported that he is ready to take the West Ham hot seat, having turned it down in 2015 when Real Madrid came calling.

However, all Benitez's recent utterances on his future indicate he will resist any offers from England.

"Patience is the key word in China," Benitez wrote in his blog last month.

"You have to adapt to another way of doing things. There are obvious improvements already but we are still adjusting to the organization's structure, bringing in new people without forgetting the Chinese staff who will be crucial for the success of the project in the future."

In stark contrast to the glum mood in the Dalian dressing room, Wednesday's result sparked scenes of jubilation for Tianhai, with the three points saving it from the drop following a tumultuous season for the club.

"Thank you, Dalian", Tianjin fans were heard to roar from the stands, compounding the visitor's humiliation.

"Before the match, our coach told us this is a life-or-death moment, and we have to come back alive," said Tianjin striker Yang Xu. "We scored quickly after the game started and everything went smoothly from there.

"I want to thank all my brothers in the team and all the brothers who are on loan at our team. Thank you all. Since the start of this season, we have changed four head coaches. Now, we are still together and we did not give up."

Tianjin coach Li Weifeng, who only took the reins in October, said: "I told all the players that this match is a do-or-die moment. We don't have to save anything for any other match. We should only try our best and play like a team."

Dalian Yifang's Yannick Carrasco (right) vies for possession with Tianjin Tianhai's Zhang Cheng during Wednesday night's Chinese Super League game in Tianjin. The host won 5-1. XINHUA

Dalian Yifang head coach Rafa Benitez is being linked with a move to West Ham.

]]> 2019-11-29 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Coach Du rates China's Tokyo hopes as 'mission impossible']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/29/content_37526553.htm China faces a "mission impossible" in its bid to reach next year's Tokyo Olympics, according to the national team's head coach, Du Feng.

Team China failed to directly qualify for next year's Games following a disappointing performance at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Despite hosting the tournament, China only ranked 24th out of the 32 teams, with two wins and three defeats.

Now, Team China faces the daunting task of trying to qualify via the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournaments, which will see 24 teams vying for just four Tokyo 2020 spots. Together with host Japan, a total of 12 teams will play at the Games.

The tournaments will take place from June 23-28 next year in Canada, Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia. China will face Greece and Canada in the first group stage in Victoria, Canada.

"After the end of next year's CBA league, the training period for the national team will be very short. It's much more difficult than the World Cup," said Du, before describing his team's task as "a mission impossible", according to Xinhua.

Du was appointed as Team China coach in late October following the World Cup debacle. Announcing his appointment, the Chinese Basketball Association thanked Du for "daring to take this responsibility at a very difficult time for Team China".

The 38-year-old is juggling the national team job with his role as head coach of CBA side the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

China has never missed an Olympic Games since 1984, however most fans acknowledge that Du will need to perform miracles in order to avoid a change to that statistic, given the current gap in quality between his charges and the world's powerhouses.

Merely overseeing an improvement in performances at the qualifying tournament would likely keep the critics at bay for Du, who has urged fans to be patient.

"The team is going through a very difficult time. Our basketball players and fans could see the gap between us and the leading teams at the World Cup. Closing that gap should be our number one priority," Du told Xinhua.

"Chinese basketball needs to continue with its reforms and has a long way to go. This project may require generations of effort, and more understanding and tolerance from all walks of life."

Du also told Xinhua that the CBA should resist the urge to hire foreign coaches because he believes their homegrown counterparts have a better understanding of Chinese players' mentality.

Whatever their views on the coach may be, the general consensus among fans is that Team China needs to rely less on veterans like former NBA player Yi Jianlian and focus more on nurturing a new generation to form the core of the national squad. However, the lackluster performances of young stars like Zhou Qi and Guo Ailun at the World Cup showed there's still a lot of work to be done on that front.

"Considering Team China's current situation and the strength of our two group rivals, it's very likely that the Chinese squad's journey in the qualifiers will end after two games," basketball commentator Yang Yi wrote on Weibo.

"With barely no chance to advance, Team China's priority is to use the platform to produce their best possible performance.

"Team China should consider more young players. Four years later, many of the veterans who cannot plat the next World Cup will retire from the national team. However, I'm still confident that Team China's performance will exceed our expectation."

]]> 2019-11-29 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Ibrahimovic statue burns as Malmo fans cry 'betrayal']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/29/content_37526554.htm Zlatan Ibrahimovic's legacy at Malmo, the Swedish team where he started his illustrious career, looks to be in tatters after he bought a stake of nearly 25 percent in one of its biggest rivals.

Sweden's biggest sports star outlined his desire to make Hammarby the "best in Scandinavia" after becoming a part-owner of the Stockholm-based club in his first move into soccer ownership.

"There are no limits to how big Hammarby can be," Ibrahimovic told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in its Wednesday edition after the deal was announced.

His decision to invest in Hammarby has gone down badly at Malmo, where a golden statue of Ibrahimovic was unveiled outside its stadium last month.

A toilet seat was placed around one of Ibrahimovic's arms on the statue and his name was covered up, leading to the monument requiring police protection on Wednesday afternoon. Later that night, footage on social media appeared to show fans attempting to set it alight.

Malmo fans are angry not just that Ibrahimovic wants to make another club better than his boyhood team, but that he also said he didn't think Malmo supporters would be disappointed at his choice.

"A betrayal became a betrayal and a provocation," Kaveh Hosseinpour, vice-chairman of Malmo's official supporters' group, told The Associated Press.

"So he basically stuck a knife in our backs, and then he came along with a sword and chopped off our heads."

Hosseinpour blasted Ibrahimovic for thinking he was "above criticism, that he is above Malmo FF and our feelings just because he is Zlatan".

"The statue is completely worthless now, just a piece of junk," Hosseinpour said. "The best way to solve that was if it was removed and put somewhere in Stockholm or something.

"Every game we go to, we are going to pass Zlatan knowing that there is a statue of an investor in Hammarby, not the statue of the football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic anymore."

The 38-year-old Ibrahimovic has acquired half of the 47 percent stake in Hammarby owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, the US-based company whose portfolio of sports teams it owns or has investments in includes the Los Angeles Galaxy-the Major League Soccer team where Ibrahimovic played for the past 18 months.

By buying 50 percent of AEG Sweden, Ibrahimovic owns nearly a quarter of Hammarby, which finished third behind champion Djurgardens and Malmo in Sweden's top-flight Allsvenskan league this year to earn qualification for next season's Europa League.

"Spontaneously, the timing feels good," Hammarby chairman Richard von Yxkull said. "We have had a strong development in recent years and next year we play in Europe.

"To then get a person like Zlatan Ibrahimovic into the club, with the passion and winning mentality he stands for, feels right."

Ibrahimovic, who retired from international duty in 2016 and is regarded as one of Sweden's greatest ever players, had in recent days posted a photo of Hammarby's green-and-white jersey on his social media accounts, sparking speculation in his native country that he may join the club as a player having recently left LA Galaxy.

However, he said he will not play in Sweden again-he started his career at Malmo, where he was born, in 1999-and is still weighing up where to play next. Ibrahimovic has also played for Ajax, Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.

At the Galaxy, he scored 56 goals in 52 games in MLS-and he is still not done yet.

Except maybe in Malmo.

"What I have done for Malmo will be there forever," Ibrahimovic said, when asked if he was concerned about the reaction of Malmo fans. "This is a completely different situation. It has nothing to do with where my career began."

For Hosseinpour, that is an "absurd, completely mad" point of view.

"Of course we would be offended and angry," he said. "I don't know which dimension he lives in where we wouldn't be hurt by this."

]]> 2019-11-29 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Pliskova hires Andy's former coach]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/28/content_37526205.htm PRAGUE-World No 2 Karolina Pliskova said on Monday she had hired Venezuelan coach Daniel Vallverdu to replace Spaniard Conchita Martinez whom she fired earlier this month.

"He was one of my priorities from the start," Pliskova said of Vallverdu on her website.

The 33-year-old Vallverdu worked with Andy Murray from 2010 to 2014 and was part of the Ivan Lendl-led team that helped the Scot win Olympic gold and the US Open in 2012, as well as Wimbledon in 2013.

Vallverdu has also worked with Thomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov and this year joined Magnus Norman's team coaching Stan Wawrinka.

"He's had fantastic results, he understands tennis like few others and I am convinced he has a lot to offer to me," added the 27-year-old Czech, who is still seeking her maiden Grand Slam title.

Pliskova said former Ukraine Fed Cup player Olga Savchuk had also joined her team ahead of a training camp in Tenerife and her first 2020 tournament in Brisbane, where she will defend the title.

Pliskova, the 2016 US Open finalist, parted ways with 1994 Wimbledon champion Martinez after a season that saw her win four WTA tournaments and reach the semifinals at the Australian Open and the WTA Finals.

Players suspended

Meanwhile, the Tennis Integrity Unit has revealed that two female players, from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, have been provisionally suspended while under investigation for unspecified offenses.

The TIU said Ksenia Palkina and Albina Khabibulina cannot compete in or attend WTA events during the probe.

The 29-year-old Palkina is ranked No 693 in singles and No 496 in doubles, while the 27-year-old Khabibulina is ranked No 294 in doubles.

]]> 2019-11-28 00:00:00 <![CDATA[Lifting off like never before]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/28/content_37526248.htm The world's elite snowboarders and skiers are raring to give Beijing's stunning new Big Air slope a debut to remember next month.

Ready for liftoff three years ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the world's first permanent Big Air ramp will host the FIS Freeski and Snowboard World Cup's annual stop in the capital from Dec 12-14.

The event promises to be a true treat for fans of extreme winter sports, with a rock concert featuring local bands on the final day set to enhance the festival atmosphere at western Beijing's regenerated Shougang Industrial Park, the venue for the Big Air disciplines of freeski and snowboarding at the 2022 Games.

"We keep sharing the pictures of the slope with the athletes, and everyone gets really excited to be here. This is a unique venue which will help take the sport to the next level," Saskia Schnorrenberger, the director of global operations for event co-organizer Air and Style Company, told China Daily at Shougang on Tuesday.

"For the athletes it's always good to get a feeling and to practice to know the venue even though they can't get any points for the Olympics yet."

Big Air, which made its Olympic debut at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, involves athletes hurling down a snow-covered ramp to perform aerial tricks off a massive kicker before landing.

Four World Cup gold medals (male and female for both freeski and snowboarding) will be up for grabs at Shougang, the only snow sports venue for 2022 in Beijing's downtown area.

All the other snow events will be held at co-host Zhangjiakou in surrounding Hebei province.

"There is no better way to unveil an Olympic venue like this than by hosting a high-profile World Cup event for its debut," said Chen Jie, a deputy director of Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau.

"I believe it will be a great test for the facility, our services and our operational team to make necessary remedies and gain experience for staging the Olympic competitions successfully and many other events to come in the future."

The final installation of the slope's ancillary facilities, including spectator stands, broadcasting blocks and media areas, will be completed by Dec 1 followed by a 10-day snow-making and course-grooming process, according to the bureau.

Elite field

Over 160 skiers and boarders from 30 countries and regions, including Canadian greats Mack McMorris and Max Parrot and Austria's Olympic champion Anna Gasser, will show off their daredevil moves and compete for FIS ranking points at the World Cup meet. After two days of preliminary rounds for freeski and snowboarding respectively, the finalists will each perform three runs on Dec 14 to decide the medals.

Towering over disused smokestacks at the former steel-mill site, the 164-meter-long, 64-meter-high slope is the world's first permanent construction of its kind. Big Air events elsewhere in the world have always used temporary facilities.

"The permanent venue here provides a year-round training facility," said Schnorrenberger. "For me, being an old-school snowboarder, it's so crazy to see that we have this landmark. And then you can actually see the opportunity for more events to happen here after the Olympics, which is so important for the sport to grow."

Founded in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1993, the Air and Style global series first arrived in Beijing in 2010, with the stop upgraded to a World Cup event in 2017. It was previously staged on detachable ramps at Beijing's Bird's Nest and Workers' Stadium.

"To see how the sport has grown in the last 10 years is just so exciting. It always fills my heart with pleasure to see the spark is coming to China," said Schnorrenberger. Now with such a unique facility on their doorsteps, China's young snowboarding and freeski teams are more determined than ever to close the gap to the world's best.

"With the Shougang slope available, our athletes can stay at home to train systematically instead of traveling around, which wastes time," said Yang Dong, a deputy director of the National Winter Sports Administrative Center.

"The ramp will significantly help them increase their jump volume as well as improving their routine consistency."

Beijing's Big Air ramp, which will host some of the freeski and snowboarding competitions at the 2022 Winter Olympics, certainly doesn't lack for visual impact at Shougang Industrial Park in the capital's western suburbs. XINHUA

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2019-11-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Fun trail series to expand]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/28/content_37526207.htm The Alpine Ski Orienteering Open is going the extra mile for the nation's winter sports push by expanding to new destinations in its sixth season.

The innovative amateur series, which is staged within a smaller area compared to its larger cross-country version, sees three-member teams navigate through a dense network of snow trails on skis to make it to various control points (or checkpoints) in a certain order. The fastest team along the best route choice wins.

After progressing from a single-resort race to a three-destination series last season, the competition has added two more stops to its 2019-20 season, which kicks off on Dec 21 at Beidahu Ski Resort in Jilin province.

That will be followed by the Yabuli leg in Heilongjiang (Jan 11), its first overseas event at Suomutunturi Resort in Finland (Jan 25), and the Aoshan race in Shaanxi (Feb 8), before the March 7 national final jointly held by Genting and Wanlong resorts in Zhangjiakou, Beijing's co-host for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Hebei.

Co-organized by the Chinese Ski Association and China Sports Venue Association (CSVA), the series has developed into one of the most participated mass skiing events in China, with over 10,000 skiers of all ages signing up last season.

"The event has helped a lot in lowering the threshold for more of the public to try and experience skiing and orienteering as a healthy and fun lifestyle choice," said Zhang Dong, a deputy director of the CSVA's council.

Zhang was speaking at the launch of the series' new season at Beijing's Olympic Park on Wednesday to mark the 800-day countdown to the start of the 2022 Olympics.

"This event suits our country's conditions. It doesn't require terrain as large as the overseas cross-country version. And the downgraded difficulty level will help attract more beginners," he said.

Operated and promoted by Sportvane, this year's open series has received strong financial and logistical backing from three 2022 Games partners-Bank of China, dairy giant Yili Group and sportswear manufacturer Anta.

The assistance from Bank of China will significantly lower participation expenses to make the event more accessible for the public, said organizers.

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2019-11-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Tiger targeting glorious end to his stellar year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/28/content_37526245.htm In years to come, linguists could well choose to reword the old adage "Rising from the ashes like a phoenix", replacing the name of the mythological bird with a certain legendary golfer. That will be especially valid if Tiger Woods puts an exclamation point to his amazing 2019 by leading the United States to victory at next month's Presidents Cup.

Woods plans to head into the holiday season on another high note by becoming only the second playing captain to triumph in the biennial competition, which tees off in Melbourne on Dec 9, against the International Team, led by Ernie Els.

Over the past 12 months, Woods, who turns 44 at the end of the year, has continued to defy the doubters in his battle with career-threatening injuries, producing two remarkable wins for the ages. First, there was a 15th major victory at the Masters in April, and then a record-tying 82nd PGA Tour triumph at the ZoZo Championship in Japan in late October.

After unsurprisingly picking himself for the Presidents Cup, Woods now has a golden opportunity to put the cherry on the cake and conclude a stirring 2019.

It was at the 2017 Presidents Cup that a downcast Woods, then a captain's assistant, admitted that he might never play competitive golf again following a fourth back surgery.

"I don't know what my future holds for me," he said at Liberty National in New Jersey.

But like all great sporting comebacks, Woods climbed and conquered his mountain, winning the 2018 Tour Championship before producing an improbable triumph at Augusta National seven months later.

"I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple years ago. I could barely walk. I couldn't sit. Couldn't lay down. Luckily I had the procedure on my back, which gave me a chance at having a normal life," he said.

"But then all of a sudden, I realized I could actually swing a golf club again, I felt if I could somehow piece this together that I still had the hands to do it. The body's not the same as it was a long time ago, but I still have good hands."

He limited himself to six more tournaments after his Masters coronation and when he failed to progress into the FedExCup season-finale at August's Tour Championship, he revealed that he had undergone more surgery to repair cartilage damage in his left knee.

Some wondered if this was yet another major setback, but in his return to tournament play some two months later in Japan, Woods was back to his best, rewriting history along the way at the ZoZo Championship where he won by three strokes ahead of Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama.

"It's a big number," said Woods after recording his 82nd win. "I've been very fortunate to have had the career I've had so far. To have won this tournament in Japan, it's just so fitting because I've always been a global player.

"I didn't really know that I would come back and play at this level. Swing-wise, my speed started coming back. Ironically, my back has been less sore because of it. I've been able to rotate better, but still, it's always going to be sore but it's just less sore."

US Open champion Gary Woodland, who had a front-row seat playing alongside Woods in the final two rounds in Japan, tipped his cap to the icon and predicted the world will see more amazing feats from Woods.

"Eight-two's just a crazy number. You look at the guys who have won 10 times and it's pretty special, let alone to come out here and win 82 times," said Woodland, who will make his debut in the Presidents Cup as one of Woods' picks.

"To battle through the injuries he's dealt with, gosh, he's young and he's playing unbelievable. The ball-striking exhibition I've seen the last two days is a joke. I don't see him stopping anytime soon. I think there's a lot more in store."

Next up for Woods is attempting to extend US dominance in the Presidents Cup, which the Americans have won for the last seven editions. At Royal Melbourne, site of the US Team's lone defeat in 1998, Woods will be assisted by Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker.

The current world No 7 acknowledged that leading as a playing captain will present different challenges, but he is confident of emulating Hale Irwin's victorious feat in 1994.

"It's an honor and a tremendous responsibility to be able to be captain and represent our country. We're going to have a pretty solid team going down there against the Internationals," said Woods.

"On paper, we certainly have the advantage in the world rankings. When it comes right down to it, like I told the guys, when you start out on Thursday, it's 0-0. We have to go out and win this cup. Doesn't matter what the world ranking is. You have to go and beat the other guys, and that's what we're going to try and do."

Tiger Woods will attempt to win next month's Presidents Cup for the US as a playing captain. AP

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2019-11-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Murray still haunted by horror of Dunblane]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/28/content_37526246.htm LONDON-Former world No 1 Andy Murray reveals for the first time in a new documentary that he suffered from breathing problems and anxiety following the Dunblane School massacre.

The 32-year-old and his older brother Jamie were pupils at the school in Scotland where, on March 13, 1996, Thomas Hamilton shot dead 16 children, aged between 5 and 6, and a teacher in the gym before turning the gun on himself.

Andy Murray, then 8 years old, had been on his way to the gym with his classmates when the 44-year-old Hamilton-armed with four handguns and 700 rounds of ammunition-opened fire.

He was ushered away and told to hide under the windows of the school principal's office while Jamie, who is 15 months older, was in another classroom.

Murray has rarely spoken about the massacre and did not want to be filmed talking about it.

But the documentary Andy Murray: Resurfacing includes a voice recording that the 2012 Olympic champion sent to director Olivia Cappuccini, who is the fiancee of Murray's brother-in-law, Scott Sears.

"You asked me a while ago why tennis was important to me," says Murray in the documentary, due to be released on Amazon on Friday.

"Obviously I had the thing that happened at Dunblane. I am sure for all the kids there it would be difficult for different reasons.

"The fact that we knew the guy (Hamilton), we went to his kids' club, he had been in our car, we had driven and dropped him off at train stations and things."

Family upheaval

Murray, who bursts into tears halfway through the recording, says the massacre precipitated a further traumatic sequence of events in his family.

"Within 12 months of that happening, our parents got divorced," he says.

"It was a difficult time that, for kids, to see that and not quite understand what is going on.

"And then six to 12 months after that, my brother (Jamie) moved away from home.

"He went away to train, to play tennis. We obviously used to do everything together. When he moved away that was also quite hard for me."

Murray admits that is when he began to suffer from anxiety but tennis has provided an escape for him.

"Around that time and after that, for a year or so, I had lots of anxiety but that came out when I was playing tennis," said Murray.

"When I was competing I would get really bad breathing problems.

"My feeling towards tennis is that it's an escape for me in some ways, because all of these things are stuff that I have bottled up. We don't talk about these things. They are not things that are discussed.

"The way that I am, on the tennis court, I show some positive things about my personality and I also show the bad things and things I really hate.

"Tennis allows me to be that child, that has all of these questions. That's why tennis is important to me."

The documentary follows the twotime Wimbledon champion as he attempts to recover from a hip injury that threatened to end his career.

Following surgery earlier in the year, he has rejoined the ATP singles circuit.

He won the European Open in Antwerp in October, his first title since 2017, and helped Britain reach the semifinals of last week's Davis Cup in Madrid.

Major test

Murray said he can finally play without worrying about his hip following career-saving surgery in January, but expects next year's Australian Open to be the biggest test of his progress.

The 32-year-old looked on the verge of ending his career at the start of the year but returned to singles action on the ATP Tour in August following resurfacing surgery, and won his first trophy since 2017 beating Stan Wawrinka in Antwerp last month.

Having played only one match in Britain's run to the last four of the Davis Cup Finals in Spain last week due to a groin issue, Murray is hoping to build up his fitness ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2020.

"I know I'll be able to compete in major tournaments without having to worry about it," said Murray, who competed at three tournaments in China over the fall as part of his singles comeback.

"I've played three-set matches and some long ones recently, but the best of five is an extra hour, hour and a half on top of that so I'll find out in Australia.

"At the beginning, you're thinking about it (hip) after every movement you make and that's not a good way to go into competing but now I'm not thinking about it when I'm playing."

The three-time major champion is also scheduled to play in the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia, starting Jan 3.

"I was asked what would be success in Australia and I don't know how I'll perform," Murray added.

"I'm not expecting to win the tournament (Australian Open) but if I can play a five-set match and get through and have no ill effects on the hip... that's success."

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2019-11-28 00:00:00
<![CDATA[Ancelotti immersed in Napoli nightmare]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/27/content_37525765.htm MILAN - Napoli heads for Liverpool on Wednesday for a Champions League game which could prove crucial to coach Carlo Ancelotti's future at the troubled Italian club.

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Coach's future at troubled Italian club could hinge on daunting Liverpool trip

MILAN - Napoli heads for Liverpool on Wednesday for a Champions League game which could prove crucial to coach Carlo Ancelotti's future at the troubled Italian club.

The three-time Champions League-winning coach's second season at Stadio San Paolo has proved to be a complicated one, after leading it to second in Serie A in his first year.

His team's fortunes have waned after the high of opening its Champions League campaign with a 2-0 win over reigning champion Liverpool. Dressing-room unrest abounds amid friction between players and the club's board.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis ordered the team to be confined to a week-long training camp earlier this month after a 2-1 league defeat to Roma saw it slip to seventh in Serie A.

But as Ancelotti voiced his disagreement with the lockdown, the players returned home after a 1-1 draw at Red Bull Salzburg three days later, which stalled its bid to reach the Champions League last 16.

"The relationship between the president and I is excellent and nothing changes," Ancelotti, 60, had insisted after saying he disagreed with the training camp.

Movie mogul De Laurentiis threatened to sell the entire squad and take legal action against the players after a dressing-room revolt.

And the sanctions began to fall this week amid reports on Monday the players would receive hefty fines for breaking the lockdown.

Gazzetta Dello Sport reported that players' salaries for November - apart from those out injured at the time - will be cut by a quarter.

Brazilian Allan, who had an argument with Edoardo De Laurentiis, son of the Napoli president, will see his salary slashed by half, or 200,000 euros ($220,000).

In total, players' salaries will be cut by 2.5 million euros ($2.7 million).

Media blackout

The club has also imposed a media silence, with Ancelotti and the players refusing to speak after Saturday's 1-1 draw against AC Milan extended its winless run to six games in all competitions, and left it 15 points behind Serie A leader Juventus and out of the European qualification places.

However, under UEFA rules Ancelotti will be obliged to speak during a news conference at Anfield on the eve of the Liverpool match, with Napoli confirming that he will be present.

"We are not satisfied with the performance and the ranking, but it is also true that we deserved more points and more luck in various games," Ancelotti said earlier this month.

"The situation must be considered with a cool head."

Ex-Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, meanwhile, was seen in the stands at San Siro on Saturday, fuelling speculation he could be waiting in the wings.

Napoli is still on course to qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds as it currently sits second in Group E behind Liverpool, four points ahead of third-place Salzburg with two games to play.

Ancelotti's side will reach the last 16 if it beats Liverpool or if Salzburg does not defeat Genk, having failed to advance past the group stage last season.

But Napoli comes up against a Liverpool side which has an eightpoint lead at the top of the Premier League and whose only loss this season came at the San Paolo.

To add to its problems, Napoli will be without captain Lorenzo Insigne, who hurt his elbow in Saturday's match.

The Italian forward has scored five times for Napoli this campaign, and also scored the last-gasp winner against Liverpool in last season's 1-0 group-stage victory in Naples.

Polish forward Arkadiusz Milik has an abdominal inflammation, joining an injury list which already includes defensive duo Kevin Malcuit and Faouzi Ghoulam.

But Portuguese fullback Mario Rui and Spanish midfielder Fabian Ruiz, absent against Milan, have been named in the squad.

Ancelotti arrived in Naples boasting three Champions League trophies from his time with Milan and Real Madrid, and a Premier League trophy from his tenure at Chelsea.

But Napoli's chances of ending Juve's domestic domination have faded along with its hopes of a first Serie A title since the days of Diego Maradona, who also helped it win its only European trophy - the 1989 UEFA Cup.

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2019-11-27 07:47:19
<![CDATA[Solving the naturalization conundrum]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/27/content_37525764.htm Ever since Brazil-born Ai Kesen's groundbreaking debut in the red of Team China, debate has raged on the issue of naturalized players in Chinese soccer.

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With Team China's squad featuring two foreign-born stars, new CFA proposals look to strike right balance on imports

Ever since Brazil-born Ai Kesen's groundbreaking debut in the red of Team China, debate has raged on the issue of naturalized players in Chinese soccer.

The Guangzhou Evergrande forward, aka Elkeson, became the first player without Chinese heritage to play for the national team in a September World Cup qualifier in the Maldives. He joined England-born Li Ke, who has a mother of Chinese origin, as the squad's second naturalized player.

The question of just how far the Chinese Football Association might take their naturalization policy has inevitably arisen, with some fans even concerned that homegrown players could one day be in the minority in the domestic game.

According to Beijing Youth Daily, the CFA and representatives of the 16 Chinese Super League clubs met in Shanghai on Monday to address potential rule changes on naturalized players, with a number of eyecatching proposals emerging from the summit that could be enforced next season.

Perhaps the most significant proposal of all is that naturalized players with Chinese ancestry will be classified as homegrown and, as such, will be subject to the same rules, including the salary cap, that domestic players must adhere to.

It is reported that the CFA wants to permit each CSL club to register a maximum of two naturalized players without Chinese heritage, but with only one allowed on the pitch at the same time.

This season, clubs have been permitted four foreigners in match-day squads, with three allowed on the pitch simultaneously.

Current CSL leader Evergrande, which is expected to wrap up a record-extending eighth domestic title on Sunday, would appear to have the most to lose from the would-be policy.

Evergrande striker Ai Kesen has reportedly been assisting the club in efforts to persuade more players to join its naturalized ranks, meaning some could be facing up to loan spells elsewhere.

"Right now only Guangzhou Evergrande and Shandong Luneng have naturalized players without Chinese heritage, and under the new policy, it seems that Evergrande can only keep Ai Kesen and Ricardo Goulart," soccer reporter Zhao Yu wrote on social media.

"In the future, it will be much harder for new naturalized players without Chinese heritage to enter Chinese professional leagues."

While Ai Kesen has helped level up standards at Evergrande and the national team, splashing out on foreigners not as feasible for clubs with lesser financial resources.

That has led to fears that unregulated naturalization could widen the gap between the haves and have-nots as powerhouses like Evergrande could choose to inject more foreign talent into their squads, thereby extending their trophy collections and growing their coffers.

Striking the right balance between upping playing standards and giving young homegrown talent enough minutes on the pitch is also a concern.

Salary cap

Monday's meeting in Shanghai also discussed implementing a stricter salary cap.

Last Wednesday, a CFA statement demanded that all clubs delay the signing of new contracts for domestic players in its top three tiers. The CFA said the move was in the interests of all professional clubs and the healthy development of Chinese soccer.

Beijing Youth Daily reported that CSL players' salaries will remain capped at 10 million yuan ($1.4 million), but it's expected that efforts will be increased to clamp down on clubs that try to exploit loopholes in the rules. Caps of 6 million yuan and 3 million yuan will apply to second - and third-tier teams, respectively.

It is also proposed that any player earning the uppermost level of the cap - 10 million yuan - will require the club's permission if he wants to transfer teams.

Moreover, each club will be permitted one so-called "Super Foreign Player", whose transfer fee should not exceed 25 million euros ($28 million), with no limits on his salary.

This proposal, however, did not go down well with a number of clubs, who argued that the "super" player's unlimited salary may breach existing rules on investment and could potentially be damaging to a squad's overall cohesion.

A final round of talks is scheduled for early December when the CFA will hope to iron out these details.

Ultimately, the CFA hopes any rule changes are fair and to the benefit of the Chinese game, particularly youth development.

 

Ai Kesen (right) and Li Ke this year became Team China's first ever naturalized players. Brazil-born Ai Kesen's selection garnered extra attention given he has no Chinese heritage, with the CFA now looking to limit clubs to two such players per squad. Xinhua

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2019-11-27 07:47:19
<![CDATA[Jose's Euro return can help convince lingering skeptics]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/26/content_37525496.htm Victory against Olympiacos will seal Tottenham's place in last 16

Jose Mourinho's charm offensive has been in overdrive during his whirlwind first few days at Tottenham Hotspur.

He has lauded Tottenham's training complex as being "second to none" and without comparison across Europe "at any level". He says he has slept in the club's pajamas at its on-site hotel which he rates as "six star," with its "soft pillows" and "amazing duvet".

As far for Spurs' new home, it's "the best stadium in the world", as the former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United boss continued his quest to win over fans who might still be skeptical about his appointment.

Getting the team through to the knockout stage of the Champions League wouldn't do him any harm in the ingratiation process.

Three days after guiding Spurs to a Premier League victory at West Ham in his first match since replacing Mauricio Pochettino, Mourinho will take charge of them in a home match for the first time when Greek side Olympiacos visits on Tuesday in the Champions League.

A victory guarantees progress out of Group B alongside Bayern Munich with a game to spare.

It would complete a decent week's work for Mourinho as he attempts to rebuild his coaching reputation after a fractious, and ultimately disappointing, two-and-a-half-year spell at United that ended almost 12 months ago.

The Portuguese coach hugged his players and kept a respectful distance from the traveling Spurs fans while he celebrated the 3-2 win against West Ham on Saturday. It might take some time for them to accept Mourinho and take him to their hearts, especially considering the work Pochettino did in raising standards at Tottenham - even getting the north Londoners to a Champions League final last season when it lost to Liverpool.

Mourinho has done that with Porto and Inter Milan, winning the title match on both occasions, so is seeking to become the first manager to win European club soccer's biggest prize with three different clubs - all from different countries. None of them could be classed as modern-day heavyweights, making that achievement all the more impressive.

The closest he has come to winning the Champions League since his 2010 triumph with Inter was a trio of semifinal appearances - all with Madrid - in 2011,'12 and '13. He managed to steer United out of its group last season, only to get fired before the knockout stages even began.

If he was happy to be back in the Premier League - his "natural habitat," he called it - at the weekend, imagine how he will feel making a return to the Champions League arena.

Three teams have already qualified after four of the six rounds of games: Bayern, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

Ronaldo rested

Seeking a win to advance along with Juventus in Group D, Atletico Madrid is well aware of the dangers of a rested Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo took some time off before the second leg of his team's last-16 tie last season and responded with a hat-trick against his former club as Juve overturned a 2-0 deficit.

Ronaldo was rested again last weekend, for Juve's 3-1 win at Atalanta, as he continues to recover from a knee injury.

The 34-year-old Ronaldo showed little sign of any problem while playing for Portugal in its recent European Championship qualifiers, bagging a hat-trick in one match and also netting in another.

Juventus is looking to secure top spot in the group with a win on Tuesday.

Dortmund's decline

Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre has little room for error ahead of his side's trip to Barcelona on Wednesday.

A win would put the German side, which is a point behind first-place Barca in Group F, through to the knockout stage, but the manner of Dortmund's performance will have a big say in Favre's future.

Dortmund fans reacted with fury after a 3-3 draw with last-place Paderborn in the Bundesliga on Friday, berating the players after their latest lackluster performance in a signal that their patience is wearing thin.

Barcelona can seal first place in the group with a win.

Real revenge

Real Madrid can qualify from Group A - and gain a measure of revenge - by beating Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. PSG overwhelmed Madrid 3-0 in Paris in September, a result that left Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane under some pressure.

"We're in better shape," said Zidane, whose team is only behind Barcelona in the Spanish league on goal difference. "We had a tough game in Paris, but that's in the past."

Group C leader Manchester City will advance by beating Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk at home on Tuesday.

Liverpool has a one-point lead over Napoli heading into their Group E meeting on Wednesday. Red Bull Salzburg is a further four points back before its game against out-of-contention Genk.

In Group H, Ajax, Chelsea and Valencia are all on seven points. Valencia hosts Chelsea on Wednesday, when Ajax travels to Lille.

In Group G, RB Leipzig and Lyon can advance by beating Benfica and Zenit St. Petersburg, respectively, on Wednesday.

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2019-11-26 08:07:05
<![CDATA[Spain's Davis win tinged with grief]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/26/content_37525495.htm MADRID - Rafael Nadal gave all he had on the Caja Magica center court in Madrid.

The top-ranked Spanish star even admitted he risked getting injured by playing eight matches - five singles, three doubles - in six days at the Davis Cup Finals, the new World Cup of men's team tennis.

Nadal won all his matches, leading Spain to its sixth Davis Cup with a victory over first-time finalist Canada on Sunday.

But in Nadal's opinion, the only hero for Spain was grieving teammate Roberto Bautista Agut. He sent Spain on its way to victory by winning the first singles match on Sunday, three days after the death of his father.

"I've won the eight matches but the person who was vital in this Davis Cup was Roberto," Nadal said. "For me, what he did was something almost (super) human. I don't know how to explain it. It will be an example for the rest of my life. He had to leave, then his dad died, then he came back and practiced with us yesterday, and today he was ready again to play at a very high level. It was something incredible."

Before Nadal defeated Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 7-6 (7) to clinch the title, Bautista Agut had given Spain a 1-0 lead by beating Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Bautista Agut pointed his finger to the sky after winning his match, and was in tears while speaking briefly to the crowd.

"It was an amazing feeling on the court today," said Bautista Agut, whose father died on Thursday - a day after his son had defeated Nikola Mektic of Croatia - with his health deteriorating quickly after an illness that stemmed from a 2016 accident.

It was Nadal who had tears in his eyes when Bautista Agut thanked him for his efforts during the tournament.

"You gave us goosebumps all week, especially today," Bautista Agut said. "Thank you. I'm sure that next year you will do it again."

The 31-year-old Bautista Agut, ranked ninth in the world, played as teammates Pablo Carreno Busta and Marcel Granollers nursed injuries entering the final.

"I had the opportunity to play today because all the team and all the players did an unbelievable effort since the first day," Bautista Agut said.

Nadal considered himself lucky to be able to play all matches.

"It's true that I held up, but we know that playing so many matches in this (hardcourt) surface is risky for me, something can happen at any time," Nadal said. "That's how it's been in the past, but luckily I held up."

Granollers and Lopez had been scheduled to face Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil in an ultimately canceled doubles rubber, although Nadal was likely to play if the title had been at stake. Nadal played in the decisive doubles on Friday and Saturday.

Voted the tournament's best player, Nadal sealed the title with his 29th straight Davis Cup singles win, igniting the host's celebrations.

Tournament organizer and Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique, his pop-star wife Shakira - who performed in the closing ceremony - and Spanish King Felipe VI were among those celebrating Spain's triumph.

Spain's other Davis Cup titles were in 2000,'04,'08,'09 and'11.

Canada was seeking its first Davis Cup title since debuting in the competition in 1913.

"I feel like we've really come really far as a team, as a nation," the 20-year-old Shapovalov said. "Definitely we're super proud. Obviously it sucks, sucks losing in the finals. But I'm super proud of everyone. We've put in 120 percent every single day. It's amazing how far we've been able to come."

The Canadians, who were without the injured Milos Raonic, eliminated Italy and the United States in the group stage, and Australia and Russia in the knockout rounds.

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2019-11-26 08:07:05
<![CDATA[Xu and Sun scintillate to strike Singapore jackpots]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/26/content_37525494.htm Chinese paddlers pocket $100K each after taking contrasting routes to glory

China swept the singles crowns at the T2 Diamond Singapore tournament on Sunday as Xu Xin and Sun Yingsha enjoyed bumper pay days of $100,000 apiece.

Xu proved too strong for Lin Yunju of Chinese Taipei to ease to victory 3-0 (11-9, 11-5, 11-8 and 11-6) in the men's final, but compatriot Sun Yingsha needed to dig much deeper to overcome Japan's Mima Ito, eventually prevailing 4-3 (11-7, 11-3, 6-11, 7-11, 5-3, 3-5, 5-4) in another engrossing battle that is now the norm in their burgeoning rivalry.

The prize money was a secondary concern for both China's champions, although afterward Xu admitted he was looking forward to treating his family by dipping into his winner's purse.

 

China's Xu Xin serves to Lin Yun-ju of Chinese Taipei during their men's singles final at the T2 Diamond tournament in Singapore on Sunday. Xu won in straight games to pocket a $100,000 first prize. Xinhua

"Had I finished second, I was going to use the prize money to buy milk powder for my kids! But now that I've won, I should buy a couple of designer handbags for my wife too!" joked Xu.

Expectations were high that Lin Yun-ju would go the distance against Xu.

The 18-year-old has taken the table tennis world by storm this year, stunning Ma Long and Fan Zhendong on his way to the T2 Diamond Malaysia title four months ago.

It looked as if he might be on his way to a second T2 Diamond triumph on Sunday when he left another Chinese powerhouse, second seed Lin Gaoyuan, in a spin after a straight-games victory (11-6, 11-10, 11-8, 11-8) in their semifinal.

However, Xu proved an entirely different proposition. After a tightly contested first game (11-9), Lin couldn't live with Xu's relentless forehand pressure to easily succumb to a straight-games loss.

"Mentally I felt really good in this tournament and played with a happy heart. It feels like home ground playing in Singapore and I hope fans will continue to turn up and support their favorite players," said Xu, who added that he was inspired by teammates Ma's tough training schedule.

"Chinese Table Tennis Association chairman Liu Guoliang posted a video on social media of Ma Long training," explained Xu. "When you see such a talented player training even on weekends, apart from being a big encouragement for me, it shows me that I have to work harder."

Xu was equally impressive in his semifinal as he made quick work of another rising star - blowing away Japanese 16-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto, seeded third, 4-1 (11-7, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 5-4).

Xu is making habit of schooling both up-and-coming teenagers - winning all six of his encounters with Harimoto and all three against Lin Yun-ju.

"I knew this was going to be a challenging one and he is one player that is tough to work out," said Lin Yun-ju after another humbling defeat to Xu.

"There wasn't any point when I felt comfortable at all and there were very few weaknesses in his game, even when he does make the occasional mistake."

There was some consolation for Tomokazu when he edged Lin Gaoyuan 4-3 (8-11, 3-11, 11-6, 11-10, 5-3, 3-5, 5-3) to claim third place.

T2 Diamond tournaments feature a unique "FAST5" mode, which comes into play if no player has won four games after 24 minutes. After that, all remaining games are played to five points instead of 11.

That was the route that top seed Sun Yingsha needed to take as she renewed her epic rivalry with Ito.

Sunday's Singapore clash was their fifth meeting this year, with Sun now having won four of those. She also beat Ito at the world championships in Budapest, the German stop of the World Tour and at the Team World Cup in Tokyo. Ito's solitary victory came earlier this month in Sweden.

Sun also negotiated tough matches en route to the Sunday's final, beating teammate Wang Manyu, seeded fourth, 4-2(7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 5-1, 5-0, 5-1).

Ito had an easier time in her semi, ousting 15th seed Jeon Ji-hee of South Korea 4-2(11-7, 5-11, 11-10, 11-2, 5-1). Jeon had accounted for China's world No 1 Chen Meng in the quarterfinals.

Afterward Sun said that the $100,000 first prize "was not important", adding: "The more important thing is to gain experience against a player of Ito's caliber.

"Every time I play her, I learn something and I'm expecting to face her more in the future."

Ito is also clearly relishing the rivalry. She said: "Although I lost, I truly enjoyed this match. Sun has plenty of new techniques that I'm able to learn from and continue to improve my game.

"The T2 format really sharpens my mental strength as you can't afford any mistakes in the FAST5 mode."

China's defending champion Zhu Yuling crashed out in the last 16, losing 4-3 to Wang.

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2019-11-26 08:07:05
<![CDATA[Wu hopes end to goal drought rouses troubled Espanyol]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/26/content_37525493.htm Wu Lei hopes his first goal of the current Spanish season can kick-start Espanyol's campaign as the Barcelona-based club fights for its La Liga life.

Wu volleyed home from close range from a corner on the stroke of halftime to cancel out Jaime Mata's third-minute opener for visitor Getafe and earn Espanyol its first point in four matches.

The host laid siege to the Getafe goal in the second half but the Madrid-based side survived the onslaught as goalkeeper David Soria denied Wu a winner with a string of superb saves.

The point leaves Espanyol still mired in the relegation zone, three points above basement dweller Leganes, which it faces on Dec 22, three points behind third-from-bottom Celta Vigo, and a daunting five points from safety.

With just two wins on the board after 14 games, Espanyol will need to start notching victories quickly to have any chance of survival in the top flight - a situation of which Wu is acutely aware.

"I'm not satisfied. We all know how important this game was and we were playing in front of our home crowd," said Wu, whose goal was his first in La Liga since netting against Real Sociedad in May.

"I'm very happy to score but unfortunately it's not a perfect result. It would have been perfect if my goal had delivered three points for my team.

"Our team is at a critical stage. We need a key victory to help the team climb out of trouble. I wasted several chances to put the game to bed, so I still have room to improve. Hopefully, though, it will provide a fresh start for us. I want to thank all our fans who are supporting us at such a difficult time."

Wu later posted on Weibo: "I believe things will be better!"

The 27-year-old has endured a difficult second season in Spain after joining Chinese-owned Espanyol from Shanghai SIPG in January for a reported fee of 2 million euros (around $2.25 million).

The deal saw Wu become the first Chinese to sign permanently for a Spanish top-flight club, with some observers suspicious that the move was motivated more by his marketing potential than his ability on the pitch.

However, he proved the doubters wrong, popping up with a number of vital goals and assists to help steer Espanyol out of the relegation mire. The team eventually finished seventh to book a spot in the Europa League qualifying rounds, which Espanyol safely negotiated.

In October, the forward became the first Chinese man to score in a major UEFA club competition, excluding the qualifying rounds, by bagging Espanyol's 64th-minute opener in a 2-0 Europa League victory at CSKA Moscow.

Espanyol's domestic troubles contrast sharply with its form in Europe's second-tier club competition, with the Spanish club sitting top of Group H and on course to reach the knockout stage with two matches remaining.

The team will resume its Europa League adventure against Hungary's Ferencvaros in Budapest on Thursday before hosting 11th-place Osasuna in a crucial La Liga match on Sunday.

"Our home game against Osasuna is really important," Wu said. "We really need a victory to climb up the table. Hopefully we can do it."

Espanyol's precarious situation has not been helped by several changes in coaching personnel since last term.

Rubi, the head coach Wu had thrived under last term, departed for Real Betis to be replaced by David Gallego. However, after just one win in eight matches, Gallego was fired last month and replaced by former Girona and Sevilla boss Pablo Machin.

The appointment initially failed to have the desired effect. However, after Sunday's result, the 44-year-old Machin is hopeful of turning things around.

"The point lets us see that there is light at the end of the tunnel," said the coach.

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2019-11-26 08:07:05
<![CDATA[Shiffrin swooshes into record books]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/25/content_37525200.htm LEVI, Finland - Coming off a record-breaking season with 17 race wins, Mikaela Shiffrin didn't need much time in the new campaign to reach yet another milestone.

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American shoots to top of all-time slalom standings

LEVI, Finland - Coming off a record-breaking season with 17 race wins, Mikaela Shiffrin didn't need much time in the new campaign to reach yet another milestone.

The American set the all-time World Cup record for most slalom wins by any skier on Saturday, after earning her 41st career victory in the discipline at the season-opening slalom race.

Shiffrin beat the 32-year-old best mark from Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, who won 40 slaloms between 1974 and 1987. Shiffrin amassed her total in just seven years, having won her first race in December 2012.

"I don't feel super emotional, I am just happy," said Shiffrin, who usually refrains from focusing on records or statistics. "I am happy with my skiing for the first (slalom) race of the season."

Shiffrin, the 2014 Olympic and four-time world champion, has held the women's record since passing Marlies Raich's tally of 35 slalom wins a year ago.

On Saturday, Shiffrin came from behind to defeat Petra Vlhova, runner-up to the three-time champion in the overall standings last season.

Vlhova, who won this race in 2017, led by 0.13 seconds after the opening run but skied out early in her final run and failed to finish, immediately after the American had posted the fastest run time by far.

"I had a solid first run and in the second run I was really attacking and fighting," Shiffrin said. "I may have been a little bit lucky but we have no idea how (Vlhova) was going to finish."

Even with Vlhova skiing out, the duo looked set to continue dominating the discipline, as all 21 World Cup slaloms since January 2017 have been won by either Shiffrin (17) or Vlhova (4).

On Saturday, Wendy Holdener finished runner-up but trailed Shiffrin by 1.78 seconds, a country mile in a sport mostly decided by hundredths of a second.

The Swiss skier had been nursing an elbow injury in recent weeks but improved from sixth position after the opening run.

"I still can't fully stretch the arm but you don't need that in slalom," Holdener said. "I am just happy that I could start here."

Katharina Truppe of Austria was 1.94 behind in third, while the rest of the field finished more than 2.4 seconds off the pace.

In the opening run, Shiffrin and Vlhova had already created a gap to the rest of the field of almost a full second, with Vlhova leading the American by 0.13.

"It was OK, I felt pretty solid with my skiing," Shiffrin said after the first run. "I think there are some spots where I can be a little bit more relaxed."

Vlhova was 0.32 behind Shiffrin at the second check point but found a smoother line going over a roll into the steep part of the Levi Black course.

"I didn't do a great job on this one. It's pretty sharp. I think Petra did quite a good job there," Shiffrin said. "I like to be in a position where I am kind of coming from behind and chasing."

New Zealand teenager Alice Robinson, who beat Shiffrin in the season-opening giant slalom in Austria last month, was sitting out the race with a knee injury.

It was Shiffrin's fourth career triumph in the race in Finnish Lapland, where winners receive a reindeer.

The win also gave Shiffrin an early lead in the overall standings, going into the World Cup weekend in Killington, Vermont, next week.

"It's a really good start to the season. It's always great to be on the podium, in Soelden and then here," Shiffrin said. "It helps with the confidence in the next races to know my speed is there."

The races in Killington include a GS on Saturday and a slalom the following day.

 

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2019-11-25 08:04:26
<![CDATA[Retired Kiwi legend Todd still feeling the Olympic urge]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/25/content_37525199.htm The legendary Mark Todd may have swapped eventing for the race track but he's still got one very special reason to keep a close eye on next year's Tokyo Olympics.

The 63-year-old Kiwi, who won two individual golds and three bronzes over the course of seven Olympics, announced his retirement in July after helping New Zealand win the Nations Cup at the Camphire International Horse Trials in Ireland.

He'll be in Tokyo in spirit, however, when, if all goes to plan, one dear old friend of his is negotiating the fences.

"I won't go to Tokyo unless I have a role in the New Zealand team, but I will be watching the competition because my horse McClaren will be there," Todd told Xinhua over the weekend at Equitana Auckland, an equestrian expo event in his homeland.

"It was a fantastic little horse," added Todd of McClaren, who is now with his former teammate Jonelle Price. "I am hoping that they have a good partnership and they can go to the Olympic Games. That will give me added interest in Tokyo. I will be very happy to watch what they will do. Maybe I am a little bit jealous."

Todd, voted Rider of the 20th Century by world governing body the FEI, had originally planned to compete in Tokyo before changing his mind and calling it quits.

"I just did not have the motivation to put that work in. Yes, I can go there and maybe finish top 10. But to win it, you have to put so much effort in. I just don't want to do that every day. It is very time-consuming as well. There are other things I want to do.

"I'd originally planned to go to Tokyo, but at the beginning of this year I had the opportunity to get back to racing again. When this opportunity came up, as soon as that happened, eventing did not have the same appeal."

Since retiring, Todd has been focused on training his 10 racehorses, arising at 6 am each morning to head to the stables.

"Hopefully, I get all the work finished by midday. And then there are always other things to do. Sometimes I still do some teaching for eventing. It seems I never have enough time. In the afternoon, all the horses come back again and I need to make sure they are OK."

Todd is back in New Zealand for the second biennial Equitana Auckland, where his illustrious career was celebrated with a look back on his achievements on Thursday evening.

"It always amazed me how well people received me here," he said. "I haven't spent time in New Zealand in the last 40 years. But I am still a New Zealander. We like our sports heroes."

He said the expo, which mainly focused on education, is a great way to promote equestrianism in his country.

"We don't have a huge history and industry around horses. In Europe they have a long history of breeding sports horses. We don't have that here. So I think the idea is great to create education to try to encourage more people to do it better."

Todd, who also won four Badminton titles and five Burghley crowns, has been always been a hero for Chinese eventer Alex Hua Tian, who became the youngest rider in history to compete at an Olympic Games when he was 18 in 2008.

An image of the two riders sitting together on an oak tree ahead of the Beijing Games garnered plenty of attention in the world's most populous nation at the time.

"That picture was taken at the Badminton horse show," Todd said. "Alex was based in England. I don't know him really well but I see him around a lot."

A fall in the cross-country competition meant Hua Tian's Olympic debut ended in disqualification. After narrowly missing out on the 2012 London Games, he finished eighth in Rio four years later.

"You cannot go and ride every time," Todd said. "It is like life. You have highs and lows. You need to cope with the time when things aren't going right. I have had a lot of that. Give yourself 24 hours, feel sorry for yourself and you just get back on it and keep going again."

Todd has experienced plenty of disappointments himself, and cites losing a horse to a broken leg at Badminton as one of his lowest points.

"That was one of the worst moments. You know that they are your friend, your partner. You are just helpless when something like that happens," he said.

And he also knows the pain of Olympic failure. In Rio, Todd had four fences down to cost New Zealand a medal.

"You feel bad for yourself," he said. "You let the whole country down, you let the owners down, you let the other teammates down. I was the last one to jump. For me, it was really a low point."

Overall, though, he can look back on his career with satisfaction.

"I don't have the desire to do anything more in eventing. I have had an amazing career. I have been very fortunate to win as much as I have won.

"My challenge is in the racing. I'd like to have a good horse to win good races in Europe."

 

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2019-11-25 08:04:26
<![CDATA['Monster' Xu dismantles Manny]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/25/content_37525198.htm China's Xu Can lived up to his "Monster" nickname by pummeling the previously unbeaten Manny Robles III in a thrilling encounter to retain his World Boxing Association featherweight title via unanimous decision in Indio, California, on Saturday.

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Chinese star puts on superb show in US to retain world featherweight belt

China's Xu Can lived up to his "Monster" nickname by pummeling the previously unbeaten Manny Robles III in a thrilling encounter to retain his World Boxing Association featherweight title via unanimous decision in Indio, California, on Saturday.

Xu threw an incredible 1,562 punches (landing 402 of them) to Robles' 765 (landing 199) to convince the judges, who scored it 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110.

"I kept my promise that I made before the match, which was to keep the golden belt in China." Xu said in a video to fans posted on Weibo after improving to 18-2 (3 KO).

"I hope the victory brings you joy. I presented you an evolved version of Xu Can, who has already become a monster. I hope you can support me as usual, and I will for sure bring more surprises to you."

With Mexican Leo Santa Cruz moving up to super featherweight, Can could find himself in the mix for the WBA's elite "super" world title. American Shakur Stevenson is the division's WBO champion, with Briton Josh Warrington the IBO champ.

The 25-year-old Xu, who hails from Fuzhou in Jiangxi province, has enjoyed a stellar year, claiming the lesser of the WBA's two world featherweight belts by stunning Puerto Rico's Jesus Rojas in Houston in January.

Xu won his first defense by stopping former champion Shun Kubo of Japan in six rounds in Fuzhou in May, with Saturday's bout the first time a Chinese has defended a world title in the United States.

Xu, China's youngest professional world boxing champion, made his debut in November 2013.

He is China's third world champion following former WBO flyweight king Zou Shiming and ex-WBC minimumweight winner Xiong Chaozhong, who were crowned at the ages of 35 and 30, respectively.

Xu fans made their presence felt with Chinese flags and banners at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, and their fighter didn't disappoint.

Despite making a big step up in opposition, Robles held his own admirably early on. The 25-yearold, who resides in Los Angeles, scored heavily by countering with right hands to the head.

However, by the fifth round, the momentum began to swing in Xu's favor, as the Chinese star inflicted damage with quick-fire combinations that invariably ended with left hooks to Robles' body.

Robles regained some composure in the 10th to land some telling blows but it was too little, too late as Xu withstood the barrage to edge an enthralling encounter which the lop-sided scorecards did not properly reflect.

Robles fell to 18-1 with eight wins inside the distance.

Wilder reigns

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, home favorite Deontay Wilder floored Cuba's Luis Ortiz in the seventh round to retain his WBC world heavyweight title and set up a lucrative rematch with Tyson Fury in February.

The 34-year-old Wilder landed a devastating right hand to end the fight and move a step closer to his goal of unifying all four heavyweight belts with an explosive finish at MGM Grand Hotel.

Unbeaten in 43 fights (42-0-1, 41 KO) and widely regarded as the most destructive puncher in the heavyweight division, the 'Bronze Bomber' recorded his 10th straight title defense, joining Muhammad Ali who did it between 1974 and 1978.

Wilder waited patiently for his big moment and when it came late in the seventh it was stunning. He followed a jab with a crushing straight right that sent Ortiz crashing to the canvas.

Ortiz eventually hauled himself up but clearly could not continue. The fight was officially stopped at 2:51 in the seventh.

This was a rematch of their 2018 fight where Wilder battled through adversity to deliver a 10th-round stoppage.

"My intellect is very high in the ring and no one gives me credit," Wilder said. "I think I buzzed him with a left hook earlier in the round and I took it from there."

Ortiz (31-2) didn't protest the ending, but said he thought he beat the count.

"I was clear-headed when I hit the canvas," he said. "When I heard the referee say seven I was trying to get up but I guess the count went a little quicker than I thought."

Wilder made at least $3 million for the fight, but figures to make much more when he and Fury meet in a Feb 22 rematch of their fight a year ago that ended in a disputed draw.

His win helped clarify the top of the heavyweight division, though, which will be sorted out further when Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. meet on Dec 7 in their title rematch in Saudi Arabia.

"Next we have Tyson Fury in the rematch," Wilder said. "Then I want unification. I want one champion, one face and one heavyweight champion - Deontay Wilder.

"The heavyweight division is too small to have so many belts lingering around. It should be just be one champion and I think I'm the perfect man for that job."

The last two years in heavyweight boxing have provided plenty of rousing matchups and renewed enthusiasm, in contrast to the previous 15 years or so which were dominated by the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali.

The 40-year-old Ortiz, who was coming off three straight wins, was trying to become the first Cuban to win the world heavyweight title. "It was a war," he said. "I told everyone it wasn't going to go 12 rounds."

 

Xu Can lands a right hook on Manny Robles III during their WBA world featherweight title fight at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California on Saturday. Xu won by unanimous decision (120-108, 119-109, 118-110) to retain his belt. Golden boy promotions Via Getty

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2019-11-25 08:04:26
<![CDATA[Matsuyama raring for revenge in Melbourne]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/25/content_37525197.htm

International Team star Hideki Matsuyama is gunning for revenge against the United States' playing captain Tiger Woods at next month's Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia.

Ahead of his fourth appearance in the biennial team competition (Dec 9-15), the 27-year-old Matsuyama finished runner-up to Woods on home turf at October's inaugural ZoZo Championship as the American legend secured a record-tying 82nd PGA Tour victory.

The usually stoic Japanese ace was disappointed he could not to deliver a home victory, saying: "I must exact revenge here next year. He (Woods) is coming back and I will be here."

However, instead of having to wait another 11 months, Matsuyama will have a crack at making immediate amends at Royal Melbourne Golf Club after Woods named himself as one of his four captain's picks for the prestigious match-play tournament.

Woods will become only the second playing captain in Presidents Cup history, emulating Hale Irwin who was on double duty in the inaugural edition in 1994.

A five-time PGA Tour winner, Matsuyama has featured in the last three Presidents tournaments but has yet to taste victory. He holds a 4-6-3 career record, which he hopes to drastically improve under captain Ernie Els' leadership.

"I would really love to contribute to the team. I'm the only Japanese player on the International Team and I will try my best to represent the country of Japan," Matsuyama said. "The US Team is very strong and I think teamwork will be extremely important. For us to do well, I will aim to do my best."

Els, who has followed Matsuyama's progress closely since he burst onto the scene with a maiden PGA Tour victory at the 2014 Memorial Tournament, is counting on the 27-year-old to deliver the goods.

"He's a great, talented player," Els said. "This will be his fourth Presidents Cup and he's not been on a winning team. I can see him being very keen to win. He's had a few close run-ins with the US Team, so he'll be ready to fight."

The South African great, who is leading the International Team for the first time, is undecided on who can partner Matsuyama in the four-balls and foursomes over the first three days of competition.

"He might be a difficult one to get a partner for but I'll make that happen," Els said. "His character is that he's a winner. He takes it very seriously and he's his own man. I respect that."

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2019-11-25 08:04:26
<![CDATA[Sun says blood sample collected illegally]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/23/content_37524983.htm Olympic champ insists documents support his claim amid doping case

China's Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang has accused a nurse involved in his doping case of not possessing the correct credentials and therefore collecting his blood sample illegally.

"She violated provincial regulations for China's nurses. Worse, she did not have a valid nursing qualification certificate, or a nursing professional certificate, and only showed me an expired certificate," Sun wrote on Weibo.

Sun also criticized what he described as the unfair treatment of Chinese athletes at a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing in Montreux, Switzerland, on Nov 15.

The case centers on Sun's alleged non-cooperation with three testers on Sept 4.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed to CAS against an initial ruling by swimming's world governing body, FINA, not to sanction Sun for alleged anti-doping violations.

The three-time Olympic champion said that on the night in question, three anti-doping officers from international testing company IDTM refused to show him their authorized certification, documents and valid accreditation.

In a picture posted on Weibo, Sun showed two nursing certificates in blue covers: a qualification certificate and a professional certificate.

The 28-year-old freestyle specialist wrote on Weibo: "According to regulations on China's nurses, those who practice across geographical areas must go through the relevant registration and filing procedures, otherwise they may not practice in areas other than where they are registered.

"If such rules are violated, the relevant medical and health institutions shall make a decision on handling such a case according to the law.

"The World Anti-Doping Regulations and ISTI(International Standard for Testing and Investigations) standards clearly state that the blood inspectors should first comply with the mandatory legal provisions of the country in which the blood collection is conducted.

"The blood inspector had her nurse practice registration for a hospital in Shanghai, so how could she illegally collect my blood in Hangzhou?

"The most critical part was that she only showed me an expired nursing qualification certificate, rather than a valid one, and she also had no nursing professional certificate. I am very curious to know how the relevant medical and health institutions in Shanghai will deal with the illegal acts of the blood inspector."

One of the three IDTM testers has told Xinhua he was not a trained Doping Control Assistant (DCA) but a construction worker.

The man, who insisted on anonymity, said "he had never been trained as a doping control officer", adding that he was providing temporary help for IDTM at the request of a former middle-school classmate, who works for the company.

"I sent my testimony in a written letter to CAS and WADA and was ready to testify via a video conference call before the public hearing, but no one contacted me," said the "temporary" DCA.

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2019-11-23 07:35:05
<![CDATA[Inter reject 'Gabigol' grabbing his shot at redemption in style]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/23/content_37524982.htm

RIO DE JANEIRO - Two years ago, Brazilian striker Gabriel Barbosa had become a bit of laughing stock in Europe.

The forward wasn't exactly living up to his nickname of "Gabigol," scoring just one league goal for Inter Milan in 2016-17 and then none for Benfica during a loan spell the next year.

On Saturday, though, Gabriel can cap a remarkable turnaround by giving Brazilian club Flamengo it's first Copa Libertadores trophy in 38 years.

Gabriel is seen as Flamengo's main threat in the final against defending champion River Plate of Argentina, having scored 22 goals in 26 domestic league matches this season.

He also has another seven goals in 11 Copa Libertadores games for the Rio de Janeiro club and has returned to Brazil's national team, which he helped win the 2016 Olympic gold medal.

Fans of all ages, even those that do not support Flamengo, have started copying his latest blonde hairstyle. Some carry banners to the Maracana stadium that read: "Today Gabigol will score."

He often does.

"Now I feel ready to play in Brazil, England, Germany, Spain," Gabriel told Spanish newspaper AS ahead of the final in Lima. "I can play anywhere."

That didn't prove to be the case during his stint in Europe, prompting Inter sending him back on loan to his boyhood team Santos in 2018.

A quick recovery led Flamengo to take him on loan next, reportedly paying Gabriel $250,000 per month, a very high sum by Brazilian soccer standards. The club was hoping he would help end its major trophy drought, dating back to 2009.

The investment paid off to the extent that the Rio giant could win both the South American crown and its national championship this weekend. The latter would happen with four matches to spare if rival Palmeiras fails to beat Gremio on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of Flamengo fans followed their team's bus to Rio's international airport on Wednesday, and all are expecting Gabriel to score in Saturday's final at the Monumental Universitario stadium in Lima.

But Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus still has doubts about the striker.

"I still haven't managed to make him a great player emotionally, as he is technically and tactically," Jesus said after Gabriel was sent off in Flamengo's 1-0 win at Gremio last week.

"I haven't managed to put some balance in," the Portuguese coach added. "But he is young, he has time to change. The best players in the world do not have these issues that 'Gabigol' has."

The striker was carded 21 times in the Brazilian championship, with 19 yellows and two reds.

In better financial shape than in recent years, Flamengo could reportedly pay Inter 16 million euros ($17.7 million) to keep 'Gabigol'. But the striker also hinted he wants to return to Europe.

"Flamengo and Gabriel still have a lot of (big games) ahead," the forward said this week.

Associated Press

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2019-11-23 07:35:05
<![CDATA[Mourinho eyes instant impact at Tottenham]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/23/content_37524981.htm

Jose Mourinho believes the quality of players he has at Tottenham do "not belong" down in 14th position in the English Premier League as he tries to salvage Spurs' season.

Mourinho starts his tenure at a third English club after grossly different experiences at Chelsea and Manchester United hoping to inspire Tottenham's first away win in the league since January at West Ham on Saturday.

That run saw Mauricio Pochettino fired on Tuesday just six months after reaching the Champions League final.

Pochettino's five-and-a-half years at the club transformed Tottenham's fortunes. The Argentine made Spurs Champions League regulars and eventually paid for his own success in raising the bar of expectations.

It also paved the way for a marriage of convenience. Tottenham needed to make a statement with Pochettino's successor to prove its growing status, and so turned to Mourinho.

Similarly, the Portuguese needs a project that will rebuild his reputation after an unhappy two-and-a-half years at United.

"In the short term we have to try to get results," said Mourinho on Thursday. "It is important in the Premier League we need to disappear from the area where we do not belong."

Spurs start the weekend 11 points adrift of the top four, having taken just 25 points from their last 24 Premier League matches.

However, Mourinho insisted he will not make big changes in personnel or to the team's style of play amid concerns from fans that the manner in which he has won so much silverware is not an easy fit with Tottenham's traditional brand of attacking soccer.

"The style of play has to be always adapted not just to the club culture, but especially to the players' qualities," he added.

"These are the players, they have the qualities, adapted to a certain way of playing football, and that's the way I want to do it."

Mourinho has spent 11 months out of the game since being fired by United in December.

And he cut a far more introspective figure as he briefed the media on Thursday than the man who announced himself as "The Special One" during his first media conference as Chelsea boss 15 years ago.

"I always thought that these 11 months were not a waste of time. These 11 months were months to think, to analyze, to prepare and anticipate things," added Mourinho.

"I had time to think about many things. Don't ask me what are the mistakes, but I realize that during my career I made mistakes. I am not going to make the same mistakes, I am going to make new mistakes."

Agence France-Presse

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2019-11-23 07:35:05
<![CDATA[Trophies or trouble for Tottenham?]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524845.htm Jose Mourinho's impressive track record comes with plenty of caveats

LONDON - Ousted from previous jobs for fomenting friction, Jose Mourinho is returning to coaching trying to show he is rejuvenated and with a smile back on his face.

Will Tottenham be getting a mellowed manager or the one who supposedly stoked internal feuds at Chelsea and Manchester United?

Mourinho's exile from management ended after being appointed on Wednesday by Tottenham Hotspur within 12 hours of the announcement of Mauricio Pochettino's firing.

"I couldn't be happier and look forward to the challenge," Mourinho said in a video released by Tottenham. "What can I promise? Passion, real passion.

"Passion for my job, but also passion for my club, that's the way I have been all my career and I want to try, obviously, everything to bring happiness to everyone who loves the club."

Mourinho has always delivered happiness in the form of trophies and title successes. But several of his stints have also seen the atmosphere around the team sour as his relationship broke down with club officials, players and fans.

There was the "palpable discord" that curtailed Mourinho's second spell at Chelsea in December 2015.

A turbulent two-and-a-half-year spell followed at United that ended in December 2018 when the club tired of the Portuguese picking fights and criticizing his own players as the team struggled.

But he won three Premier League titles during his two spells at Chelsea, and lifted the Europa League trophy as the highlight of his time at Old Trafford.

He now arrives at a club without a recent track record of winning titles and whose last trophy was the 2008 League Cup.

While Pochettino transformed Tottenham, achieving an unprecedented four straight top-four finishes to qualify for the Champions League, a trophy eluded the Argentine during his five-and-a-half-year stint.

He led the club to its first Champions League final last season, only to lose to Liverpool. Rather than being a springboard for a sustained Premier League challenge to deliver Spurs' first championship since 1961, Pochettino sounded increasingly unsettled.

Having said on the eve of the Champions League final that he could choose to walk away from Tottenham, that decision was taken out of Pochettino's hands 173 days later when he was fired on Tuesday night.

Tottenham's improbable run to a first European Cup final masked a drop-off in form in the Premier League that has seen the team win just six of its 24 games since February, straddling the end of last season and the start of this season.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said he turned to Mourinho to bring "energy and belief" back to the club.

"He has a wealth of experience," Levy said, "can inspire teams and is a great tactician."

Mourinho takes charge of Tottenham for the first time on Saturday at West Ham with Spurs 14th in the standings after 12 games, 11 points off the four Champions League qualification positions.

"It's a privilege when a manager goes to a club and feels that happiness in relation to the squad he is going to have," said Mourinho, who oversaw his first Tottenham training session on Wednesday.

Since leaving Porto for Chelsea in 2004, Mourinho has always worked at clubs with big budgets so Tottenham is not necessarily a natural fit.

Pochettino had to battle against the biggest teams in Europe while working with strict financial constraints, particularly as Tottenham prepared to move into its new stadium last season.

The club has prioritized developing young talent from within the academy, including striker Harry Kane and midfielder Harry Winks, and Mourinho knows he has to follow the same philosophy.

"There is not one manager in the world who does not like to play young players and help young players to evolve," Mourinho said.

"The problem is sometimes you get into clubs and the work that is below you is not good enough to produce these players."

Tottenham's players will certainly respect Mourinho's resume, which also includes league titles with Porto in Portugal, Inter Milan in Italy and Real Madrid in Spain. He has won the Champions League with two clubs, Porto in 2004 and Inter in 2010.

It is Mourinho's man-management that has mostly been questioned in the latter years of his career, given his penchant for publicly criticizing his own players.

The 56-year-old is surrounded by a new coaching staff at Tottenham, with Joao Sacramento and Nuno Santos joining from Lille.

Mourinho signed a contract to the end of the 2022-23 season with the north Londoners but has never spent more than three-and-a-half years in a single stint at one club. While Mourinho says Tottenham has "good players that the majority of the big clubs in Europe would be looking for", the squad looks in need of a revamp after growing stale because of the lack of recent recruitment.

He will need to quickly fix Tottenham's leaky defense and get more out of the team's underperforming midfielders, England international Dele Alli and Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen.

Eriksen appeared to be on his way out of the club in the summer after being strongly linked with Real Madrid. Some reports have suggested that move could be revived in January, although the chance to work under Mourinho might persuade the Dane to stay.

Mourinho, who still has a house in London, will return to the Champions League next week, too, with Tottenham needing one win from its final two group games to reach the last 16.

Spurs are out of the League Cup, having been eliminated by fourthtier Colchester United in one of a number of recent humiliating results under Pochettino.

 

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2019-11-22 07:53:23
<![CDATA[Major Mou-ments: Jose highs and lows]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524844.htm · The translator

After an undistinguished playing career in Portugal and a spell as a PE teacher, Mourinho worked as an interpreter for former England manager Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon and then Porto, where they enjoyed huge success before moving to Barcelona in 1996. Robson lasted only one season at the helm of the Spanish giant but Mourinho remained as assistant to Dutchman Louis van Gaal, before securing the manager's role at Benfica in 2000.

· The European Cup winner

Short spells at Benfica and Leiria were followed by a move to Porto in early 2002, where he won the UEFA Cup and the Portuguese double in his first full season, with future stars such as Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Vitor Baia. An even greater success was to come the following year when Porto was the shock winner of the UEFA Champions League, beating Monaco 3-0 in the 2004 final after eliminating Manchester United in the last 16 when Mourinho celebrated wildly on the Old Trafford pitch.

· The Special One

Chelsea, bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, immediately came knocking and Mourinho was unveiled to great fanfare in June 2004, memorably describing himself as "The Special One" to assembled media. It was not an idle boast: Chelsea won the next two editions of the Premier League, and added one FA Cup and two League Cup titles in a successful first stint in west London. Mourinho's meticulous attention to detail and attritional pressing style cut a swathe through English soccer, but relations with Abramovich soured and Mourinho departed early in the 2007-08 season.

· The Italian job

Mourinho joined Italy's Inter Milan for the 2008-09 season where his legend grew with two scudettos in his first two seasons plus his second Champions League title in May 2010, beating Bayern Munich 2-0 in the final. At the time Mourinho, who clinched the Italian treble that year, was only the fourth manager to win the European title with two different clubs.

· The Real deal

Despite his success, Mourinho immediately departed for Real Madrid but his return to Spain proved ill-fated. Real won the Spanish Cup in Mourinho's first season in charge, but arch-rival Barcelona won La Liga and beat Madrid in the Champions League semifinals. The following year, Real won La Liga but again fell in the Champions League semis. Mourinho's tenure unravelled in the third season as he feuded with players including Cristiano Ronaldo, the media and officials, and poked Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova in the eye during a mass brawl. He departed at the end of the 2013 season.

· The second coming

After being snubbed by Manchester United, which chose David Moyes to replace the retiring Alex Ferguson, Mourinho rekindled his affair with Chelsea in 2013. Chelsea won the Premier League title and the League Cup for a domestic double in 2014/15, but with enthusiasm dwindling for Mourinho's defense-minded soccer, passions cooled and he left in December 2015.

· The Manchester hotel

Manchester United turned to Mourinho in 2016 but the long-awaited match was not a happy one. Mourinho, lacking the charisma of earlier incarnations and choosing to live full-time in a hotel, won the Europa League and League Cup in a promising first season. But as relations with the media deteriorated, and fans grew unhappy with United's style of play, Mourinho was fired in December 2018.

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2019-11-22 07:53:23
<![CDATA[Ducks don't read the script for Marbury's 'homecoming']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524843.htm Rapturous reception for legend but Royal Fighters drop to derby defeat

Walking onto the court he used to call "home" amid a standing ovation from fans that once roared him on as their team's hero, the memories came flooding back for Stephon Marbury on a night of highly charged and mixed emotions for the former Beijing Ducks star.

Now the head coach of the visiting Beijing Royal Fighters, Marbury's animated instructions from the sidelines in Wukesong Arena could not avert a 87-79 derby loss to the host in the American legend's seventh CBA game in charge of his new side.

However, much like old times, he left the packed 18,000-seat arena with the respect of both sets of fans and players.

 

Former NBA star Jeremy Lin in possession for the Beijing Ducks during Wednesday's CBA game against crosstown rival the Beijing Royal Fighters at Wukesong Arena. The Ducks won 87-79. Zhang Wei / China Daily

"Of course (it's a special game). This is where the dynasty was built," Marbury said after the pre-game practice. "For myself, I shared a lot of memories here. The memories never die. They always stay alive."

The 42-year-old was impeccably dressed for the occasion - suited up in white, the color conventionally reserved for the home team, and donning a pair of red socks, presumably in a nod to Chinese culture.

Soon after the final buzzer, Marbury embraced former teammates who had turned up to pay homage to his trophy-laden time with the Ducks, triggering another round of applause from the stands.

Being the driven winner that he is, Marbury would possibly have swapped all that adulation for a Royal Fighters victory instead.

"We played well on the defensive end but we just couldn't execute well in making shots," said Marbury, whose team will host the Ducks on Nov 26 after a two-game road trip.

"We had an 11-stop streak where we stopped them 11 times, but we couldn't convert to score the buckets. It hurt us.

"It was really a good game for the Beijing fans though. The atmosphere for basketball is so positive. When you have the opportunity for people to witness things like this, this is the juice of the league."

The sold-out derby game saw both teams struggling offensively under intense defensive pressure, with key players such as the Ducks' Asian-American guard Jeremy Lin and the Royal Fighters' former NBA center Jason Thompson stifled by foul troubles.

Boasting a young core nurtured during the Marbury-inspired title runs, the Ducks seized control midway through the fourth quarter with a barrage of 3-pointers to build a double-digit lead which they never relinquished.

American power forward Justin Hamilton led the Ducks with 21 points and 15 rebounds, while Chinese national team forward Zhai Xiaochuan and Lin contributed 20 and 16 points, respectively.

Prolific Royal Fighters scorer Kyle Fogg, who averaged 31.3 points in the first six games, was limited to 19 points on Wednesday while Sun Yue, a former Ducks teammate of Marbury, added 18 points.

The triumph improves the Lin-led Ducks to a 6-1 record this season, tying them with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers and the Guangdong Southern Tigers at the top of the CBA standings.

Ducks fans are hoping Lin, who arrived from the NBA in August, can assume Marbury's mantel as the team's driving force.

However, the 31-year-old Harvard graduate, whose breakout performances for the New York Knicks in 2012 inspired a bout of "Linsanity" in the US, is keen to play down that comparison.

"An ugly game today but it was an very important team win," Lin told media in Mandarin in the locker room after the game.

"I don't want to be anybody else's successor. I just want to be the best self I can be.

"I respect what Marbury has achieved in Beijing and his legacy in the city. I appreciate that he also encouraged me to do my part in helping Chinese basketball grow.

"For the Ducks, our advantage is we play well as a team and we will stick to that to keep building our chemistry and to play better as a whole."

Having contributed 24.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game this season, Lin has earned the trust and respect of the Ducks' Greek head coach Ioannis Christopoulos.

"I always believe that when you build something it takes time and the building stays more resistant when you have a strong foundation," said the former Chinese national team assistant coach.

"Jeremy is a strong core and a strong spirit for our foundation."

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2019-11-22 07:53:23
<![CDATA[Contracts frozen as players pay price for Team China's failings]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524842.htm

The Chinese Football Association has imposed an immediate freeze on the contracts of domestic players as the governing body prepares to implement a raft of new salary-cap and transfer regulations in the offseason.

On Wednesday, a statement on the CFA's website demanded all clubs delay the signing of new contracts for domestic players in the Chinese game's top three tiers.

With public opinion incensed by the national team's continuing travails in World Cup qualifying, the CFA said the move was in the interests of all professional clubs and the healthy development of Chinese soccer.

"The new regulations are designed to promote the healthy development of Chinese domestic leagues, and plan to relieve clubs of debt and build a standardized salary system, transfer market, supervision system and youth training system," read the CFA statement.

"The CFA has undertaken substantial research and received suggestions from clubs and industry experts. A document entitled "Suggestions for Further Promoting the Development of Chinese Domestic Leagues", which will supplement, adjust and refine the current rules of the CFA, will be published in early December."

The final round of games in this season's top-tier Chinese Super League are due to be played on Dec 1.

Xinhua news agency reported that the contract freeze will not affect the upcoming winter transfer window and that a new, stricter salary cap will be enforced.

"A strict salary cap on domestic players, new policies on foreign players, naturalized players and player transfers will all be included in the new regulations," Xinhua reported. "More importantly, the CFA will strengthen supervision and punishment, so the cost of violations will increase."

Xinhua also reported that clubs had reached a consensus on reducing their debts and fortifying youth training. The report said that nearly a third of clubs had backlogs of unpaid wages, with even top-tier teams operating in an unsustainable financial bubble.

People's Daily delved deeper into the new plans, reporting on Wednesday that CSL players' salaries will be capped at 10 million yuan ($1.4 million). That will drop to 5 million yuan and 3 million yuan for second-and third-tier teams, respectively.

The plan has been warmly welcomed by fans on social media, whose disgruntlement at the wages earned by CSL stars has reached boiling point in the wake of Team China's 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Syria earlier this month. The loss was a major blow to China's chances of reaching the 2022 finals in Qatar and prompted the resignation of head coach Marcello Lippi, who has been praised for saying he "didn't deserve" his reported salary of 18 million euros ($20 million).

The limp nature of that result in Dubai has heightened feelings that China's top soccer players are overpaid and lack motivation.

Star striker Wu Lei admitted Lippi's team "was not as hungry as the opponent", while Syria defender Ahmad Al Salih, who played for CSL side Henan Jianye in 2017, reinforced that notion in comments reported by Chinese media.

"Syrian players are more hungry, and their enthusiasm won't change because of the change of their income," said Al Salih.

"Chinese players live comfortable lives and they are easily satisfied. They lack the motivation to improve."

Those quotes set Chinese social media ablaze, with related news viewed around 120 million times by Thursday morning.

Relatively high CSL salaries are also perceived to dissuade young Chinese players from plying their trade abroad.

That's why, according to Xinhua, the new CFA regulations will also endeavor to encourage up-and-coming talent to venture to foreign leagues.

At the moment, Wu is the only Chinese international playing in a major top-flight foreign league.

Despite the current travails of his Spanish club Espanyol, which sits 18th in La Liga, Wu's experiences in Europe over the past year have helped his game, with the 27-year-old proving to be a rare shining light for Team China.

"In Spain, from amateurs to pros, from youth teams to first-tier teams, there are simply too many players," Wu wrote in his personal blog last week.

"Under the intense pressure of this competitive environment, everyone must maintain their momentum and sense of urgency, because your position can be taken by anyone at anytime, which is unthinkable in China. I tried my best in training for the past two weeks and earned my chance in the starting XI.

"I always keep my dreams and enjoy every training session and every minute playing in La Liga. When I see the kids in the stands, I always think about when I was their age. I used to be just like them watching the games of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, and now I've played with stars like (Lionel) Messi. What a wonderful moment!"

Unfortunately, the current state of Chinese soccer suggests such wonderful moments will be few and far between for homegrown players in the coming years.

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2019-11-22 07:53:23
<![CDATA[Ready to rumble in heavyweight heaven]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524536.htm LAS VEGAS - They are a flawed group at best, the heavyweights who will be vying for your attention - and money - over the next few months. Unpredictable, too, though that just adds to the intrigue of a trio of fights that will either make boxing's big men must-see TV or relegate the division to the doldrums once again.

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Weekend Wilder rematch kicks off mouth-watering feast for fight fans

LAS VEGAS - They are a flawed group at best, the heavyweights who will be vying for your attention - and money - over the next few months. Unpredictable, too, though that just adds to the intrigue of a trio of fights that will either make boxing's big men must-see TV or relegate the division to the doldrums once again.

Deontay Wilder is awkward but dangerous, a string bean of a heavyweight with a crushing right hand that can change everything in a fraction of a second. Luis Ortiz is a big puncher, too, though there are questions about both his stamina and age (40) going into this weekend's rematch with Wilder that serves as an appetizer for what comes next.

That would be Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. on Dec 7 in Saudi Arabia. Another piece of the heavyweight crown will be at stake when the portly Ruiz tries to replicate his upset win over a British fighter who staked a claim as the best of the lot until Ruiz stopped him in June in New York.

And then there's the wild card known as Tyson Fury, who can talk as well as he can box. Fury claims to be the lineal heavyweight champion and can make his case to be even more than that if his scheduled February rematch with Wilder goes off as planned.

Three months, three different heavyweight title fights. And, just maybe, some clarity in a division that still excites boxing fans like no other.

Or maybe not because, after all, this is boxing.

"This is what it's all about in the heavyweight division. The big boys," Wilder said. "One fight, one night, one blow can end it all."

Wilder will look to land that blow when he meets Ortiz on Saturday in a pay-per-view fight that could help provide some clarity to the top of the heavyweight division. Ortiz had Wilder hurt and nearly out in their fight last year before Wilder came back to stop him in the 10th round.

The rematch is just as unpredictable, though Wilder is confident he will be the last man standing. If so, he already has agreed to meet Fury in another rematch in February of their wildly entertaining first fight.

Big punchers taking big chances. It's a formula guaranteed to please even the most cynical boxing fan.

"I'm a knockout artist. That's what I plan to do, to knock you out," Wilder said. "That's plain and simple."

Wilder has done that throughout his career, racking up 40 knockouts in a 41-0-1 record marred only by his draw with Fury. It's a formula that has worked so well he will be making the 10th defense of his piece of the heavyweight title when he meets Ortiz at the MGM Grand Garden arena.

For all the knockouts and title defenses, though, he's not the unquestioned heavyweight champion of the world. There are others who claim belts, though the upcoming series of three fights should bring some order to the top of the division.

Even as Wilder and Ortiz prepare to meet, Ruiz and Joshua are deep into training for their fight in Saudi Arabia. The location is an unconventional one for a boxing bout, but there's no mistaking that whoever emerges victorious can make his own case as the best in the world.

Ruiz came out of nowhere to put himself in the mix, becoming the first fighter of Mexican heritage to win a heavyweight title when he scored a shocking knockout of Joshua after being signed as a late replacement.

Ruiz, who carries a lot of his weight in the midsection, doesn't look like a top heavyweight but his fast hands and power combined to drop Joshua four times before the fight ended in the seventh round.

Fury, meanwhile, is coming off a bloody win against Sweden's Otto Wallin and is eager to win a rematch of his own. He outboxed Wilder last December for most of 12 rounds but was dropped twice - the final time in the 12th round - before settling for a draw that he still disputes.

The 6-foot-9 Englishman held the heavyweight title after beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 before a downward spiral into drink, drugs and mental-health issues forced him out of the sport for nearly three years. He has yet to lose as a professional and, even if Wilder loses to Ortiz, could seek a big fight against Joshua or Ruiz.

"It doesn't make any difference to me, out of every negative there will be a positive," Fury said. "The one thing good about boxing is there's never going to be a shortage of boxers. You fight who's available, that's what you do."

Right now, that's just what the current crop at the top of the heavyweight pile is doing. The fights are all attractive, all dangerous and, hopefully, all exciting.

It is, said Wilder, an "amazing time for boxing and boxing fans".

For once, it's not simply boxing hyperbole.

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2019-11-21 07:39:50
<![CDATA[Lowry locked and loaded for Europe's desert showdown]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524535.htm Shane Lowry started 2019 by ending a three-and-a-half-year wait for a victory.

In July, he landed his first major title, at the British Open in Royal Portrush.

How about the Irishman finishing the best season of his career by being crowned Europe's No 1 golfer for the first time?

"I'll be able to sit back next week with my claret jug (British Open trophy) and be happy with what I have, but I'm trying to do as well as I can this week," Lowry said on Tuesday, assessing the state of play heading into the final leg of the Race to Dubai - the World Tour Championship, which tees off on Thursday.

"The one thing that's got me over the few months since the Open is, when you have bad days and you're shooting bad scores, people saying to you, 'You won the Open, it doesn't matter.' But it does matter."

It matters to four other players, too.

Lowry is in a five-way fight for the Race to Dubai title, with Bernd Wiesberger, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Matthew Fitzpatrick also still in contention.

Fleetwood is the only one of the five to have won it before (in 2017) and he arrives in the United Arab Emirates with confidence after winning last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.

Wiesberger leads the standings having won three tournaments this year - including Rolex Series events in Italy and Scotland - in a brilliant return from seven months out with a wrist injury. The 34-year-old Austrian will lift the trophy if he wins or finishes alone in second at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood climbed to second place with his win at the Nedbank, his first victory in nearly two years. He won the Race to Dubai two years ago, was beaten to the title by close friend Francesco Molinari in the final round last year, and knows a win in Dubai - coupled with Wiesberger finishing lower than outright second - will see him become the European Tour's No 1 again.

The same scenario faces thirdplace Rahm this week, and the Spaniard has a strong record on the Earth Course after winning the World Tour Championship in 2017 and placing fourth last year.

It is a long course - par 72, 7,677 yards, and with two par-5 holes longer than 600 yards on the back nine. So it suits the big-hitting Rahm, who is the only player to win three Rolex Series titles and has finished inside the top five in seven of his nine Rolex Series appearances.

Lowry, at No 4, will win the Race to Dubai with a first place and if Wiesberger finishes lower than tied for second with one other player.

Fitzpatrick is the biggest outsider at No 5 but has won on the Earth Course in 2016. If he repeats that, he has a chance - although Wiesberger must finish lower than tied for fourth and Fleetwood lower than outright second.

Ranked No 2 in the world, Rory McIlroy is the leading player in a field that has been trimmed to 50 but hasn't played enough on the European Tour this year to be in contention for its money-list title for a fourth time in eight years.

With four wins worldwide this year, and previous wins at the World Tour Championship in 2012 and'15, McIlroy starts as the favorite to claim the winner's check of $3 million - the richest first prize in golf.

The four-time major winner from Northern Ireland will have longtime friend Niall O'Connor, a former rugby player with Irish province Ulster, on his bag this week because regular caddie Harry Diamond is taking time off to be with his wife after the birth of their first child.

"If there's any week where I don't have Harry on the bag, it's good it's this week," McIlroy said. "I feel like I could play this place blindfolded. I've been coming back here for 10 years. I know the place like the back of my hand."

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2019-11-21 07:39:50
<![CDATA[Delivering five times the fun]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524534.htm With snow sports gaining momentum ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the launch of China's first ever multi-resort ski pass looks set to entice even more people onto the slopes.

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New cut-price multi-resort pass touted as major boost for winter sports industry

With snow sports gaining momentum ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the launch of China's first ever multi-resort ski pass looks set to entice even more people onto the slopes.

Inspired by the national plan to involve 300 million people in winter sports leading up to the Games, five major resorts across northern China - Wanlong in Hebei province, Beidahu in Jilin, Yabuli in Heilongjiang, Aoshan in Shaanxi and Silk Road in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region - have joined forces to introduce a season pass that grants skiers and snowboarders access to all five destinations at an extremely competitive price of 2,022 yuan a year (about $287).

The resorts offer a total of 101 slopes, covering a combined skiing area of 6.48 square kilometers, boasting diverse terrain that varies from the forested mountains of the northeast to the spectacular western highlands.

The pass, which could add new resorts that are up to standard in the future, is the first of its kind in China and models itself on the worldwide 37-resort 'Epic Pass' and the US-based 41-destination 'Ikon Pass'.

Among the founding five properties, only Wanlong has assigned blackout weekends for pass holders during its 2019-20 season, which begins on Dec 9, while the other four resorts allow unrestricted access, barring equipment rental.

"It will prove to be a revolutionary move in the history of winter sports' development in China," Luo Li, chairman of Wanlong Paradise Resort, said at the launch of the pass in Beijing on Monday.

"A small pass like this combines unlimited attractions at five unique resorts across the country at a price which we believe is affordable enough to turn more one-off visitors into diehard skiers," said Luo, a co-founder of Chinese bakery chain Holiland.

Located in the Chongli district of Zhangjiakou, Beijing's co-host city for the 2022 Olympics, Wanlong has developed 32 ski trails spanning an area of 30 sq km.

Seven major resorts are now operating in the mountain ranges of Chongli, about 220 km northwest of the capital, making the cluster one of China's newest and best-equipped ski zones. More established resorts, such as Beidahu and Yabuli, nestle in the country's colder northeastern corner, which boasts more abundant natural snow.

Resorts in the country's lesser-visited regions will also reap the benefits from the membership plan, reckons Li Jianhong, president of the Silk Road International Resort in Urumqi.

"More people will learn about our resort and the unique ethnic culture in Xinjiang because of the access available through the pass," said Li, who has invested about 1.6 billion yuan ($228 million) in Silk Road since 2004.

"The price makes it a real bargain that significantly lowers the threshold for the sport and will help boost consumption at resorts by increasing the number of repeat visitors."

To put things into perspective, for the same amount of money that the pass costs (roughly $287), an adult could only ski four day sessions (including equipment rental) on weekdays at Wanlong and 10 sessions at Silk Road, while an equivalent Ikon Base Pass with blackout periods costs $799 in the States.

Christian Jensen, a representative of Colorado-based Alterra Mountain Company, which owns 14 of the 41 Ikon Pass member resorts, is sure China is onto a winner with the new pass.

"It's definitely a right move to give guests more options in one pass at such an attractive price," Jensen said in Chinese at the launch on Monday.

According to the latest China Ski Industry White Paper, published in January by industry analyst Carving Ski, there were a total of 742 ski resorts in China, including 149 equipped with ropeways, by the end of 2018. They recorded 21 million visits during the 2017-18 season.

Despite the growth in numbers, observers have warned that resorts, especially new ones, need to diversify their business to increase revenue streams.

"A tough reality is that most resorts in China rely heavily on revenues from their parent companies' real-estate subsidiaries, while running with heavy debts to fund continuous facility upgrades," said Li Tie, the chief economist with the China Center for Urban Development at the National Development and Reform Commission.

"The anticipated increase in visitors from the new pass should help with other tourism options rather than just skiing to help boost business throughout the year."

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2019-11-21 07:39:50
<![CDATA[Spurs snare Mourinho as Poch axe confounds fans]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524533.htm LONDON - Jose Mourinho was on Wednesday appointed Tottenham's new manager to replace the fired Mauricio Pochettino, with the club languishing 14th in the English Premier League.

The Portuguese former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United manager has signed a contract until the end of the 2022-23 season, the north London club said in a statement.

Pochettino, 47, transformed Spurs' fortunes after arriving from Southampton in 2014 and, although he failed to win a trophy, took the club to the Champions League final for the first time in its history just six months ago.

But the Argentine was fired on Tuesday, with Tottenham struggling in the league after picking up just three wins from its opening 12 games.

This season Spurs were knocked out of the League Cup by fourth-tier Colchester United and suffered an embarrassing 7-2 defeat at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

"I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters," said Mourinho, who has won domestic league titles in four different countries - Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.

"The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me. Working with these players is what has attracted me."

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy said: "In Jose we have one of the most successful managers in football. He has a wealth of experience, can inspire teams and is a great tactician.

"He has won honors at every club he has coached. We believe he will bring energy and belief to the dressing room."

Mourinho has won Champions League titles with Porto and Inter Milan.

The 56-year-old won three Premier League titles over two spells in charge of Chelsea and returned to England to manage Manchester United in 2016. United axed Mourinho last December following a poor run of results and he has not worked in management since.

His first match in charge will be Saturday's London derby at West Ham.

Despite their recent poor run, Spurs thrived under Pochettino's leadership. They qualified for the Champions League four times, culminating in a dramatic run to the club's first ever European Cup final in June, which they lost 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid.

However, domestic results had been on the decline since February. Mourinho arrives with Spurs 11 points outside the top four and just six points above the relegation zone, though they are well placed to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.

Levy said the club was "extremely reluctant" to make the change.

Pochettino's feats are considered all the more remarkable given the tight transfer budget he was afforded by Levy as the club built a new stadium.

Instead, much of Pochettino's success came from nurturing a squad of young players into household names such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.

"I can't thank this man enough," England international Alli tweeted alongside a picture of himself with Pochettino.

"He's taught me so much and I'm so grateful for everything he's done for me. Good luck and hope to see you again my friend."

The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust questioned Levy's role in the diminishing results on the pitch.

"Is the manager solely accountable? How much has the board's line on wages and transfers contributed to player unrest and disaffection?" THST said in a statement.

"Poch gave us many of our best moments as supporters, made Tottenham Hotspur a force to be reckoned with again, and forged a strong link with the fans. We will never forget the joy he brought us."

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2019-11-21 07:39:50
<![CDATA[Lippi banks some dignity over dollars]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524252.htm Marcello Lippi chose to resign as China's national team coach because results on the pitch could not justify his sizable salary, the Italian has told media in his home country.

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Italian resigned because he 'didn't deserve big salary'

Marcello Lippi chose to resign as China's national team coach because results on the pitch could not justify his sizable salary, the Italian has told media in his home country.

Lippi quit Team China for the second time after last week's 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Syria in Dubai, a result which could ultimately cost China a place at the 2022 finals in Qatar.

The 2006 World Cup winner was reportedly being paid annual wages of 18 million euros (around $20 million) and alluded to feeling guilty about his pay packet as he announced his resignation in a post-match news conference in Dubai, saying he didn't "want to rob the money".

The 71-year-old is sticking to that explanation, according to a Tuesday report on Italian website gianlucadimarzio.com.

"It happens to me now and then, when I believe that there is no longer a natural desire, participation and trust. I don't like to make a lot of money without deserving it," Lippi was quoted as saying.

"I've been almost eight years in China and I had a great time, first in the club team (Guangzhou Evergrande), and then in the national team, where we grew up a lot. Now I realize that I am not able to repay this great trust and respect towards me. There are no elements to be able to do it, and that's why I left."

The article became a hot topic on Chinese social media, with related news viewed over 15 million times by Tuesday morning. China's players have taken the brunt of the blame for the national team's travails, with many fans impressed that Lippi seemingly values his self-esteem and dignity over his bank balance.

After coaching Chinese Super League powerhouse Evergrande for two seasons, Lippi was first hired as Team China boss in 2016 but failed to secure qualification for the 2018 World Cup finals.

The Italian stepped down in January, after China's quarterfinal exit from the Asian Cup before being persuaded to return in May. His second term lasted only 175 days and involved just six games.

Speculation abounds as to who will succeed Lippi, with another ex-Evergrande coach, Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari believed to be in contention.

Like Lippi, Scolari has steered his native country to World Cup glory (in 2002) and understands Chinese soccer well, having guided Evergrande to three CSL crowns, an Asian Champions League title and the Chinese FA Cup in less than three full seasons until November 2017.

The 71-year-old is also familiar with Team China's newest naturalized star, Brazil-born Ai Kesen, aka Elkeson, having worked with the forward at Evergrande.

Scolari's spokesman, Acaz Fellegger, told Xinhua that the veteran coach would listen to any CFA offers.

"He really liked working in China and the way he was treated, and believes in the potential of the Chinese national team," said Fellegger.

"Scolari believes that China has good potential and has good players. His former team, Guangzhou, had many good Chinese players."

Reports in some Chinese media, however, suggest the CFA is leaning toward hiring a homegrown coach, with Shandong Luneng's Li Xiaopeng named as a possible candidate.

Trying to revive China's flagging qualification hopes will be the new coach's first priority.

With two wins, one draw and one loss so far, China sits second in Group A, five points behind leader Syria but only ahead of the thirdplace Philippines on goal difference.

Eight group winners and the four best second-place finishers will progress to the 12-team second round of Asian zone qualifying. China is currently ranked as the fourth best runner-up team.

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2019-11-20 07:34:45
<![CDATA[Tester in Sun doping case 'was construction worker']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524251.htm One of the testers in the Sun Yang doping case has said he was not a trained doping-control assistant (DCA) but a construction worker.

Sun is accused of not cooperating with three drug testers at his home on Jan 3, with the three-time Olympic champion declaring his innocence at a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing in Montreux, Switzerland, last Friday.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has appealed against an initial ruling by swimming's governing body FINA that cleared Sun of any violation.

The tester, who spoke to Xinhua on condition of anonymity, revealed he had provided his testimony in a written letter in Chinese to CAS and WADA several days before the Montreux hearing.

"I am a builder and I am always busy at work, day and night. No one ever trained me in doping tests, and it is unnecessary for me to undertake such training," he said.

"I agreed to testify via a video conference call before the public hearing as they requested. I was ready, but no one has ever contacted me about this."

In an interview with Xinhua in January, the tester said he was providing temporary help for WADA contractor IDTM at the request of his former middle-school classmate, who is a doping control officer (DCO), on the night in question (Sept 4).

The tester noted that he and the DCO had not seen each other for a long time, having met at a school reunion dinner during the Spring Festival in February last year.

"She called me to pick her up at the railway station and drive her to Sun's home that night. In fact, there was another lady with the DCO at the station. She was the BCA(blood collection assistant)," he said.

"Before we entered the test room, the DCO asked me to escort Sun into the bathroom. As I understood it, she was asking me to watch Sun Yang urinate. Because both of them were women, I agreed.

"Sun is a big star in China, so outside the room, I took a couple of pictures with my cellphone.

"When I tried to take pictures of him again when we were sitting in the room, Sun told me not to do so.

"Then he asked every one of us to identify ourselves. I showed my ID card. Sun pointed out that I was not an accredited tester and should not stay in the test room."

During the 11-hour CAS hearing, Sun said that he stopped cooperating with the process because of the tester's unprofessional behavior. Sun later found out that the three IDTM testers lacked sufficient authorization and credentials.

The "temporary" tester said he left the test room and waited outside, adding that the DCO came out to him several times with an iPad and showed him some information on the screen, written in English.

"I did not know English and did not understand what she was talking about. Then I gave the iPad back to her. I didn't know what happened in the test room," he said.

"I knew nothing about the doping test and nothing about my role that night. I just came to help my middleschool classmate at her request. I am a builder."

None of the testers appeared at the CAS hearing, prompting Sun to ask the question: "Do you have the guts to show up and tell the truth here in front of the public?"

A CAS verdict on the case is expected in the coming months.

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2019-11-20 07:34:45
<![CDATA[Phoenix rises to conquer the world]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524250.htm At the start of this season, no one could have believed that an e-sports club that was founded just two years ago would eventually be crowned world champion.

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Fledgling Chinese club is dreaming big after bagging League of Legends' top prize in Paris

At the start of this season, no one could have believed that an e-sports club that was founded just two years ago would eventually be crowned world champion.

FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) proved all the doubters wrong, when on Nov 10 the Chinese club's elite gamers defeated European powerhouse G2 Esports 3-0 in Paris to win the 2019 League of Legends World Championship.

It's the second time that a club from China's League of Legends Pro League (LPL) has won the title after Invictus Gaming's triumph at last year's worlds in Incheon, South Korea.

FPX's triumph has cast a warm glow over the Chinese gaming community, with some fan groups even booking bars or screening rooms in movie theaters to watch the live broadcast and share in the excitement.

"In the last few seconds of the match, I still just couldn't believe that we could win the championship", said FPX player Liu Qingsong, aka Crisp, in an exclusive interview with China Daily. "There were no easy games at the world championship."

FPX's victory was practically inconceivable some years ago, when Chinese e-sports teams struggled against their South Korean and European rivals at major international tournaments.

Chinese e-sports proved its worth in 2018 when the nation achieved a League of Legends 'Grand Slam' - comprised of Royal Never Give Up's win at LOL's Mid-Season Invitational in Paris in May, China's continental victory at Rift Rivals in Dalian, Liaoning province, in July, August's Asian Games gold, and Invictus Gaming's triumph at the world championship in Incheon in November.

However, those LPL clubs were unable to maintain last year's momentum this season, failing to defend many of their international titles. Even before the start of world championship final earlier this month, FPX remained a dark horse for the trophy - known as the Summoner's Cup.

"Before the final, all of our players were confident, believing there was a chance for us to win," said Liu, whose team defeated defending champion Invictus Gaming in the semifinal on Nov 2. "We actually have played against G2 many times before. We beat them many times in training matches. We were just unsure if they would play differently and be more aggressive in the final than in training."

Total dedication

Far from a fluke, this triumph was born of good old-fashioned hard work and dedication.

"In terms of daily training, I would get up 10 am in the morning and train until 1 or 2 am the next morning," said Liu. "So, I would train about 14 to 15 hours a day. I would play at least 15 training matches in a single day."

With such a tough training schedule to stick to, the well-being of the players is high on the FPX team's list of priorities.

"We make sure our players have a regular daily schedule and a nutritious diet," Li Chun, the CEO of FPX, told China Daily. "Each day we prepare four meals for the players, and we have a psychological counselor to take care of their mental health. The club also has a long-term cooperation with an athletic rehabilitation team to keep our players healthy."

It's been a whirlwind few years for Liu and his teammates, but he recalls that it hasn't all been plain sailing.

"I was really looking forward to the atmosphere of competing and siting in the center of the stage. That's why I chose to become a pro gamer when I was 18 years old. Now, I've played for four to five years," said Liu.

"At the very beginning, I was uncertain. I didn't know what I could achieve in my career, and I wasn't sure about the future of the e-sports industry.

"But as my performances improved and the e-sports environment improved, I enjoyed it more. I can see room for the industry's development, so I don't worry about the future now."

All indications suggest Liu is right not to worry.

The Chinese e-sports market was worth 8.5 billion yuan ($1.2 billion) in 2018, with that figure expected to exceed 13 billion yuan by the end of this year, according to the 2019 Global E-sports Development Report.

E-sports' fanbase is also snowballing. In 2018, there were about 320 million gamers and fans in China, a figure that is projected to rise to 350 million by the end of this year. Globally, it's estimated the number of e-sports fans will exceed 450 million by the end of 2019.

And for FPX the future looks especially bright.

"The world title was the ultimate reward for the players' efforts, and for the club. This is a very positive step forward. We will keep growing," CEO Li added.

"Our goal has always been the same. We've always considered ourselves to be a startup company, and we are not just like a regular e-sports club.

"Since the very beginning, we have been aiming to build FPX into the top e-sports club in China. We believe we can be the first or second Chinese club in terms of our teams' performances, the club's influence and business capabilities.

"I hope we will become the leading Chinese e-sports club in the future, and the premier e-sports club in the world."

 

FunPlus Phoenix players celebrate on stage after winning the League of Legends World Championship on Nov 10 in Paris. The win marked just the second time a club from China's League of Legends Pro League has been crowned LOL world champion. Provided to China Daily

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2019-11-20 07:34:45
<![CDATA[F1 series in pole position as gamers get behind the wheel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524249.htm Clutching the steering wheel of a Formula One car is a fantasy for virtually all motor sports enthusiasts, but only a tiny minority have been lucky enough to fulfill that dream.

For those that haven't, the Formula One E-sports Series is about as close to the real racing experience as they can get, with gamers competing in a driving simulator, complete with steering wheel and pedals. Players in the series are sometimes real-life auto racers, such as Italian Enzo Bonito.

This year's launch of the F1 E-sports Series China Championship has allowed Chinese gamers to join the grid.

Beginning in early August, the series has visited six cities across the country, with over 3,000 enthusiasts taking part in the preliminary round to fight for a ticket to the ongoing regional competitions.

The top 20 players in each of the four regional rounds, along with another 20 invitees, will battle it out in January's final in Shanghai, with the champion and the runner-up joining the 2020 F1 E-sports Pro Draft.

"The first edition of the F1 E-sports Series China Championship has been progressing smoothly," Dong Liangliang, the deputy general manager of organizer Shanghai Juss Intellisports, told China Daily at the northern regional competition in Beijing on Sunday.

"The result so far has met our expectations in terms of the fans we attracted at the preliminary round, the high quality of the regional competitions and the positive feedback we received from the online broadcast of the championship."

Becoming an F1 e-sports player is not as straightforward as mastering a regular motor sports gaming titles. Much like actual racers, gamers must have excellent driving skills, while the price of the simulation equipment does not come cheap.

"To allow more people to have a chance to participate in F1 e-sports, we chose to stage many offline activities and competitions in places that have a high flow of people, such as shopping malls," Dong added.

"We bring the simulators to the fans via the offline activities, making it possible for many people to try F1 e-sports for the first time, which has also helped us to find talent. We now have players who never played before. They only tried it for the first time at our activities and then made into the regional competitions.

"In terms of the game's difficulty level, we lowered it for the preliminary round by opening the assistance system (which signals turns etc.) because many of the participants were just regular fans who never played before. But the regional competitions and the final will be much harder."

Gamer Zhang Jialin is one of those thrilled to have tested his skills behind the wheel of one of the simulators.

Sixteen years of playing F1 games paid off for Zhang after he was crowned champion of the eastern regional event in Shanghai last month.

"After all, this is my hobby and I personally enjoyed it very much," said Zhang. "We spend hours and hours in front of computers driving the same car on the same track just try to improve a few seconds. For others, it's boring. For us, the few seconds that we improve bring us a huge sense of achievement.

"I played the F1 video game for the first time in 2003 and back then I knew nothing about the concept of e-sports. It felt great to win the regional title, but I also recognized the gap between me and the top drivers. I will try my best to improve in the short time I have to prepare and be more competitive at the final next year."

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2019-11-20 07:34:45
<![CDATA[Benitez serving up fresh approach at Dalian]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524054.htm Spaniard using ping-pong to break down barriers at Super League club

Rafa Benitez is employing his very own brand of ping-pong diplomacy as part of his ongoing efforts to transform Dalian Yifang into a Super League superpower.

The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle boss, who took the reins in July, told BBC podcast Football Daily that he sometimes uses table tennis rackets to get his message across to players, admitting his Mandarin skills aren't quite up to scratch yet.

"I was explaining how you kick the