RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it will hold its biggest sporting event next month, with 6,000 athletes expected to participate, the latest extravaganza in a push to soften its ultra-conservative image.
The “Saudi Games” will be held in Riyadh between 23 March and 1 April and will feature 40 sports — including swimming, athletics, archery, badminton and basketball — that will be open to men and women, officials said.
“I (am) proud to launch the biggest sporting event in the kingdom’s history,” said the Saudi sports minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki.
The top prize reserved for gold medalists is one million riyals ($267,000), organizers said.
The announcement came a day after King Salman upgraded the government body overseeing sports to a full ministry, reflecting its growing importance in the kingdom’s reform efforts.
It comes amid growing fears over the coronavirus epidemic, while Saudi Arabia itself has far reported no cases of the disease.
Saudi Arabia, under fire over human rights abuses, has accelerated investment in glitzy sports and entertainment events in a bid to improve its reputation and boost jobs and investment in the sectors.
Prince Abdulaziz was put in charge of the new sports ministry as the kingdom hosts multi-billion dollar events — from major football leagues to women’s wrestling.
Saudi Arabia is to host the world’s richest horse race this week — taking over the mantle from Dubai — with $20 million in cash prizes on offer.
Herro drops 37 as Heat push East Finals lead to 3-1
Tyler Herro waxed-hot with 37 points to lead Miami to a 112-109 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday (Manila time) as the Heat inched closer to their first NBA championship appearance since 2014.
The rookie went 14-of-21 from the field including 5-of-10 treys for Miami, which bounced back from a Game 3 defeat for a 3-1 series advantage. Jimmy Butler had 24 points and nine rebounds, Goran Dragic finished with 22 points and Bam Adebayo had 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Boston.
Game 5 is on Saturday (Manila time).
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 28 points and nine rebounds, Jaylen Brown had 21 points while Kemba Walker finished with 20. Gordon Hayward got 14 points for Boston.
Miami went on a 10-4 run at the end of the first half after Hayward hit a pair of free throws to tie the score 40-40 with 3:38 left in the second.
In the second half, Herro nailed a three pointer with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Miami a 98-90 lead.
Brown made a three pointer and Smart dropped in a layup to get the Celtics within three, but Dragic and Butler each made baskets to pad Miami’s lead.
Dragic responded from beyond the arc and Herro added a layup to put Miami up by nine with 56 seconds left in regulation.
Boston got within three again on a Brown three-pointer with 16 seconds to go, but free throws by Herro and Butler sealed the victory.
French Open sets 1K crowd limit
The French Open at Roland Garros announced Wednesday it will limit the crowd of spectators once again to as low as 1,000 a day after the government announced new limits in its battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
French tennis chiefs had already reduced the number of fans allowed in for the season’s concluding Grand Slam event, which starts Sunday in Paris, to 5,000 ten days ago, down from 11,500.
However, on Wednesday, health minister Olivier Veran demanded new limits at sports grounds in 11 ‘red zones’ in the country, one of which includes the French capital.
“To date, we have no confirmation on the conditions of organisation of the tournament,” said a French Tennis Federation spokesman.
This new ceiling of 5,000 will apply “from Saturday after consultation between the prefects and local elected officials”, said Veran.
The health minister also announced “the closure of sports halls and gymnasiums” because “they are confined spaces ….and which are unfortunately places of significant contamination”.
These new measures, which will last for a period of two weeks, also concern the areas of Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice, Lille, Toulouse, Saint-Etienne, Rennes, Rouen, Grenoble and Montpellier.
Murray keeps Nuggets afloat
I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.
MIAMI (AFP) — Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.
Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in Game 3 to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in their best-of-seven series.
But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth-quarter battle.
The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3:53 left on the clock.
But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.
The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.
With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumper to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.
Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — which had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in Game 2 on Sunday — was determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.
The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.
“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.
“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”
Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.
“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my teammates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”
The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.
James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.
Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early; we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.”
“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.”
“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”
Game 4 takes place on Thursday.
PFL respects Global FC ban
We fully understand their decision and we appreciate their stand for the cause of the players.
The Philippine Football League (PFL) respects the decision of the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) backlisting Global FC due to its failure to settle its contractual obligations to its players and staff.
PFL commissioner Coco Torre said they fully understand GAB’s decision that bars Global FC from renewing its professional license or transacting with the government sports licensing body.
In a memorandum released Wednesday, GAB laid down its blacklist order after the club failed to respond to the show cause order addressed to its team manager, Mark Jarvis, in August.
Global, which used to rule the United Football League, has yet to settle its obligation to 15 of its players, including skipper Jerry Barbaso and Jorrel Aristorenas, who still haven’t received their salaries amounting to P1.6 million and P1.02 million, respectively.
Torre said GAB’s decision to blacklist Global is a testament to its support to the athletes, who are seeking to collect what the club owes them.
“We respect the decision of GAB. They are there to protect the interest of the professional players,” Torre said.
Prior to GAB’s action, the PFL and the Philippine Football Federation had also sent their respective show cause orders to seek the side of the Global management.
Torre said the banning would serve as a warning to other professional clubs to be more careful and responsible in dealing with their athletes.
“It will also serve as a deterrent for the future of other clubs to be careful with their management, and be careful and responsible on their duties,” said Torre, who will roll out the fourth season of the PFL with six participating teams in United City FC, alongside Kaya Iloilo FC, Stallion Laguna FC, Mendiola FC, Maharlika FC and Azkals Development Team.
“We fully understand their decision and we appreciate their stand for the cause of the players.”
Yulo shines in Japan
He came out as 12th out of almost 100 competitors — that itself was already a great start for Caloy.
Carlos Yulo got a good grade in his return to action in the 53rd All-Japan Senior Masters Gymnastics Championships in Gunma, Japan last Tuesday.
Yulo, who already punched a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics, registered a total of 83.398 points in six disciplines to finish 12th out of 91 participants in this prestigious tourney.
Former world champion Kazuma Kaya grabbed the gold medal with 86.998 points while Wataru Tanigawa and former Asian Games champion Kenta Chiba took the silver and bronze medals, respectively, with 85.965 and 85.166 points, respectively.
Competing in Japan is nothing new for Yulo.
He has been training with noted Japanese mentor Munehiro Kugimiya in Tokyo for the past couple of years, prompting him to claim the silver medal in the World Artistic Gymnastics in Stuttgart, German las year that served as his ticket to the Summer Games.
Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion was impressed, saying that despite failing to land on the podium, Yulo still had a gallant stand in his first ever competition since Japan went on lockdown last February.
“He came out as 12th out of almost 100 competitors — that itself was already a great start for Caloy,” said Carrion, a former sports commissioner and incumbent director of the Philippine Olympic Committee.
Actually, Yulo started slow in his pet event — floor exercise — as he garnered only 13.466 points followed by another underwhelming performance in pommel horse with 12.900 points.
But the 20-year-old dynamo stormed back with an impressive showing in the vault event, where he posted 14.733 points. Then, he notched 14.100 in the rings event followed by 14.066 points in parallel bars and 13.633 in the horizontal bar apparatus for a total of 83.398 points.
“It’s a big achievement. He had good scores in his events. Of course, there were some disciplines where he was not strong, but it was still okay,” Carrion said, adding that her prized ward is just in the early stretch of his preparation for the Summer Games.
“We believe that the more competitions for Caloy, the better it would be for his development.”
“We’ll see if he can go to other competitions, but it would just be within Japan if ever. He still has a lot of months to prepare and continue training.”
Thompson repays Altas
Scottie Thompson played the role of an ambassador when Frankie Lim decided to step down as head coach of University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Speaking in the latest edition of The Athletes Tribune, Thompson said the owners of Perpetual sought his help to convince his players to stay in the wake of Lim’s sudden resignation.
“The owners talked to me and asked me if I can speak to the players and convince them to stay,” said Thompson, the Barangay Ginebra swingman who is regarded as one of the most successful alumni of Perpetual.
“They worry that the players might transfer to other school due to what happened.”
In an interview with Daily Tribune, Lim said his contract was supposed to be effective until November, but was suspended last July as he started missing his paychecks.
He quit, leaving behind a good run in Season 94 with Prince Eze emerging as Most Valuable Players.
Thompson said he is repaying Perpetual’s trust in him by helping it in keeping the team intact.
Simon rings final buzzer
Peter June Simon formally announced his retirement, putting an end to a colorful 17-year career that saw him winning eight titles in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
In a social media post, the 40-year-old veteran expressed gratitude, saying that he didn’t expect that somebody like him would make it to the PBA despite being left unsigned after being drafted with the 43rd pick in the 2001 Rookie Draft.
He brought his talent to the Metropolitan Basketball Association before seeing action in the Philippine Basketball League until finally finding his way to the PBA.
“I did not expect that a lanky and small boy from Makilala, North Cotabato will make it to the PBA,” Simon said in a lengthy farewell message that came a couple of days after Daily Tribune broke the report that Magnolia left him in the free agency.
“It’s heartbreaking, but I think this is a perfect time to bid the league goodbye.”
Aranas parades old, new faces
These three candidates have already shown their brilliance and track record within their NSA.
A powerhouse roster with a perfect blend of youthful ideas and veteran experience would be joining Clint Aranas in running as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
Aranas revealed that incumbent POC chairman Steve Hontiveros would be seeking re-election under his ticket while athletics chief Philip Ella Juico and rugby boss Ada Milby will be his 1st president and 2nd vice president in the POC elections on 27 November.
A noted taxation lawyer, archery president, former ranking government official and a known crusader in Philippine sports, Aranas said Hontiveros, Juico and Milby present impressive credentials and track records in serving their athletes, coaches and fellow officials.
Hontiveros, for one, has been around for more than four decades as bowling president and member of the Olympic Council of Asia.
He served as secretary general of Celso Dayrit and Jose “Peping” Cojuangco before being elected as handball president and POC chairman in the special elections last year.
Juico is also no pushover.
He is a former cabinet secretary and chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission.
He replaced the controversial Go Teng Kok as Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) president in 2014 and turned it into one of the most successful national sports associations (NSA) in the country.
In fact, PATAFA had a harvest of 11 gold medals in the previous 30th Southeast Asian Games in Clark to emerge as the most productive federation.
A national athlete, Milby, on the other hand, is considered as a rising star.
She has yet to hold a seat in the POC executive council, but she is already considered as one of the most respected figures in her sport after being hailed as one of the top 50 Most Influential People in Rugby by the Rugby World Magazine.
“These three candidates have already shown their brilliance and track record within their NSA and we can see that they will be vital in improving the governance of the POC,” Aranas said.
“Mr. Hontiveros was never involved in any controversy while Mr. Juico had already proven himself as an effective sport official. Ada Milby, meanwhile, may be young, but she is very popular in the world of rugby and is a good ambassador of the sport.”
Aranas is facing an uphill climb in the POC polls.
Incumbent POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino already announced that he is seeking a fresh four-year term together with Al Panlilio of basketball and Richard Gomez of fencing and modern pentathlon.
Aranas said the inclusion of Hontiveros, Juico and Milby in his lineup would definitely improve the state of Philippine sports.
“I feel that getting them in our lineup is aligned with our vision, which is for the betterment of the POC,” he said.
“We should build POC in a level where transparency and clarity goes beyond the next generation of officials. We should be a moral compass for everyone.”
“We are aiming for a sustainable association, even beyond my term.”
Humbert shocks fancied foe
PARIS, France (AFP) — US Open semifinalist Daniil Medvedev was knocked out in the first round of the Hamburg ATP event on Tuesday by world No. 41 Ugo Humbert.
Humbert of France sent the top seed packing with a 6-4, 6-3 upset in the last tournament before the rescheduled French Open starts on Sunday.
This was the 22-year-old’s first top 10 scalp. Russian Medvedev, who was beaten by eventual US Open winner Dominic Thiem in New York this month, is ranked fifth.
Humbert has emerged as the main home hope for Roland Garros. Compatriot Gael Monfils lost earlier on the Hamburg clay 6-4, 6-3 by Yannick Hanfmann.
Humbert next faces Czech Jan Vesely, who beat another French player, Gilles Simon, on Monday.