Bahrain’s untouchable world title holder Winfred Yavi surged to the Asian Games 3,000m steeplechase gold medal on Monday, as Iranian veteran Ehsan Hadadi’s 17-year reign as discus champion came to an end.
Yavi was in a league of her own at the Hangzhou Olympic Stadium, defending her title in a new Games record 9min 18.28sec to back up the 1,500m gold she won on Sunday.
It was the highlight of a night where the titles were split between six nations, including China’s Li Ling claiming a third straight women’s pole vault gold, clearing a new Games record 4.63m.
Yavi stormed to victory ahead of Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech at the worlds at Budapest in August, then ran the second fastest time in history, 8:50.66, at the Eugene Diamond League last month.
But she had no one to push her faster in Hangzhou as she cruised home ahead of Indian pair Parul Chaudhary and Priti, who both clocked personal bests.
“Anything can happen, so today I planned to play the game safe. I had a lot of pressure (with people) saying ‘you’re going to win’,” the 23-year-old said.
“So I was careful, and just tried to break the Asian Games record.”
With the 1,500m in the bag along with the steeplechase, Yavi said it had given her confidence to branch out further.
“It means I’m capable of shifting to different events. I don’t need to stay in the steeplechase for a long time, I can graduate slowly, slowly to different events,” she said.
“Maybe I’ll do 5k or 10k road races, and in the future maybe even a marathon.”
Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion Mutaz Essa Barshim was also in good nick, needing just one effort to qualify for the men’s high-jump final, where he is overwhelming favourite.
The Qatari leapt 2.19m to lead the field into Wednesday’s gold-medal showdown.
His chief rival is South Korea’s Woo Sang-hyeok, who won last month’s Eugene Diamond League in a personal best 2.35m and also comfortably qualified.
Few athletes have been as dominant as Hadadi in the discus, with the 38-year-old unbeaten at the Asian Games since winning his first gold at Doha in 2006.
But his reign is over, with fellow Iranian Hossein Rasouli heaving 62.04m to his teammate’s 61.82.
In other action, Singapore’s Shanti Pereira powered to the women’s 200m title in 23.03 with China’s Li Yuting second and Bahrain’s 2018 champion Edidiong Odiong third.
It helped justify Pereira’s decision to quit her job as a copywriter this year and become a full-time athlete.
“I knew I crossed the line first, and I was like ‘Oh my God’,” said Pereira.
“What a season. It’s been so crazy, it means a lot to me. I can’t really describe this.”
But there was heartache for Bahrain’s former 400m world champion Salwa Eid Naser, who was disqualified from the 200m final to scupper her bid for a first major title since returning from a drugs ban.
Eid Naser ran the third-fastest 400m time in history when she won the 2019 world title, but she was slapped with a two-year ban for missing doping tests in 2021.
She returned to competition this year, and had managed silver in the 400m in Hangzhou.
Japan’s Koki Ueyama won the men’s 200m title in 20.60 while Japan’s Shunya Takatama and Kuwait’s Yaqoub Alyouha dead-heated in 13.41 in the 110m hurdles and were both awarded a gold medal.
China’s Xiong Shiqi leapt a new personal best 6.73m to be crowned women’s long jump champion, while Bahrain took out the 4x400m mixed relay ahead of India and Kazakhstan.
North Korean breaks world record
A third women’s weightlifting world record was broken on Monday as North Korea continued to dominate at the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Monday on their return to international competition after four years away.
Kim Il Gyong, who appears to have last competed internationally as a 14-year-old junior in 2018, set a new snatch record of 111kg on her way to gold in the women’s 59kg class.
North Korean weightlifters have not taken part in international competition since 2019 after the country’s borders were sealed because of the pandemic.
Shadab Khan opens up about Babar Azam’s resignation from captaincy
Pakistan all-rounder, Shadab Khan, has expressed his perspective on Babar Azam’s recent choice to relinquish the captaincy across all formats of the national cricket team.
In an exclusive interview with Cricket Pakistan, Shadab conveyed his admiration for Babar’s decision and conveyed his heartfelt best wishes.
The leg-spinner also shared positive sentiments regarding the newly appointed T20I captain for the national side, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
“Look, everyone has their own decision, and Babar has stepped down. We send him our best wishes. We’ve had a great time with him as the captain for Pakistan. Now, Shaheen has taken on the role, and we’re excited about it. We’ve witnessed his [Shaheen’s] captaincy in the PSL, and it feels great. Let’s see how it goes playing under his captaincy for the first time; it will give an idea of how much fun it is, and I am very excited to play under Shaheen’s captaincy,” Shadab said.
On November 15th, Babar relinquished his captaincy following a meeting with Zaka Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Management Committee.
After stepping down, Shan Masood was appointed as the Test captain of the Pakistan Men’s Cricket Team, and Shaheen Shah Afridi was named as the T20I captain by the PCB.
Shaheen’s first task as the T20I captain for the Men in Green side will be leading the team against New Zealand in a five-match T20 series scheduled to take place from January 12 to January 21, 2024.
Pakistan vs New Zealand T20I series schedule:
- January 12: New Zealand vs Pakistan – First T20I in Auckland
- January 14: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Second T20I in Hamilton
- January 17: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Third T20I in Dunedin
- January 19: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Fourth T20I in Christchurch
- January 21: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Fifth T20I in Christchurch
Messi’s Argentina to face Chile in Copa America
Lionel Messi and Argentina will get the chance to avenge their defeats to Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals after being grouped with their old rivals in the draw for next year’s tournament on Thursday.
Reigning Copa America champions Argentina will defend their title in the United States next summer in an expanded 16-team tournament which features 10 South American teams and six qualifiers from the CONCACAF region.
Argentina, winners of last year’s World Cup, will kick off the tournament on June 20 in Atlanta against either Canada or Trinidad & Tobago, who meet in a playoff next year to determine one of two remaining CONCACAF slots.
The Argentines will then face Chile in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 25 in a repeat of the 2016 Copa America Centenario final held at the same venue.
Argentina, beaten by Chile in Santiago on penalties a year earlier in 2015, also lost the 2016 final on spot-kicks, with Messi blazing his penalty over the bar.
The Argentine captain later announced a short-lived retirement from international football after the defeat, before reversing the move and continuing his career.
The world champions will wrap up their Group A campaign in familiar territory for Inter Miami’ Messi, facing Peru in Miami on June 29 in their final first-round game.
Elsewhere, Mexico were drawn in a Group B alongside Ecuador, Venezuela and Jamaica, while the United States face Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C.
Five-time world champions Brazil, beaten in the 2021 final on home soil by Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, have a potentially tricky group containing Colombia, Paraguay and either Costa Rica or Honduras.
Next year’s Copa America is being seen as an effective test run for the 2026 World Cup taking place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said at Thursday’s draw that the tournament would be a “Copa America of the World.”
“The world champion team (Argentina), the only five-time world champion team (Brazil), the first world champion team (Uruguay) will take part, along with the best players in the world, who are Latin Americans,” Dominguez said.
Brazil open their campaign at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the futuristic home of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team, against either Costa Rica or Honduras on June 24.
They face Paraguay in Las Vegas on June 28 before concluding their group play against Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
A total of 14 stadiums will be used for the tournament, most of them large capacity venues that belong to NFL teams.
If Argentina win Group A, they will face the runner-up from Group B in the quarter-finals on July 4 at Houston’s NRG Stadium – where they defeated the United States in the semi-final in 2016.
The Arlington, Texas home of the Dallas Cowboys will host another quarter-final on July 5, with Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium and the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, rounding out the last eight venues.
The semi-finals will take place at East Rutherford on July 9, and in Charlotte on July 10, with the final taking place at Miami on July 14.
Ten Hag ‘wanted United challenge’
Erik ten Hag said he was warned off taking on the “impossible job” of Manchester United manager but admitted he could not resist the challenge at Old Trafford.
The Dutchman, who left Ajax to take over at United in 2022, ended the club’s six-year trophy drought last season but has been under intense pressure in his second campaign.
United beat Chelsea 2-1 at home on Wednesday, easing the pressure on their beleaguered boss, but have lost 10 out of their 22 games this season in all competitions.
Ten Hag told fanzine “United We Stand” that he was advised how tough it would be to revive the fortunes of the 20-time English champions, who have been in the shadow of Manchester City for a decade.
“Everyone was telling me ‘You can’t succeed in that job’,” said the 53-year-old. “They said it was impossible. Me? I wanted the challenge.”
United beat Newcastle in the League Cup final in February and finished third in the Premier League in 2022/23.
But this season they are already out of the League Cup, trail Premier League leaders Arsenal by nine points and face an embarrassing group-stage exit from the Champions League.
Since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, six managers have tried and failed to take United back to the top of English football – David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.
“I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it was such a great club with such a great fanbase,” said Ten Hag.
“People love Man Utd, or they are against Man Utd. I like clubs like this. Ajax was like this.”
The Dutchman said earlier this week he was confident that he retains the backing of the United players after reports of rifts within the dressing room.
United are expected to announce that British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe is buying a 25 percent stake in the club in the coming days but the deal may not make a major impact on spending in the January transfer window.
“I don’t think we will spend a lot,” said Ten Hag.
“As a club, you have to look for improvements, so if you can find better and it’s realistic financially and with financial fair play, the club has to go with it. But most of the time you don’t attract the best players in the winter.”
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