China’s Zhang Yiwen and Australia’s James Willett Increase Their Countries’ Gold Count

Nobody can stop the People’s Republic of China: the strongest Rifle/Pistol team of the first ISSF World Cup of the year collected another Gold medal thanks to Zhang Yiwen, who sealed the women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions Women victory this morning.

On day 4, half-way thorough the competition, Chinese shooters won all the Rifle/Pistol finals conducted in New Delhi (IND), leaving just the three Shotgun matches to Australia and Italy.

Zhang Yiwen (21) made it while making her first appearance in an ISSF World Cup: the young shooter finished the kneeling series in 4th place with 151.7 points, climbing then up in 3rd place with a strong prone position fraction she closed with 306.3 points. Zhang reached the lead during the standing position series, nailing the brightest medal with 455.7 points in spite of a spine-chilling 9.3-point last shot.

issf-world-cup-zhang-yiwen

Singapore’s Jasmine Ser Xiang Wei (26) had a chance to overtake the Chinese winner, but a disappointing 8.3 landed her in 2nd place with 453.8 points.

Two-time World Cup medalist Eva Roesken of Germany (32) finished the kneeling section of the match in the lead with 153.0 points, sliding then in 2nd place at the end of the prone series with 307.7 points, to eventually finish the final in 3rd place with 443.6 points,

She was followed by her teammate Jolyn Beer, the 22-year old shooter who won last year’s ISSF World Cup in Bangkok (THA) at her first appearance, who closed today’s match in 4th place. After completing the kneeling series in 8th place with 149.1 points, she moved up in the scoreboard through the standing position collecting a total of 433.0 points.

Rio 2016 Olympic finalist, Nina Christen of Switzerland (23), currently ranked 7th in the world in this event, took the 5th place with 422.8 points, while Japan’s first-time finalist Shumizu Ayano, secured the 6th place with 411.4 points.

Shooting on her home turf, India’s Tejaswini Sawant (36) claimed the 7th place with 402.4 points. She was eliminated along with Rio 2016 Olympic finalist Najmeh Khedmati of the Islamic Republic of Iran (20) who finished in 8th with 402.2 points.

In the afternoon, the third Shotgun event of the World Cup crowned another young Australian, as Double Trap Men shooter James Willett (21) doubled the Gold medal pocketed by women’s Trap athlete Penny Smith on February 24th.

At the Dr. Karni Shooting Range, Willett took an early lead in the final match by crushing all of his first 36 targets, but gradually lost ground to India’s Ankur Mittal (24) and found himself tied with his rival after 30 doubles, when the two of them were the only remaining shooters in the match.

James Willett
James Willett

There the Indian missed three hits in a very short span of time, while Willett shot with great precision and found himself sitting on a consistent gap with only five doubles remaining. The Australian athlete managed his advantage wisely, maintaining the lead and collecting the Gold medal with 75 hits, against Mittal’s with 74.

On the third step of the podium, competing in a final match for the first time in his senior career, climbed James Dedman. The 18-year-old, who participated here in his third ISSF World Cup, finished with a score of 56 hits, missing a crucial target in his third-to-last double and marking a new Junior World Record in this event.

Dedman was followed by his more experienced teammate Steven Scott (32), who placed in 4th position with 46 targets. The British shooter previously avoided the elimination by completing an almost perfect fourth series, where he crushed 9 out of 10 targets, overtaking Italy’s 26-year-old Alessandro Chianese who then closed in 5th position with 36 hits. India’s second final participant Sangram Dahiya (27) concluded in 6th position with 24 hits.

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African Table Tennis Champion Calls Out Former Stars

For more than two decades, Olufunke Oshonaike has given her all to table tennis that she is at present the most decorated female table tennis player in Africa having won more medals at the African Games than any player in the continent.

She turned back the clock recently in Agadir, Morocco when she reclaimed the women singles title at the 2016 ITTF African Championship -a title she last won in 2003.
However, the Germany-based star believes former athletes have roles to play to help the growth of the sport in the continent.

To this effect, she decided to organize a clinic for junior players in Nigeria and this she started on Monday February 27 in Lagos.

“This is just my own way of giving back to the society where I gained from and I think former athletes like me should see what they can do to help various sports to grow in their various countries. We cannot just be complaining by not helping out and it is high time former players supported their various sports. But in Nigeria, I must say that the harsh economic weather has not helped the government to do much to the sport but we (former players) can see what we can do to help sport. I am happy that I am doing this and I am also motivated to do more. I hope that at the end of the clinic, we can see more former players coming forward to do the same thing for the sport,” the mother of two added.

The six-time Olympian added: ““I am particularly thrilled with the response of the players. There is no doubt that they are full of talents and what has encouraged this first day was their enthusiasm to learn. This has really motivated me on this first day that at the end of the exercise, we will have more of them stepping into my shoes. But I have also realized that this kind of camp must be full of fun and this has also made it easy for them to show interest.”

Olufunke Oshonaike during the first day of the clinic on Monday February 27 in Lagos...
Olufunke Oshonaike during the first day of the clinic on Monday February 27 in Lagos…

Over 20 players drawn from different states across Nigeria are taking part in the clinic holding at the National Training Centre of the National Stadium in Lagos.

According to Olufunke Oshonaike, the clinic will climaxed on March 2 to 4 with top 16 championship with top 16 boys and top 16 girls competing for prizes and laurels in a three-day tournament as part of the plans to select the best hands to the 2017 ITTF African Junior Championship holding in Tunis in April.

FIBA signs 11-year strategic partnership with iconic basketball brand Nike

FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, and world leading sports apparel brand Nike, on Monday announced the signing of an 11-year (2017-2027) commercial agreement covering FIBA’s Senior Men’s, Women’s and Youths’ flagship national team competitions.

It is a natural partnership between the number one basketball brand in the world and the sport’s governing body, which counts 213 National Member Federations all around the globe.

The agreement, which comes into effect during the year that sees the launch of FIBA’s Competition System 2017+, underlines FIBA and Nike’s desire to collaborate in order to grow basketball worldwide, focusing on the leading official competitions such as the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Continental Cups.

Nike, the number one sports brand in the world, will benefit from long-term global marketing rights related to the major FIBA national team competitions. FIBA’s ambitions to grow the game will be supported by Nike contributions in the areas of promotion, marketing communication and the engagement of top players and ambassadors. In a first phase, the related activities will focus on the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China. Together, FIBA and Nike strive to build the FIBA Basketball World Cup into an outstanding global sports property.

Craig Zanon, Vice President and General Manager of Nike Global Basketball, said: “We are very excited about this partnership with FIBA. FIBA represents the highest level of international basketball competition, and Nike is committed to using our unmatched global reach to help foster player development and inspire fans around the world.

“We are honoured to have helped ignite a powerful culture of basketball in China. Chinese basketball fans’ passion and appetite for the game promise to make the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 a marquee global event.”

Speaking about FIBA’s Competition System 2017+, Lynn Merritt, Vice President of Nike Global Basketball Sports Marketing, said: “With this increased schedule and new emphasis on the international game, we look forward to helping connect fans to the energy and inspiration of their national teams and players.”

Patrick Baumann, FIBA Secretary General and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member, said: “This is a memorable day for FIBA as we team up with Nike, THE basketball brand by excellence. FIBA has already enjoyed the privilege of working with Nike, who is the Founding Partner of 3×3, our ever-growing and popular urban discipline. We look forward to this long-term partnership and it helping us grow the game globally, thanks to the unrivalled popularity as well as worldwide presence that Nike has to offer.”

FIBA President Horacio Muratore (centre) poses with the Naismith Trophy and is joined by - back row (from left to right): Craig Zanon, Vice President and General Manager of Nike Global Basketball; Lynn Merritt, Vice President of Nike Global Basketball Sports Marketing; LeBron James (USA); Giannis Antetokounmpo (GRE); FIBA Central Board Members Jim Tooley (USA Basketball CEO/Executive Director) and Michele O'Keefe (Canada Basketball President and CEO); front row (from left to right): Lindsay Whalen (USA); Kyrie Irving (USA); Marc Gasol (ESP); Paul George (USA). credit: FIBA
FIBA President Horacio Muratore (centre) poses with the Naismith Trophy and is joined by – back row (from left to right): Craig Zanon, Vice President and General Manager of Nike Global Basketball; Lynn Merritt, Vice President of Nike Global Basketball Sports Marketing; LeBron James (USA); Giannis Antetokounmpo (GRE); FIBA Central Board Members Jim Tooley (USA Basketball CEO/Executive Director) and Michele O’Keefe (Canada Basketball President and CEO); front row (from left to right): Lindsay Whalen (USA); Kyrie Irving (USA); Marc Gasol (ESP); Paul George (USA).
credit: FIBA

Nike becomes a FIBA Partner in the sports apparel (clothing, footwear and accessories) product category. As such, it has sponsorship rights for all Men’s and Women’s editions of FIBA’s competitions for the 2017-2027 period, including FIBA Basketball World Cups (2019, 2023 and 2027) and their Qualifiers, FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cups, FIBA Continental Cups and their Qualifiers, FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, FIBA U17 and U19 Basketball World Cups.

The advertising and promotional use of Nike’s marks and imagery at these competitions will include the prominent presence of the “swoosh” branding on the court, the integration of its branding across online and in-arena content as well as the provision of uniforms for on-court officials and volunteers.

The agreement also sees Nike become the title partner for FIBA’s World Rankings – one of the most visited sections on FIBA.com, with countries ranked based on the performances of their national teams – renaming it Nike FIBA World Rankings.

Additionally, Nike will have the Licensing Rights to develop, distribute and sell a range of Celebration products and footwear.

AMBODE, DALUNG TO INSPECT NATIONAL STADIUM SURULERE ON WEDNESDAY

The Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Lagos State government will begin a two-day working visit of the National Stadium Surulere and various youth centres in Lagos on Wednesday.

The inspection kick starts what will eventually end up as a cooperation between the federal government and Lagos state to renovate the National Stadium. The edifice has continued to dilapidate after the last international game was played in the main bowl in 2005.

The Lagos state Governor Mr Akinwunmi Ambode expressed intent to give the stadium a face lift last week, when he paid a courtesy and condolence visit to the Minister of Youth and Sports Barrister Solomon Dalung in Abuja.

“I will like to bring the National stadium to life. The last time a game was played at the National Stadium was in 2005. If this project pulls through, it will bring about the employment aspect of football and hosting of matches at the stadium. We want to bring back the football culture of Lagos state to the National Stadium after its renovation” Governor Ambode said.

Most stadia in the country had been up for concession following federal government’s inability to fund the renovations of most of the football grounds.

AMBODE, DALUNG TO INSPECT NATIONAL STADIUM  SURULERE ON WEDNESDAY
AMBODE, DALUNG TO INSPECT NATIONAL STADIUM SURULERE ON WEDNESDAY

According to the Minister, “We were trying to drive a concession but Lagos state’s interest in the National Stadium is what we call an overriding interest which is based on equity. If Governor Ambode is interested in the National Stadium then the concession process is already abated” Dalung said.

Barrister Dalung and Governor Ambode are due to inspect the National Stadium Surulere Lagos on Wednesday to assess the level of work to be done there. They will also visit the various youth centres in the state.

Reigning World and Olympic Champion MA Long One Step Closer to Setting New Records in Doha

Rio 2016 Olympic Champion MA Long (CHN) is one step closer to breaking the most number of World Tour Singles titles record, set by Belarussian legend Vladimir SAMSONOV at 26 titles, with his victory at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open today, 26 February 2017, in Doha.

MA defended his crown against compatriot FAN Zhendong with a 4-2 (11-8, 11-8, 11-7, 5-11, 6-11, 11-4) win to achieve his career 23rd Men’s Singles World Tour title in a domineering fashion.

Amidst the cheers of “Jia you” from fans who flew in to Qatar to support their favorite table tennis stars, the Chinese duo engaged in a six-games thriller, with MA dominating the first half of the match, racing to a 3-0 lead over his opponent. FAN’s attempts to turn the table in his favor were in vain, as the 20-year-old was unable to maintain his momentum to push the match into a decider after winning two games off the Olympic Champion, and lost the sixth game to surrender the match.

“Today I think the both of us performed very well. I was very proactive at the start and established a 3-0 lead. In the third and fourth game, Fan Zhendong had changed his strategy. I know the sixth game is crucial – so I changed my strategy as well,” shared MA who now has a 10-1 victory record over FAN.

The Grand Slam Champion added that “I’m very happy with the title. It’s my first international event of the year. I won my first title of 2016 in Qatar as well and moved on to win more and even became the Olympic Champion, so I hope that retaining this title in Qatar will be another good start into 2017 for me.”

The Women’s Singles final was another all-Chinese affair between 2016 World Team Champion CHEN Meng against two-time (2014 & 2015) World Junior Champion WANG Manyu.

Despite having a tough start into the match, CHEN was able to use her experience to good use to take control in the match over WANG and claimed the title 4-1 (12-10, 11-9, 11-6, 2-11, 11-6).

“We are teammates so we know each other very well, so it’s a very tough match. Especially in the first two games, I only won by a narrow margin of 2 points in both games, it was tedious mentally as well to take those 2 games,” stated the 23-year-old. “The first two games was crucial, so after winning those, it was easier for the remaining of the match.”

Grand Slam Champion Ma Long defends Men's Singles crown in Doha, Qatar.
Grand Slam Champion Ma Long defends Men’s Singles crown in Doha, Qatar.

Rivals in the singles competition, CHEN and WANG teamed up for the first time in Qatar to take home the Women’s Doubles title from top seeded JEON Jihee and YANG Haeun with a 3-1 (11-4, 11-6, 4-11, 11-6) victory in the final.

Champions at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open last week in New Delhi, Japan’s Masataka MORIZONO and Yuya OSHIMA continued their winning streak to add another Men’s Doubles title to their name in Doha. The duo secured a 3-1 (9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-9) victory against Swedish pair Kristian KARLSSON and Mattias KARLSSON who had caused a first round upset against tournament favorites MA Long and ZHANG Jike.

The next Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour will be held in Incheon, Korea, from 20-23 April 2017.

FEI World Cup Driving Final Gothenburg: Seventh FEI World Cup Driving Title For Boyd Exell

After a breath taking competition at the renowned Gothenburg Horse Show in Sweden, Boyd Exell (AUS) won the FEI World Cup™ Driving Final for the seventh time in his career. The silver went well deserved to Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) who was the winner the day before. Koos de Ronde (NED) took home the bronze.

fei-world-cup-driving-equestrian

Level 4 Course Designer Johan Jacobs (NED) had laid out a technical course with three obstacles and a brand new bridge, which suited most of the drivers. It was Jacobs’ first time as Course Designer at an FEI World Cup ™ Driving Final and his goal was to see controlled speed, which worked out well in the course.

After Competition 1 on Saturday, the drivers carried 50% of the time difference in seconds between the winner and themselves forward into today’s Final.

Boyd Exell had to make up 1,74 seconds to Jérôme Voutaz and decided to change his route to avoid making any mistakes like he had done the day before: “Today I was more focussed , I drove better. My horses were just as good as yesterday. It is always difficult to deliver a good round, but today it went really well.” After the first round, Boyd had an advantage of a little over four seconds to Jérôme, so he was the last man in. The Winning Round took place over a shortened course and Boyd drove fast and clear, securing his seventh World Cup title and the second one in Gothenburg. Boyd won his first ever Final in the Scandinavium in 2009.

Jérôme Voutaz was not amongst the top favourites before the Final but that changed quickly when he drove an impeccable round in Competition 1. Jérôme had never won a World Cup round before and was very pleased, but also felt the pressure of being the last starter in the first round of the Final. Jérôme turned his team of Freiberger horses very tight around the obstacles and set a good time. Unfortunately, one knock down prevented him from widening the gap with third placed Koos de Ronde. Before the winning round, the difference between De Ronde and Voutaz was only 0,53 seconds, but De Ronde knocked two balls down which gave Voutaz some air: “I was very pleased with my rounds and happy to be able to keep the pressure on. But I made a few mistakes with my rein handling, so I know I can be a little faster still, there is more to win with this team!” The Swiss auto mechanic is an amateur driver and used three of his outdoor horses, amongst which two dressage horses and a marathon horse, in his team today.

Koos de Ronde used a different horse in the lead of his team yesterday and decided to change back to his regular team for the Final. Koos was now able to change gear all the time and had a better feeling. Unfortunately he had two balls down, but because he put the throttle on after his second mistake, he qualified for the Winning Round: “The first ball was my mistake, but I was happy to be in the Winning Round. I didn’t expect that after two mistakes. I then knew I had to drive fast in order to win, so I took some risks and I had two balls down again. I was hoping for a podium place before the Final and I am pleased that I made it, despite the mistakes.”

Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) finished in fourth place, driving a team, which he had just put together for this Final, including two new horses. Dobrovitz drove clear, but his time just wasn’t fast enough to enter the Top Three.

Title defender IJsbrand Chardon (NED) had bad luck in Competition 1 where he knocked three balls down. Chardon had to make up over seven seconds to Voutaz and even though he gave his best and stayed clear, this wasn’t enough for a podium place.

Boyd Exell on his way to his seventh FEI World Cup™ Driving title (FEI / Stefan Lafrentz)
Boyd Exell on his way to his seventh FEI World Cup™ Driving title (FEI / Stefan Lafrentz)

Wild card driver Fredrik Persson (SWE) felt a little rusty on the first day as he had not been competing for two months, but he drove his team of nice, aged Swedish warm blood horses to the sixth place. The average age of his horses is 21 years old, but they are still fit as ever.
Georg von Stein (GER) was assisted by is compatriot and international four-in-hand driver himself, Christoph Sandmann, as his navigator. Unfortunately Georg had an error of course in the last marathon obstacle, which dropped him to the seventh place.

Results FEI World Cup™ Driving Final 2016/2017 Gothenburg (SWE):

Boyd Exell (AUS) 287,70
Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) 298,04
Koos de Ronde (NED) 305,71
József Dobrovitz (HUN) 160,13
IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 161,80
Fredrik Persson (SWE) 179,69
Georg von Stein (GER) 210,91

Cindy Timmer

FG PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR WOMEN’S FOOTBALL LEAGUE

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has pledged support for the Nigeria Women’s Football League board. Barrister Solomon Dalung, Minister of Youth and Sports made the pledge while declaring open the 2017 General Congress of the NWFL in Abuja.

The Minister promised that the Federal Government will continue to invest and support sports and maintain a cordial working relationship with neighbours who have supported the country in maintaining peace and security within the West African sub-region.

Barrister Solomon Dalung, Nigeria's Minister For Youths and Sports
Barrister Solomon Dalung, Nigeria’s Minister For Youths and Sports

He praised the various national women’s teams for holding their heads high amongst their peers in Africa and at the global stage despite the attention on men’s football in Nigeria.

“The Women have proved that they can play football more than men. They have demonstrated this in maintaining their status in the Women’s Championship in Africa, 8 times.
They have not only made us proud as a country in Africa, but have also established the fact that with better investment, women’s football will be greater.”

Dalung who is the first serving minister of Youth and Sports to grace the annual congress of the women’s board challenged the new leadership to work round the clock to mobilize support for women’s football in Nigeria.

“Despite acknowledging that sponsorship and funding are the bane of sports in Nigeria, I challenge this board to rebrand their products so that the league can have sponsors, partners and investors declaring interest in it.

“The days where government will be the sole financier of sports is over. Therefore, the league managers must think outside the box, rebrand and influence investors and sponsors. Anything besides this will lead to lack of support and there will be dwindling fortunes in women’s football”

Solomon Dalung, NWFL, Nigeria Womens Football League,

The Minister also charged the board to restore discipline in the national teams.

“One of the vices that destroy sports is indiscipline. Where there is indiscipline, the team spirit is destroyed and success becomes limited. Therefore, discipline must be restored in women’s football right from its foundation to the top” the Minister said.