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Sports

Your Daily Dose: 10 unlikely champions

1 STEVEN BRADBURY, OLYMPIC SPEED SKATING, 2002

Sport has some basic rules. Put the ball over the net. Stay on your feet. Bradbury, the Australian, did the second and it took him from last to first. In the men’s short track 1,000m speed skating event, Bradbury was in fifth place. Then the top four skaters got in a tangle in the end, all fell and Bradbury skated past them and over the finish line. Then, fittingly, he said: “I don’t think I’ll take the medal as the minute-and-a-half of the race I actually won. I’ll take it as the last decade of the hard slog I put in.”

Watch: youtu.be/vN7ih576VYM

2 RULON GARDNER, OLYMPIC WRESTLING, 2000

Aleksandr Karelin once carried a fridge up to his flat. He reportedly weighed 7kg at birth. He won three successive Olympic super heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling gold medals (1988, 1992, 1996) and had not lost a bout in 13 years and was nicknamed “The Experiment”. A fourth Olympic gold in 2000 was a formality because he was fighting a relatively unheralded Wyoming farmboy named Rulon Gardner. But Gardner somehow, incredibly, prevailed, and later said: “I kept saying, ‘I think I can. I think I can.’ But it wasn’t until it was over that I knew I could.”

Watch: youtu.be/yJ4qh3P92VQ

3 NIGERIAN FOOTBALL TEAM, OLYMPICS, 1996

In the semi-finals, the Nigerians played a Brazilian team which had Ronaldo, Bebeto and Roberto Carlos. Nigeria trailed 1-3. In the final, the Nigerians played an Argentinian team which had Hernan Crespo and Diego Simeone. Nigeria trailed 1-2. Yet the African team won both matches, the semi-final 4-3 and the final 3-2, on their way to a miraculous gold. In Nigeria that night, wrote The Guardian, some bars ran out of beer.

Watch: youtu.be/UtZl_sq7kVA

4 BUSTER DOUGLAS, HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING, 1990

In Mike Tyson’s 35th fight, Michael Spinks lasted 91 seconds. In Tyson’s 37th fight, Carl Williams was down in 93 seconds. So it was appropriate that in Tyson’s 38th fight, Buster Douglas was a 40-1 outsider. But Tyson was not in perfect shape and Douglas was unafraid. Despite being knocked down in the eighth round, Douglas knocked Tyson down for the first time ever in the 10th round and won. “I knew he would break,” Douglas told The Independent years later, “if I kept on hitting him. And what did I have to lose?”

Watch: youtu.be/Rv4ro4D16H0

5 BORIS BECKER, WIMBLEDON, 1985

The son of a German architect had a beautifully-built serve which he used to knock down people and history. When the tournament began in 1985, Becker was world No. 20 and not widely known; when the tournament ended, he had become, and would stay, unforgettable. The 17-year-old had style, power, joy and timing. His 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 win in the final over Kevin Curren made him the youngest champion on those lawns, the first German man to win there and the first unseeded player to grab the men’s singles.

Watch: youtu.be/Y5M1aR5pCgA

6 HINAKO SHIBUNO, BRITISH OPEN GOLF, 2019

She had never played a tournament outside Japan. She had never played in an LPGA event. She had never been at a Major. But Shibuno, a cheerful presence who was dubbed “Smiling Cinderella”, won the British Open at Woburn by a single shot. When asked by a reporter how she would spend her winnings, she replied: “Could you tell me how much I won?”

Watch: youtu.be/tmXqx5L9jkw

TOMORROW: Comebacks worth coming back to

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Coronavirus: Postponed Tokyo Olympics to start on July 23, 2021

TOKYO (AFP) – The Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 23 next year, organisers said on Monday (March 30), after the coronavirus forced the historic decision to postpone the Games until 2021.

The announcement comes less than a week after the organisers were forced to delay the Games under heavy pressure from athletes and sports federations as the global pandemic worsened.

“The Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021. The Paralympics will be held from August 24 to September 5,” Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori told reporters at a hastily arranged evening news conference.

Only hours earlier, Mori had said he expected a decision from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the course of the week.

But on Monday evening, he said an emergency teleconference had been held with the IOC and the date finalised.

“We agreed that the timing of the event will be in summer as originally planned, considering the coronavirus… and a certain amount of time needed for preparations, selection and qualification of athletes,” he added.

In a statement, the IOC said the new dates would give health authorities and organisers “the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The decision would also cause “minimum” disruption to the international sports calendar, the body said.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were due to open on July 24 this year and run for 16 days, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the first peace-time postponement of the Games.

The IOC and Japan had for weeks insisted the show could go on but the rapid spread of Covid-19 prompted growing disquiet among athletes and sporting federations.

The Olympics was the highest-profile sporting casualty of the coronavirus that has wiped out fixtures worldwide and all but halted professional sport.

There was some speculation that Japanese organisers could take advantage of the blank canvas to shift the Games to spring, avoiding the heat of the Tokyo summer that had been their main concern before coronavirus struck.

Due to the heat, the marathon has been moved to Sapporo, a city some 800 kilometres to the north of Tokyo where the weather is cooler even at the height of summer.

The postponement has handed organisers the “unprecedented” task of rearranging an event seven years in the making, and Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto has admitted the additional costs will be “massive”.

According to the latest budget, the Games were due to cost US$12.6 billion (S$18 billion), shared between the organising committee, the government of Japan and Tokyo city.

However, that number is hotly contested with a much-publicised government audit suggesting the central government was spending several times that amount – on items organisers claim are only tangentially related to the Olympics.

The postponement affects every aspect of the organisation – hotels, ticketing, venues and transport being among the major headaches.

Hotels have had to cancel bookings, dealing them a bitter blow at a time when tourism is already being hammered by the coronavirus.

Some venues that had booked events years in advance will potentially have to scrap them to make way for the rescheduled Olympics and there is still uncertainty about whether ticket-holders will get refunded.

Another thorny issue is the athletes’ village, which was due to be converted into luxury apartments after the Games, some of which have already found buyers.

The Japanese government had touted the Games as the “Recovery Olympics”, designed to show how the country had bounced back from the 2011 triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in the northeastern Fukushima region.

The Games are now being billed as the expression of humanity’s triumph over the coronavirus.

“Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel,” IOC chief Thomas Bach said in Monday’s statement announcing the new date.

“These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

Mori earlier warned that organisers were faced with an “unprecedented challenge”.

“But I believe it is the mission of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee to hold the Olympics and Paralympics next year as a proof of mankind’s victory against the virus,” he said.

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Sports

Olympics: Mediacorp remains committed to broadcasting Tokyo Games in 2021

SINGAPORE – There is no change to Mediacorp’s Tokyo Olympics broadcast rights despite the Games’ year-long postponement and it remains “committed to provide a comprehensive coverage of Tokyo 2020 for our Singapore viewers when the Games start”, the company told The Straits Times.

In March last year, Mediacorp said it was the first media company in South-east Asia to secure rights to the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Winter Games from Japanese agency Dentsu.

On Tuesday (March 24), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the July 24-Aug 9 Summer Games would be pushed back to 2021.

Mediacorp declined to reveal the costs to secure the Tokyo Olympics. It reportedly spent about US$3.2 million ($4.6 million) for the previous Rio 2016 edition.

Analysts told ST as the Olympics is being rescheduled and not cancelled altogether, there may not be much changes to whatever Mediacorp had paid.

But if things change significantly – for example, countries boycott the Olympics or the programme is shortened – Mediacorp may seek to renegotiate and reduce the fees.

Singapore Management University associate professor of marketing Hannah Chang said handling broadcast rights on a global scale is one of the most complex aspects of rescheduling the Olympics as they are the single biggest contributor to the IOC’s revenue.

She added:”Mediacorp obtained the broadcasting rights from Dentsu, who got it from IOC. This means there are different layers of conversations needed among these parties to work out possible solutions, given the rescheduling of the Olympic Games.

“Right now, given the substantial uncertainty around rescheduling of the Olympic Games, things are up in the air for discussion.”

The national broadcaster themselves will have to look at its own programming and deals with advertisers, although the longer lead time could allow it to work with more commercial partners, said National University of Singapore’s Jinna Tay.

The communications and new media senior lecturer noted: “It will be hard to say which organisations will be left standing after Covid-19, as many industries and businesses will be hit hard and some may not be able to pay the advertising and sponsor costs.

“But I assume many of them are large companies and will be able to take the hit and continue with their commitment to the Olympics.

“But there is already revenue loss in terms of lost scheduling, the labour involved in organising, contracting, distributing, and then having to do so again in a year, having to purchase new programs to fill the current schedule.”

Despite the disappointment of an unprecedented delay – last time the modern Games were scrapped was during World War II – Tay believes Olympic broadcast rights remains a strong product.

She said: “As Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe mentioned, when the Tokyo Olympics returns, it will be a testament to human’s ability to overcome a new virus, and perhaps globally people will be needing an event like this to come together to celebrate humanity in a new way.

“Perhaps Olympics may present itself as one of the first few celebratory global events to take place after such a devastation to humanity and lives lost.”

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Olympics: IOC working with sports federations on July-Aug 2021 Tokyo Games, says media report

TOKYO (REUTERS) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is working with sports bodies to arrange for a July-August 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo and is hoping to announce a decision within the coming month, an official was quoted as saying in Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper.

Australia Olympic Committee board chair John Coates, who is also head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games, told the paper the Games would have to be held between the Wimbledon Championship, scheduled to end July 10 next year, and the US Open in September.

The IOC and Japanese government succumbed to intense pressure from athletes and sporting bodies around the world on Tuesday, agreeing to push back the Games by as much as one year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coates’ reported comments added to those of other officials, some of whom have provided contradictory dates.

Coates also told the Yomiuri that the hope was to follow the same arrangements next year that had been planned, including holding the marathon in the northern city of Sapporo instead of Tokyo to escape the heat.

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Olympics: Singapore athletes and officials welcome postponement, anticipate new challenges

SINGAPORE – After weeks of uncertainty, it was relief for Singapore athletes and officials as confirmation that the July 24-Aug 9 event would be postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic came in on Tuesday (March 24).

But different challenges lie ahead of them as they plan towards the tournament that will take place by next summer.

With the new dates not released yet, it will be tough for athletes and National Sports Associations as they re-plan training programmes and competition schedules.

Singapore Sports Institute’s head of high performance and athlete life Richard Gordon said: “It doesn’t help us with planning, but what we’ll do is we’ll look very carefully at the statement that was made, we’ll try and identify the things that we can control and focus on those.”

The postponement means that national shooters, who were set to begin their peaking programme during this period of time, will have to rejig their plans.

Singapore Shooting Association president Michael Vaz said: “We set up all the competitions so that they could peak at the right time so now it’s game over.

“We just have to adjust our schedule, but I feel relieved that the welfare of our shooters is taken care of.”

With several shooters taking time off from work and school to try and qualify for the Olympics this year, Vaz was concerned that they would not have the opportunity to do so again.

“There were a couple of people who took time off from work and school, so there are little glitches and it’s inconvenient for them,” he said.

For many, competition schedules are still not firmed up due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which has led to the cancellation or postponement of many Olympic qualification events.

The national shooters’ plans to compete in several overseas tournaments such as the March 15-26 ISSF Shooting World Cup in New Delhi, India, which was postponed, were scuppered.

While the national women’s table tennis team had already qualified for the quadrennial tournament, tournaments in the lead up to the Olympics will be crucial for their preparations.

Singapore Table Tennis Association president Ellen Lee believes that it may take some time for competition schedules to be firmed up amid the coronavirus situation, but she acknowledged that it was something that they had to accept.

She said: “It will take time for the competitions, especially those organised by the International Table Tennis Federation to be reconvened again, but that’s something that we can’t control.

“My concern is how soon this pandemic will end and how soon those competitions will be pushed back, but it’s (postponing the tournament) the right thing to do, especially looking at the pandemic situation. The health and safety of my athletes, coaches and staff are more important because they need not be unnecessarily exposed to these risks.”

There is also the issue of next year’s sporting calendar being oversaturated, with the Nov 21-Dec 2 SEA Games.

Gordon said: “2021 is usually a down year in Olympic terms, but we’ve got the SEA Games and Asean Para Games (in early 2022) to look forward to in Vietnam. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s impacted and how it’ll be impacted. We haven’t had Para Games from 2019 yet (they will be in October 2020) so the para events are starting to back up against each other.”

But despite these uncertainties, Vaz, Lee and Gordon were relieved by the International Olympic Committee’s call to push back the Games.

Gordon said: “The number one (priority) is the health and safety of our athletes. We’re dealing with a global pandemic. It means that some training will be cancelled and some of the urgency that was there with the Olympic deadlines has now been taken away.

“I think that’s a positive thing because it allows us to regroup, take stock of what we’re looking towards and plan forward accordingly.”

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World News

Olympic doubts grow as Canada withdraws athletes

The 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo have been thrown into further doubt after Canada became the first major country to withdraw.

Their announcement came shortly after the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, admitted for the first time that the games could be postponed.

Meanwhile, the Australian team has said it was “clear” the games could not go ahead, and told its athletes to prepare for a 2021 games.

The games are due to begin on 24 July.

What did Canada say?

The country’s Olympic and Paralympic committee said it had taken “the difficult decision” to withdraw after consulting athletes, sports groups, and the Canadian government.

It then “urgently called” on the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, and World Health Organization, to postpone the games for a year.

“While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” their statement said.

The Canadian later posted a message on Twitter saying: “Postpone today. Conquer tomorrow.”

More than a performance, a record, or a medal.

It’s about being part of something bigger. #TeamCanada pic.twitter.com/93vvTRzDfE

End of Twitter post by @TeamCanada

What did Shinzo Abe say?

For weeks, Japanese officials have said the games will go ahead as planned.

But, speaking in parliament on Monday, Mr Abe admitted for the first time that Tokyo 2020 may have to be delayed.

“If it is difficult to hold (the games) in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable as we think the athletes’ safety is paramount,” he said.

But he insisted the games would not be cancelled altogether.

The Olympics have never been postponed or cancelled in peacetime. The 1940 Olympics – which were called off because of World War Two – were due to be held in Tokyo.

What is the International Olympic Committee’s position?

On Sunday, the IOC said it had given itself a deadline of four weeks to make a decision on the 2020 games.

It said postponement was one “scenario”, but insisted that cancellation “would not solve any of the problems or help anybody”.

In a letter to athletes, IOC president Thomas Bach said: “Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the games…

“At the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

What do other countries and athletes say?

On Monday, Australia told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics and Paralympics in the northern summer of 2021.

“It’s clear the games can’t be held in July,” Australian chef-de-mission Ian Chesterman said.

On Sunday, the head of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, wrote to Mr Bach to say holding the games in July was “neither feasible nor desirable”.

USA Track and Field has called for a postponement, as has the competitors’ group Global Athlete.

“As the pandemic gets worse and worse and there are more and more societal restrictions put in place, I think the call needs to be made now,” said British cyclist Callum Skinner, who fronts the Global Athlete.

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Olympics: IOC to start discussions on possible Tokyo 2020 postponement

ATHENS (REUTERS) – The International Olympic Committee is to step-up its “scenario planning” for the Tokyo 2020 Games – including a possible postponement – it said after an emergency meeting on Sunday (March 22).

The IOC will hold detailed discussions that will include an option of putting back the July 24 start date due to the global coronavirus pandemic, but said a complete cancellation of the Games would not solve any problems or help anybody.

“Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda,” the IOC said in a statement, adding that the discussions would be completed within the next four weeks.

The Olympics has never been postponed or cancelled during peacetime.

Under mounting pressure from athletes, federations and national Olympic committees to postpone the Games, the IOC did a partial U-turn on Sunday after long insisting, with Tokyo organisers, that the Games would go ahead as planned.

More than 13,000 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak and its epicentre is now in Europe.

Opposition to holding the Games in July has risen sharply in the past 48 hours, with several major stakeholders such as US Track and Field and UK Athletics along with several national Olympic committees, calling for a delay because of the pandemic.

They have raised several issues in the past week with the IOC, including athletes’ inability to prepare due to restrictions caused by the virus and their overall safety.

Regarding the next steps in scenario planning, the IOC statement said: “These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games.

“The IOC will… start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement.

“The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks.”

RAPID DECISION

The British Olympic Association welcome the news but said a quick decision on the Games was now necessary.

“We welcome the IOC Executive Board decision to review the options in respect of a postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” BOA chairman Hugh Robertson said. “However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty.”

“Restrictions now in place have removed the ability of athletes to compete on a level playing field and it simply does not seem appropriate to continue on the present course towards the Olympic Games in the current environment.”

In a letter addressed to athletes, IOC President Thomas Bach tried to explain the IOC’s insistence in the past weeks to proceed as planned, saying moving the Games could not happen from one day to the next and many parts had to be looked at.

“I think I can feel with those among you who consider the situation to be unsatisfactory,” Bach said. “I know that this unprecedented situation leaves many of your questions open. I also know this rational approach may not be in line with the emotions many of you have to go through.”

“A decision about a postponement today could not determine a new date for the Olympic Games because of the uncertain developments in both directions: an improvement… in a number of countries… or a deteriorating situation in other countries.”

Some athletes have already expressed their unwillingness to compete in Tokyo in July, among them German former world champion fencer Max Hartung, who heads the German Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission.

Already qualified for the Olympics, he said on Saturday he was boycotting the Games for the safety of other athletes.

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Olympics: Europe urges Olympic planners to decide Games' fate

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Olympic teams from various European countries are pushing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make a decision on the fate of the Tokyo Games within a matter of weeks.

National teams from France, Germany and the UK say they are struggling to ensure their athletes can safely train and qualify due to the proliferation of national coronavirus lockdowns.

“Most of the athletes are desperately searching for training facilities but everything has been closed down,” Michael Schirp, the spokesman for the German Olympic Sports Federation, said in a phone interview.

“Within several weeks there has to be a decision. It cannot go on for months.”

The IOC remains adamant that it is still too early to postpone the Games, which are scheduled to commence on July 24. IOC president Thomas Bach told the New York Times on Thursday (March 19) that the organisation is mulling different scenarios but does not plan to cancel.

Governments are struggling to contain the spread of the virus in Europe, which the World Health Organisation recently declared to be the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic. Europe now has more cases than China and globally the number confirmed have doubled to more than 200,000 over the past 12 days, WHO said.

“We are all moving forward with the uncertainty of how the situation will evolve in the coming days,” the French National Olympic and Sports Committee said in a statement.

This week French President Emmanuel Macron ordered all citizens to remain confined to their homes, except for essential trips. Though people are permitted to leave their homes to exercise, the Ministry of Sports said on Thursday that people should not run more than 2km.

Such constraints make it challenging for French athletes to adequately prepare for the Olympics, the committee said. “We ask that the preparation needs of athletes be taken into account regardless of the decision whether or not to maintain the Games,” according to the statement.

The British Olympic Association said the disease is creating “significant challenges” for training and qualification programmes and “will have a major impact” on the Olympics.

“Sport is of a secondary importance when it comes to the health and well-being of the population,” the British Olympic Association said in a statement. “We are determined to work with our international Olympic colleagues to ensure we find the most appropriate outcome for the Games.”

“We can be categorically clear that we will not endanger the health and wellbeing of the athletes or wider delegation at any point,” the group said.

The UK, which has reported nearly 4,000 cases and 177 deaths, has not yet imposed the kind of lockdowns seen in Italy, France and Spain.

Italy, meanwhile, is committed to participating in the Tokyo Olympics and not considering withdrawing, a spokesman for the Italian National Olympic Committee said in a phone interview.

The nation has the highest number of Covid-19-related deaths in the world, surpassing those in China. Measures to contain the disease mean athletes have been unable to train or compete in various qualifying events. This month the boxing, triathlon and volleyball teams returned to Italy after their international tournaments and training camps were postponed.

A spokesman for the IOC told Bloomberg News on Thursday the organisation’s position has not changed since Tuesday, when it said there was “no need for any drastic decisions” regarding the postponement or cancellation of the Games.

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Coronavirus: IOC to hold crisis talks with sports bodies

LAUSANNE (AFP) – With less than five months to go before the Tokyo Olympics, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach plans emergency talks with member organisations, sources close to the IOC said on Sunday.

The IOC plans a conference call on Tuesday to “keep the international federations informed of the situation, as well as the National Olympic Committees and athletes,” one source close to the IOC told AFP.

The IOC “will take stock of the actions taken” to respond to the coronavirus crisis “and the federations will have the opportunity to ask questions” added a source close to one international sports federation.

The IOC “conducts a regular dialogue with all the Olympic partners and regularly informs them of the situation,” added an IOC spokesman.

While many international sporting events have been postponed or cancelled, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised on Friday that Tokyo would host the Olympic Games as planned in July and August, despite questions raised by the pandemic.

Bach said on Thursday that his organisation would follow the recommendations of the World Health Organisation regarding a possible postponement.

He acknowledged, however, that the cancellation of qualifying events due to the epidemic was already posing “serious problems”.

The issue of qualifying will be a focus of Tuesday’s telephone meeting.

At the beginning of March, Bach said the IOC would show “flexibility” regarding the qualifications for the Tokyo and encouraged “all athletes to continue to prepare” for the Games.

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