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Coronavirus: ICC shuts down World Cup cricket qualifiers till July

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Cricket’s governing body postponed a swathe of qualifiers for next year’s Twenty20 World Cup and the 2023 50-over World Cup on Thursday (March 26) as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on international sport.

All qualifiers scheduled to take place before July in Kuwait, South Africa, Namibia, Spain, Papua New Guinea, Belgium, Malaysia and Finland are affected, a statement said.

“The decision has been taken in conjunction with members and in line with the relevant government and public health authority advice,” the International Cricket Council (ICC) said.

India will host the T20 World Cup, a revamped version of the former Champions Trophy, in October-November of 2021.

It is not to be confused with this year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

India will also hold the 50-over World Cup in 2023.

This year’s Indian Premier League, the world’s richest cricket league, is one of the many sports events worldwide to be postponed including the Tokyo Olympics, which have been delayed until next year.

The ICC said this year’s remaining qualifiers are being “continually monitored”.

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Coronavirus: UFC star Conor McGregor gives €1 million for protective equipment to Irish hospitals

LONDON (AFP) – UFC star Conor McGregor has spent €1 million (S$1.58 million) on protective equipment for hospital staff treating patients with the coronavirus in Ireland.

The Irishman sent a message to the Republic of Ireland’s Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and revealed the contents on his Twitter page.

Donohoe had written to McGregor, asking the mixed martial arts exponent to tell his 7.9 million Twitter followers to practise social distancing.

“Today I am purchasing myself, one million euro worth of personal protective equipment to be deployed to all the fighting hospitals in the Leinster region. Our most affected region, to this date,” McGregor said.

“St James’s, Mater, Tallaght, Beaumont, Vincent’s (hospitals). Where we would be without these brave men and women, I do not know. May God bless over them and keep them safe!”

He also called on the Irish government to go further in its efforts to fight the virus and implement more stringent lockdown measures.

“I feel like we are moving in the right way, it just feels to me like it is not all the way,” he said.

“I urge all the way! ‘All in’ is the term we must use here. Bit by bit will cost us lives.

“To see what is happening here in Ireland and all across the globe is heartbreaking to me. I pray.

“God speed Minister and thank you for the message, and your service to our nation.”

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Boxing: World champion Anthony Joshua in self-isolation after meeting Prince Charles

LONDON (AFP) – World heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua has placed himself in self-isolation following a meeting with coronavirus victim Prince Charles.

Chales, the eldest son and heir to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, is showing mild symptoms of coronavirus and is self-isolating in Scotland, officials said on Wednesday (March 25).

It remains unclear when Charles caught the illness but on March 9, he spent the day with the Queen, prime minister Boris Johnson and stars of sport and entertainment – including Joshua – at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

A spokesman for Joshua told the Daily Mail: “AJ is at home following government guidelines, he is fit and well. He wishes everyone affected a speedy recovery and a huge thank you to all the front line key workers.”

Joshua is due to defend his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20.

But the coronavirus could delay that bout and push back a hugely anticipated all-British fight with WBC champion Tyson Fury until next year at the earliest.

In a series of Twitter posts on Tuesday, Joshua thanked all those involved in trying to combat the coronavirus by saying: “It’s humbling to see people giving their everything right now to keep us safe. Shout to everyone on the front-line.

“We see you, we appreciate you, we thank you and we’re in awe of you!”

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Sport stars rally to donate money amid coronavirus pandemic

Athletes and teams around the world contribute to hospitals, stadium workers and others affected by COVID-19.

As the novel coronavirus continues to rapidly spread around the world, a growing number of sport stars and teams have donated millions of dollars to help medical workers and hospitals fight the global pandemic. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has already wreaked havoc on the sporting calendar, forcing the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the suspension of many major professional sports. Several sportspeople have also tested positive for the disease.

More:

  • Italians using ‘any excuse’ to evade lockdown: Atalanta captain

  • Coronavirus: What sporting events are affected by the pandemic?

  • Brazil football stadiums to turn into coronavirus field hospitals

On Wednesday, Swiss tennis superstar Roger Federer and his wife Mirka said they have donated one million Swiss francs ($1.02 million) “for the most vulnerable families” in Switzerland, which has 9,765 confirmed cases and a death toll of 103.

“These are challenging times for everyone and nobody should be left behind,” the former world number one wrote on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. 

“Our contribution is just a start,” Federer added. “We hope that others might join in supporting more families in need. Together we can overcome this crisis.”

Footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have also reportedly donated one million euros ($1.1 million) each to the cause. 

Messi’s donation went to Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, which is both treating the victims of the pandemic and researching the virus.

Portugal and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and his agent Jorge Mendes also jointly donated life-saving equipment to Portuguese hospitals in Lisbon and Porto.

English Premier League football teams Brighton and Bournemouth became the first clubs to sign up to a campaign to make 100,000 free football tickets available to UK medical workers on the front line during the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, more than 100 athletes from 20 different sports have donated signed memorabilia to be auctioned off by the “Athletes For COVID-19 Relief” fund, which benefits the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

In the US, NBA teams Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonia Spurs among many others have agreed to compensate hourly workers and stadium staff during the NBA season’s hiatus. The Golden State Warriors pledged to donate one million dollars to a disaster relief fund. 

Teams in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have also made similar gestures. 

Globally, more than 436,000 people have been infected, while 19,648 have died because of the virus, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University in the US. 


Inside Story

Can developing nations handle the COVID-19 pandemic?

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Coronavirus: Olympics' one-year postponement 'will do really good things' for Schooling, says head coach Widmer

SINGAPORE – Postponing Tokyo 2020 to next year will not be a distraction for Singapore’s only Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling, but an opportunity for him to defend his 100m butterfly title.

The 24-year-old has been training in Virginia in the United States with mentor Sergio Lopez since February, but with swimming pools over there closed from Tuesday (March 25) for at least a month as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus pandemic, Schooling will return to Singapore later this week.

After serving a 14-day stay-home notice, he will train with the National Training Centre swimmers at the OCBC Arena until there is clearance to resume training in the United States.

The Singapore Swimming Association has made plans to create two 25-metre short courses either side of the bulkhead and continue training under the current Ministry of Health guidelines of having not more than 10 people in the pool.

National swimming head coach and performance director Stephan Widmer told The Straits Times: “The good thing for Jo is he will be able to train after his isolation period, as long as we can access the facilities here, and that is why he is coming back.

“I think this extra year will do really good things for him. There is still a stretch to go, but going by what he has done in the last two to three months and how excited he is, I think he is one of those who looks at the situation and thinks, ‘Okay, I get another year to do some great work before I step on the blocks in Tokyo 2021.’

“He really seems to have found his mojo again, and did some great training sessions. Just before he left Singapore, he started to go really fast again. He was excited and still is, the last time I heard from him.”

Schooling admitted in an exclusive interview with ST last month that he had fallen out of love with swimming since creating history for Singapore at Rio 2016. He put on extra kilos and has not gone close to his Olympic record of 50.39 seconds.

His last competitive 100m fly time was 51.84 when he won the race at the SEA Games and qualified for Tokyo 2020 last December, and the move to America has reignited his competitive fire.

However, Widmer declined to speculate if the Olympics would have come too soon for Schooling to make a medal charge had it started as scheduled in July.

He said: “Some people were already handing out medals to people like (Caeleb) Dressel… you can be the world record holder, the world champion from last year, have the best preparation, and get sick and be out.

“That is why we have the Olympics, the world championships – they are unpredictable and you never know the outcome.”

Like Widmer, Lopez attested to Schooling’s positive mindset and backed the swimmer to make the most of the extra time.

He told ST: “We just had lunch, and he is positive. He came here to find peace of mind and rediscover his love to swim and race, and he is doing very well in training.

“He has more time now, but we were on the path of doing something good this summer. You can say he has more time to train and get better, but it is the same for everyone else.

“Instead of tapering for an Olympics this July and August, we can now try new things when we can start training together again.

“With the announcement of the postponement of the Olympics, athletes can finally be at peace. Perhaps it is good that everyone can now rest their bodies and minds until things get back to normal again.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Schooling expressed sympathy for those affected by the upheaval around the world, including athletes unable to train after their countries implemented lockdowns to curb the spread of the disease, as well as officials in charge of putting the Games and teams together.

He added: “As athletes, we need to focus on being prepared and giving ourselves the best possible chance of success at the largest sporting event in the world.

“This decision gives us clarity as we re-calibrate and work out the best plan around the new dates of the (Tokyo Olympics).”

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Boxing: Fury-Wilder rematch postponed by virus pandemic

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The third fight in Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight rivalry has been postponed as the coronavirus pandemic grips the United States and Britain, ESPN reported on Tuesday (March 24).

Britain’s Fury, who dethroned unbeaten WBC champion Wilder with a dominant victory in seven rounds last month, had been due to defend his crown in Las Vegas on July 18.

But promoter Bob Arum told ESPN on Tuesday the rematch had now been rescheduled until October at the earliest because of the Covid-19 outbreak which has brought the sporting world to a standstill.

With travel restrictions affecting both the US and Britain, and Las Vegas’ casinos shuttered, Arum said a postponement was the only sensible option.

“You could not guarantee the fighters that the event would take place on that date. We couldn’t convince them or ourselves,” Arum said.

“Where were they going to train for it? It just made no sense. You just have to take a step back. How are you going to sell tickets?

“It’s absolutely ridiculous to say the fight is on when the Brits can’t even get there.”

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has also banned all combat sports in the state, adding another complication.

“Everybody has to take a step back. Boxing is not isolated,” Arum said. “It’s part of what’s happening in the world. So possibly the fight will be in early October.”

Fury and Wilder fought to a thrilling draw in their first fight in Los Angeles in December 2018.

Fury then shocked the boxing world by overwhelming Wilder with a dominant performance in last month’s rematch, battering an out-of-sorts Wilder in a one-sided victory.

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Coronavirus: Coe suggests world athletics championships could slip to 2022 following Olympics delay

LONDON (REUTERS) – Global athletics chief Sebastian Coe has indicated that next year’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon could slip to 2022 as a consequence of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics being postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Already we’ve been in discussion with the organising committee in Oregon about shifting the date and maybe even discussing moving it to 2022 to accommodate the need for an Olympic Games next year,” Coe told Sky Sports television on Tuesday (March 24).

“We all have to be flexible, we’re living in very uncertain times and this is going to take a lot of thinking about,” added the World Athletics president.

Any decision on dates must wait, however, for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to state exactly when the Tokyo Games will take place.

Tuesday’s IOC announcement said the July 24-Aug 9 Games would be held no later than the summer of 2021.

Moving the world championships to 2022 might also suit Eugene since it also hosts the United States’ Olympic trials for athletics, which are almost certain to be moved to 2021, and staging both events in the same year could challenge the resources of the Oregon city of about 170,000.

Coe, who chaired the London 2012 organising committee, said the decision to postpone Tokyo was “by a distance” the right one even if sorting out the calendar would be a huge task.

“The world is in a really difficult, dangerous situation. Sport can be no different and the decision the IOC took today, together with Tokyo, was absolutely the right decision,” said the 1980 and 1984 Olympic 1,500 metres gold medallist.

“We wrote to the International Olympic Committee on Sunday after I’d met with all my continental presidents, I’d spoken to my council and at length to the athletes.

“And it was really the athletes for us that made this decision the right decision.

“If you are fighting to preserve the integrity of competition, which is really an Olympic value, then to have athletes that are simply locked in their houses and not able to train or use public facilities… then clearly the integrity of the competition was going to disappear.”

Coe said athletes needed certainty and not to be put in a dangerous position where they risked breaking government or public health authority lockdown edicts just to train.

“Actually I think it’s come as a huge relief to them. I think they were under a lot of emotional stress to continue in almost intolerable situations,” he said.

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Olympics: 'What's another year?' British stars relieved at delay

LONDON (AFP) – British Olympic gold medal hopefuls Katerina Johnson-Thompson, Adam Peaty and Dina Asher-Smith expressed their relief after Tokyo 2020 was delayed until next year on Tuesday (March 24) due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

All three world champions had expressed their frustration at the delay of a decision on the Games, while countries across the globe imposed stringent restrictions on movement and travel to control the spread of the virus.

“A lot of athletes can breathe,” Olympic 100m breast stroke champion Peaty told BBC Sport.

“We felt under pressure to train and compete.

“The decision from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) lifts that release that we don’t have to be in shape over summer and we don’t have to put unnecessary risk on others.”

Johnson-Thompson is hoping to add to her world championship gold in the heptathlon last year with Olympic gold after missing out on the podium at Rio 2016.

“Waited 8 years for this, what’s another 1 in the grand scheme of things?” Johnson-Thompson posted on Twitter.

“As an athlete, it’s heartbreaking news about the olympics being postponed until 2021, but it’s for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone! Hope everyone keeps safe and stay indoors.”

Asher-Smith, Britain’s world 200m champion, posted on Instagram: “#Tokyo2021, Same fire, new dates. Stay at home and stay safe everyone.”

Double Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee also welcomed the certainty of knowing the outcome after the IOC said as recently as Sunday a decision could take up to four weeks.

“Evidently a very tough decision for the IOC and other stakeholders to make but in my opinion the right one,” said Brownlee. “Both, for the message it sends to people around the world battling with the virus and to give clarity to athletes attempting to prepare.”

#Tokyo2021 ♥️ ⁣ Same 🔥, new dates. ⁣ Stay at home and stay safe everyone xxx

A post shared by Dina (@dinaashersmith) on

Retired British track cyclist Callum Skinner, who fronts competitor-led movement Global Athlete, said the right decision had been made.

“Tokyo 2021 presents an amazing opportunity to host a full Games celebrating the world (hopefully) entering the “post-pandemic” phase,” he tweeted.

Skinner, who won gold and silver medals at the 2016 Olympics and is a member of the British Olympic Association’s (BOA) athletes’ commission questioned the IOC’s approach.

“Questions have to be asked of Thomas Bach’s “full steam ahead” policy. This saga has endangered athletes, public health and damaged the Olympic movement. What’s more he wanted this limbo to continue for 4 weeks” British Rowing welcomed the “certainty” over the Games.

“We are now able to start planning how we best support our athletes, coaches and all our programme staff throughout this time, both within British Rowing and as a wider group of Olympic and Paralympic sports in the UK,” the organisation tweeted.

British Paralympic discus thrower Dan Greaves tweeted: “Absolutely the right decision to postpone both the Olympics & @Paralympics by a year. Health comes first & with that, athletes can now take care of theres to make sure they are able to make the hard work count!!”

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Your Daily Dose: 10 athlete stories to keep you inspired

1 WILMA RUDOLPH

OLYMPIC ATHLETICS, 1960

Diagnosed with polio as a child, she was told she would never walk. In Rome, the American won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay golds in Olympic-record times. She only started walking without the aid of any medical devices just eight years prior to the 1960 Games. The 20th of 22 children, she overcame more challenges than she had siblings, including pneumonia, scarlet fever and racism.

• Watch: youtu.be/FPVdpJZJi-o

2 TYRONE ‘MUGGSY’ BOGUES

NBA, 1987-2001

Bogues lived in poverty while his father was in prison, got hit by a stray bullet when he was five, and grew up to be all of 1.6m. None of that stopped him from being the shortest player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. He had 6,858 points, 6,726 assists and 1,369 steals in a 14-year NBA career. And just the small matter of 39 blocks – none more uplifting than the one against 2.13m-tall centre Patrick Ewing.

• Watch: youtu.be/__jcf4dCIjw

3 JOHN STEPHEN AKHWARI

OLYMPIC MARATHON, 1968

The Mexico City altitude made conditions difficult – 18 of the 75 runners pulled out. Tanzania’s Akhwari was already suffering from cramps when he fell, injuring his knee, shoulder and head. He received medical attention and kept going, crossing the finishing line in 3hr 25min 27secs – more than an hour after the champion Mamo Wolde. “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race,” he said. “They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

• Watch: youtu.be/eNt_jynuAtI

4 PETE SAMPRAS

AUSTRALIAN OPEN, 1995

After Sampras fought back from two sets down to force his quarter-final against Jim Courier into a fifth set, a fan inside Rod Laver Arena yelled: “Do it for your coach!” He won amid plenty of tears. His coach Tim Gullikson died the following year from brain cancer.

• Watch: youtu.be/LdewrdPNS4I

5 MAN KAUR

WORLD MASTERS GAMES, 2017

She was 101 years old when she won 100m gold in the centenarian category. It might have taken her 74 seconds but sprinting is not necessarily her forte. The Indian runs 20km every day because there is no reason not to. She told The Hindu last year: “I am running well, why should I stop?”

• Watch: youtu.be/r_njy29iJ7c

6 ALLYSON FELIX

WORLD ATHLETICS MEET, 2019

With a resume that includes six Olympic golds, what else could motivate Felix to keep competing?

“Now the purpose behind (winning) is wanting to share these moments with her and tell her about overcoming adversity,” she said, referring to her daughter Camryn.

Felix had an emergency C-section in November 2018. Camryn spent her first 29 days in a neonatal intensive care unit and was in Doha, where the United States won the mixed 4x400m relay, earning Felix a record 12th world title.

• Watch: youtu.be/8eJPDtQ0icQ

7 KERRI STRUG

OLYMPIC GYMNASTICS, 1996

With two torn ligaments in her ankle and the weight of a nation on her 18-year-old shoulders, Strug sprinted down the runway, vaulted into the air, and landed on two feet. That effort was enough for the US to win team gold. She said: “Persistence, perseverance, precision – those are key elements that are critical to not only being successful in the athletic arena, but also in the arena of life.”

• Watch: youtu.be/Bwa5Bf656As

8 ALJONA SAVCHENKO

OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATING, 2018

Fifteenth in 2002, sixth in 2006, third in 2010, third in 2014 and fourth with partner Bruno Massot after the first round of the pair skating competition at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Gold looked elusive again, yet 34-year-old Savchenko approached the free skate with belief. “I said to Bruno: ‘We will write history today.’ And then everything happened as I had imagined, and it came true.” They produced a world record score of 159.31 and Savchenko won gold at her fifth Olympics.

• Watch: bit.ly/2UhcFlz

9 MICHAEL PHELPS

OLYMPIC 200M BUTTERFLY, 2008

Phelps had to race 17 times in nine days for the chance to win a record eight golds at a single Olympics. Something could and did go wrong. During his fourth final at the Water Cube, he experienced a goggles glitch. “I dove in and they filled up with water, and it got worse and worse during the race,” he said. “From the 150m-wall to the finish, I couldn’t see the wall. I was just hoping I was winning.” Win he did, in a world-record time. He left Beijing realising his 8/8 vision.

• Watch: youtu.be/2Fez4am5j4g

10 STEPHEN VALENCIA TORRES

NEW JERSEY PRESIDENTS CUP, 2019

The Union SC Spartans goalkeeper came out of his box. He misjudged a cross and mistimed his attempted clearance but did not misplace his attitude, sprinting back to prevent a certain goal. The 17-year-old proved that hustle often gets rewarded at any level.

• Watch: bit.ly/2UwSChN

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Coronavirus: Swimming open to moving 2021 worlds after Olympics postponement

LAUSANNE (AFP) – The International Swimming Federation (Fina) said Tuesday that is prepared to move next year’s world championships after the 2020 Olympics were postponed to no later than summer 2021.

The swimming worlds are set to be held in Fukuoka in Japan between July 16 and August 1 next year, but Tuesday’s historic announcement that this summer’s Tokyo Games have been pushed back throws those dates into doubt.

“Fina will now work closely with the host organising committee of the 2021 Fina World Championships in Fukuoka, with the Japan Swimming Federation and with the Japanese public authorities, in order to determine flexibility around the dates of the competition, if necessary and in agreement with the IOC (International Olympic Committee),” Fina said in a statement.

Fina added that it wanted “to ensure the success of its showcase event, while considering the importance of athlete well-being”.

The spread of Covid-19 has killed over 16,900 people according to an AFP tally, led to almost two billion worldwide being put into lockdown, and decimated the sporting calendar.

Tuesday’s postponement of the Olympics to next year creates a headache for sports federations, with both swimming and athletics – arguably the Games’ two biggest sports – holding their world championships next year.

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