Category: Sport

England rescue a win against an improving Japanese side in their third Autumn International

England scored three tries in the final 20 minutes at Twickenham to beat a Japanese side that is getting better with every passing fixture. The 35-15 scoreline may deceive fans into thinking that this was a routine victory but the reality was very different with Eddie Jones’ team going into halftime 15-10 down.

Ten months out from the World Cup, hosted in Japan, the Cherry Blossoms showed that they are not far from the quality of the world’s best by playing some fantastic attacking rugby. Ryoto Nakamura scored the game’s opening try in the 22nd minute with captain Michael Leitch extending their lead nine minutes later.

With England struggling to find a way through the Japanese defence in the first half Jones needed to shake up his side if they wanted to avoid an upset. It took until the 56th minute for a George Ford penalty to really get the English firing on all cylinders.

Debut international tries came for Mark Wilson and Joe Cokansiga as well as another penalty for Ford and suddenly England were 30-15 up. A collective sigh of relief was let out around the 81,151 mostly English crowd. Substitute Dylan Hartley sealed the victory four minutes from full time but the game exposed flaws that will need to be corrected before the team head to Japan next September.

After the game, Japan’s head coach Jamie Joseph said “We gave sloppy penalties away and allowed England back in which was a little bit disappointing, but I’m proud of the players all the same. Our mentality is slowly changing, we’re starting to believe that we can take these bigger teams on and that’s going to help us next year.”

England’s final Autumn International is against Australia on Saturday 24th November. Australia has had a difficult set of fixtures with losses to both New Zealand and Wales before a comfortable win against Italy. The last five meetings between the two sides have been England victories and England will be hoping to extend that unbeaten run.

Raymond van Barneveld to retire from darts after the 2020 World Championship

 Five-time world darts champion Raymond van Barneveld has said that he will retire after the 2020 PDC World Championship. The Dutchman won four of his world titles in the British Darts Organisation (BDO) in 1998, 1999, 2003, and 2005 before moving to the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) and winning his fifth title in 2007 against Phil Taylor in an incredibly dramatic final that went to a tie-breaker.

Barneveld tweeted a short statement announcing his retirement: “For over 35 years I have been competing at the top of darts. With high peaks and deep lows. With 5 beautiful World Titles and many other trophies I have won. I have seen many countries and met a lot of people.”

“This sport brought me everything I could hope for and I will always be grateful for that. But I have decided that 2019 will be my final year as professional darts player. I hope to see all my fans again next year to be able to say goodbye and then put my darts down.”

Since his move to the PDC Barneveld has won many titles including four World Cup of Darts with his teammate and world number one Michael van Gerwen. However, he has failed to win a major singles title in four years, losing in multiple semi-finals and finals, usually to Gerwen.

“I’m not winning tournaments any more. I don’t know why but a lot of things have happened in my private life and I’ve also noticed that my body isn’t feeling 100% any more. I don’t have the drive, motivation or fitness to carry on.”

“I’m a winner, that’s what I do, I lift trophies but I can’t do it any more. Maybe there are still a couple of titles left in me and that would be amazing, but I can’t do this every week. This sport brought me everything I could hope for and I will always be grateful for that.”

Formula 3 driver Sophia Flörsch suffers horrific crash at Macau Grand Prix

Formula 3 driver Sophie Flörsch was lucky to survive in a horrific high-speed crash at the Macau Grand Prix. The German, who drives for Van Amersfoort Racing, lost control of her car and went airborne before smashing into a fence and structure that was being used by photographers. 

The crash occurred on lap four of the race on the turn into Lisboa when Flörsch hit the back of Carlin Motorsport’s Jehan Daruvala going at 171.6 mph (276.2 kph). The collision forced her vehicle over the inside kerb into another driver, Sho Tsuboi, before being launched up into the air, over the barrier, and into the area behind. 

After the incident, both Tsuboi and Flörsch were taken to the hospital as well as a marshal and two photographers who were behind the barrier the vehicle came over. Flörsch, 17, only sustained a minor spinal fracture and has successfully completed an 11-hour surgery to repair one of her vertebrae.

Her team, Van Amersfoort Racing tweeted a response to the crash saying: “Today was a very difficult day for our team at the #MacauGP. The whole world saw what happened and we can only thank God that @SophiaFloersch escaped with relatively light injuries. Our thoughts go also to the other people involved and we wish them a speedy recovery.”

The owner of the team, Frits van Amersfoort, called the crash “one of the worst of my life”. “We got some information from social media while we were waiting at the door of race control, but when you look at those images it is heartbreaking so we were thinking the worst,” Amersfoort said in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live.

“It took quite a long time before the race control could say anything about the health of Sophia, everyone can imagine that’s not a nice thing to have. We were lucky that she was flying because she went over a barrier. If she had hit the barrier it would have gone a lot worse.”

Alexander Zverev shocks by beating Novak Djokovic in London ATP Finals

Alexander Zverev beat world number one Novak Djokovic in straight sets to win the final ATP Finals event of the season. The German, who was ranked fifth coming into the event, takes home around £2 million in prize money.

Talking about the victory Zverev said: “I’m unbelievably happy. How I played today, how I won it, for me it’s just amazing.”

The win came just 24 hours after he beat Roger Federer in straight sets in the semi-finals. The physical and mental resilience to come back from that game at just 21 years of age is remarkable.

This is perhaps more surprising when you consider the received horrible treatment he received from the pro-Federer crowd who booed him during his victory, reminiscent of Naomi Osaka’s US Open win earlier in the season.

Djokovic himself has had a remarkable season, coming from 22nd in the world recovering from an injury to topping the rankings winning two Grand Slams along the way.

Despite his defeat, the Serbian remained characteristically humble, praising Zverev’s win after the match. “You are still quite young and already had an amazing career but there’s no doubt you will be one of the favourites in every slam.”

The respect between the two was clear and Zverev was visibly touched by those words, smiling from ear to ear on the very same spot where he looked so forlorn at his treatment a day prior.

“It was tough for me yesterday, because I didn’t think I had done anything wrong,” Zverev said. “Today I had to be aggressive but patient too. Right now I can’t describe it. It is the biggest trophy I’ve ever won.”

5 draws in 5 games for Carlsen and Caruana in Chess World Championships

World number one and two, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, played their fifth draw in as many games in London for the world championship series. The 12-game match, organised by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), is being played between 9 and 28 November 2018 and has a prize fund of one million euros.

Carlsen said that “there is serious room for improvement at this point” after the climax of the fifth game on Thursday which saw the score remain tied at 2.5-2.5. The three-and-a-quarter hour match started brightly but ultimately finished in a draw after 34 moves.

His opponent, Caruana, opened which a highly aggressive pawn sacrifice early on which prompted gasps from the crowd. His intention was to create pressure on Carlsen and try to confuse him, forcing errors and leading to a higher chance of victory.

“Well, this line is really interesting and if black is cooperative it can get very exciting,” said Caruana. “But Magnus one the line quite well and I think played in a very logical way.”

Carlsen, on the other hand, was unfazed by his opponents peculiar opening strategy. “To be honest I was pretty happy about the opening. I felt as though after it calmed down, on the black could ever really be better. But I couldn’t find a way to push it.”

It was widely believed that Caruana was under much more pressure than Carlsen to get a win on Thursday with the white pieces. Under the rules of the 12 game series, the colour of the pieces must be reversed at the halfway point. This leads to an interesting pairing of games, six and seven, where both players use the same colours for two consecutive games.

Carlsen, who won the initial drawn, chose to play Game 1 as black. This means that he will play as white in Game 6 and Game 7 on Friday and Sunday. “Of course double black is coming up and this is a quite a serious challenge, but this was always going to happen,” said Caruana. “And whether I win or draw (on Thursday), this was still going to happen. So I wasn’t approaching this game differently than any other.”

“I can only play for a win if I get something and I can only really be disappointed that I missed a chance if I get some sort of chance in the game. And if a game is like this where we both play more or less correctly and neither of us makes a serious mistake, I don’t think that I can really be disappointed.”

World Champion Carlsen seems to be excited for his double-header as white. “It’s like any round-robin tournament,” Carlsen said. “If you have a double black or a double white, you kind of single that out when the tournament starts. That is either your opportunity to strike or when you’re at your most vulnerable. I am looking forward to it, obviously, and we’ll see what happens.

“But most of all I’m just more or less happy with the way things are going with black as it’s clear to the naked eye there is serious room for improvement at this point.”

While the on-board action has been mostly without drama, there has been major off-board controversy. Early on Tuesday morning, a two-minute clip was uploaded to the Saint Louis Chess Club’s Youtube channel before quickly getting taken down. The video contained details of Caruana’s secret preparations for the tournament.

In the brief period of time the video was online for screenshots were taken and widely shared online where chess fans dissected what they saw. The video included shots of a laptop which contained openings supposedly being researched by Caruana for his upcoming series with Carlsen.

There was also the names of three grandmasters contained within the video – Leinier Domínguez, Alejandro Ramírez and Ioan-Cristian Chirila – who could be working with Caruana as second’s in his camp to help the American practice.

When told about the footage in an interview Carlsen said with a smile “well, I’ll have a look and the video and then make up my mind.” Carlsen’s manager, Espen Agdestein did not comment on the video upon its initial release but later admitted that he thought it was a mistake by Caruana’s camp.

Talking to Norwegian chess journalist Tarjei Svensen Agdenstein said “I think this is real. It can happen by mistake, and we’ve been close to making the same mistake. It’s more likely that it was a mistake than that it was staged.”

The video resulted in speculation of this being a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation to Carlsen, prompting him to waste his energy preparing for openings that Caruana has no intention of playing. This has been deemed unlikely by all familiar with Caruana or high-level chess in general as some of the openings shown in the video have already featured in the first few games.

Both Carlsen and Caruana will be hoping to break the deadlock over the weekend and enter next week in a leading position. The 12-game series will be played until November 28th, and is shown for free on the FIDE website.

Women-only motorsport series: “Oppression masquerading as opportunity is still oppression”

The decision to create a women-only motorsport series has been branded a “sad day for motorsport” by British Indycar driver Pippa Mann. The W Series will start in 2019 and hopes to have 20 of the world’s best female drivers competing over six races for a $1.5 million prize pot.

The competition is free for drivers to enter and the final 20 will be chosen through an intensive program that will test the abilities of the candidates. The overall winner will receive a third of the total prize pot, $500,000, to be used to break into competitions such as Formula 1.

“What a sad day for motorsport,” said Mann, adding: “Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them. I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my lifetime. For the record, I stand WITH those who feel forced into this as their only opportunity to race. I stand AGAINST those who are forcing the above-mentioned racers into this position as their only solution to find the funding to race.”

On the website for the W Series they state “there are no biological or hormonal impediments” to a women’s ability to compete with the best male F1 drivers, and that they “expect that the best graduates from W Series will be able to compete in Formula 1 on level terms.” This begs the question if the best graduates from the series should be able to compete on level terms with the likes of Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel then why is a women-only series needed? Matt Bishop, Communications Director for the W Series, said that “we don’t have the resources. Would that we did.”

“That’s why we’ve chosen to create what we hope will be a sustainable business that uses commercial sponsorship to create a series for women to race in, some of whom wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to race at all.”

Michele Mouton, president of the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission, is dismissive of the W Series. “One of the objectives of the commission is to help ensure females have equal opportunities to compete at the highest level of the sport. We know from our recent driver-assessment programme that there is a pool of very talented women drivers who deserve the chance to do this. As competitors, they want to be the best and the only way for them to benchmark their performance is to compete in a mixed environment, which they are already doing.

“While this new series is obviously giving an opportunity for women to showcase their talent in a female-only environment, our objective is to have more of them competing alongside men and demonstrating they have the same ability and potential to succeed in top-level FIA championships.”

Since the first F1 series in 1950, there have been over 900 drivers, of which only two have been women. Maria Teresa de Filippis started three races in 1958/9 and fellow Italian Lella Lombardi competed in 12 races between 1974 and 1976, yet despite several more female drivers being on the fringe of F1, none have managed to break into the starting grid.

This was not helped by Bernie Ecclestone, former Chief Executive of the Formula One Group, being dismissive of women driving in F1 saying that they “would not be taken seriously”. He has also said multiple times in interviews that women “should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances.”  Ecclestone left his position in 2017 and many are hopeful that this could represent a turning point for female involvement in the sport.

With the recent news that 21-year-old Ann Carrasco has become the first female rider to win a motorbike world championship in the World Supersport 300, it seems that the only thing holding women back from excelling in top motorsport competition is opportunity, not skill. So does the W Series offer that opportunity? Whilst there has been a lot of criticism, especially from prominent female drivers, there has been praise for the competition too.

Former F1 driver David Coulthard believes that men and women could compete equally but the current structure for finding female talent has “not worked”. He said “if you want a fundamental change in the outcome, you need a fundamental change in the process. W is a fundamental change in creating an opportunity to bring through female talent to the highest possible level.”

Interestingly this is not the first time a women-only racing series has been attempted. ITV presented ‘Formula Woman’ to viewers in 2004 in an attempt to boost the female audience of the sport and bring more women drivers to the major competitions. There was not a happy ending for the series as the main sponsor, Mazda, pulled out at the end of the first season and within three years it was axed.

Only time will tell what the impact of this new competition will be, but every female drive that enters the W Series will be hoping to use it as a stepping stone to greater things. “As female racers we are racers first, and our gender comes second. We grew up dreaming of winning races and winning championships, against everyone – the same as every male racer does. We did not grow up dreaming of being segregated and winning the girl’s only cup.”

Deontay Wilder apologises after “breaking mascot’s jaw” live on tv

WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder has apologised on Instagram after punching a mascot live on US television. There are reports that the American broke the jaw of the mascot as part of a segment on ESPN to promote his upcoming fight on December 1st against Tyson Fury.

The mascot, wearing a sombrero and moustache, received a full-strength blow to the head as the presenters looked on shocked.

Some media reports suggested that Wilder did not know there was someone inside the costume. This is something he denies saying on Instagram: “anything headlining I didn’t know a “Human Being” was in there is just straight “Click Baiting”. Like come on now, I guess the Mascot rolled out there. Show some respect!”

He added “I sincerely apologize to the brave man that was injured (if this is true). I have the utmost high respect for him, his participation, willingness and courage. If this is true ESPN I personally would like to invite him to my Dec.1 fight. Word Is Bond”

Wilder will fight Fury in Los Angeles to defend his WBC heavyweight belt.