Archive for May, 2019

Cross-country skiing: Norway to dominate again

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The 28 year-old Northug, who will be competing in his second Olympics, won the 2013 overall World Cup and also bagged his ninth world title that year in Val di Fiemme, Italy, to match compatriot Bjorn Daehlie’s record.

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“I will stop at nothing because I must be at the top of the podium at the Sochi Olympics,” said Northug.

“If I am speaking honestly, I have high expectations. One gold medal will not be enough. I want to win no less than two gold medals.”

Northug, who is likely to compete in all six events – from the sprint to the 50-km individual race – could face stiff competition from team mate Martin Johnsrud Sundby, the overall World Cup leader and first Norwegian male to win the prestigious Tour de Ski this season.

Distance specialist Dario Cologna, the 15km Olympic champion, will also be a threat, though the Swiss is only coming back to fitness after missing two months with an ankle injury.

Host nation Russia’s hopes lie with Nikita Kriukov, the sprint Olympic champion who does not compete in the distance events, and with distance skier Aleksandr Legkov, currently third in the overall World Cup rankings.

CLEAN SWEEP

In the women’s events, triple Olympic champion Marit Bjoergen and the gifted Therese Johaug are looking to sweep all before them for Norway.

Bjoergen, 33, won three titles in Vancouver and four gold medals at last year’s world championships.

The most successful woman in World Cup history with 62 individual victories, the 33-year-old is not in a sharing mood ahead of Sochi.

“I will have a real marathon at the Olympic games and it is going to be really tough. I have a chance to make history,” the 12-times world champion said.

Her biggest threat could come from team mate Johaug, the overall World Cup leader nicknamed ‘Duracell’ in reference to her impressive speed and cadence.

Johaug has often found it difficult to get the better of her fellow countrywomen, though she did beat Bjoergen to win the 10km freestyle race at the last world championships.

She also won this season’s Tour de Ski, a feat Bjoergen never achieved.

Both, however, will be wary of Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, who has skipped this season’s Tour de Ski – an event she had won in the four previous editions – to focus on the Games, where she will be among the favourites in the 30km mass start.

Russians Yulia Chekaleva and Yulia Ivanova can hope for podium places but Norway, with four skiers at the top of the overall World Cup standings, should have the last word after winning 10 of the 18 women’s medals on offer in Val di Fiemme.

(Editing by Julien Pretot)

Biathlon: Bjorndalen set for final bow in Sochi

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Bjorndalen, who turned 40 this month, has not enjoyed his best season and has not won a World Championships individual medal since Vancouver where he won silver in the individual and gold in the team relay.

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“I really want to do well in the sprint. This used to be one of my best disciplines,” said Bjorndalen, who has won 50 Olympic and World Championship medals.

“Not everything has gone right for me over the last few years. Last year I prepared well for the World Championships and was close to getting the result I wanted.

“Therefore, I am going to put in a lot of effort into doing well in the sprint (in Sochi).”

His Norwegian team mate Emil Hegle Svendsen, who won four gold medals at the 2013 World Championships in Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic, and Frenchman Martin Fourcade are the two big favourites going into the Olympics.

Fourcade has been in excellent form and has been ranked the best overall biathlete for the last two seasons in the World Cup.

The host nation’s hopes will rest on Evgeni Ustyugov, who won gold in Vancouver in the Mass Start and Anton Shipulin, who claimed two medals at the last World Championships.

However, there best hope of bringing home a medal could be in the relay, where the country is ranked number one in the world rankings.

SHOCK RETIREMENT

Following Magdelena Neuner’s shock retirement at the age of 24, the women’s field is wide open.

The German was the most successful female athlete at the World Championships with 17 medals, but suffering from a lack of motivation she decided to quit the sport in March 2012.

Tora Berger looks set to take over from where Neuner left off, the Norwegian having won four gold medals at the last World Championships in Nove Mesto.

She is currently third in the World Cup rankings and will be determined to put in a good performance in Sochi, with the 32-year-old intending to retire after the games.

Daria Domracheva and the young Czech biathlete Gabriela Soukalova are more than capable of upsetting Berger.

Domracheva, from Belarus, is the reigning mass start world champion and has won two World Cup events this season.

However, it is the 24-year-old Czech who has been setting the pace on the World Cup this season with three wins putting her top of the rankings.

Germany’s 36-year-old Andrea Henkel is in the twilight of her career, having first competed at the Salt Lake City Games, but is still a force to be reckoned with although it would be a surprise if she adds to her four career Olympic medals in Sochi.

Russia won just one medal in the women’s biathlon event at the Vancouver Olympics, in the relay, and they have a relatively young squad, with Olga Vilukhina and Irina Starykh 25 and 26 respectively.

They will be led by 35-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist Olga Zaitseva, who is also hoping to enjoy a golden swansong in Sochi before retiring.

The squad are coached by German Wolfgang Pichler and Zaitseva agrees with his belief that Russia’s women will win at least one individual gold.

“He always thinks we will be the best, but of course that is not always the case,” she said. “We are doing everything to try and win. We are not sitting around or not getting a suntan.

“We are doing everything in our power to try and win.”

(Reporting by Dmitriy Rogovitskiy; editing by Martyn Herman)

SPC funding rejected by Government

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(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

The federal government has refused to provide an assistance package to Australia’s last remaining fruit processing company, SPC Ardmona.

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The move puts more than one-thousand jobs in jeopardy and will almost certainly see the end of the fruit processing industry in Australia.

The company had asked for a government grant to help it modernise and deal with difficult market conditions, warning it would probably have to close in July without such support.

Thea Cowie reports.

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

Federal cabinet has refused to agree to the proposal for a one-off grant of $25 million.

This would have been coupled with $25 million from the Victorian government and $150 million in new investment from SPC’s parent company Coca-Cola Amatil.

The investment would have helped the company introduce new technology and products, as it faces pressures from the high Australian dollar and a flood of cheap imported products.

But Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane says the government has decided the company is capable of restructuring without government assistance.

“We believe industry reform needs to be led by industry and we believe that in this case the government would have to borrow money on behalf of the taxpayers to put into the proposal where we believe Coca-Cola with a very, very healthy balance sheet is able to provide that money from within its own resources.”

Late last year, the federal government appointed a panel including former Labor minister Greg Combet to report on the best way to help the Victorian-based company.

Its report has not been made public.

More than 1000 workers at Victoria’s SPC Ardmona fruit processing plant are now likely to lose their jobs and thousands more could be in jeopardy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government will support the company if it decides to continue restructuring.

He’s also encouraging the company to renegotiate enterprise bargaining agreements.

“The existing agreement contains conditions and provisions that are well in excess of the award. There are wet allowances, there are loadings, there are extensive provisions to cash out sick leave, there are extremely generous redundancy provisions well in excess of the award. This does need to be very extensively renegotiated if this restructure is to be completed.”

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek says the decision not to give SPC Ardmona a rescue package is short-sighted and damaging for the whole of Australia.

“There’s about a million manufacturing jobs in Australia. The government has already goaded Holden into leaving Australia. Theyre now looking at trashing jobs in food processing – an area that will only grow as individual wealth in our region increases. This government has no plans for jobs. They’re trashing car jobs, they’re trashing food industry jobs, they’re trashing manufacturing jobs. Sending those jobs offshore.”

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says if SPC Ardmona closes in July as predicted, there will be an influx of imported canned products.

He says this will have an adverse impact on fruit growers throughout the country.

Senator Xenophon says the government should be using anti-dumping duties to create a level playing field for companies such as SPC Ardmona.

Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne agrees.

“Tony Abbott goes to Davos and talks up free trade, says governments should get out of the way, just let business go for it. Well free trade has led to the massive dumping on Australia of cheap imports which have undermined food processing. Not only have we had a high Australian dollar but we have had the dumping of cheap imports and that’s put huge pressure on companies like SPC Ardmona.”

During the election campaign, Tony Abbott pledged $16 million to the Cadbury’s company in Tasmania to help it develop a new factory.

At the time, he said an Abbott government would continue to support Australian jobs and Australian industry.

 

 

Champion NZ cyclist Shanks calls it a day

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New Zealand’s double world champion Alison Shanks, who’s battled injury over the past two years, is retiring from cycling.

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Shanks, who nursed a hip problem through her 2012 London Olympics campaign, had surgery afterwards with aim of making the Glasgow Commonwealth Games this year and the Rio Olympics in 2016.

But she says she can no longer manage the demands for getting back to the top of her sport.

“I have a real passion for what I do and have always committed 100 per cent, but I have to listen to my body when enough is enough,” the Commonwealth Games gold medallist said.

“If I can’t do something 100 per cent physically and mentally, then it’s time to find a new challenge and start a new adventure.”

While her hip was improving and she believed she could earn selection for Glasgow, Shanks didn’t want to be in the team just to make up the numbers.

She said neither she nor her coach, husband Craig Palmer, wanted to do something unless it was to the best of their ability.

“I’ve been working hard, but the spark and passion that drives me is not there,” she said.

“In every athlete’s career there has to be one final finish line and I’ve reached mine.”

Shanks, 31, said the decision to retire was tough, but she knew it was the right one and she was satisfied with what she had achieved with her support team.

She hoped to remain involved in cycling and would continue in her role as an Olympic ambassador with the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

She was also looking to put her marketing and nutrition degrees to use.

Shanks collected world titles in the 3000m individual pursuit in Pruskow, Poland, in 2009 and in Melbourne in 2012.

She won the same event at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and just missed out on a medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she finished fourth.

New captain Moya plotting Spain victory in Germany

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The 37-year-old takes charge of his first Davis Cup tie this weekend, trying to plot Spain’s path through a testing World Group first-round tie against Germany in Frankfurt.

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Even without world number one and fellow Mallorcan Rafa Nadal and Spanish number two David Ferrer, Moya still has an enviable array of talent at his disposal and selecting the best combinations has been a new challenge.

Not to mention organising the practice, warm-ups, tactics, meal times and various other unseen duties.

“It’s different definitely, you have a team of 15 guys around you that you have to manage every one, trying to put all the pieces together,” Moya said in a TV interview.

“Then not being to go out on to court to play, that’s different too although I’m already getting used to it.”

The role of a captain often goes unnoticed when things go well but get it wrong and they often take the blame so Moya’s decision to trust debutant Roberto Bautista Agut, ranked 52nd in the world, with Friday’s opening singles against experienced Philipp Kohlschreiber is a bold one.

Bautista Agut, 25, is the third highest ranked singles player in the Spain squad, behind Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, but his victory over world number four Juan Martin del Potro at the Australian Open this month prompted Moya to throw him in.

NOTHING TO LOSE

“I trust Roberto,” said Moya, winner of the Davis Cup with Spain in 2004. “I’m happy with how the draw went and him playing first because if you play second you tend to be nervous waiting for your match.

“I will tell him don’t worry about the crowd. They are going to try and bother you, don’t worry about the opponent, he’s good but so are you.

“I’ll remind him the pressure is on Phillip, he’s a higher ranked player, he is playing at home, you have nothing to lose. Play it like any tour match.”

Moya, the 1998 French Open champion, retired in 2010 after a persistent foot injury and follows a long line of former players into the Davis Cup hot seat.

Alex Corretja followed Albert Costa, who won the team event in 2009 and 2011, and now Moya gets his turn as Spain seek a sixth title since 2000.

“I’m looking forward to it and I think it’s going to be very exciting for all of us,” Moya said.

“The week has been great so far and a great experience for me being around them. I’m very happy the way they’ve been practising and I think it’s going to be a great tie.

“I’m trying to pass on my experiences from the past and take the pressure away from them,” added Moya.

“One thing I’ve learned in Davis Cup is that rankings don’t matter. It’s about how they handle the situation and their experience.”

One player who has plenty of experience in the team event is Germany’s Tommy Haas although not in recent years.

Haas, an old sparring partner of Moya’s, returns for only his second Davis Cup tie in seven years but the world number 12 is only set to play in Saturday’s doubles because of a shoulder injury.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)