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)

SPC rejection a major setback: Victorian government

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The Victorian government says the federal government’s refusal of a 25-million-dollar bailout for SPC Ardmona is a major setback for the region.

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Deputy Premier Peter Ryan says the government is concerned about the potential impact on local growers and SPC Ardmona workers in northern Victoria.

SPCA was counting on receiving a 25-million dollar grant each from the federal and Victorian governments, but the Victorian component will no longer be available because it was conditional on a positive federal decision.

Criticism has also come from internal sources. The federal government’s reasons for rejecting a plan to support ailing fruit processor SPC Ardmona don’t stack up, warns a Liberal MP who believes the fruit processor’s future is on a razor’s edge.

Victorian MP Sharman Stone also fears the impact of losing SPC Ardmona in her electorate of Murray would be greater than that felt by Holden ceasing manufacturing operations in South Australia.

“We’re talking about some 750 workers here plus another 5000 linked jobs,” Dr Stone told AAP.

She maintained it was a “no-brainer” for the federal government to stump up $25 million as part of an investment deal to prop up the operations.

That would have included co-investments from the Victorian government and SPC Ardmona’s parent company Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA).

“There will be far more than $25 million needed for welfare if all these jobs go,” Dr Stone said, adding she hoped CCA shareholders would stand by the Australian label.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told SPC Ardmona management it must reinvigorate itself without government assistance.

But Dr Stone said the company had already made significant changes including a 30 per cent reduction in the workforce.

“This isn’t a wage issue, this is more about cheap imports currently allowed on Australian supermarket shelves,” she said.

Labor industry spokesman Kim Carr said there was no foundation for Mr Abbott’s suggestion that SPC Ardmona worker conditions were unreasonably generous.

He said a Productivity Commission report found labour costs appeared a relatively minor contributor to costs for the fruit processing industry.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) lashed out at the government for encouraging workers to make concessions on pay and conditions, while the Electrical Trades Union pleaded with CCA not to close the factory.

SPC Ardmona plans to review its operations as a result of Thursday’s decision and Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan says the government is keen to discuss with the company a plan to secure its operations.

“The Goulburn Valley is the food bowl of Australia and food production and manufacturing in the region has a very positive outlook with potential to grow exports and create new jobs,” Mr Ryan said.

But Victorian fruit growers fear dire consequences for the Shepparton region.

“The town is going to be decimated because so many industries rely on the fruit industry, it’s not just fruit growers,” local industry spokesman Gary Godwill told AAP.

Dr Stone says she has expressed her disappointment to Mr Abbott and says it is not the first time she’s been at odds with her party.

“People have told me today that I should throw it in and become an independent, but this decision doesn’t affect my Liberal views,” Dr Stone said.

“What it makes me understand is that there is a lot of educating to do in the cabinet room.”

Red Bull’s F1 test nightmare continues

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Vettel flew home from Jerez on Wednesday night after managing only 11 laps in two days following battery problems with the new Renault power unit.

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The team said Thursday’s issues were similar to the previous day’s.

“Adrian has gone back to the drawing board. There is only so much they can do here at the track,” Ricciardo told reporters.

“Adrian is pretty happy working in his office back at Milton Keynes and he’ll definitely be getting involved in trying to sort out the next step.”

Newey, who has designed title-winning cars for three separate teams, actually has an old-style drawing board in his office that he likes to work on with a pencil and jokingly refers to himself as the last of the dinosaurs in a computer-generated age.

He has a real challenge on his hands now, with Formula One undergoing the biggest technical transformation in a generation with a new turbocharged V6 and complicated energy recovery systems as well as revised aerodynamics rules.

Ricciardo said time was still on Red Bull’s side, with the team making slow starts to a season in the past only to end up dominant.

Vettel won the last nine races of 2013, a record for a single season, and 13 in total as he wrapped up a fourth successive title with three races to spare.

Red Bull’s race-engineering co-ordinator Andy Damerum said the team had worked hard to make changes overnight but the measures taken had only partially solved the issues.

“It’s obviously not where we want to be and naturally the whole team is frustrated by these issues,” he said. “However we’re pretty good at bouncing back from this type of thing.”

MAGNUSSEN FASTEST

While the Renault-engined teams struggled, with Toro Rosso managing only 30 laps after none on Wednesday and Caterham failing to set a timed circuit, those with Mercedes and Ferrari units racked up the mileage.

Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen was fastest overall on the third day with a lap of one minute 23.276 seconds in his first experience of the car he will be racing this year.

Brazilian Felipe Massa was second quickest for Williams, now powered by Mercedes after a switch from Renault, with 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton third on the timesheets for the Mercedes team and Jenson Button fourth for McLaren.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso made his first appearance of the year in front of his home fans and completed 58 laps/257km with the fifth best time.

“I’ve missed it for a few months now, even if I’ve spent hours in the simulator in Maranello, and the feeling I got from the track was as exciting as ever,” said the Spaniard.

“Now we have a lot of work ahead of us but we have a very big potential to make progress and that’s encouraging.”

Even if times were irrelevant, the time on the track was significant with cars with Mercedes power units completing a total of 965km so far and the Mercedes works team accounting for 783 of them.

“At the moment we’re definitely happy,” said Hamilton whose day was cut short by a transmission failure in the afternoon and who now hands over to team mate Nico Rosberg for the final day.

“I’m feeling very positive after these tests and every day on track is another step forwards.”

Marussia made their track debut with Britain’s Max Chilton at the wheel and did five installation laps as they dialled in the MR03 car.

“The laps we were able to complete were without issue so we are pretty pleased with the start we have made,” said chief engineer Dave Greenwood.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Scottish youth divided over referendum

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In June this year, it will be 700 years since Robert the Bruce led his band of young Scots into the Battle of Bannockburn, defeating a much larger English army, and in the process cementing his place in Scottish history.

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The unofficial national anthem, “Flower of Scotland”, celebrates the victory and still, all these years later, makes the English squirm as Scots proudly sing about the defeat of King Edward’s army which, in the words of the song was “sent homewards to think again”.

The song laments the fact that Scotland is no longer an independent nation and goes on to proclaim that “we can still rise now and be the nation again.”

Now, 700 years later, Scotland has the chance to do just that, and to do it not on the battlefield but through the ballot box. 

In September this year, Scotland will vote on whether to become an independent nation. However, the youth of today do not possess that same passion that drove their predecessors to the blood soaked fields of Bannockburn.

According to all the polls Scots are about to deliver a resounding “no” to independence, and surprisingly it is my peers who are leading the charge against the very cause that, in the words of the song, the battlers at Bannockburn “fought and died for”.

A recent survey of more than 1000 young Scots conducted by Edinburgh University’s Economic and Social Research Council found that only 26 per cent support independence.  According to the BBC, 67 per cent of young people in Scotland feel they would like more information before making a final decision.

Victoria Robertson, 21 a medical student from Ladybank, Fife said: “I think my student lifestyle means I live in a bit of a bubble, we’re probably a hard target audience to attract. I personally don’t think I have enough information about the referendum so I probably won’t vote but if I had to I think I’d vote no, as I feel Scotland would benefit from its connections with England in the long run”.

The “Yes Scotland” camp and “Better Together” have been extremely active on Facebook with more than 200,000 “likes” between them but more needs to be done to reach out to Scotland’s young people to help them make a decision about which way to vote at the polls.

Paula Sclater, a 23-year-old call-centre worker from Barrhead, Glasgow said: “I don’t really know what the Independence campaign is about. I’ve seen people talking about it on Facebook but I don’t really understand it so I wouldn’t know what I was voting for.”

In the run up to the referendum, Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, controversially succeeded in lowering the voting age from 18 to 16. He had hoped that young people would prove less conservative than their parents or grandparents and more willing to embrace change.

But when it comes to independence it would appear that the youngest voters are among the least supportive.

Samantha Sloan, a 16-year-old high school student from Cupar, Fife said: “I would vote no because I think it’s all too farfetched.  Alex Salmond is kidding himself in believing that the EU would accept us and we need to be a part of the EU to remain economically stable.

“It would cause an even greater gap between the Scottish and English and we’ve fought so long to become a united nation so I don’t see why we should destroy that. I think it’s all a bit confusing and information that isn’t biased to help younger people to understand the election is scarce”.

The issue of nuclear weapons (Britain’s nuclear armed Trident submarines are based off the west coast of Scotland) has been central to the campaign and it is what drives me to have a difference of opinion to many other young people. The Scottish National Party’s declaration that the weapons will be removed from Scottish soil if the country votes yes to independence is a vote winner for me. I don’t want to live in a country that possesses hideously expensive weapons that can never be used. The saving in running costs alone could amount to the training of 3,880 nurses or 4,527 teachers, or to build 13 to 20 primary schools.

Annie Aitken, 22, a student from Lathrisk, Fife agrees: “I think that at the moment, Westminster is never going to be able to come up with policies that suit everybody and in the end they make policies that suit London rather than anywhere else. Everyone is scared of Scotland being on its own because it’s so small but that means that it will be easier for everyone’s voices to be heard and an independent Scottish government will be able to make decisions which best reflect what Scottish people need and want”.

The battle for the votes of the young has seen both camps use teenage supporters as spokespeople for their campaigns.

Michaella Drummond, 17, from Kirkcaldy, Fife is passionately opposed to independence. A spokeswoman for “Better together,” she appears to be preaching to the converted.

“I know that the overwhelming majority of my friends and the majority of people my age that I speak to simply cannot see the sense in Scotland going it alone,” she said.

“Right now we have the best of both worlds. Drawing a line across an island and saying ‘everyone north of this line is different from everyone south of it’ is irrational and untrue.”

Hannah Thomson is a journalism student from Scotland.

 

Olympic breaststroke champion Soni retires

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“Before I move away from swimming too much, I want to take the time to give back,” Soni said in a statement released by USA Swimming.

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“The swimming community has become my family and I want to do my best to inspire the next generation and to share some of the things I’ve learned.”

Soni competed at two Olympics and won medals – three gold and three silver – in each of the six events she contested and is the only woman to successfully defend an Olympic breaststroke title.

Raised in New Jersey by her Hungarian-born immigrant parents, Soni stormed onto the Olympic stage in Beijing in 2008 with a stunning upset win over Leisel Jones in the 200 breaststroke final, breaking the Australian’s world record.

The following year, at the 2009 world championships in Rome, Soni won her first world titles, in the 100m.

But her joy was tempered by the loss of her 200m world record, at a meet where the now-banned polyurethane bodysuits were allowed and produced a slew of world records, many of which still stand.

Soni won the 100-200 breaststroke double, and a relay gold medal, at the 2011 world championships and was widely expected to repeat that feat at the 2012 London Olympics after months of gruelling training in the Pacific Ocean near her California home.

Soni, who needed surgery when she was a teenager to repair an irregular heartbeat, got off to a bad start when she was narrowly beaten for the gold in the 100 by Lithuanian schoolgirl Ruta Meilutyte.

But she recovered to win the 200, reclaiming her world record in the process, then helped the United States win the women’s medley relay in what proved to be her last appearance at an international event.

“You will always be the greatest female breaststroker ever in my book,” tweeted Rowdy Gaines, who won three gold medals at the 1984 Los Angles Olympics.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry)

Rising tennis talents excite Hewitt

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When Lleyton Hewitt eventually decides to hang up his racquet, he’ll do so content Australia’s Davis Cup future is in good hands.

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Preparing for the World Group tie in France alongside the nation’s most promising young players has reassured Hewitt the outlook is bright for the 28-time champions.

The 32-year-old believes teenagers Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are the young talents Australian tennis has been crying out for in recent years and they, along with Bernard Tomic, can carry on the nation’s rich Davis Cup tradition.

Hewitt, a likely future Australian captain, has put no timeframe on his retirement but describes the emergence of Kyrgios and Kokkinakis as “good timing”.

“It would have been nice to have these young guys four or five years ago,” Hewitt said.

“But now … I don’t know how long I’m going to end up playing for and it’s good to have those guys backing me up towards the end of my career and then these guys can take over.

“With these two, and throw Bernie back in the mix who has performed big under pressure in Davis Cup, there’s definitely a squad building at the moment which is a positive going forward.”

Pat Rafter’s extended squad for the tie in La Roche sur Yon also includes 19-year-old Jordan Thompson and the Australian captain has been impressed by the attitude of his young players.

However he’s also pleaded for patience, warning they are in need of plenty of development before they can be consistent performers at the top level.

“These kids are young, they haven’t developed and they’re going to need time for their bodies to fully fit into the men’s game,” Rafter said.

“Every now and then you get a freak athlete like Nadal or someone like that at a young age but it’s not normal procedure for a kid to go down.

“So we’re very conscious of their development and of how hard we’re pushing them with what we do.”