With the Rio Games in full swing and the English Premier League set to kick-off this weekend, the sporting world is abuzz with excitement, joy, and drama. To keep you updated about the progress at this year’s Olympics and the preseason chatter in England, here are the top stories you might want to know about. From Singapore’s record-breaking rower to the return of Manchester United’s prodigal son, the sporting world is in no lack of frenzy.
1) Singapore’s First Olympic Rower Advances to Quarter-final
Despite the adverse condition of choppy waters (which she has never competed in before), Saiyidah Aisyah rowed her way into the quarter-finals of the women’s singles sculls at Rio de Janeiro’s Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon yesterday.
While her timing of 8min 44.71sec was nowhere near her best (7 min 44sec), Saiyidah can be proud of the fact she overcame incredibly tough conditions in the 2000m heat four to join the winner, Duan Jingli (China, 8:18.57), and runner-up, Jeanine Gmelin (Switzerland, 8:28.10), at Tuesday’s quarterfinal.
After the race, Sayidah shared with the Straits Times: “This was one of the toughest races of my life. The water was so choppy, especially at the halfway mark. I had to row using only one side to make sure I didn’t cross into the other lane on my left.”
In a moment of brilliance, the 28-year-old apparently also “Macgyvered” a situation where she had water in her craft before the race – she ended up using her spare pair of socks to soak up the water and wring it on the side.
As for the secret to her success, Saiyidah admits that the words of her Australian coach, Alan Bennett, rang clear in her mind as she barrelled towards the finish line. According to her, Bennett had told her that there was no reason why she can’t finish in the top three. Like a mantra, Saiyidah repeated that to herself as she rowed to success.
2) Russian Whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova won’t appeal Rio 2016 ban
In 2014, Stepanova, a Russian 800m runner, and her husband Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) official, helped uncover a grim scandal whereby Russian officials were allegedly “accepting payment from athletes to supply banned substances and cover up tests”, according to the BBC.
Stepanova, who received a 2-year ban in 2013 following abnormalities in her biological passport, said it also wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for Russian athletes to steer clear of out-of-competition testing by training under false names in other countries.
When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) handed out a ban for any Russian who had served a doping suspension, the 30-year-old found herself, and many others like her, ruled out for the Rio Games. However, last week, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) threw out that ruling, following appeals made by athletes.
Still, Stepanova has decided that she will not be contesting the ban because she is “hugely sad and heartbroken” at the lack of support from the IOC. She had hoped to be invited by the committee to compete under a neutral flag, after being left out of the Russian squad.
3) Paul Pogba Undergoes Medical at Manchester United
After months of speculation and ahead of his world record £110million move from Juventus to former club Manchester United, Paul Labile Pogba has finally undergone his medical at the English club’s training ground. For those unacquainted with the footballing world, this means the deal is more or less concrete, barring any unforeseen medical conditions the player might have.
Apart from his soon-to-be teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the France international midfielder has undoubtedly been the centre of attraction for this summer’s transfer window, with other clubs including Real Madrid hinting interest for his services.
Many big names, including Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, are appalled at the 23-year-old’s transfer fee. The well-respected manager has even gone so far as to say the amount is “complete madness”. It is even more incredulous that the midfielder had left Manchester United in 2012 for a mere £800,000. That is an incredible 13,750 per cent increase in his value.
When the medical is completed, the young footballer is expected to sign a 5-year-contract that will see him earn £290,000 a week. Just for comparison, Ibrahimovic’s contract is worth about £220,000 a week, and Wayne Rooney, United’s skipper, earns £250,000 a week. Needless to say, all eyes will be on the expensive French youngster when he makes his return to Old Trafford.