Sports Shorts: Usha becomes AAA’s Athletes Commission member

Legendary Indian sprinter P T Usha has been made a member of the Athletes Commission of the Asian Athletics Association in recognition of her stellar achievements at the continental stage.

The 55-year-old Usha, who was the leading sprinter of her time in Asia, will be one of the six members of the AAA Athletes Commission, to be headed by 1992 Olympics gold medallist hammer thrower Andrey Abduvaliyev of Uzbekistan.

“I have accepted the appointment as a member of the AAA Athletes Commission. It is a great honour for me and for the country,” Usha said.

The other members of the Athletes Commission are Wang Yu of China, 2012 London Olympics gold medallist triple jumper Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan, Lee Hup Wei of Malaysia and Saad Shaddad of Saudi Arabia.

Newly-appointed AAA Secretary General A Shuggumarran congratulated Usha on her being appointed as one of the members of the AAA Athletes Commission.

“I am confident that you will bring your sound knowledge and expertise and we look forward to your continued contribution to the development and success of Asian Athletics,” he said in the letter of appointment.

Usha, known as ‘Payyoli Express’, blazed the tracks at the Asian stage in the 1980s. She won four gold medals and one bronze in the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul. A year before, she won five gold and a bronze in the Asian Championships in Jakarta.

She missed an Olympic medal in the 1984 Games in Los Angles by a whisker as she finished fourth in women’s 400m hurdles, losing the bronze by one-hundredth of a second.

Teenager Gauff, former champ Stosur get US Open wildcards

American teenager Cori “Coco” Gauff and former champion Samantha Stosur were among players to be given wildcards into the main draw of the U.S. Open starting later this month, organisers said on Tuesday.

Gauff, 15, stunned players and fans alike when she made her debut in the main draw of a Grand Slam at this year’s Wimbledon, reaching the fourth round where she was beaten by eventual champion Simona Halep.

Gauff, the youngest finalist in the girls’ singles event at the U.S. Open in 2017 aged 13, is one of five teenagers given wildcards at Flushing Meadows.

Americans Caty McNally, Whitney Osuigwe and Katie Volynets (all 17) and France’s 16-year-old Diane Parry, who became the youngest player this decade to win a main-draw match in the French Open in May, also received them.

Australia’s Stosur, U.S. Open champion in 2011, will be making her 15th appearance in the main draw. The 35-year-old, who last reached a Grand Slam singles semi-final in 2016 at Roland Garros, was also a doubles champion in New York in 2005.

“Parry and Stosur earn their entry via the USTA’s reciprocal wildcard arrangement with the French Tennis Federation and Tennis Australia,” organisers said in a statement.

American Jack Sock headlines the men’s singles wildcards.

The 26-year-old, who was sidelined for six months after sustaining a thumb injury at the Australian Open, is looking to maintain his streak of playing in every U.S. Open main draw since 2010.

Tsitsipas and Kyrgios to play in Laver Cup

World number seven Stefanos Tsitsipas is set to make his debut at the Laver Cup in Geneva in September for Team Europe while Australia’s Nick Kyrgios was also named in Team World, the organisers said on Tuesday.

The Laver Cup, a three-day team event between Europe and the rest of the world, became an official part of the ATP Tour in May this year following its runaway success in its first two editions in Prague and Chicago.

The event, named after Australian great Rod Laver, who won 11 Grand Slams between 1960 and 1969, drew sellout crowds last year as a number of top-ranked players such as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic took part with the Europeans winning 13-8.

“It’s like a dream come true to be part of this incredible team, with Roger and Rafa (Nadal), who I’ve looked up to since I was a little kid, along with Dominic (Thiem), Sascha (Alexander Zverev) and Fabio (Fognini),” Tsitsipas said in a statement.

“In tennis we are always out on the court alone, it’s such an individual sport. It’s going to be a new experience for me to play on a team, especially this team of unbelievable champions.”

Tsitsipas and Kyrgios put on a show in the Citi Open in Washington earlier this month where the Australian outlasted the young Greek in an enthralling semi-final that was decided by a final set tiebreak. 

Kyrgios is no stranger to the Laver Cup, having played for Team World in the first two editions which were both won by Team Europe.

“I’ve always said that the Laver Cup is my favourite week of the year, and how much it means to me to get around the team and play for something bigger than just myself,” Kyrgios said.

“We’ve had some heartbreaking losses over the past couple of years and it means the world to me to have the chance to get out there again with the team and try to get the win for Team World.”

John McEnroe, a seven-times Grand Slam singles champion, is the captain of Team World while Team Europe are led by his former arch-rival and 11-times Grand Slam champion Bjorn Borg.

Simbine on world mission but rues Semenya absence

South African sprinter Akani Simbine will look to become the fastest man on earth at next month’s world championships but he will run with a heavy heart that his compatriot and friend Caster Semenya will not be joining him in Doha.

Simbine, 25, has enjoyed a stellar year in preparation for his fourth world championships, winning 100-metres gold at last year’s Commonwealth Games and triumphing at London’s Diamond League meeting in July.

However, what should be a golden period for South African athletics with Simbine’s rise and the achievements of Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk has been overshadowed by the ongoing saga of Semenya’s participation in the sport.

The 28-year-old double 800m Olympic gold medallist is fighting an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) regulation that female middle-distance runners with a high natural level of testosterone must take medication to reduce it.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) last month reversed a ruling that temporarily lifted the IAAF’s testosterone regulations imposed on Semenya, effectively ruling her out of the Sept. 28-Oct. 6 world championships in Qatar.

Simbine, who has talked to Semenya on the phone, said the case was sad for the whole country.

“There’s a kind of knock-on (effect) on the South African sporting world, not just athletics because Caster was Queen of South African sports and now we can’t see her anymore,” he told Reuters in telephone interview.

“But as athletes and sports people we support her as much as we can… because she is one of us at the end of the day. To show the world that we are together as one and she’s not fighting this on her own.

“Seeing a friend going through something like this is heartbreaking and upsetting and is really not nice.”

Simbine has his own goals to focus on now, however, starting with his bid to become the first South African to win a sprint medal at the world championships.

Born in a poor suburb of Johannesburg, Simbine flourished on the track while studying an Information Science degree at the University of Pretoria, encouraged by his parents who insisted he made sure of being able to make a living outside of athletics.

They need not have worried so much, though, as he set the 100m national record of 9.89 seconds in Hungary in 2016 at the age of 22.

That was a month before Simbine’s Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro where he finished fifth in the final but almost a second behind sprinting great Usain Bolt.

With the multiple world champion Jamaican now retired from the sport, many are vying to be the next king of the track.

Simbine is aware of the fierce competition he faces, particularly from Americans. Christian Coleman has the world leading time this year of 9.81 seconds while compatriot Noah Lyles is second with 9.86.

Also up there is world champion Justin Gatlin who will be defending his title on what could well be his final appearance in the global event.

But Simbine, whose Diamond League winning time of 9.93 is tied-fifth best in the world this year, is confident he can win the final on Sept. 28.

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