Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 March - 5 April 2006
Issue No. 788
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


Record equalled

CANADA's Alexandra Orlando matched a Commonwealth Games record six gold medals by winning all four rhythmic gymnastic titles.

She equalled the record haul at a single Games achieved by Australian swimmers Ian Thorpe and Susie O'Neill and Canadian swimmer Graham Smith.

The 19-year-old won golds in the rope, ball, clubs and ribbon.

This is added to the team and all-round titles she won in the previous two days of competition in Melbourne.

Orlando said: "I'm actually a bit speechless right now, but I'm glad I did it for my country, the sport and myself."

Her achievement surpassed her idol Erika Leigh Stirton's five rhythmic gymnastics golds at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur.

"I set this goal in March last year and to have realised it is unbelievable," she added.

O'Neill won six gold medals in Kuala Lumpur while Thorpe matched that in Manchester four years ago. Smith won six at the 1978 Games in Edmonton.

Orlando, the highest-ranked rhythmic gymnast in Canada and North America, credited her Games success to a punishing training regime.

"I've trained 30 hours a week on this, with extra ballet and cardio sessions on top of that," Orlando said. "I hope people take it more seriously.

"Not too many people know what rhythmic gymnastics is."

The sport is dominated by eastern European countries with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan all prominent in the top 10.

Drogba's U-turn

CHELSEA striker Didier Drogba has withdrawn an admission that he sometimes tries to con referees.

Drogba, speaking after the Blues' 2-0 defeat of Manchester City, initially said: "Sometimes I dive, sometimes I stand."

But he then quickly retracted that statement, saying: "No, I don't dive."

And he has subsequently told his club's website that his comments "came across partly in the wrong way -- I want to make clear that I don't dive."

Drogba had been asked about conning referees following Alan Shearer's accusations that Shaun Wright-Phillips dived in Newcastle's FA Cup defeat to Chelsea a week earlier to get Robbie Elliott sent off.

He got both goals in the champions' win on Saturday, though he did admit to handling the ball in the course of scoring the second.

He said: "Yes, it was handball, but that's part of the game.

"If City had done it, no-one would have mentioned it. But everyone is out to make a big mess about Chelsea."

Agassi's end near

ANDRE Agassi admits that his latest injury setback might be a sign that he can no longer carry on competing.

The 35-year-old pulled out of the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami on Friday with a recurrence of a chronic back problem.

"It seems pretty dark at the moment," he said. "Is it possible that I can't anymore? It's definitely possible."

The six-time champion, who turns 36 next month, withdrew just hours before he was due on court to face Christophe Rochus.

The back problem has plagued the 10th seed all season and was part of the reason behind him opting out of all European clay-court events this year.

"It's been the same story for a while. It's frustrating and exhausting and I'm way less than 100 per cent," said the American.

"There are a couple of good days followed by a series of difficult ones. There are too many little setbacks. I don't just want to play, I want to play to win."

Agassi has pulled out of this year's clay events to concentrate on Wimbledon.

Miami was to have been only his fourth event of the season after missing the Australian Open with an ankle injury.

However, he has insisted he will return to the tour once he is fit again.

"I am an optimist at heart, and I will believe in more moments that I can still have out there.

"I mean, when my body is right, there's still a considerable amount left in me, I believe that.

"I'll continue to work, and I'll continue to put myself in a position to do this well, and I still think I can if my body responds. But only time will tell."

CAF deal

THE CONFEDERATION of African Football (CAF) has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with Standard Bank covering the 2008 Nations Cup finals in Ghana. "This partnership could not have come at a better time than when we are in the threshold of hosting the first-ever football World Cup on African soil," said CAF President Issa Hayatou. "Our sponsorship is a contribution to help uplift African football to reach its full potential," said Sarah-Anne Orphanides, the bank's marketing director. The sponsorship contract also covers the 2006, 2007 and 2008 editions of the African Champions League. South Africa will host the 2010 World Cup.

Volleyball hijab

GIRLS in a refugee camp in northern Kenya have started playing volleyball for the first time thanks to specially designed sportswear for Muslim women. Muslim females should wear a hijab, a scarf covering the hair. A sportswear company worked with the girls to find something appropriate and presented the designs last year. Initially camp leaders renounced the outfits, but the girls have now persuaded them of their suitability.

Driving death

GERMAN co-driver Jorg Bastuck has died after being struck by another car during the Rally of Catalunya in Spain.

He was hit while changing a wheel after his Citroen C2, driven by compatriot Aaron Burkhart, had left the road.

He was flown to hospital by helicopter in a serious condition but later died from his injuries, organisers said.

Bastuck was hit by a Ford Fiesta driven by Britain's Barry Clark and Scott Martin which left the road at the same place during Friday's second stage.

Burkhart and Bastuck, 36, were competing in the Junior World Rally Championship.

Richest race

ELECTROCUTIONIST put in a storming late run to win the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest race.

Frankie Dettori's mount made a poor start from stall one but was made work hard to move back into contention.

Turning for home, the Godolphin-trained favourite was down the field behind the impressive Brass Hat and Wilko.

But Dettori switched his mount superbly with six furlongs to go and once he accelerated, he was in control and overhauled his rivals close to home.

Electrocutionist won last year's Juddmonte International at York last year when trained by Valfredo Valiani, but Godolphin swooped for the son of Red Ransom during the winter

"He jumped away really slowly and the American horse was much faster than us," said Dettori.

"I couldn't get the position I wanted just behind the leaders but once I got him out, I knew he would battle and he quickened up brilliantly.

"When I got him on the outside I knew that he would do it because he has a lot of heart."

It was a second win of the day for Dettori and Godolphin after Discreet Cat won the UAE Derby.

Baracouda retires

FORMER champion stayer Baracouda has been retired after sustaining a slight injury at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 11-year-old, trained in France by Francois Doumen, finished fifth in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle but was found to have damaged a tendon.

The injury has prompted connections to call time on his seven-year career.

The horse was a dual winner of the Stayers' Hurdle at the Festival in 2002 and 2003 and finished second in both 2004 and 2005.

"He ran a blinder at Cheltenham but he just came back with a slight injury behind," said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

"He owes nobody anything and we decided to retire him while he is still in one piece. He'll be going to JP's Martinstown Stud.

"He has been a wonderful horse for us and he never let us down. Francois has done a marvelous job with him down the years and he produced him under pressure every year. He has been a great credit to him."

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