Stoner secures Aragon pole
ALCANIZ, Spain: Australia’s Casey Stoner, riding a Ducati, secured pole position in qualifying for Sunday’s Aragon Grand Prix at the Motorland Aragon circuit in north-east Spain on Saturday.
It will be the 20th time in his career that Stoner starts from pole in MotoGP, but the first time since the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix in April.
Stoner was the only rider to break the 1min 49sec barrier, edging current championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) by 0.309sec and the in-form Dani Pedrosa (Honda) by 0.401sec.
Pedrosa, who shone in Friday’s first free practice session, topped the time-sheet for three quarters of Saturday’s qualifying session before Stoner dislodged him with an initial time of 1:49.525. Pedrosa resumed control 10 minutes from the end with a 1:49.343 lap, only for the Australian to get ahead of him again with a time of 1:48.942. Lorenzo nipped in to take second place after Pedrosa miscued while braking on his final lap.
Stoner’s Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden took fourth place ahead of Yamaha’s Ben Spies and Frenchman Randy de Puniet (Honda). Six-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) will start from seventh place.
Irfan Pathan reported gifts from stranger
MUMBAI: Irfan Pathan, the India medium-pacer, had reported to the team’s assistant manager that he was given gifts by a stranger during the 2006 tour of Pakistan, the official has confirmed.
Wing commander M Baladitya, the team’s assistant manager on the tour, said the incident had taken place at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi.
Irfan was quoted by an Indian TV channel as claiming that he was sent expensive gifts by a “stranger”, suspected to be a bookie, during the series. He said he never saw the person again and reported the matter to the authorities concerned. The story was endorsed by the man handling team operations on the tour.
“Irfan had told me that somebody came to his room and left expensive gifts for him”, Baladitya said. “I told him to return them immediately. However, he said he did not know who had kept the gifts in his room”.
Baladitya, who was part of India’s tours to Pakistan in 2004 and 2006, said he mentioned the incident in his tour report submitted to the BCCI after the series but not to the ICC’s Anti-Corruption.
Pope launches sports foundation ahead of 2012 Games
LONDON: The Pope has paid tribute to his athletic predecessor with the launch of a sports foundation at St Mary’s University College.
On day two of his visit to Great Britain, Pope Benedict XVI addressed around 4,000 pupils at the Catholic College in Twickenham.
The Pope said: “In view of London’s forthcoming Olympic Games, it has been a pleasure to inaugurate this Sports Foundation, named in honour of Pope John Paul II.”
Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, was a keen football player in his youth, and was known to jog in the Vatican gardens, hike regularly in the mountains and was a keen swimmer.
The Foundation for Sport will encapsulate the late Pope’s vision that sport and faith could work hand in hand.
The sports foundation will be based at St Mary’s University College which has been designated as a pre-Games training camp for the 2012 Olympics and has been chosen by the South African Olympic team as their base for preparations.
Albasini still leads as Bozic grabs sprint win
LONDON: Slovenia’s Borut Bozic took out the seventh stage of the Tour of Britain on Friday after beating New Zealand’s Greg Henderson in a two-up sprint.
Bozic, who rides for Dutch outfit Vacansoleil, clocked 3hr 24min 15sec for the 152.3km stage between Bury St Edmunds and Colchester to chip away at his deficit to Italian Michael Albasini.
HTC-Columbia rider Albasini held an overnight lead of 1:26 and 1:27 on Bozic and Australian Richie Porte, and saw that advantage reduced to 1:05 and 1:14 respectively.
However unless catastrophe strikes, Albasini should secure overall victory after Saturday’s circuit race around the streets of London. Porte, who rides for Saxo Bank, led home a group of riders three seconds behind Bozic and Henderson.
Nibali hold lead ahead of Tour of Spain finale
LA BOLA DEL MUNDO, Spain: Spain’s Ezequiel Mosquera won the Tour of Spain’s 20th stage on Saturday, but failed to prevent Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali from keeping the leader’s jersey ahead of the finale in Madrid.
In one of the most exciting stage finishes of this year’s event, Nibali, of Liquigas, managed to resist an attack by Mosquera, who is known as the better climber, as the two struggled up the 2,247-metre Bola del Mundo in the Guadarrama mountain range north-west of Madrid.
Mosquera, of the Xacobeo team, crossed the line just one second ahead of the Italian, at the end of the crucial and mountainous 172.1-kilometre ride from San Martin de Valdeiglesias. Nibali, who was third in the Giro d’Italia this year, now holds a 41-second lead over Mosquera going into the final stage on Sunday and is the clear favourite to win his first ever Grand Tour.
Fit-again Sohail Tanvir returns to nets
LAHORE: Pakistan pacer Sohail Tanvir, who was sidelined for the past 10 months due to a knee injury, returned to bowling in the nets here.
The lanky left-arm pacer, who had a knee operation abroad to save his cricket career late last year, said he was hopeful of making a comeback to the national team in Pakistan’s home series against South Africa in the UAE in October and November.
“I am feeling good, the knee is holding up well and I am bowling in rhythm so I am hopeful of a comeback to competitive cricket soon,” he said.
“It is never easy to come back after being out of the game for 10 months. It is never easy for a cricketer to sit on the sidelines for so long wondering if he can play again,” Sohail said.
Spanish tennis federation faces Fed Cup walkout
BARCELONA: The Spanish tennis federation has pledged to boost its support of women’s tennis after six of its top female players announced they will boycott the country’s Fed Cup team.
Spain’s top-ranked player, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, was among those who signed a letter this week stating they would not compete due to the “total lack of support and interest shown to women’s tennis by this federation.”
The federation issued a 13-point reply on its website Saturday to show its commitment to women’s tennis, including a $261,000 boost in women’s funding. Five-time champion Spain plays Estonia in a World Group II match in February.
Safarova books semifinal spot against Mattek-Sands
QUEBEC CITY: American Bethanie Mattek-Sands reached the semifinals of the WTA Bell Challenge indoor tournament on Friday, defeating Rebecca Marino of Canada 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
Mattek-Sands moves on to play third-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic who rallied to beat fifth-seeded Melanie Oudin of the United States 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 at the Club Avantage Multi-Sports de Quebec.
In the other semifinal, Christina McHale will face Austria’s Tamira Paszek. McHale beat American compatriot Alexa Glatch 6-3, 6-1, and Paszek topped eighth-seeded Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden 6-3, 6-4.
Australia’s Hazlewood misses India tour
MELBOURNE: Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood will miss Australia’s Test series in India due to a back injury, Cricket Australia said on Saturday.
Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson will remain on standby for the two-Test series, which starts at Mohali on October 1. Hazlewood, a 19-year-old right-arm fast bowler, played his lone One-day International against England this year and has yet to make his test debut.
Groth, Kudryavtseva into final
GUANGZHOU, China: Jarmila Groth made certain of her place in the final of the Guangzhou International Women’s Open with a ruthless display of tennis against Romania’s Edina Gallovits.
The Australian top seed was on court for just 38 minutes as she overpowered Gallovits 6-0, 6-1 in the her semifinal.
Groth, who is aiming to win her first WTA Tour singles title, will take on unseeded Alla Kudryavtseva in Sunday’s showpiece.
The Russian was also in dominant form, beating China’s Shuai Zhang 6-0, 6-4 to progress to her first tour final.