Ask Iraqi Rasha Yassin if she follows a special diet as part of her Olympic training and she just laughs. \n"Of course not," she says. "Do you think that athletes who are training here can afford a special diet? Most of them are from poor families and have to work to support their families." \nDilapidated facilities and widespread suspicion of female athletes are among the other hurdles on the road to Athens for the 18-year-old middle-distance runner. \n"Look around you, we don't have any proper equipment. I don't work out because we don't have a gym," the tall, lean high-school student told Reuters during a break in training in Baghdad. \n"I keep telling foreign competitors: 'If we had a tenth of what you had, there would a big difference in our performance'," she said. \nAt one point last year, the administrators of the capital's Athletic Training College closed their grounds to athletes and Yassin had to run in the streets, enduring disapproving glances and catcalls from passers-by in a society which takes a conservative view of women in sport. \n"People would give me all kind of unwelcome attention," Yassin said. "But we shouldn't stop because of backward people, even if they are the majority in the society." \nAs Iraqi champion in the 400 and 800 meters, Yassin is a strong candidate to represent her country in August and is determined to make a name for herself at the Games. \nShe comes from a family of athletes; her mother is a former Arab track-and-field champion and two of her sisters are also runners. \nYassin exudes confidence, but recognises the immense disadvantages faced by Iraqis preparing for the Olympics in the wake of last year's US-led war. \nAt the training college in Baghdad, the running tracks are potholed and cracked, high jumpers have no mattresses to break their fall and have to make do with a large piece of sponge, and old pieces of metal and wood are used as makeshift hurdles. \nBut despite the difficulties, Iraqi athletes say the fall of Saddam Hussein has freed them from intimidation. \nThe Iraqi National Olympic Committee was once part of Saddam's apparatus of fear, and run by his widely hated son Uday. \nUday, killed along with his brother Qusay in a United States raid in Mosul last July, was reviled as a notorious playboy, and maintained a jail and torture chamber in the Olympic Committee headquarters building. \nAthletes said they were tortured if they were thought to have performed poorly. \nNow, they can compete without fear of punishment. \n"At least this time, there won't be any secret police officer instructing us what to say and what to do," said Jabar Hussein, Yassin's coach. \n"Athletes are more motivated now, they are participating in more events outside the country, which gives them better interaction with the outside world." \nHussein does not have high hopes that Iraqis will return from Athens with medals. \nBut he says the important thing is to take part and gain experience that will help in future competitions after years of isolation. \n"For us the most important thing is to participate. We know very well that we can't compete with the world's best athletes. We don't have any equipment, and we haven't even been paid our salaries," he said. \n"Before, it took us 30 days to get the permission to participate in an event. \nMost of the time we would just miss the race. If Uday didn't sign the papers no-one could do anything." \nThe U.S.-led administration dissolved the old Iraqi National Olympic Committee. \nA new body was elected earlier this year under the supervision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). \nHussein said Iraqi athletes were unlikely to win anything except respect in Athens. But he is confident that, over time, Iraq will become a sporting power again. \n"Things are changing every day," he said. "This country has just emerged from a war. We are confident that in few years we will be back."
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
Former MLB pitcher Wang Wei-chung has signed the biggest contract with a local team in Taiwan’s professional baseball history, the Wei Chuan Dragons said yesterday. The 28-year-old left-hander signed a five-year US$2.08 million contract with the Dragons, team chairman Hsu Wen-fang told a news conference. It is the biggest contract in the CPBL’s 31-year history, surpassing a three-year, US$1.36 million deal Lin Chih-sheng signed in 2016 with the CTBC Brothers. Although the overall value of Wang’s deal set a new record, his average monthly salary of NT$990,000 (US$33,886) is lower than Lin’s pay of NT$1.2 million per month in 2017