Fuglsang to lead Astana
Danish climber Jakob Fuglsang will be the Astana Pro Team’s main hope for competing for the maillot jaune in this year’s Tour de France which gets underway in Corsica on Saturday. Fuglsang, 28, will be the team leader in the absence of Italian Vincenzo Nibali, who was third in the Tour last year for Lampre-Merida, but has already earned his spurs for his new outfit this season with victory in the Giro d’Italia. Fuglsang will be riding in his third Tour, having finished 50th overall on his previous two appearances, the last one in 2011, the year he recorded his strongest showing in a major Tour with 11th in the Vuelta a Espana. “Fuglsang showed in the Criterium du Dauphine [he was fourth overall behind Tour favorite Chris Froome] that he is highly motivated to do well,” Astana sporting director Dimitry Sedoun said. “The Tour de France presents a lot of opportunities for each rider to win a stage.” Should Fuglsang fail to replicate his Criterium du Dauphine form, then Astana have a fallback option in Slovenian Janez Brajkovic, who was ninth in last year’s Tour.
Hong to coach South Korea
South Korea yesterday named former skipper Hong Myung-bo the new coach of the national side, tasked with preparing the out-of-form team for next year’s World Cup in Brazil. The Korea Football Association said Hong, 44, had been given a two-year contract to replace Choi Kang-hee, who quit as manager last week after South Korea scraped through to qualify for their eighth straight World Cup finals. As a player, Hong represented the national team at four consecutive World Cup finals from 1990 and became a national hero as captain of the side that reached the semi-finals of the 2002 competition in South Korea and Japan. He faces a tough challenge in injecting fresh confidence and motivation into the current team, who only managed to qualify for Brazil on goal-difference. Hong began his coaching career as an assistant on the senior national team from 2005 to 2007. He coached South Korea to bronze at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and led an under-23 team to a bronze medal at the London Olympics last year.
Liverpool seal Aspas deal
Striker Iago Aspas became Liverpool’s third summer signing on Sunday when his long mooted deal was confirmed. A club statement said Aspas passed a medical at the Red’s Melwood training complex, with the Spaniard inking a long-term contract — subject to international clearance. The 25-year-old scored 12 goals and provided seven assists in 34 appearances for former club RC Celta de Vigo last season. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ latest signing joins Spanish under-21 player Luis Alberto and former Manchester City defender Kolo Toure at Anfield.
Pietersen hits a century
Kevin Pietersen boosted England’s hopes ahead of the Ashes against Australia with a century for Surrey in his first innings of the season on Sunday. The controversial batsman has been out of action since leaving England’s tour of New Zealand with a knee injury in March, missing the return series and the Champions Trophy. He brought up three figures for Surrey against Yorkshire at Headingley in the County Championship off 106 balls, eventually finishing on 177 not out in a total of 353-7 declared. The Ashes begin at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, England, on July 10.
Taiwanese duo lose final
Taiwanese table tennis players finished second in women’s doubles at the Japan Open, after losing the final to a Chinese duo on Sunday. Cheng I-ching and Huang Yi-hua of Taiwan entered the tournament held in Yokohama as the top-seeded pair in women’s doubles and reached the final after beating South Korean opponents in straight sets during the semi-final game on Saturday. However, Cheng and Huang lost the first set of the final match 11-3 to non-seeded Chinese players Gu Yuting and Zhou Xintong. The Taiwanese pair struck back against the Chinese duo after winning the second set 11-6, but failed to keep their momentum during the subsequent two sets, which Cheng and Huang lost 11-4 and 11-7. Cheng and Huang said after the match that they were unable to adjust to the “strange” way their Chinese opponents played, but although upset by the defeat, the pair said they had at least learned many new techniques.
Russia retain their title
Russia won the European Team Championships for the third year running on Sunday thanks to a flurry of points in the final three events. They finished the two-day competition in Gateshead, England, on 354.5 points, while Germany were second with 347.5 and Britain third with 338. After 37 of the 40 events, Germany initially held the lead, but just three points separated the top three and Dmitriy Tarabin’s winning personal best of 85.99m in the javelin put the defending champions back in front. Second place in the men’s 4x400m relay behind home favorites Britain secured the title for Russia after Germany could only manage to cross the line in fourth. Mariya Kuchina sweetened victory for the Russians by winning the women’s high jump with a personal best of 1.98m. The bottom three countries, Belarus, Greece and Norway, were relegated and will be replaced next year by the promoted Czech Republic, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Hernandez’s house raided
Police sorted through bags of items retrieved from the home of New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez on Sunday amid a deepening investigation into the shooting death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional player for the Boston Bandits. Hernandez, 23, a tight-end and rising star in the National Football League, is at the center of the investigation. Lloyd’s body was discovered on Monday last week in an industrial park about a 1.6km from Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. Investigators searched Hernandez’s house for nearly four hours on Saturday, removing several bags of material. A law enforcement official with knowledge of the case on Sunday said police investigators were now busy examining the items, but declined to give details.
O’Connell sidelined by injury
The British and Irish Lions suffered a major blow ahead of the second Test against Australia, with lock Paul O’Connell ruled out of the rest of the series against Australia due to a fracture in his right forearm. The 33-year-old Irishman, who captained the Lions on their last tour to South Africa in 2009, sustained the injury in the tourists’ 23-21 victory in the first Test in Brisbane on Saturday. The injury will be a particular blow to the Munster man, who came through a long period on the sidelines with a back injury before returning to action in April to secure his place on a third Lions tour. Geoff Parling is set to replace O’Connell for the second Test.