Top 10 athletes to watch at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

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English swimmer Adam Peaty and Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake will be among the world-class competitors in action when the Commonwealth Games begin next week in Australia’s Gold Coast.

Ahead of the opening ceremony on Wednesday, we pick out 10 stars to watch out for during the April 4-15 showpiece.

Valerie Adams (shot put, NZL)

Adams seems to have been around forever and this will be her fifth Commonwealths – her haul so far is three gold and one silver. Still only 33, the Kiwi dominated women’s shot put for more than a decade. Her remarkable reign includes winning 107 major competitions in a row from 2006 to 2014 and two Olympic titles.

But she had to settle for silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics, behind the American Michelle Carter, and is on the comeback trail after having her first child in October.

Yohan Blake (athletics, JAM)

With fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt retired, Blake has a prime opportunity to step out of the sprint legend’s shadow.

The 28-year-old Blake is the second fastest man of all time in the 100m and 200m – behind Bolt – but has never won a Commonwealth Games medal after skipping Glasgow 2014. Blake revealed that Bolt, who will attend the Games as an ambassador, is expecting him to win.

“He said, ‘When I come to Australia, if you don’t win there is going to be problems’,” Blake told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail.

Lee Chong Wei (badminton, MAS)

Lee is a Malaysian with magic in his racquet. The badminton star boasts a formidable trophy haul and is reaching the end of a great career.

His triumphs include Commonwealth gold in 2006 and 2010 – he missed 2014 injured. He would have been a multiple Olympic champion too, but lost the final to Lin Dan in 2008 and 2012, and fell to another Chinese player, Chen Long, in 2016. At least Lee, 35, won’t have to face Lin or Chen in Australia.

Tom Daley (diving, ENG)

The 23-year-old with the boy-band looks leads England’s hopes in the diving and is also one of the biggest stars at the Games. He burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced teenager and is a double world champion in the 10m platform.

In the same discipline he also won gold at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games. At the Gold Coast Games, the double Olympic bronze-medallist will compete in the 10m platform and also the 3m synchronised event.

Mack Horton (swimming, AUS)

The bespectacled Horton is the reigning Olympic 400m freestyle champion and is also slated to go in the 200m and 1,500m events at the Commonwealths. The 21-year-old’s preparations hit a snag in the build-up when he was stung by a bee and suffered an allergic reaction, his arm ballooning in size.

Horton, who cuts a scholarly-looking figure with his thick specs – but has the daunting nickname “Mack the Knife – faces stiff competition in the 200m from fellow Australian Kyle Chalmers, the Olympic title-holder in the 100m freestyle.

Adam Peaty (swimming, ENG)

The Englishman is the 100m breaststroke Olympic champion and world record-holder in the 50m and 100m. He will also be defending his Commonwealth title in the 100m.

And there is bad news for his rivals because he is in excellent form, winning the 100m at last month’s British championships with a season-best 58.78sec. Peaty, unbeaten for nearly four years, warned his rivals afterwards that he was gunning for a world record to go with Gold Coast gold.

Caster Semenya (athletics, RSA)

The 27-year-old South African runner is a two-time Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion over 800m.

She will be strong favourite to pull off an 800m and 1,500m double in Australia and has even been tipped for a new world record over 800m if she hits top form. Semenya, South Africa’s flag-bearer, has been dogged by gender accusations since shooting to fame when she won the 800m crown as a teenager at the 2009 world championships.

Elaine Thompson (athletics, JAM)

Thompson is the 100m and 200m Olympic champion and another hoping to grab the headlines following the retirement of fellow Jamaican track star Bolt. However, the 25-year-old does not enjoy the dominance that Bolt had and at the world championships in London in 2017 she finished a disappointing fifth.

“Losing the world championships was just a big motivation for me and that gives me a big boost to work even harder for 2018,” Thompson wrote on Facebook in January.

The Brownlee Brothers (triathlon, England)

Alistair, the older brother of the two, is a two-time Olympic champion and favourite to win while Jonny is expected to be in contention. The Yorkshire duo finished one and two four years ago in Glasgow but Alistair has endured an injury-hit campaign to date and withdrew from the ITU Triathlon World Series opener in Abu Dhabi in early March, a month on from winning the 70.3 Ironman competition in Dubai.

Jonny typically favours the short 750 swim, 20km bike and 5km sprint distance and that could give the 27-year-old the edge over 29-year-old Alistair. The brothers have been training on Australian soil for the past month or so – and will be more than accustomed to conditions.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - JUNE 11 : Alistair Brownlee and Jonathan Brownlee of Great Brittian compete in the elites men's race during the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon on June 11, 2017 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Matthew Glaetzer (track cycling, Australia)

Racing in front of his own people, the 25-year-old is set to have a busy Games as he competes in the sprint, time trial, team spirit and Keirin in an exhausting three-day stretch of competitive cycling between April 5-8. The Adelaide native, who became the first man to break one minute for the time trial at sea level, impressed in the recent 2018 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Holland – winning the men’s sprint gong.

Silver medallist Australia's Matthew Glaetzer poses on the podium after taking part in the men's one kilometre time trial final during the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Apeldoorn on March 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

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From Steve Smith to Lance Armstrong - five memorable sporting apologies

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When disgraced Australian cricketer Steve Smith faced the cameras in Sydney on Thursday with a tearful apology for a ball-tampering scandal, he joined a small club of sports stars who have very publicly said sorry.

Athletes have played the penitent for everything from cheating at their sport to cheating on a wife; from pre-meditated assault on a rival to simply losing.

Here are five high-profile mea culpas:

Gianluigi Buffon – 2017

Fans reacted with shock and disbelief last year when Italy failed to qualify for the football World Cup for the first time since 1958 – a failure dubbed an “apocalypse” by the nation’s press.

“I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football,” an inconsolable team captain Gianluigi Buffon said after the Azzuri missed out on qualification for the 2018 edition in Russia. “We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes.”

Buffon, one of the greatest goalkeepers of the modern era, also announced his retirement from international football after Sweden went through at Italy’s expense.

Gianluigi Buffon of Italy

Lance Armstrong – 2013

Cycling star lance armstrong admitted in a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey that he took performance-enhancing drugs during his glittering career.

“I made my decisions. They’re my mistake. And I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that,” the seven-time Tour de France winner told Winfrey.

The American cyclist and cancer-survivor had all his titles taken away over the scandal, which shattered his reputation as one of the most widely-admired athletes in the world for both his sporting achievements and his philanthropic work through the Livestrong Foundation.

Tiger Woods – 2010

Golf superstar Tiger Woods went on national television in 2010 to apologise to his family after a string of scandalous disclosures about his private life, including the revelation that he was a serial cheat.

“I know I have severely disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position,” Woods said. “For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for.”

The scandal seriously damaged the American’s carefully-cultivated image, sent his sponsors fleeing and eventually ended his marriage.

Marion Jones – 2007

US sprinter Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in jail and banned for two years for using performance-enhancing drugs before the 2000 Sydney Games – and lying to US federal investigators.

“It is with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust,” a tearful Jones said after pleading guilty to the charges in October 2007. “I have let (my family) down, I have let my country down, and I have let myself down.”

Jones was stripped of the three gold and two bronze medals she won in Sydney, and was also ordered to repay over $100,000 in prize and bonus money.

Tonya Harding – 1994

American figure skater Tonya Harding was banished from the sport over an attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan, who had her knee bashed a month before the 1994 Winter Olympics.

A visibly emotional Harding apologised a few months after the attack for not honestly reporting what she discovered about the plot — hatched by her ex-husband – but denied she had any prior knowledge.

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2018 Dubai to Muscat Offshore Sailing Race results as 26th edition officially ends

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The 2018 Dubai to Muscat Offshore Sailing Race officially ended on Tuesday in Muscat, Oman.

Of the 15 boats that started the 26th edition of the race, eight reached the finish-line at Marina Bandar Al Rowdha having departed from Dubai Offshore Sailing Club on Thursday, March 8.

The remainder of the entries retired from racing for various reasons. A variety of modern keelboats were racing in their respective classes.

First over the finish in Muscat, to take “Line Honours”, was Yacht Switchblade, skippered by owner Simon Reeves. Switchblade is a Beneteau First 36.7 with 5 crew on-board and completed the course in 3 days and 5 hours, finishing just minutes ahead of another Beneteau First 36.7, Yacht Shahrazad, after an exciting tacking duel in the closing miles of the race.

The Dubai to Muscat Offshore Sailing Race has often been referred to as “the race of two halves”, as the weather conditions on the initial run up the western side of the United Arab Emirates and the Musandam Peninsula can differ so greatly from those seen from the Straits of Hormuz, across the Gulf of Oman to Muscat.

This year a race-within-a-race saw boats also competing in “The Sprint to the Corner” which proved to be a great drag race up the Arabian Gulf, negotiating the fishing nets off the Northern Emirates & the potential katabatic winds of the Musandam escarpments.

First to reach the virtual finish line off the northern point of the peninsula was Yacht El-Seraya from Kuwait, owned & skippered by father & son Fawzi & Naser Sultan.

Second was Yacht Switchblade followed by Yacht Shahrazad at third. From then on, it was a different story as the crews had to deal with very light wind conditions once through “the gap” at the tip of the peninsula, and several of the larger boats including the 100ft Nautor Swan Yacht Rusalka and both of the Abu Dhabi Pindar Volvo60’s were forced to retire, proving the point that the big boats don’t always win.

After a frustrating day for many boats, those who had kept to the East gained more wind and the chase was on again.

The race organiser and international race officials were keen to enforce all the required maritime exclusion zones, so all boats had to avoid any restricted or contested waters.

The race officials as well as friends & family onshore, were able to follow the entire race through an online tracker. The tracker also doubled as an emergency response system, which gave everyone a sense of security in an area that has very limited mobile phone coverage.

The tracker information over the next two days would be well used as training information for any future skippers in this region. With light winds from a weak weather system in the Gulf of Oman, progress was slow, but the lead boats were able to pull ahead by keeping further out into the Gulf of Oman.

From then on it was a race of tactics & the remaining trophies would be awarded according to IRC international handicap protocol. IRC handicap results are reliant on a boats’ measurements, rather than the number of crew on board. 

First in the overall IRC division was Yacht Switchblade, closely followed by Yacht Shahrazad & Yacht Sandpiper. Yacht Shahrazad owned & skippered by David Worrall, triumphed in the inaugural Dubai to Muscat Race Double-handed division, beating Yacht Twister. These boats competed with the additional factor of having just two sailors on board.

No Club Class registered boats made it to Muscat.

In another first for the 2018 event, the race organisers introduced the Virtual Regatta online game, allowing skippers of virtual boats to compete against the real boats using their tracker positions. This proved to be a great success with almost 24,000 virtual boats taking part.

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