Test your ironman willpower for South African triathlete Richard Holland

Jay Asser 6/05/2015
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Biking, running and swimming for Richard.

Support a good cause and help raise hope by completing either a half or full ironman challenge in the Sunman for Rich.
The event is named after South African triathlete Richard Holland, who suffers from locked-in syndrome after he was hit by a car while riding his bike in Dubai on October 11, 2012 before his 30th birthday.

While Holland and his family deal with his condition, the Sunman for Rich carries out his love for triathlons by encouraging people across the world to complete a challenge in his name.

From Thursday, May 28 to Saturday, May 30, athletes will have three days to complete all three disciplines – swimming, biking and running – of the half or full ironman.

The disciplines can be completed in any order and from anywhere in the world. 

Whether it’s done individually or as a team, just doing the challenge goes a long way to supporting Holland.

“Rich gets feedback. The way we work the Facebook page, we get everyone to post their photographs during the weekend and send him messages,” said Trace Rogers, coach and founder of SuperTRI, the organisers for the event.

“We’re doing this to encourage Rich not to give up hope and to have little gains every single day to a better quality of life. We’re swimming, biking and running for Rich while he can’t.

“The message here is just purely encouraging people to be safe and to encourage Rich. It’s very important for him to know he’s not been forgotten.

“Every person that signs up, it gives Rich hope. People doing this in honour of him definitely creates hope.”

The half distance is a 1.9km swim, followed by a 90km bike and then a 21.1km run. For athletes wanting the ultimate test, the full distance offers a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike and a 42.2km run.

After completing the challenge, athletes should send their time results by email to Rogers at [email protected] no later than 02:00 on June 1 to qualify as a finisher.

Those who register for Dh300 will receive a finisher medal and t-shirt. The final day to register is midnight on Wednesday, May 20.

Join athletes from across the globe and keep Rich in your thoughts as you challenge yourself for a worthy cause.

What: Sunman for Rich
Where: Anywhere in the world
When: Thursday, May 28 to Saturday, May 30
Contact: Visit www.facebook.com/SunManRich or contact [email protected] for more information

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Saina Nehwal discusses Indian women in sport and Olympic gold

Barny 5/05/2015
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While at the Shuttle Time Dubai finals, world No1 badminton player Saina Nehwal spoke to Sport360 about how she got into the sport and what her future hopes are for her career.









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INTERVIEW: World No1 inspiring next generation

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Champion at heart: Nehwal climbed to No1 in the world rankings last month after battling a dip in form.

A mere eight months ago, Saina Nehwal was contemplating retirement from badminton after suffering a routine loss to Chinese top seed Liu Xuerui at the World Championships in August.

The Indian star recalls going home to Hyderabad, crying to her parents as she felt helpless against the dominant force of the Chinese in the sport and was becoming more and more vulnerable to her doubters, who were claiming her career was virtually finished.

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Little did those sceptics know, Nehwal would become the first Indian woman to reach No1 in the badminton world rankings just eight months later. After making history for her country by winning Olympic bronze in London 2012 (she was the first Indian to medal in badminton at any Games), Nehwal had a troubling 2013. She won zero titles that year, suffered a toe fracture, and felt that she was losing her game against the very best.

“My mum told me in 2013 ‘You’re not improving and you’re facing some problems. There should be some way out of it. You can’t take the risk of again going to practice the same way then losing, you have to think what is going wrong with you’,” Nehwal told Sport360 on the sidelines of the Shuttle Time Dubai Schools Championship last week. 

“At one point it became too much for me. I won the Australia Open (in 2014), I did well in the Thomas & Uber Cup but at the World Championship, it was the same thing again with Liu Xuerui. I lost in straight games. I wasn’t even giving them a tough fight. I was losing easily. 

“Finally I told myself ‘that’s enough, it’s not working out anymore’. I cried a lot after that. I’m a human being and you feel bad. I came home and I told my dad ‘I need a change, I think I have to move out of my comfort zone and go to Bangalore and see how it is going to be’.”

Moving from Hyderabad to Bangalore and linking up with coach Vimal Kumar paid dividends rather swiftly. By November, Nehwal had won the China Open, taking down three Chinese scalps en route, and again registering unprecedented success by an Indian player.

“The first 10 days after moving to Bangalore, many people were against me, saying ‘why is Saina doing this? It’s not going to be easy for her now’. So with that criticism, they put a lot of pressure on me that I might not perform well after changing coaches.

“But God has been really kind to me, he gave me that belief that I just have to train and not think about what people are saying,” she said. 

“In the Asian Games I lost to Yihan Wang in three games, it was a close match. After that I was giving a very tough fight to the Chinese players and in the China Open I won the tournament, I beat all the Chinese. So the results were coming. I didn’t speak much to anyone. I was like ‘let us see, first let the results come and only then I can say something’. Until I prove it, no one was going to believe it. 

Saina Nehwal kisses her gold medal after winning the Indian Open last month.

“I just waited for my time, did my training, believed in myself. And the confidence that was zero before, Vimal made me really believe. Every day he told me ‘first of all get your confidence back’. Every session he made me feel like a champion.”

Things kept getting better from then on. Last March, the 25-year-old became the first Indian to reach the finals of the prestigious All England Open and followed that up by capturing the India Open title. On April 2, 2015, she was officially world No1.

In a remarkable coincidence, 10 days later, tennis player Sania Mirza became the first Indian woman to be crowned world No1 when she rose to the top of the doubles rankings of the WTA.

While Nehwal and Mirza had their own journey to success, it’s impossible not to notice the similarities between them. Both are trailblazers in India, champions and boast strong personalities. The two icons even speak in a similar tone, exuding confidence and insisting that Indian women are tough and can reach the pinnacle of whatever they set their hearts on.

“Sania is a great player. She also came in the limelight in 2005 and I came up a year after that. There have been a lot of coincidences with Sania, a lot of titles together. What she’s doing for the country is great and finally achieving world No1 status in doubles, doing it together, that’s great,” said Nehwal, currently No2 in the rankings.

“I would now say that women in India will believe, if Saina and Sania can do it, when Mary Kom (five-time World Amateur Boxing champion) can do it, why not we? We’re an inspiration for girls in India. I think after they see our achievements there will be a lot of girls who will want to play sports. Especially the parents, I would like to tell them ‘let your daughters do whatever they want to. We have many engineers, many doctors, many people who study a lot, but we don’t have many sportspersons’. 

“We have a lot of talent, it’s just that we don’t want to come out of our comfort zones.”

It’s no surprise Nehwal refers to parents as a crucial factor in an athlete’s career. Her mother and father have played a big role in her development. When she was eight years old, her family moved from north of India to Hyderabad. 

Nehwal missed her friends so picked up karate as a way to entertain herself and she became a brown belt. But her heart wasn’t in it and she soon picked up badminton as an alternative.

“My mum, when I was only nine, told me ‘Saina, you’re going to get an Olympic medal for me’ and I was like ‘please don’t joke with me, I just started playing and you’re telling me to win an Olympic medal’,” laughs Nehwal. 

“She was the one who said at that age that I could do it. And finally I have an Olympic medal and she’s like ‘see, if you believe it and really want to achieve it, you can do it’.

“It was like a fairytale I would say, like a dream. Nothing was decided. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a champion someday. I just joined badminton because I wanted to have some fun, I wanted to play sport.”

And that simple notion has transpired into Saina Nehwal, world No1 and history-making Indian champion.  

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