Heroes set to steal Rio limelight

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Gearing up for glory: Athletes who could shine in Rio

With over 11,000 athletes competing in 42 sporting disciplines, the next two weeks will undoubtedly feature some incredible moments that will go down in Olympic history.

Here are 16 candidates likely to create such moments in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this month.

Athletics

Usain Bolt (JAM)

Date of birth: August 21, 1986

The world’s fastest man is looking to finish his Olympics career with a bang, as he hopes to become the first man to pull-off the triple-triple – winning 100m, 200m, and 4x100m gold for a third straight Games. A hamstring problem in the build-up forced him to miss the Jamaican Trials last month but his showing at the London Anniversary Games implies he’s fit and ready to go.

Genzebe Dibaba (ETH)

Date of birth: February 8, 1991

Following in the footsteps of her older sisters, Ejegayehu (10,000m silver medallist in Athens 2004), and Tirunesh (three-time Olympic gold medallist), Genzebe has been tipped to even surpass her siblings’ success. Broke the 22-year-old world record in the 1,500m in Monaco last year and is hot favourite for gold in that event.

Genzebe Dibaba

Genzebe Dibaba

Cycling

Chris Froome (GBR)

Date of birth: May 20, 1985

After becoming the first man to defend the Tour de France title since 1995, Froome is gunning for more glory as he targets a double-gold in the Time Trial and the Road Race. The Kenyan-born Brit already has an Olympics bronze medal from the Time Trial in London four years ago and looks to do even better in the Games in Brazil.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome

Football

Neymar (BRA)

Date of birth: February 5, 1992

The Barcelona forward will captain Brazil in their quest to capture an elusive Olympic gold medal in men’s football. One of three players over the age of 23 in Brazil’s squad, Neymar is tasked with bringing his nation a first football Olympic gold, with the added pressure of it being on home soil. Rio will be a true test of character for the talismanic striker.

Neymar

Neymar

Mallory Pugh (USA)

Date of birth: April 29, 1998

The only non-professional on Jill Ellis’ Team USA roster, Pugh is tipped to steal the spotlight in Rio. The 18-year-old is the second youngest player to suit up for a US Olympic football team and is considered the future face of US soccer. The teenager scored on her senior national team debut back in January and has scored two more since, along with a teamhigh seven assists.

Basketball

Kevin Durant (USA)

Date of birth: September 29, 1988

Following a much-discussed, highprofile switch from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors, the 27-year-old Durant will be targeting his second Olympic gold medal with basketball’s Team USA. With team-mates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green also on the roster, we’ll be getting a sneak preview of what’s to come next season with the Warriors.

Wrestling

Saori Yoshida (JPN)

Date of birth: October 5, 1982

Japan’s unbeaten warrior, daughter of Eikatsu Yoshida, an Olympic freestyle champion at Tokyo 1964, is the most decorated athlete in freestyle wrestling history and will be going for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in Rio to maintain her perfect record at the Games. Yoshida is the first female captain of the Japan national team and has won 13 straight world titles dating back to 2002.

Saori Yoshida

Saori Yoshida

Golf

Henrik Stenson (SWE)

Date of birth: April 5, 1976

The world No5 is the hottest player in golf right now, having won two titles in his last three starts, including the Open Championship at Royal Troon. An unabashed fan of Olympics, the 40-year-old Stenson’s confidence is at an all-time high and he is eager to give his season a golden shine.

Lydia Ko (NZL)

Date of birth: April 24, 1997

The world No1 Korean-born New Zealander will be leading the ladies field as golf makes its return to the Olympics schedule.

The two-time major winner was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014. When she rose to No1 as a 17-year-old last year, she became the youngest player ever – male or female – to top the golf world rankings.

Lydia Ko

Lydia Ko

Diving

Qiu Bo (CHN)

Date of birth: January 31, 1993

The three-time reigning 10m platform World Champion was shocked by David Boudia in London 2012 and ended up taking a surprising silver. Will be seeking redemption in Rio as he hopes to best Boudia and Tom Daley.

Ren Qian (CHN)

Date of birth: February 20, 2001

Aged 14, Ren Qian won silver in the 10m platform at the World Championships in Kazan last year. The teenage prodigy scored a perfect 10 in a Diving World Cup in February and is a definite medal contender for China.

Ren Qian

Ren Qian

Swimming

Michael Phelps (USA)

Date of birth: June 30, 1985

With 22 Olympic medals including 18 gold, is there any reason why Phelps is still swimming? The answer is: Yes. Phelps will not just be shooting for more history in the pool in Rio, he’ll also be seeking redemption. Following a second DUI and some time spent in rehab, Phelps wants to see how far he can go when he’s fully fit and committed. We’re curious as well.

Katie Ledecky (USA)

Date of birth: March 17, 1997

At just 19, it is truly remarkable what Ledecky has already achieved. Besides her 800m freestyle gold in London – whichshe won when she was 15 with the second-fastest performance ever – Ledecky owns nine World Championship (50m) golds and has set 11 world records, including her current marks in the 400, 800and 1,500m freestyle.

Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky

Gymnastics

Simone Biles (USA)

Date of birth: March 14, 1997

The London Olympics was historic for US gymnastics with the “Fierce Five” winningjust the second-ever team gold for USAand Gabby Douglas becoming the first African-American all-round gold medallist. Yet Biles is somehow creating an even bigger buzz ahead of Rio as arguably the most dominant gymnast of all-time.

She’s won three consecutive World Championships – the first to do so – and owns 14 World Championship medals, including 10 gold, in just three years at the senior level.

Tennis

Novak Djokovic (SRB)

Date of birth: May 22, 1987

With a sole bronze medal from Beijing 2008, Djokovic will be fiercly chasing Olympic gold in Rio, where he is playing doubles alongside Nenad Zimonjic, and is the top seed in the singles draw.

After completing the career Grand Slam by winning an elusive French Open title in June, Olympic gold appears to be the only accolade missing from Djokovic’s resume.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Serena Williams (USA)

Date of birth: September 26, 1981

Already the owner of four Olympic gold medals, dating back to Sydney 2000, Serena is in contention for at least two more as she headlines the women’s field in singles and is joining Venus in doubles action.

Fresh off a Wimbledon title triumph that saw her equal Steffi Graf’s Open Era record off 22 grand slams, Olympic gold is now the next main target for the American tennis queen.

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Princess to oversee women's sport in Saudi Arabia

Sport360 staff 08:10 03/08/2016
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Princess Reema.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan was named head of the women’s section at the General Authority for Sports, which acts as the kingdom’s sports ministry, the official SPA news agency said. It did not specify what her responsibilities would be.

Princess Reema is the daughter of the once powerful Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years until 2005. She was educated in the United States.

“I am honoured to serve my nation,” SPA quoted Princess Reema as saying.

Women face significant obstacles to competing in sport in Saudi Arabia, where women are deprived of certain rights, have to cover from head to toe and not allowed to drive.

Four Saudi female athletes are however taking part in the Olympics this year in Rio, where they were due to arrive with seven Saudi men on Monday.

However, they were not present at the Saudi welcoming ceremony at the athletes’ village as the country’s National Olympic Committee confirmed the women were yet to arrive.

Those sportswomen include marathon runner Sarah al-Attar, judoka Wujud Fahmi, fencer Lubna al-Omair and 100m runner Cariman Abu al-Jadail.

Both Attar and Fahmi were returning to the Games after they became the country’s first female Olympians in London four years ago.

In a first in 2014, a Saudi state school introduced sports for girls, after a call for lifting a ban on women in sports.

Saudi authorities shut down private gyms for women in 2009 and 2010, and women are effectively barred from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public.

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Saudi runner breaks gender barriers in Rio marathon

Sport360 staff 23:15 02/08/2016
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Sarah Attar.

Pioneer Saudi sportswoman Sarah Attar has already raced at the Olympics, but now her campaign will become a marathon as she uses the Rio Games to break down barriers in the conservative kingdom.

Attar turned heads in the head-to-toe outfit she patched together with her mother to race in the 800 metres at the 2012 London Games, where she was one of the first Saudi women Olympians.

This time Attar, now 23, will take on the gruelling 42 kilometer (26 mile) marathon race in Rio, where four Saudi women will take part.

The women and seven Saudi men arrived in Rio on Monday, but were kept away from prying media.

Gender divisions are so sensitive that the Saudi Olympic Committee website did not name the women who will represent the country.

Along with Attar, they are judoka Wujud Fahmi, fencer Lubna al-Omair and 100m runner Cariman Abu al-Jadail.

None qualified directly for their competition, but will take part with special invitations from the International Olympic Committee.

Attar has no regrets and no doubts about running in London and Rio.

“I was going for the women in Saudi Arabia, for all the young girls to have someone in the Olympics representing them, giving them a picture of something they could one day strive for,” she said in a recent article for the Like The Wind runners’ magazine.

Attar finished last in her 800 metres heat in London, more than half a minute behind her nearest rival. She still got a standing ovation when she crossed the line.

The Californian with Saudi-US nationality has never run under three hours in four attempts on the Boston marathon, but can no doubt expect a similar acclaim in Rio.

Taking part in sport is not easy for Saudi women and finding women to go to the London Olympics was a challenge. Someone knew of the half-Saudi girl in California who liked running and so an invitation was made.

“My mom and I pieced together an outfit: a long-sleeve shirt, full-length running tights, and a head cover we found online,” Attar told Marie-Claire magazine.

“I was proud to wear the uniform and liked that wearing the appropriate dress connected me to Saudi girls who want to run and have to be covered while they do it.”

Since London, Attar has become a sponsored athlete training with elite women runners in Mammoth Lakes, California.

Attar and her family have also noticed change in Saudi Arabia since the London Games.

Her father, Amer Attar, told the Washington Post how on a 2011 visit, when his daughter wanted to go on a run, he gave her a boyish “cap and warm-up pants” and drove beside her.

Last year, he saw men and women running together in Jeddah.

“I even saw a guy with his, I think, looked like his wife, and they were holding hands and running together. And she was wearing the abaya, and she was covered up, but they were actually running.”

Still, the IOC has rejected a suggestion by a Saudi Arabian official the conservative kingdom could jointly host the Olympics with neighbouring Bahrain, holding men’s and women’s events in separate states.

President Thomas Bach said “a commitment to ‘non-discrimination’ will be mandatory for all countries hoping to bid for the Olympics in the future”.

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