Hands raised in mutual celebration, two of the world’s leading ultra-trail runners crossed the finish line of the first ever OMAN by UTMB event together on Friday as joint winners while hundreds of fellow competitors run on into their second night out on the trail.
American runner Jason Schlarb was arm-in-arm with the extrovert Swiss athlete Diego ‘Zpeedy’ Pazos as they completed the challenging mountain course at Al Hamra early on Friday afternoon.
Both high-profile members of the international ultra-trail community, the winning duo took 20 hours, 45 minutes and 37 seconds to cover the 137km route through the Akhdar mountain range.
Schlarb, from Durango in Colorado, was the top US finisher in the 2014 UTMB Mont Blanc classic, while Lausanne-based Pazos is renowned for his world-class performances as well as his bow tie.
Soon after the finish an elated Schlarb said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to win the first ever OMAN by UTMB and to share it with someone like Diego was a dream come true. We didn’t discuss it until the last 20k when we worked together and pushed each other – we both ran faster and harder than we would ever have done on our own.”
And he added: “The course was unbelievably challenging – technical and exciting all at once. The people were hugely inviting and wonderful, shaking my hand, it was great.”
His emotions were seconded by Pazos: “It is a unique emotion and to share it with Jason is very nice as well. I am more than happy as I did not expect that!
“The course was more than challenging. It’s really incredible – the most challenging race I have ever done that’s for sure.”
🎥 @jasonschlarb and @diegopazos_ have won the first ever #OmanbyUTMB 😃 Starting last night in the cover of darkness, they fought their way through the heights of Jebel Akhdar across 137km, finishing in 20:45:37. Check out how the action went down! pic.twitter.com/nNz2JXNPBL— Oman by UTMB® (@OmanbyUTMB) November 30, 2018
Third place overall went to Russian ultra-trail regular Aleksei Tolstenko, 42 minutes behind the leading duo, with Lithuanian star Gediminas Grinius – the 2016 Ultra Trail World Tour champion – in fourth ahead of Uganda-based British runner Alfred Pearce-Higgins.
OMAN by UTMB delivered a course that was as beautiful as it was challenging, with stages that were demanding and technical as well as awe-inspiring.
Predictably, a highlight of the event was a tricky traverse of a steep and exposed rock face on the way up to the Hotel Alila Jebel Akhdar, one of the event partners. Uniquely for a UTMB event, cables were provided to assist the runners on this section.
And one of the final sections of the race, just before the stunning Misfat Al Abriyyin, saw the runners face a daunting 1,100m ascent which the leaders managed to negotiate in an impressive hour and a half.
The British and Irish Lions rugby league tour down under in 2019 is back on following a two-day meeting of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) delegates in Singapore.
A commitment to reinstate the Lions tours was made by the Rugby Football League last year but thrown into doubt by a recent counter-proposal from Australia, who instead wanted the Kangaroos to tour the UK in 2019.
However, the RLIF says it has brokered an agreement for the Lions to tour the southern hemisphere in 2019 and 2024, while the Kangaroos will tour the UK in 2020 and New Zealand will follow up this year’s tour with a similar visit to the UK in 2022.
The RLIF board says it has agreed to undertake consultation with stakeholders to finalise details for the next two four-year cycles to present to a planned World rugby League Congress in the UK in November.
They're back!— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) July 30, 2018
For the first time in 12 years a British and Irish Lions rugby league side will compete against teams from the southern hemisphere.
More: https://t.co/60vlfTLFBz pic.twitter.com/Xu3qaxP8my
Key elements of the new calendar include:
– Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and 2025
– Kangaroos Tour to UK in 2020
– Kiwi Tour to UK in 2018 and 2022
– Lions tour to southern hemisphere in 2019 and 2024
– Nines World Cup in 2019 and 2023
– 2019 Championships for the Pacific nations in a mid and end of season
– 2018 European Championship (and then at two-year intervals)
– 2018 Australia v New Zealand Test (annually to 2022)
“There’s clearly still some detail to be finalised but this is a fantastic announcement that has been a long time coming,” said RLIF chairman John Grant.
“It should give great heart and confidence to our international community.
“It reflects the broad diversity that exists across our RLIF member nations and we believe it can provide the certainty our fans, players and commercial stakeholders need to make long-term commitments to international rugby league.”
The Lions Tour is back on! Full details of the international calendar here after the RLIF meeting in Singapore over the weekend.https://t.co/qULhDG5ZDf— League Express (@leagueexpress) July 30, 2018
The Kangaroos tour in 2020 will delight the Rugby Football League, who wanted a high-profile international programme that year to increase interest in the 2021 World Cup to be held in England.
However, there is no confirmation in the draft plan for England’s annual mid-season Test in the United States.
The international against New Zealand in Denver in June was part of a three-year agreement with Australian promoter Jason Moore to which the RFL say it remains committed.
The match went ahead despite opposition from the NRL and the Australian players association over player welfare issues and the RLIF has agreed to hold a review into the process and criteria it applies to sanctioning international matches.
“The Denver Test exposed all of us alike to this performance standard and has been a positive catalyst for this review,” said RLIF chief executive Nigel Wood, the former RFL chief executive.
The board will also work on proposals for governance reform and agreed a range of constitutional changes to be brought before a general meeting in the UK in November.
The summit in Singapore was attended by RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer and chairman Brian Barwick, who stepped down from the board after four and a half years.
Basketball Australia’s chief revealed the players feared for their safety after a mass brawl with the Philippines in Monday’s World Cup qualifier.
Players of both nations exchanged flying kicks and punches where 13 were ejected following the melee. It came after a Philippines player appeared to catch an opponent with an elbow.
Speaking in a press conference on Tuesday, Basketball Australia’s chief executive Anthony Moore said: “We had our players and team management and our coaches in fear of their physical safety. Are we going to be able to get out of here unscathed?”
The visitors kept their players and coaches courtside after the game and sought help from the Australian embassy to get the team safely out to their bus and their hotel.
“Our athletes and coaches actually stayed on the court for a considerable amount of time, (it was) the safest place for our players and our coaches,” he added.
FIBA confirmed both Australia and the Philippines will receive punishments.