Monthly Archives: March 2019

Australian swim coach to lean on Hackett 

The return of comeback king Grant Hackett could not have come at a better time for Australian head swimming coach Jacco Verhaeren.

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It seems he will need all the advice he can get as he ponders whether world champion James Magnussen’s controversial coaching switch has been the right one ahead of July’s world titles in Kazan, Russia.

Verhaeren admitted it would be a challenge to manage a Dolphins outfit with ages ranging from 16-year-old sprint sensation Kyle Chalmers to veteran Hackett – 18 years his senior.

However, Verhaeren claimed he would pick Hackett’s brain ahead of the worlds after the dual Olympic champion completed one of the great comebacks by sealing a team berth in his first major meet since the 2008 Olympics.

“It’s fantastic. It’s great to have someone of his status, his name, in the team,” Verhaeren said of Hackett who will inspire the 4x200m relay team.

“I am curious what he has to say about the team because he can actually relate to the team of the past – which I was not a part of – and what it looks like now.

“With his experience, he can add value.”

And Verhaeren looks like he needs a shoulder to lean on with the jury still out on Magnussen’s heavily scrutinised call to ditch the man who led him to two world titles – Brant Best – before national titles in Sydney.

Magnussen produced well below his best when upstaged by Cameron McEvoy in the 100m final and will be kept honest by the emergence of teen sensation Chalmers.

But Magnussen believed he was on track to win a record third straight 100m world title in Kazan with a confidence-boosting national 50m win in Sydney.

Yet, Verhaeren sounded like he needed a bit more convincing.

“First, we have to be happy that he has made the team,” he said.

“He achieved his goal to be able to defend his world title.

“But it’s obvious he needs to be able to improve to do that.

“Working together for the next six months, hopefully he can do the job.”

Asked if he believed Magnussen had made the right choice by linking with unknown mentors Mitch and Lach Falvey, Verhaeren said: “It’s the right mix because he chose it.

“We respect an athlete’s choice – and we will find out in the future whether it was the best possible choice.”

The Australian team has reverted to the Dolphins name after a dramatic turnaround in and out of the pool since the London Olympic debacle.

But Verhaeren did not believe they had taken a step backwards despite just five team members holding world No.1 rankings – albeit across nine events.

They are Cameron McEvoy (100m freestyle), Mack Horton (400m, 1500m freestyle), Cate Campbell (50m, 100m freestyle), Emily Seebohm (50m, 100, 200m backstroke) and Madeline Groves (200m butterfly).

Meanwhile, Bronte Campbell finally turned the tables on world champion sister Cate Campbell on Friday night in the 50m freestyle final at the national championships.

Bronte Campbell (24.19) notched her maiden Australian title – and winning over her older sibling (24.33).

Cate Campbell – back from off-season shoulder surgery – is still unbeaten over 100m since late 2012.

Mack Horton broke Hackett’s 16-year-old 18-year age record by almost five seconds when he clocked a personal best 14.44.09 to defend his 1500m freestyle title.

Other winners on the final night were Thomas Fraser-Holmes (men’s 400m IM), Keryn McMaster (women’s 400m IM), Leiston Pickett (50m breaststroke) and Ben Treffers (50m backstroke).

Hackett headlined the 38-strong national team featuring six rookies heading to Kazan that was confirmed on Friday night after the titles.

World champion 100m breaststroker Christian Sprenger earned a nod thanks to selectors’ discretionary powers after battling to recover from a shoulder complaint at the titles.

But five-time London Olympic medallist Alicia Coutts’ career appears over after missing the cut following a battle with a shoulder injury and motivation.

Coutts is set to marry later this year.

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Bollywood’s Vidya Balan in Australia to promote ‘equality’ 

Vidya Balan is well-known in the Indian film industry as an actress willing to take an unconventional approach to her work.

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“Vidya is I think, one of the few Bollywood stars slash actors that we’ve had, who has done amazing, meaningful work, which has a lot of depth and substance, and yet been very commercially successful as well,” said Festival Director, Mitu Bhowmick-Lange.

“When Vidya says something, it makes news, everybody talks about it, everybody discusses it.”

She portrays strong female protagonists and though she believes the intention isn’t to impose her films on anyone, she is clearly happy the underlying message is getting through.

“I veer towards women who live their lives on their own terms, the way they want to, unapologetically.”

“If a character or a story  feels compelling to me, then I want to tell that. I veer towards women who live their lives on their own terms, the way they want to, unapologetically,” Vidya said.

“It’s also boring when you preach. If it happens along the way, that’s great. But I think it always happens, when you’re just responding instinctively.”

So it’s no surprise then, that Vidya has been chosen as the ambassador of this year’s Melbourne Indian Film Festival, whose theme is “Equality”.

“Whether it’s disability, gender equality, any kind of stereotyping which could be a sort of impediment, is being addressed now,” Vidya said.

“We can’t have myopic views of things anymore. We have to be aware, first. And awareness is the first step to action.”

Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick-Lange says the programming will reflect the theme.

“Equality of gender, sexuality, disability, and race… the diversity that defines us, needs to be celebrated.”

And at a time when violence against women has been making headlines in India – and around the world – it’s hoped themes on the silver screen can help drive cultural change.

“The format of the Indian film is changing. Previously people wanted to watch an Indian film because they wanted to watch the colour and the splendour… but today I think there’s a certain universality in the language, the idiom, of film.”

“Art, culture, film, they’re all ways and means, to bring people together and that can only happen with change occurs.”

The Melbourne Indian Film Festival will be held between August 14 – 27, this year coinciding with India’s Independence Day on August 15th.

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I will shake Terry’s hand after derby, says QPR’s Ramsey 

The Chelsea captain was banned for four games and fined 220,000 pounds ($321,500) after being found guilty by the Football Association of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League game in 2011.

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Terry was later cleared following a criminal trial.

QPR fans are expected to vent their feelings at Terry again on Sunday, when Ramsey’s side will be hoping for a victory to ease their relegation fears and leaders Chelsea will aim to take another step towards the Premier League title.

“Ultimately, John Terry is a player of Chelsea and I am the manager of QPR, and as a man and a person I would shake John’s hand after the game,” Ramsey, one of six managers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds in the English professional leagues, told a news conference on Friday.

“I don’t know what his feelings are towards me. But as long as there wasn’t anything unprofessional on the field by him, I would shake his hand.

“It was an episode for British society that sat uncomfortably, and it’s not something you want to highlight in football. But it’s been dealt with and we have to move on.”

Ramsey said the reaction of QPR fans towards Terry was understandable.

“Fans are fans and it would be odd to think there wouldn’t be extra feelings towards that situation,” he said.

It was thought Terry might come face-to-face on Sunday with his former England team mate and QPR defender Rio Ferdinand – Anton’s brother — but Ramsey confirmed that Ferdinand will be out with an ankle injury.

Chelsea are seven points ahead of second-placed Arsenal and clear favourites to clinch their fourth league crown in 11 seasons, and Ramsey accepted that Sunday’s game carried more significance for QPR.

Ramsey’s side are third from bottom, two points from safety, with six games remaining. They have lost their last five home league games.

“Chelsea can afford to have a blip and still win the league,” Ramsey said. “We need to pick up every point we can. We are expecting a tough game but the players will be up for it.”

(Writing by Stephen Wood, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Mercedes keeping close eye on Ferrari in Shanghai 

The day got off to a promising start for Mercedes, who appeared to have regained their dominant stride in the cooler Chinese conditions after Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had benefited from the sweltering heat to win in Malaysia.

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World champion Hamilton did end the day at the top of the timesheets in both practice sessions at the Shanghai International Circuit but his one second early advantage was sliced in half by Kimi Raikkonen in the afternoon.

Running longer stints than both Mercedes on the faster soft-compound tyres on a warming track, the Finn’s race pace was quick enough to suggest another strategic battle is likely to be waged between the teams on Sunday.

“I don’t know but they look very quick,” said Hamilton, who heads the championship standings by three points over Vettel having led a Mercedes one-two in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg.

“It’s quite close between us and Ferrari and Nico’s quite quick as well, so I think we definitely have a race.”

The Maranello-based squad also looked strong in race simulation runs and while Hamilton is expecting a close contest, he is hoping a horsepower advantage will keep Mercedes ahead at a circuit with the longest straight on the Formula One calendar.

“The Ferraris look like they’re just as quick as they were in the last race,” added Hamilton, who is hunting for a record-extending fourth win in China.

“I think it’s going to be close but I think we’ve got the power to stay ahead.”

Rosberg said that while he felt Mercedes had the better qualifying speed, the team’s long-run pace needed to be analysed overnight.

The German finished second to Hamilton in the opening session but could only manage fifth in the afternoon after making a mistake and running wide at the final corner on his fastest flying lap.

“It was okay, not ideal, but all in all it was good because we found the direction with the set up slowly but surely, not 100 percent sure but it’s okay,” said Rosberg, who claimed his maiden pole position and win at the Shanghai circuit in 2012.

“In terms of one-lap pace I think we’re the quickest. In terms of race pace let’s wait and see. I don’t know, we need to analyse our tyre wear.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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Barca’s Alba fit for La Liga clash at Sevilla 

“The defender is healthy again after suffering a right adductor injury in Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifier versus Ukraine (last month),” Barca said on their website ahead of the clash at Sevilla’s Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.

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Barca could have their four-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid cut to a point before they take to the pitch in the Andalusian capital as Real host La Liga debutantes Eibar earlier on Saturday.

The Catalan giants are well placed to repeat 2009’s historic treble under Pep Guardiola. They play their Champions League quarter-final, first leg at Paris St Germain on Wednesday and meet Athletic Bilbao in the King’s Cup final at the end of May.

Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic will play against his old club at the Europa League champions’ intimidating arena for the first time since leaving last July if, as expected, he is selected by coach Luis Enrique.

“Every team that come to the Pizjuan know how tough it is to play there and the fans there add to that pressure,” the Croatia international said on Barca’s website on Friday.

“But playing for Sevilla you also know how tough it is to play against Barca. We always had a very hard time,” added the 27-year-old.

“We’ve got eight matches to go this season and to win this game would be pretty big.

“I’m going to give it my all to help my teammates. I always want to win, whether I’m training or playing cards with my wife.”

Barca have 74 points in first place, with Real on 70, five ahead of champions Atletico Madrid, who play at Malaga on Saturday.

Valencia are three points further back in fourth ahead of their game at home to Real Sociedad on Monday. Sevilla are fifth with 61 points.

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Stephen Wood)

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