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BEIJING, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has denied she ever accused anyone of sexual assault, adding that she herself had deleted her social media post in November that had appeared to make such a claim.
The well-being of Peng, a three-time Olympian, became a matter of global concern when she appeared to allege on social media that a former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past.
In an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe at a hotel in Beijing, Peng denied she had made such allegations.
“In the text we could see in Europe, you accused someone of sexual assault. What did you really write? We don’t understand,” asked the paper.
“Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way,” said Peng, without elaborating.
In her now-deleted post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, Peng had written “why did you take me to your house and force me into having relations with you?”, though she also described the relationship with Zhang as an on-off one that was also consensual.
The post led the Women’s Tennis Association to suspend tournaments in China and caused an international outcry about her safety.
Discussion of the scandal has been heavily censored in China’s tightly controlled cyberspace and searches for Peng’s name on Weibo continue to show no recent search results.
Peng has not updated her Weibo account since the post was removed.
Asked about the interview by Reuters on Monday, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said it was up to Peng to communicate her situation.
“We said what we had to say, the communication is up to her, it is her life, it is her story and this is why the communication is up to her,” said Bach, who had dinner with Peng in Beijing on Saturday.
Peng told the French paper her social media post had caused a “huge misunderstanding”, repeating comments reported by a Singapore media outlet in December, and that she did not want “any further media hype” about it.
“I’d like to say that feelings, sports and politics are three very distinct things. My lovelife problems, my personal life must not be mingled with sports and politics,” she was quoted as saying.
“And sports must not be politicised because when that happens, most of the time it means turning one’s back on the Olympic spirit and it goes against the will of the sporting world and the athletes.”
The interview was conducted in Chinese and translated into English by a Chinese Olympic official during the interview, as well as an interpreter based in Paris, said the paper.
Questions were submitted in advance, and the paper agreed to publish Peng’s responses without commentary, it said.
Peng, pictured wearing a red tracksuit top with the characters for China on it, also sought to allay fears over her safety, saying her life since November had been “nothing special”. She denied she had “disappeared” after the furore when she was not seen in public for weeks.
She also said she had not been aware of the worries expressed by the international community, such as the use of social media hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai by some of the world’s top tennis players, including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, as she did not watch much foreign media news and could not read in English.
The WTA, which said in December that Peng’s appearances did not address its concerns about her wellbeing, did not immediately respond to a request for comments on her latest remarks.
In a statement on Monday, the IOC said Peng would attend several Olympics events. She also plans to travel to Europe after the pandemic and visit the IOC headquarters in Switzerland, it added.
Peng also said a previous knee injury that had required several rounds of surgery and her age made it unlikely she would compete professionally again.
Reporting by Dominque Patton, Tony Munroe, Natalie Thomas, Karolos Grohmann and Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Lincoln Feast.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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Summer McIntosh of Kelowna, B.C., capped a sensational week of swimming on Saturday, becoming the first Canadian with two victories and four medals at a single world championship.
The 15-year-old lowered her junior record time to four minutes 32.04 seconds in the women’s 400-metre individual medley on Saturday in Budapest, Hungary. Earlier this week, she also set world junior marks in the 200 butterfly (gold) and 400 freelstyle (silver) while earning freestyle relay bronze in the 200.
‘”This is a dream come true,” McIntosh gushed to the crowd in the post swim on-deck interview. At 15 years 311 days, she is the second-youngest winner of the women’s 400 IM behind Tracy Caulkins of the United States, who was 15 years 224 days in her 1978 win in West Berlin.
McIntosh took the lead early in Saturday’s race and waged a battle with American Katie Grimes, who touched the wall in 4:32.67 for her second silver of these worlds after placing second in the 1,500. Teammate Emma Weyant, the 2020 Olympic silver medallist, earned bronze in 4:36.00.
“It’s really cool to race someone like Katie as she is around my age and she’s a really tough competitor,” said McIntosh, who clocked 4:34.86 on April 9 at Canadian trials. “So I’m looking forward to racing her and keep pushing myself.”
WATCH | McIntosh holds off American Katie Grimes for 4th world medal:
Katinka Hosszu of Hungary had her streak of consecutive world titles in the 400 medley halted at four as she finished fourth in 4:37.89. The 33-year-old has won the race five times in her last seven appearances at worlds and still holds the world record of 4:26.36 and 4:29.33 championship mark from 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Canada’s women wrapped up the competition with bronze in the 100 medley relay, matching their result from 2019 worlds.
Kylie Masse, Rachel Nicol, Maggie Mac Neil and anchor Penny Oleksiak stopped the clock in 3:55.01, behind the Americans (3:53.78) and Australia (3:54.25). It was Nicol’s first world medal while Oleksiak broke a tie with Masse with her ninth career medal at the event, all in the relay.
“‘It’s obvious at this point I wouldn’t be here without the team, so it feels weird to claim that title on my own,” Oleksiak told Swimming Canada of her success. ”I feel really lucky to be part of Team Canada.”
WATCH | Oleksiak sets Canadian record for most medals at aquatics worlds:
Three years ago, Sydney Pickrem, Masse, Mac Neil and Oleksiak posted a time of 3:53.58 in Gwangju, South Korea.
Saturday’s relay bronze was the national record-extending 11th medal — three gold, four silver, four bronze — for Canada at these worlds after it surpassed the mark of eight at a single world championships from 2019 on Friday.
McIntosh only led Grimes by 9-100ths of a second through 50 metres but was 62-100ths ahead midway through the backstroke leg and under world-record pace through 200 metres, in front by 1.33 seconds.
WATCH | McIntosh captures gold in 400m IM:
Hosszu gained ground in the breaststroke and moved into third spot at the 250-metre mark, with McIntosh holding a 2.15-second advantage over Grimes. But Weyant overtook Hosszu for bronze position through 300 metres and stayed there while Grimes closed to within 98-100ths of McIntosh with 50 metres remaining.
“It’s surreal” <br><br>Summer McIntosh continues the legacy of her mom, Jill, in the 200m butterfly at <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/FINABudapest2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#FINABudapest2022</a> <a href=”https://t.co/V56I5WGqAn”>https://t.co/V56I5WGqAn</a> <a href=”https://t.co/U3meUDIMkE”>pic.twitter.com/U3meUDIMkE</a>
Last summer, a 14-year-old McIntosh was the youngest member of the Canadian Olympic team in Tokyo but certainly didn’t show her age on the world’s grandest athletic stage.
WATCH | McIntosh swims to world silver in 400m freestyle:
She placed fourth in the 400 free, at that point lowering the Canadian record twice. She was ninth in the 200 free and 11th in the 800 free, setting a national age group record. McIntosh was also part of the 200 relay squad that finished fourth in national record time, while her opening-leg swim broke the Canadian age group record.
At national trials two months ago in Victoria, McIntosh turned heads by winning four events and swimming the 400 free in the third-fastest time this year.
WATCH | McIntosh wins world 200m butterfly semifinal in junior record time:
In the women’s medley relay, the Americans were favoured for gold while the Swedish foursome of Hanna Rosvall, Sophie Hansson, Louise Hansson and Sarah Sjoestroem were the fastest in qualifying in 3:56.77.
Masse, who fell short of the 200 backstroke podium on Friday in her bid for a third medal in Hungary, got the Canadians off to a quick start with the second-fastest reaction time at 0.54 and led Regan Smith of the U.S. for top spot through 50 metres and by 1-100th at the end of the leg.
Nichol took over in backstroke and fell off the pace, trailing the Americans 1.27 seconds. Mac Neil fell behind by 1.51 halfway through the butterfly and by 1.40 when anchor Penny Oleksiak entered the pool for the free.
Canada’s most decorated Olympian ever was unable to close the gap in the first half of her leg but managed to draw closer near the wall and finished 1.23 seconds off the winning time.
WATCH | Canada reaches podium in women’s medley relay:
Masse, who won gold in the 50 backstroke and silver in the 100 earlier this week, is tied for second with Ryan Cochrane with eight career medals.
“It’s always special to be part of a relay team,” said Masse, based at HPC-Ontario. “It’s nice to be doing it more than just yourself and that always pushes me.”
The American quartet of Lilly King, Torri Huske, Claire Curzan and Smith proved too strong for the rest of the field.
“We take a lot of pride in that relay and really wanted to put in a good time and get that gold back from last summer [ at the Olympics]. We came out and did that, and it was a great race,” said Curzan, who anchored the U.S. home.
On Friday, the 22-year-old Oleksiak provided her trademark finishing kick in the mixed 100 relay, overtaking Curzan to push Canada to a silver medal with a national record time of 3:20.61. All eight of her medals (two silver, six bronze) have come in the relay.
WATCH | Oleksiak anchors Canada to mixed relay silver medal:
Oleksiak was fourth in the women’s 100 freestyle on Thursday, reaching the finish an agonizing 6-100ths behind bronze medallist Huske. The Toronto native won gold in the event at the 2016 Rio Olympics and placed fourth last summer in Tokyo.
WATCH | Oleksiak narrowly misses bronze in 100m freestyle:
Mollie O’Callaghan won Thursday’s competition before anchoring the Australian medley relay team to silver two days later.
In the men’s 4×100 medley relay, Canada’s Javier Acevedo, James Dergousoff, Joshua Liendo and Ruslan Gaziev swam to 11th in the preliminaries in 3:35.62.
Liendo led all Canadian men this week with bronze in the 100 free and 100 fly and silver in the mixed 100 free relay.
WATCH | Liendo bursts to bronze in 100m butterfly:
Justin Ress of the United States won gold in the 50 backstroke in dramatic circumstances after officials overturned his initial disqualification following a lengthy review.
Victory was earlier awarded to compatriot Hunter Armstrong after it was ruled that no part of Ress’s body was above the water as he reached first for the wall.
Ress, who had set the pace in the heats and the semifinals, was later reinstated as the winner and the medal ceremony held again, with Armstrong taking silver and Polish teenager Ksawery Masiuk having to settle for bronze.
In other action:
Meilutyte was handed a 24-month suspension in 2019 for anti-doping violations and returned to competitive action only in December last year.
Action in Budapest continues Sunday for live action beginning at 7 a.m. ET with the open water swimming team relay, followed by Canada vs. Netherlands in the women’s water polo crossover game at 8 ET.
The first diving final, men’s 3-metre springboard synchro, is scheduled for 10 a.m.
Coverage continues every day through July 3. Click on the link below for a full schedule of events.
SAINT JOHN, N.B. — The Shawinigan Cataractes scored 49 seconds into Saturday’s final round robin game at the Memorial Cup and enjoyed a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Then William Dufour of the Saint John Sea Dogs said “hold my (root) beer.”
Dufour, the 2020 fifth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders, rattled off three consecutive goals in the second period and added a fourth in the third as the tournament hosts scored five unanswered goals to defeat the Cataractes 5-3 to earn a berth in Wednesday’s Cup final.
The trip to the final erases a bit of the disappointment of the Sea Dogs’ first-round loss in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The Cataractes, with two wins and a loss in the round robin, will have to beat the Hamilton Bulldogs in Monday’s semifinal game to get another shot at their QMJHL rival.
Jeremie Poirier scored Saint John’s other goal, while teammate Josh Lawrence added two assists. The Sea Dogs finished the round robin with two wins and an overtime loss.
Loris Rafanomezantsoa, Olivier Nadeau and William Veillette scored for Shawinigan, who outshot the Sea Dogs 15-10 in the first period but were outshot 21-5 in the second.
The six-foot-three Dufour, named MVP of the QMJHL this season, had 56 goals and 116 points during the QMJHL regular season.
“To finish my (junior) career like this is so great,” said the 20-year-old Dufour, calling the win one of his greatest moments in hockey. “We have one more game to win. We’re just going to go for it.”
POKE CHECKS: The Hamilton Bulldogs, who finished the round robin portion of the 102nd Memorial Cup championship with one regulation win for three points, lost to the Sea Dogs 5-4 on June 20, then dropped a 3-2 decision to the Cataractes on June 23, before beating the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-2 on Friday. The Oil Kings finished the tournament with one overtime win and two losses for two points and failed to make the playoffs. … Next year’s Memorial Cup will be held in Kamloops, B.C., home of the Western Hockey League Blazers who won the national tournament in 1992, 1994 and 1995.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022
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