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Winter Olympics: China stirs controversy with Uighur torchbearer – Al Jazeera English

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China’s move to thrust a young Uighur athlete into the spotlight at the climax of the Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremony has placed her at the centre of longtime controversy over rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a 20-year-old cross-country skier, trained for years to fulfil every child’s dream to star at the Olympics.

But her prominent, smiling appearance as the final Olympic torchbearer on Friday along with 21-year-old biathlete Zhao Jiawen at the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium in front of thousands of spectators and TV cameras had clear political overtones.

She is from the Uighur minority from the region of Xinjiang, where China’s ruling Communist Party is accused of widespread human rights abuses.

Following Yilamujiang’s appearance on television across the world, Chinese diplomats shared videos on Twitter of her family clapping as they watched the ceremony on screen, some dabbing tears from their eyes.

China has repeatedly exhorted its critics to stop “politicising” the Olympic Games, overshadowed by issues including human rights violations, COVID, and fears of what will happen to athletes if they speak out at the games.

Asked by journalists if Yilamujiang’s inclusion met the standard of political neutrality, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said she had “every right” to participate.

“Obviously the opening ceremony is something that the organising committee put together and there’s creative input,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “We are involved to a certain extent.”

“As you’ll know from the Olympic Charter, we don’t discriminate against people on where they’re from, what their background is,” he continued.

“This is an athlete who is competing here, she is competing this morning. She has every right, wherever she comes from, whatever her background, to compete … and to take part in any ceremony.”

Dinigeer Yilamujian, left, was the first Chinese cross-country skiing medallist in an International Ski Federation-level event [Ben Stansall/AFP]

Games organisers said the final handful of torchbearers who entered the stadium with the flame had been picked based on their birth dates with each having been born in a different decade, starting from the 1950s through to the 2000s.

The fate of China’s Uighurs has been at the centre of international alarm.

At least one million people from the mostly Muslim minority have been imprisoned in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, campaigners say, and Chinese authorities have been accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour in the area.

The United States has accused China of genocide, a charge denied by Beijing.

Although world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, were present at the ceremony on Friday, the US, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada were among key countries that did not send diplomatic representatives over rights concerns, especially in relation to the Uighurs.

Ma Haiyun, an expert on Xinjiang and associate professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland, said Yilamujiang’s selection was intended to send a message.

“By selecting a Uighur athlete to light the torch, China is trying to address criticism by the West about genocide or persecution of the Uyghurs, and about sinicisation of ethnic minorities,” he told Reuters news agency.

“But I don’t think this can have much effect on the West, which tends to think most of what China puts up is a show anyway,” Ma added.

China rejects accusations of abuse, describing the camps as vocational centres designed to combat “extremism”, and in late 2019 said all people in the camps had “graduated”.

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‘Breakthrough’ athlete

Yilamujiang started ski training aged 12, according to China Sports Daily, under the guidance of her father – also a cross-country skier who competed nationally.

She joined China’s cross-country skiing team in 2017.

Altay, the part of Xinjiang she is from, has been touted by Chinese state media as the “birthplace of skiing” and a growing winter sports destination.

In 2019, she became the first Chinese cross-country skiing medallist in an International Ski Federation event, with media reports lauding her as having achieved a “breakthrough” for the country in the sport.

Yilamujiang took part in last year’s World Championships, ranking 13th in team sprint and 41st in the 10km competition.

Her first event at Beijing 2022 was a skiathlon on Saturday.

The games run until February 20 and are taking place inside a “closed loop” bubble due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Andreescu's 3-year title drought extended at Wimbledon tune-up in Germany – CBC Sports

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Caroline Garcia won her first tour title in three years after coming back from a set and a break down to beat 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday in the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany.

Andreescu was looking for her first title since beating Serena Williams in the 2019 final at Flushing Meadows before injuries forced her to miss the entire 2020 season.

“I’m very happy. It’s been a couple of rough years but, you know, I’m putting in the work and on to the next. I’m excited for Wimbledon,” said Andreescu, who became visibly emotional while thanking her team. “You guys stuck with me through the toughest moments and that’s all anyone could ever ask for.”

She has drawn American qualifier Emina Bektas in the first round of Wimbledon next week. Garcia has Yuriko Miyazaki of Britain for her opener.

WATCH | Andreescu falls to Garcia in Bad Homburg final:

Andreescu falls to Garcia in Bad Homburg final

1 day ago

Duration 2:40

France’s Caroline Garcia battled past Canadian Bianca Andreescu to win 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 in Germany on Saturday.

Garcia took a medical timeout for what seemed to be a shoulder problem early in the second set. She then went 4-2 down before winning 10 of the next 14 games to seal the match ahead of the start of Wimbledon on Monday.

“It was a fight [for] every point from the first to the last one,” Garcia said.

Garcia is 8-3 in career finals but her last title was almost exactly three years ago in Nottingham in the build-up to the 2019 Wimbledon tournament.

WATCH | Canadian tennis star Andreescu answers questions from kids: 

Bianca Andreescu answers questions from kids

2 days ago

Duration 4:02

Canadian tennis champ Bianca Andreescu answers questions and offers a few words of advice to young athletes from the Ontario Racquet Club in Mississauga.

Kvitova captures Eastbourne title

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova tuned up for the Grand Slam tournament by overpowering Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 to win the Eastbourne title on Saturday in England.

The 14th-seeded Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career overall – after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve.

Kvitova saved five break points in the fourth game of the second set to stay in control of the match at 3-1.

“Playing on the grass is very special for me every time,” the 32-year-old Czech player said in her on-court interview. “It’s the best preparation for Wimbledon, as well.”

Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, plays Tuesday at the All England Club in a first-round match against Jasmine Paolini of Italy.

She is now 5-1 in grass-court finals in her career. Her most recent title on grass had been Birmingham in 2018.

Injured Keys, Coric out of Wimbledon

Madison Keys, the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up, and Borna Coric withdrew from Wimbledon on Saturday because of injuries.

The tournament begins Monday.

Keys, an American who was seeded 19th at the All England Club, pulled out because of a hurt abdominal muscle.

She was replaced in the field by Coco Vandeweghe, twice a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and twice a semifinalist at other Grand Slam tournaments, who lost in qualifying this week. Vandeweghe’s first-round opponent will be No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina.

“This isn’t what I was hoping to say a few days before @Wimbledon, but unfortunately I have to withdraw due to an abdominal injury,” world number 24 Keys tweeted.

“I’m so disappointed, but my health comes first and my body needs time to get back to 100%. Lots of love London fans. See you next year.”

Former world No. 7 Keys won her first title since 2019 at the Adelaide WTA tournament in January before reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open.

She was defeated in the French Open fourth round by Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova.

Coric is a Croatian who got into the field thanks to a protected ranking because he has been injured. He cited a shoulder problem for his withdrawal.

He was drawn to face No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman and that spot will be filled by an as-yet-unannounced player who lost in qualifying.

Jaeger: Sexually harassed ‘at least 30 times’

Former teenage tennis phenom Andrea Jaeger said she was sexually harassed “at least 30 times” by a female Women’s Tennis Association staff member during the 1980s.

Jaeger, now 57, also told The Independent she also was unknowingly served alcohol when she was 16 by a different staff member, who drove her home and tried to kiss her.

The two-time Grand Slam finalist was on the tour from ages 14 to 19 and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world in 1981. Despite her success, she said she made it a habit to avoid WTA officials at tournaments during her five years on tour. Jaeger said much of the harassment occurred in locker rooms.

“I’d change in portable toilets or a bathroom stall because I didn’t want to deal with the comments, the interest or actions of people,” Jaeger said, according to The Independent. “I had at least 30 incidents with one specific non-playing staff member, physical attempts all in the locker room very, very early in my career. That particular non-playing staff employee had a major issue keeping her hands to herself.

“I avoided being in training rooms alone because an approach was made on me there as well.”

Jaeger said she was served multiple alcoholic drinks following the 1982 WTA Championships and began to get fuzzy. An official drove her home.

“When we got to my condo, she walked me to the door and tried something on with me,” Jaeger said. “She was trying to kiss me. I was so sickened that I was crawling up the stairs inside trying not to throw up so my dad wouldn’t see me.”

Jaeger said she complained to WTA officials after the incident and was threatened with reprisals.

She won 10 career titles before retiring at age 19 due to a shoulder injury.

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Lightning’s Brayden Point remains out of lineup for Game 6 – Sportsnet.ca

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Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper is not anticipating any lineup changes Sunday night for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final as forward Brayden Point continues to deal with an undisclosed “severe injury.”

Point sustained a leg injury during Game 7 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He returned for the start of the Stanley Cup Final and recorded one assist in two games before leaving the lineup again.

“It’s tricky too because players are used to playing at, I guess, a certain way or how they feel they can play,” Cooper told reporters. “If they don’t feel confident in playing at the calibre they’re used to, it almost works against them.

“It’s unfortunate because it was a severe injury and at this time of the year, everybody’s trying to get back into the lineup and there are just some things you can’t do. When you can’t do what you’re used to doing, it’s tough on the player.”

The 26-year-old Point, who has 78 points in 76 career postseason games, skated with the Lightning during Sunday morning’s practice, and Cooper did not completely rule him out for a potential Game 7.

“He’s still plugging along here and rehabbing and trying to get better. Who knows? If the series goes one more game, you never know,” Cooper said. “It’s tough on these guys because they’re such competitors.”

The Colorado Avalanche hold a 3-2 series lead looking to secure their first Stanley Cup since 2001 while the double defending champion Lightning are aiming to keep their hopes of a three-peat alive. Watch Game 6 live on Sportsnet or Sportsnet NOW starting at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.

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In Gee Chun perseveres, holds off Lexi Thompson to win Women's PGA – Golf Channel

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BETHESDA, Md. — In Gee Chun rallied after losing her once-sizeable lead, overcoming a bogey-filled front nine to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Sunday when Lexi Thompson faltered with the putter.

Chun shot a 3-over 75 for the second consecutive day at Congressional, but that was enough to win her third major title by a stroke over Thompson and Minjee Lee. Chun, after leading by six at the tournament’s midway point, lost a three-shot advantage in the first three holes of the final round. Thompson was two strokes ahead of her after the front nine, but her putting problems were just beginning.


Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Open


The 27-year-old Floridian botched a par putt from a couple feet on No. 14, but a birdie on 15 restored her lead to two. Then she bogeyed the par-5 16th while Chun made birdie, leaving the two players tied with two holes remaining.

Thompson three-putted for bogey on 17, and after an impressive approach from the rough on 18, her birdie putt wasn’t hit firmly enough.

Chun’s approach on the par-4 18th bounced past the hole and just off the back of the green, but she putted to within 5 feet and sank her par attempt to win the tournament.


Chun earns long-awaited major win at Women’s PGA


Chun, a 27-year-old from South Korea, led by seven strokes after finishing her first round in wet conditions Thursday. The lead was down to five at the end of that day — still equaling the largest 18-hole advantage in the history of women’s majors.

She was six strokes ahead at the halfway point and had a three-stroke advantage coming into Sunday. She finished at 5-under 283.

Chun won her first major at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2015 and added the Evian Championship in France the following year.

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