Month: February 2019

Japan take Davis Cup lead over Canada

Canada continue to pay the price for the injury absence of their top two players, with Japan winning Saturday’s doubles rubber to take a 2-1 lead in their Davis Cup World Group first-round tie.

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Top man Kei Nishikori and unknown Yasutaka Uchiyama beat 41-year-old Canadian doubles master Daniel Nestor and Frank Dancevic 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4.

Canada are missing No.1 Milos Raonic with an ankle injury, which has already forced him from ATP play next week in Zagreb, and Vasek Pospisil, who has nursed a back problem for a month.

The Japanese pair took just over three hours to earn the doubles point at the Ariake Colosseum.

Nishikori and Uchiyama missed out on converting three first-set break points but finally took Nestor’s serve to take the opener with a Nishikori backhand lob winner.

The Canadians did not roll over despite trailing two sets to love. They won the third 6-4 and, in the fourth, Nestor lost serve early but Canada saved a pair of match points in the closing stages.

The Japanese ended with 40 unforced errors to 38 for the visitors, but dominated with nearly 75 winners.

Japan are making a second appearance at the top level of the international team competition for only the second time since 1985.

The Asians’ one win away from a historic first quarter-final appearance.

In three previous World Group appearances, Japan have won just two rubbers, losing 5-0 to Sweden in 1981, 5-0 to the US in 1985 and 3-2 to Croatia in 2012.

Canada are also playing new levels in the top level of the competition, reaching a record semi-final last season but with work to do to win a third World Group tie.

Dolphins in ‘bad shape’ after BP oil spill

Bottlenose dolphins with missing teeth, lung disease, and abnormal hormone levels were found swimming in the Gulf of Mexico a year after the BP oil spill, US researchers say.

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Pneumonia, liver disease and a pregnant female carrying a dead foetus were also reported in the first major study of dolphin health after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Half of the 32 dolphins studied off the coast of Louisiana in August 2011 – a year and four months after the worst oil spill in US history began – were judged to be seriously ill or in danger of dying.

“I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals,” said lead author Lori Schwacke, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The wild dolphins were captured in the central Louisiana waters and held briefly for health checks before being released.

“There is disease in any wild population. We just haven’t seen animals that were in such bad shape as what we saw in Barataria Bay,” she said.

Their health was compared to 27 bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, an area also in the Gulf that was unaffected by the oil spill.

The Barataria Bay dolphins had significantly lower levels of adrenal hormones, which are critical to an animal’s stress response.

Moderate to severe lung disease was five times more common in the Louisiana dolphins than in their Floridian counterparts.

Three of the Barataria Bay dolphins had also lost nearly all their teeth, and three others had just half of their normal number of teeth left. Dolphins typically have between 78 and 106 teeth.

“There were several dolphins that were in such bad shape that the veterinarians that examined them did not expect them to live very long,” said Schwacke, an expert on dolphins in the southern United States.

Dolphins that were studied also suffered from pneumonia, anaemia, low blood sugar, and elevated liver enzymes.

Oil giant BP said the report, which appeared in December in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, was “inconclusive as to any causation associated with the spill.”

BP also called on NOAA to release all of its data on the unusual deaths of more than 1000 dolphins off the Gulf Coast, dating back to February 2010, three months before the spill.

NOAA researchers admitted that their study cannot prove that the dolphin’s health problems were caused by the BP oil spill because there were no studies of dolphin health in that area prior to the spill.

However when comparing blubber, the Louisiana dolphins have lower levels of pesticides and flame retardant chemicals than the Florida group, suggesting that agricultural runoff and common pollution were not the cause of their diseases.

Shots, blasts as protest rivals clash in Thailand

Bystanders, security personnel and journalists raced to take cover in a north Bangkok shopping mall after a man pulled an assault rifle from a bag and began spraying bullets during a stand-off between government supporters and scores of opposition demonstrators, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

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The firing went on for at least one hour.

Emergency workers said several people have been injured in the fighting, which broke out as anti-government groups laid siege to a ballot box distribution centre in the Thai capital.

“One victim was apparently shot in the chest and was hospitalised,” an official from the city’s Erawan emergency centre said, adding that two others had also been taken to hospital.

Tensions are high in the capital ahead of controversial elections on Sunday, which opposition demonstrators have vowed to block as they seek to prevent the likely re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Bangkok has been rocked by weeks of sometimes bloody rallies by a loose coalition opposed to Yingluck and the enduring influence of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra — a former premier ousted by the military in 2006.

The unrest is the latest round of political instability to hit Thailand since royalist generals ousted Thaksin seven years ago, unleashing a cycle of occasionally-violent street protests.

Saturday’s clashes happened after demonstrators blocking ballot boxes from being delivered from the Lak Si district office in northern Bangkok — one of 50 in the capital — were confronted by a group of some 200 government supporters, some armed with sticks and metal bars.

At least two explosions were heard in the area, which police attributed to Molotov cocktails, before the firing began.

The AFP reporter said there were volleys of heavy gunfire in the area at one point.

At least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes, grenade attacks and drive-by shootings since the opposition rallies began three months ago.

Observers are predicting a chaotic election after advance voting was blocked in several parts of the capital last Sunday.

Around 130,000 police are set to protect 93,000 polling stations across the country.

Authorities said protesters were also blocking ballot boxes being delivered to polling stations across southern Thailand.

Opposition protesters — mainly the Bangkok middle classes and southerners, backed by factions in the elite — are demanding Yingluck’s elected government step down to make way for an unelected “people’s council” that would oversee loosely defined reforms to tackle corruption and alleged vote-buying.

“The government is corrupt. If we let the vote go on then they will come back, so we should not hold the election,” said opposition protester Sirames, who gave only one name, at the Lak Si office before violence broke out.

The backdrop to the protests is a years-long political struggle pitting the kingdom’s royalist establishment — backed by the courts and the military — against Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-politician.

Yingluck is likely to win Sunday’s poll, helped by strong support in Thaksin’s north and northeastern heartlands.

But uncertainty hangs over the results, with unrest threatening polling and several constituencies without a candidate.

Some 440,000 people prevented from casting ballots last week are due to vote on February 23.

Aussies upset Olympic water polo champions

The Aussie Sharks have scored a massive 12-9 upset of 2012 Olympic water polo gold medallists Croatia in the Aquatic Super Series at Perth’s Challenge Stadium.

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Saturday’s win goes down as one of the best in recent Australian men’s water polo history and is sweet revenge for an Aussie Sharks side on the rise.

The two teams last played in the quarter-finals of last year’s World Championships in Barcelona where the Croatians came from behind in the last quarter to send the game into two extra-time periods that they won 2-1.

It was a heartbreaking end for the Australians and they finished the tournament eighth, while Croatia won the bronze medal.

That result was preceded by a 7-5 defeat in last year’s Aquatic Super Series and an 11-6 loss in the group stage at the London Games.

On Saturday night, a thrilling game was dominated by heavy defence and a prolific major foul and subsequent extra-man advantage count at both ends of the pool.

The Sharks, coached by former Croatian assistant Elvis Fatovic, made a blazing start, scoring the first three goals – a pair to Richie Campbell and one to Billy Miller – to lead 3-0 before Croatia struck back with two in succession to trail by one at the first break.

The second period belonged to the Olympic champions with Croatia applying intense pressure and scoring two goals to Jarrod Gilchrist’s solitary addition for the Australians and, at halftime, it was 4-4.

Campbell and Miller were at it again to open the third term with two straight Sharks’ goals before the teams traded a pair of strikes each – Australia’s to Tyler Martin and hometown hero Aaron Younger – giving the hosts four extra-man goals for the quarter and an 8-6 advantage going into the final stanza.

Younger nailed two, Campbell his fourth and Johnno Cotterill his first allowing the Australians to claim a memorable 12-9 victory.

Morton beats Meares in cycling upset

Stephanie Morton scored the upset win of the Australian track cycling championships, beating Anna Meares on Saturday in the keirin final.

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On the last night of competition, Shane Perkins recovered from a back injury to take out the senior men’s keirin final.

Meares had won the 500m time trial and sprint at these nationals and was going for her 32nd Australian track title.

The sprint gold medallist at the London Olympics and multiple world champion launched a long-range attack on Saturday night, but Morton caught her on the line.

Soon after the keirin final, Meares tweeted a photo of a cap she signed for Morton five years ago.

It was captioned: “Steph, maybe one day you’ll beat me”.

This is the first time Morton has beaten Meares at the nationals.

“That’s pretty cool – she’s my idol, just the pinnacle of what an elite cyclist should be,” Morton said.

The keirin win emphasises that Morton, 23, is a rider with massive potential.

But Morton is under no illusions about where she stands in relation to Meares.

“Anna is the best that there is – I might get one over her; she’ll get the next 10,” Morton said.

“So I just keep chipping away. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“Just to ride against her is awesome.”

Track legend Sir Chris Hoy was at the Adelaide SuperDrome and said Morton’s ride showed she was not intimidated by Meares.

But Meares was far from disappointed – apart from richly praising Morton, she also felt she gained a lot from the ride ahead of this month’s world championships.

“I gave her some advice after the first round,” Meares said.

“I’m wondering if it came back to bite me … a quality ride from a quality rider.

“Even though I lost the keirin, how I rode it, how I committed to the race, my decision making was all really good.

“I can’t aim to win, win, win, win – because then I don’t live up to expectation and I also lose the fun of it.”

Victorian Caitlin Ward won the bronze medal.

A few minutes after Morton’s stunning win, Perkins took out a pulsating men’s keirin final.

On Friday, he had to pull out of the sprint competition ahead of his semi-final because of a lower back injury.

“I just put my head down and went for it,” he said.

“I put the back in the back of my mind and forgot about it … I’m pretty happy.”

Fellow Victorian Jacob Schmid was second and SA’s Dan Ellis took third.

Annette Edmondson won the women’s 10km scratch race, a day after she took out the points title.

Victorian Beth Duryea was second and WA’s Isabella King won bronze.

Victoria won the under-19 men’s team sprint, despite Jay Castles crashing.

NSW rider Max Housden also crashed in the gold-medal ride.

Victorian Courtney Field won the women’s under-19 sprint.

In the last event of the nationals, Glenn O’Shea gained six laps on the way to taking the 40km points race.

He finished on a whopping 151 points and fellow South Australian Jack Bobridge took five laps on the field to win the silver medal with 123.

WA’s Trent Derecourt won bronze with 82.

The hot conditions and scorching pace meant only 10 of the 20 starters finished.

Matthew Glaetzer was awarded the ride of the nationals for his domination of the men’s sprint, where he clocked a championships-record time of 9.901 seconds in qualifying and went on to win the gold medal.

Field was named the under-19 champion of champions with three gold medals and Edmondson won the senior award.