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Nigeria’s Falcons, Cameroon Lionesses Fly The Same Aircraft To Abuja For Titanic Battle –

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Nigeria’s Falcons, Cameroon Lionesses Fly The Same Aircraft To Abuja For Titanic Battle -

Perhaps turbulence in the air was barely averted as two long-standing continental rivals – Super Falcons of Nigeria and Lionessess of Cameroon crammed themselves into the same aircraft from Douala to Abuja on Sunday.

Both will have a winner-takes-all confrontation this Monday evening to determine who goes for the final qualifying ticket for the Paris 2024 women’s football event.

Last Friday, they played goalless in Douala in an encounter the Nigerians still rue their disallowed goal and numerous scoring chances that were lost.

But Head Coach Randy Waldrum and Captain Rasheedat Ajibade are confident Nigeria’s Super Falcons will overcome the challenge and reach the final round of the African qualifying series for this year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in France.

 

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Waldrum led his ladies to a scoreless draw in the first leg in Douala on Friday, with the Nigerians rueing a disallowed goal by Jennifer Echegini early in the second half.

“We played a good game in Douala and we are confident of our chances to get the ticket in Abuja. It was never going to be easy having only a few days together with the girls, but we will make the best of the opportunities that we are able to create on home ground on Monday,” said Waldrum.

 

Ajibade, who scored the lone Nigeria goal that threw Cameroon’s Lionesses out of the Women Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco 19 months ago, and also netted two of the goals that eliminated Ethiopia in the second round of these qualifying series, says the Falcons have no fear of whatever the arch rivals can bring to the turf of the MKO Abiola National Stadium.

 

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“Our objective remains getting the Olympics ticket. Personally, I have never played at the Olympics and that is the case with an overwhelming majority of players in this team. We are determined to take this opportunity. We have another 90 minutes to make our claim to the final-round ticket and we are focused on a positive result.”

 

However, Coach Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is also confident of the ability of his Lionesses to turn the table against the nine-time African champions in Nigeria’s administrative capital.

 

“We will play on the Abuja field as if we are playing at home. Cameroon will not entertain any fear. The Lionesses are prepared to win and make progress.”

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Both teams will compete on a clean slate on Monday evening having battled to a barren ending in Douala, with the winner most likely to be up against reigning African champions South Africa for a place in Paris.

 

Nigeria’s Falcons featured at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Australia in 2000, Greece in 2004 and China in 2008, but have not qualified since their outing in China 16 years ago. Cameroon’s only previous outing was at the London 2012 Olympics.

 

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Banyana Banyana bounced Tanzania 3-0 in Dar es Salaam and should have a cruise at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

 

Zambia’s Copper Queens put behind them the harrowing experience of watching a team mate die in camp, to shock Ghana’s Black Queens 1-0 in West Africa, and have the strength, stamina and motivation to hold their own against the visitors in Ndola on Monday.

 

Tunisia’s senior girls have a mountain to climb in Rabat, when they confront fast-improving and highly-motivated Morocco’s Atlas Lionesses who beat them 2-1 in front of their own fans on Friday. The winner on aggregate will be eligible to square up to the winner between Zambia and Ghana.

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Only two tickets are available for Africa in the 16-nation Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.

 

For the Nigeria/Cameroon clash in Abuja, which kicks off at 4pm, CAF has appointed Namibian official Ndemugwanitha Twanyanyukwa as referee, with her compatriots Eveline Augustinus, Olivia Amukuu and Vistoria Shangula in the roles of assistant referee 1, assistant referee 2 and fourth official respectively.

 

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Alice Wangari Kimani from Kenya will serve as referee assessor while Christine Ziga from Ghana will be the commissioner.

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Olympics

U.S. athletes praise Paris Games prize money plan

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American track and field athlete Tara Davis-Woodhall poses for a portrait during the Team USA media summit ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, at an event in New York, U.S., April 16, 2024. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

World Athletics’ (WA) plan to offer prize money to Olympic gold medallists is a much needed step in the right direction, said American track and field athletes, with the high costs of training and competition weighing on competitors.

WA President Sebastian Coe bucked 128 years of tradition when he said last week that the athletics governing body would pay gold medal winners in Paris $50,000, a move that athletes were quick to endorse.

“You can lose money in track and field as soon as you step out the door,” Tara Davis-Woodhall, the indoor world champion in long jump, told reporters this week at the Team USA Media Summit in New York.

Davis-Woodhall said even travelling to competitions presents a major financial burden for many athletes.

“If I don’t have a sponsorship, who’s going to pay for this? I’m going to go in debt like 100%,” said Davis-Woodhall, who won a silver medal at the 2023 world championships in Budapest. “It’s not a sustainable thing to do at all.”

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Under the WA plan, a $2.4 million prize pot will be split between the 48 athletics gold medallists at the Paris Games, which start on July 26.

Silver and bronze medal winners will also receive prize funds beginning at the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

“It’s about time,” said Olympic 200 metres silver medallist Kenny Bednarek. “You have athletes that work their butt off, blood, sweat and tears every single day, every single year. And, you know, some compensation is needed for them.”

Their remarks echoed the endorsement of United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland, who applauded the plan.

“Any time we can put resources in the hands of athletes, we should all celebrate,” Hirshland told reporters in New York on Monday.

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“We need more resources to get into the hands of athletes, so that they have both the ability to sustain themselves from a just day-to-day lifestyle perspective, but then also (to) continue to invest in their training.”

But the prize money plan has attracted plenty of criticism from other corners of international sport.

British Olympic Association chief Andy Anson told Sky Sports on Wednesday that World Athletics created a problem by moving unilaterally on the issue.

The head of cycling’s global governing body said on Tuesday that WA had gone against the Olympic spirit, while World Rowing head Jean-Christophe Rolland said he wished WA had discussion with other sports, saying the decision has “other implications.”

Twice Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser said he struggles to see how anyone could oppose the prize money.

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“I know athletes that have medalled at world championships are still working two jobs and living with a room mate,” the world record holder said.

“It’s just the misconception that kind of lingers that athletes, regardless of what level you’re at, if you’re making the Olympics, that you’re that you’re financially secure and you are absolutely not.”

-Reuters

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US forecast to top medals table for fourth straight Games

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The United States will top the medals table for the fourth straight Summer Games in Paris, while France will get a major host-nation bump from eighth to third, according to a forecast 100 days out from the opening ceremony.

The Gracenote virtual medals table, opens new tab, which is compiled using results data from key global and continental competitions since the Tokyo Olympics, has the U.S. on top both on gold medal count (39) and total medal count (123).

The U.S. will host the next Olympics after Paris in Los Angeles in 2028.

France is predicted to win 28 gold medals and 55 in total, a jump of 18 golds and 22 medals from its performance in Tokyo three years ago, and will replace the host nation of that Games, Japan, in third place on the table.

China, the last country apart from the U.S. to top the medal table, will retain second place with 35 gold medals, while Britain, Australia and Japan will win the fourth highest number of gold medals with 13 apiece, Gracenote predicts.

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The Russian Olympic Committee team were fifth on the Tokyo medals table but only a few Russians and Belarusians will compete in Paris as neutral athletes because of sanctions put in place after the invasion of Ukraine.

“Almost all Russian and Belarusian competitors have been absent from international competitions since February 2022,” Gracenote, the content solutions unit of Nielsen, said in a news release.

“Any who take part in Paris 2024 without results in this period cannot be predicted accurately. However, it appears that there will be limited participation of these athletes and we expect the medal table to be the usual accurate reflection.”

Ukraine, whose athletes have struggled to prepare for the Games because of the continuing conflict at home, are forecast to win three golds and 13 total medals in Paris.

At the bottom of the table, Tajikistan, Finland, San Marino, Trinidad & Tobago, North Korea, Fiji, Panama and Vietnam are all forecast to win a single bronze medal.

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-Reuters

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Olympics

Paris 2024 torch lit in ancient Olympia, relay under way

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Paris 2024 Olympics - Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremony - Ancient Olympia, Greece - April 16, 2024 Greek actress Mary Mina, playing the role of High Priestess, lights the flame during the Olympic Flame lighting ceremony for the Paris 2024 Olympics. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

The torch for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games was lit in ancient Olympia in a traditional ceremony on Tuesday, marking the final stretch of the seven-year preparations for the Games’ start on July 26.

Greek actress Mary Mina, playing the role of high priestess, lit the torch using a backup flame instead of a parabolic mirror that is normally used, due to cloudy skies, for the start of a relay in Greece and France.

It will culminate with the lighting of the Olympic flame in the French capital at the opening ceremony. Paris will host the summer Olympics for a third time after 1900 and 1924.

“In these difficult times we are living through, with wars and conflicts on the rise, people are fed up with all the hate, the aggression and negative news they are facing day in and day out,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said in his speech.

“We are longing for something which brings us together, something that is unifying, something that gives us hope. The Olympic flame that we are lighting today is the symbol of this hope.”

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The IOC has cleared the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Olympics despite the ongoing war in Ukraine but they will do so as neutral athletes with no national flag or anthem, a decision that angered Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron also said last week Russia would be asked to observe a ceasefire in Ukraine during the Paris Olympics. The Kremlin said Ukraine might use it as an opportunity to regroup and rearm.

Suspending armed conflicts under an Olympic truce during the Games was a standard practice in ancient Greece.

TORCH RELAY

The high priestess then lit the torch of the first runner of the relay, Greece’s Olympic rowing champion Stefanos Ntouskos.

After a short run he then handed the flame on to France’s three-time Olympic medallist in swimming and head of Paris’ Olympic torch relay, Laure Manaudou, as the representative of the host city.

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The flame will be officially handed over to Paris Games organisers in Athens’s Panathenaic stadium, site of the first modern Games in 1896, on April 26 after an 11-day relay across Greece.

It will then depart the next day for France on board a three-masted ship, the ‘Belem’ where it will arrive on May 8 in Marseille, with up to 150,000 people expected to attend the ceremony in the southern city’s Old Port.

The last torch bearer in Marseille will climb on the roof of the Velodrome stadium on May 9, organisers said.

Marseille, founded by the Greek settlers of Phocaea around 600 BC, will host the sailing competitions.

The French torch relay will last 68 days and will end in Paris with the lighting of the Olympic flame on July 26.

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-Reuters

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