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There was a red card in a Welsh derby, a stunning showing from a Wales fly-half hopeful, a young Ospreys side just missing out on victory in Italy and Dragons hitting rock bottom in South Africa.
Throw in the visit of a rugby legend to Cardiff and it was another busy weekend in Welsh rugby, as the first block of seven rounds of the United Rugby Championship have now been completed.
The Welsh sides are where they were expected to be in the bottom half of the table, with Ospreys 11th, Cardiff 12th, Scarlets 13th and Dragons propping up the 16-team table.
There have been eight wins for Welsh sides in the opening seven rounds, though only three against sides from other nations.
Young players such as Alex Mann, Cameron Winnett, Eddie James, Mackenzie Morgan and Harri Deaves impressed after being given opportunities in these tough financial times for the regions.
So with European competition taking centre stage for the next couple of weeks, what did we learn about the URC weekend as the league prepares to take a break?
Keys to Wales 10?
Wales head coach Warren Gatland was not at the Arms Park after returning to New Zealand but will no doubt have seen footage of Scarlets fly-half Ioan Lloyd masterminding the derby win against Cardiff.
With Dan Biggar having retired, Gareth Anscombe unavailable after signing for a Japanese club and Sam Costelow injured, Lloyd has emerged as a genuine 2024 Six Nations contender.
He arrived in the summer from Bristol, where another Wales fly-half Callum Sheedy is excelling this season.
Even Cardiff head coach Matt Sherratt hailed him as a "triple threat" with his running, kicking and passing, after helping Scarlets to score five tries.
"Ioan was outstanding, he is electric in attack and lit up the game," said Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel.
"As a coach you're half watching the game with your hands over your head because you don't know what he's going to do next but the other half of the time you are celebrating what he's doing because he's box office when he gets that space."
Lloyd could partner Gareth Davies for Wales after the scum-half showed his credentials again with two tries at the Arms Park against rival Tomos Williams, who also touched down.
The win helped lift the Scarlets mood after a week in which head coach Dwayne Peel met with fans following the heavy loss to Ospreys.
"It was a tough week. Our fans love playing against the Ospreys and when you lose to them, it's always difficult," said Peel.
"It was the manner of the defeat that hurt. We wanted to be more competitive so I'm glad to see the reaction this week."
Morris knocking on door
Warren Gatland has not spoken yet to Morgan Morris but the Wales head coach will surely be looking up the Osprey forward's phone number soon.
The number eight has been Ospreys player of the season for the past two years and already looks on course to complete the hat-trick.
Only one player in the URC - Munster's Gavin Coombes - has made more carries than Morris (81) who is also in the league's top ten for tackles (75).
"He's by far the best ball carrier in Wales right now, he has a brilliant ability to manipulate his body to break tackles and get through," former Wales centre Tom Shanklin told Scrum V.
"And if there's one thing we're looking at right now for Wales is who fills Taulupe Faletau's boots when he retires.
"Morris hasn't had a look-in yet for Wales but he keeps putting in eye-catching performances because he's so good at getting Ospreys on the front foot."
Meanwhile Ospreys are still sweating on news of Max Nagy who suffered a suspected fractured ankle in the narrow 18-13 loss at Benetton.
Tipped over the edge
Cardiff were ahead when Ellis Jenkins was sent off for a tip tackle on opposite number Dan Davis.
However, whether or not it warranted a yellow or red card from referee Ben Whitehouse has divided opinion.
"When you see someone's studs above their heads, it doesn't look good," said Cardiff head coach Matt Sherratt.
"But when you actually slow it down, he [Davis] has jumped into the tackle so he's jumped onto Ellis' shoulder.
"Ellis isn't a dirty player, so it isn't something that's going to be deliberate.
"The [TMO] said he landed on his shoulder and then his head, but Ben thought it was reckless and a red card.
"It is not something I'm going to argue with because it didn't look great at full speed. But when it's reviewed, they'll see some mitigating factors."
He added: "I actually thought we played quite well with 14 players. We had to make tactical changes to the lineout and plays as well as give that extra 10% effort each."
Dragons were their own worst enemies in Johannesburg where mistakes and indiscipline saw them lose 49-24 against Lions who played 55 minutes with 14 men.
Handling errors gifted Lions their first two tries, both length of the field efforts, while Rhodri Williams and Bradley Roberts were both shown needless yellow cards to wipe out their numerical advantage for 20 minutes.
"It was a massive missed opportunity. We were really inaccurate which is really frustrating because there were chances galore out there.
"We've got to catch a ball or make a tackle at the crucial moments. That's something we have to work on individually and then collectively to be better."
Call to Arms
It was not just matters on the field that caught the imagination at Cardiff.
Rugby league legend and current England rugby union defence coach Kevin Sinfield arrived on the Arms Park pitch at half-time after completing the second leg of his epic latest challenge to support those suffering with motor neurone disease (MND).
Sinfield, who has raised millions for charities since ex-Leeds team-mate Rob Burrow was diagnosed with the condition in 2019, is running 27 miles each day for seven days in seven cities.
No England coach will have received such a rapturous response in the Welsh capital before but this is Kevin Sinfield, who visited the Cardiff dressing room after the match.
"I was hoping he'd be coming into a changing room with a good atmosphere after a win, but the way he spoke put everything in perspective. It was brilliant," said Cardiff head coach Sherratt.
"We can get wrapped up with a red card, a high tackle, how we started the game, but there's a guy there who's given his life and his body to one of his best mates.
"He spoke to the boys about how important it is to look after each other on the pitch, but off the pitch as well. You could hear a pin drop."
Spain international Carvajal, who has been in career-best form this season, making 17 appearances for Madrid in all competitions, was substituted at halftime in the LaLiga game at the Bernabeu, and replaced by Lucas Vázquez.
The right-back is the latest player to join Madrid's long injury list, which already included Thibaut Courtois, Éder Militão, Aurélien Tchouaméni, Eduardo Camavinga, Luka Modric, Arda Güler and Vinícius Júnior.
"After tests carried out by Real Madrid Medical Services on our player Dani Carvajal, he has been diagnosed with an injury in the soleus muscle of his left leg," Madrid said in a statement on Monday.
Sources told ESPN the club are hopeful that Carvajal will be available for the Spanish Supercopa, with Madrid due to face Atlético Madrid in the semifinals on Jan. 10.
After the Granada game, coach Carlo Ancelotti said he hoped Carvajal's injury "wasn't serious" but that the player would be assessed by medical staff.
Last week, Carvajal spoke out against the congested fixture list that top players face, saying many would be open to taking a pay cut if it meant playing fewer games and avoiding injuries.
"There are lots of injuries, and I think a lot of them are due to the calendar," Carvajal told a news conference on Nov. 28.
"A lot of people say 'why don't [players] cut their salaries?' We haven't said we wouldn't. If we had to earn less and play fewer games, it wouldn't be a problem. You don't see players at their best, and the games are dropping in quality."
"It's a calendar that can't continue," Ancelotti said last month.
"Those who prepare the calendar have to look at it. We have this problem, and it will get worse. The solution is straightforward. Reduce the number of games. The coaches and the players can't do it. LaLiga, UEFA and FIFA can. But we have more Champions League games, more World Cup games. Until it's sorted out, I think we'll have even more problems."
Unless Ten Hag drops Rashford from his team, starting with Wednesday's Premier League clash against Chelsea at Old Trafford, it will erode his reputation as a coach who is prepared to take the toughest decisions.
Sanctioning Cristiano Ronaldo's exit from Old Trafford a year ago was heralded as a sign of Ten Hag's determination to assert his authority on his squad, but parting with a player who had publicly lambasted his management and the club was relatively easy. The same applied to allowing David de Gea to leave as a free agent in the summer following a string of goalkeeping errors. Getting tough with those two was straightforward because the exit door was already open for them.
But Rashford is different. He is United's highest-earning player, for one thing, after signing a five-year deal worth a reported 325,000-a-week in the summer. He is regarded by the club hierarchy as the embodiment of United's proud record of giving local youngsters the chance to become stars at Old Trafford. If Ten Hag can't crack the code with Rashford, there is no easy way out for either the club or the player.
Rashford's dismal performance in Saturday's 1-0 loss at Newcastle United was condemned by a raft of former players including United greats Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, while Alan Shearer and Jamie Carragher also weighed in with critical comments while working as pundits at the weekend. That result meant that Newcastle moved above Man United into sixth place in the table.
Ten Hag has run out of reasons to persevere with Rashford. His goals have dried up and his work-rate diminishes by the game. Newcastle's Anthony Gordon, who could yet take Rashford's England place at Euro 2024, exposed Rashford's lack of industry with a display of tenacity and hunger before scoring the winner for Eddie Howe's team.
Taking Rashford out of the starting XI now will make United a better team, but also help the 26-year-old. It would, or should, allow him the opportunity to re-focus and rediscover his best form. After all, it was earlier this year that he equalled Dennis Viollet's 64-year-old club record of scoring in nine consecutive home games, and scored 10 winning goals in a season, during a campaign in which his post-World Cup form fuelled United's surge into the top four and Champions League qualification.
Rashford ended last season with 30 goals in all competitions, but his form has taken a nosedive in recent months and he has managed to score just twice in 18 games for United so far this term: one of those strikes was a penalty at Everton last week ,when captain Bruno Fernandes let him take the spot kick to help boost his confidence.
Ten Hag has deployed Rashford in every position across the front three with little to show for it. The player was clearly unhappy with playing in a central role while the club waited for summer signing Rasmus Højlund to find full fitness. He has recently played down the right, due to Alejandro Garnacho impressing on the left. But even when he was switched to his favoured left-sided position, Rashford failed to deliver.
Rashford's abject performance at Newcastle, when he offered nothing in attack and repeatedly failed to track back to halt full-back Tino Livramento's run, prompted Ten Hag to substitute him early in the second half. Rashford reacted with a look of surprise before slowly walking off, but perhaps the surprise was that he hadn't been taken off sooner.
Ten Hag's problem is that if he perseveres with Rashford, it will send a message to the rest of the squad that not every player is judged on performances. Centre-back Raphaël Varane has been dropped in favour of a revitalised Harry Maguire, winger Jadon Sancho has been ostracised by Ten Hag for refusing to apologise for a social media outburst after being dropped while summer signings Sofyan Amrabat, Mason Mount and Sergio Reguilón have all struggled to earn a starting spot when fit.
Rashford's lack of form has so far been overlooked by Ten Hag, who has spoken about "helping" the forward back to his best. But what is Rashford's best? Is it the hot streak of form that we saw for three months after the World Cup or should he be judged over a longer period? Since the start of the 2021-22 season, Rashford has scored 37 goals in 106 games in all competitions for United, which is a fairly average return for a player of his reputation. By comparison, Mohamed Salah has scored 74 in 122 games for Liverpool, while Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-Min has scored 47 in 107 appearances during the same period.
Rashford's run of 17 goals in 19 games after returning from the World Cup last season paints a picture of a prolific goal scorer, but that sequence now looks nothing more than an outlier within a longer period of under-performance. But those goals undoubtedly helped Rashford earn his lucrative new contract, despite a lack of clubs testing United's ability to hold on to him.
Maybe he has become too comfortable at United, too indulged by a club that has endured so many problems on and off the pitch that senior figures don't want to be confronted by the prospect of their star player becoming a problem. Sources have told ESPN that Rashford can be an aloof and detached figure around the club. One example came last season when he arrived late for a media interview ahead of the Carabao Cup final and kept his car engine running at the training ground while briefly speaking to the reporters waiting to see him. His demeanour at Newcastle was another low point which did little to portray Rashford in a good light.
But if Ten Hag overlooks the lack of goals, the poor performances and Rashford's questionable body language by keeping him in the team, it will send the wrong message. If the manager bases team selection on form and contribution, his decision on Rashford this week has become a litmus test of his readiness to make the big calls.
McCord, in his third year with the Buckeyes, won the starting job early in the season after competing with Devin Brown. Recruited by coach Ryan Day, he had waited two years behind C.J. Stroud, now the Houston Texans' starting quarterback, after coming to Ohio State as ESPN's No. 31 prospect in the 2021 class.
The Philadelphia native had 3,170 passing yards with 24 touchdown passes and six interceptions, while completing 65.8% of his passes. McCord eclipsed 300 passing yards three times but also twice threw two interceptions, including in the regular-season finale, a 30-24 loss to Michigan that ultimately cost Ohio State a College Football Playoff spot for the second time in three years.
"As time went on, Kyle got better as the season went on," Day said Sunday. "Had a little bit of those ankle injuries that he worked through; he showed toughness there. Certainly the Notre Dame game, he played really well down the stretch. So I think there was growth there, for sure, and I think he's a good quarterback, I do. After every year, you evaluate everything, and try to figure out what to do next. But I think there was a lot of progress made this year."
On Sunday, Ohio State was selected to play Missouri in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 29. Day was noncommittal about McCord's status as the team's starter when asked about it Sunday.
"When you come up short, the bottom line is you got to look at everything, because you didn't get it done, and that's the thing that is just sobering here," Day said. "At 11-1, you come up short on the last possession, it's just not good enough. So you got to look at everything, and we will look at everything."
The transfer window opened Monday for most college football players, and Ohio State had several other portal entries, including running back Evan Pryor, ESPN's No. 128 recruit in 2021.
IT'S NOV. 17 and the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets are in New Orleans for an important in-season tournament contest. With 9:07 left in the first quarter, Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram corrals a rebound off a Jonas Valanciunas missed 3 and stands a foot behind the free throw line.
To his right, Williamson, three feet behind the 3-point line and about to backpedal, sees Ingram reel in the loose ball and sprints up the right side of the court toward the basket.
Ingram sees him immediately, firing a bounce pass between two defenders to a slashing Williamson. Once he gathers the ball, Williamson takes one hard dribble and throws down a thundering dunk with his left hand, drawing an early timeout from Denver coach Michael Malone.
As the teams head toward their respective benches, Ingram gives a subtle finger point, a quick acknowledgement, to Williamson. It is a show of their building chemistry, a small but important sign that the two know how much they mean to each other -- and how much this relationship means to the team.
Three and a half quarters later, the New Orleans Pelicans of old begin to surface. They're clinging to a one-point lead late against the defending NBA champs after building a 20-point cushion in the middle of the third quarter. An all-too-familiar feeling -- of dread, of yet another disappointing and unnecessary loss -- seeps into the arena. Ten days ago, this same Pelicans team had been up by 20 points on this same Nuggets team -- and lost by 18.
With 3:21 remaining and down by one, the Nuggets have possession and a chance to take the lead. Aaron Gordon feeds the ball to two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who has Valanciunas sealed off in the paint. As Jokic turns to his right, Pelicans second-year guard Dyson Daniels is there to take the ball away.
From there, New Orleans' two best players take over. On the next possession, Ingram backs down Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and passes out to Daniels, who hoists it immediately back to Ingram in the short corner. Ingram's 16-footer splashes through.
The next possession, Williamson dribbles up court, splits Gordon, Jokic and Christian Braun, and finishes with a left-handed layup over the front of the rim.
Thirty seconds later, Williamson is at it again. He brings the ball up and runs a quick handoff action with Ingram at the top of the key. Ingram gives it right back, and Williamson hits a 13-foot jumper in the lane, drawing the and-1.
Williamson misses the free throw, but Daniels gets the rebound and finds Ingram. With the shot clock ticking down, Ingram dribbles to his left, gets to the free throw line and rises up for another 16-footer.
Swish. The Pelicans take an eight-point lead. Timeout Nuggets.
As Ingram walks back to the Pelicans' bench, he is greeted by Williamson. The two give each other a quick handshake, as the Pelicans put themselves in position to secure an in-season tournament victory.
It is their second consecutive victory -- a small streak that belies its significance.
Because four days prior, the Pelicans were on the precipice, losers of five straight games, with an average margin of defeat of more than 14 points. They were discombobulated, playing Hero Ball, ravaged by injuries -- again.
Little did they know, the next day, their entire season would change.
FIVE DAYS PRIOR to the win over Denver, the Dallas Mavericks had traveled to New Orleans and led by as many as 29 points before walking away with a 12-point victory. After a 4-1 start to the season, the Pelicans sat ninth in the West at 4-6.
Following the game, Williamson, who'd scored 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting but committed a season-high six turnovers, sat in front of the lectern and addressed the loss in a postgame news conference. "Right now, it's tough," he'd said. "I'm taking a little bit of a back seat right now. I'm trusting the process. I'm trying my best to buy in right now."
Handed their fifth straight loss, the Pelicans' young season had hit a low point.
The injuries had piled up. The Pelicans were without guard CJ McCollum, who had been out for weeks because of a partially punctured lung, and wing Trey Murphy, who had yet to make his season debut because of a torn meniscus.
McCollum, who was in the hospital for the birth of his daughter in between the Nov. 12 and 14 games against Dallas, said on his podcast that he called veteran Larry Nance after the debilitating loss. They agreed they'd both seen enough.
So Nance called for a players-only meeting. Noon. Some 18 hours after yet another dispiriting loss in a Williamson-Ingram era full of them.
Inside the locker room at the Pelicans' practice facility, the team gathered for close to an hour. Multiple sources said the meeting was not contentious and that players were receptive to criticism from their peers.
"There's no winning basketball games if you're not all swimming in the same direction," Nance told ESPN. "And for whatever reason, early on we felt a bit splintered, even when we were 4-1.
"It just felt a little that we could be better. And I thought we did a great job of addressing exactly what we needed to address and walking into the meeting with a clear direction and a path the meeting was supposed to take. And it took that."
In the Pelicans' first game after the meeting, New Orleans responded with a 131-110 victory over the same Mavericks team that had forced the meeting and finished with a then-season-high 33 assists. The Pelicans have won seven of the nine games Williamson and Ingram have played together since the meeting.
"We just weren't on the same page," Williamson said. "Now ... we know what we want to do, we know how we're going to do it, and [if] we win, we win. But if we lose, it's easier to pinpoint where we messed up."
And what has become clear is what seemed obvious before -- the Pelicans go only as far as their two All-Stars take them.
"We follow their lead. Those are our two best players. As they go, we go," Nance said.
"They came out and were monsters. And when those two go like that, the rest of us have no choice [but to] follow their lead."
PRIOR TO THE meeting, the 2023-2024 Ingram-Williamson minutes were troublingly bad. In the 147 minutes the two shared, the team averaged 103.2 points per 100 possessions and allowed 110.9 points per 100 possessions.
In the previous three seasons the duo had played (Williamson missed the 2021-22 season), the two always had a positive net rating. But they hadn't played together since Nov. 25, 2022 -- and it was showing.
Since the meeting, the Pelicans own a 127.6 offensive rating in the 152 minutes the two have played together, with a 106.1 defensive rating. Both would lead the NBA.
"This is the most we played together consistently game to game and so it's getting better and better," Ingram told ESPN. "The communication has picked up, which helps a lot on the floor, off the floor, just talking about the game."
Ingram said he and Williamson are constantly having conversations about where the other wants the ball. They talk at shootaround, at practices, about how and where and when to set up the other to succeed.
They're doing additional work together following practices with assistant coach James Borrego specifically on their pick-and-roll game.
"It translated quickly from the first day we did it, and the more we do it, the better we get," Williamson told ESPN. "And honestly, it's just a mental and visual thing.
"I think just me and BI seeing the spots and what it looked like on the court, I think that visual just helps us on, OK, if I come off the screen, throw it then, or when I set a screen, set it like this, give BI time to get downhill and get to his middy."
And as the two grow together, so too, does the team they lead.
Before the meeting, the Pelicans averaged 22.9 assists per game, 26th in the league. Since then, they are averaging 28.8 assists per game, the fifth-best mark in the league.
"Not until this year where we were a lot more vocal about the small nuances of basketball," Williamson said. "I think that just goes to us just growing up, just communicating a lot more within the game and off the court as well. And then the coaches just, especially coach JB, grabbing me and BI at the practice and working on different sets."
New Orleans has also found more success going to its "point Zion" sets in which Williamson brings the ball up and initiates the offense.
According to Second Spectrum data, since Nov. 14, Williamson has brought the ball up 17.3 possessions per game and the Pelicans have averaged 1.17 points per possession on them. Prior to then: 8.8 possessions per game, 0.93 points per possession.
"We got a number of guys that can initiate our plays," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "I think it's helpful, but then there's a time in the game where we want to put the ball in Zion's hands. We want to put it in Brandon's hands and we want to work with those two guys, maybe our 5 man in the middle of the floor and put some shooters in the corners and sort of let the dominoes fall."
SEVENTEEN DAYS AFTER the most important hour of their season, facing the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 1, Williamson and Ingram combine to go 7-of-23 from the field, Ingram missing all four of his 3-point attempts. They score just 26 points between them.
And New Orleans still comes out with the win.
McCollum, back from injury, scores 19 points. Valanciunas posts one of his best games of the season with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Murphy debuts and scores 18 points off the bench, including four 3-pointers -- all of which were assisted by either Ingram or Williamson.
Even when they aren't scoring, Williamson and Ingram will be the ones to lead New Orleans where they believe they can go. Now eighth in the West at 11-10, the Pelicans are set to take on the Sacramento Kings in the in-season tournament quarterfinals Monday.
"Neither one of them are the most vocal people," Nance said, "so for them to show us by their actions is everything we needed to see."
Said Ingram: "We started understanding the responsibility, and guys started looking at us saying that we start everything."
"They're going to look at us offensively and defensively to be the best that we can be, and they're going to follow us."
If you are an athlete with any amount of talent, chances are you will want to enter into various competitions and sporting meets which means you could well be on the road (or plane) a lot more often than the average person.
No matter how fit and healthy you are, traveling often can take its toll on your body and mind, leaving you fatigued and less than fighting fit, which is exactly what you need to be if you want to win those competitions in the first place!
That is why we have put together some top tips for the traveling athlete, which will make your experience of always being on the move, much more manageable.
- Packing: The Art of Stashing Gear
When it comes to packing, youre not just throwing in flip-flops and a few tees. Youve got gear, and lots of it. Compression socks, hydration packs, maybe even a lucky sweatband. The key is to pack smart. Roll your clothes, compartmentalise with packing cubes, and remember you dont need to bring your entire gym. Choose versatile items that can serve multiple purposes. And for Petes sake, dont forget your shoes. Running in hotel slippers is not the look.
- Nutrition: Dont Let the Road Ruin Your Regime
Eating healthy on the road is like trying to solve a Rubiks Cube it requires patience and strategy. Research restaurants and grocery stores near your accommodation, and always keep healthy snacks on hand. Trust me, the airports fast-food court is a siren call you need to resist.
- Hydration: Your Liquid Lifeline
Staying hydrated while traveling is non-negotiable. Airplane cabins have less humidity than the Sahara Desert, and no, a mini bottle of cabernet does not count as hydration. Carry a refillable water bottle with you at all times. Its like having a personal oasis.
- Luggage Storage: Your Secret Weapon
Navigating a new city with your luggage in tow is a workout you dont need. Use luggage storage services to free yourself from the burden of carrying your life on your back. Its like shedding a metaphorical weight vest.
- Workouts: Be Adaptable
Finding time and space to train can be tricky. Hotel rooms can be as cramped as a clown car. Be adaptable with your workouts. Resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, or a good old-fashioned run your training doesnt need to pause just because youre away from your home gym. Plus, its an opportunity to explore ever tried hill sprints in San Francisco?
- Recovery: Listen to Your Body
Traveling can be as draining as a marathon. Prioritise recovery. Stretch, use foam rollers, or do a yoga session in your room. And sleep glorious sleep. Its the best recovery tool you have. If your hotel pillow feels like a bag of cement, dont hesitate to ask for another.
- Jet Lag: The Athletes Nemesis
Jet lag can sabotage your performance faster than you can say, What time zone am I in? To combat it, adjust your watch to your destinations time zone as soon as you board the plane. Try to sync your sleep on the flight and get as much daylight as you can upon arrival. Its like tricking your body into thinking its not in a different time zone, even though it totally is.
- Mindset: Stay Positive
Traveling, especially when it is for a big competition, can be pretty stressful, to say the least. That is why you need to do your best to keep a positive mindset come what may. Something that can help you with this is trying to remember why youre doing this for the love of the game, the thrill of competition, and the stories youll tell. When things go sideways (and they will), take a deep breath, maybe laugh a bit, and roll with it.
- Embrace the Experience
Youre not just an athlete; youre an athletic adventurer. Do what you can to embrace the unique experiences that you will only ever really get with traveling. Try new foods (within reason), meet new people, and soak in the sights and sounds of your destination, wherever it may be. Its not every day you get to run along the Seine in Paris or cycle the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Stay Connected
Traveling can be lonely, so stay connected with friends and family. Share your experiences, and maybe even make them a little jealous with your amazing travel stories. Social media is great, but dont forget the power of a good old-fashioned phone call.
As you can see, with a little bit of planning, some adaptability, and that positive attitude that has made you the athlete you are today, travel need not bother you unduly, even if you are doing it a lot. That race is yours for the taking so dont let travel fatigue ruin it for you!
Gold Coast hosted the Games in 2018 but becomes second Australian city to pull out of 2026 edition
The future of the Commonwealth Games is in doubt after Gold Coast scrapped its bid for the next instalment of the event.
Gold Coast, which held the Games back in 2018, stepped in after the state of Victoria decided that they couldnt host due to costs increasing from 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion.
To keep the 2026 edition in Australia, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate insisted they could do it again but only if the federal government helped cover the expenses.
However, both federal and state governments have now ruled out supporting the event.
We did our best and thats all people can expect, Tate said in a statement on December 3.
In simple terms, it seems our Games vision doesnt align with the vision of the state or federal governments.
The idea was to host a streamlined Games for around 367m, which could be shared with Perth, a six-hour flight away.
Tates proposal did not receive the required support though.
Our dual proposal with Perth would have saved Australias tarnished reputation, delivered billions into the national economy and given athletes, and para-athletes, a clear pathway towards other international competitions including the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics and Paralympics and then on to the 2032 Games in Queensland, he added.
It means the Commonwealth Games now doesnt have a host for either 2026 or 2030.
Just a month after Victoria stepped back from hosting the 2026 edition back in July, the Canadian province of Alberta withdrew its 2030 bid, also citing rising costs.
Organisers now suggest the next Games may have to be moved to 2027 as they look at options to keep the event alive.
Over 5000 athletes from 72 nations competed at Birmingham 2022, almost all of which are former territories of the British Empire.
A stoked Paul Coll and Hania El Hammamy were crowned the TTI Milwaukee Hong Kong Squash Open 2023 champions, defeating Ali Farag and Amanda Sobhy, respectively, to secure the Platinum-level titles at the Cultural Plaza.
Coll defeated Farag in an epic five-game battle to become the first male New Zealander to be victorious in Hong Kong, which was his second major title of the season having defeated the Egyptian at the U.S. Open.
It was the third time this campaign that Coll and Farag went head-to-head and the quality from both has been of the highest order. Both players were pushing high up the court from the off, as Farag drew first blood by taking the first 12-10.
Coll found great success with the forehand drop in the front right corner as he levelled the match before going 2-1 up by clinching the third 11-8.
"We wanted an epic and we got an EPIC!" @paulcollsquash closes out an INCREDIBLE final here in Hong Kong
PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) December 3, 2023
Having been under huge pressure from Coll in the third, Farag roared back as he held his nerve to level the match and send the epic encounter into a decider. Both players were going point for point right up to 9-9 when a no let decision went in Colls favour to give him championship ball.
The Kiwi converted following an error from Farag to score the 22nd title of his career. Im stoked, said Coll afterwards.
In the womens final, El Hammamy retained her crown in circumstances she wouldnt have wanted after Sobhy was forced to retire in the first game due to injury.
The score was locked at 5-5 when the U.S. No.1 went down and was unable to continue.
Its the 13th title of El Hammamys career and her second Platinum title of the season, having scooped the QTerminals Qatar Classic back in September.
Jaume reaches high in Hauts De France
Spains Bernat Jaume claimed the biggest title of his PSA Tour career, beating Englands Declan James 3-1 in the PSA Des Hauts De France Wam final.
James had knocked out former World No.22 Moustafa El Sirty in the semi-finals and was playing his first final since 2018, in what was only his fourth tournament since returning to action after having surgery to repair a ruptured achilles.
Pakistani first in Islamabad
The CAS-Serena Hotels International Squash Championship will have an all-Pakistani final for the first time in seven years, after both Noor Zamam and Muhammad Asim Khan won their respective semi-finals.
No.4 seed Zamam produced an impressive display to knock out Egyptian top seed Ibrahim Elkabbani 3-0, winning 13-11, 11-6, 11-4 in 40 minutes to reach his fifth Tour final.
Khan spent just 18 minutes on court in his semi-final, and was actually trailing 12-10, 2-0 when Nasir Iqbal was forced to retire.
The womens final will be an all-Egyptian affair, with rising star Nadien Elhammamy targeting a second straight PSA Tour title.
Top seed and defending champion Joelle King and No.2 seed Amanda Sobhy have withdrawn from the upcoming Barfoot and Thompson New Zealand Open due to injury.
As a result of the withdrawals, Belgian sisters Nele and Tinne Gilis have been moved up to No.1 and No.2 seed, respectively.
Womens US Open tennis champion Coco Gauff recently traded her sport for a spot of squash as her off season preparations went between four walls recently.
And the 19-year-old had an honest assessment of the sport: I have zero clue what Im doing, she said in response to a social media post of a rally.
Haha only my 2nd time playing. My first time was over a year ago lollll. I have zero clue what Im doing, Gauff wrote on X.
haha only my 2nd time playing my first time was over a year ago lollll. I have zero clue what im doing
Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) November 28, 2023
The PSA was quick to offer Gauf some guidance.
We know some players who could give you some tips, it said.
Gauff made history as the first teen to win the US Open since Serena Williams in 1999.