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Briton Joe Salisbury and American partner Rajeev Ram came from a set down to reach the second round of the men's doubles at the French Open.

The second seeds beat Argentine Guido Pella and Hugo Dellien of Bolivia 2-6 6-1 6-4 on Wednesday.

The pair will face either Spanish duo Roberto Carballes Baena and Jaume Munar or South Africa's Lloyd Harris and Raven Klaasen in the next round.

Briton Neal Skupski and Mexican Giuliana Olmos play later on Wednesday.

The third seeds take on Mexican Santiago Gonzalez and Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan in their mixed doubles first-round match.

Elsewhere, there were defeats for four Britons across Wednesday's men's and women's doubles.

Henry Patten and Julian Cash were beaten 3-6 6-3 6-3 by American Ben Shelton and Australian Max Purcell in their men's doubles first round match.

And in the first round of the women's doubles, Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls were defeated 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 6-4 by Italians Jasmine Paolini and Martina Trevisan.

There was a shock first-round exit for world number one pair Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic as they were beaten 3-6 6-2 6-2 by Norway's Ulrikke Eikeri and Japan's Eri Hozumi.

Krejcikova and Siniakova have won five of the past six Grand Slam doubles titles together and were French Open champions in 2021.

Novak Djokovic's political message about Kosovo at the French Open was "not appropriate" and "shouldn't happen again", says France's sports minister.

Amelie Oudea-Castera said there needs to be a "principle of neutrality for the field of play".

Serb Djokovic wrote "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence" on a camera lens.

It is in reference to recent tension in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Serbia has never recognised Kosovo's independence and there has been violence in the past days following the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors in the north of the country, with police and Nato troops clashing with Serb protesters.

World governing body the International Tennis Federation said Djokovic's statement did not violate any rules because the Grand Slam rulebook does not ban political statements.

"When you carry messages about defending human rights, messages that bring people together around universal values, a sportsperson is free to express them," Oudea-Castera told broadcaster France 2.

"But in this case it was a message that is very activist, that is very political. You shouldn't get involved, especially in the current circumstances, and it shouldn't happen again."

Oudea-Castera said she made a distinction for messages in support for Ukraine in the face of Russia's invasion, adding that she did not put Kosovo and Ukraine "on the same level".

That includes supporting Ukrainian player Marta Kostyuk, who was booed by the crowd after she refused to shake hands with Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus on Sunday.

Belarus is an ally of Russia and allowed troops to use its territory to launch last year's invasion of Ukraine.

"What's happening for Ukrainians on the circuit is so painful, so difficult," said Oudea-Castera.

"You can understand [Kostyuk's refusal to shake hands]. Even if you'd like there to always be fair play up to and including the handshake, but there's pain and I respect it."

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, who has repeatedly spoken out about tennis' response to the Russian invasion, said Djokovic should be allowed to give his view.

"We are living in the free world, so why not say your opinion on something?" said Svitolina, after beating Storm Hunter in round two.

"I feel like if you stand for something, you think that this is the way, you should say."

Djokovic, 36, has defended his message, which he wrote immediately after his first-round win over Aleksandar Kovacevic on Tuesday.

Speaking to Serbian journalists the 22-time Grand Slam singles champion, whose father was born in Kosovo, said he was "against wars, violence and any kind of conflict" but that the situation Kosovo is a "precedent in international law".

"Especially as a son of a man born in Kosovo, I feel the need to give my support to our people and to the entirety of Serbia," said Djokovic.

"Kosovo is our cradle, our stronghold, centre of the most important things for our country. There are many reasons why I wrote that on the camera.

"Of course it hurts me very much as a Serb to see what is happening in Kosovo and the way our people have been practically expelled from the municipal offices, so the least I could do was this."

Kosovo Olympic authorities have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to open disciplinary proceedings against Djokovic, accusing him of stirring up political tension.

"Novak Djokovic has yet again promoted the Serbian nationalists' propaganda and used the sport platform to do so," said Ismet Krasniqi, president of Kosovo's Olympic Committee.

On Tuesday the Tennis Federation of Kosovo said Djokovic's actions would "directly result" in increasing tension between the two countries.

The French Tennis Federation, which organises the French Open, said there are no rules on what players can say at Grand Slams, and that it is "understandable" that discussions about international news events took place at the tournament.

"The same rules apply to all four Grand Slams. The tournament referee and Grand Slam Supervisors ensure that these rules are complied with," read a statement.

"Messages are passed on to the teams of any players concerned by such matters."

Djokovic's message 'bound to ruffle feathers'

Guy Delauney, BBC News Balkans correspondent

"Kosovo is the heart of Serbia" might seem like an odd statement. After all, Kosovo became independent in 2008 - and its geographical location in the south west meant that, even before then, it was always on the periphery of Serbia.

But its symbolic significance remains highly important to many Serbs. The 1389 Battle of Kosovo has been mythologised as the crucial event in the forging of Serbian identity. And many of the most important sites of the Serbian Orthodox Church are within modern-day Kosovo.

Serbia is one of scores of countries which refuse to recognise Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. And Serbians with family ties to Kosovo are particularly keen to ensure that Serbia's policy of non-recognition continues.

It has been a turbulent month for Serbia - with mass shootings and multiple protests - and ethnic-Serbs in Kosovo. By writing his courtside message, the country's sporting icon was showing his support - but in a way which was bound to ruffle feathers.

With his marker pen scribble, Djokovic neatly illustrated the enduring complexity of the situation.

World number one Carlos Alcaraz came through a tricky test against Japan's Taro Daniel to reach the French Open third round.

The Spaniard dropped the second set to the world number 97 but ultimately prevailed 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-2.

Alcaraz will face Canada's Denis Shapovalov next as he continues his bid for a second Grand Slam title.

Earlier, fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the third round with a win over Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena.

The Greek, runner-up at Roland Garros in 2021, won 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.

Alcaraz, top seed at a major for the first time in his career, is one of the favourites for the title having won last year's US Open.

The 20-year-old cruised to the first set but was broken early in the second by Daniel, who has claimed impressive wins over Grand Slam runners-up Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini this year.

However Alcaraz responded strongly, breaking a further five times across the final two sets to complete a routine win.

"I'm winning all the time because I am smiling," Alcaraz said. "And I always said that smiling, for me, is the key of everything.

"I enjoy being this kind of stadium, these kind of tournament, cities. That's the most important for me to enjoy, and that's why I smile all the time."

'It's a spiritual surface' - Tsitsipas on Paris clay

Tsitsipas has never won a Grand Slam, having lost in the French Open and Australian Open finals.

He broke Carballes Baena twice in winning the first set and, although he broke twice again in the second, Carballes Baena responded immediately each time as four games in a row went against serve.

Tsitsipas took the tie-break, quickly went 4-0 up in the third and served out to complete victory in two hours 16 minutes.

Asked about the way clay courts are cleaned and watered between sets, he said: "Those rituals, I have seen them over and over again.

"It's kind of ingrained in me and it's part of my identity.

"It's a cleansing of the soul. It's just like a knife. You let the old pass and you start with the new."

The 24-year-old will play Diego Schwartzman next after the Argentine beat Portugal's Nuno Borges 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 6-3.

'Winning in these atmospheres makes dark days worth it'

There was a five-set thriller on Court Simonne-Mathieu as Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, having beaten Britain's Dan Evans in the first round, overcame 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka.

The Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion took the first set but Kokkinakis rallied to win 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3.

Kokkinakis won the men's doubles with Nick Kyrgios at the 2022 Australian Open but has never gone beyond the third round in singles at a Grand Slam.

After suffering shoulder, pectoral, groin, knee and elbow injuries earlier in his career - as well as a serious bout of glandular fever that led to two hospital stays in 2020 - the 27-year-old wondered whether his chance had gone.

"I hit an age where I thought about quitting pretty early on," he said. "I think I was 21 or 22.

"I played a couple of matches and tried to look back on the good moments that I had and good wins I had in the past and used those to fuel me.

"There's a lot of dark days, but winning those matches in those atmospheres is what makes it worth it.

"I've missed a lot of opportunities in the past due to injury and other stuff, but I've still got a bit of my career left. I'm going to try to make the most of it while I can."

Kokkinakis will play 11th seed Karen Khachanov in the third round after the Russian's 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over Radu Albot of Moldova.

Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru came from two sets down to complete a surprise 1-6 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-1 win over Spanish 19th seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

Italy's Fabio Fognini is also through after a 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 win over Jason Kubler of Australia.

Fognini will play the Austrian Sebastian Ofner, who beat American 24th seed Sebastian Korda 6-3 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 to reach the third round for the first time.

Home favourite Caroline Garcia became the highest-ranked women's player to exit the French Open so far with a second-round loss to Anna Blinkova.

Fifth seed Garcia saved eight match points before succumbing to a 4-6 6-3 7-5 defeat by the Russian.

It came after former champion Jelena Ostapenko suffered a shock defeat by tournament debutant Peyton Stearns.

But second seed Aryna Sabalenka avoided a scare with a straight-set win over qualifier Iryna Shymanovich.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka beat fellow Belarusian Shymanovich 7-5 6-2 and will face either Poland's Magdalena Frech or Russian Kamilla Rakhimova next.

Garcia was the 16th seed to exit the women's draw as the second round got under way on Wednesday.

Latvian 17th seed Ostapenko, the 2017 champion at Roland Garros, lost 6-3 1-6 6-2 to the American.

Stearns, 21, is playing in her first overseas Grand Slam after making her major debut at last year's US Open.

Her first-round victory over doubles world number one Katerina Siniakova was her first at a Grand Slam.

She will face ninth seed Daria Kasatkina next, after the Russian breezed past Marketa Vondrousova 6-3 6-4.

Third seed Jessica Pegula advanced as Italy's Camila Giorgi withdrew through injury after losing the first set 6-2.

American Pegula will next play Belgian 28th seed Elise Mertens, who defeated Colombia's Camila Osorio 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

Pegula's compatriot Sloane Stephens will face Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva in the third round after easing past Russian Varvara Gracheva 6-2 6-1.

Earlier, Ukraine's Elina Svitolina recovered from a shaky start to beat Australian Storm Hunter 2-6 6-3 6-1.

Three-time French Open quarter-finalist Svitolina, making her Grand Slam return after becoming a mother in October, will play Blinkova next.

Svitolina said watching her husband, French player Gael Monfils, battle to a five-set victory on Tuesday in a match which finished after midnight local time had spurred her on against Hunter.

"I was up until midnight when the match was done and went to bed straight away," she said.

"He was there for me today. He made such a big effort to come and support me, especially on a tough day like today.

"It really motivated me to fight and not give up and play every point, try to put 100% effort out there."

Britain's Cameron Norrie matched his best run at the French Open by ruthlessly swatting aside home hope Lucas Pouille to reach the third round.

Norrie, seeded 14th, was much improved from his opening match, hitting heavier and precisely in a 6-1 6-3 6-3 win.

The British number one silenced the boisterous Paris crowd with a fast start and largely stayed in control.

Norrie will play either 17th seed Lorenzo Musetti or Russia's Alexander Shevchenko in the last 32.

The 27-year-old has made the third round in his past two appearances at Roland Garros but has never reached the last 16.

Norrie is the only British player left in the singles after Dan Evans and Jack Draper lost in the first round and no women made the main draw.

"I feel good - there have been ups and downs recently but I have a great team around me," Norrie said.

"We really want to play well at the Grand Slams. I definitely improved my game and performance from the first round and enjoyed the match more.

"I'm happy to be through."

Norrie continues to revel in pantomime villain role

Speaking before the match against French qualifier Pouille, Norrie said he relished playing in "the tough moments" as he prepared to face another home favourite in front of a passionate crowd.

But to Norrie's credit there was little of the same jeopardy as there was in Monday's five-set win over Benoit Paire.

On his return to Court Suzanne Lenglen - the second show-court at Roland Garros where he beat Paire in the first round - he walked out to the sound of boos from the French fans.

It would have acted as a reminder that he needed to make a fast start to dishearten Pouille and quieten the crowd.

Playing at a higher level than in his opener, Norrie did exactly that as he outclassed the one-time world number 10 in a 24-minute first set.

His level dropped in the second set, unable to find angles and winners with the same regularity as 675th-ranked Pouille recovered from falling an early break down.

But Norrie reasserted his authority to win the final three games and looked on course for smooth progress.

Then came another flashpoint in the third set which did not endear Norrie to the French fans, when the Briton seemed to get away with a double bounce and broke in the next point for a 3-1 lead.

Television replays indicated the ball did bounce twice but, in the absence of on-court technology assistance, umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore's decision stood.

More boos were directed at Norrie at the end of the game and during the next changeover before things threatened to become more complicated.

After going a double break up, Norrie was initially unable to close out the match.

Pouille, who has resurrected his career after a series of injuries plus subsequent issues with depression and alcohol, broke back for 5-2 and had two more chances in the ninth game to put the set back on serve.

However, Norrie retained his composure and served out victory in just one hour and 45 minutes.

"All credit to Lucas, I expect to see him back and enjoying his tennis," Norrie told the Lenglen crowd.

"It was nice to share a court with him, it was a tough battle, a great atmosphere and I'm sorry to take another Frenchman out. I hope you can support me in the next round."

2023 ITTF Mentorship Applications Open

Published in Table Tennis
Wednesday, 31 May 2023 05:11

The Mentorship connects mentees with experts around the world, providing insight and expertise to candidates in a unique, direct setting. It is designed to add value to the areas where the mentees need to improve and develop, supporting the advancement of their careers across different fields. Besides respecting the aspect of gender balance, as an inclusive project the Mentorship considers the principles as well as PTT integration by targeting coaches working with able-bodied and Para Table Tennis players.

In 2022, 37 mentees from 25 Member Associations were selected overall, and the program supported them to take the next step in their careers as current national coaches, elite athletes transitioning into coaching, Para Table Tennis coaches, International & Blue Badge Umpires, or International Referees.

In line with the aim to create a sustainable mentoring program that will have a significant impact on our game across continents, the established mentoring relationship between the mentee and mentor often continues even after the conclusion of the program. Ricardo Rieff (BRA) joined in 2021 as a mentee to Alejandra Gabaglio (ARG). One year after concluding the program, he was able to visit his mentor in Argentina where their mentoring experience continued on-site as he joined a training camp for youth athletes in Argentina.

As part of the stream that aims to help coaches based on the areas they need to improve, Dinyar Irani (NZL) was supported by mentor Eva Jeler (AUS) to develop young athletes in New Zealand.

The development of match officials is one of the main priorities in the cooperation between the ITTF’s Development department and the URC (Umpires and Referees Committee). The match officials’ pathway of the Mentorship dips into a pool of excellent umpires and referees officiating in top events who are able to mentor young match officials and be a partner for them on their way to the next level.

In 2022, match officials had the chance to discuss many aspects and get proper guidance to advance to the next level of their careers as future International Referees or Blue Badge Umpires.

In 2023, coaches and match officials will be selected via an online application process, where each Member Association is entitled to apply with 4 candidates in the coaching area and 4 candidates in the match officiating area, preferably 2 males and 2 females candidates per each area.

Applications are open to candidates from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania.

Link to the application form:

Application deadline: 16 June 2023

Donna Rose: Wales Women prop extends Saracens contract

Published in Rugby
Wednesday, 31 May 2023 10:27

Wales international Donna Rose has extended her contract with Women's Premier 15s side Saracens.

The prop, who has made 33 appearances for the north London club, has been absent this season because of injury.

The 31-year-old has won 15 caps for her country and helped Wales to the World Cup quarter-finals last October.

"Donna is committed, hardworking, and has a real thirst and desire to become the best she can possibly be," said director of rugby Alex Austerberry.

"I have no doubt she will return from injury and put in the action-packed performances she had become renowned for."

Saracens have not disclosed the length of Rose's new contract.

Life is pretty good for Tom Stewart at the moment.

The 22-year-old is fresh off a superb breakthrough season with Ulster, during which he scored a record-breaking 16 tries in the regular United Rugby Championship campaign.

It came as little surprise, then, to see the hooker named as one of seven Ulster players in Ireland's World Cup training squad on Tuesday.

Stewart's inclusion is a reflection of his impressive rise over the last 12 months, but even he would have found it difficult to imagine receiving a squad release e-mail during the depths of the injury woes that curtailed his progress with Ulster.

"It was obviously tough at the time and there were some dark days," Stewart told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

"When it just kept happening you couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, it was pretty dark.

"But coming out at the end of it and reflecting on it, it was probably the best thing that's happened to me."

The best thing, perhaps, until receiving confirmation that he has made Ireland's 42-man summer panel.

"I'm over the moon," he said of making the squad.

"The fact I'm in for a run-in to a World Cup, to be a part of a team that's actually looking promising to go far, it's very exciting."

Having overcome hamstring and foot injuries, Stewart made a sizeable impression in an Ulster shirt in the 2022-23 season, his ability to burst out from the back of a maul and score a try becoming a key weapon for the northern province.

His performances became impossible to ignore and, having played his part in the Emerging Ireland tour of South Africa last autumn, he was called up by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell as injury cover during the Six Nations.

Stewart may not have seen any game time during Ireland's Grand Slam campaign, but his continued development at Ulster has earned him a shot at possibly experiencing his first World Cup at 22.

'I'm really hungry for it'

Now that he's in, he will position himself under Farrell's microscope alongside fellow hookers Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher of Leinster and his club team-mate Rob Herring before 42 becomes the final 33 on the plane to France.

And while Stewart admits he never expected to be called up during the Six Nations, his time in the senior set-up deepened his desire to establish himself under Farrell.

"I'm hungry, very hungry," said Stewart, who is one of four uncapped players in Farrell's squad with Leinster duo Ciaran Frawley and Jamie Osborne and Munster's Calvin Nash.

"Just to be a part of it. I was kind of, not on the outside looking in in the Six Nations but to be a part of it and to be announced in this summer training squad is another step again.

"I'm really hungry for it. I'm looking forward to it and I'm going to throw my all at it."

On his time on the Emerging Ireland tour, Stewart says he was struck by watching forwards coach Paul O'Connell during training sessions.

"Just seeing how he likes the way things go around the breakdown was a big eye-opener for me," he said of the former Ireland captain.

"Ireland's breakdown is next level in my opinion so to see how he coached that was very good."

He added: "The Emerging Ireland tour really helped in that it showed me how Ireland wanted to play.

"I took that into Ulster stuff and tried little details, I was just trying to push myself to the best of my ability. I obviously have aspirations to play for Ireland but I just didn't think that I'd be going to the Six Nations, but I'm very happy that I got to do that."

Stewart can now look forward to a focused block of time in the Ireland set-up, which will include a warm-weather training camp in Portugal and World Cup warm-up games against Italy, England and Samoa before Farrell confirms his final 33 in late August.

And what can Stewart do to muscle his way on to the plane to France? The answer is simple.

"Just work really hard," he says.

"Obviously the boys will be out there and pushing and it's going to be all guns blazing because everyone's fighting for the last 33.

"But it's [all about] a bit of hard work and dedication, and as I said a bit of luck."

Big-name coach departures, big-name coach returns, upsets, retirements, record crowds, epic finals - and the desperate demise of two famous clubs.

The 2022-23 season was like none other.

And there is still more to come - the Premier 15s is set for a dramatic finish, with the final across the BBC on 24th June.

But in their last episode before a summer break, the Rugby Union Weekly team of former England and Lions player Ugo Monye, the Premiership's record try-scorer Chris Ashton, Harlequins and England scrum-half Danny Care, and BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones, looked back on the season that was, and made some early World Cup predictions.

Best moment of the season?

Danny Care: It is going to have to be this man to my left [the retiring Ashton], who scored the perfect hat-trick to get his 100th Premiership try. I'm very proud of him. He's worked hard, he's been banned a lot, but he's had an incredible career and the game will be a sadder place without him.

Ugo Monye: Some of [Newcastle winger] Matteo Carreras' solo tries were sensational, Owen Farrell's drop-goal against Gloucester was also special, while France against Ireland was an insane game in the Six Nations. A word also for Duhan van der Merwe's try against England.

Chris Jones: The Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand between the Black Ferns and the Red Roses was a special game and special finish. Then at the end of April, 60,000 at Twickenham for the Red Roses. That game and the Champions Cup final were my two favourite memories of the season.

Chris Ashton: The Champions Cup final was great. The atmosphere of it all, and the way the game went with La Rochelle coming from 17-0 down, with Ronan O'Gara as coach.

Worst moment of the season?

Jones: The worst thing - by some distance - was losing two clubs, and it could be three with London Irish on the clock. But I think we will see in the next five years a complete re-assessment of how professional rugby works.

Monye: I would like to see the salary cap change, with your ability to spend money based upon your profitability. Someone like Leicester Tigers, who have the biggest gate in the Premiership, they should be able to spend based upon what they are bringing in. It should be based on what you can afford, with a minimum operating standard. But you still need financial regulation.

Shock of the season?

Jones: Remember those two upsets in the autumn, with Georgia winning in Cardiff and Argentina winning at Twickenham. Two results which had huge repercussions, with Eddie Jones and Wayne Pivac both sacked soon after.

Ashton: On that note, Warren Gatland coming back to Wales [was a shock]. I wonder if he even knew it was coming? It's risky going back in when you've had so much success. What happens if it doesn't end well?

On the pitch v off the pitch…

Care: On the field, the game is still delivering. Off the field the game needs to work out how it can be better run and more sustainable. I think men and women are backing it up on the pitch and trying to produce a great product, but off field it needs some work. But there are exciting times ahead, the World Cup is going to be mega.

Who is winning the World Cup?

Care: It's between France, South Africa and England for me.

Ashton: South Africa are the team to beat.

Monye: I agree, South Africa. Their game has moved on significantly in the last year. However, for the first time New Zealand are going into a World Cup as slight underdogs, which never really happens, and that is dangerous.

Care: Ireland are going to have something to say about this!

Ashton: Ireland gone in the quarters…

Monye: That Leinster defeat has changed how people view Ireland's chances….

Care: We can't just write Ireland off because Leinster lost to La Rochelle by one point! How mad is that?

Jones: Saying Ireland could get knocked out in the quarter-finals is not insulting though. They have a massive World Cup hoodoo to overcome, and they will play New Zealand or France in the last eight, if they even get there, because Scotland will mean business.

Care: England will be in the semi-finals, and then you are just two games away.

Jones: There is a chance there will be a surprise finalist from that side of the draw, because it is very slanted.

And finally… the best podcast guest of the season?

Monye: I loved sitting down with Finn Russell during the Six Nations, and Dan Biggar during the autumn. Having all four directors of rugby in one room before the Premiership semi-finals, chatting to each other and having a laugh, was also excellent.

Care: Who was better out of Finn or Dan?!

Monye: They were different!

The Rugby Football Union has granted a one-week extension to London Irish to complete their takeover.

Players and staff at the club requested the extension despite only receiving 50% of their May salaries.

The Exiles now have until 16:00 BST on Tuesday, 6 June to complete the takeover process or prove they can fund the club's operating costs for the entire 2023-24 season.

If they fail to do so, they risk being suspended from the Premiership.

The update comes after a meeting of the RFU's Club Financial Viability Working Group on Wednesday evening.

Chair of the group and RFU board member Paula Carter said: "It is deeply frustrating for all the staff, players and fans that there have been months of multiple missed deadlines.

"We are extremely disappointed that the club has so far only funded 50% of the staff and player wages, however, we have to respect the wishes of those most affected.

"The 4pm deadline on 6 June is final and we have added the stipulation that the club must also fulfil its contractual obligations to its employees by paying the May salaries in full."


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