O'Connor makes history in Beijing's World Cup event
SPORTS DIGEST:CIAN O’CONNOR, winner of the individual bronze at the London Olympics, yesterday became the first non-Chinese competitor to land Beijing’s World Cup competition.
Over 40 international riders took part in the class but, due to quarantine restrictions, had to partner China-based horses. On board the Dutch Warmblood mare Wavanta, O’Connor recorded the only double clear to beat the hosts’ Ciren Bianba into second, with Edwin Smits finishing third for The Netherlands.
O’Connor, who has been in China for the last week, said: “I am absolutely thrilled to win this major event in China and perhaps contribute to the very encouraging relationship which is emerging between China and Ireland.
“The talent, enthusiasm and love for the horse was evident to see in the Chinese riders,” continued the Meath-based rider.
The venue for the World Cup competition was the Beijing International Equestrian Club where the equestrian director is Galway native Austin Melia.
– MARGIE McLOONE
Hamilton insists he moved for challenge
Motor SportLewis Hamilton has denied his decision to switch teams from McLaren to Mercedes was for financial reasons. The British driver, speaking for the first time since signing a three-year deal with Mercedes that starts next season, said he felt the split with McLaren was amicable and did not rule out a possible return at some point.
Speaking in Tokyo, ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Hamilton revealed his choice to leave the team was no easy task: “It was hard. Really, really hard. It was very, very stressful . . . once I made the decision I was so much more relaxed.”
The question of whether McLaren were not willing to match Mercedes in salary terms, widely assumed to be a central bone of contention, was rejected by Hamilton, who asserted that money was not a factor.
“It was not about the offer,” he said. “I had two offers on the table which were very, very similar. Martin [Whitmarsh] asked me what more they could have done. I said: ‘To be honest, Martin, it was about the new challenge and a step that I wanted to make’.”
Devlin’s 64 leaves him in top spot
GolfA magnificent eight-under-par 64 rocketed Chris Devlin to the top of the leaderboard on day two of European Tour qualifying at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire yesterday.
The highlight of Ballymena-born Devlin’s stunning round was two eagles in the space of three holes, on 14 and 16, while five more birdies took him to seven under for the tournament after an opening 73.
Rúaidhrí McGee couldn’t build on a promising first-round 70, carding a two-over 74, but he did finish in style with a hat-trick of birdies to stay comfortably in a qualifying position. Compatriot John-Daniel Guiney registered a 72 but has a lot of work to do just to make the cut at the end of today.
David Rawluk’s two-over 74 was matched by Headfort amateur Brian Casey but it will take a minor miracle for them to progress.
Mike Kelly did all he could to repair the damage of an 82 on Tuesday but managed a one-over 73 and is well out of contention.
At Ribagolfe in Portugal, Glen Robinson is the only Irish golfer in a qualifying berth ahead of today’s third round after shooting 75 to slip down the leaderboard.
Pietersen expected to rejoin England in time for India tour
CricketKevin Pietersen is expected to return to the England team for the four-Test tour of India in November after spending much of the next month flying back and forth from the Champions League Twenty20 competition in South Africa to hold clear-the-air meetings with the other players and the management as part of a “reintegration process” announced in Colombo yesterday.
Andy Flower, the England team director, has agreed to manage the process. Pietersen has been offered a new 12-month central contract by the England and Wales Cricket Board, but only if the reintegration process is successful.
At a press conference Pietersen apologised “to my team-mates, all the England supporters and the ECB for the situation that has arisen over the last couple of months”.
But crucially the ECB has accepted his insistence he said “nothing derogatory” about the then England captain Andrew Strauss in the texts he sent members of the South Africa team during last summer’s series.
Ireland to face Belgium in quarter-final tie
Women’s HockeyIreland meet Belgium, the nation that ended their Olympic qualifying hopes earlier this year, in the quarter-finals of the Champions Challenge I in Belfield today. The winners go through to Saturday afternoon’s semi-finals, with the final and other placings matches taking place on Sunday.
A victory (1-0 against South Africa), a draw (1-1 with Scotland) and a defeat (1-3 against the United States) in the pool phase of the competition left Ireland third in their table, setting up another meeting with Belgium, who were runners-up to the Australians in pool A.
Scotland play India today, the Americans face Wales and Australia, top seeds for the event, meet South Africa before the Irish game at 6.0.
– MARY HANNIGAN