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Australian Open 2023: Aryna Sabalenka Wins Maiden Single Grand Slam

MELBOURNE, Jan 28: Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday came from a set down to beat Elena Rybakina in the final of the Australian Open women's singles event at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Park. The fifth seed defeated the 22nd seed 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to claim her maiden singles Grand Slam.

The reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina seemed to be in control after winning the first set, but was completely outplayed in the second set by Sabalenka, who then fought her way to claim the decider, despite squandering three championship points.

Wrestling Chief To Step Aside Till Probe Over: Minister On #MeToo Charge

NEW DELHI, Jan 20: BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will step aside from India's wrestling body for four weeks during which an oversight committee will look into allegations of sexual harassment against him, Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur told reporters today.

After a meeting that lasted seven hours and went past midnight, Thakur, flanked by some of India's most celebrated wrestlers, in a news conference assured that the government will support the wrestlers at every step of their battle.

"An oversight committee will be set up. It will take four weeks to give a report. Any allegation, whether sexual harassment or financial wrongdoing, we will dive deep and investigate them. We will take action after that," Thakur said.

After meeting Thakur, the wrestlers called off their protest against alleged sexual harassment and misappropriation of funds.

"Till the time the investigation is not complete, a committee will see to the day-to-day working (of the Wrestling Federation of India)...I thank the athletes for speaking to me," Thakur said.

Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia said the minister has assured he is with the wrestlers at every step. "Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also always supported our athletes," Punia said.

The Indian Olympic Association has also announced a seven-member panel to investigate the allegations against Singh. The panel will have noted athletes Mary Kom, Dola Banerjee, Alaknanda Ashok, Yogeshwar Dutt and Sahdev Yadav as members.

Singh has denied the allegations and refused to resign. "If I speak, there will be a tsunami...I am not here because of someone's charity. I have been elected by the people," he told reporters in Uttar Pradesh's Gonda.

Earlier, Thakur had dialled Singh and cautioned him against making any statement to the media.

Ahead of the meeting on Friday night, the wrestlers had sent a letter to PT Usha, the head of the Indian Olympic body, seeking action against Singh.

"Vinesh Phogat was mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI chief after she missed out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo. She almost contemplated suicide," the wrestlers wrote in their letter to Ms Usha, adding "they fear for their lives".

Ms Phogat has agreed to reveal the identity of the sexual harassment survivors to the Indian Olympic Association committee.

Wrestlers #MeToo Allegations Serious

NEW DELHI, Jan 19: Wrestlers protesting in Delhi over sexual harassment allegations against the federation chief and coaches on Thursday said they weren't satisfied after talks with the government and "won't wrestle another day" till their demands are met.

"We have not got a satisfactory response; only assurances, no concrete action. We will not quit till the federation chief is removed, and he goes to jail. We have 5-6 girls with proof. If the government does not act, we will go to the police," Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik said.

At a news conference before wrapping up the second day of their sit-in at Delhi's Jantar Mantar with around 200 others, the three wrestlers - among India's most decorated wrestlers - said, "We did not want to take the legal route because we had faith in the Prime Minister."

The announcement came following their talks at the Sports Ministry brokered by Olympian Babita Phogat, a member of the BJP and part of the Haryana government. "I'm a wrestler first. The BJP government is with the wrestlers. I have heard instances of abuse in my career as well. There is no smoke without fire," Babita Phogat said.

The country's sports ministry on Wednesday had asked the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to respond to the allegations within 72 hours after Vinesh Phogat, a triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist, went public with the charges. Meanwhile, sports minister Anurag Thakur is meeting the wrestlers at his residence.

WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is a BJP MP, has refuted the charges. "All the sexual harassment allegations are false, and I will commit suicide if they are found to be true," the 66-year-old was quoted as saying.

Vinesh Phogat, 28, made the allegations against Singh and trainers at a public protest in Delhi's Jantar Mantar, backed by several other top wrestlers. "Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI president. I know at least 10-20 girls in the national camp who have come and told me their stories," she said, tearing up.

Phogat said she never faced such exploitation herself, but claimed many wrestlers were intimidated from coming forward because of their humble origins. "They are scared because of their family background. They can't fight them because they are powerful. Wrestling is our only livelihood, and they are not letting us do it. Our only option is to die. So might as well do good before dying," she added.

The Delhi Commission for Women, a local body that looks after women's issues, has issued notice to the sports ministry and asked the city police to file a case. The organisation's chief Swati Maliwal met the protesting wrestlers at the Jantar Mantar.

Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha, said "We request athletes to come forward and voice their concerns with us," and the well-being of the athletes is our top priority.

The allegations come months after the coach of the country's national cycling team was sacked following sexual harassment charges.

India's #MeToo movement gathered momentum in 2018 after a Bollywood actress accused a senior actor of sexual harassment. Soon after, women from other backgrounds came forward with multiple allegations, including against a former government minister, but activists say there has been little fundamental change.

Indian Govt Asks Wrestling Body To Respond On Sexual Harassment Charge

NEW DELHI, Jan 18: The sports ministry has sought a response from the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) "within the next 72 hours" after top wrestlers including Olympian Vinesh Phogat, Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik alleged gross misconduct by the sports body's coaches and president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Vinesh Phogat, the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, said that "national coaches molested female wrestlers over the years and were given death threats by WFI officials."

She along with other top Indian wrestlers sat a massive protest at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday. The wrestlers have called for the removal of the WFI president from the post.

The centre, in a statement, has made it clear that if the WFI does not respond in the next three days, the sports ministry "will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011."

Taking cognizance of the protest staged by wrestlers, including Olympic and CWG medalists, in Delhi today and a press conference in which wrestlers have levelled serious charges of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by the President and coaches of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and of mismanagement in the functioning of the federation, the Sports Ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made.

In its communication to WFI, the Ministry has stated that "since the matter pertains to the well being of athletes, the Ministry has taken a very serious view of the matter." the sports ministry said in the statement.

"The Ministry has further stated that if WFI fails to furnish the reply within the next 72 hours, the Ministry will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011."

Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, world championship medallist Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha, Amit Dhankar and CWG medallist Sumit Malik were among 30 wrestlers who assembled at the famous protest site.

Vinesh, a world championship medallist and Olympian, also claimed that several coaches at a national camp in Lucknow have exploited women wrestlers, adding that there are a few women at the camp who approach wrestlers at the behest of the WFI President.

"Some coaches are close to the national federations. Those coaches have exploited young girls. Don't know how many young girls have suffered due to them," Vinesh stated.

The 28-year-old though clarified that she herself has not faced such exploitation but claimed that she had received death threats at the behest of WFI president from officials close to him because she dared to draw Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attention to several issues plaguing Indian wrestling when she met him after the Tokyo Games.

"I know at least 10-20 women wrestlers who have told me about the sexual exploitation they faced at the hands of (the) WFI President. They told me their stories. I can't take their names now but I can definitely reveal the names if we get to meet the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the country," Vinesh said addressing the media after staging a four-hour 'dharna' at Jantar Mantar.

"I have received death threats from people who are close to the WFI President. If anything happens to any of us sitting here, only the WFI President will be responsible."

Sitting beside Vinesh, Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia said the federation is being run in an arbitrary manner and they will not compete in any international competition unless the WFI President is removed. "Our fight is not against the government or the Sports Authority of India (SAI). This is against WFI. 'Yeh ab aar paar ki ladai hai' (It's a fight to the finish). We will continue this protest until WFI President is removed," Bajrang Punia told news agency PTI.

WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has responded to the allegations. "I came here as soon as I got to know the wrestlers are protesting. Is there anyone on record who can say the Federation has molested us?" he said at a press conference. "If you had such issues with the federation, then why did nobody raise them for 10 years? Issues come up whenever rules are formed."

"No truth in wrestlers' allegations against me, I am ready to be hanged even if one sexual harassment case is proved," the WFI chief Brij Bhushan added. "I will not quit as WFI President but I am ready for investigation by CBI or police."

"An industrialist is behind this conspiracy against me. Why Vinesh did not approach police if she received death threats," he further alleged.

The ministry has also cancelled an upcoming wrestling camp for women wrestlers. "Further, the Women National Wrestling Coaching camp, which was due to start in Sports Authority of India's National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) in Lucknow from January 18, 2023 with 41 wrestlers and 13 coaches and support staff, has been cancelled," the statement stated.

"The Executive Director of NCOE Lucknow has been directed to provide all facilities to national campers who have already reported and likely to report, till the campers depart from the centre. Necessary information regarding cancellation of the National Coaching Camp has also been sent to all campers."

Brazil Pays Final Respects To Football Legend Pele

SANTOS, Jan 2: An emotional Brazil began paying its final respects Monday to football legend Pele with a wake at the stadium where he first took the world's breath away with his dazzling skill.

Throughout the day, thousands of fans and football dignitaries slowly filed through the Vila Belmiro, home to Pele's longtime club, Santos.

More continued to join the queue as night fell, waiting their turn to walk past the body of "O Rei" (The King), lying at the center of the field.

Pele's coffin was draped in the flags of Santos and Brazil and surrounded by white flowers, including bouquets from the likes of Real Madrid or current Brazil star Neymar, whose father was in attendance.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his wife also sent a wreath, local media reported.

Lula's office announced earlier that he would attend the wake on Tuesday morning, less than 48 hours after taking office, to "pay his respects and tribute," before a funeral procession and interment later in the day.

Pele, a three-time World Cup winner widely considered the greatest footballer of all time, died Thursday at age 82 after a battle with cancer.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who attended the wake with the heads of the South American and Brazilian football confederations, said the sport's governing body would ask all member countries to name a stadium in Pele's honor.

"Pele is eternal. He's a global icon of football," he told journalists in Santos, a southeastern port city 75 kilometers (45 miles) from Sao Paulo.

Carlos Mota and his 12-year-old son Bernardo had traveled more than 500 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro to pay tribute to their hero.

"My whole childhood was influenced by what Pele did for Brazil, by his World Cup wins. He was a national idol," Mota, 59, said.

"I've always told my son, there are three indisputable facts: the ball is round, the grass is green and Pele is the greatest of all time."

Bernardo clearly took the lesson to heart.

"I never saw Pele play, but I've seen the videos. He's the greatest player who ever walked the Earth," he said.

Seventy-five-year-old retiree Vera Lucia, who had made the trip from Sao Paulo, was also braving the scorching sun to stand in line, which stretched to two kilometers in the early afternoon.

"I'm just devastated," she said. "We always loved watching his matches as a family."

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele exploded onto the scene at age 15, when he made his professional debut with Santos.

He went on to win the World Cup three times with Brazil, in 1958, 1962 and 1970 -- the only player in history to achieve the feat.

Tributes have poured in from around the world since his death, with a Who's Who of current and former football greats hailing his genius for the "beautiful game."

A stream of athletes, politicians, dignitaries and fans are expected in Santos for the wake, though turnout may be dented somewhat by the New Year's holiday weekend.

Some 7,000 people had filed past the casket by mid-afternoon, according to Brazil's TV Globo.

Pele's coffin was carried into the stadium by pallbearers dressed in black, led by his son Edinho.

The late icon's widow, Marcia Cibele Aoki, his third wife, whom he married in 2016, cried before his open casket as she reached out to touch his head. She also placed a rosary in his coffin.

Other tributes have come in from around Brazil, which held three days of national mourning.

At the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio, a giant poster with Pele's image bears the word "eternal."

And Lula's inauguration Sunday began with a minute's silence in Pele's memory.

Pele had been in fragile health, suffering from kidney problems and then colon cancer.

But he remained active on social media, cheering on Brazil from his hospital bed in Sao Paulo during the World Cup in Qatar and consoling the pre-tournament favorites when they were eliminated in the quarter-finals, three weeks before his death.

The wake will be followed by a funeral procession Tuesday through Santos, including past the house of Pele's mother, 100-year-old Celeste Arantes, who is still alive.

The procession will end at Santos's Memorial Cemetery, where a Catholic funeral service will be held before Pele is interred in a special mausoleum.



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