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McLaren say no talks with Raikkonen… yet

Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One champion with Ferrari who is now with Lotus, is at the heart of paddock gossip with the driver market thrown into ferment by Australian Mark Webber’s decision to leave champions Red Bull for sportscar racing.

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Lotus say they are confident they can persuade him to stay once they have secured a new investment deal but the Finn has been linked to Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren in media speculation.

Asked in an interview with the official formula1.com website whether McLaren had ever considered getting Raikkonen back, Whitmarsh replied:

“Yes, we have. Kimi has always been great and I am a big fan of him. There is a lot of speculation out there at the moment so let’s see what happens.

“Last year we had talks with him, but for various reasons it didn’t happen,” added the team boss. “This year we’ve had no talks – yet.”

McLaren signed young Mexican Sergio Perez from Sauber last year as a replacement for 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton once the Briton had decided to move to Mercedes.

Britain’s Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion for Brawn GP, is their other driver and has been with the Woking team since 2010.

Raikkonen drove for McLaren from 2002 to 2006, when Ron Dennis was team principal, and won nine races with them as well as finishing overall runner-up in 2003 and 2005.

Button and Perez are expected to stay at McLaren next year, despite a miserable season for the former champions who have yet to finish higher than fifth, although Button told reporters at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix that he did not yet have a signed deal.

Asked whether having two world champions on board, as McLaren did last year with Hamilton and Button, might get more “positive media mileage”, Whitmarsh agreed that might be the case.

“Yes, it might do,” he replied. “We’ll see. We are not talking to Kimi at the moment so let’s see what happens in the driver market.

“I think one thing I have to say is that we haven’t given our drivers the car we should have done this year. But they’ve been fantastic ambassadors and I think they deserve another go with us next year.”

Button told reporters before Sunday’s race at Spa that he was happy at McLaren and expected to see out his Formula One future with the team.

McLaren celebrate 50 years in Formula One at Monza next week and a contract renewal could come at the same time for the Englishman.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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Film shows dashed dream, triumph of athlete-sportscaster Glickman

“I don’t ever remember walking as a young person,” Marty Glickman, the subject of the documentary “Glickman” which premieres on Monday on HBO, says in the film’s opening.

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“I always ran. It was my nature to run.”

But at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, then under the grip of Adolf Hitler’s Nazis, Glickman was one of two Jewish runners on the U.S. relay team pulled by U.S. officials at the 11th hour.

Glickman, who died in 2001 at 83 and was known as the voice of the NBA’s New York Knicks, the NFL’s New York Giants as well as Paramount Newsreels, recalled being frustrated and angry.

“I wanted to show that a Jew could do just as well as any other individual, and perhaps even better,” he said in the film.

“He never really became a national broadcaster, which bothered him,” said the film’s director, James Freedman, who worked at age 17 for Glickman producing the broadcaster’s late-night WNEW radio show, and was treated “not as a high school kid, but as a producer.”

Freedman, a successful television writer for hit TV shows such as “Cybill,” recalled that “people in Hollywood would say ‘Who’s Marty Glickman?’ So I hope this film will bring him the national recognition that he so deserved,” he told Reuters.

“He was the first jock-turned-broadcaster in the history of the medium.”

“Glickman,” which had Martin Scorsese as executive producer, features interviews with leading sports figures such as Bob Costas and Marv Albert, both of whom he mentored, Larry King, Red Auerbach and Frank Gifford. It intercuts those with archival footage of his youthful athletic feats in track and football and his legendary broadcasts.

“There was an almost orchestral quality to his vocal inflection … a texture to it that only a tiny handful of broadcasters could ever match,” Costas says in the film.

Said King: “He invented the one best term ever in sports broadcasting – swish,” used to describe the ball passing quickly and without resistance down through a basketball net.

“Nobody framed a basketball game like Marty Glickman,” King added. “I saw the game.”

Scorsese reflected that “You don’t need to know about Marty Glickman to appreciate the film. I am certainly not a sports enthusiast.” But the Oscar-winning director was intrigued by Glickman’s “intense commitment, one that fought through adversity and bigotry. There was no other option for him besides the games.”

Freedman said that despite having known and worked with Glickman since his youth, he learned more about the man through making the film.

“I had no idea how great an athlete he was,” said the first-time director. “He was once the third-fastest man in the world,” one of the two faster being the legendary Jesse Owens, another member of that 1936 U.S. Olympic team which struck down the Nazi myth of Aryan supremacy as Hitler watched.

“Also, I never knew just how deeply ’36 hurt him,” Freedman said, adding that he was deeply moved by “what happens when an 18-year-old kid’s dreams are crushed by prejudice.”

For his part, Glickman said it was not until he returned to Berlin’s Olympic stadium in 1985 that he became dizzy with rage, saying “I had maintained this pent up anger and hatred for 49 years.”

Glickman said he was asked about that dark time every four years during the Olympics. “I do not at all hesitate to tell the story, so that it won’t ever happen again,” he said.

With the film, the story will win an even wider audience.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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Fellaini rescues Everton with extra-time winner

The Belgian, at the centre of a transfer tussle with Manchester United, bundled in from close range after a goal-mouth scramble with 115 minutes on the clock.

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A day after their Merseyside neighbours Liverpool were also taken to extra-time by third-tier Notts County, Everton found themselves in a similar spot of bother when they fell behind to a first-half Luke Freeman goal.

They drew level when Spanish teenager Gerard Deulofeu, on loan from Barcelona, netted following a mazy run on the stroke of halftime and Fellaini’s goal set up a third-round clash with Fulham.

Newcastle United were held for 80 minutes by fourth tier Morecambe before substitute Shola Ameobi found the net with a deflected shot and his younger brother Sammy completed a 2-0 win with a calm finish.

There were no such difficulties for Aston Villa and Stoke City who both scored three times to move into the next round.

Kenwyne Jones grabbed a hat-trick for Stoke as they beat Walsall 3-1 and Villa wrapped up a 3-0 win over Rotherham with goals from Andreas Weimann, Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph.

Premier League Cardiff City were pushed hard by fourth-tier Accrington Stanley but broke through in the 61st minute when Nicky Maynard finished after a neat flick and Rudy Gestede doubled the lead a minute later to complete a 2-0 win.

Championship leaders Nottingham Forest needed extra-time to beat fellow second-tier side Millwall 2-1 with Jamaal Lascelles heading the winner after 94 minutes.

Watford sealed their place in the third round with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth thanks to an Elliott Ward own goal and a chipped finish from Cristian Battocchio.

(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ed Osmond)

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Croatia’s Kranjcar, Cameroon’s Assou-Ekotto loaned to QPR

The English Championship club’s manager Harry Redknapp, who failed to keep Rangers in the Premier League last season, has been reunited with 29-year-old Dynamo Kiev player Kranjcar for a third time having worked with him at Spurs and Portsmouth.

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“Niko’s a crowd pleaser – he gets people off their seats,” Redknapp told the club’s website (www.qpr.co.uk). “He’s a top player and … will add great quality to the squad.”

Kranjcar, a member of Redknapp’s Portsmouth side who won the FA Cup in 2008, added: “Harry has always brought the best out of me as a player. I played for him in two separate spells in England, and I’m delighted to be linking up with him again.”

Tottenham’s Assou-Ekotto, also 29, has teamed up with Redknapp for the second time after their spell together with Spurs at White Hart Lane.

“Benoit, for me, is one of the best left backs in the Premier League so I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring him here,” Redknapp said of Assou-Ekotto, who is preparing for a World Cup qualifier against Libya in Yaounde on Sunday.

Carroll, 21, is also moving to Loftus Road from Tottenham on a season-long loan having been developed by Redknapp at White Hart Lane where he gave the midfielder his debut in a Europa League tie in August 2011.

“He’s a player I fully expect to go to the very top of the game – he’s a future England international,” said Redknapp. “He’s got all the attributes to be a top, top player.

“He can pass, he can create, he can score goals – he’s a fantastic player and I’m confident he’ll flourish here for us.”

(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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No rest for Nadal as Spain pick him for Davis Cup singles

There had been doubt over world number two Nadal’s participation in the three-day tie in Madrid after his recent exertions in New York where he beat top-ranked Novak Djokovic in Monday’s U.

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S. Open final.

Nadal arrived in the Spanish capital early on Wednesday and after training at the “Magic Box” venue the 27-year-old was named in the team for Thursday’s draw by captain Alex Corretja.

“When I have been asked and have been free of injury I have always turned out to try to help the team win points and secure victories,” Nadal told a news conference.

“I have been playing at the maximum intensity for practically a whole month and obviously that has a draining effect,” he added.

“But I am ready for tomorrow and it’s just going to require another little bit of effort. I hope to be competitive even though I have spent very few hours on the court.”

Stakhovsky caused a huge upset at Wimbledon this year when he defeated seven-times champion Roger Federer in the second round but Nadal should have little trouble against the world number 92, especially as the tie is on his favoured clay.

Nadal has won 20 of his 21 Davis Cup singles matches, including a perfect 16 out of 16 on clay.

Spain number two Fernando Verdasco will play Ukraine number one Alexandr Dolgopolov in the opening singles, with the doubles to come on Saturday and the reverse singles on Sunday in the first meeting between the two nations.

Spain are in the playoffs after losing away to Milos Raonic’s Canada in the first round in February when Nadal, who had just returned from a seven-month injury layoff, did not feature. They had last fallen in the first round in 2006 when a team also missing Nadal was beaten 4-1 by Belarus on indoor carpet in Minsk.

In other World Group playoff ties Poland’s hopes of joining the elite for the first time have been dealt a huge blow after Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz was ruled out with a back injury for the home tie against Australia in Warsaw.

Andy Murray will lead Britain’s attempt to return to the World Group and will face 16-year-old Croatian Borna Coric in the opening singles rubber in Umag.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Martyn Herman)

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Australian iron man eyes endurance record

If Hansen, a rider with the Lotto-Belisol team, finishes the race in Madrid on September 15, he will be the first rider since Spaniard Marino Lejaretta in 1991 to complete seven Grand Tours in succession.

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Completing two Grand Tours in a single year is considered an exceptional feat for any rider and in cycling history fewer than 40 have managed to finish all three in one season.

Hansen finished the 2011 Vuelta before completing the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Tour of Spain in 2012 and 2013.

“You do get in a routine,” Hansen, a 32-year-old from the Gold Coast who won a stage of the Giro in May, told Reuters when asked if he has ever woken up unsure which Grand Tour he was in.

“But if you can handle the routine, you can handle the Grand Tours and you can handle the racing.

“I like doing big blocks of racing and this year so far so good. I had a good season last year, so I thought ‘why not keep going and do the same again?'”

With three chunks of nearly a month each spent on the road in 2012, Hansen admits to getting homesick for his adopted European base in the town of Frydlandt nad Ostratici in the Czech Republic.

“I spend a lot of time there between the Grand Tours.” he said.

“And before the Giro d’Italia I got a month off. That’s a great thing about the team, they don’t insist on me doing a lot of races as well as the big stage races, so I’m happy doing it.”

Hansen would like to equal Lejaretta’s record next year.

“I already know I’m doing the Giro d’Italia in 2014, I hope I’ll get a place in the Tour de France as well, and I love the Vuelta,” he said.

“The order of the races, given the Vuelta’s more low pressure, does help. Other riders I’ve talked to who’ve come here for the first time are amazed by how relaxed it is in comparison to the Tour de France, how easy it is to get in a breakaway.

“But we take this race very seriously, our team has had a guy in the break every day and I enjoy it. I just hope that the day the breakaway goes, that it’ll stick – a stage win here is what I’d really like. That, and getting to Madrid.”

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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Sochi Games work in full swing as torch ceremony looms

Organisers are rushing to complete the venues for the first Winter Games to be held in Russia, a traditional winter sports powerhouse, before the symbolic start of the Games run-up with the torch lighting at the site of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece on September 29.

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With Russia in the eye of a media storm over its recently adopted anti-gay propaganda law that has triggered protests across many countries, work at the Fisht Olympic stadium and the other Games venues continues unabated as workers put the finishing touches to the stadiums and shape the surrounding areas.

“The preparations are going well and everybody is working incredibly hard to make sure that we reach all of our targets,” Games chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said just days ago. “We have received brilliant feedback at every stage.

“The test competitions have passed successfully, which was proved by positive feedback,” he added.

Organisers tested the Olympic venues during the 2012-2013 winter season, with Sochi hosting major events in all 15 winter disciplines, with more than 3,000 athletes taking part.

The Games are divided into two clusters with the city’s Sochi Olympic park and the mountain cluster of biathlon, Alpine skiing and sliding venues some 40 kilometres away.

Sochi will see the Olympic flame land in Russia on October 7 before kicking off what is expected to be the longest torch relay for any Winter Olympics.

The Olympic flame will cover some 65,000 kilometres across Russia and will visit more than 2,900 towns and settlements, carried by more than 14,000 bearers.

The Games will open on February 7 and run to February 23.

(Writing by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Ossian Shine)

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Nyad defends record-breaking Cuba-U.S. swim against doubters

“I swam .

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.. in squeaky-clean, ethical fashion,” Nyad told a conference call late on Tuesday that included journalists and fellow marathon swimmers, some of whom have publicly questioned aspects of her challenging journey.

“I honoured the rules,” Nyad said at the start of the conference call. “I was an ethical swimmer.”

A triumphant Nyad, 64, staggered ashore in Key West, Florida, on September 2, after having swum about 53 hours, to become the first person to complete the treacherous crossing without a shark cage.

Nyad’s swim was her fifth attempt and only successful one. The highly publicized crossing sparked a social media debate about whether her journey meets the requirements to break the world record.

Some have questioned how Nyad was able to more than double her pace about halfway to Florida, and have wondered whether she was towed at any points by tracking boats.

Marathon swimmer Evan Morrison was among a number of members of the long-distance swimming community who publicly questioned Nyad’s feat on social media.

“In reading through Diana’s crew’s live-blog, trying to suss out how this incredible swim happened, I was struck by how little information there actually was,” Morrison wrote on the online Marathon Swimmers Forum.

“These details matter because Ms. Nyad is claiming – and the media reporting without fact-checking – a new world record for longest-distance nonstop, unassisted ocean swim,” he said.

Nyad’s pace quickened significantly about halfway through the swim – from her average 1.5 miles per hour (2.4 kph) to nearly four miles per hour (6.4 kph) – a swift pace that continued for about six hours.

She and her supporters have said that she got a significant boost from a favourable Gulf stream current – a contention that independent experts who study the ocean currents in the region agreed with on Tuesday.

SWIFT CURRENT

Mitchell Roffer, who runs a Melbourne, Florida-based ocean fishing forecasting service, said Nyad caught a swift, north-moving current, and then turned east out of the current at precisely the right moment.

“To me, it was an oceanographic lotto that she hit,” Roffer told Reuters. “You can’t get much luckier than she did.”

“The current, which was pulling her in north-northwestern flow, was as perfect as you could get,” Roffer said. “It would explain why her speed was faster during that period.”

John Bartlett, one of Nyad’s navigators, said on the call that Nyad’s speed for nearly six hours – beginning about halfway through the trek – averaged 3.97 miles per hour (6.39 kph).

Nyad, who was patient and in good spirits while answering numerous detailed questions from colleagues and reporters, said that during “this record-breaking swim I never touched the boat, not even an inadvertent touch.”

But after more than two hours she grew briefly exasperated with her inquisitors. She said that in the eight days since the race, she has had little time to review all the media coverage.

“First of all I was trying to feel some joy,” she said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do all my life. Most of that joy stopped when, you know … you always expect some questioning but my own peer group, instead of coming to me and asking me questions went to the media.”

Asked why she didn’t better prepare to document the 53-hour swim with more video cameras that could have answered sceptics’ questions, she said that after four failed attempts, most of the world had given up on her.

“My own family were like, ‘Please Diana, just give this up,'” she told reporters. “Nobody wanted to be out there with us.”

She said she wished some of those now requesting so much documentation to prove she broke a record were there before she left Cuba.

At the start of her most recent attempt, she said mockingly to sceptical journalists, “I didn’t get any emails from any of you … saying, you know, you really should have someone from the Obama administration” trailing to document the journey.

The comment drew laughter, but Nyad then grew more serious, and it became clear she was hurt by the scepticism of colleagues in the tiny global community of marathon swimmers.

“I never ever knew that we would not be trusted,” she said.

The previous record was held by Australian Penny Palfrey, who attempted the same crossing without a shark cage in 2012. Palfrey swam about 80 miles (129 km) in 41 hours before adverse currents forced an end to the attempt.

(Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Eric Walsh)

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McIlroy harbours hopes of a late FedExCup push

McIlroy sits 36th in the standings, 2,984 points behind leader Tiger Woods, but with 2,500 points available for a win in the FedExCup playoff stages and a re-set before the fourth and final event, positions can be improved dramatically.

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Any player in the top five going into the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta from Sep. 19-22 knows that victory there would secure the FedExCup title and the eye-popping bonus of $10 million.

While the odds are against him, McIlroy is not going to throw in the towel just yet. He has this week at the TPC Boston, where he defends his title, and then the BMW Championship in Chicago in two weeks’ time to try to transform his season.

“What I’m trying to get out of this week is just trying to move up in the FedExCup,” world number four McIlroy told reporters on Thursday.

“Going into the little week break that we have next week, playing myself into a nice position, then I can go into Chicago and play well and maybe get myself into the top five in the standings … so I actually have a chance to still win the thing going into Atlanta.

“I know I’ll need to produce a couple of really good finishes to do that, but I feel like I’m playing well enough to do that.”

McIlroy finished tied for 19th at The Barclays last week after sharing eighth place at the PGA Championship but believes he has turned the corner after finishing outside the top 40 at the U.S. Open and missing the cut at the British Open.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong,” the Northern Irishman said. “I’ve played pretty well at times this year. Five top 10s (on the PGA Tour), and I feel like my game is definitely running into a little bit of form.

“I guess I’m a victim of my own success at times. But I know how well I can play … and I want to get back to that level,” added the double major winner.

“All I want to do is just keep trying to improve my position. I’d love to make a big jump this week, and obviously jump into the sort of competitive places going into the Tour Championship.”

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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Casillas, Xavi celebrate milestones in Finland

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas and playmaker Xavi, who helped Spain win the tournament in Nigeria 14 years ago, reached 150 and 127 caps respectively in Friday’s 2-0 World Cup qualification victory against Finland in Helsinki.

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Casillas drew level with former Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaeus in 12th place on the all-time list, while Xavi climbed to second on Spain’s appearances ranking above former keeper Andoni Zubizarreta.

Casillas and Xavi play for bitter rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona but have remained firm friends and have been key performers during Spain’s glittering run since their triumph at Euro 2008.

At Euro 2012 last year, they became the only nation to win consecutive European crowns with a World Cup in between and along with the hosts will be among the favourites at the World Cup finals in Brazil next year.

Xavi, 33, remains a fixture for Barca but the 32-year-old Casillas is going through something of a crisis at Real after losing his place in the starting line-up under Jose Mourinho last season.

Mourinho’s successor Carlo Ancelotti has left him on the bench in Real’s opening three La Liga matches, opting to stick with Diego Lopez, who was bought from Sevilla as cover when Casillas broke a bone in his hand in January.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who was in charge at Real between 1999 and 2003, has firmly backed his captain and included him in Helsinki on Friday even with Barca keeper Victor Valdes on excellent form.

The defensive-minded Finns barely tested Casillas but he responded well to the sole moment of real danger, saving with his legs when the ball ricocheted off Sergio Ramos towards goal in the 12th minute.

Del Bosque said he had been more concerned about how to break down Finland’s defence than who would play in goal.

Any one of Spain’s three keepers – Casillas, Valdes and Napoli’s Pepe Reina – was perfectly capable of playing, he told reporters.

“At this stage of the season it’s not a problem that Iker hasn’t played,” he said.

“He comes from a pre-season during which he had minutes on the pitch, he is working well in training and he was at an excellent level in our latest sessions. We will see what happens in the future.”

IMPORTANT PART

Speaking to Spanish radio about the keeper situation in the run-up to the Finland game, Del Bosque suggested Casillas had lost his starting place at his club because of his role in trying to ease tension between Spain’s Real and Barca players.

Several “Clasicos” in recent years were marred by brawling, accusations of refereeing bias and play-acting and Del Bosque said Casillas had played an important part in making sure the national team was not seriously affected.

“We are obliged to remember some things and we cannot forget what happened because they were difficult moments for the national team and Iker helped a great deal,” he said.

Spain’s comfortable victory in Finland means they have a three-point lead over France at the top of qualification Group I with two of eight matches left.

They play their final two games at home to Belarus and Georgia next month.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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