The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday backed the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals to international sports but did not give a timeline on their participation at Olympic events. The move was criticised by Ukrainian, Polish and German governments while Russia termed the move as ‘discrimination’ against its athletes.
In tennis, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina moved into the semi-finals of the Miami Open. In the ATP event, Carlos Alcaraz moved into the quarter-finals while Stefanos Tsitsipas was knocked out.
Scotland notched a memorable win over Spain with Scott McTominay scoring twice in a Euro qualifying win.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Lionel Messi scored his 100th goal for Argentina as well as his seventh hat-trick for his country in a 7-0 win over Curacao.
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 29 March, 2023:
IOC backs Russia’s return
Olympic chiefs on Tuesday recommended the return to competition of Russian and Belarusian athletes as individual neutrals, but refused to give a timeline on their potential participation at next year’s Paris Olympics.
IOC president Thomas Bach said the body’s Executive Board had recommended to international federations and international sports event organisers that “athletes with a Russian or a Belarusian passport must compete only as Individual Neutral Athletes”.
The move to “postpone” the decision about Russian and Belarusian athletes competing at the Games in France was welcomed by Ukraine.
“The decision on the admission of Russians and Belarusians to the Olympics in 2024 has been postponed,” Ukraine’s Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit said on Facebook.
“We will also make joint efforts so that not a single Z-patriot gets into international sports arenas,” he added in an apparent reference to pro-war Russians.
German Sports Minister Nancy Faeser called the recommendation for Russians and Belarusians to return as neutrals a “slap in the face” for Ukrainian athletes, who she said “deserve the solidarity of international sport”.
But Moscow said forcing Russians to compete under a neutral flag would amount to “discrimination”.
Among other IOC recommendations – which Bach said were agreed unanimously, the IOC said “teams of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport cannot be considered”.
Bach reiterated that the sanctions against “those responsible for the war, the Russian and Belarusian states and governments”, must remain in place, having first been introduced after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
That means Russia and Belarus are unable to organise international sports events on their territory.
Bach, speaking after the executive board meeting in Lausanne, said a decision on athletes from Russia and Belarus taking part in Paris 2024 and the 2026 Winter Olympics, however, would be taken “at the appropriate time”.
Messi scores 100th international goal
Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored his 100th international goal for the reigning world champions as they romped to a 7-0 friendly win over outclassed Curacao. It made him the first male World Cup winner to hit triple figures.
Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi opened the scoring against the Caribbean island minnows on 20 minutes in Santiago del Estero.
It came 17 years after he opened his Argentina account in a 3-2 defeat to Croatia in March 2006.
The 35-year-old soon added another just after the half-hour mark to make it 3-0, and then completed his hat-trick on 37 minutes with the fifth as Argentina toyed with their overmatched opponents.
It was his seventh hat-trick for the national team.
Messi came into the game not just as his country’s all-time men’s record goalscorer, but with more goals than the next two top marksmen – Gabriel Batistuta on 56 and Sergio Aguero with 41 – put together.
This was Argentina’s second match since winning the World Cup in dramatic style against France in Qatar in December – triumphing 4-2 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw – and it was always going to be about Messi reaching 100 goals.
Now with 102, he remains third in the men’s all-time list, behind great rival Cristiano Ronaldo (122) of Portugal and Iran’s Ali Daei (109).
Rybakina, Alcazar progress in Miami
Elena Rybakina moved into the semi-final of the Miami Open with a confident 6-3, 6-0 win over Italy’s Martina Trevisan at the Hard Rock Stadium on Tuesday to extend her winning streak to 12 matches.
World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz charged into the quarter-finals in Miami with a convincing 6-3, 6-3 victory over Tommy Paul but second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was knocked out by Russian Karen Khachanov.
Rybakina, who competes for Kazakhstan, remains in strong contention for the “Sunshine Double” of Indian Wells and Miami WTA titles after she beat Aryna Sabalenka in California earlier this month.
Sabalenka is the biggest obstacle to Rybakina triumphing again with the Belarusian in impressive form in South Florida.
Sabalenka powered past Barbora Krejcíkova in straight sets in her fourth-round match on Monday and faces Romanian Sorana Cirstea in the last eight on Wednesday.
Alcaraz, the defending Miami champion and also the winner at Indian Wells earlier this month, will face another American in the last eight when he comes up against Taylor Fritz.
It was the ninth straight victory for the 19-year-old Spaniard, who delighted a supportive South Florida crowd with his powerful strokes from the baseline and readiness to move forward, once again making use of his increasingly effective drop shot.
Tsitsipas had to wait a week for his first contest in Miami, beating Chilean Cristian Garin on Monday, but he came unstuck against Khachanov, losing 7-6 (4), 6-4.
The Greek has been troubled by a shoulder injury in recent weeks
In a clash of top-10 players, American Fritz defeated Denmark’s Holger Rune 6-3, 6-4 to reach to the last eight in Miami for the first time in his career.
Italian Jannick Sinner also advanced to the last eight without dropping a set and he was in firm control from the outset against Russian sixth seed Andrey Rublev, winning 6-2, 6-4.
Sinner, who has never failed to reach the quarters in his three appearances in Miami, will face Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori after he beat Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Results from the ATP/WTA Miami Open on Tuesday (x denotes seed):
Men’s singles fourth round
Carlos Alcaraz (ESP x1) bt Tommy Paul (USA x16) 6-4, 6-4
Taylor Fritz (USA x9) bt Holger Rune (DEN x7) 6-3, 6-4
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) bt Botic van de Zandschulp (NED x26) 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
Jannik Sinner (ITA x10) bt Andrey Rublev (RUS x6) 6-2, 6-4
Christopher Eubanks (USA) bt Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5)
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x4) bt Quentin Halys (FRA) 6-4, 6-2
Francisco Cerundolo (ARG x25) bt Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
Karen Khachanov (RUS x14) bt Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x2) 7-6 (7/4), 6-4
Women’s singles quarterfinal
Elena Rybakina (KAZ x10) bt Martina Trevisan (ITA x25) 6-3, 6-0
Jessica Pegula (USA x3) bt Anastasia Potapova (RUS x27) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2)
Scotland stun Spain
Scott McTominay scored twice as Scotland claimed a famous 2-0 victory over Spain at Hampden Park in Euro 2024 qualifying on Tuesday, while Croatia won in Turkey.
Steve Clarke’s Scotland won their opening match in Group A 3-0 against Cyprus on Saturday but usurped that result with a stunning performance against three-time European champions Spain.
It was their first victory over Spain since 1984 and probably their best result since beating France in 2007.
Manchester United midfielder McTominay gave the hosts a dream start by slotting home Andrew Robertson’s cutback in the seventh minute.
McTominay made no mistake six minutes after the restart, drilling home a fine left-footed volley after excellent work from Kieran Tierney.
Scotland are top of a difficult Group A that also includes Erling Haaland’s Norway and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s Georgia.
The Georgians played out a 1-1 draw with Norway in the other Group A game in Batumi.
World Cup semi-finalists Croatia eased to an impressive 2-0 win in Turkey to kickstart their Group D campaign after an opening draw with Wales.
Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic netted a first-half double with both goals coming from Mario Pasalic assists.
Croatia are level on four points with Wales after Rob Page’s side beat Latvia 1-0 for their first win since the retirement of Gareth Bale.
Switzerland made it two wins from two games in Group I with a comfortable 3-0 success against Israel.
Romania also boast a 100 percent record in the group after edging out Belarus 2-1, while Kosovo have two points from as many matches after a 1-1 draw with Andorra.
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day