Graf refuses to compete at Pyeongchang

MOSCOW - Russian speed skater Olga Graf announced Tuesday she is refusing to compete in the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics, because a ban on her country meant there wouldn't be enough athletes to form a team for the pursuit race. Following a ban over alleged state-sponsored doping in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week decided to allow only 169 of Russia's athletes to take part in the Games under a neutral flag. The move has excluded many high-profile athletes from the 2018 Winter Olympics. As only four of Russia's speed skaters have been allowed to compete -- including Graf -- Russia will be unable to form pursuit teams. "I'm happy that the IOC commission considered me to be a clean athlete," Graf wrote on Instagram. –AFP

Tomic return doubtful for Davis Cup

SYDNEY - Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt said Tuesday it is "highly doubtful" Bernard Tomic would play for Australia again, after Tomic declared the team could not win the event without him. Speaking ahead of their World Group tie against Germany in Brisbane, Hewitt said Australia was in good stead with its current team -- including Nick Kyrgios, Jordan Thompson and up-and-comer Alex De Minaur -- without Tomic. "It's highly doubtful," Hewitt send when asked about the chance of a Tomic return. "With the team comaraderie we have at the moment, it is as good as I've been a part of in a long time. We fully believe that the players we have here, we can go a long way," he added. Tomic created a stir this week when he declared Australia could not win the Davis Cup without him. –AFP Li first Chinese to crack golf's top 50

SHANGHAI - Emerging star Li Haotong wrote his name in the history books and underlined his prodigious talent as he became the first Chinese men's golfer to claim a spot in the world top 50. Li surged from 60th to 32nd in the rankings thanks to a thrilling victory at the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday and highlights China's growing prowess in a sport that was banned under Mao Zedong because he considered it too bourgeois. The European Tour said Li was the youngest player inside the top 50 and the 22-year-old now has his sights set on April's Masters after qualifying with his impressive third-place finish at last year's British Open. Li upstaged four-time major winner Rory McIlroy in Dubai for his second European Tour title -- his maiden win was on home soil in the 2016 China Open. –AFP

 Alonso to drive in Le Mans

PARIS – Two-time ex world champion Fernando Alonso will make his Le Mans 24-hour race debut this year after getting permission to take a leave of absence from Formula One by his team McLaren. "McLaren has confirmed it will allow Fernando Alonso to compete in upcoming rounds of the World Endurance Championship, including this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans," the team said Tuesday. McLaren stressed that F1 was still Alonso's main priority, and as such he will compete in every round of the 2018 season. Last year the Spaniard missed the Monaco GP to compete in the Indianapolis 500 as part of his dream of winning motor sport's Triple Crown of Monaco, the Indy 500 and Le Mans. The feat has only been achieved by Graham Hill. "We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out," Alonso said. –AFP

 Diplomatic Soccer League in full swing

ISLAMABAD – Saudi Embassy beat Brazil 3-1 to maintain their place in 6th round of the 1st Diplomatic League organised by Leisure Leagues here Tuesday. The second game of the day was contested between Russia and Japan which the former won 4-1. Team Europe thrashed Germany 6-0 while in the last game of the day Saudi Embassy-A outplayed Northern Lights. UN Goodwill Ambassador and public speaker Muniba Mazari graced the occasion as chief guest. It was yet again a memorable day for the diplomatic community, who had the chance to see their family members, friends and colleagues showcasing their soccer skills on the ground. Muniba lauded the efforts made by Leisure Leagues in organising such a unique league and was happy to see how this activity is helping in projecting the soft image of Pakistan.–Staff Reporter