Group protests presence of Syrian equestrian rider

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A dozen people opposed to the Syrian government staged a small demonstration Saturday to protest the presence at the Olympics of a Syrian equestrian rider whose father is under U.S. sanctions for supporting President Assad.

Ahmad Saber Hamsho told The Times of London in June that the Assad regime was “only protecting people from guys with weapons.”

Rebels have fought the regime for 17 months in an uprising that has claimed 19,000 lives and turned into a civil war.

Hamsho competed in the show jumping individual qualifier event, producing a clear round on a horse called Wonderboy. Protesters outside the gate at Greenwich Park handed out leaflets and “Freedom for Syria” stickers.

Hamsho said he was representing the country, not anyone in particular, in the equestrian ring. He said he didn’t want to talk about Syrian politics and dismissed the protesters as “totally stupid.”

“They should be proud of us athletes who are representing Syria,” Hamsho said after his ride. “I represent no one. I represent only Syria.”

AMERICAN INJURED: Defending champion LaShawn Merritt, of the U.S., pulled up in the backstretch of his 400-meter preliminary heat, stopped in his quest for a second consecutive Olympic title by an ailing left hamstring.

Merritt got off to a bad start, fell behind early and stopped running after about 200 meters. He limped slowly off the track, an unsatisfying end to a tumultuous four years for the sprinter.

Merritt served a 21-month drug suspension between Olympics and needed a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport to become eligible for these games.

He was the gold-medal favorite coming into London, but hurt himself in a tuneup race. His coach said this week that Merritt’s status for the Olympics was shaky.

SPRINTER EXPELLED: Former 100-meter world champion Kim Collins was expelled by his team from the Olympics on Saturday for missing training sessions. He said he was being punished for spending time with his wife.

The St. Kitts and Nevis team described him as a “national hero” in announcing the penalty.

Collins, the 2003 world champion, said he showed up at the athletes village Saturday morning and found that his accreditation had been canceled, locking him out.

Collins was kept out of his scheduled start in the 100 heats on Saturday. He was also entered in the 200 meters and 4x100 relay.

WEIGHTLIFTER OUT: Ukrainian weightlifter Artem Ivanov failed to show for his weigh-in and won’t take part in the competition. No reason was given.

Organizers said in a brief statement Saturday that Ivanov “withdrew from competition.” He was to have competed in the 94-kilogram class.

Ivanov placed second behind Ilya Ilyin, of Kazakhstan, in last year’s world championship.

Two top Russian weightlifters withdrew because of medical reasons. Dmitry Klokov and Khadzhimurat Akkaev were medal favorites in the men’s 105-kilogram category.


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