By george albanoStaff Writer By george albano Staff Writer JERRY WOLKOWITZ Middletown North’s Rob Molinaro returns as one of the top hurlers in the Shore Conference this year as the Lions look to regain the form that led to a 20-7 mark last year. Middletown North baseball coach Bryan Kernan said he wasn’t too concerned about the Lions’ 0-2 start this season. In fact, the second-year coach was more upset about the three games his team lost to Mother Nature last week than the two it lost on the field the week before. The Lions lost their season opener 3-2 to Freehold Township, the No. 6-ranked team in the Shore Conference this week, and then dropped a 7-1 decision to No. 1 and perennial power Christian Brothers Academy, which broke open a 2-1 game with five runs in the sixth. “We were in both games,” said Kernan, whose team has fallen out of the top 10 after being ranked fifth in the conference’s preseason poll. “We got good pitching, but we just have to start hitting the ball better. “I’m not surprised where we are, though,” he added. “We’re 0-2, but we’re going to grow up and get better. We start a lot of new faces, but they just have to get confidence and get some ball games under their belts. I think we’re going to be okay. I’m not worried.” Kernan, who replaced the late and legendary Rich Veth as MNHS head coach last season, led the Lions to a 20-7 record in his first year. They finished second in the A North Division with a 12-2 conference mark and then advanced all the way to the Central Jersey Group IV state final before losing to West Windsor South. But six key seniors graduated from that team, leaving Kernan some major holes to fill. “Five of them were my two, three, four, five and six hitters in the lineup,” he pointed out, “so we’re trying to replace a lot of offense. I lost two All-Shore Conference players, another second-team player, and four All-Monmouth County players.” On the plus side, however, the Lions return an All-Shore Conference pitcher in senior co-captain Rob Molinaro, who went 6-2 a year ago. He started the game against CBA and had given up only two runs and struck out eight through five innings before putting two batters on in the sixth and leaving. The other senior co-captain is returning center fielder Rob O’Gorzat, who batted .301 as a junior. “We expect big things from Rob,” Kernan said. “I think he can be a pro prospect, to be honest with you. He runs real well and has a good arm. He’s legitimate.” So is senior catcher Greg Migliaccio, who batted .385 last year, tops among returning players, and knocked in 17 runs. Another key player back is senior pitcher/shortstop Justin Esposito, who went 6-0 last season, all in relief. “He closed 10 of our wins,” Kernan noted, “so he won six games and saved another 10.” Esposito also bats third in the lineup and homered against CBA for the Lions’ lone run. A nice addition to the lineup has been senior Anthony Lamberti, who can play third, pitch and DH. He injured his knee last year and missed nine weeks before returning for the last six games. “He would’ve started for us, too, if he hadn’t gotten hurt,” Kernan said. “He could hit for power and as a pitcher he has an above-average curve ball.” A healthy Lamberti will be in the lineup every day this season, as will Anthony Balacich, another senior who batted .333 playing part time a year ago, but who will see action at first and third this season. “He’s a gamer,” Kernan said of Balacich. “He has a lot of potential to be a great player. He transferred here from Brooklyn when he was a sophomore, and I like what he brings to the program.” Bill Fearon is another senior being counted on, especially on the mound. “He throws in the mid-80s and will probably close for us,” Kernan said. “He pitched on the JV team last year, so he’s going to be a nice addition. He could get some starts in the rotation, but if not, he’ll pitch in a lot of games in relief.” One player definitely in the rotation is junior Bill Hemberger, a pitcher/first baseman also up from the JV who drew the opening day assignment and gave up only five hits. Kernan is also counting on a pair of promising sophomores to contribute, including second baseman Artie Kaylor, who the coach says “brings a lot of energy to the program. He’s a hard worker who’s going to be a terrific player in our program the next few years.” He gets just as excited when he talks about sophomore Matt Pignatello, the team’s backup catcher who will probably play a lot of third base and can also play second. “He’s a terrific baseball player who through the hard work he puts forth, can be an excellent Division I player. He does a lot of things right,” Kernan said. “We already have a good catcher or else he’d start there. He could probably start for 40 other programs.” Kernan has a total of five sophomores on his roster of 20 players, and a lot of those players could see action this week as the Lions are scheduled to play four games after getting wiped out last week. “I like what this group of players brings to the table. They’re all hard workers,” he said. “We lost to the No. 1 and 6 ranked teams in the Shore Conference, so I’m not worried. We’re going to be okay. We just need some good weather to play. “Besides, it’s not where you start, but where you finish.”
Mater Dei’s Michael Amato struck gold at last weekend’s NJSIAA State Non-Public B Championships in South Plainfield. The Seraph senior was the only high jumper in the competition to clear 6-2 giving him the state championship held in South Plainfield. Overall, Mater Dei’s boys finished seventh in Non-Public B with 27 points. Patrick O’Boyle led Mater Dei on the track with a third place in the 800 (1:57.39). He also ran on the 4×400 relay team with Michael Amato, Gavin Mendonca and Ryan Lundy that was also third (3:32.24). Marion Cornacchia was fourth in the shot put (46-0 ½). Marie Walsh always seems to be at her best when the State championships come around. The Mater Dei junior came up with a pair of second places at South Plainfield. Walsh turned in a 4:59.84 for the 1,600 and a 2:19.05 for the 800. She also teamed with Casey Andress, Meghan Corless and Deborah Snyder, to take fourth in the 4×400 relay (4:09.63). Also scoring for the Seraph girls was Ciara Chaly, third in the high jump (5- 0), Kaitlin Elliott and Caitlin Gatto, tied for sixth in the high jump (4-8) and Liz Shaw, sixth in the 800 (2:22.06). Mater Dei finished in seventh with 27.28 points. In Non-Public A, Christian Brothers Academy was seventh with 22 points. Brendon Pierson finished third in the 800 (1:58.10) and fifth in the 1,600 (4:19.70) for the Colts. Chris Debski took fifth in the 110-meter hurdles (15.51). Jake Bartlett was third in the high jump (6-4) while Jimmy Tully was fourth in the javelin (155-7). Pole-vaulter John Keale was fifth (11-6). The top six finishers at all of the State Group Meets held over the weekend (Egg Harbor Township High School for Group I, II and IV and South Plainfield for Group III and Non-Public) automatically qualified for today’s Meet of Champions back at South Plainfield. Matawan’s Kyle Hardy qualified in both sprints in Group II. He was fourth in the 100 (11.04) and fifth in the 200 (22.37). Mike McGuiness was sixth in the pole vault (13-0). MacKenzie Chambers was fifth in the girl’s 100 (12.70) for Matawan’s girls. Raritan’s Valerie Carney was second in the girl’s Group II javelin (139-7). The week before, the Rocket thrower had won the Central Jersey championship. Carney’s teammate Michelle Garret was sixth in the shot put (35-2). St. John Vianney’s Mike Reese was third in the NP-A pole vault (13-0) matching the same height as the top two finishers. Sprinter Charles Davis was fifth in the 100 (11.36). For the Lancer girls, Chelsea Delaney took fourth in the 3,200 (11:37.71). Margo Cronin was fifth in the discus (95- 8) and Danielle Hand took sixth in the pole vault (7-6).
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By WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent MIDDLETOWN NORTH Success comes naturally for Chad Freshnock of Middletown High School North.And Bucknell University can only hope the rising senior takes it with him when he embarks on a football career there in 2016 after giving a verbal commitment recently. Freshnock said he made his college decision after attending a football camp there earlier this summer.“When I went to Bucknell for their camp, I fit right in,” Freshnock said. “I liked the coaching staff. They recruit heavily in New Jersey.”Freshnock is a three-sport athlete and he hopes to deepen his footprint in football, where he had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons — 2,336 yards the past two seasons. In that span, he rushed for 25 touchdowns and caught five more. He also caught 23 passes last season as the Lions reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs, losing in the opener to eventual champion Jackson Memorial High School. They also enjoyed their first winning season since 2000.Freshnock also was a District 22 and Region 6 champion in wrestling in a 23-3 season — the only region champion at his school — and was a sprinter for the outdoor track and field team.“The team’s been working hard [in the offseason]. We should have a good season,” Freshnock said.Freshnock did not begin running the ball until his sophomore year. He started as a freshman for the Lions, but it was on the defensive side only at linebacker until Steve Bush came aboard as coach two years ago and made Freshnock a two-way player. “He’s a hard working kid. Strong,” Bush said. “He’s a good size at 210 pounds. He has good speed and is physical, and he can run away from people.”Although he is pointing toward a college career in football, Freshnock said he looks forward to that winter season.“I am still excited to wrestle,” he said. “After winning districts and regions this year and going 2-2 in the state championships, I want to place [in the state finals] next season.”For now, Freshnock’s focus is on football, where Bush said he’ll play outside linebacker and strong safety on the defensive side this season.Donald Glenn is back at quarterback and although the line took some losses with the departures of center Anthony Pianoforte; tackles Vincent Pianoforte (Anthony’s brother), who is headed to Moravian College, Parker Anderson and Constantine Budzinski; and guard Joe Antonio, there are enough solid returnees and promising prospects for that area to remain strong.“We beat the teams decisively we should beat and three of our losses came to state champions Jackson Memorial (45-7) and Manalapan (56-34) and to Middletown South (20-13), which made the [Central Jersey] Group IV finals,” Bush said. “We didn’t make enough plays to beat them. We need to get over the hump against the good teams.”“Last year, we lost focus in a couple of games,” Freshnock said. “Three of our losses came to state finalists. Now we have to turn an extra notch and beat those teams.”Freshnock’s running will be balanced again this season with the passing of Glenn, a rising junior who threw for 2,800 yards and 31 touchdowns as a starter from his freshman season. Bush said Glenn has gotten stronger and more confident and can take on more of a leadership role, especially now that he and his teammates have been able to get better command of Bush’s system. “They understood the system better last season [than the previous year],” Bush said as a key to the team’s improvement. “They’re more comfortable and played with more confidence and believed in themselves as individuals and as a team.” As for the offensive linemen, Bush said he sees some good things from guard Mike Behan, a newcomer to the program, and is expecting big things from Tyler Vivian at tackle. Both will be seniors. Matt Dombrowski, another rising senior, played defensive end and cornerback last season and is getting a look as an offensive tackle. Corey Baliatico, another newcomer heading into his senior year, shows promise at tackle. Jake Goldfarb, who started one game at offensive tackle and also played defensive end as a sophomore last season, could see more action on the offensive side. The linemen were split into two groups and were among the 30 teams participating in the Ironman Challenge at Monroe, where they won in two categories.“Our linemen are starting to look real strong,” Freshnock said. “Guys are stepping up lifting weights and are looking really mature.”Josh Gomez, a defensive back and outside linebacker last season, is being groomed as a tight end. Troy Thompson played tight end last year and is off to a collegiate career at Marist College. Jordan Pitts, a wide receiver and defensive back, also graduated and is heading to Montclair State University. Brendan Kube started at the other wide receiver spot as a sophomore last season.Two players heading into their junior year who started on defense — Nick Kish at linebacker, where he led the team in tackles, and Blake Wilkerson at cornerback — will get an opportunity at wide receiver when practices begin in a few weeks. Matt Harrison, who will be a senior, played a little at wide receiver last year and also is a defensive back.Other candidates for that spot are rising juniors Sam Santiago and Mark Cerbo, who also doubles at defensive back.They’ve been working at 7-on-7 camps at Monmouth University and Rutgers University.“Every year it’s a little bit different, but you build into the system to do what the players do well,” Bush said.And there will be some changes in the coaching staff.John Denato, the defensive coordinator last season, has left to coach at Seton Hall Preparatory School. Jeff Massimini takes over that responsibility and will work with defensive backs and tight ends. Massimini had coached the secondary players and tight ends and was special teams coordinator last season.Randy Kalman, who was a volunteer coach, was added to the salaried staff as special teams coach with Jason Pino and will coach receivers and defensive backs. Pino also will continue to coach the junior varsity team and will work with the running backs and outside linebackers.Playing in Shore Conference A North Division, Middletown North opens its season Sept. 11 against Perth Amboy High School.
FIFA finance watchdog member temporarily suspended during probeFIFA has temporarily suspended a member of its financial watchdog after he was arrested on suspicion of corruption and money-laundering in his native Cayman Islands, soccer’s governing body said on Tuesday.Domenico Scala, head of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee, said that although preliminary investigations had not established any connection between the allegations and Canover Watson’s role in football, Watson had been relieved of his duties while the investigation continues.“After a preliminary clarification of the facts of the case and the allegations of the Cayman Island investigating authorities against Canover Watson, no connection with football and/or his role at association level has been established at this stage,” said FIFA in a statement.“The investigation continues. The chairman has decided to temporarily relieve until further notice Canover Watson, to whom the presumption of innocence applies, of his duties on the FIFA Audit and Compliance Committee.“This should not be regarded as routine procedure, because cases like this or of this nature must always be assessed on their individual merits.”Watson, one of eight members of the committee and a vice-president of the Caribbean Football Union, has denied the charges and been released on bail in the British overseas territory.The allegations refer to Watson’s time at the head of Cayman’s Health Service Authority and follow a police investigation into the introduction of a swipe card system.Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commissioner David Baines, in a statement to local media, said that Watson was suspected of “breach of trust contrary to section 13 of the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Law, as well as abuse of public office… and conflict of interest”. Van Basten swaps jobs with his assistant at AZ AlkmaarMarco van Basten stepped down as coach of AZ Alkmaar on Tuesday, saying he could no longer cope with the stress, but will stay at the Dutch club after swapping jobs with his assistant Alex Pastoor.The club had announced on Monday that the former European Footballer of the Year was returning from a brief leave of absence.But in a dramatic twist to the saga, the 49-year-old told a news conference that stress, which led to heart palpitations, meant he could no longer work as head coach and would never again do so.“The stress I experienced as a head coach was much more than I would have liked,” he said, adding that he had suffered no physical discomfort over the past three weeks.“It (the palpitations) has happened to me several times over the last years. I thought I could overcome it and that things would get better,” said the former Dutch international striker.“I worked hard at recovery and followed the necessary courses of treatment. I wanted to keep going but they kept coming back. There were two solutions: to do something else or to change the way I currently work.“That is why I asked AZ to change my responsibility to better suit me and so that I can continue,” he added. Chelsea expect Hazard to sign new dealChelsea are confident that Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard will commit his long-term future to the Premier League club by signing a new contract, manager Jose Mourinho said on Tuesday.Hazard, who was Chelsea’s top scorer with 14 league goals last season, has established himself as an talismanic playmaker since his arrival from French club Lille in 2012.The 23-year-old has three years remaining on his current deal at Stamford Bridge, but the Chelsea boss said the club and player were keen to extend his stay.“We have big hopes that he will go from a top player to reach higher levels,” Mourinho told a news conference ahead of his team’s opening Champions League group game at home to Schalke 04.“He’s a player we want to keep. It’s true Chelsea is trying to have an agreement for a new contract. It will be a question of time. It will end with a new contract.“He wants to commit to us and we want to commit to him for the future.” Swiss keeper shocked after fans urinate in his water bottleA Swiss goalkeeper has threatened legal action after fans of a rival lower league team urinated in his water bottle and then taunted him when, unawares, he took a sip during a match at the weekend.FC Muri goalkeeper Reto Felder said he had felt sick after tasting the warm contents of the bottle, which he had left near the goalpost during the 1. Liga (third tier) game at FC Baden near Zurich.“The idea of drinking piss is simply intolerable,” the Aargauer Zeitung website (www.aargauerzeitung.ch) quoted the 34-year-old player as saying, adding that he was waiting for an analysis of video evidence before further action.“What if next time it is something that knocks you out?,” added Felder.Swiss tabloid Blick reported that the unidentified fans had persuaded a ball boy behind the goal to pass them the bottle during the second half of the match.The paper said the fans shouted “Now you have AIDS” after Felder realised what had happened.Muri coach Beat Hubeli was shocked“That’s bottom drawer,” he said. “I’ve played football and experienced a lot but that beats everything.”Baden president Thomi Bram apologised to the goalkeeper on the club website (www.fcbaden.ch) and said they were conducting an internal investigation.Condemning the fans for damaging the club’s reputation with their ‘reprehensible’ behaviour, he said he had apologised in person to the goalkeeper, coach and Muri president and informed the Swiss soccer authorities.
By Mike CollettThe Premier League can attract mega riches from global broadcasters but first Manchester City and now Arsenal have proved to be poor ambassadors for the self-proclaimed best league in the world in the Champions League this week.Richard Scudamore, the league’s chief executive, complained the loudest when plans for a winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022 were announced on Tuesday claiming the ‘integrity’ of his competition would be harmed by a mid-season break.But City and Arsenal jointly combined to undermine his claims of grandeur with damaging defeats in the first legs of the knockout stage of the competition.After Manchester City capitulated for the second successive season to Barcelona by losing 2-1 at home on Tuesday, Arsenal were exposed as “naive”, according to manager Arsene Wenger, against a superbly-organised, but far from spectacular AS Monaco who won 3-1 in north London.Both could yet turn their ties around but on the evidence of their first leg performances, that is highly unlikely.No team in UEFA’s elite competition has overturned a two-goal first leg home defeat and progressed since Ajax Amsterdam did that against Benfica after winning a play-off in 1969.Chelsea, the last English team to win the Champions League in 2012, have the best chance of progressing to the quarter-finals after securing a 1-1 draw at Paris St Germain with the second leg at Stamford Bridge to be played on March 11.Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur all made it into the last 32 of the Europa League, which will be completed later on Thursday, and none are likely to be demolished in quite the same way that Arsenal were on Wednesday.Their defeat not only raised questions about the true merits of the Premier League’s top level but also re-ignited the debate about the future of manager Wenger, who seemed at a loss to explain one of the worst performances by an Arsenal team at home in Europe in his nearly 19 years as boss.Frank McLintock, who captained Arsenal to their first FA Cup and League Double in 1971, had plenty of ideas as he told Talksport Radio on Thursday.He questioned whether Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil, who had a poor match, was suited to the English game, he was critical of their commitment and questioned the mental toughness which Wenger continually praises his team for.Before Wednesday, Arsenal had won eight of their last nine matches, but McLintock tried to put that into perspective.“When we play against somebody who is at least as good as us or above us in the League, that’s very often when we crumble and that is not a good sign,” he said.“As soon as we play someone who is better than us, we seem to lose it all again.”One thing looks certain for the second leg in Monaco on March 17 – the home side’s defence will not crumble.Monaco have only let in four goals in their last 12 matches, and only two in seven Champions League matches this season.Unless there is a complete turnaround, Arsenal will be eliminated at the last 16 stage for the fifth successive season, and City will again fail in their attempt to make the last eight for the first time.Not even Scudamore can claim that is football at its finest.
By Shravanth Vijayakumar Striker Harry Kane says there is no reason to press the panic button ahead of Tuesday’s international against France (10pm) and is confident England can redeem themselves after a lacklustre performance in the 2-0 friendly loss to Spain.The European champions had more than 60 per cent of possession during Friday’s game in Alicante and goals from Mario Gaspar and Santi Cazorla in the final 20 minutes were enough to end England’s 15-match unbeaten run.Kane, who has scored five goals in his last three Premier League games for Tottenham Hotspur, remains optimistic ahead of the Euro 2016 tournament in France next year and has urged supporters to retain belief in the side.“People need to stay patient. We’re not going to win every game. We’re playing these teams for a reason, to get experience. We’ve got to stay confident,” Kane was quoted as saying by the British media.“We know what we want to do and what we want to achieve. We’ve got another tough test against France, which we want to win. We’ve got to keep doing things right, don’t panic and go from there.”Meanwhile, defender Ryan Bertrand is focused on cementing his spot in the 23-man squad Roy Hodgson takes to next year’s tournament.“You can’t take anything for granted, really. You need to still work, nothing is a given,” Bertrand said.“I just want to continue and concentrate on each game, each friendly game.”“We’ve got big tests coming again on Tuesday and again with the following friendlies coming up. It is important that we keep consistent as a team, in my performances too,” he added.
By Martyn HermanSerena Williams must stop giving opponents head starts if she is to come anywhere near emulating last season’s feat of winning three of the year’s four grand slams, according to former world number one Chris Evert.Williams, 34, has hardly struck a ball in anger since a shock semi-final defeat by Italian Roberta Vinci at last year’s US Open dashed hopes of a rare calendar year grand slam.The American will begin as favourite for next week’s Australian Open, despite slight concerns over a niggling knee injury, but Evert believes she cannot afford the slow starts to matches that were a feature of 2015.Despite compiling a 53-3 win-loss record last year, she often found herself behind in matches.At the French Open she fought back from losing the opening set four times on her way to the title while at Wimbledon, where she went on to claim her 21st grand slam crown, she flirted with a fourth-round defeat by Briton Heather Watson.“There’s so many matches in the first set she played like listless tennis, lethargic, like she was going through the motions with no energy,” Evert, who will be commentating for U.S. broadcaster ESPN at the Australian Open, said in a conference call.“She’d get it when she got mad in the second set. She would finally pull these matches out. I would like to see her start out from the first point and play some motivational tennis, then I think she won’t put herself in those dangerous positions.“She can’t have another year like she had last year. She narrowly escaped so many matches, down a set, down a set and a break. It can’t happen again like that. That would be like immortal for that to happen,” Evert added.Williams, who beat Russian Maria Sharapova to win last year’s Australian Open, decided to call time on her season after losing to Vinci.While she is used to lengthy breaks as she manages her schedule, Evert says Williams will find it increasingly tough to keep the chasing pack at bay, particularly the likes of a rejuvenated Victoria Azarenka.The Belarus player, twice an Australian Open champion, breezed to the Brisbane title last week without losing a set and appears to be benefitting from some time off towards the end of last year when she worked on her movement.Evert says the world number 16 will be one of the chief threats to Williams in Melbourne.“I think she’s a player we should be talking about and focusing on right now,” Evert said.“She certainly loves Australia. She’s won it twice. She definitely last year played really well, but kept bumping into Serena. She challenged her more than any other player.“She’s got to be one of the two or three favorites for winning the Australian Open. I always thought she has a champions’ mentality.”
Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou on Thursday urged football leaders to adopt reforms to restore credibility to the sport’s world governing body after the worst corruption scandal in its history.Hayatou appealed to FIFA members in what he called one of the most important weeks in the history of global football, as they prepare to elect a new president on Friday.He called on them to approve the reforms on governance at Friday’s congress, including the introduction of term limits for top officials and disclosure of earnings.“I urge each of you to support the reforms in full here this week, and then to implement them to their entirety at home,” Hayatou said in an address aimed at the six confederations that run football around the world.“This will send a strong message that we have listened and that we are taking the action necessary to give football the foundation, and protection, it needs for the future.”World football was plunged into crisis last year after several dozen officials were indicted for corruption in the United States and a criminal investigation was begun in Switzerland.Long-term FIFA president Sepp Blatter, whose 18-year tenure officially ends this week, on Wednesday lost his appeal against an eight-year ban for ethics violations, although the 79-year-old’s ban was reduced to six years.Five candidates are standing to replace Blatter to try to lead FIFA out of its crisis. Gianni Infantino, the Swiss general secretary of European governing body UEFA, and Asian football boss Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain are seen as the favourites.South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale, former French diplomat Jerome Champagne and Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan are the other candidates.
BRITAIN’S Andy Murray enjoyed a routine win over Argentina’s Juan Monaco to ease into the third round of the tennis tournament at the Rio Games on Tuesday, while Spain’s world number 12 David Ferrer was knocked out.Murray, who won singles gold at the London Games, outclassed Monaco 6-3 6-1 in just over an hour and will next face either France’s Benoit Paire or Italy’s Fabio Fognini.“I played pretty well, hit the ball good from the back of the court, not many unforced errors. It was a good match,” said Murray, who is favourite to take gold after Serbia’s world number one Novak Djokovic was eliminated in the first round.Earlier, Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy edged 34-year-old Ferrer in three tense sets. Donskoy, ranked 84 in the world, upset former French Open finalist Ferrer 3-6 7-6(1) 7-5.“In important moments he played more aggressively than me,” said Ferrer, who conceded this may be his last Olympics.The 2008 Olympic gold medallist Nadal overpowered Italy’s Seppi Andreas 6-3 6-3 despite admitting over the weekend that he was still not fully fit.In the women’s tournament, Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig collapsed in tears of joy after her shock 6-1 6-1 win over Spain’s French Open champion Garbine Muguruza.Puig, ranked 34 in the world, said the victory against third seed Muguruza was the biggest win in her career.“I still have goosebumps,” said Puig, who will play Germany’s Laura Siegemund in the quarter-finals.Elsewhere, France won its first gold medal of the Rio Games in eventing in a dramatic show jumping final, rising two places from the cross country phase after riders from Australia and New Zealand knocked rails down.Germany had to settle for silver as their Olympics’ streak of two team titles ended despite an individual gold for German Michael Jung, who repeated his 2012 win with the horse Sam.Australia took bronze while New Zealand, who were in the running for silver after the cross country, slipped to fourth when seven-time Olympian Mark Todd knocked several rails down.Greek shooter Anna Korakaki took the gold medal in the women’s 25 metre pistol event, two days after she won a bronze and became the first woman to win a medal in shooting for Greece.The 20-year-old Korakaki prevailed over Monika Karsch, a 33-year-old from Germany, who mounted a late but ultimately unsuccessful rally after Korakaki established a strong lead. The two are first-time Olympians.Heidi Diethelm Gerber of Switzerland won the bronze medal, beating world No 1 and world champion Zhang Jingjing of China.China’s Chen Ruolin and Liu Huixia claimed gold in the women’s synchronised 10 metre platform diving event, with Malaysia and Canada respectively taking the silver and bronze medals as the venue’s pool turned a bright green hue.Chen, competing in her third summer Olympics, has won every title in the synchronised 10m platform event since 2006.The triumph also makes Chen a five-time Olympic gold medallist, and puts her on a par with compatriot Wu Minxia for the title of most Olympic diving gold medals in a career.New Zealand hopes of becoming the first Olympic rugby sevens champions suffered a major setback when they lost their opening match to Japan and Sonny Bill Williams for the tournament to an Achilles injury.The 14-12 defeat was one of biggest upsets in sevens rugby history and its impact on the All Blacks’ campaign was compounded when Williams was forced off the pitch two minutes into the second half.