The Sports Examiner

BEIJING 2022/Monday Review & Preview: Bach meets with Peng Shuai; Wust wins gold in fifth straight Games; FINA adds “extra” World Champs in June!

Olympic superstar Ireen Wust (l) and women's 1,500 m bronze medalist Antoinette de Jong at the 2020 World Allround Championships (Photo: International Skating Union)

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= BEIJING 2022 =
From Lane One

As promised, IOC President Thomas Bach did, in fact, meet with embattled Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai in Beijing, and agreed for future meetings outside China:

“The IOC President has held a face-to-face meeting with Peng Shuai, as announced last November. He was joined by the former Chair of the Athletes’ Commission and IOC member Kirsty Coventry [ZIM]. The meeting took place on Saturday over dinner at the Olympic Club in Beijing.

“Peng Shuai informed the President that she would attend several events at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 over the coming days. Later that evening, she and Kirsty Coventry attended the mixed curling match between China and Norway.

“During the dinner, the three spoke about their common experience as athletes at the Olympic Games, and Peng Shuai spoke of her disappointment at not being able to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. In this context, she also shared her intention to travel to Europe when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and the IOC President invited her to Lausanne to visit the IOC and The Olympic Museum, to continue the conversation on their Olympic experiences. Peng Shuai accepted this invitation.

“Kirsty Coventry and Peng Shuai also agreed that they would remain in contact. And all three agreed that any further communication about the content of the meeting would be left to her discretion.”

The IOC released no photographs of the meeting, or of Coventry and Peng at the curling match. But that Peng intends to travel outside of China – when and if permitted – is a good sign for her future.

Questions at Monday’s briefing included whether the IOC will undertake an investigation of her allegations – since withdrawn – of sexual assault by a former Chinese Vice Premier, with IOC spokesman Mark Adams explaining:

“I don’t think it’s a judgement for the IOC to make. We are a sporting organization and out job is to remain in contact with her and … to carry out quiet, personal diplomacy, to keep in touch with her as we’ve done, to meet her in person as we’ve done and now invite her to Lausanne to see us.”

Peng have a lengthy interview, in person, to the French all-sports newspaper L’Equipe, and answered specific questions about her 2 November post about the assault allegation (translated from the original French):

● “There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post. I don’t want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don’t want any further media hype around it.

“Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way.”

● Asked about her life since the post went up (for about a half hour): “It’s been what it’s supposed to be: nothing special.”

IOC spokesman Adams noted that the intermediary to arrange the IOC’s calls and meeting with Peng has been the Chinese Olympic Committee, not the Beijing 2022 organizers. Peng was further seen on Monday in the company of two other people at the figure skating Team Event finals.

NBC reported that its Saturday primetime coverage of the Games reached a total audience of 13.6 million, down 44% from the 24.2 million who watched the second day of the PyeongChang Winter Games in 2018. That followed the 43% drop for the Opening Ceremonies and related coverage on Friday: about 16 million vs. 28.3 million in 2018.

Even so, NBC dominated the other broadcast and cable network audiences; in today’s fractured media landscape, that’s important for advertisers.

We’re starting to see Nielsen television-only viewing numbers for NBC’s coverage of the Beijing Games; final numbers from Thursday (3rd) showed peak audience of 8.105 million. Ratings reports generally take 2-3 days to come in; stay tuned.

The medal count shows Russia with seven total (2-3-2), followed by Canada with six (1-1-4), the Netherlands (2-2-1) and Italy (1-3-1) with five and four countries – China, Norway, Japan and Austria – with four each. The U.S. has three (0-3-0).

For a better comparison of team strength, here are our TSX scoring rankings, using the top eight places, via the time-honored U.S. scoring of 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. So after 21 of 109 events:

1. 79, Russia
2. 65, Norway
3. 62, Netherlands
4. 61, Canada
5. 60, Japan
6. 54, Italy
7. 52, United States
8. 50, China
9. 46, Germany
10. 42, Austria and Sweden

The Olympic Covid incidence report for 6 February showed an uptick in positives, with 24 total cases: 11 at the airport and 13 within the closed loop.

Athletes and team officials accounted for seven airport and five closed-loop cases; the other 12 were from other stakeholders.

There was a higher incidence of 11 positives from just 142 airport arrivals (7.7%), but only 13 total positives out of 74,603 tests within the closed loop.

Since the closed loop was implemented on 4 January, there have been 459 positives reported: 154 from athletes and team officials and 305 others. Positives inside the closed loop total 173 from 1.225 million tests, or 0.01%.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee reported Monday that there were no new cases of Covid among the 563 members of the delegation in Beijing. The number currently isolated is now down to four, with one athlete.

Following up on the Opening Ceremonies incident outside the stadium where Dutch television network NOS reporter Sjoerd den Daas was pulled aside during a live broadcast by a uniformed guard, IOC spokesman Mark Adams explained during Saturday’s news conference, “we spoke to NOS. They consider that everything was done that needed to be done and we’re moving on.”

Den Daas was able to finish his story a few minutes later, but Karolos Grohmann of Reuters tweeted on Saturday, “NOS says: ‘Neither NOS management, nor the chief editors of News and Sport, our Olympic team leadership in Beijing, or our correspondent himself has spoken to anyone from the IOC about yesterday’s incident.’” So?

Jamaican bobsledder Jazmine Fenator-Victorian, who drove for the U.S. in the 2014 Sochi Games, had her petition to be entered in the Beijing Games dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport Ad Hoc Division office in Beijing.

Fenlator-Victorian asked the Court to “set aside” the qualification system (as modified due to the pandemic) and allow her to compete (1) instead of a French sled and (2) to then let the French sled in as an additional entrant.

The Court said no to both, but did not publish the full decision.

After being the co-final torchbearer at the Opening Ceremonies, what happened to 20-year-old cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang?

After becoming an overnight sensation after Chinese state media declared that she was of Uyghur heritage – a group which China is widely accused of brutally abusing in its Xinjiang region homeland – Yilamujiang competed in the Winter Games on Saturday, finishing 43rd in the 30 km Skitathlon.

That’s consistent with her performance in the 2021 World Championships, where she finished 41st in the 10 km Freestyle final and 56th in the 30 km Freestyle Pursuit race in Switzerland in March 2021. Her Games are apparently now completed; she is not shown as entered in any other events, and she did not do any interviews after her event. But she will hardly be forgotten.

The International Fair Play Committee will honor exceptional acts of sportsmanship at the Beijing Winter Games once again through its Fair Play Awards.

The first Fair Play Awards were given following the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and nominations can be made via the CIFP website and its social media channels.

A jury composed of representatives of CIFP, IOC, athletes and news media will make the final decision, based on a shortlist derived from the public voting. The winner will be announced shortly after the conclusion of the Olympic Winter Games.
~ Rich Perelman


Television watchers can see that there are fans at many of the events, but not many. Attendance is being reported for the women’s ice hockey matches, with a high so far of 821 in the 19,000-seat Beijing National Indoor Stadium for the Canada-Switzerland opener. The Games are also being held during the annual Spring Festival to mark the Chinese New Year, which concluded on 6 February. Let’s see if more fans are invited in going forward.

● Alpine Skiing: Men’s Downhill and Women’s Giant Slalom
The racing started with a strong run by Austrian medal contender Vincent Kriechmayr in 1:43.25, but the early runs on the demanding Downhill course gave his competitors improved information on how to navigate it best on the day.

Thus it ended up no surprise that Kiechmayr ended up eighth and the medals were won by racers starting 13th, 19th and ninth.

Kriechmayr held the lead until the ninth skier in the order, teammate Matthias Mayer – the 2014 Olympic gold medalist – came down in 1:42.85. Medal favorite Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR) started 11th and skied into second place (1:43.20), but was quickly passed by the surprising James Crawford (CAN: 1:42.92).

Then came Swiss star Beat Feuz, not just the 2018 bronze medalist in PyeongChang, but the 2017 World Champion in this race. He held his line and his speed and steered home in 1:42.69, a time that was going to be hard to beat. And no one did.

France’s Johan Clarey, starting 19th, came closest, finishing in 1:42.79 to grab the silver – at age 41! – with Mayer staying in bronze position. It’s Clarey’s second major medal, after a 2019 Worlds silver in the Super-G. Crawford and Kilde finished 4-5.

The top American hope, Bryce Bennett, made a major error after building excellent speed, but then skiing well off the course and then having to come back onto the track after midway, and finished in 1:44.25 for 19th. Ryan Cochran-Siegle ended being the best U.S. finisher, in 14th, and Travis Ganong finished 20th.

American star Mikaela Shiffrin’s Beijing adventure got off to a bad start on Monday as she leaned too hard on her skis going into a gate and skied off the course on the first run of the Giant Slalom – an event she won in 2018 – and was disqualified. She wasn’t the only one to have issues: medal contenders Marta Bassino (ITA) and Stephanie Brunner (AUT) were also disqualified, while gold-medal favorite Sara Hector (SWE) had the fastest first run at 57.56, ahead of Katherina Truppe (AUT: 57.86) and Federica Brignone (ITA: 57.98).

And even though Hector’s second run only ranked eight, she still outlasted everyone else to win the event, 1:55.69 to 1:55.97 for Brignone, who had the fifth-fastest second run. The unheralded Truppe faded to 14th on the second run and finished fourth, opening the door for Swiss star Lara Gut-Behrami, who won the second run (57.34) and finished in 1:56.41. Brignone advances to silver from the bronze she won in this event in 2018.

It’s the second Olympic medal for Gut-Behrami after a 2014 bronze in the Downhill.

Paula Moltzan was the best U.S. finisher at 1:58.07 for 12th; Nina O’Brien crashed hard at the end of the second run and was disqualified; she was taken away for further medical observation. Both Shiffrin and A.J. Hurt did not finish the first run.

How tough was this course? There were 49 finishers of both runs and 33 (40%) who did not make it all the way through. That’s rough.

● Biathlon: Women’s 15 km
Germany’s Denise Herrmann, 33, a steady performer on the World Cup circuit, was brilliant in the 15 km race, suffering only one penalty and skiing away with the gold medal in 44:12.7.

She took control on the fourth of five laps, moving up from ninth and overtaking prior leader Dzinara Alimbekava (BLR). Hermann had the fastest fourth loop in the field and a nearly five-second lead over Anais Chevalier-Bouchet (FRA) and extended her lead to the finish, winning by 9.4 seconds, with Chevalier-Bouchet at 44:22.1.

Norway’s Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, the overall World Cup leader, finished third in 4:28.0.

It’s the second Olympic medal for Herrmann, with her first a relay bronze in cross country in 2014; for Chevalier-Bouchet, it’s her third Olympic medal (and second in Beijing after a relay silver) and fourth career medal for Roeiseland (she won a mixed relay gold already in Beijing).

Defending champion Hanna Oeberg of Sweden finished 16th; unheralded Deedra Irwin of the U.S. (and the Vermont Army National Guard) surprised in seventh, with just one penalty, finishing 1:01.4 behind the winner; reported to be the best Olympic finish ever by an American biathlete! Clare Egan, Joanne Reid and Susan Dunklee of the U.S. finished 39th, 57th and 63rd.

● Figure Skating: Team Event
Russia won the women’s Free Skate, Pairs and was runner-up in Ice Dance to win the Team competition – as expected – by 74-65 over the U.S., which got a dazzling performance from Madison Chock and Evan Bates to win the Free Dance.

First up on the final day was Pairs, with 2021 World Champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov winning by 145.20 to 139.60 over Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara (JPN); the U.S. was fifth with Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (128.97).

The Free Dance was a triumph for Chock and Bates, the 2015 World Championships silver winners and 2016 bronze medalists. They claimed a lifetime best score to upset the reigning World Champions, Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov by 129.07-128.17 to win the event for the U.S.

There was little doubt that Russia’s Olympic favorite Kamila Valieva, 15, would win the women’s Free Skate. She completed a quad Salchow, triple Axel, quad toe-triple toe and five more triple jumps and became the first woman to perform a quadruple jump on Olympic ice on her way to 178.92 points.

Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto was a distant second at 148.66 points and American Karen Chen was fourth (131.52). Japan took the bronze medal with 63 points and Canada was fourth (53).

It’s the second Olympic gold in this event for Russia, moving up from silver in 2018 after winning in 2014. The U.S. got its first silver, after bronzes in Sochi and PyeongChang.

American Vincent Zhou, 21, was not present for the medal ceremony and announced that he had tested positive for Covid, and had to withdraw from the men’s competition starting on the 8th. At the end of a video on his Instagram page: “This is not the end. This is a setup for a bigger comeback.”

● Short Track: Men’s 1,000 m ~ Women’s 500 m
Things got crazy in the semifinals, with 2018 silver medalist Dae-heon Hwang disqualified and Hungary’s Shaoang Liu advanced to the final as a fifth skater.

The final was just as heated, with Hungary’s Shaolin Sandor Liu – Shaoang’s brother – crossing the line first, but drawing a yellow card and bring disqualified! Behind him were China’s Ziwei Ren and Wenlong Li, who received the gold and silver medals, with Shaoang Liu taking the bronze. That’s Short Track.

It’s the first-ever Olympic gold for China in this event; it had won a total of one silver previously.

The women’s 500 m turned out to be a near-repeat of the PyeongChang podium: Italy’s Arianna Fontana winning, a Dutch star second and Canada’s Kim Boutin third!

Fontana was dominant in defending her title, winning her heat, quarterfinal, semi and the final, the latter in 42.488, taking the lead with less than two laps remaining. It’s her 10th career Short Track medal (2-3-5), the most ever in the discipline.

Dutch star Suzanne Schulting, the 2021 World Champion in this event, also won her heat, quarter and semi, but came up short in the final, finishing in 42.559, with Boutin repeating her bronze-medal performance from PyeongChang in 42.724.

Schulting now owns one medal of each color, having won gold and bronze in 2018, with more events to go in Beijing. Boutin now has four Olympic medals: two silvers and two bronzes.

Americans Maame Biney and Kristen Santos did not advance out of the quarterfinals.

● Ski Jumping: Mixed Team (106 m hill)
Slovenia won the only World Cup held in this event and it won here in the first Olympic edition, piling up 1,001.5 points to outdistance Russia (890.3) and surprising Canada (844.6).

The key was wins by Nika Kriznar and Ursa Bogataj in the women’s jumping, while Timi Zajc and Peter Prevc ranked sixth. It’s Bogataj’s second gold after winning the women’s Normal Hill event; Kriznar won the bronze as well.

● Snowboard: Men’s Slopestyle
American Red Gerard came in as the defending champion and he put up the best score in the first of three rounds in the final at 83.25. But that was as far as he could go, with his second and third runs not as strong.

Canada’s Max Parrot, the 2018 silver medalist, pushed through a near-perfect second run and scored 90.96 that was going to be tough to beat. The best challenge came at the end of the second trials when home favorite Yuming Su, 17, completed three excellent jumps, including a wild 1,800-degree finale that was scored at 88.70, moving him into second. Su was the qualifying leader and jumped like it in the final.

As the final round of runs continued, Canadian Mark McMorris stood fourth and took a final run to move onto the podium. His run was smooth, controlled as well as a little wild, but it scored 88.53 to move Gerard off the podium and give him – amazingly – a third straight Olympic bronze medal in the event.

American Chris Corning finished sixth at 65.11 and Sean Fitzsimons was 12th.

● Speed Skating: Women’s 1,500 m
She did it! At 35, Dutch star Ireen Wust is just as unbeatable as before and won an individual gold medal in an unprecedented fifth straight Olympic Games with an Olympic Record victory in 1:53.28.

It’s Wust’s sixth career Olympic gold and her 12th Olympic medal and her third straight in the 1,500 m, with Japan’s Miho Takagi second (1:53.72) and Dutch teammate Antoinette de Jong third (1:54.82).

De Jong, skating in the 11th pair of 15, took the lead, but Wust – skating against Canadian contender Ivanie Blondin – in the 12th pair, sailed away and broke Dutch star Jorien ter Mors’ Olympic mark of 1:53.51 from Sochi with her 1:53.28 time.

Wust had to wait and see what world-record holder Takagi would do in the last pair, but the Japanese star ended up second best, winning her fourth Olympic medal (1-2-1). De Jong didn’t think she skated that well, but she ended up with her third career Olympic medal (0-2-1).

Brittany Bowe was the top American finisher in 10th (1:55.81); Mia Kilburg was 20th.

For Wust, she passes Olympic icons like Al Oerter (discus), Carl Lewis (long jump) and Michael Phelps (200 m medley), Paul Elvstrom (DEN: Finn sailing), Kaori Icho (JPN: 58/63 kg freestyle wrestling) and Mijain Lopez (CUB: 120/130 kg Greco-Roman wrestling) who each had four consecutive wins, but in a single event. British rower Steve Redgrave won golds over five straight Games, but as part of two- or four-man boats. Wust’s five straight Olympics with an individual gold is just amazing.


● Ice Hockey: Canada stomped Russia, 6-1, on Monday to move to 3-0 in Group A and set up the showdown with the U.S. on Tuesday. The game was delayed about 65 minutes as Canada did not want to take the ice without having received notice of the results of Russia’s Covid tests from earlier in the day.

The issue was resolved by having both teams wear face masks! The test results were received by the start of the third period, and the Russian were allowed to play without masks, but the Canadians kept theirs on.

Canada has outscored its three opponents by 29-3, the U.S. by 18-2 thus far.

(10 events across 8 disciplines)

● Alpine Skiing: Men’s Super-G
Two men have dominated the Super-G during the 2021-22 FIS World Cup season: Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Austria’s Marco Odermatt.

Of the six Super-G races this season, Kilde, 29, has won three of the last four and was second in the last race before the Games. Odermatt, 24, the overall World Cup leader, has two wins and a second and won the last race, in Wengen (SUI) in mid-January.

They are favorites on paper, but defending Olympic champ Matthias Mayer (AUT) is back, as is silver winner Beat Feuz (SUI), now best known as the Olympic Downhill golden medalist. Mayer has been in the midst of the World Cup action with three medals in the six races so far and teammate Vincent Kriechmayr, the 2021 World Champion, also has two medals this season.

American Travis Ganong won a World Cup bronze in this event in early December; the U.S. won medals in this event as recently as 2014 with Andrew Weibrecht (silver) and Bode Miller (tie for bronze).

● Biathlon: Men’s 20 km
The longest race in this sport’s program in Beijing, the 20 km has the defending Olympic champion, Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR) as one of the favorites.

He has not been the dominant force on the World Cup circuit, but has one win and three medals on the circuit. His older brother, Tarjei, has been strong in 2021-22, with four medals, but teammates Sturla Holm Lagreid and Vetle Christiansen have distance wins this season.

The top performers in the distance racing this season include France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet, the overall World Cup leader and teammate Emilien Jacquelin and it will be a surprise not to see a French medalist. Strong contenders also include Russian Anton Babikov – who won the last 20 km World Cup race in February – and German Benedikt Doll, the PyeongChang bronze winner in the 12.5 km Pursuit.

● Cross Country Skiing: Men’s Freestyle Sprint ~ Women’s Freestyle Sprint
The entire men’s podium from PyeongChang is back: winner Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR), runner-up Federico Pellegrino (ITA) and bronze medalist Alexander Bolshunov, already the winner of the 30 km Skiathlon.

Klaebo, the overall World Cup leader, has won three of the four Freestyle Sprints on the World Cup circuit, so he has to be the favorite; he would be the first to win two Olympic golds in this event.

Pellegrino also medaled in one of the Sprints, but French stars Richard Jouve and Lucas Chanavat will clearly be in the mix. Bolshunov and teammate Sergey Ustuigov are both considered better at long distances, but will be dangerous, as are Klaebo’s teammates Erik Valnes and Haavard Solas Taugboel, who a World Cup Sprint in December.

The women’s Sprint favorite is obviously Sweden’s Maja Dahlqvist, winner of three of the four Freestyle Sprints on the World Cup tour so far. But her last medal was back in mid-December, so questions are asked about her current fitness.

American Jessie Diggins won one Freestyle Sprint at the end of December, was second in another and has won four medals in all on tour this season. She is a much better Freestyle skier than in Classical and is a definite contender; no American women has ever won an individual Olympic cross-country medal (Diggins and Kikkan Randall won the Team Sprint in 2018).

The 2014 Olympic champion, Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla, is back, but has been quiet on the World Cup circuit, with just one bronze this season. With so much Covid interference, who knows about her fitness? Clear contenders include Slovenia’s Anamarija Lampic, Russian Natalya Nepryaeva, the 15 km Skiathlon silver winner already in Beijing, and Swiss Nadine Faehndrich.

● Curling: Mixed Doubles
Italy’s Stefania Constantini and Amos Mosaner competed an undefeated run (9-0) through the round-robin segment of the tournament and advanced to the finals with an 8-1 rout of Almida de Val and Oskar Eriksson of fourth-ranked Sweden (5-5) in the semis.

They will meet Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten of Norway (7-3), who defeated Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat (GBR: 6-4) with a point in the eighth end of their semi, 6-5.

Italy’s run is all the more amazing because the country has never won a medal in the World Mixed Doubles Championships, which began in 2008. Dodds and Mouat were the 2021 World Champions, beating Skaslien and Nedregotten in the final. Constantini and Mosaner were eliminated in the play-in quarterfinals of the 2021 Worlds by the Norwegian pair, 7-5.

But in the Olympic round-robin, Italy won, 11-8, overcoming a five-point second end and outscoring the Norwegians, 6-2, in the final four ends.

Britain and Sweden will meet for the bronze.

The U.S. pair of Vicky Persinger and Chris Plys ended up 3-6 and ranked eighth.

● Freestyle Skiing: Women’s Big Air
The focus will be on China’s Eileen Gu, 18, born in the U.S., but who changed her affiliation to China in 2019. She’s the clear favorite in the Halfpipe, where she swept all four World Cup events this season, but the entire Big Air event is a bit of a mystery as it makes its Olympic debut.

Only two World Cups were held, back in October and December, with 2019 World Champion Tess Ledeux (FRA) winning the first over Swiss Sarah Hoefflin and Gu took the second, with Ledeux the runner-up and Norway’s Johanne Killi third. Canada’s Megan Oldham was the qualifying leader and had the best score of the day (91.25); Darian Stevens was the only American qualifier.

Gu was the bronze medalist at the 2021 World Championships in this event, with Russian Anastasia Tatalina winning in Aspen, Colorado. Anyone can win; this is Gu’s weakest event, and she is the reigning World Champion in both the Halfpipe and Slopestyle. If she can win here, she will become the face of these Games in China.

● Luge: Women’s Singles
Three-peat? That’s the question in women’s luge, as Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, 34, looks for a third straight Olympic title and won the last World Cup race before the Games.

She didn’t come in as the favorite, but she is in front after two of four runs, as favorites Julia Taubitz (GER) and Madeleine Egle (AUT) both suffered bad errors. Egle tipped over, but managed to finish her first run in 17th place, but rebounded to move up to seventh after the second run. Taubitz set a track record in the first run, but then fell in the second run (1:00.075) and is 14th.

Geisenberger was no. 2 on the first run and had the best second run to sit on top at 1:56.825, ahead of German teammate Anna Berreiter (1:57.033), Russia’s Tatyana Ivanova (1:57.416) and Hannah Prock (AUT: 1:57.494).

Ashley Farquharson is the top American so far, in 18th (1:58.996).

Geisenberger will be trying to extend the country’s win streak in this event to seven straight Games; she has medaled in three straight, going bronze-gold-gold.

● Snowboarding: Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom ~ Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom
Russia’s Dmitry Loginov won the 2019 and 2021 World Championships and showed he’s quite fit with a gold and silver during the World Cup season.

German Stefan Baumeister has been the most consistent on the World Cup tour, winning two Parallel Giant Slaloms and taking two silvers in five races. But there are a host of contenders.

PyeongChang silver medalist Sang-ho Lee (KOR) won three medals (1-1-1) in the five World Cup races, and will contend with Italy’s Roland Fischnaller (0-0-2) and Edwin Coratti and 2021 Worlds silver winner Andrey Sobolev. Wild cards could be Tim Mastnak (SLO) or Swiss Dario Caviezel, both of whom have shown flashes of brilliance on tour, but not consistently.

The women’s PGS has to be about Ester Ledecka, right? The Czech star won the Olympic gold as expected in PyeongChang, but only after pulling a staggering upset in the alpine Super-G. On the Snowboard World Cup tour this season, she won once and was second once in five races.

The PyeongChang bronze medalist, Germany’s Ramona Theresia Hofmeister, has three World Cup medals this season, and the 2019 and 2021 World Champion, German Selina Joerg, was also the 2018 Olympic silver medalist.

Other obvious contenders are Russian Sofiya Nadryshina (three World Cup medals), Austria’s Daniela Ulbing (two wins), Swiss Ladina Jenny and Julie Zogg and Austrians Sabine Schoeffmann and Julia Dujmovits.

Hofmeister has been the most consistent, but Ledecka seems to rise to the occasion when the pressure is greatest.

● Speed Skating: Men’s 1,500 m
The Dutch have dominated this event, winning four straight World Championships with Kjeld Nuis (2) and Thomas Krol (2) and eight of the 12 medals available. Nuis was the 2018 Olympic winner, with Patrick Roest second and they are all back for more; Roest already took the 5,000 m silver.

Standing in their way is American Joey Mantia. A one-time inline skater, he owns three World Championship golds in the Mass Start from 2017-19-21 and a Worlds bronze in this event from 2020.

In this season’s World Cup, Mantia won twice, was second once and third once. He was challenged all season by Korea’s Min-seok Kim – the PyeongChang bronze winner – and China’s Zhongyan Ning, who had a win and two seconds in the World Cup.

The U.S. has had some success in this event as recently as 2010, with Shani Davis winning silver and Davis and Chad Hedrick going 2-3 in 2006. Mantia would like to start a new tradition and has high confidence that he can.


The men’s competition in Figure Skating will begin with the Short Program, with all eyes on two-time defending Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and American Nathan Chen, the 2018-20-21 World Champion.

Chen was brilliant in the Short Program of the Team Event, winning with a sensational score of 111.71, a lifetime best. He will be looking to rebound from his disastrous 17th-place finish in the 2018 Olympic Short Program; it cost him a medal as he won the Free Skate and moved up to fifth overall.

Japan’s Shoma Uno won the PyeongChang silver and is an obvious medal contender again, along with teammate Yumi Kagayama; American Vincent Zhou, the 2019 Worlds bronze medalist, tested positive for Covid and had to withdraw.


● Aquatics ● After Covid issues moved May’s 2022 World Championships in Fukuoka (JPN) to the middle of 2023, FINA made a surprise announcement that an “extraordinary” World Championships would be held in 2022 after all.

The Duna Arena in Budapest, a favorite for aquatics sports since it opened for the 2017 Worlds, will host the event from 18 June-3 July 2022. The agreement was approved by the FINA Bureau on Monday.

Said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam (KUW) in a statement: “We know we need to be imaginative in our approach in navigating through the current health crisis for our athletes. Today’s agreement is a testament to this work. …

“We are extremely fortunate to have event hosts that share our passion for aquatics and have the willingness, capability and flexibility to organise FINA’s most prestigious event. We are deeply grateful to all our hosts and know that aquatics athletes feel the same way.”

A very impressive response to the Fukuoka Worlds cancellation in late January; FINA will now have Worlds in 2022 (Budapest), 2023 (Fukuoka), 2024 (Doha) and 2025 (Kazan) before returning to Budapest in 2027.

● Athletics ● Another milestone for American vaulter Chris Nilsen, who won the Perche d’Or in Tourconing (FRA) on Saturday, clearing an American Record 6.02 m (19-9).

That replaces Sam Kendricks’ mark of 6.01 m (19-8 1/2) from 2020; it equals the all-time U.S. best by Jeff Hartwig from 2002, which was not ratified.

Nilsen, the Tokyo Olympic silver medalist, is now the 14th man to clear 6.00 m indoors and the fourth American.

● Judo ● It happens. It’s not supposed to, but it happens.

French judoka Priscilla Gneto was starting her semifinal match against Japan’s Momo Tamaoki in the 57 kg category during last weekend’s Paris Grand Slam tournament. Then Gheto’s mobile phone dropped onto the tatami.

Disqualification, in front of a big crowd at the popular event at the AccorArena.

Gneto rebounded to win her bronze-medal match, but managed to leave her phone before defeating Mongolia’s Enkhriilen Lkhagvatogoo. Wow.

● Modern Pentathlon ● The PentUnited athletes group posted on Twitter:

“The Ath Comm [Athletes Commission] has told us there is no test event in March. [UIPM] VP [Viacheslav] Aminov [RUS] has contradicted that and said there will be a test event in March.

“What is going on? Does ANYONE know what is going on?

“Athletes’ careers are on the line. This is simply not good enough from the UIPM.”

● Wrestling ● The Iranians did not change their mind, and are staying home for the 12 February Bout at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. An international all-star team from nine countries will instead meet the U.S. men’s Freestyle team, along with the Oklahoma State-Iowa men’s collegiate dual meet, the USA-Mongolia women’s Freestyle event and a Greco-Roman match.

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