HIGHLIGHTS: Another world title for Chloe Kim, Diggins clinches World Cup X-C title; Ross & Klineman win first women’s beach tourney in Qatar!

History for FIS Cross Country World Cup winner Jessica Diggins of the U.S. (Photo: U.S. Ski Team Twitter feed)

Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

Alpine Skiing ● The FIS World Cup neared its conclusion with the penultimate stops prior to the World Cup Final next week in Lenzerheide (SUI).

The men’s tour was in Kranjska Gora (SLO), with Swiss Marco Odermatt winning his straight World Cup on Saturday in the Giant Slalom, for his third win of the year. Odermatt finished with a combined time of 2:12.87, 1.06 seconds ahead of countryman Loic Meillard and 1.09 up on Austria’s Stefan Brennsteiner. Odermatt now leads the seasonal Giant Slalom standings, 625-600 over France’s Alexis Pinturault with one race left.

French star Clement Noel won the Sunday Slalom, ahead of countryman Victor Muffat-Jeandet, 1:47.51-1:48.13, with Swiss Ramon Zenhaeusern third (1:48.22). Austria’s Marco Schwarz has already clinched the seasonal Slalom title with 625 points, ahead of Zenhaeusern (503).

The women were in Are (SWE) for two Slalom races, with American Mikaela Shiffrin in the mix for another seasonal title. On Friday, it was seasonal leader Petra Vlhova winning her sixth race of the season in 1:45.16 after taking a big lead, 49.72-50.13 over Shiffin on the first run. Austria’s Katharina Liensberger skied well on the second run to move up to second from the third spot, while Shiffrin faded (10th on the second run); Vlhova was fifth-fastest on the second run, but had an 0.20 margin at the end over Liensbeger (1:45.26) and Shiffrin (1:45.80).

On Saturday, Shiffrin got out fastest on the first run, leading Liensberger, 52.75-52.94, but while the Austrian posted the second-best second run of 54.99, Shiffrin faded to 10th again on the second run, but ended up second overall, 1:47.93-1:48.65. Swiss Wendy Holdener was third in 1:49.58. Vlhova was eighth. With one race left, Vlhova has the seasonal lead with 612 points to 590 for Liensberger and 575 for Shiffrin.

Athletics ● The NCAA Indoor Championships at Fayetteville, Arkansas essentially ended an eventful indoor season and produced five world-leading marks:

Men/200 m: 20.19, Matthew Boling (USA/Georgia)
Men/400 m: 44.71, Noah Williams (USA/LSU)
Men/Long Jump: 8.45 m (27-8 3/4), JuVaughn Harrison (USA/LSU)

Women/200 m: 22.38 Abby Steiner (USA/Kentucky)
Women/Long Jump: 6.93 m (22-9), Tara Davis (USA/Texas)

The men’s events had two multi-event winners, including Cole Hocker (USA/Oregon) in the mile (3:53.71) and 3,000 m (7:46.15), and Harrison in the high jump (2.30 m/7-6 1/2) and the long jump. The women had one, with Trinidad & Tobago’s Kyra Gittens (Texas A&M) winning the high jump (1.90 m/6-2 3/4) and the Pentathlon (4,746, a national record).

Boling, still a sophomore, moved to equal-6th on the all-time world 200 m list with his 20.19 win, and Williams – who had a lifetime best of 45.72 coming in this year in the 400 m – is now no. 4 all-time, with the fifth-fastest performance ever! He had to run that fast as the winner of the first section of the 400 m, North Carolina A&T’s Randolph Ross (USA) ran 44.99! Also impressive were Baylor’s K.C. Lightfoot, the vault winner at 5.93 m (19-5 1/2) and Arizona State’s Turner Washington at 21.36 m (70-1) in the shot.

Among the women, Kentucky junior Steiner’s 200 m win places her in a tie for no. 5 on the all-time list and just 0.05 from Gwen Torrence’s 1996 American Record! Texas star Davis claimed the Collegiate Record with her 6.92 m (22-9) jump and is now the no. 6 American in the history of the event.

Outdoors, there were three early-season outdoor world leaders at the Canberra Track Classic, a World Athletics Continental Tour Bronze meet in Canberra (AUS), with Peter Bol (AUS) winning the men’s 800 m in 1:45.23 and Chris Douglas (AUS) taking the 400 m hurdles in 50.12. Australia’s Linden Hall won the women’s 1,500 m in 4:02.02.

Beach Volleyball ● The Katara Cup in Doha (QAT) was eagerly anticipated as the first major event on the FIVB World Tour in the 2021 season, and it was a good one for the U.S.

Most importantly, the duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman reached the top of the podium with an impressive 22-20, 21-18 win over Canadian stars (and 2019 World Champions) Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in the final. In fact, Ross and Klineman won their six matches by a combined total of 12-1 sets; this was their fifth FIVB World Tour win together for one of the top medal contenders for Tokyo.

And it was historic: this was the first-ever women’s tournament in Qatar, and that was not lost on the winners.

Sais Ross, “It means so much! We are so grateful to be here. We felt so welcome here. It was an amazing tournament, amazingly run, and to come out on top, especially at the first event in so long is so exciting. We worked as hard as we could work and it still feels like there is a lot of room for improvement. Against that team, it’s really tough and I felt like we pushed each other. So we are going to take notes, go back and continue to work hard.”

The bronze medal went to Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa with a 21-13, 21-14 win over Americans Emily Stockman and Kelley Kolinske.

The men’s title was a breakthrough win for unheralded, 14th-seeded Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner (CZE), winning 21-16, 21-19 over Evandro Oliveira and Gustavo Carvalhaes (BRA), for their first career World Tour victory. The all-U.S. bronze-medal match saw Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb out-last Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhauser, 21-9, 23-21.

The World Tour will resume in a sequestered hub in Cancun (MEX) for three tournaments in mid-through-late April.

Biathlon ● The second week of racing in Nove Mesto (CZE) was a never-to-be-forgotten experience for 28-year-old French star Quentin Fillon-Maillet, and Norwegian star Tiril Eckhoff.

Fillon-Maillet won both the 10 km Sprint and the 12.5 km Pursuit, and moved to third in the overall seasonal standings. In the Sprint, he shot clean and finished in 22:07.2, 11.3 seconds clear of runner-up Tarjei Boe (NOR) and 14.8 up on Italy’s Lukas Hofer. In the Pursuit, he suffered two shooting penalties, but no one was perfect, and the Frenchman recorded his sixth career World Cup win in 28:46.7, 8.0 seconds ahead of Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe and 14.6 seconds ahead of fellow Frenchman Emilien Jacquelin.

Going into the final week of the season, J.T. Boe has 1,011 points, ahead of Sturla Holm Langreid (NOR: 986) and Fillon Maillet (872).

The women’s races in Nove Mesto – last week and this week – belonged to Norwegian star Eckhoff. The winner of two World Championships golds, she won both the 7.5 km Sprint and 10 km Pursuit for her third and fourth straight World Cup wins! She has now won 12 races this season out of 23 total races!

In the Sprint, Eckhoff won by 6.1 seconds over Denise Hermann (GER), despite one penalty to none for Hermann, and 10.5 seconds ahead of Dorothea Weirer (ITA). American Susan Dunklee had a fine race, shooting clean and finishing eighth (+37.2).

In the Pursuit, Eckhoff missed one on the range, but was untouchable anyway, winning by 34.6 seconds over Dzinara Alimbekava (BLR) and 40.2 over Franziska Preuss (GER). Dunklee was eighth again, with just one penalty and finishing 1:12.9 behind the winner.

Eckhoff leads the season standings with 1,043 points vs. 903 for teammate Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and 824 for Swede Hanna Oeberg.

Cycling ● One of the great races of any season – the 79th edition of Paris-Nice – saw a stunning, surprise finish as shoo-in Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic (SLO) crashed twice on the final, hilly stage into Levens and Germany’s Maximillan Schachmann ended up as the overall winner.

Roglic took over the leadership of the race after winning the fourth stage (of eight) and then won stages six and seven to pile up a seemingly insurmountable 52-second edge on Schachmann and 1:11 on Aleksandr Vlasov (RUS).

But on Sunday, Roglic crashed on an early descent and then again on the same area of the loop course about 25 km from the finish. All of that caused him to finish 56th on the stage, some 3:08 behind winner Magnus Cort (DEN). Schachmann finished 10th in the same time (2:16:58 for the 97.2 km course) and ended with a total time of 28:49:51, winning by 19 seconds over Vlasov with Ion Izagirre (ESP) third (-0:23). Roglic ended up 15th, 2:16 behind the winner. American Matteo Jorgenson was eighth (-1:29).

Further east, the 56th Tirreno-Adriatico race completed its fifth stage and will finish with an Individual Time Trial on Tuesday. Dutch star Wout van Aert took the lead right away in the first stage and led for the first three stages, but when Saturday’s difficult fourth climbing stage came, it was reigning Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar (SLO) who took charge.

Only Britain’s Simon Yates could stay with Pogacar on the steep, uphill finish of the 148 km route to the Prati di Tivo, with Pogacar winning by six seconds and then 29 seconds over third-placer Sergio Higuita (COL). Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel won the hilly fifth stage on Sunday – his second stage win of the race – but with Pogacar just 10 seconds behind in second place.

So, with two stages left, Pogacar leads by 1:15 over van Aert and 3:00 over Mikel Landa (ESP). Barring crashes, Pogacar should be a convincing winner come Tuesday in San Benedetto del Tronto.

Fencing ● After just more than a year away from competition, the sabre-rattlers got back on the piste in Budapest (HUN) for the first FIE World Cup since March of 2020.

Both men’s and women’s Sabre events were held, and even with the layoff, with familiar results.

Korea’s reigning World Champion, Sang-Uk Oh, won the men’s Sabre in a 15-14 thriller with home favorite Aron Szilagyi, the 2012-16 Olympic gold medalist. Georgia’s Sandro Bazadze and Germany’s Matyas Szabo took home bronze medals.

Hungary’s Anna Marton, the 2015 Worlds bronze medalist, scored a win in the women’s Sebre, besting France’s two-time Worlds medalist Cecilia Bender, 15-9 in the final. Hungarian teammate Lisa Pusztai and Korea’s Jisu Yoon shared the bronze.

Freestyle Skiing ● The World Championships in Moguls and Aerials were held in Almaty (KAZ), separately from the other disciplines as part of the adaptations to the coronavirus pandemic from Monday through Thursday, but the faces on the podium were quite familiar.

Canadian superstar Mikael Kingsbury won both the Moguls and Dual Moguls, defending both of his 2019 world titles and giving him six Worlds golds in his career … at age 28. Kingsbuty scored 87.36 in the final to easily outdistance Benjamin Cavet (FRA: 82.43) and home favorite Pavel Kolmakov (KAZ: 82.23). Kingsbury defeated Australia’s Matt Graham, 80.51-67.57 in the Dual Moguls final, with Ikuma Horishima (JPN) winning the bronze over Brenden Kelly (CAN).

Reigning Olympic champ Perrine Laffont (FRA) won her third World Championships gold, but first in Moguls in Almaty, scoring 82.11 against 79.52 for Kazakh star Yuilya Galysheva and 79.41 for Anastasiia Smirnova (RUS). In the Dual Moguls, two-time defending champ Laffont was eliminated in the quarter-finals and Smirnova, 18, took the gold over Russian Viktoriia Lazarenko. Kazakhstan’s Anastassiya Gorodko won the bronze over Canadian Sofiane Gagnon.

In Aerials, Russian star Maxim Burov has five wins on the 2020-21 World Cup circuit and won again here, defending his 2019 World Championship, scoring 135.00 to out-point American Chris Lillis (133.50) and fellow Russian Pavel Krotov (127.50).

Australia’s Laura Peel had won four medals in six World Cup events coming into the Worlds, and she won the Aerials title for the second time – also in 2015 – with a finals score of 106.46. American Ashley Caldwell – the 2017 World Champion – was second (101.74) and Lyubov Nikitina (RUS: 94.47) was third.

The Aerials World Cup season continued right away in Almaty, with Pirmin Werner (SUI) moving up from fourth at the World Championships to win on Saturday, ahead of fellow Swiss Nicolas Gygax and Lewis Irving (CAN), 121.72-119.46-113.28. This was the final event of the World Cup season in Aerials and Burov was the easy winner with 526 points, ahead of Noe Roth (SUI: 320) and Werner (305).

The women’s Aerials event was won by Canadian Marion Thenault for her first World Cup medal of the season, scoring 89.88 to best Nikitina (86.36) and Kazakh Zhanbota Aldabergenova (84.99). Peel won the seasonal title with 450 points, up on American Winter Vinecki (343) and Canada’s Thenault (312).

The World Championships in Halfpipe and Slopestyle are underway in Aspen, Colorado, with the Big Air finals coming later this week.

The Halfpipe title was claimed by New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, scoring 94.50, to defeat Canadian Simon D’Artois (91.25) and American Birk Irving (89.75), ahead of fellow American stars Alex Ferreira (84.75) and Aaron Blunck (83.25). The men’s Slopestyle gold was taken by Swiss Andri Ragettli, 22, for his first Worlds medal, scoring 90.65 over Colby Stevenson (USA: 89.65) and Alex Hall of the U.S. (86.01).

The women’s events were dominated by San Francisco-born Eileen Ailing Gu, 17, who now competes for China. She won the Halfpipe on Friday at 93.00, besting Canada’s Rachel Karker (91.75) and Zoe Atkin (GBR: 90.50), with Americans Hanna Faulhaber (86.75), Brita Sigourney (86.25) and Devin Logan (79.25) finishing 4-5-6. Gu then won the Slopestyle title on Saturday, scoring 84.23, ahead of Mathilde Gremaud (SUI: 77.15) and Canadian Megan Oldham (76.18). American Marin Hamill was fifth (71.18).

In the Ski Cross World Cup in Sunny Valley (RUS), seasonal stars Reece Howden (CAN) and Fanny Smith (SUI) were winners again. Howden won his fourth event of the season, ahead of Ryo Sugai (JPN) and Joos Berry (SUI), while Smith took her sixth win, beating Swedish star Sandra Naeslund and Austria’s Katrin Ofner in the final.

Karate ● The Karate 1 Premier League was able to resume this week in Istanbul (TUR), with 584 competitors present for a full program.

Iran scored two wins in the men’s events, with Zabiollah Poorshab winning the 84 kg division and Sajad Ganjzadeh taking the +84 kg title. Home favorite Eray Samdan won the 60 kg class for Turkey.

Two reigning women’s World Champions won in Istanbul: Sandra Sanchez (ESP) in Kata and Serbia’s Jovana Prekovic at 61 kg. Turkey scored another win, as Serap Ozcelik, the 50 kg silver medalist at the 2018 Worlds, triumphed over German Shara Hubrich.

Nordic Skiing ● History was made by Jessie Diggins, who became the first woman and the second American to win a FIS seasonal World Cup in Cross Country Skiing!

With the World Cup season shortened by the cancellation of the expected final events in China and with Norway also closing down, the final races of the season were held in Engadin (SUI).

The women’s program included a 10 km Classical Mass Start and a 30 km Freestyle Pursuit. The same three women won all the medals in both: Russian Yulia Stupak won the Mass Start ahead of Heidi Weng (NOR: +7.1) and Swede Ebba Andersson (+8.5), with Diggins fifth (+20.7). Then Weng won the Pursuit in 1:28:11.6, up 4.5 seconds over Andersson with Stupak 33.7 seconds back and Diggins in fourth (+37.3).

Added up, Diggins won the Crystal Globe with 1,347 points thanks to six World Cup victories and 13 World Cup medals, over Stupak (1,079) and Andersson (1,011) with American Rosie Brennan fourth at 919. True, Norway’s stars did not compete for big chunks of the season, but the trophies are handed out those who compete, not those who stay home. Diggins also won the Distance title, with 653 points over Andersson (640) and Stupak (619), with Brennan also fourth (484). Diggins was fourth on the Sprint table (262) as well.

Bill Koch, back in 1981-82, had been the only American to win the Cross Country overall World Cup title.

“It was really really nice to finish this season of my wildest dreams and it happened because of the team,” said Diggins. “We have so much incredible support behind the scenes. We have people back in the States, and an amazing crew over here. Through the four months that we were over here we really just held tight together as a team and took care of one another and had a great atmosphere. Everyone worked so hard and put their heart and soul into this, and I couldn’t be more grateful. The chance to race at all is amazing, but the chance to have a season like this, with a team like this is just incredible. I couldn’t be more thankful to be part of this team and get to celebrate this thing that we’ve achieved together.”

The men’s events completed the second consecutive overall title for Russian Alexander Bolshunov, who win his ninth event of the season in the 15 km Mass Start, finishing 18.4 and 18.9 seconds ahead of Norwegians Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Paal Golberg. In the 50 km Pursuit, Simen Hegstad Krueger (NOR) won in 2:10:41.4, beating Hans Christer Holund (NOR: +1.2) at the line with Swede Jens Burman (+3.0) just behind.

For the season, Bolsuhov piled up 1,765 points to overwhelm the field; teammate Ivan Yakimushkin was second at 800. Bolshunov also won the title with 921 points.

Snowboard ● The amazing Chloe Kim added to her legend at the World Championships in Aspen this week, winning the Halfpipe title in stunning fashion.

Despite wind, snow and a sprained ankle from a practice run, Kim simply crushed the field, scoring 90.00 on her first run – a score no one else achieved – then exploding to 93.75 on her second try, winning easily over fellow American Maddie Mastro, who scored 89.00 on her final try to rise from sixth to second in the final round. Spain’s Queralt Castellet had two bad runs of 11.25 and 27.25 before uncorking a 87.50 in the final round to grab the bronze.

Kim, 20, celebrated her second straight World Championships gold in the event. Mastro, 21, improved on her bronze at the 2019 Worlds. Said the winner, “I am feeling really good . I am so grateful to be out here and happy the weather held up for the contest. Winning feels really good!”

In Slopestyle, New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott defended her 2019 women’s title with a 85.95-81.10 over 2014-2018 Olympic champ Jamie Anderson, 30, of the U.S. Australia’s Tess Coady finished third at 78.13.

In men’s Halfpipe, Japan’s Yuko Totsuka won his first world title with a brilliant 96.25 run, ahead of Australia’s three-time defending champion Scotty James (90.50) and Swiss Jan Scherrer (87.00). Americans Chase Josey (81.00) and Chase Blackwell (80.50) finished 5-6.

The men’s Slopestyle winner, Norway’s Marcus Kleveland won his first Worlds medal in this event – he has a 2017 bronze in Big Air – with a 90.66 score, well ahead of Sebastien Toutant (CAN: 82.53) and Finn Rene Rinnekangas (82.51). American Red Gerard, the 2018 Olympic champ, finished fourth (82.28).

Swimming ● The first leg of the 2021 FINA Marathon World Series was held in Doha (QAT) on Saturday, using a 2,000 loop course off Katara Beach.

A total of 99 swimmers from 27 countries were in the water for the 10 km race, with France’s two-time Worlds medal winner Marc-Antoine Olivier getting to the touchplate first in 1:52:02.40, just 3.10 seconds up on Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky (1:52:05.50) and 5.50 seconds ahead of the 2016 Olympic 1,500 m champ, Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA).

The indefatigable, five-time Open Water World Champion Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil, 28, won the women’s race in 2:01:30.30, out-touching newcomer Oceane Cassignol, 20, by just 0.50 seconds, with 21-year-old Lea Boy (GER) third, just 1.60 seconds behind. The mass finish saw eight swimmers touch within five seconds of Cunha and the 11 finished within seven seconds of the winner.

Some $30,000 in prize money was available in each race, with the top eight place winners receiving $3,500-3,000-2,500-1,700-1,500-1,200-950-650.

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