HIGHLIGHTS: Crouser wins again at 74-4 1/4; Bowe ices two World Cup titles, Denmark defends World Handball title

Shot put superstar Ryan Crouser (USA)

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Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

Alpine Skiing ● With just a couple of weeks to go to the 2021 World Championships in Italy, the Slalom specialists warmed up with two very competitive races at Chamonix (FRA).

Saturday’s race was a showcase for home favorite Clement Noel, who had the third-fastest first run and then fell all the way back to 15th on the second run. But even that was enough to give him the win and all of the leaders faltered. His combined time of 1:38.58 was 0.16 seconds better than Swiss Ramon Zenhaeusern (1:38.74), who was second on the first run and 22nd on the final, and Austria’s Marco Schwarz (1:38.77), who was fastest and then 24th.

Things were just as confused on Sunday, as Norwegian veteran Henrik Kristoffersen led after the first run and then fell back “only” to sixth and held on for the win in 1:37.81. Zenhaeusern moved up from 11th after the first run and had the second-fastest second run to finish second in 1:38.09. Swiss Sandro Simonet went from 30th to third by having the fastest second run in the field.

The women’s tour was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) for two Super-G races, with 2016 World Cup overall winner Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI) looking very much like a possible champion once again with her third victory of the season.

Her 1:15.70 run was enough to hold off Kajsa Vickhoff Lie (NOR: 1:16.38) and Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon (1:16.63) for the second win in the last three races in the circuit. The second Super-G, scheduled for Sunday, was postponed to Monday due to heavy fog on the race course.

Athletics ● The second American Track League meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas was held on Sunday, with Ryan Crouser again scaring the world indoor shot record and re-writing the all-time list.

After his 22.82 m (74-10 1/2) indoor world record last year, Crouser opened with 21.40 m (70- 1/2), a distance no one reached on the day. He then exploded to 22.66 m (74-4 1/4), the equal-third-best throw in history and what proved to be the winning toss.

He wasn’t done, with throws of 22.19 m (72-9 3/4), 22.26 m (73-0 1/2), 22.65 m (74-3 3/4 ~ no. 5 ever) and 22.43 m (73-7 1/4 ~ no. 10 ever). The all-time indoor list (! = secondary throws in series):

22.82 m Ryan Crouser (USA) ‘21 (74-10 1/2) ~ 24 January
22.70 m Crouser! ‘21 (74-5 3/4) ~ 24 January
22.66 m Randy Barnes (USA) ‘89 (74-4 1/4)
22.66 m Crouser ‘21 (74-4 1/4) ~ 31 January
22.65 m Crouser! ‘21 (74-3 3/4) ~ 31 January
22.60 m Crouser ‘20 (74-1 3/4)
22.58 m Crouser ‘20 (74-1) ~ 5 December
22.55 m Ulf Timmermann (GDR) ‘89 (73-11 3/4)
22.48 m Crouser! ‘21 (73-9) ~ 24 January
22.43 m Crouser! ‘21 (73-7 1/4) ~ 31 January
22.40 m Adam Nelson (USA) ‘08 (73-6)
22.33 m Crouser ‘19 (73-3 1/4)

Said Crouser afterwards:

“I was actually really happy with today. I came back after the big throw last week, and that’s difficult to do, coming off a big throw. It’s really easy – when you know there’s more there – to force it, and I threw a really consistent series, all but one over 22, with a couple throws in the 22.60s.

“Consistency-wise, this week was better. I didn’t feel quite as good, I would say, as I had hoped; the first meet of the year kind of took a little bit out of me, so I’m excited to see where I can go from here. I had the energy last week and had the execution today, so we’re off next weekend, be back in two weeks and hopefully we can put those together.”

There were other highlights and four world leaders:

● American Bryce Hoppel confirmed his world-class status and breezed to a win in the 800 m in 1:44.37, making him the no. 6 performer in history and no. 2 all-time U.S. Wow!

Shaunae Miller-Uibo won the women’s 200 m impressively in 22.40, now equal-9th fastest ever.

Heather MacLean of the U.S. scored a world lead in the women’s mile in 4:27.54.

● American vault star Sandi Morris claimed the women’s world lead in the vault, clearing 4.81 m (15-9 3/4) on her first try, then trying 4.96 m (16-3 1/4), but missing three times.

The World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meet in Karlsruhe (GER) on Friday (29th) saw nine world-leading marks, the most impressive of which was France’s Renaud Lavillenie with a 5.95 m (19-6 1/4) clearance in the vault. Americans Matt Ludwig (5.80 m/19-0 1/4) and Cole Walsh (5.72 m/18-9 1/4) were second and third.

Elliot Giles (GBR) won the men’s 800 m in 1:45.5 (hand time) and Juan Miguel Echevarria (CUB) won the long jump at 8.18 m (26-10). Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith won the 60 m in 7.08, and Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech won the 3,000 m in 8:41.98.

Vienna (AUT) was the scene of a good meet on Saturday, with notable women’s world leads in the 400 m by Femke Bol (NED: 50.96) and in the 800 m, by 18-year-old Keely Hodgkinson (GBR) in 1:59.03, a world U-20 indoor record.

Lavillenie extended his world lead in the vault on Sunday, cleaning 6.02 m (19-9) at a smaller meet in Tourcoing (FRA). In Dusseldorf (GER), world-record holder Mondo Duplantis won at 6.01 m (19-8 1/2) and then missed on one try at a new world mark of 6.19 m (20-3 3/4).

Badminton ● The 2020 BWF World Tour Finals was finally held – a little late – in Bangkok (THA) over the weekend, with $1.5 million in prize money at stake. But it was worth waiting for. It looked for a while like the results would follow those of the two prior World Tour events in Thailand, but not everyone was in on the plan.

The men’s all-Denmark final pitted Viktor Axelsen – on a 29-match win streak – against Anders Antonsen, but it was Antonsen who persevered to a 21-16, 5-21, 21-17 victory that the winner said even surprised him! Same in the women’s final, where Rio Olympic champ Carolina Marin (ESP) had won two straight finals matches against no. 1-ranked Tzu Ying Tai (TPE), but Tai fought back from a first-set loss to win, 14-21, 21-8, 21-19.

Recent form held in the Doubles matches, as Yang Lee and Chi-Lin Wang (TPE) won their third straight title, this time over Indonesian stars Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, 21-17, 23-21. The all-Korean women’s final saw So-Hee Lee and Seung Chang Shin flip the script on the Toyota Thailand Open winners, So-Yeong Kim and Hee-Yong Kong, by 15-21, 26-24, 21-19.

Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapirsee Taerattanachai also won for the third straight tournament, defeating Seung-Jae Seo and YuJung Chae (KOR) for the second straight week by 21-18, 8-21, 21-8.

The Singles winners took home $120,000 in prize money to $60,000 for the losing finalists. The Doubles winners got $126,000 to $60,000 for the losing finalists.

Bobsled & Skeleton ● The 2020-21 IBSF World Cup series concluded on Sunday in Innsbruck (AUT), with seasonal champions crowned in five disciplines.

To the surprise of no one, the two-man race was won by seasonal (and Olympic) champ Francesco Friedrich of Germany, who won for the 11th time in 12 races this season (he was second in the other). This time, with Alexander Schueller as brakeman, he won with 1:43.08, easily ahead of Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis (LAT: 1:43.80) and Russians Rostislav Gaitiukevich (1:43.90). On the season, Friedrich overwhelmed the field with 2,685 points to 2,453 for countryman Johannes Lochner (GER), with Dominik Dvorak (CZE: 1,880), to win his fourth career World Cup title.

Friedrich won his third 4-man World Cup title and completed a perfect season with a tight, 1:42.08-1:42.30 win over Austria’s Benjamin Maier, who won medals in all four events this season. Canada’s Justin Kripps was third (1:42.47) and won medals in three of the four events. For the season, Friedrich piled up a perfect 900 points, ahead of Maier (830) and Kripps (794).

The U.S. broke through in the final two-women race of the season for a 1-2 finish, with Kaillie Humphries and Lolo Jones combining to win in 1:47.07, followed closely – by 0.04 – by Elana Meyers Taylor and Lake Kwaza (1:47.11). Austria’s Katrin Beierl and Jennifer Onasanya finished third (1:47.13), but became the first Austrian winners of the seasonal World Cup title! Beirel piled up 1,506 points to finish ahead of Kim Kalicki (GER: 1,431) and Olympic champ Mariama Jamanka (GER: 1,363).

The women’s Monobob will make its Olympic debut in 2022, and continued its World Cup racing with a second seasonal win for Australia’s Breeana Walker, who won in 1:50.84, ahead of American Meyers Taylor (1:51.07) and Melissa Lotholz (CAN: 1:51.22). Three more races remain on the season.

In Skeleton, Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov won for the third time this season at 1:45.59, 0.23 ahead of Britain’s Craig Thompson (1:45.82: first medal of the season) and Samuel Maier (AUT: 1:45.86, first medal of the season). The amazing Martins Dukurs (LAT), now 36, won his 10th career World Cup title with 1,456 points, ahead of Alexander Gassner (GER: 1,396) and older brother Tomass Dukurs (LAT: 1,226) in third.

Russian Elena Nikitina won the women’s Skeleton competition over seasonal winner Janine Flock (AUT) by 1:47.73-1:48.12, with Kimberley Bos (NED: 1:48.37). Flock had three wins and medals in all eight events on the season; her 1,695 points was well ahead of Tina Hermann (GER: 1,515) and Bos (1,326).

Football ● /Updated/The U.S. Men’s National Team opens its 2021 campaign vs. Trinidad & Tobago at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida on Sunday evening, cruising to a 4-0 lead at half and a 7-0 final.

The U.S. squad, using solely Major League Soccer players, took control immediately with first career National Team goals for Jonathan Lewis in the second minute and Jesus Ferreira in the ninth minute. Paul Arriola scored in the 22nd minute and then again in the 41st minute. Ferreira scored once and assisted on the three others. The U.S. had 77% of the possession and a 12-0 advantage on shots in the half.

The second half was more of the same. Miles Robinson scored his first career National Team goal with diving header in the 52nd minute. Lewis got a second goal with a right-footed rocket in the 55th minute, and Ferreira got his second in the 62nd minute. The U.S. finished with 72% of the possession and 19-2 on shots.

With the win, the U.S. is 20-3-4 all-time against Trinidad and Tobago and 15-0-1 in games on U.S. soil.

Freestyle Skiing ● The FIS Freestyle World Cup tour was in Raubichi (BLR, near Minsk) for the fifth stop out of seven on the Aerials circuit, but with the same result in the men’s competition: a win for Russian Maxim Burov.

Burov scored 126.24 to best teammate Stanislav Nikitin (124.43) with Canadian Lewis Irving (118.14) third. American Christopher Lillis finished sixth.

The women’s Aerials was a 1-2 finish for the U.S., with Megan Nick (89.88) taking her second career World Cup victory, beating Australian Laura Peel (AUS: 89.04) and Winter Vinecki third (88.12). There are two more Aerials events remaining on the season.

The eighth of 11 Ski Cross events was slated to be in Feldberg (GER) on Sunday, but was cancelled.

Handball ● For the 26th time in 27 editions of the IHF men’s World Championship – beginning in 1938 – there was an all-Europe final, with Denmark defending its world title via a tight, 26-24 victory in Cairo (EGY).

The Swedes were in the final for the first time since 2001, emerging from a 3-0-2 record in the first two stages. They crushed Qatar, 35-23, in the quarterfinals, and then defeated France, 32-26 in the semifinals, thanks to 11 goals from Hampus Wanne.

The Danes breezed through the group and main stages at 5-0, scoring 169 goals and giving up 116 (+53). They barely got by host Egypt in the quarterfinals, winning by 39-38 in extra time, with Mikkel Hansen scoring a team-high 10 goals. Things were almost as tight in the semis against Spain, a 35-33 win as Hansen had 12 goals to lead all scorers.

In the final, the teams were tied at 13-13 at halftime, and 20-20 with 17 minutes to go. But Jacob Holm scored three goals in four minutes to give the Danes a 23-20 lead that they never relinquished. Hansen led the winners with seven goals, followed by Nikolaj Nielsen with five and Holm with four. Wanne led Sweden with five scores.

Hansen was named Most Valuable Player, for the fourth time in his career, also in 2011-15-18. He scored 48 goals in seven games and had 26 assists. The All-Star team included wings Wanne and Spain’s Ferran Sole Sala, backs Hansen, Jim Gottfridsson (SWE) and Mathias Gidsel (DEN), with Ludovic Fabregas (FRA) as line and Andreas Palicka (SWE) as keeper.

Spain won the bronze medal with a 35-29 win over France in the third-place match.

Denmark’s two straight World Cup wins follows France’s two straight titles in 2015 and 2017; Romania (twice) and Sweden have also won back-to-back titles.

Luge ● The 50th FIL World Championships was in Koenigssee (GER) this weekend, with Germany dominating as expected.

There was a huge upset in the men’s Singles, with Roman Repilov of the “Russian Luge Federation” – courtesy of the Court of Arbitration for Sport – winning his third Worlds gold by 0.62 seconds over favorite Felix Loch (GER), the six-time Singles champion, 1:37.810-1:37.872. Austria’s David Gleirscher was third (1:38.027). Olympic silver winner Chris Mazdzer (1:38.682) was 10th and the top American.

The men’s Sprint saw another upset, with 23-year-old Nico Gleirscher (AUT) – the younger brother of 26-year-old David Gleirscher – winning his first World Championships medal – a gold – in 38.375 seconds. That was just 0.041 seconds better than Russian Semen Pavlichenko (38.416) with David Gleirscher third (38.417). Tucker West was the top American in 12th (39.031).

German pairs won four of the six medals in Doubles. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won their third straight and fourth overall Worlds title, ahead of countrymen Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, 1:39.931-1:40.086, with Latvia’s Andris and Juris Sics third (1:40.591). The U.S. pair of Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman was 16th (1:41.816).

Wendl and Arlt came back to win the Doubles Sprint in 39.126, just ahead of Sics and Sics (39.140) and Eggert and Benecken (39.161). For Wendl and Arlt, the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Doubles gold medalists, this was their third Worlds Sprint title and sixth Worlds Doubles golds of all types.

The women’s races belonged to Germany, which swept all six medals in the two distances. Julia Taubitz won both the standard race and the Sprint for her first two Worlds golds in individual events. Taubitz timed 1:41.132 in the standard distance to win over four-time World champ Natalie Geisenberger (1:41.447) and Dajana Eitberger (1:41.604). Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney of the U.S. finished sixth and seventh.

The women’s Sprint saw Taubitz win in 39.101, ahead of Anna Berreiter (39.112) and Eitberger (39.300); Britcher was seventh.

Austria won the Team Relay (2:43.139) over Germany (2:43.177) and Latvia (2:43.571).

Nordic Skiing ● An American skier hasn’t won the Cross Country World Cup title since the legendary Bill Koch did it back in the 1981-82 season. But it might happen again.

A full schedule was on tap in Falun (SWE), with the amazing Jessie Diggins of the U.S. claiming her fourth win of the season in the 10 km Freestyle race (23:35.9), winning by 2.1 seconds over seven-time World Champion Therese Johaug (NOR), with Swede Ebba Andersson third. American Rosie Brennan was eighth.

Sweden’s Linn Svahn, best known as a sprinter, won the 10 km Classical Mass Start race in 25:57.1, ahead of Yulia Stupak (RUS: 25:57.6) and Johaug (25:58.0), with Diggins seventh (26:05.4). Svahn came back on Sunday to take the Classical Sprint over Anamarija Lampic (SLO) and Swedish teammate Jonna Sundling.

Diggins now has a 1,174-904 lead over Stupak in the seasonal standings, after 22 of 32 races.

The men’s racing saw the accustomed results as seasonal leader Alexander Bolshunov (RUS) won the 15 km Freestyle and 15 km Classical Mass Start, with Norwegians taking the other medals. Simen Hegstad Kruger was runner-up in the 15 km race, ahead of teammate Sjur Rothe, while Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo led Pal Golberg in second and third in a blanket finish in the Mass Start race, both just 0.4 behind.

This was Bolshunov’s first appearance after he slashed and then slammed into Finnish anchor Joni Maki at the finish of the 4×7.5 km relay in Lahti (FIN) the week prior, sending Maki to the ground. Bolshunov’s team was disqualified and two criminal reports were filed against the Russian star to local police.

Klaebo, a two-time World Cup overall champ, came back to win the Classical Sprint over Oskar Svensson (SWE) and teammate Havard Taugbol.

The Nordic Combined World Cup tour was in Seefeld (AUT) for the annual “Seefeld Triple,” with jumping off of the 109 m hill and racing at 5 km, 10 km and 15 km. And it might have been the season-decider for Norway’s defending World Cup champion Jarl Magnus Riiber, who won all three!

Riiber won the 15 km and 10 km races over former World Cup champ Akito Watabe of Japan, with Vinzenz Geiger (GER) and Ilkka Herola (FIN) third and third. The first race was a photo finish as Riiber and Watabe were both timed in 11:32.2., but Riiber won by 33.3 on Saturday. On Sunday, Riiber’s win was over Herola, with Watabe third, by just 1.3 and 3.2 seconds. On the season, Riiber leads Geiger by 940-554 with Watabe third (540).

The men’s Ski Jumping tour was in Willingen (GER) for the annual “Willingen Six,” which ended up being shortened to just three events due to the weather. The actual World Cup jumps were on the weekend, with this season’s star, Norway’s Halvor Egner Granerud, winning both to extend his seasonal lead to 1,206-888 over German Markus Eisenbichler. Norway’s Daniel Andre Tande was second on Saturday’s jumping off the 147 m hill, followed by Poland’s Kamil Stoch. On Sunday, Pole Piotr Zyla claimed the silver and Eisenbichler the bronze.

The women’s jumpers were back in action in Titisee-Neustadt (GER) off a 142 m hill, with Austria’s Marita Kramer winning both events, first over Silje Opseth (NOR) and Ema Klinec (SLO) on Saturday and then Sara Takanashi (JPN) and Opseth on Sunday.

Shooting ● After a long layoff, the ISSF Grand Prix circuit has started up again, this time in Rabat (MAR), with competition continuing through this week. The Skeet finals were held on Sunday, with Rashid Hamad (QAT) winning over Saif Bin Futais (UAE) in the men’s final by 54-52 in the final round.

The women’s title went to Russian Alina Fazylzyanova, who out-scored teammate Zilia Batyrshina, also by 54-52.

Snowboard ● The FIS Snowboard World Cup was in Moscow (RUS) for Parallel Slalom racing for men and women and happy results for the home team.

Dmitriy Karlagachev won the men’s race over Zan Kosir (SLO) and Edwin Coratti (ITA) for his first career World Cup medal and first win. The women’s race was taken by Austrian Daniela Ulbing for her first medal of the season, but with seasonal leader Sofia Nadryrshina (RUS) second and Ramona Theresa Hofmeister (GER) third.

Speed Skating ● The second and final ISU World Cup of the season was again in Heerenveen (NED) in a sequestered format to protect against the coronavirus. But that did not stop American Brittany Bowe from racking up more wins … and two more seasonal titles.

After winning the 1,000 m and 1,500 m last week, Bowe clinched the seasonal title at 1,500 m on Saturday. “The time doesn’t lie,” she said, “I could tell I pushed myself harder than last week, Antoinette [de Jong] going before me. She had an awesome 300 m first split and all three of the splits I saw of her were faster than I did last week, so I knew I had to put the paddle down and go for it.”

Bowe finished in 1:53.455 to give her the season sweep, finishing ahead of Dutch star de Jong (1:53.813) and the legendary Ireen Wust (NED: 1:54.228). The win was the 29th World Cup title of Bowe’s career.

She followed up with a second straight win (and a seasonal title) in the 1,000 m on Sunday, winning in 1:13.960 over Russia’s Angelina Golikova (1:14.054) and Dutch sprint star Femke Kok (1:14.475). Bowe’s perfect score of 120 out-paced Jorien ten Mors (NED: 97) and Kok (96).

In the 500 m sprint, Kok completed a perfect season with wins in the third and fourth World Cup races. She won on Saturday in 37.233, from Golikova (37.290) and Vanessa Herzog (AUT: 37.409), with Bowe 10th in 38.031. On Sunday, Kok won in 37.333, with Russians Golikova and Daria Kachanova going 2-3 in 37.372 and 37.637. Kok finished at 240 points, with Golikova second (216) and Olga Fatkulina (RUS) third with 177.

Russian Natalia Voronina won the 3,000 m in 3:56.853 from de Jong (3:58.908) and Irene Schouten (NED: 4:00.153). Schouten won the season’s series at 108, with de Jong second but also at 108 and Voronina at 94.

Schouten won all three of the women’s Mass Start races for a perfect total of 300, trailed by Canadian Ivanie Blondin (270) and Russian Elizaveta Golubeva (236). They were 1-2-3 in Saturday’s seasonal finale, with Schouten winning at the line by 8:21.750-8:21.770-8:22.030.

In the men’s racing, the 500 m sprints were won by Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS: 34.475) on Saturday and Ronald Mulder (NED: 34.555) on Sunday. The seasonal winner, however, was Dutchman Dai Dai N’tab, who scored a total of 200 points, ahead of Canada’s Laurent Debreuil (182) and Mulder (180).

The men’s 1,000 was won by Kai Verbij (NED: 1:07.355), ahead of teammate Thomas Krol (NED: 1:07.581) and that was enough to give Verbij the seasonal crown although he and Krol both scored 114 points. The Dutch swept the seasonal honors with Hein Otterspeer third (83 points).

Dutch star Krol also swept both week’s races the 1,500 m in the men’s division, winning this time in 1:43.428 to 1:44.222 and 1:44.759 for teammates Kjeld Nuis and Patrick Roest. Krol (120 points), Nuis (102) and Roest (102) finished as the top three for the season.

Roest won the 5,000 m in 6:05.959, well ahead of Nils van der Poel (SWE: 6:08.393) to give him a sweep of the two races this season and the World Cup title. Dutch legend Sven Kramer was second (97 points) with Russian Sergey Trofimov (96) third.

In the Mass Start races, Belgium’s Bart Swings won the men’s seasonal title with 302 points, ahead of Livio Wenger (SUI: 280) and Jorrit Bergsma (NED: 270), with Americans Joey Mantia seventh (228) and Ian Quinn in ninth (213). Bergsma won the double-points finale on Saturday in 7:43.470, ahead of Swings (7:45.080) and Wenger (7:45.210), with Mantia fourth (7:45.260).

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