The Sports Examiner

HIGHLIGHTS: Diggins wins two Tour de Ski races; Meyers Taylor takes seasonal Bob lead; Sakci crushes world 50 m Breast record in Turkey

American Cross Country Skiing star Jessica Diggins: a second FIS World Cup seasonal title!

Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

(Errata: Our end-of-the-year story on Thursday had Kevin Young’s 1992 world 400 m hurdles mark of 46.78 incorrectly listed at 46.72. Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Brian Russell for spotting the error.)

● Alpine Skiing ● The FIS World Cup circuit was in high gear at year’s end, starting with three events scheduled for Bormio (ITA) in mid-week.

First up was the Downhill, won by Italian star Dominik Paris, who took his 20th career World Cup victory in 1:54.63, ahead of the Swiss duo of seasonal World Cup leader Marco Odermatt (1:54.87) and Niels Hintermann ( 1:55.43). American Travis Ganong was eighth (1:55.82).

Wednesday’s Super-G was the fourth win of the season for Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR), finishing in 1:27.95, ahead of two Austrians: Raphael Haaser (1:28.67) and 2021 World Champion Vincent Kriechmayr (1:28.80). American Ryan Cochran-Siegle finished fourth (1:28.85).

Thursday’s Super-G, a make-up from 28 November at Lake Louse (CAN) could not be held due to warm weather.

The women’s tour was in Lienz (AUT) in mid-week, with seasonal leader Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. out due to the Covid virus. That opened the door for France’s two-time World Champion in the Giant Slalom, Tessa Worley, who triumphed over Slovakian star Petra Vlhova, 2:03.88-2:04.18, with Swede Sara Hector third.

Vlhova moved up to the top of the podium for her third Slalom win of this season, clocking 1:42.10 to beat Katharina Liensberger (AUT: 1:42.61) and Swiss Michelle Gisin (1:42.78).

Next up is another Slalom in Zagreb (CRO), for which Shiffrin hopes to be back.

● Bob & Skeleton ● The IBSF World Cup in Sigulda (LAT) brought a surprise on New Year’s Day, as Russia’s Rostislav Gaitiukevich ended the 11-race win streak of reigning Olympic champ Francesco Friedrich (GER) in the first of two races. It was the first career World Cup win for Gaitiukevich.

Gaitiukevich won in 1:39.23, ahead of Britain’s Brad Hall (1:39.33) and Benjamin Maier (AUT: 1:39.40). Friedrich, who won the last seven races of the 2020-21 season and the first four this season, was way back in 12th (1:39.84) after hitting the guard rail on both runs.

On Sunday, order was restored as Friedrich won in 1:39.16, with Hall again second (1:39.22) and home favorite Oskars Kibermanis third (1:39.71). Codie Bascue had the top American sled in 10th.

The two-women race saw the first win of the season for American Elana Meyers Taylor, with Lake Kwaza aboard, in 1:41.88. That was 0.22 better than Mica Mcneill (GBR: 1:42.10) and Christine de Bruin (CAN: 1:42.12). The win also moved Meyers Taylor into first place in the seasonal standings with 1,129 points to 1,088 for de Bruin.

In the Skeleton racing, Latvian star Tomass Dukurs won his second career World Cup race in 1:41.36, 18 seasons after his first win in 2003-04! Younger brother Martins, a six-time World Champion, finished second (1:41.42) and Korea’s Seung-gi Jung third (1:41.73). Three-time European champ Janine Flock (AUT) won her first World Cup race of the season, edging Russian Yana Kanakina, 1:44.64-1:44.81.

The women’s Monobob World Series was also in Sigulda on 1 January with Canada’s de Bruin winning her second race in a row in 1:48.12, ahead of Breeana Walker (NZL: 1:48.68) and Russian Nadezhda Sergeeva (1:48.70).

● Cross Country Skiing ● One of the most-anticipated events of the season is the annual Tour de Ski, a six-event program in three countries and a mid-season marker of the top skiers of the year.

American Jessie Diggins made history in 2020-21 by being the first American to win this title and she started out strongly last Tuesday with the Freestyle Sprint in Lenzerheide (SUI). Diggins won the race, her first victory of the season, in a tight final over Mathilde Myhrvold (NOR), 3:00.12 to 3:00.25, with Anamarika Lampic third in 3:00.42. American Julia Kern was an impressive fourth in 3:00.71.

Thursday’s 10 km Classical race was won by Finn Kerttu Niskanen in 27:04.0, way ahead of Swede Ebba Andersson (27:22.2) and Russian Natalia Nepryaeva (27:34.5), with Diggins in 16th.

The men’s Sprint in Lenzerheide was win no. 3 on the season for Norwegian superstar Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (2:39.04), edging France’s Richard Jouve (2:40.03) and Lucas Chanavat (2:40.30). Finland’s Iivo Niskanen, Kerttu’s younger brother, dominated the men’s Classical 15 km, winning by 19.3 seconds over Russian star Alexander Bolshunov, 34:51.7 to 35:11.0.

The action moved to Obertsdorf (GER) on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with Diggins winning the women’s Freestyle 10 km Mass Start race in a final dash with Swede Frida Karlsson, 21:30.8-21:31.3, and just 0.8 seconds up on Russia’s Tatiana Sorina (21:31.6).

On New Year’s, Nepryaeva won the women’s Classical Sprint in 2:36.41, ahead of Johanna Hagstroem (SWE: 2:36.73) and Johanna Matintalo (FIN: 2:37.27). That gave Nepryaeva the Tour de Ski overall lead with two legs remaining at 53:40, with Diggins third (+0:38).

The men’s 15 km Freestyle Mass Start was another win for Klaebo, this time over Bolshunov, 32:26.4 to 32:29.8. Klaebo won again on Saturday in the Classical Sprint, leading a Norwegian sweep in 2:54.77, with Erik Valnes second (2:55.14) and Paal Golberg (2:58.12). Klaebo has a 1:03 lead over Golberg in the Tour de Ski standings.

The final two legs of the 16th Tour de Ski will be on 3-4 January in Val de Fiemme (ITA).

● Freestyle Skiing ● Two Halfpipe events were held at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, with a North American sweep in the men’s event on Thursday (30th) with home favorites Brendan Mackay (97.00) and Simon D’Artois (94.40) taking gold and bronze, and American Alex Ferreira second (94.80).

The women’s Halfpipe saw the second straight World Cup win this season for Olympic favorite, American-born Eileen Gu (CHN), who scored 96.80 to 92.80 for American Hanna Faulhaber and Canada’s Rachel Karker third (90.20).

On New Year’s Night, Gu scored 92.80 in the second round and won again, ahead of Karker (89.40) and Faulhaber (88.60).

In the men’s second event, Mackay duplicated his victory, scoring 93.40 in the first round that only he came close to, scoring 93.20 on his final run. Ferreira was second again (90.40) and Canada once again scored bronze, with Noah Bowman (88.00).

● Ice Hockey ● The International Ice Hockey Federation announced on Wednesday:

“Following a recommendation by the tournament COVID-19 Medical Group and the IIHF Medical Committee, the IIHF Council has decided that, due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship will be cancelled to ensure the health and safety of all participants.”

Three games had already been canceled, including the Switzerland-USA game, and more were on the way. Teams had played only two or three of their group phase games in either Edmonton or Red Deer (CAN); the U.S. men had beaten Slovakia, 3-2, and had to forfeit the game against Switzerland.

At least a half-dozen of the 10 teams in the tournament have had infections reported.

The final two games of the women’s MyWhy Tour between the U.S. and Canada were also cancelled. Scheduled to be played alongside the World Juniors in Edmonton (3 January) and Red Deer (6 January), the final three matches of the nine-game series were scrubbed due to the virus.

The Canadian women won four of the six games played, with all but one decided by one goal and three of the six matches going to overtime.

● Luge ● The FIL World Cup continued in Winterberg (GER), with Germany’s Johannes Ludwig increasing his overall lead with his fourth win of the season in 1:44.679 to 1:44.747 for Austria’s Nico Gleirscher and 1:44.860 for fellow Austrian Wolfgang Kindl.

The Doubles also had a German winner ahead of two Austrians. Double Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt won their first race of the season in 1:27.184, ahead of Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller (1:27.225) and Yannick Mueller and Armin Frauscher (1:27.338).

The women’s race was the fourth win of the season for World Cup leader Julia Taubitz (GER), finishing in 1:53.167, ahead of teammate (and defending champ) Natalie Geisenberger (1:53.408) and Austrian Madeleine Egle (1:53.423). American Summer Britcher was fifth (1:53.674).

● Ski Jumping ● One of the crown jewels of the FIS World Cup season is the annual men’s Four Hills Tournament over the New Year’s holidays in Germany and Austria. The 70th Four Hills began on Wednesday, with Japan’s 2019 champ Ryoyu Kobayashi winning on the 137 m hill in Obertsdorf (GER), 302.0-299.2-298.6 over Norway’s Halvor Egner Granerud and Robert Johansson.

In Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) on New Year’s, jumping off the 142 m hill saw Kobayashi win again, just 0.2 ahead of Markus Eisenbichler (GER) – 291.0-291.2 – with Lovro Kos (SLO) third.

Kobayashi leads Marius Lindvik (NOR) in the Four Hills standings, 593.2-580.0 with two legs remaining in Austria on 4 and 6 January.

The women’s World Cup tour was in Ljubno (SLO: 94 m hill) for the inaugural Silvester Tournament, with home favorite Nika Kriznar getting her first win of the year, ahead of seasonal leader Marita Kramer (AUT) and fellow Slovenian Ema Klinec in third: 263.7-259.9-257.2.

On Saturday, it was four-time World Cup champion Sara Takanashi, 25, with her first World Cup win of the season, extending her record for the most wins all-time to 61. She outscored Ursa Bogataj (SLO) by 266.8-261.8, with Kramer third (259.5). Kramer won the Sylvester Tournament title, 519.4-515.2 over Kriznar, with Takanashi third.

● Snowboard ● The six-event World Cup Slopestyle season for 2021-22 opened in Calgary (CAN), with a solid win for Canadian Sebastien Toutant (86.86) ahead of Norwegian veteran Mons Roisland (84.50) and American Luke Winkelmann (83.20).

Japan went 1-2 in the women’s Slopestyle opener behind Kokomo Murase (77.58) and Miyabi Onitsuka (77.18), with Laurie Blouin third (75.73).

● Swimming ● The FINA World 25 m Championships may have concluded, but the world short-course records have not.

At the Turkish national championships in Gazientep, Emre Sakci – who had been disqualified at the 25 m Worlds in the semifinals – won the 50 m Breaststroke in a world-record time of 24.95. That shattered the 2009 mark of 25.25 by South Africa’s Cameron van den Burgh, made during the plastic-suit era, which was equaled at the 2021 European Short Course Championships by Belarusian star Ilya Shymanovich.

By comparison, American Nic Fink won the 50 m Breast at the Short Course Worlds in 25.53.

Sakci also won the 100 m Free in 46.68 and the 100 m Breast in 56.00 for three golds at the Turkish Nationals.

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