The Sports Examiner

HIGHLIGHTS: Ledecky leads U.S. swimmers as 12 new world-leading marks set in Des Moines; U.S. women edge Spain, 1-0

Tokyo-bound American Freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky (Photo: USA Swimming)

Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

ALPINE SKIING ● Bad weather canceled the Super-G racing on Sunday in Kvitfjell (NOR) after Austria’s Matthias Mayer won the final Downhill of the FIS Alpine World Cup season on Saturday.

Mayer finished ahead of Norway’s Alexsander Aamodt Kilde and Swiss Carlo Janka, but Swiss stars Beat Feuz (Downhill) and Mauro Caviezel (Super-G) won the seasonal Crystal Globes. The overall leader remains Aamodt Kilde, with 1,202 points, ahead of France’s Alexis Pinturault (1,148) and Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR: 1,041). The season will conclude – weather permitting – in Kranjska Gora (SLO) with a Giant Slalom and Slalom, good events for Pinturault and Kristoffersen. Full results here.

The women’s racing in Ofterschwang (GER) was canceled for bad weather; the final races of the season will be a Parallel Slalom, Giant Slalom and Slalom in Are (SWE). Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. has said she will be in Are, but is not sure if she will race or how well. She’s in the second in the overall standings by 1,225-1,378 to Italy’s Federica Brignone.

BIATHLON ● The seventh of nine stops in the IBU World Cup was in Nove Mesto (CZE), with a battle royal on for the men’s title, between the seven-time champion Martin Fourcade (FRA) and defending champion Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway.

Boe got a lot closer to Fourcade by winning both races in Nove Mesto, a 10 km Sprint and a 15 km Mass Start. France was second in both races, with Quentin Fillon Maillet (Sprint) and Emilien Jacquelin (Mass Start). Fourcade was sixth and 14th, but still leads the standings, with five events to go, by 853-810-800 with Boe and Fillon Maillet in hot pursuit.

The women’s races went to Denise Herrmann (GER) in the 7.5 km Sprint and Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff (12 km Mass Start), the latter’s seventh win of the season. Heading into the final two events of the season, Italy’s Dorothea Wierer still leads with 776 points, ahead of Eckhoff (707) and Sweden’s Hanna Oberg (705). Full results here.

BOBSLED & SKELETON ● Competition in the new women’s Monobob continued in La Plagne (FRA), with Breeana Walker of New Zealand winning on Saturday over Karlein Sleper (NED), 0.78 seconds, and then repeating the victory on Sunday, finishing ahead of Romanian Andreea Grecu by just 0.07. It’s the third win of the season for Walker; the eight-race tour will finish on 3 April in Lake Placid. Full results here.

FENCING ● Three events were scheduled, with the men’s Sabre Grand Prix moved from Padua (ITA) to Luxembourg and two Olympic stars showing they are more than ready for Tokyo.

In Luxembourg, Hungary’s Aron Szilagyi demonstrated that he’s aiming for a third straight Olympic title in Sabre, taking the final from Korea’s Bong-Il Gu, 15-12. Sang-Uk Oh (KOR) and Veniamin Reshetnikov (RUS) finished third. The victory was the seventh career World Cup gold for Szilagyi, still just 30.

In Athens (GRE), the women’s Sabre, it was American star Mariel Zagunis who took her first World Cup title since 2000, out-pointing Hungary’s Lisa Pusztai, 15-6 in the final. It was Zagunis’ first win in a World Cup since taking the 2016 Athens title. Now 35, she won back-to-back Sabre golds in 2004 and 2008 and after taking a maternity leave, is now back among the medal contenders for Tokyo.

In the Epee Grand Prix in Budapest (HUN), Japan’s Masaru Yamada, 25, scored his first-ever Grand Prix win with a surprise victory over France’s Yannick Borel, the 2018 World Champion, by 15-11. A similar shocker came in the women’s division, as France’s Alexandra Louis Marie, 24, topped Korea’s Sera Song, 26, by 15-13, in a final where neither had ever made a Grand Prix final. Links to results are here.

FOOTBALL ● Spain gave the U.S. its toughest match of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, losing 2-1, and underlined that result on Sunday in front of a boisterous crowd of 26,500 at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. But the result was almost exactly the same.

Both sides had excellent scoring chances, with Spain knocking a possible goal off the U.S. post, but in the 87th minute, Julie Ertz got to a driving free kick from Christen Press and headed it off the hand of keeper Sandra Panos and into the Spanish goal for a 1-0 win in the second session of the SheBelieves Cup.

Spain held possession for 60% of the game and both sides had nine shots at goal; that’s how close it was. The U.S. has now won both of its games; England (1-1) defeated Japan, 1-0, in the opening game and the U.S. women can win the tournament with a draw or victory against Japan on 11 March in Frisco, Texas (8 p.m. Eastern).

The U.S. Women’s U-20 team romped to victory in the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship, played in the Dominican Republic.

The American juniors whitewashed its three pool-play opponents by 24-0, then defeated St. Lucia (6-0), Canada (4-0), the Dominican Republic for a second time (6-0) and finally Mexico in the final by 4-1. That’s a goals-against total of 44-1 and the sixth title for the U.S. in this tournament.

The leading scorer was Haiti’s Melchie Dumomay with 14 goals, followed by Mia Fishel of the U.S. with 13; Fishel won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s top player. Both the U.S. and Mexico qualified for the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup, to be played later this year.

FREESTYLE SKIING ● In the final Aerials competition of the season, in Krasnoyarsk (RUS), Swiss Noe Roth won the men’s competition over home favorite Pavel Krotov, while Australia’s Laura Peel won her second event of the tour, ahead of Sicun Xu (CHN) and Ashley Caldwell of the U.S.

The seasonal crowns went to Roth, ahead of Krotov by 386-334, and to Peel, by 469-351 ahead of China’s Mengtao Xu. Full results here.

GYMNASTICS ● The annual American Cup, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, confirmed once again that Sam Mikulak is a real medal contender for Tokyo and that Morgan Hurd should not be counted out in the U.S. women’s Olympic Team race.

Mikulak won the All-Around for the second time (also in 2014), scoring 85.332 to impressively out-distance Ukraine’s Rio All-Around silver medalist, Oleg Verniaiev (83.064) and Britain’s James Hall (82.999). American Shane Wiskus (82.797) was fourth. Mikulak won on Floor and Parallel Bars was third on Rings, second on Vault and third on the High Bar. Verniaiev won on Pommel Horse and tied with Hall for first on Rings.

Hurd won for the second time in the last three years, scoring 55.832, ahead of Kayla Di Cello (USA: 55.132) and Hitomi Hatakeda (JPN: 53.799). After missing the U.S. World Championships team last season, Hurd – the 2017 World All-Around Champion – won won on Uneven Bars, was second on Beam and third on Vault and Floor. Di Cello won the Vault and was third on Beam and Floor. Full results here.

NORDIC SKIING ● The FIS Cross Country World Cup came to one of its iconic venues this weekend, at Oslo’s Holmenkollen, but no spectators were allowed to watch to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

On Saturday, World Cup overall leader Therese Johaug was beaten in a distance race for only the second time this season in 17 starts. Sweden’s Frida Karlsson made a huge move over the last two laps on the 6.2 km course and skied past Johaug in the final meters for a dramatic win in the 30 km Classical Mass Start race. Even with the second-place finish, Johaug has clinched the overall World Cup for the season, her third.

The men’s 50 km Classical Mass Start was won for the second year in a row by Russian Alexander Bolshunov. Despite heavy fog, rain and wind, he triumphed over Norway’s Simen Hegstad Kruger by 0.9 seconds, chasing him down after a breakaway on the final lap. The win nearly (but not quite) clinches the season title for Bolshunov, who has a 2,221-1,726 lead over Sprint specialist Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR), with three Sprints and two distance races remaining. Full results here.

There was also a mid-week Sprint on Wednesday in Konnerud (NOR), with Sweden’s Jonna Sundling winning the women’s race over Nadine Fahndrich (SUI), and Norwegians Klaebo, Havard Taugbol and Eirik Brandsdal sweeping the men’s race.

The Nordic Combined season ended on Saturday with the final race in Oslo, as the World Cup Final program in Schonach (GER), set for next week, was canceled due to lack of snow. But it wouldn’t have made any difference to the winner, Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber.

Completing perhaps the greatest season in history, Riiber won his 14th race in 17 held this season – a record – and defended his 2018-19 title in style, winning by 54.1 seconds in front of his home fans, over Fabian Riessle (GER). Riiber finished with 1,586 points, far ahead of Jorgen Graabak (NOR: 1,106) with Vinzenz Geiger (GER: 917) third. Full results here.

The Ski Jumping World Cup was also in Oslo, beginning the Raw Air Tournament for men and women that will continue for a week. The men’s and women’s individual competitions on Sunday were blown away by high winds and will be held on Monday in Lillehammer, on the famed Lysgardsbakken 140 m hill.

RUGBY ● The men’s Sevens Series tournament in Vancouver (CAN) saw New Zealand’s All Blacks win for the third time, edging Australia, 17-14, in the final. Canada got into the third-place match and defeated South Africa, 26-19, for the bronze medal. Full results here.

After six of 10 stages in the 2019-20 season, New Zealand continues to lead with 115 points, trailed by South Africa (104), Fiji (83), Australia (81) and England (77).

SNOWBOARD ● The penultimate SnowCross races were held in Sierra Nevada, Spain, with excellent showings by the home favorites. Lucas Eguibar, the 2017 Worlds silver medalist at Sierra Nevada, won on his favorite course, ahead of Alessandro Hammerle (AUT) and Paul Berg (GER). With one race left, Hammerle now leads, 2,960-2,950-2,130 over Italians Lorenzo Sommariva and Omar Visintin.

The women’s race was won by French star Chloe Trespeuch, taking her first gold of the season, with Michaela Moioli (ITA) continuing her streak of medals in all five events this season. Australia’s Belle Brockhoff won her fourth medal of the season in third. Going into the final event of the tour on 15 March in Switzerland, Moioli leads Brockhoff, 4,400-3,500, with Eva Samkova (CZE) third at 2,710. Full results here.

SPEED SKATING ● The ISU World Cup concluded in Heerenveen (NED), with the home team winning six of the 12 races on the schedule and collecting four season titles.

In the men’s events, Japan’s Tatsuya Shinhama left no doubt who is the best sprinter in the world this season, with wins in both 500 m races – both times beating Canada’s Laurent Dubrueil – and taking the seasonal title by 482-433 over Russia’s Viktor Mushtakov, with Dubreuil third (420).

The Netherlands dominated most of the remaining events, with Thomas Krol winning the 1,000 m over Dubreuil and taking the seasonal title over teammate Kai Verbij, 294-272, with Dubreuil third (251). Kjeld Nuis won his second career season title at 1,500 m, winning the race over Krol, and out-pointing China Zhongyan Ning by 282-266, with Krol third (259).

Dutch distance star Patrick Roest won the 5,000 m and the seasonal title (360); Canada’s Graeme Fish was second in the race, but third on the season (306) to Russian Danila Semerkov (323). The Mass Start title went to Belgian Bart Swings, who finished second in Heerenveen to Korea’s Jae-Won Chung, with Joey Mantia of the U.S. third. Swings won his second career Mass Start title by just a single point, 570-569, over Mantia, with Chung a distant third (462).

In the women’s Sprints, Vanessa Herzog (AUT) and Russian Angelina Golikova won the two 500 m races, but Japanese star Nao Kodaira – third and second in Heerenveen – took the season title with 528 points to 504 for Golikova. It’s Kodaira’s third.

Jutta Leerdam of The Netherlands defeated American star Brittany Bowe in the 1,000 m by 0.28 seconds, 1:13.699-1:13.981, but Bowe easily won her second straight and fourth career World Cup title at the distance by 326-256 over Kodaira with Russia’s Olga Fatkulina third (242). The 1,500 m was a runaway for Ireen Wust (NED), who won the race and breezed to her third career seasonal title. 342-260 over Japan’s Miho Takagi (second in the race as well) and Russian Evgeniia Lalenkova (both 260).

The 3,000 m was won by Canada’s Isabelle Weidemann over Antoinette de Jong (NED), her second win of the season, but it wasn’t enough to keep Czech superstar Martina Sabilkova – who finished fourth – from collecting her 13th career World Cup distances title. Sabilkova won two races and was second twice in the six events to win again, but by only 357-353 over Weidemann.

Canada’s Ivanie Blondin finished third in the seasonal distance category, but won the season Mass Start title easily, scoring 548 points to 492 for Dutch star Irene Schouten and 442 for Japan’s Nana Takagi. Melissa Wijfje won the race in Heerenveen, ahead of Maryna Zuyeva (BLR) and Schouten. Full results here.

SWIMMING ● The third leg of the Tyr Pro Swim Series for 2020 was held in Des Moines, Iowa, with a sensational showing for American stars, who claimed 2020 world-leading marks in 12 events:

Men’s 50 m Freestyle: 21.51, Caeleb Dressel
Men’s 200 m Backstroke: 1:55.22, Ryan Murphy
Men’s 100 m Butterfly: 50.92, Dressel

Women’s 200 m Freestyle: 1:54.59, Katie Ledecky
Women’s 400 m Freestyle: 3:59.66, Ledecky
Women’s 800 m Freestyle: 8:16.23, Ledecky (en route)
Women’s 1,500 m Freestyle: 15:29.51, Ledecky
Women’s 100 m Backstroke: 58.18, Regan Smith
Women’s 100 m Breaststroke: 1:05.74, Lilly King
Women’s 200 m Breaststroke: 2:21.67, Annie Lazor
Women’s 200 m Butterfly: 2:06.11, Hali Flickinger
Women’s 400 m Medley: 4:32.53, Melanie Margalis

Make no mistake about it, Ledecky is back at full strength. She won the 200-400-1,500 m Frees and her performance at 1,500 m was the fifth-fastest in history. But perhaps even more impressive was her 200 m win, in her fourth-fastest time ever and fastest since 2018. It was the no. 18 performance in history; she now owns five of the top 20 times ever in that event.

Among the men, Dressel (50 m Free and 100 m Fly), Murphy (100-200 m Back) and Michael Andrew (100 m Breast and 200 m Medley) each won two events. In addition to Ledecky, Regan Smith won the 100 and 200 m Backstroke events. Pretty impressive; full results here.

TABLE TENNIS ● The ITTF World Tour Qatar Open did take place in Doha, with two-time World Championships Singles medalist Zhendong Fan of China winning the men’s Singles title over surprise finalist Liam Pitchford of England, 4-1, as part of a powerful statement by the Chinese, who won four of the five divisions.

In men’s Doubles, Long Ma and Xin Xu defeated Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall (ENG), 3-1, and China swept the women’s events with Meng Chen beating Mima Ito (JPN), 4-1, and Manyu Wang and Yuling Zhu (CHN) easing past Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki (JPN), 3-1, in women’s Doubles.

Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Ito won the Mixed Doubles by 3-1 over China’s Chuqin Wang and Yingsha Sun. Full results here.

TRIATHLON ● The first stage of the World Triathlon Series was scheduled for Abu Dhabi (UAE), but was postponed as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. A new date later in March, or in April is hoped for. The next scheduled event is Bermuda, for 18 April.

WRESTLING ● The U.S. has dominated the Pan-American Championships being held in Ottawa (CAN), winning seven titles so far, with more competition on Monday.

In Greco-Roman, the American men won medals in every weight class, with Max Nowry (55 kg), Ray Bunker (72 kg), John Stefanowicz Jr. (82 kg), Josef Rau (87 kg) and G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg) all winning their divisions.

Mallory Velte and Tamyra Mensah-Stock won the women’s classes in the 62 kg and 68 kg classes for the only U.S. women’s titles. Reigning World Champion and Olympic favorite Adeline Gray was injured and was not able to compete in the 76 kg final, won by default by Canada’s Justina Di Stasio.

Jason Nolf won the men’s Freestyle title at 79 kg; the men’s Freestyle program concludes on Monday; you can find full results here.

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