HIGHLIGHTS: Ledecky wins four in Tyr Pro Swim; Shiffrin slaloms to 69th World Cup win; U.S. wrestlers win six in Rome

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

Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

Alpine Skiing ● The women’s FIS World Cup is coming down to the final races of the season, with rivals Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova fighting it out for the Slalom crown.

On Saturday, Shiffrin came from behind to win her 69th career World Cup victory, this time in the Slalom at Jasna, Slovakia. Vlhova posted a sensational first run, 0.27 ahead of Shiffrin and the rest of the field, but the American ripped through the second run with the fastest time in the field, while Vlhova was third-fastest in the second round. That left Shiffrin on top, 1:44.28-1:44.52, with a 0.61 differential on the second time down. Swiss Wendy Holdener was third.

Sunday’s Giant Slalom was a win for Vlhova, who also had to come from behind. This time it was Shiffrin who had the lead, 1:08.35-1:08.51. But as Shiffrin had trouble and was only 11th-fastest on the second run, Vlhova was steady and her third-fastest time of 1:08.15 proved to be enough for a 2:16.66 win, with New Zealand’s Alice Robinson getting second (2:16:82) and Shiffrin finishing third (2:17:03).

In the seasonal Slalom standings, there are three races to go and Vlhova is holding a 480-435 lead, with two Slaloms next week at Are (SWE). Those may be decisive.

The men’s World Cup was in Saalbach (AUT) for races originally slated for Kvitfjell (NOR). One Downhill race was cancelled due to bad weather, but Saturday’s Downhill was run and was yet another triumph for World Champion Vincent Kreichmayr of Austria. His 1:53.07 mark was 0.17 better than former World Champion Beat Feuz (SUI) and 0.27 better than Austrian teammate Matthias Mayer. It was Kriechmayr’s third on the World Cup circuit this season.

Sunday’s Super-G was another medal-winning performance for Kriechmayr, but a bronze this time. Swiss Marco Odermatt, still just 23, claimed his third career World Cup win in 1:23.59, up 0.62 seconds on France’s Matthieu Bailet (first career World Cup medal) and 0.81 ahead of Kriechmayr.

In the overall World Cup standings, France’s Alexis Pinturault still leads Odermatt, 1050-969 after 31 of 37 races.

Athletics ● The European Championships in Torun (POL) was the star attraction of the weekend, with world-leading marks in eight events:

Men/60 m: 6.47, Lamont Marcell Jacobs (ITA)
Men/High Jump: 2.37 m (7-9 1/4), Maksim Nedasekau (BLR)
Men/Long Jump: 8.35 m (27-43/4), Miltiadis Tentoglou (GRE)
Men/Heptathlon: 6,392, Kevin Mayer (FRA)

Women/60 m: 7.03, Alja del Ponte (SUI)
Women/60 m hurdles: 7.77, Nadine Visser (GER)
Women/Long Jump: 6.92 m (22-8 1/2), Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk (UKR)
Women/Pentathlon: 4,904, Nafi Thiam (BEL)

Jacobs, 26, is an emerging sprinter to watch; born in El Paso, Texas, he moved to Italy as a child and has a 100 m best of 10.03 from 2019. He won easily in Torun, up 0.13 on German Kevin Kranz.

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen won both the men’s 1,500 m (3:37.56) and 3,000 m (7:48.20), although he was disqualified in the 1,500 m and later reinstated. France’s Wilhem Belocian won the 60 m hurdles over Britain’s Andrew Pozzi, 7.42-7.43; that’s not Grant Holloway territory, but nos. 2-3 on the 2021 world list.

Nedasekau won a great duel with prior world leader Gianmarco Tamberi (ITA), who cleared 2.35 m (7-8 1/2), but could not negotiate 2.37 m (7-9 1/4), which the winner cleared on his first try. Mondo Duplantis (SWE) won the vault with a sensational 6.05 m (19-10 1/4) clearance, a height only he, Renaud Lavillenie (FRA), Sergey Bubka (UKR) and Steve Hooker (AUS) have ever cleated indoors. Portugal’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo unleashed his second-best performance of the season – 17.30 m (56-9 1/4) – to win the triple jump.

In the women’s high jump, world leader Yaroslava Mahuchikh (UKR) won at 2.00 m (6-6 3/4), but missed at 2.07 m (6-9 1/2). Thiam’s 4,904 pentathlon score moves her to no. 7 on the all-time list.

At the latest Sound Running Invitational at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, California, two great 5,000 m races provided world-leading and Olympic qualifying marks.

The top five women all ran under the Olympic qualifying standard of 15:10.00, with Emily Sisson leading the way at 14:55.82, followed by Allie Buchalski (USA: 14:57.54), Weini Kilati (ERI: 14:58.24), Alicia Monson (USA: 15:07.65) and 2016 Olympic Triathlon gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen (USA: 15:08.28). Three more achieved the U.S. Olympic Trials standard of 15:20.00. It’s a huge breakthrough for Sisson, who claimed a lifetime best by 14.80 seconds!

The men’s 5,000 m was a win and lifetime best for former Stanford star Grant Fisher, who ran a 55.38 last lap to pull away from Britain’s Marc Scott and win in 13:02.53, with Scott at 13:05.13, Sean McGorty (USA) at 13:06.45 and Joe Klecker at 13:06.67. The top five met the Olympic standard and four more got the U.S. Trials standard. Fisher’s prior best had been 13:11.68 in 2020.

In the women’s 1,500 m, Sinclaire Johnson and Elise Cranny (both U.S.) ran 4:05.91 and 4:06.23 for nos. 2-3 on the world list in 2021; neither was under the Olympic qualifying mark of 4:04.20. The men’s 1,500 m was a 3:35.78 win for Josh Kerr (GBR) over Amos Bartelmeyer (USA: 3:38.54) and Johnny Gregorek (USA: 3:38.76).

Badminton ● The level 300 Swiss Open in Basel (SUI) attracted a strong field in view of the paucity of competitions this season, and ended with stars Viktor Axelsen (DEN) and Olympic champ Carolina Marin (ESP) in the winner’s circle.

Axelsen, the top seed in the men’s Singles, sailed past eighth-seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn (THA), 21-16, 21-21-6. Marin similarly dispatched India’s V. Sindhu Pusarla by 21-12 and 21-5. Both winners figure to be medal contenders in Tokyo.

Surprises ruled the doubles events, with unseeded Pearly Tan and Mura Thinaah (MAS) taking the women’s title over third-seeds Gabriela and Stefani Stoeva of Bulgaria, 21-19, 21-12. Sixth-seed Kim Astrup and Anders Rasmussen (DEN) won the men’s title over unseeded Germans Mark Lamsfuss and Marvin Seidel, 21-16, 21-11. The Mixed Doubles class was won by sixth-seeds Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue (FRA) by 21-19, 21-19 against Danes Mathias Christiansen and Alexandra Boje.

Biathlon ● Heading toward the end of the 2020-21 season, the IBU World Cup resumed in Nove Mesto (CZE) for the first of two weeks of competition, this time for Sprint and Pursuit races.

Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff won the women’s World Championships in the Sprint and Pursuit and keep right on going in Nove Mesto, winning both again to increase her lead in the women’s seasonal standings. Even with one shooting penalty, she took the 7.5 km Sprint on Saturday by 9.3 seconds (18:48.4) over Yuliia Dzhima (UKR) and 15.0 seconds over Italy’s Lisa Vitozzi, who both shot clean. Eckhoff then overpowered everyone in the 10 km Pursuit despite three penalties! Even so, she won in 27:28.0, a sensational 24.0 seconds up on Denise Hermann (GER; 1 penalty) and 29.9 seconds up on fellow Norwegian Marte Olsbu Roeiseland (3 penalties).

On the season, Eckhoff now leads Roeiseland, 923-843, with Swede Hanna Oeberg third with 798 points.

The men’s 10 km Sprint saw France’s Simon Desthieux take his first World Cup individual victory, finishing 2.4 seconds ahead of Sebastian Samuelsson (SWE) and 4.4 seconds ahead of Arnd Peiffer (GER), as all three shot clean. Sunday’s 12.5 km Pursuit was the third win of the season for Tarjei Boe, the older brother of seasonal leader Johannes Thingnes Boe. The brothers went 1-2 as Tarjei finished 8.2 seconds up in 28:17.3, aided by one shooting penalty while J.T. had two. Desthieux took third, 11.5 seconds back, with two penalties.

With five races left, J.T. Boe leads the men’s seasonal standings with 955 points, ahead of Sturla Holm Langreid (922) and Tarjei Boe (763).

Cycling ● The famed Strade Bianche race in and around Siena (ITA) was held Sunday, with Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel overpowering France’s Julian Alaphilippe and Colombia’s Egan Bernal in the final 1,000 m stretch of the hilly, 184 km course.

Van der Poel, 26, claimed his eighth World Tour victory by accelerating into the final 12 km stretch and pulling Alaphilippe and Bernal with him. But neither could stand his finishing blast, which gave him a five-second margin on the French star and 20 seconds on Bernal.

The women’s Strade Bianche covered 136 km and another late break made the difference. This time it as 2017 World Champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak who dashed away from the field with six km left, taking Italian star Elisa Longo Borghini with her. The two were unchallenged into Siena and the Dutch star had enough to power through the finish seven seconds clear, with Anna van der Breggen (NED) closing to nine seconds down at the line to grab third ahead of fellow star Annemiek van Vleuten (+:11).

The first stage of the 79th Paris-Nice race began on Sunday in Saint-Cyr-L’Ecole, with a hilly 165.8 km race made for the sprinters. It was Irish star Sam Bennett who won the final dash, leading France’s Arnaud Demare, Mads Pedersen (DEN), Jasper Philipsen (BEL) and Bryan Coquard (FRA) across the line. It’s Bennett’s third won of the season after two triumphs during the season-opening UAE Tour. It was also his fourth career Paris-Nice stage win.

The eight-stage race runs through next weekend, with Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic, the two-time Vuelta a Espana winner, expected to be a top contender.

Judo ● Japan fielded a strong team at the Tashkent Grand Slam (UZB) and dominated the competition, winning 11 medals, including nine golds.

Their winners included Ryuju Nagayama in the men’s 60 kg class, Kenta Nagasawa at 90 kg and Kokoro Kageura at +100 kg. Japan won six of the seven women’s classes, including Uta Abe at 52 kg, Momo Tamaoki at 57 kg, Miku Tashiro at 63 kg, Chizuru Arai at 70 kg, Mami Umeki at 78 kg and Akira Sone at +78 kg.

Korea won six medals (1-1-4) including a victory from Baul An in the men’s 66 kg class. Mongolia (2-2-1) won five medals, with wins from Tsogtbaatar Tsend-Ochir in the men’s 73 kg category and Urantsetseg Munkhbat in the women’s 48 kg class.

Nordic Skiing ● The legend of Norwegian Cross-Country star Therese Johaug added new chapters as the FIS Nordic Skiing World Championships closed in Obertsdorf, Germany.

In Cross Country, Johaug completed a brilliant Worlds with a fourth gold medal in the 30 km Classical Mass Start race, winning by a staggering 2:34.2 over countrywoman Heidi Weng (1:24:56.3-1:27:30.5), with Swede Frida Karlsson winning her third individual medal of the Championships in third (1:27:31.1). Sadie Bjornsen was the top American finisher, in 15th (1:29:38.7).

Johaug won four golds in Obertsdorf, in the 10 km Freestyle, 15 km Skiathlon, 30 km Mass start and on the 4×5 km relay with Weng, Tiril Udnes Weng, and Helene Fossesholm. She now owns 19 World Champs medals, of which 14 are gold, from 2011-21. Amazing, and at 32, she will be a prime contender for Beijing 2022 medals as well.

The men’s 50 km Classical Mass Start was another Norwegian win, this time for Emil Iversen, his first individual World Championships gold, after three on relays. He won a tight race to the finish with Russian star Alexander Bolshunov, finally winning by 2:10:52.9-2:10:53.6! The bronze medal went to Simen Hegsted Krueger (NOR), some 8.2 seconds back in 2:11:01.1. American Scott Patterson was 10th, in 2:12:17.6.

Iversen had also been on Norway’s winning men’s 4×10 km relay, with Pal Golberg, Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Hans Christer Holund. They combined for an impressive 12.0-second win over Russia (with Bolshunov on anchor) and France, 1:52:39.0-1:52:51.0-1:53:51.6. Krueger’s bronze in the 50 km was his third individual medal of the Worlds.

In Nordic Combined, the Gundersen Large Hill + 10 km race was a stunning win for 19-year-old Johannes Lamparter of Austria, who dusted the field by 37.1 seconds, trouncing Norwegian superstar Jarl Magnus Riiber and former World Cup champ Akito Watabe (JPN) by 23:11.1-23:48.2-23:56.9. Coming into the event, Lamparter had one exactly one World Cup medal in his career and was seventh in the Worlds Normal Hill/10 km event. Now, he is a World Champion.

And he collected a second gold in concert with Lukas Greiderer in the Team Sprint/Large Hill 2×7.5 km event, beating Norway’s Riiber and Espen Andersen, 29:29.7-30:09.3, with Germany third. A star is born!

In Ski Jumping, Austrian veteran Stefan Kraft won the 137 m Large Hill title for his third Worlds gold medal; he also won the Large Hill gold in 2017. He out-pointed Norway’s Robert Johansson, 276.5-272.1, with Karl Geiger (GER) third with 267.4. Geiger helped Germany win the men’s team gold, with Pius Paschke, Severin Freund and Markus Eisenbichler, 1,046.6-1,035.5 over Kraft’s Austria team, with Philipp Aschenwald, Jan Horl and Daniel Huber, with Poland third.

Overall, Norway dominated the Worlds, piling up 31 total medals (13-11-7) to seven for Austria (4-1-2) and Sweden (2-2-3). The U.S. did not win a medal.

Shooting ● The ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Cairo (EGY) finished on Friday (5th), with Russian shooters finishing with four golds among the nine events contested and eight medals in all.

During the final-week competitions in Trap, Croatia’s two-time Worlds medalist Anton Glasnovic carried away two golds with wins in the men’s competition and men’s team event. He won the individual crown with a 47-44 win over Joan Garcia (ESP), with Spanish teammate Alberto Fernandez third (34). The team title was a 6-2 win for Glasnovic, Giovanni Cernogoraz and Rio gold medalist Josip Glasnovic (Anton’s younger brother by three years), over Russia.

Spain scored a Trap gold with 2015 World Champion Fatima Galvez, who tied with Russia’s Daria Semianova at 44-44, then won the shoot-off by 5-4 in the first round. Russian Ekaterina Subbotina was third at 33.

The women’s and Mixed team events were Russian showcases. Semianova and Alexey Alipov won the Mixed event by 41-34 over Egypt’s Maggy Ashmawy and Ahmed Zaher, and Semianova, Subbotina and Iulliia Saveleva won the women’s team title by 6-4 over India’s Manisha Keer, Rajeshwari Kumari and Kirti Gupta.

Russia ended up leading the overall medal table with nine, followed by Spain with four and the Czech Republic with three.

Snowboard ● The FIS World Cup circuit in SnowCross resumed this week, with the racers in Bakuriani (GEO) on 4-5 March. There were two new faces on top of the men’s podium, as Canada’s Eliot Grondin and Italian veteran Omar Visintin collected the golds. Grondin won on Thursday for his second World Cup medal of the season, sliding in ahead of Lukas Pachner (AUT) and Italy’s Lorenzo Sommariva. Visintin won on Saturday, beating Swiss Kalle Koblet (first medal of the season) and veteran Alessandro Hammerle (AUT). With one race left later this month, Hammerle leads the seasonal standings by 330-268 over Grondin.

Czech star Eva Samkova, the Sochi 2014 gold medalist, won her 16th career World Cup with a victory on Thursday over France’s Julia Pereira de Sousa Mabileau and American star Lindsey Jacobellis. Friday’s race produced three new medal winners: Britain’s Charlotte Bankes, the 2021 World Champion, won for the first time on the World Cup tour this season, ahead of French star Chloe Trespeuch and American Faye Gulini, who took a third medal in five World Cup races this season. With one race to go, Samkova and Michela Moioli have 350 points each, with Gulini at 282.

The Parallel racers were in Rogla (SLO), with home favorite Zan Kosir taking the final Parallel Giant Slalom of the season – his third World Cup medal in 2020-21 – over Andrey Sobolev (RUS) and Poland’s Oskar Kwiatkowski. The overall Parallel racing standings are tight, with Aaron March (ITA) with 324 points to 322 to Dmitry Loginov (RUS) and 311 for Kosir.

Germany’s Ramona Theresia Hofmeister won the Parallel Giant Slalom seasonal title with her third win in the five races, beating Russian Parallel Slalom World Champion Sofia Nadyrshina and Swiss star Julie Zogg. Hofmeister has a 553-503-412 lead in the overall Parallel standings over Nadyrshina and Zogg with one race remaining.

Short Track ● The ISU World Short Track Championships was held in Dordrecht (NED), with multiple top squads either skipping the event in view of little training time, or sending secondary entries; Asian powerhouses China, Japan and Korea did not compete at all.

This meant that European skaters had the edge, and won seven of the eight events. The men’s competition was dominated by the Hungarian brothers Shaoang Liu and Shaolin Sandor Liu. Shaoang won the 500 m (40.524) over Semion Elistratov (RUS: 40.603) and Italy’s Pietro Sighei (40.673). Shaolin Sandor won the 1,000 m over Shaoang, 1:25.901-1:26:00 with Sighei third again (1:26.803). Canadian star Charles Hamelin took the 1,500 m (2:18.143) over Itzhak de Laat (NED: 2:18.202) and Elistratov (2:18.296). The Netherlands, Hungary and the Russians went 1-2-3 in the relay.

The women’s event were all won by Dutch skaters. PyeongChang Olympic 1,000 m winner Suzanne Schulting won the 500 m, 1,000 m and 1,500 m plus a leg on the 3,000 m relay to give her a career total of eight Worlds racing golds. She also won the Overall title for the second time.

None of the races were that close; Schulting won the 500 m by 42.661-42.719 over Italian Arianna Fontana; the 1,000 m by 1:26.854-1:26.993 against Belgian Hanne Desmet and the 1,500 m by 2:36.884-2:37.089 over Canada’s Courtney Sarault. The Dutch squad won the relay by more than two seconds over France, with Italy third.

All told, the Dutch won nine medals (6-1-2) with Hungary (3-3-0) and Italy (0-1-5) with six each.

Speed Skating ● The USA Speedskating nationals were on, although spectator-free, at the famed Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah from Friday through Sunday. Two races were held in the 500 m and 1,000 m for men and women, one each at 1,500 m and the men raced at 5,000 m and 1,000 m while the women contested the 3,000 m and 5,000 m.

The men’s Sprints were headed by Austin Kleba, who won Sunday’s 500 m over Cooper McLeod, 34.89-34.90, with Jordan Stolz third (35.07). Stolz won Friday’s 500 m over Kleba, 34.99-35.10 with Kimani Griffin third (35.13).

Saturday’s 1,000 m winner was Conor McDermott-Mostowy in 1:08.12, over Griffin (1:08.54) and Stoltz (1:08.57), with Kleba fourth. World Mass Start champ Joey Mantia won Sunday’s 1,000 m at 1:08.01, beating Griffin (1:08.32) and McDermott-Mostowy (1:08.61).

Ethan Cepuran won the 5,000 m (6:18.21) ahead of Emery Lehman (6:19.72), with Mantia fourth. Casey Dawson took the 10,000 m in 13:04.12, beating Cepuran (13:16.92).

Superstar Brittany Bowe did not compete this weekend, leaving the women’s sprints and middle distances up for grabs. Erin Jackson won Friday’s 500 m in 37.63, over Kimi Goetz (37.92) and Brianna Bocox (38.92), but then Goetz won Sunday’s round in 37.60, with Jackson at 37.64 and Sarah Warren third in 39.16.

Goetz took Saturday’s 1,000 m race in 1:14.42, with Jackson (1:16.34), Bocox and Warren finishing 2-3-4, but well behind. Goetz cleaned house again on Sunday, cruising to a 1:13.86 seasonal best, with Bocox at 1:16.20, followed by Mia Kilburg, Warren and Jackson.

Kilburg starred in the longer races, winning the 1,500 m in a lifetime best of 1:54.85, followed by Bocox (1:59.99) and Paige Schwartzburg (2:02.77). Kilburg won the 3,000 m (4:07.12) and 5,000 m (7:08.52) with ease, to equal Goetz’s three wins on the weekend.

Swimming ● Many of the top U.S. swimmers were back in action in San Antonio at the second Tyr Pro Swim Series meet of 2021, with distance superstar Katie Ledecky leading the way.

She won four events – the women’s 200-400-800-1,500 m Freestyles – and claimed world-leading marks in the 800 m (8:13.64) and 1,500 m (15:42.92), winning both events easily. She also finished third in the 100 m Free, clocking 54.74, behind Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel’s 54.62.

Ledecky, Manuel and Rio 2016 double Backstroke gold medalist Ryan Murphy were the multi-event winners. Manuel won the women’s 50 m and 100 m Frees, while Murphy doubled in the 100 m and 200 m men’s Backstrokes.

Most of the swimmers are still in heavy training, but Ledecky was her usual impressive self, which is bad news for the rest of the world’s women distance freestylers.

Wrestling ● The U.S. sent a massive squad of 36 wrestlers to the United World Wrestling ranking series tournament Matteo Pellicone in Rome, Italy and made a significant impression.

Three of the four U.S. women entered claimed wins:

50 kg: Victoria Anthony won a thriller over European champ Miglena Selishka (BUL), taking the lead for good only in the final minute after giving up a 9-3 lead after the first period. “It was the biggest win for me in recent history which is like five years,” said Anthony afterwards. “This is the first tournament where I have wrestled to my potential, peak ability. I am really happy with that.”

59 kg: Abby Nette out-fought Diana Kayumova (KAZ), 6-0, to win her first international tournament gold.

68 kg: Tamyra Mensah-Stock showed she is a force to be reckoned with, as she stomped Mimi Hristova (BUL) by 11-0 in the final, after winning her first two matches by 7-4 and 10-0.

The three U.S. wins were the most in the women’s division, trailed by Canada, which had victories from Michelle Fazzari at 62 kg and Erica Wiebe at 76 kg.

The U.S. men’s Freestyle team also scored three wins:

70 kg: Alec Pantaleo defeated 2019 Worlds silver medalist Daulet Niyazbekov (KAZ), 4-0, in the final, after defeating him by 6-2 in the preliminary rounds.

86 kg: Zahid Valencia faced fellow American Mark Hall in the final and won an overwhelming 11-0 victory for a technical fall.

97 kg: Kollin Moore faced Iran’s Worlds silver winner Alireza Karimimachiani and went down 3-1 at the end of the first period, but then scored on a double-leg takedown and won on criteria after a 3-3 tie.

American wrestlers also collected silver medals at 57 kg (Nick Suriano lost to Nurislam Sanayev/KAZ, 4-2); at 74 kg (2012 Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs lost to long-time rival Frank Chamizo/ITA, 3-2); and at 79 kg (David McFadden lost to Galymzhan Usserbayev/KAZ, 6-5).

The U.S. men won the Freestyle division with 190 points, ahead of Kazakhstan (175), which had three wins from Sanayev, Usserbayev and Adlan Askarov at 61 kg.

In Greco-Roman, Russia claimed four wins and Hungary three to dominate the division. Viktor Vedernikov (55 kg), Emin Sefershaev (60 kg), Adlan Akiev (82 kg) and Musa Evloev (97 kg) took the titles for Russia. Robert Fritsch (72 kg), Zoltan Levai (77 kg) and Istvan Takacs (87 kg) won for Hungary.

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