HIGHLIGHTS: U.S. wins Pairs and Ice Dance at Four Continents, U.S. women win Rugby Seven Series in Spain; Germany sweeps Luge World Cup titles

Sweden's amazing Freestyle Ski Cross star Sandra Naeslund (Photo: Nisse Schmidt via Wikipedia)

Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

● Alpine Skiing ● The FIS World Cup continued with a busy schedule in Austria and Italy for men and women.

In Kitzbuehel (AUT), Friday’s Downhill belonged to Norwegian star Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who won for the sixth time this season in 1:55.92, trailed by Johan Clarey (FRA: 1:56.34) and Blaise Giezendanner (FRA: 1:56.55). American Travis Ganong was seventh, in 1:56.98.

Saturday’s Slalom was a shocker, with Dave Ryding scoring Britain’s first-ever Alpine World Cup victory! He finished with a combined, two-run time of 1:41.26 and that beat two Norwegian stars: Lucas Braathen (1:41.64) and Henrik Kristoffersen (1:41.91). Ryding had won a prior World Cup silver and bronze, but had a near-perfect second run to vault from sixth to first and make history for British skiing.

The Super-G on Sunday was a win for 2018 Olympic silver medalist Beat Feuz, who led a Swiss 1-2 with World Cup overall leader Marco Odermatt, 1:56.68-1:56.89. Austria’s Daniel Hemetsberger was third (1:57.58).

The men’s tour heads to Schladming (AUT) for a slalom on Tuesday before the Olympic break.

The women were in famed Cortina d’Ampezzo for a Downhill and Super-G, with 2018 Olympic winner Sofia Goggia (ITA) getting her sixth win of the season in the Downhill. She finished in 1:06.98, beating Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT: 1:07.18) and the amazing Ester Ledecka (CZE: 1:07.24). Remember that Ledecka, a two-time World Champion in Snowboard, upset everyone in PyeongChang and won the Olympic Super-G. Now here she is again with an Alpine medal just days before the Beijing Winter Games begin!

American contender Breezy Johnson was slated to compete, but crashed in a training run and did not start the Downhill.

Sunday’s race was a Super-G completed an Italian sweep, with Elena Curtoni getting the win in 1:20.98, followed by Tamara Tippler (AUT: 1:2107) and Swiss Michelle Gisin (1:21.22). It was Curtoni’s second career World Cup win and first in a Super-G.

The women will be in Kronplatz (ITA) for a Giant Slalom on Tuesday, then in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) next weekend for a Downhill and Super-G before heading to Beijing.

● Archery ● The World Archery Indoor World Series for 2022 opened in Nimes (FRA), with targets at 18 m and some new faces among the finalists.

Germany’s Felix Wieser won his first in-person Indoor World Series Recurve title by upsetting 2018 World Indoor Champion Steve Wiljer (NED), 6-4, in the final. Wieser had won a 2020 World Indoor Series online tournament, but scored his first win in impressive fashion in Nimes.

Alen Remar (CRO) won the bronze, defeating Federico Musolesi (ITA), 7-3.

The women’s Recurve division went to 2021 European champ Lisa Barbelin (FRA), who won over countrywoman Caroline Lopez in a shoot-out after a 5-5 tie, by 10-9. The all-Italy bronze-medal match was won by Tatiana Andreoli over Lucilla Boari, 7-3.

● Athletics ● Here’s a result which has to be “un-reported.” Texas Tech’s reigning NCAA indoor and outdoor champion Ruth Usoro (NGR) was credited with a U.S. collegiate indoor record last week of 14.76 m (48-5 1/4), but the jump was actually a much more modest 13.76 m (45-1 3/4).

Said Texas Tech coach Wes Kittley, “I think what happened, instead of saying ‘13.76,’ [the officials] said ‘14.76.’ They didn’t mis-measure it. They just called out the wrong thing is what we think happened.”

Georgia’s Keturah Orji remains the collegiate record holder at 14.53 m (47-8) from 2018.

● Badminton ● Continuing play in India, the $150,000 Syed Modi India International was conducted in Lucknow, with the host country placing finalists in four of the five divisions.

The men’s final, due to be contested between Frenchmen Arnaud Merkle and Lucas Claerbout, was declared “no match” as one tested positive for the coronavirus and the other was deemed a “close contact.” The identities were not revealed.

Top-seeded Indian star V. Sindhu Pursarla dispatched countrywoman Malvika Bansod, 21-13, 21-16 to win the women’s title and Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto defeated T. Hema Nagendra Babu and Srivedya Gurazada, 21-16, 21-12, in the other all-India final, in Mixed Doubles.

The men’s Doubles was a win for Wei Chong Man and Kai Wun Tee (MAS) over Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala (IND), 21-18, 21-15, and Malaysia’s Anna Ching Yik Cheong and Mei Xing Teoh (MAS) won over Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand Pullela (IND), 21-12, 21-13, in the Women’s Doubles.

● Biathlon ● The final IBU World Cup stop before the Beijing Winter Games was in Antholz-Anterselva (ITA), with individual and mass-start races, and new winners!

In the men’s 20 km Individual, Russian Anton Babikov got his second career World Cup win (49:46.8), finishing 9.7 seconds up on Norway’s Tarjei Boe, and fellow Russian Said Karimulla Khalili (+48.5 seconds).

Saturday’s 15 km Mass Start was won by Germany’s Benedikt Doll, who also got his second career World Cup victory (37:14.9), ahead of three-time defending World Cup overall champ Johannes Thinges Boe (NOR) and Norway’s Sturla Holm Lagreid.

The women’s 15 km Individual race was another first-time win for this season for France’s Justine Braisaz-Bouchet, in 42:20.6, routing the field, with teammate Julia Simon way back in second, 51.1 seconds behind. Third was Mona Brorsson (SWE: +1:27.2), ahead of American Claire Egan (+1:55.9).

Sunday’s women’s 12.5 km Mass Start saw the first win this season by two-time World Cup overall champ Dorothea Wierer (ITA), in 35:58.7, ahead of Dzinara Alimbekava (BLR), behind by only 3.7 seconds. France’s Anais Chevalier-Bouchet was third (+11.6).

● Curling ● The World Curling Federation’s World Qualification Event in Lohja (FIN) had seven teams in the men’s and women’s divisions, with the top two advancing to the men’s and women’s World Championships later this year.

In the men’s tournament, Russia led the round-robin at 5-1, ahead of the Netherlands and Finland (both 4-2). In the first play-off match, the Russian piled up a 3-0 lead against the Dutch after three ends and cruised to a 6-3 win. That put the Netherlands against Finland for the final Worlds place and the Dutch scored the last six points for a 9-4 victory.

The women’s tournament saw Norway go through the round-robin at 6-0, with Denmark second (5-1) and Latvia third (4-2). In the playoffs, Denmark came from behind to eke out a 7-6 win over Norway in the first game to secure its Worlds spot. Norway built up a 7-3 lead after six ends and finished with an 8-6 win to get the last World Championships entry.

● Figure Skating ● The ISU Four Continents Championships was created as a complement to the European Championships, but thanks to the pandemic, both events were held in Tallinn (EST) in 2022.

Many of the biggest stars all skipped this event, but the competition was tightly contested nonetheless.

Korea’s Junhwan Cha led the men’s Short Program at 98.96, and then won the Free Skate with 174.26 points to total 273.22 for the victory over three Japanese skaters. Kazuki Tomono ended up second (268.99), followed by Kao Miura (251.07) and Sena Miyake (240.02) was fourth. American Tomoki Hiwatashi finished sixth (222.37).

In the women’s competition, Japan’s Mai Mihara won her second Four Continents, scoring 218.03 and winning both the Short Program and Free Skate, ahead of Koreans Haein Lee (213.52) and Yelim Kim (209.91). American Audrey Shim was fourth (203.86).

Americans went 1-2 in the Pairs, with Andrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov scoring 189.10 and Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe in second (180.94). Canada’s Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud (179.70).

The U.S. entries scored a 1-3-5 finish in Ice Dance. Caroline Green and Michael Parsons won with 200.59 points, with Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi (181.91), followed by Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko (USA: 175.67). Fifth was the U.S. team of Emily Bratti and Ian Somerville (169.54).

● Freestyle Skiing ● Sweden’s Idre Fjall was the site for two FIS Freestyle World Cup Ski Cross races each for men and women, with home favorite Sandra Naeslund continuing to dominate.

She won Saturday’s women’s race, finishing ahead of teammate Alexandra Edebo and France’s Jade Grillet-Aubert. That’s Naeslund’s fifth World Cup win in a row and eight out of nine this season!

It also broke a streak of seven straight races with medals for Swiss Fanny Smith, who did not compete.

Naeslund also won on Sunday, beating Grillet-Aubert and Katrin Ofner (AUT). With four races left this season, Naeslund has a 950-566 lead on Smith and is on the way to her third career World Cup seasonal title.

The men’s races started with a win for Swiss Ryan Regez for his second World Cup victory of the season. He got to the line ahead of Terence Tchiknavorian (FRA) and Austria’s Adam Kappacher; Tchiknavorian now has five medals in the nine races held this season.

Regez came back to win on Sunday as well, getting to the line ahead of David Mobaerg (SWE) and Francois Place (FRA). The two wins were Regez’s fifth and sixth career World Cup wins, half of which have come at Idre!

● Luge ● The final leg of the 2021-22 World Cup was in St. Moritz (SUI), with Germany sweeping all three of the major titles.

Austria’s 2017 World Champion, Wolfgang Kindl, won his third race of the season in the men’s finale, ahead of Latvian Kristers Aparjods and Nico Gleirscher (AUT): 2:10.246-2:10.267-2:10.536. The overall seasonal winner was Johannes Lochner, a five-time winner, who piled up 871 points, ahead of Kindl (791) and Aparjods (691), tied with defending champ Felix Loch (GER: 691).

Poland’s Mateusz Sochowicz, who suffered a badly injured left leg in a crash at the Olympic track in Yanqing (CHN), returned to the FIL World Cup and finished 27th in Saturday’s final. Sochowicz was selected for Poland’s team for Beijing.

The Doubles winner was four-time World Champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken (GER), who won their fifth race of the season, ahead of defending Olympic champs Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt (GER), 1:47.209-1:47.322. Eggert and Benecken ended up with the seasonal title at 907 points, just 24 up on Andris and Juris Sics (LAT: 883), with Wendl and Arlt third (796).

The FIL changed Eggert and Benecken’s disqualification in Winterberg in early January into a “did not finish” classification, which have them an added 16 points; even without the change, their victory in St. Moritz was enough to give them the seasonal win as the Sics brothers finished fifth.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, the two-time defending Olympic champ, is getting back to form just at the right time and posted her first win of the season in the women’s racing, timing 1:48.190, ahead of Austria’s Madeleine Egle (1:48.345) and Latvia’s Elina Ieva Vitola (1:48.456). Seasonal leader Julia Taubitz (GER) was fourth, but won the overall title with 979 points to 947 for Egle and 772 for Geisenberger.

● Rugby Sevens ● Both the men’s and women’s Sevens Series were on in Malaga (ESP), in the third event for both series. South Africa won the first two men’s events and Australia won both women’s events held so far.

The men’s bracket saw the Springboks sail through the bracket again. The South Africans shut out Canada, 14-0, in the quarterfinals and Australia, 19-0, in the semis before a final-play try for a 24-17 win over Argentina in the final. England defeated Australia, 24-20, in the third-place match.

The women’s tournament turned out differently. Australia was 3-0 in its pool and won its quarterfinal match by 33-10 over Canada, but then got stopped by Russia, 29-26 in the semifinals.

Meanwhile, the U.S. women also went 3-0 in pool play and defeated England, 22-17 in its quarterfinal. In the semis, the Americans won a tight 14-10 match from France and then stomped Russia in the final, 35-10, for its first Sevens Series win since the opener of the 2019-20 season!

The U.S. took charge right away, with Kris Thomas getting a try in the first minute, followed by Naya Tapper in the fourth minute for a 14-10 halftime lead. But second-hand tries from Jaz Gray in the ninth and 13th minutes and Ilona Maher in the 14th turned the match into a rout. Nicole Heavirland made all five conversions.

With the win, the U.S. moved up to fourth in the seasonal standings with 40 points, behind Australia (56), and France and Russia with 46 each.

● Ski Jumping ● The men’s World Cup was in Titisee-Neustadt (GER) for two competitions off the 142 m hill, with Germany’s Karl Geiger taking his third win of the season, scoring 288.3 to finish just ahead of Anze Lanisek (SLO: 283.1) and German teammate Markus Eisenbichler (273.9).

Sunday’s competition ended exactly the same: Geiger (282.7), Lanisek (280.5) and Eisenbichler (265.3). The weekend sweep moved Geiger into the seasonal lead with 1,097 points to 1,036 for Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi.

● Shooting ● The ISSF 10 m Grand Prix in Osijek (CRO) was dominated by European entries, with Russia taking the most medals with eight in all (3-1-4); Serbia, Hungary and Ukraine each won four.

Russia’s 2018 Worlds Silver medalist Artem Chernousov won the men’s 10 m Air Pistol final by 17-5 over Ruslan Lunev (AZE), while Hungarian star Veronika Major, the 2019 European bronze medalist, took the women’s final, 16-6, against Antoaneta Konstadinova (BUL).

Serbia won the men’s Team Air Pistol, Italy won the women’s Team event and Russia took the Mixed Team final.

In the 10 m Air Rifle finals, Ukrainian Serhiy Kulish, the Rio 2016 silver medalist, won a tight battle with two-time European champ Istvan Peni (HUN). 17-13; Serbia’s Andrea Arsovic won the women’s title, 17-15, against Oceanne Muller of France.

The team events in Air Rifle went to home favorite Croatia (men), Russia (women) and France (mixed team).

The XXIV Olympic Winter Games in Beijing open on 4 February.

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