Welcome to The Sports Examiner SPEED READ, a rapid review of what happened over the last 72 hours in Olympic sport:
Forget all the controversies and problems for the moment and think about the top athletes and teams to look forward to in 2019. From a mostly-U.S. perspective, consider what will happen to these stars:
● Athletics: Potential world-record setters Rai Benjamin (now USA) and Aberrahmane Samba (QAT) in the men’s 400 m hurdles; Qatari Mutaz Essa Barshim in the men’s high jump, and Caster Semenya (RSA) in the women’s 800 m.
● Basketball: No more Mike Krzyzewski as coach of the U.S. men’s National Team for the FIBA World Cup in 2019. Now it’s up to Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, but will having an NBA coach cause new problems with the selection of players?
● Swimming: Katie Ledecky is the greatest women’s distance swimmer ever, but will Australian teenager Ariarne Titmus give her more than she can handle? She got closer than anyone has in a long time at the Pan Pacific Championships in 2018.
● Football: The U.S. women are ranked no. 1 in the world and have a 28-match unbeaten streak (25-0-3). They are big favorites to win the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, but will they? A preview could be coming against Australia in April.
● Athletics: What will Sydney McLaughlin do? A 2016 Olympian as a high schooler, the world leader (52.75) and NCAA champion in her one year at Kentucky, she’s now a professional and training with 2004 Olympic gold medalist Joanna Hayes in Los Angeles. And she also has a really cool Twitter handle: @GoSydGo
American Mikaela Shiffrin dominated the Slalom course in Zagreb (CRO) to win her fourth “Snow Queen Trophy” title, handed out annually at that race. Here’s how good Shiffin has been: she now won nine of 17 races held on the World Cup circuit this season.
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won the men’s Slalom and became the Zagreb “Snow King” for the fifth time in his career. He’s also running away with the overall World Cup title and appears to be on his way – barring injury – to his eighth straight Crystal Globe.
In an unusual, early-season four-star tournament on the FIVB World Tour in the Hague (NED), Brazil’s Ana Patricia and Rebecca got past Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes of the U.S. for the women’s title. Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov won the men’s tournament, defeating Germany’s Julius Thole and Clemens Winkler in the final.
BOBSLED & SKELETON:
Germany and Russia won all the events on the famed Konigsee track in Germany. Olympic champ Francesco Friedrich piloted both the Two-Man and Four-Man winners, and Mariama Jamanka won the women’s race. Elana Meyers Taylor and Lake Kwaza of the U.S. took the bronze in the women’s race. Russians Alexander Tretiakov and Elena Nikitina won the men’s and women’s Skeleton races.
The seven-leg Tour de Ski was completed over the weekend in Val di Fiemme (ITA) and Norwegians Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg left no doubt who the best cross-country skiers in the world are right now. They both swept the Mass Start and Pursuit races to take the Tour de Ski titles impressively.
Finland took a 2-0 lead over the U.S. in the final of the IIHF men’s U-20 World Championships in Vancouver (CAN), but it didn’t last as the Americans came back with two goals in about two minutes to tie it up, deep into the third period. But a loose rebound from a Finnish shot allowed Kaapo Kakko to slap home the winning goal with 1:26 left for a 4-3 Finnish win.
Germany’s Julia Taubitz is suddenly the one to beat in women’s luge, as she won her second World Cup race of the season, while American Summer Britcher scored her second consecutive silver medal. Austria’s Reinhard Egger was a surprise winner of the men’s Singles – his first World Cup win ever – and Germany’s Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the Doubles. The U.S. team won a bronze in the Team Relay, behind Germany and Austria.
Another sweep for this season’s king of the Combined: Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber, taking both races in the first-ever World Cup held in Estonia (in Otepaa). Riiber beat last season’s World Cup winner Akito Watabe (JPN) and Olympic gold medalist Johannes Rydzek (GER) in the process.
At the U.S. National Championships at the Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah (USA), Aaron Tran and Kristen Santos won the American Cup titles as the top all-around skaters. But Thomas Hong won two events and Maame Biney won the 500 m and those four will represent the U.S. at the ISU Short Track Championships later this year.
The Four Hills Tournament is one of the true highlights of the jumping season and for the second year in a row, one man won all four events, in Obertsdorf, Garmisch, Innsbruck and Bischofshofen. This time it was the man of the season, Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi – almost an unknown coming into the season – who pulled it off!
Highlights of the coming week, with previews in the coming days on TheSportsExaminer.com:
● Handball: Start of the IHF men’s World Championships in Germany and Denmark.
● Swimming: The first Tyr Pro Swim Series meet, in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a strong entry list, including Katie Ledecky.
And a look at what controversies, political problems and off-the-field torment will consume 2019 in Lane One this coming Wednesday, 9 January.