THIS WEEK: Tokyo qualifying on the line at Baseball Premier 12; cycling and fencing World Cups start

Another World Cup wincoming for U.S. Freestyle Park teen sensation Hannah Roberts?

Winter doesn’t always mean snow and ice, as the World Cup seasons for Track Cycling and Fencing begin this week. Plus a major qualifying tournament for baseball for Tokyo 2020:

● BADMINTON ● Two returning champs in this week’s Macau Open

The 14th edition of the Macau Open is underway, a Level 300 tournament with $150,000 in prize money. As such, the fields aren’t the strongest; the top seeds (and world ranking, where available):

Men/Singles: Yuqi Shi (CHN: 6). Men/Doubles: Junhui Li/Yuchen Liu (CHN: 3).

Women/Singles: Michelle Li (CAN: 8). Women/Doubles: Yue Du/Yinhui Li (CHN: 7).

Mixed Doubles: Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA: 4)

The 2018 champions returning this year include Canada’s Li in women’s Singles and Chun Man Tang and Ying Suet Tse (HKG) in Mixed Doubles. Look for results here.

● BASEBALL ● Premier 12 starts Sunday with Tokyo qualifying on the line

The 2020 Olympic tournament in baseball will feature just six teams, so qualifying for the tournament is difficult, with two places in the event available through the WSBC Premier 12 event starting on Sunday.

This is a tournament almost as complicated as the qualifying process! The groups, with world ranking for each team:

Group A: United States (2), Mexico (6), Netherlands (8), Dominican Republic (12)
(at Zapopan, Mexico)

Group B: Japan (1), Chinese Taipei (4), Venezuela (9), Puerto Rico (11)
(at Taichung and Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei)

Group C: Cuba (5), South Korea (3), Australia (7), Canada (10)
(at Seoul, South Korea)

The top two teams from each group will advance to the Super Round, in Chiba City and Tokyo, Japan, playing a round-robin (four games) against the top two teams from the other groups. The top four from the Super Round will advance to the finals and play for the gold or bronze medal depending on their record. It’s complicated.

There is big prize money in this tournament: $1.5 million to the winner, $750,000-500,000-350,000-300,000-250,000 for places 2-6, then $180,000 each for the remaining teams. There are also bonuses of $10,000 per team for an Opening Round win, $20,000 for a Super Round win and $20,000 for winning a group. Look for results here.

There are some Major League players in this tournament, but the U.S. team and most of the other players are minor leaguers or players from domestic leagues outside the U.S.

Japan, as the host country for 2020, is already qualified as is Israel, which won the Africa/European qualifier in September. There will also be an Americas qualifier for one team on March and a final qualifying tournament, also in March, for the final team.

● BEACH VOLLEYBALL ● New season starts with 3-star in Qinzhou

A bevy of U.S. women’s teams are entered in the first 3-star FIVB World Tour event of the 2019-20 season in Qinzhou (CHN), looking for points and momentum in the qualifying race for Tokyo.

While the men’s field is fairly weak, with Swiss Adrian Heidrich and Mirco Gerson the top seeds, the women’s draw has four quality American pairs in the top seven seeds (with world rankings):

1. Fan Wang/Xinyi Xia (CHN: 21)
2. Taliqua Clancy/Mariafe Artacho (AUS: 9)
3. Brooke Sweat/Kerri Walsh Jennings (USA: 6)
4. Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil (USA: 7)
5. Karla Borger/Julia Sude (GER: 19)
6. Sara Hughes/Summer Ross (USA: 32)
7. Emily Stockman/Kelley Larsen (USA: 12)

The men’s and women’s finals are scheduled for Sunday. Look for results here.

● CYCLING ● BMX Freestyle World Cup in Chengdu; Track World Cup starts in Minsk

The BMX Freestyle season is coming to a head, with the final World Cup of the season set for this weekend in Chengdu (CHN), followed quickly by the UCI Urban Cycling World Championships – also in Chengdu – from 6-10 November. The top BMX Freestyle Park World Cup scorers so far:

Men:
1. 16,400 Logan Martin (AUS)
2. 16,200 Justin Dowell (USA)
3. 16,200 Rimu Nakamura (JPN)
4. 15,700 Irek Rizaev (RUS)
5. 15,400 Brandon Loupos (AUS)

Women:
1. 20,000 Hannah Roberts (USA)
2. 17,200 Perris Benegas (USA)
3. 17,200 Lara Lessmann (GER)
4. 14,400 Chelsea Wolfe (USA)
5. 14,400 Minato Oike (JPN)

Americans Dowell and Benegas are the reigning World Champions, having won at Chengdu last year, but they will be strongly challenged, especially by World Cup leaders Martin and Roberts (still just 18). Look for results here.

The last season of the traditional UCI Track Cycling World Cup starts on Friday in Minsk (BLR). There are six World Cups in this year’s circuit, finishing in late January 2020. Next season, the circuit will be cut to three events only, held from April-September and for national teams only. So we can enjoy this more open format for just this coming season.

The defending World Cup champions from 2018-19:

Men:
Sprint: Matthew Glaetzer (AUS)
Time Trial: Joachim Eilers (GER)
Keirin: Matthijs Buchli (NED) ~ Also 2019 World Champion
Points: Moritz Malcharek (GER)
Scratch: Vitaliy Hryniv (UKR)
Omnium: Christos Valikakis (GRE)
Madison: Denmark

Women:
Sprint: Olena Starikova (UKR)
Time Trial: Starikova (UKR)
Keirin: Wai Sze Lee (HKG) ~ Also 2019 World Champion
Points: Maria Giulia Confalonieri (ITA)
Scratch: Martina Fidanza (ITA)
Omnium: Kirsten Wild (NED) ~ Also 2019 World Champion
Madison: Great Britain

Watch out for Dutch star Wild, who at age 37 has already won the European Omnium title (last week) and might be the best road-track combo rider in the world. She’s the reigning World Champion in the Omnium and Madison (with Amy Pieters). Look for results here.

● FENCING ● World Cup season starts with women’s Epee in Tallin

The lengthy 2019-2020 FIE World Cup begins this weekend in Tallin (EST) with the women’s Epee on Friday and Saturday and a team competition on Sunday. A huge field of 279 fencers has registered; the top entries according to the FIE World Rankings:

1. Man Wai Vivian Kong (HKG) ~ 2019 Worlds bronze medalist
2. Sheng Lin (CHN) ~ 2019 Worlds silver medalist; Team gold medalist
3. Young Mi Kang (KOR) ~ 2018 Worlds Team silver medalist
4. Nathalie Moellhausen (BRA) ~ 2019 World Champion
5. Yiwen Sun (CHN) ~ 2019 Worlds Team gold medalist
6. Coraline Vitalis (FRA)
7. In-Jeong Choi (KOR) ~ 2018 Worlds Team silver medalist
8. Violeta Kolobova (RUS) ~ 2019 Worlds Team silver medalist
9. Ana Maria Popescu (ROU)
10. Hyo-Jung Jung (KOR)

Jung is the defending champion from 2018, defeating Kong in the final, 10-6, with Alberta Santuccio (ITA) and Sun third. Look for results here.

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