TSX Daily: American teen Evy Leibfarth strikes Pan Am gold in Canoe Slalom, but death marks cycling’s Tour de Pologne

Pan American Games K-1 gold medalist Evy Leibfarth (USA) (Photo: ICF)

= TSX DAILY ~ 6 August 2019 =

| 1. |  CANOE/SLALOM: American Olympic fans, remember this name for Tokyo: Evy Leibfarth 

One of the powers of sport is to propel an unknown into the public spotlight. While she hasn’t quite made it yet, all the elements are in place for a pigtailed teen from Bryson City, North Carolina to be a star.

Her name is Evy Leibfarth (pictured above) and she is the Pan American Games gold medalist in the Canoe Slalom K-1.

She has been the talk of the Canoe Slalom world since she debuted on the ICF World Cup circuit in June, paddling through the very difficult course in Bratislava (SVK) and making the finals in both the C-1 and K-1 events, placing seventh and 10th, respectively.

The shocker came a week later, in the Ljubljana (SLO) World Cup. After finishing ninth in the K-1 finals, she picked up only two penalties on the way to a third-place finish in the C-1, the first-ever World Cup medal by an American women in that discipline!

So she came to the Pan American Games as someone to watch and she did not disappoint. She won the K-1 title with ease, gliding through the gates without a penalty and clocking 93.70 seconds to win by exactly seconds ahead of Argentina’s Nadia Riquelme.

“It’s really incredible,” she said afterwards “It’s really such a great event. There are so many great athletes competing here and it’s so cool to be part of such a big team. I’m just psyched I was able to put together two good runs.

“I’m not as strong as some of the senior athletes, but for me right now racing is just a lot of fun and I feel like I don’t have a lot of expectations.”

Leibfarth then won a silver medal behind Brazil’s reigning World Champion, Ana Satila, in the Extreme K-1, an insane mix of a summer-camp race and the demolition derby in which four racers start at the same time and race together down a course which required them to roll over (into the water) at one point on the route.

Said Leibfarth, “It was definitely the most fun event of the weekend. At some point, you just forget everyone that’s there and are just focused on getting around the gates the fastest.

“Sometimes that means trying to cut other people off, but in the end it’s kind of funny because all of a sudden instead of just seeing boats, you start to see the athletes and that’s pretty cool. The photos from the event are all really funny. We all have really bad paddling faces. Just so focused and just ‘ugggh’.”

For much more on Leibfarth, check out her story on canoeicf.com.

| 2. | PAN AMERICAN GAMES: U.S. continues to roar in Lima, passes 50 golds with a week to go

The Pan Am Games in Lima (PER) has moved into its final week and the United States team – as expected – is running away in the medal race, having won 141 total medals (57-46-38) through Monday night.

Canada is second with 88 medals (23-38-27) and there is a tight race for third between Brazil (78: 23-18-37) and Mexico (76: 21-18-37).

The scope of the Pan Am Games is enormous, with 416 total events. To check out the medalists from the first eight full days of competition at the Games (27 July-4 August), you can only go to one place: the TSX Stat Pack for Monday, 5 August here.

On Monday in Lima:

● The U.S.’s Lee Kiefer (pictured below) won the first women’s fencing event of the Pan Am Games in Foil, the start of what is expected to be a strong U.S. showing in the sport.

● Americans won 11 out of the 24 medals awarded in Rhythmic Gymnastics, with Evita Griskenas winning the All-Around, Hoop, Ball and Ribbon events, while Camilla Feeley won the Clubs event and scored a silver in the All-Around and bronzes in Hoop and Ball.

The organizing committee has been complimented by PanAm Sports for the smooth running of the event so far, with the primary concerns about transportation times getting to and from events in the congested city of Lima. But there are smiles all around.

| 3. | CYCLING: Unthinkable tragedy as 22-year-old Bjorg Lambrecht dies after crash in Tour de Pologne

An almost incomprehensible tragedy struck the 76th Tour de Pologne on Monday, as Belgian rider Bjorg Lambrecht, 22, crashed and fell into a concrete channel. He was severely injured and despite the efforts of the medical staff, passed away in a nearby hospital during surgery.

Monday’s third stage of 150.5 km was held on a flat, loop course between the cities of Chorzow and Zabrze. Lambrecht crashed 48 km into the race, on a section of road that was not considered dangerous.

His team, Lotto-Soudal, was devastated of course and the stage winner, German Pascal Ackermann – who won only after a disqualification of another rider – said afterwards,  “Today, the result of the race doesn’t matter.”

The Tour will continue, but the fourth stage will be substantially shortened and flattened as a tribute. Lambrecht was a promising rider, winning the silver medal in the 2018 UCI U-23 World Championships road race. Rest in peace.

| 4. | SWIMMING: Lochte’s Medley success at Stanford best of his four events there

On the day after he turned 35 years old, 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte returned to the USA Swimming National Championships for the first time in three years and had a busy five days.

While his sensational win in the 200 m Medley that moved him to no. 11 on the world list for 2019 was widely reported, his other swims were less so:

200 m Free: 27th in heats (1:50.25); skipped D Final
100 m Back: =15th in heats (55.08); skipped B Final
100 m Fly: 23rd in heats (53.25); 4th in C Final (53.36)
200 m Medley: 1st in heats (1:58.77); won A Final (1:57.76)

It’s still a remarkable performance for Lochte, who was suspended for 10 months on 8 September 2016 for his role in the early-morning incident at a Rio gas station during the Olympic Games (more here) and then for 14 months by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on 23 July 2018 for taking a “prohibited intravenous infusion” without a pre-arranged Therapeutic Use Exemption.

Beyond the world ranking of his Medley win, the time ranks fourth among Americans for the year and was 0.98 seconds behind Chase Kalisz’s bronze-medal performance at the 2019 World Championships in Korea. He’s back in the mix.

| 5. | ATHLETICS: Olympic gold medalist Sally Pearson retires; Mihambo jumps 23-6 in Berlin in front of 34,350!

“I am here to let you all know that I have decided to retire from my sport of athletics. It has been a long 16 years, but also a fun and exciting 16 years. My body has decided it is time to let it go, and move forward onto a new direction. I hope I have made you proud Australia.”

Age and injuries – conditions often intertwined – have closed the career of Australian hurdles star Sally Pearson at age 32. She won the 100 m hurdles at the 2011 and 2017 World Championships and out-lasted defending champion Dawn Harper-Nelson of the U.S. at the finish of the  2012 Olympic Games in London (Harper-Nelson would have won if the race was 101 m).

Pearson had suffered repeated injuries of late, but had run 12.70 this year and could have been a contender for medals at the Worlds in Doha if not for the physical problems. The winner of 16 Australian titles, she leaves highly respected and with a lifetime best of 12.28, no. 6 on the all-time list, from back in 2011 at the World Championships.

American Brittney Reese, now 32, is the four-time World Champion in the women’s long jump, winning in 2009-11-13-17, to go along with her 2012 Olympic gold medal and 2016 silver. But Germany’s Malaika Mihambo, 25, sent a message on Sunday: “Catch me if you can.”

Mihambo, already the world leader in the long jump at 7.07 m (23-2 1/2), extended that lead – and her lifetime best to 7.16 m (23-6) in winning the German Nationals at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

She performed in front of a big audience, too: 34,350 on the final day of the meet (video evidence here) and 60,550 for the two-day event. Wow!

| 6. | COMING ATTRACTIONS: USA Gymnastics Nationals start Thursday in Kansas City

While the Pan Am Games continue, the selection event for the U.S. teams for the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships comes this week with the USA Gymnastics National Championships in Kansas City.

The incomparable Simone Biles will lead the women’s competition, of course, along with members of the gold medal-winning women’s team from the Pan American Games in Lima.

Also: the second FINA Swimming World Cup will be staged in Jinan (CHN) this weekend and the 2019 Sport Climbing World Championships will begin a 10-day run next Sunday in Hachioji (JPN).

| 7. | FLASHBACK: The legend of Babe Didrikson was born this week, 87 years ago

Women were only allowed to compete in Olympic track & field in 1928 and by the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, there were only six events available: 100 m, 80 m hurdles, 4×100 m relay, high jump, shot put, discus and javelin.

If she was allowed, Babe Didrikson might have tried to win them all. As it was, she became a legend in Los Angeles, 87 years ago this week.

She started off on 31 July (last week) with an Olympic Record of 43.69 m (143-4) in the javelin, then won in the 80 m hurdles on 4 August in a world record of 11.7, out-leaning Evelyne Hall at the tape.

Her third event – the limit imposed by U.S. officials – was the high jump and she and Jean Shiley of the U.S. tied with a world record of 1.65 m (5-4 3/4). As they both missed three times at 1.67 m (5-5 1/2), they had a jump-off back at 1.65 m and both cleared. But the judges said Didrikson went over head first – she said she jumped the same way she had all during the event – and declared Shiley the winner.

But the 21-year-old from Port Arthur, Texas was a star. She went on to become the greatest female athlete in the world, competing in basketball and then in golf. She took up the sport in 1935 and during her career that ended only with her death in 1956, she won 41 LPGA Tour events and 41 other events. She competed in four PGA (men’s) tournaments, missing the cut in the 1938 Los Angeles Open, but making the cut in three other events in 1945, the only female player to ever do so.

Imagine what she could do today, in an environment much more favorable to women in sports!