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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. IBA’s “all flags welcome” policy shredded by India’s Kosovo ban
2. No Visit Saudi sponsorship of FIFA Women’s World Cup
3. U.S. fencers told to remove Ukraine patches at Grand Prix
4. German NOC wants continued Russian and Belarusian ban
5. U.S. slams Venezuela, drops Cuba and sails into WBC final
India refused to allow a Kosovo women’s lightweight boxer to appear under her own flag and in a national uniform in the IBA Women’s World Championships in New Delhi, showing its disregard for the International Boxing Association’s claim that all athletes must be able to compete under their own colors. This raises issues for the International Olympic Committee as well, which is scheduled to have its 140th Session in Mumbai in October. FIFA confirmed that Visit Saudi will not be a sponsor of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, to the relief of the host federations. At the FIE Foil Grand Prix in Korea, U.S. fencers wore a Ukrainian flag patch, but were told to take it off by FIE officials. A special FIE Congress voted to allow “neutral” Russian and Belrusian athletes in April (maybe), but has not published this result anywhere. The National Olympic Committee of Germany posted a notice that it does not want Russian or Belarusian athletes to be re-admitted to international competition and posted a 24-page report undercutting the view of the U.N. Human Rights Council volunteer “rapporteurs” who support the IOC’s view of Russian and Belarusian reinstatement as neutrals. At the World Baseball Classic in Miami, the U.S. won a wild quarterfinal from Venezuela, 9-7, then crushed Cuba, 14-2, in Sunday’s semifinal to advance to Tuesday’s championship game against the winner of Monday’s Japan-Mexico game.
● Panorama: Alpine Skiing (Shiffrin wins World Cup finale) = Artistic Swimming (first World Cup) = Athletics (2: Kiplimo and Obiri wins NYC Half Marathons; Kejelcha missed 5 km record by 0:01) = Badminton (China and Korea win two at All-England) = Biathlon (Boe triple-sweeps final World Cup races) = Cross Country Skiing (Klaebo wins two more in Falun) = Cycling (3: van der Poel solos to Milan-Sanremo win; new star van Androoij wins at Trofeo Alfredo Binda; Lavreysen wins two in Nations Cup in Cairo) = Fencing (2: Kiefer and Foconi win Foil Grand Prix; Balzer wins Sabre World Cup) = Freestyle Skiing (4: Howden wins Ski Cross title; Kingsbury & Laffont win Moguls titles; Roth & Scott win in Aerials; Ruud and Gremaud take Slopestyle wins) = Gymnastics (Raffaelli takes first Rhythmic A-A World Cup) = Ski Jumping (Granerud and Pinkelnig clinch season titles) = Ski Mountaineering (Swiss stars Lietha and Bonnet wins men’s World Cup races) = Snowboard (2: Noerl and Bankes get SnowCross wins; Obmann and Zogg win season Parallel titles) ●
IBA’s “all flags welcome” policy shredded by India’s Kosovo ban
The Russian head of the International Boxing Association, Umar Kremlev, has insisted that sports and politics are separate and that Russian and Belarusian fighters can compete for their countries. He told Reuters prior to last week’s opening of the IBA’s Women’s World Championships in New Delhi (IND):
“They should participate. It should not be some kind of privilege that is given depending on the circumstances. Each international association should have these standards.
“We, as an international association, must protect each athlete. And we must understand that for athletes the most important thing is when the anthem plays and when their country’s flag is raised.”
But that policy was vaporized by the Indian government, which refused to allow Kosovo lightweight (60 kg) fighter Donjeta Sadiku compete wearing her national colors because the Indian government does not recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, declared in 2008.
The Kosovo President, Vjosa Osmani, tweeted a comment and included a video of Sadiku asking to compete in national colors:
“The decision to prevent Donjeta Sadiku from taking part in the World Boxing Championship is a blatant violation of int’l sporting standards.
“As an @IBA_Boxing member, Kosovo is entitled to participate under its flag & anthem. We urge India to reconsider their decision.”
Kosovo’s National Olympic Committee was recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 2014. Sadiku was granted an entry visa by India, but not allowed to compete under her own flag and wear the national uniform. Thus, she was withdrawn:
“Due to political reasons, Donjeta Sadiku will not attend at the Women’s World #Boxing Championships, in New Delhi, India.
“India has requested that our boxer can compete without national symbols such as the flag and anthem, which were rejected by #FBoxK, @NOCKOSOVO & @MKRS_KS”
The Times of India reported a statement from the IBA:
The IBA and [Boxing Federation of India] did their utmost to create the conditions for Kosovo athletes to participate.
“The Indian government was also very cooperative, and the team was granted visas for the competitions. It was unfortunate to learn that the athletes of Kosovo declined the opportunity to come to New Delhi.”
Observed: Through the Sadiku incident, there are multiple, important consequences for the IBA and for India.
First, the IBA’s supposed stand for the right of all athletes to compete under their own flag was shown to be a farce, and demonstrates how small International Federations – and the whole Olympic Movement for that matter – are, compared to governments. The IBA statement was also reported to include this:
“IBA stands for sports without borders and out of politics and accepts no discrimination on any basis and will continue to fight for its athletes’ rights to compete.”
This is a joke, and the Kosovo incident in New Delhi is hardly the first time the issue has been raised, including in European countries such as Spain. It should not have come as any kind of surprise to a competent IF or organizing federation that Kosovar entries could have been an issue. Far removed from the Russian-Ukraine conflict, the IBA’s “athlete’s rights” position was exposed as a charade, for the benefit of Russia and Belarus.
Further, it raises serious questions about India as a venue for international competitions that would include Kosovo, about India as a candidate for a future Olympic Games, and for the International Olympic Committee for choosing to hold its 140th Session in Mumbai in October.
The IOC already postponed the Mumbai Session once because the Indian Olympic Association was on suspension due to election issues and government interference. In its lengthy “Q&A” on the Russian and Belarusian sanctions, it included this passage:
“It is not up to governments to decide which athletes can participate in which international competitions. This would be the end of world sport as we know it today.”
Unlike Russia and Belarus, Kosovo is not under sanction by the IBA or by India or by the IOC or the United Nations. India does not recognize Kosovo and so a valid member of the IBA was told to compete essentially as a neutral.
What does the IOC do now about holding the 140th Session in Mumbai? The IOC Executive Board meets on 28-30 March and this will, undoubtedly, be added to the agenda.
No Visit Saudi sponsorship of FIFA Women’s World Cup
FIFA President Gianni Infantino confirmed last week that the reported possible sponsorship of the Visit Saudi tourism agency for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand did not materialize.
“There were discussions with Visit Saudi but, in the end, these did not lead to a contract. So it was a storm in a tea cup.
“But, having said that, FIFA is an organisation made up of 211 countries. There is nothing wrong with taking sponsorships from Saudi Arabia, China, United States of America, Brazil or India.”
Infantino, however, didn’t leave it there and added:
“When it comes to Australia, they have trade with Saudi Arabia [worth] $1.5 billion per year. This doesn’t seem to be a problem?
“There is a double-standard, which I really do not understand. There is no issue, there is no contract but, of course, we want to see how we can involve Saudi sponsors, and those from Qatar, in women’s football generally.”
The complaints about the potential Saudi sponsorship came from the football associations of Australia and New Zealand, both of whom said they were not consulted about the possible agreement and were concerned about it. Football Australia Chief Executive Officer James Johnson released a statement last Thursday:
“We welcome clarification from FIFA regarding Visit Saudi.
“Equality, diversity and inclusion are really deep commitments for Football Australia, and we’ll continue to work hard with FIFA to ensure the Women’s World Cup is shaped in this light and it is a historic event for our nation, showcasing the world’s greatest female players and advancing the game globally.”
From New Zealand Football:
“New Zealand Football welcome the confirmation from FIFA that Visit Saudi will not be sponsoring the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
“We believe it is critical for all commercial partnerships to align with the vision and values of the tournaments they are involved in.”
U.S. fencers told to remove Ukraine patches at Grand Prix
American fencers had a good tournament at the FIE Foil Grand Prix in Busan (KOR), with Olympic gold medalist Lee Kiefer winning the women’s division and husband Gerek Meinhardt winning a men’s bronze.
But the International Fencing Federation (FIE) was not as happy. According to an Instagram post from Ukrainian (and Ohio State) fencer Dasha Myroniuk:
“Today at the Foil Grand Prix in Korea, the team of the USA put on Ukrainian bandages on the hand in a sign of disagreement with Russians participation in the competition [in the future]. FIE made them remove them and banned any Ukrainian signs on the form. It is unacceptable. Open your eyes. No one agrees!!!”
The FIE, whose elected President, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, has removed himself from his office in order to concentrate on sanctions leveled against him by the European Union and others, has shown considerable irritation over the Russian and Belarusian ban.
Although in compliance so far, an extraordinary FIE Congress voted last week to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition in the second half of April, “subject to possible future IOC recommendations/decisions, and in compliance with conditions of neutrality and individual eligibility.”
While several national fencing federations – including USA Fencing – posted statements condemning the vote, the FIE itself has not yet posted any notice of the Congress on its Web site at all. No outcome, no details of the vote. Nothing on Twitter. Nothing.
German NOC wants continued Russian and Belarusian ban
The Deutschen Olympischen Sportbundes (DOSB) – the National Olympic Committee of Germany – stated its continuing opposition to Russian and Belarusian participation in international sports in a post last Friday that included (translated from the original German):
“● We continue to advocate the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international competitive sport.
“● We ask the IOC and the international sports federations to continue to closely involve the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine in the ongoing consultation process and to continue the active support of the Ukrainian athletes. The DOSB and its member organizations will also continue their solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes.
“● Russia and Belarus must not be given the opportunity to abuse the participation and successes of their athletes in international competitions for war propaganda purposes.
“● Regardless of the decision of the IOC and the international sports federations regarding the re-admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, we reject a boycott of international competitions, in particular the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024, for fundamental reasons. The only victims of such a sporting boycott are the athletes, who would miss what might be their only chance to realize their Olympic dream.”
The DOSB post also noted a study it commissioned by Professor Patricia Wiater, Chair for Public Law, Public International Law and Human Rights at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität in Erlangen (GER). She reviewed the “recommendations” of two volunteer “Special Rapporteurs” of the U.N. Council on Human Rights that supports the IOC’s position on possible re-entry, that the IOC treats as binding. Her 24-page report comes to the opposite conclusion as noted by German investigative journalist Jens Weinreich on Twitter:
“The exclusion of Russian athletes from international sports competitions cannot be classified as a violation of international prohibitions of discrimination and is therefore permissible, despite the associated unequal treatment on the basis of nationality.”
(Weinreich highlights some of Wiater’s report in a 13-tweet thread.)
The German Fencing Federation has “returned” the FIE World Cup in women’s Foil at the beginning of May to the FIE, refusing to hold it in view of the Congress vote. Two smaller competitions to be held in Sweden in September have also been canceled, by the Swedish Fencing Federation.
U.S. slams Venezuela, drops Cuba and sails into WBC final
Getting better as the tournament has progressed, the defending champion United States (5-1) stormed into its second straight World Baseball Classic final with an overwhelming, 14-2 win over Cuba (3-3) in Miami on Sunday.
This was the first-ever meeting between the U.S. and Cuba in the Classic – in fact, Cuba’s first appearance in a U.S. park for the Classic since 2009 – and the U.S. got off to a hot start, taking 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first on a two-run homer from first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
They kept scoring: a solo home run from shortstop Trea Turner in the bottom of the second and then a single from designated hitter Pete Alonso and a sacrifice fly by second baseman Tim Anderson in the bottom of the third for a 5-1 lead. A triple by third baseman Nolan Arenado scored Goldschmidt in the fourth, and Arenado scored on a wild pitch for a 7-1 edge. Pitcher Adam Wainwright scattered five hits and gave up just one run to the Cubans through four innings.
The lead was 9-2 after five, 12-2 after Turner hit a three-run shot to left in the sixth, 13-2 at the end of the inning and 14-2 at the end of eight after center fielder Cedric Mullins’ home run. That’s how it ended.
The stage was set for Sunday’s semifinal by a wild, 9-7 U.S. win on Saturday over previously undefeated Venezuela (5-0). The U.S. went up, 3-0, in the top of the first on run-scoring singles by center fielder Mike Trout, Goldschmidt and left fielder Kyle Tucker, but Venezuela got two back in the bottom of the inning on a two-time homer from first baseman Luis Arraez.
The U.S. extended to 5-2 with single runs in the fourth and fifth (Tucker home run), but then Venezuela exploded for four in the fifth to take a 6-5 lead. A wild pitch, a force-out, a double from catcher Salvador Perez and a sacrifice fly accounted for the scoring, and a second Arraez homer in the seventh made it 7-5.
Then cane the American eighth, in which a walk, a single and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Turner, Off an 0-2 count, he smashed a grand slam home run to left off new pitcher Silvino Bracho and the Americans suddenly had a 9-7 lead.
Relievers Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly got the Venezuelans out in the eighth and ninth and the defending champion U.S. rolled into Sunday’s semi against the Cubans.
Undefeated Japan (5-0), which has outscored its opponents, 47-11, takes on Mexico (4-1) in the second semifinal on Monday. The championship final will be on Tuesday.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Alpine Skiing ● American superstar Mikaela Shiffrin seems to set or tie a record every time she races, and did she it again in the Slalom in the FIS Alpine World Cup Final at Soldeu (AND) on Saturday, finishing third (1:52.24) behind Olympic champ Petra Vlhova (SVK: 1:51.38) and Leona Popovic (CRO: 1:51.81). Fellow American Paula Moltzan finished 16th in 1:57.30.
Shiffrin’s bronze gave her a career total of 137 career World Cup medals, tying her with fellow American Lindsey Vonn for the most ever among women. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher is next at 138 and then Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark with the all-time record at 155.
Sunday’s Giant Slalom brought Shiffrin into a tie with Hirscher for no. 2 all-time with her 138th medal and extended her career record for wins with 88 as she led the first run and won in 1:55.88. Norway’s Thea Louise Stjernesund finished second (1:55.94), Canada’s Valerie Greiner was third (1:56.08) and Moltzan was 15th 81:57.41).
Shiffrin finished the season with an amazing 14 wins and she took the overall World Cup title and discipline titles in Giant Slalom (2nd) and Slalom (7th). She finished with 2,206 points in all, ahead of Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI: 1,217) and Vlhova (1,125).
Swiss star Marco Odermatt had already clinched the seasonal men’s World Cup title, but he finished with a flourish in Soldeu, winning the Giant Slalom in 2:19.64 and setting an all-time record for points in a single season.
Odermatt won by more than two seconds over Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR: 2:21.75) and Marco Schwarz (AUT: 2:21.93). American Tommy Ford was 18th (2:24.49). Odermatt’s win gave him the Giant Slalom seasonal title as well, 840-660 over Kristoffersen; he also won the Super-G title.
It was Odermatt’s 13th win of the season and his total of 2,042 points, busting Austrian legend Hermann Maier’s total of 2,000 back in 1999-2000. He also joined Stenmark, Hirscher (AUT) and Maier as the only men to win 13 races in a single season!
On Sunday, it was Swiss teammate Ramon Zenhaeusern’s turn to win in the Slalom, timing 1:54.87 to just edge seasonal winner Lucas Braathen (NOR: 1:54.93) and Kristoffersen (1:55.50). Braathen took the seasonal Slalom title with 546 points to 494 for Kristoffersen.
● Artistic Swimming ● The first World Aquatics World Cup of the season was in Markham (CAN), with Spain (7) and Japan (6) leading the medal table.
Ukraine’s two-time Olympic bronze medalist Marta Fiedina (245.2917) won the women’s Solo Technical ahead of Japanese veteran Yukiko Inui (242.7917), but Inui came back to take the Solo Free, scoring 319.8291 and winning by almost 80 points!
The Israeli pair of Shelly Bobritsky and Ariel Nassee won the women’s Duet Technical in a surprise over Ukraine’s twins, Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva, 233.4292 to 231.6543. Italy’s Linda Cerutti and Lucrezia Ruggiero won the women’s Duet Free over the Aleksiivas, 321.2667 to 291.6916, with Bobritsky and Nassee third at 281.5043.
China’s Wentao Cheng and Haoyu Shi won the Mixed Duet Technical (236.2292), with Spain’s Maria Bofill Strub and Dennis Gonzalez winning the Mixed Duet Free (227.7876). Gonzalez won the men’s Solo Technical and Italian veteran Giorgio Minisini won the men’s Solo Free (296.1209).
● Athletics ● Uganda went 1-2 in the men’s division of the New York City Half Marathon on Sunday, with 2020 World Half Marathon gold medalist Jacob Kiplimo striding away after 10 miles to win in 1:01:31, well ahead of Tokyo Olympic 5,000 winner and 10,000 m world-record holder Joshua Cheptegei (1:02:09). Ben True was the top American, in fourth, in 1:02:57.
The women’s race was closer, but not close either, as Kenyan star Hellen Obiri, 33, the two-time World 5,000 m Champion, attacked after 10 miles to win in 1:07:21, well ahead of 2015 World Cross Country champ Senbere Teferi (ETH: 1:07:55). Des Linden was the top American in fifth in 1:12:21.
Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha, a two-time World Indoor 3,000 m gold medalist, nearly got the world 5 km road record on Sunday in Lille (FRA), but missed it by one second! He won in 12:50, just short of the 12:49 by Berihu Aregawi (ETH) in 2022. It’s the no. 2 performance of all time.
● Badminton ● The top-class All England Open in Birmingham concluded on Sunday, with China and Korea both reaching three finals, including two against each other.
The all-China men’s Singles final saw Shi Feng Li defeat Yu Qi Shi, 26-24, 21-5 and Korea’s Se Young An take the women’s title over Yu Fei Chen (CHN) by 21-17, 10-21, 21-19.
In the all-Korean women’s Doubles final, So Yeoung Kim and Hee Yong Kong (KOR) swept aside Ha Na Baek and So Hee Lee (KOR), 21-5, 21-12. China got its second win in the Mixed Doubles, as Si Wei Zhang and Ya Qiong Huang (CHN) scored a tight, 21-16, 16-21, 21-12 win over Seung Jae Seo and Yu Jung Chae (KOR).
The all-Indonesian men’s Doubles final went to top-seeded Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto (INA) over Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan (INA), 21-17, 21-14.
● Biathlon ● The 2022-23 IBU World Cup season finished up on Oslo’s famous Holmenkollen, with home favorite Johannes Thingnes Boe finishing up one of the most dominant seasons in history.
Boe had won 13 of the season’s 18 races coming into Oslo, then added more golds. He won the 10 km Sprint in 25:13.0 (1 penalty) over Martin Ponsiluoma (SWE: 25:36/9/0) and Germany’s Benedikt Doll (25:41.9/0), and then the 12.5 km Pursuit in 32:34.0 (1), ahead of Quentin Maillet Fillon (FRA: 33:06.7/0) and Sturla Holm Laegreid (NOR: 33:23.1/1).
American Sean Doherty was 29th in the Sprint (26:53.1/1), and 19th in the Pursuit in 34:50.1 (2).
Boe finished the season with another win in the final race of the season, the 15 km Mass Start, in 38:51.9 (2), ahead of Niklas Hartwig (SUI: 39:18.1/0) and Vetle Christiansen (NOR: 39:27.1/0). Doherty was 25th in 41:45.2 (2).
The final standings showed Boe with 16 wins in 21 races on the season and 1,589 points for his fourth career seasonal title. Laegreid finished second (1,098) and Christiansen (935) was third.
France’s Julia Simon clinched the seasonal title in the women’s division, finishing fifth in the 7.5 km Sprint that was delayed from Friday to Saturday because of heavy fog, and eliminating the planned Saturday Pursuit race.
Simon, 26, won her first IBU World Cup seasonal title, but it was Denise Hermann-Wick (GER), who had announced her retirement at the end of the season who won, in 21:06.5 (0). She finished just ahead of Swedes Hanna Oeberg (21:10.0/0) and Anna Magnusson (21:30.6/0). Joanne Reid was the top American in 22nd at 22:22.9 (0).
Sunday’s 12.5 km Mass Start saw 2023 World Champion Hanna Oeberg win again, beating two retiring stars – Marte Olsbu Roeiseland (NOR) and Anais Chevalier-Bouchet (FRA) – by 36:33.5 (1) to 36:56.1 (1) to 37:17.2 (3).
Simon finished with 1,093 points to 911 for Dorothea Wierer (ITA) and 882 for teammate Lisa Vittozzi (ITA).
● Cross Country Skiing ● The FIS World Cup season continued in Falun (SWE) with familiar results: wins for Norwegian star – and seasonal champ for the fourth time – Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, who had 14 wins coming into the weekend.
He added to his total with a victory in the 10 km Classical Individual race on Friday, winning in 23:55.3 at the head of a Norwegian sweep. Martin Nyenget was second (24:06.0) and Harald Amundsen third (24:16.0), with Ben Ogden the top American in 13th (24:44.8).
In Saturday’s Freestyle Sprint, Klaebo won in 2:52.73, beating teammate Erik Valnes (2:53.46) with Italy’s two-time Olympic runner-up Federico Pellegrino third (2:53.91). That’s 16 wins so far, and two more stops on this year’s circuit.
Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen won her fourth medal – and got her first win – of the season in the women’s 10 km Classical in 27:08.5, followed by Katharina Henning (GER: 27:24.4), Anne Kalvaa (NOR: 27:30.8) in third and American star Jessie Diggins in fourth (27:40.1). American Rosie Brennan was sixth (27:53.0).
Norway’s Kristine Skistad got her third win of the season in the Freestyle Sprint in 2:55.62, followed by Swedes Jonna Sundling (2:55.96) and Maja Dahlqvist (3:00.60).
Next up: more sprints on Tuesday in Estonia before the seasonal finale in Lahti (FIN).
● Cycling ● One of the great races of the year is the annual Milan-Sanremo in Italy, now in its 114th running and the first of the “Monument” races of the season. The 294 km ride from Abbiategrasso to Sanremo featured a huge climb and steep descent down the 549 m Passo del Turchino and then six smaller ascents and descents in the final 65 km.
In the end, it was Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel who broke free over the final climb on the famed Poggio de Sanremo with 5.5 km remaining and rode solo across the line in 6:25:23, 15 seconds up on Italy’s two-time Time Trial World Champion Filippo Ganna, 2020 Milan-Sanremo winner Wout van Aert (BEL) and Slovenian star Tadej Pocagar, the two-time Tour de France winner who just completed a victory in the Tirreno-Adriatico!
American Neilson Powless finished seventh in 6:25:49.
One of the most important women’s road races of the calendar is the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, with the 24th edition ending in Cittiglio. The hilly, 139 km route was conquered by Shirin van Androoij, 21, a new Dutch star, who attacked with 24 km remaining and was never headed. She won in 3:39:32, ahead of a chase pack of 10, led by defending champ Elisa Balsamo (ITA) and countrywoman Vittoria Guazzini, 23 seconds behind.
At the second UCI Track Nations Cup in Cairo (EGY), Dutch sprint star Harrie Lavreysen continued collecting medals, repeating his win in the men’s Sprint and taking another win in the Team Sprint with Jeffrey Hoogland and Roy van den Berg.
Those two wins give Lavreysen, the Tokyo Olympic Sprint champ, four golds and a silver in the first two Nations Cups.
Germans Roger Kluge and Theo Reinhardt repeated their Nations Cup win in the men’s Madison; new winners in Cairo included Shinji Nakano (JPN) in the Keirin, Thomas Boudat (FRA) in the Omnium and William Tidball (GBR) in the Elimination Race.
American Jennifer Valente, the Tokyo Olympic gold medalist in the Omnium, won the Elimination Race in Cairo. New Zealand’s Ally Wollaston, who won three events in the first Nations Cup, repeated in the Omnium in Cairo.
Japan’s Mina Sato, a two-time Worlds silver winner in the Keirin, won that event for the second Nations Cup in a row. Britain’s Emma Finucane won the women’s Sprint and 2022 Worlds silver medalists Clara Copponi and Valentine Fortin (FRA) won the Madison.
● Fencing ● Olympic champ Lee Keifer (USA) won the women’s division at the FIE Foil Grand Prix in Busan (KOR), to go along with a bronze by husband Gerek Meinhardt for the men.
Keifer stormed past Japan’s Sera Azuma, 15-3, in the final, winning her ninth career Grand Prix medal (4-3-2); she now has 29 career World Cup and Grand Prix medals combined! Azuma, 23, won her first career Grand Prix medal.
Italy’s Alessio Foconi out-lasted Hong Kong’s Yokyo Olympic silver medalist Ka Long Cheung in the men’s final, 15-13. Foconi, 33, the 2018 World Champion, won his three career Grand Prix gold. Cheung defeated Meinhardt, 15-12, in his semifinal, on the way to his third career Grand Prix medal.
Meinhardt’s bronze was his eighth career Grand Prix medal and second this year (1-0-1).
France’s Sara Balzer got her first career gold in the women’s Sabre World Cup in Sint-Niklaas (BEL), defeating China’s Yaqi Shao in the final, 15-13. It was Shao’s second World Cup medal, but first in four years, and her first final.
● Freestyle Skiing ● The FIS World Cup season in Ski Cross finished up in Craigleith, Ontario (CAN), with good results for the home team!
Canada’s Reece Howden won the Friday race over Florian Wilmsmann (GER), with Youri Kergomard (FRA) third. and then after teammate Brady Leman won Saturday’s final – in his last race – over Kergomard, Howden claimed his second career men’s seasonal title! Howden scored 725 points to 574 for David Mobaerg (SWE) and 508 for Wilmsmann.
Swiss Fanny Smith won her second straight race in Friday’s women’s final, beating Canda’s Courtney Hoffos and Marielle Thompson to the line. France’s Marielle Berger Sabbatel won on Saturday, with Thompson and teammate Brittany Phelan finishing third. On the weekend, Canada won two of the four races and six of the 12 medals!
Swede Sandra Naeslund was out again with a knee injury, but had long wrapped up the women’s seasonal title by winning the first nine races of the season! Naeslund ended with 900 points to 691 for Smith.
No surprises in the final Moguls competitions of the year, as Canadian star Mikael Kingsbury and France’s Perrine Laffont swept both the Moguls and Dual Moguls races in Almaty (KAZ).
Kingsbury won the Moguls final over home favorite Pavel Kolmakov, 85.67 to 78.72, and took the Dual Moguls against Olympic Moguls champ Walter Wallberg (SWE). Australia’s Worlds bronze medalist Matt Graham was third in both events.
The two wins increased Kingsbury’s record for career World Cup wins to 80 and he won the seasonal titles in Moguls, Dual Moguls and overall for a stunning career total of 24 FIS Crystal Globes!
Laffont had plenty of competition from American Worlds silver medalist Jaelin Kauf, who finished second in both Moguls (77.96 to 76.30) and Dual Moguls. Americans Olivia Giaccio (Dual Moguls) and Tess Johnson (Moguls: 73.35) took the bronzes.
Laffont won the overall Moguls title and the Dual Moguls title and was second to Australia’s Jakara Anthony for Moguls, for a career total of nine Crystal Globes for the 2018 Olympic Moguls gold medalist.
Also in Almaty was the Aerials final for 2022-23, with the man who won the season opener – Swiss Pirmin Werner – winning the last event. Werner led a Swiss 1-2 with 2023 World Champion Noe Roth, 123.00 and 118.55 to 96.83 for Canada’s Emile Nadeau.
Roth won the seasonal title at 429, with Ukraine’s Dmytro Kotovskyi second (371) and Werner third (302).
Two-time World Champion Laura Peel (AUS) won the women’s division over 2023 Worlds runner-up Danielle Scott (AUS), 110.36-97.99. Canada’s Marion Thenault was third (93.76), ahead of Americans Kaila Kuhn (89.18) and Winter Vinecki (79.69).
Scott took the seasonal title from Peel, 462-362, with Thenault (350) third.
The penultimate World Cup in Slopestyle was in Tignes (FRA), with 2023 World Champion Birk Ruud (NOR) winning his third World Cup of the season, scoring 96.00 to 94.00 for Jesper Tjader (SWE) and 92.50 for Swiss Andre Ragettli, the 2021 World Champion. Cody LaPlante was the top American, in eighth, scoring 85.00.
World Champion Mathilde Gremaud (FRA) took the women’s competition at 96.25, just ahead of Worlds bronze medalist Johanne Killi (NOR: 95.25) and Canada’s Worlds silver winner Megan Oldham (90.00).
Norway’s Ruud and Killi lead the seasonal standings heading into next week finale in Silvaplana (SUI).
● Gymnastics ● The season’s opening FIG Rhythmic World Cup – the Aphrodite Cup – in Greece was another showcase for World All-Around Champion Sofia Raffaeli.
She won the All-Around at 131.750, ahead of Worlds All-Around bronze winner Stilliana Nikolova (BUL: 129.550). Evita Griskenas was the top American in ninth at 120.250.
Raffaelli also won on Hoop (33.000), Nikolova won on Ball (34.340), with Raffaeli second (31.600) and Griskenas third (31.550) and Margarita Kolosov (GER) won on Clubs (31,800). The Ribbon final had Worlds bronze medalist Ekateriva Vedeneeva (SLO) winning at 29.850, with Griskenas sixth (28.000).
Israel won the Group All-Around (65.450), with the U.S. 12th (51.000). Israel also won the 5 Balls event (34.900) and Italy won the final of the 3 Ribbons + 2 Balls at 30.650.
● Ski Jumping ● The sixth Raw Air Tournament in Norway continued in Lillehammer and Vikersund, with seasonal World Cup leader Halvor Egner Granerud (NOR) the overall winner for the men and Ema Klinec (SLO) for the women.
The men’s competitions moved from Oslo to Lillehammer, with Granerud taking the 140 m final last Tuesday, 257.7-255.4-235.9 over Austria’s three-time World Champion Stefan Kraft and Manuel Fettner. Poland’s 2019 World Champion Dawid Kubacki won on Thursday in Lillehammer, outscoring 2021 Worlds bronze medalist Anze Lanisek (SLO), 283.1-275.7.
The jumping then moved to the giant, 240 m ski-flying hill in Vikersund, with Granerud winning on Saturday, 424.9-418.8 over Kraft, with fellow Austrian Daniel Tschofenig third (390.1). On Sunday, Kraft beat Granerud, 497.4-489.8, with Lanisek third (468.8).
Granerud won the tournament, 2,932.0 to 2,913.8 over Kraft, with Lanisek third (2,784.4). Granerud also clinched the seasonal World Cup title (his second): he has 2,058 points to 1,592 for Kubacki with just three events left.
The women’s Raw Air events in Lillehammer were won by Silje Opseth (NOR: 223.1) over German Selina Freitag (222.5) and Klinec (216.6) and then Katharina Althaus (GER: 251.1), beating Alexandria Loutitt (CAN: 242.9) and seasonal leader Eva Pinkelnig (AUT: 241.1).
In Vikersund on Sunday, Klinec won at 414.7, ahead of Opseth (373.7) and Yuki Ito (JPN: 352.6). The Raw Air standings showed Klinec at 1,859.6, beating Althaus (1,771.5) and Freitag (1,704.3). With only one more World Cup event to go, Pinkelnig has her first World Cup title, with 1,612 points to 1,437 for Althaus and 1,255 for Klinec.
● Ski Mountaineering ● The next-to-last World Cup of the season was in Schladming (AUT), with a Sprint and a Vertical race for both men and women.
Swiss Arno Lietha, the 2021 World Champion won the men’s Sprint in 2:31.56 over France’s 2023 Worlds runner-up Thibault Anselmet (2:32.78) and bronze medalist Robin Galindo (FRA: 2:33.83).
France’s Worlds Sprint bronze medalist Emily Harrop won the women’s division decisively in 2:54.01, beating Swiss Worlds runner-up Marianne Fatton (3:02.01) and Worlds Team silver medalist Guilia Murada (ITA: 3:02.71).
Switzerland completed a men’s sweep in the Vertical Race on Sunday as 2023 World Champion Remi Bonnet was the winner in 19:17.3, more than 52 seconds up on Belgium’s Worlds runner-up, Maximilien Drion du Chapois (20:10.1).
Austria’s Worlds silver medalist Sarah Dreier won the women’s race in 23:40.9 in a much closer competition with France’s World Champion Axelle Gachet Mollaret (23:48.6) and Harrop (23:49.4).
● Snowboard ● The SnowCross season is heading toward the close, with a midweek stop in Veysonnaz (SUI), with Germany’s World silver medalist (and seasonal leader) Martin Noerl getting his first win of the season since the opener, over Alvaro Romero (ESP) and Italy’s Lorenzo Sommariva.
The women’s winner was Britain’s 2021 World Champion Charlotte Bankes, who won her fifth straight World Cup race and maintained the season lead. She beat Czech star (and 2014 Olympic champ) Eva Adamczykova (nee Samkova) and Australia’s Josie Baff.
The Parallel racers were in Rogla (SLO) on Wednesday for a Parallel Giant Slalom, with an Italian sweep headed by 2015 Parallel Slalom World Champion Roland Fischnaller, followed by Mirko Felicetti and Edwin Coratti.
The season concluded in Berchtesgaden (GER), with Austrians Fabian Obmann and Arvid Auner going 1-2, with Obmann winning his first World Cup race and second career medal … and winning the seasonal title! Obmann, 26, ended with 485 points to win the overall Parallel discipline and 297 points to win the Parallel Slalom title as well!
The women’s Parallel Slalom in Rogla was a win for Austria’s Sabine Schoeffmann, for her second win of the season, ahead of two-time Olympic Parallel Giant Slalom winner Ester Ledecka (CZE), with 2023 Parallel Giant Slalom World Champion Tsubaki Miki (JPN) third.
In Berchtesgaden, Ledecka got her first win of the season, defeating Ramona Theresia Hofmeister (GER), with fellow German Cheyenne Loch third. The overall seasonal title, however, went to Switzerland’s two-time World Champion Julie Zogg, with 594 points to 584 for Hofmeister. Zogg won the Parallel Slalom seasonal title, but Hofmeister took the Parallel Giant Slalom Crystal Globe.
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