The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Russia says it will not fund any “neutral” athletes; Italian minister insists on Cortina sliding track; Armstrong’s “rocket fuel”

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (Photo: EuroFencing)

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1. ROC chief rips IOC again, says no funding of “neutrals”
2. Minister Salvini: 2026 sliding track “must be in Cortina”
3. L.A.’s Metrolink shuts down for Olympic & World Cup upgrades
4. Lyles follows up on World Athlete of the Year disappointment
5. Armstrong: EPO is the “rocket fuel” that changed sport

● Russia’s war of words against the International Olympic Committee continued, with the head of the Russian Olympic Committee saying that any Russian athlete who competes as a neutral will not receive funding. He also said the IOC would nullify the results of any Paris medal winner who participates in the post-Paris World Friendship Games. And he added in some other insults.

● The Italian minister for infrastructure declared that the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track for the 2026 Milan Cortina Winter Games must be in Cortina, even though no company bid on the project during the summer and time is running out. A decision on the venue is expected in January.

● The massive Metrolink system in Southern California will be shut down for four days at the end of December for maintenance and upgrades, some aimed at the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Really, Metrolink said so.

● Sprint superstar Noah Lyles posted his opinion of the World Athletics World Athlete of the Year going to six winners and not two. He said he felt his three Worlds victories were not good enough to merit a solo award, although he knows that was not the federation’s intent.

● Disgraced U.S. cycling star Lance Armstrong explained once again his doping methods during his career and named the one substance he called “rocket fuel.”

World Championships: Handball (France wins third women’s title in re-match with Norway) = Skateboarding (Japan sweeps Street Worlds titles in Rome) ●

Panorama: Alpine Skiing (2: Paris, Kriechmayr and Odermatt star in Italy as Bennett medals again; Flury and Brignone win at Val d’Isere) = Badminton (Axelsen and Tai win World Tour Finals Singles golds) = Biathlon (Boe and Braisaz-Bochet sweep Lenzerheide) = Bobsled & Skeleton (German sleds sweep bob races at Innsbruck) = Break Dancing (Japan’s Issin and Riko sweep BfG World Series in Hong Kong) = Cross Country Skiing (Klaebo sweeps Trondheim, more medals for Diggins, Brennan) = Curling (Homan overcomes Swiss stars at Grand Slam Masters) = Freestyle Skiing (3: U.S.’s Ferreira and Forehand take men’s Copper Mountain titles; Kingsbury and Anthony star in Moguls; Werner and Vinecki take Aerials golds) = Ice Hockey (U.S. women beat Canada in Rivalry Series Thursday, lose on shoot-out Saturday) = Luge (Germans sweep four at Whistler) = Nordic Combined (Lamparter stops Riiber, Hagan stops Hansen in Ramsau) = Short Track (Canada’s Dandjinou wins in Seoul, three more U.S. medals!) = Ski Jumping (Paschke and Kraft, Pagnier and Prevc win at Engelberg) = Snowboard (4: Kunitake and Murase win Big Airs at Copper Mountain; Hirano and Choi take Halfpipe; Hofmeister sweeps PGS openers; Hammerle and Sigenthaler win Ski Cross) = Table Tennis (China sweeps both events at WTT Women’s Finals) = Taekwondo (Russian fighters win three in Grand Slam Champions) ●

ROC chief rips IOC again, says no funding of “neutrals”

At a meeting of the Russian Olympic Committee in Moscow on Friday, President Stanislav Pozdnyakov expanded on the usual line of criticism of the International Olympic Committee with direct threats against any athletes who choose to participate as “neutrals” at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games:

This is a painful topic for all of us, I’m sure you have repeatedly discussed with each other the potential participation of athletes in the Games in a neutral status, polar opinions are expressed.

“As the head of the ROC, I voice a clear position: we perfectly understand athletes who want to compete at international competitions, strive to represent Russia and defend the honor of the country and the team, their sporting honor. We live in a free state, where everyone, as the president rightly noted, has the right to make his own choice.

“But we must remember that by agreeing to “neutralization,” athletes become hostages of other people’s interests. And we strongly recommend that you thoroughly understand the nuances of the proposed conditions in order to clearly understand the extent and consequences of the personal responsibility assumed. …

“Athletes that will receive payments won’t include athletes who have accepted neutralization. The ROC will not support athletes with neutral status.”

Pozdnyakov continued to blast the IOC’s sanctions and call it a captive of its sponsors:

“We call on our colleagues in Lausanne to disavow their recommendations and reinstate the ROC as a full member of the Olympic Movement and return to the principles outlined by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic movement.

“Today, I assessed the actions of our colleagues in Lausanne, whose unconstructive and contradictory position towards our organization continues to sow divisions inside the big Olympic family, threatening its credibility, which we strongly oppose. Unfortunately, senior IOC officials have been unable [to make the right decision] due to the pressure the committee is facing from its Western sponsors. This pressure now supersedes common sense, but sooner or later it will once again prevail at the IOC. …

“This is definitely not Olympism. This is something else that ultimately brings destruction to world sports, and the perpetrators of all this disgrace will have to be held accountable to history.

“Sanctions and restrictions are aimed at completely destroying the system of physical and moral education in our country, and for years and years to come. There should be no illusions in this sense: this is a global challenge, based on the West’s geopolitical claims to exclusivity and the struggle to determine the world order. Suspending athletes, preventing them from financing, interfering in issues of changing citizenship are dirty methods of such struggle.”

And Pozdnyakov went further, accusing the IOC of belittling Russia with its regulations for admitting Russians and Belarusians for competition in Paris:

“A week ago in Lausanne they announced their readiness to admit Russian and Belarusian athletes to the Paris Olympics, and then immediately mockingly announced how many of them had been admitted. This number in itself is an eloquent assessment of their efforts. Representatives of the IOC are not ashamed to pronounce this figure, but we have no desire to even comment; everything is clear without words.”

The IOC stated that, so far, six Russians and five Belarusians had qualified for Paris. The IOC told the Russian news agency TASS that the qualifiers cannot be confirmed until later:

“As stated in the principles relating to the participation of individual neutral athletes and their support personnel with Russian or Belarusian passports at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games: International Federations will be required to provide a list of qualified and eligible neutral athletes to the IOC upon completion of qualification in the relevant event sport/discipline, and then the IOC will review these lists to make a final decision on the application for the sport. This means that the IOC will only be able to confirm the names at a later stage in the process.”

Pozdnyakov also said that he believed the IOC will also interfere with athlete participation in the BRICS Games to be held in Kazan next June and the World Friendship Games in Russia in September:

“We know very well that the Friendship Games and the BRICS Games and other formats are being prepared. From my point of view, if an athlete takes part in the Olympic Games, then he absolutely will not be able to take part in the Friendship Games. And if he takes part, his result at the Olympic Games will be cancelled.”

Despite the IOC’s detailed announcement and accompanying regulations, Russia Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said he is waiting for more information:

“The President [Vladimir Putin] said quite clearly yesterday: everyone’s right is to choose to participate in a neutral status. The conditions that exist today assume only a neutral status, no specific regulations on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes have yet been announced.

“As soon as decisions are made in detail, we will build our actions together with the Russian Olympic Committee and our federations. That is, so far we have not heard anything new from the International Olympic Committee.”

Minister Salvini: 2026 sliding track “must be in Cortina”

What has become a multi-episode soap opera concerning a venue for the bobsled, luge and skeleton competitions at the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Milan Cortina 2026, continued on Friday with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Matteo Salvini telling reporters:

“The bobsleigh track, respecting costs and times, must be in Cortina.

“As promised in recent days we have worked on the issue of the bobsleigh track. We are listening to the territories, from Monday [18th] we will also informally begin to involve everyone.”

According to the Rome daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, a Tuesday meeting of the Milan Cortina 2026 Foundation – the governing body of the organizing committee – is scheduled to review the progress of the search.

Despite continuing indications to the contrary, Salvini insisted that time is not an issue:

“Is there time? Absolutely yes, because the engineers tell me this.”

The governmental body tasked with construction of 2026 Winter Olympic sites, known as Simico, received no offers from contractors over the summer to build the planned track in Cortina, to replace the now-demolished Eugenio Monti track from the 1956 Winter Games. Completion is needed by the next winter season – in early 2025 – for testing, but no one seems interested. A suggestion to use the Cesana Pariol track built for the Turin 2006 Winter Games, but abandoned in 2012, would also require significant upgrades, with no legacy use in sight.

Proposals for the use of tracks in Austria (Innsbruck), Germany (Koenigssee), Switzerland (St. Moritz) and the U.S. (Lake Placid) have all been received, but now the issue has become political, as all will require some funding to be ready for the 2026 Games.

Andrea Abodi, the Italian Minister for Sport and Youth, also chimed in on Friday, suggesting that worries about the sliding venue are overblown:

“Do we need a miracle for the bobsleigh track? Miracles are not created by men or women, we must try to find a solution, it will be an Italian solution.

“I understand that there is a concentration on the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge track, but there are many other fundamental things about the Olympics and Paralympics that are going very well and I would like to see them talked about. We are collecting financial resources, promotion is also increasing in schools. I am convinced that the track will be in Italy, Simico is studying the solutions. It is clear that there is an expectation of a solution which will be available by January.”

The International Olympic Committee has been clear that only an existing, working track will be satisfactory and expects a decision by the end of January.

L.A.’s Metrolink shuts down for Olympic & World Cup upgrades

The Southern California Metrolink train system will shut down for four days from 26-29 December for maintenance and upgrades, in part to get ready for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic and Paralympic Games.

That’s not a guess, it’s what the Southern California Regional Rail Authority says:

“Metrolink and Arrow trains will be out of service for four days starting on Tuesday, December 26 through Friday, December 29. We will resume with our regularly scheduled train service on Saturday, December 30. While the trains rest, we work. We’re making the most of the closure to clean, repair and upgrade our rail network, including a new signal system that will provide better operational throughput and reliability in and out of Union Station for our trains.

“Our commitment to you goes beyond just daily rides. This short break allows us to:

“● Implement the SCORE L.A. Union Station Modernization Project, a 3-year project to update all track and signal systems where trains enter and exit at LAUS.

“● We are getting ready for the global stage! By modernizing our rail network, we are preparing our system for the World Cup, Olympics, and Paralympics.”

Union Station will not close, and the Metrolink and Arrow systems, which span across most of the Los Angeles area, including Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties, are not related to the L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus and subway service in Los Angeles County.

But it is a demonstration of the impact that these mega-events have in driving government efforts to upgrade their systems, using the events essentially as excuses for work that should be undertaken as a part of normal service progress.

Lyles follows up on World Athlete of the Year disappointment

American sprint superstar Noah Lyles was clearly upset about the unannounced expansion of the World Athletics’ World Athlete of the Year award from one man and one woman to three in each gender on 11 December. He said he wanted to take some time to think about what to say, and did so on X (ex-Twitter) on Friday:

“I believe I found the right words for what happened at the AOY awards. When they decided to split the award without telling any of us, including the fans that voted. It made me feel that none of our achievements were good enough to be AOY.

“I’m guessing that was not WA’s goal but that is how it made me feel. I do believe that there should be more awards included in the event but not with exclusion of the AOY award.

“I wish they would have waited until next year to change the format of the awards or not change it in the middle of the process. I also wish @WorldAthletics would have had a conversations with the athletes so we could come up with a more structured plan.”

Atlanta 1996 Olympic icon Michael Johnson, a two-time winner of the award in 1996 and 1999, added:

“I’m sure that was not their intent, but it is a consistent flawed approach by WA that more is always better. It devalues the AOY to have more than one AOY. And the reactive and surprise decision disregards the will of the fans and lacks respect for the athletes.”

Armstrong: EPO is the “rocket fuel” that changed sport

Lance Armstrong’s story is well known: a cancer survivor who became the seven-time winner of the Tour de France, from 1999-2005, then confessed to doping in 2013 and had his wins nullified.

Now 52, Armstrong has spoken in detail about his doping regimen in recent years and explained it again in an appearance on commentator Bill Maher‘s Club Random podcast.

Asked whether it is possible for a doper to mask their drug use, Armstrong explained:

“Yes, you can. … In a sense, you would foil the system, but what I always said – and I’m not trying to justify what I ever said as something I would want to repeat again – but one of the lines was, ‘I’ve been tested 500 times and I’ve never failed a drug test.’

“That’s not a lie. That is the truth. There was no way around the test. … Now, the reality and the truth of all of this is, some of these substances, primarily the one that is the most beneficial, has a four-hour half-life. So certain substances, whether it be cannabis or anabolics, or whatever, have much longer half-lives.”

That substance was oxygen-enabler erythropoietin (EPO), and Armstrong underlined:

“With EPO – which was the rocket fuel that changed not just our sport but every endurance sport – you have a four-hour half-life, so it leaves the body very quickly. With a four-hour half-life, you can just do the math.”

Most cycling stages take four hours or less, and Armstrong was well aware of the testing protocol, and how long after a race he would be tested. As for side effects:

“The truth is, you had a drug that was undetectable, that was wildly beneficial to performance and recovery. Both are important, but primarily to performance. … And, as we were led to believe, which I don’t disagree with, if taken under the care of a doctor was safe.”


● Handball ● The 26th IHF Women’s World Championship came down to a re-match of the 2021 final, with undefeated France facing once-beaten Norway, and reversing the outcome, as the French managed a 31-28 victory and their third Worlds gold.

The two sides had met in a second-pool group match on 10 December, with France eking out a 24-23 win, and Estelle Nze Minko scoring six goals for the winners. The French steamed into the final after a 37-28 semifinal win over Sweden, taking a 19-11 halftime lead and cruising home, behind Tamara Horacek’s nine goals.

The Norwegians had more trouble with host Denmark, urged on by the biggest crowd of the tournament – 12,136 in Herning – and the Danes had a 14-9 lead at half. But the reigning champs reversed the score in the second half and after a 23-23 tie, it was on to overtime. There, Norway won, 6-5, for the 29-28 final thanks to a sensational 15 goals from Henny Reistad!

So for the fourth time in the past seven Worlds, France and Norway played for the title. Norway won in 2011 and 2021, the French in 2017. This time, the French had control of the match at half by 20-17 and held on for a 31-28 win, paced by five goals each from Horacek and Lena Grandveau. The Norse got eight scores from Nora Mork, but it was not enough.

This was Norway’s ninth final, with four wins; the French celebrated third world championship in seven finals. Reistad was named the Most Valuable Player and Czech star Marketa Jerabkova won the scoring title with 63, ahead of Reistad (52).

Denmark thrilled another big crowd of 11,877 with a win in the bronze-medal game over Sweden by 28-27. The final, also in Herning, drew 12,031.

● Skateboard ● The 13th edition of the World Skate Street World Championships was held in Rome (ITA), but was primarily a showcase for Japan’s skaters, who took five of the medals available.

Japan swept the men’s final, with Sora Shirai, 22, the 2020 Worlds bronze winner, scoring 276.81 in the final to ace teammates Kairi Netsuke (273.60) and Yuto Horigome (273.28). Netsuke had the best score on his full run of 86.97 on his second attempt, with Shirai scoring 86.00 on his first run, but Shirai scored 95.66 and 95.00 on two of his tricks to win the title. Horigome, 24, the Tokyo 2020 gold medalist, won his third career Worlds medal (1-1-1).

Alex Midler was the top American, in fifth (262.93) while six-time World Champion Nyjah Huston finished seventh at 251.38.

Seventeen-year-old Yumeka Oda (JPN) took the women’s title at 265.75, with the highest-scoring run of the final (84.22) and earned the highest score on any trick at 94.80. That was just good enough to edge defending champ Rayssa Leal (BRA: 15), who finished at 261.90.

Momiji Nishiya of Japan, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic winner – now 16 – won the bronze for the second straight Worlds, scoring 245.76, just ahead of 13-year-old Chloe Covell of Australia – the 2022 silver medalist – who scored 245.11.


● Alpine Skiing ● More history at the second men’s Downhill at Val Gardena (ITA) on Saturday, after American Bryce Bennett stunned with his Thursday win. This time it was Italian star Dominik Paris claiming the win, his 23rd career World Cup gold and 19th in the Downhill.

Starting from the 12th position, Paris was the only one to finish under two minutes, at 1:59.84, beating out Norway’s Alexander Aamodt Kilde (2:00.28), with Bennett third in 2:00.44.

It was Paris’s first win in 22 months and ties him for no. 2 all-time for most World Cup Downhill golds. Bennett won his second World Cup medal in three days after having won one in his career coming in!

On Friday, the Super-G was the 17th career win for Austria’s 2021 World Champion Vincent Kriechmayr (1:28.39), just ahead of countryman Daniel Hemetberger (1:28.41) and reigning World Cup champ Marco Odermatt (SUI: 1:28.42). Jared Goldberg of the U.S. tied for 10th (1:28.78) and Bennett was 14th (1:28.80).

The men’s tour moved on to two Giant Slaloms at Alta Badia (ITA), with Sunday’s race another showcase for Odermatt, who led after the first run and was second-fastest on the second to win in 2:29.23, 0.19 seconds up on Croatian Filip Zubcic (2:29.42), followed by Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec (2:31.49). Tommy Ford was the top American, in ninth (2:32.75).

A second Giant Slalom will be held on Monday.

The women were in Val d’Isere (FRA) for a Downhill and Super-G, with a Swiss 1-2 on Saturday with Jasmine Flury winning in 1:43.47, ahead of Joana Haehlen (1:43.69) and Cornelia Huetter (AUT: 1:43.71). It was the second career win and third career World Cup medal for Flury, 30, who won the World Championship gold earlier this year in the Downhill.

Haehlen won her fifth career World Cup medal and Huetter won her 22nd.

Sunday’s Super-G was another triumph for Italian star Federica Brignone, who won her third race this season (and 24th all-time), in 1:21.58, a healthy 0.44 up on Kajsa Vickhoff Lie (1:22.02), with Italian teammate Sofia Goggia getting third (1:22.17).

This was an exceptionally difficult course and the FIS report noted 26 of the 58 starters did not finish, including American star Mikaela Shiffrin. According to FIS, “That non-finish rate of 44.8 per cent is the highest for a women’s super-G World Cup race since at least as far back as the 1999/2000 season.”

● Badminton ● Superpower China put finalists in four events in the HSBC BWF World Tour Final in Hangzhou (CHN), with a $2.5 million prize purse, but came away with two titles as three no. 1-ranked entries won their classes.

World no. 1 Viktor Axelsen (DEN) took the men’s Singles with a 21-11, 21-12 sweep of no. 7 Yu Qi Shi (CHN), preceded by wins for China’s top-ranked women’s Doubles team of Qing Chen Chen and Yi Fan Jia over Ha-na Baek and So-hee Lee (KOR) by 21-16, 21-16, and the no. 1 Mixed Doubles pair of Si Wei Zheng and Ya Qiong Huang, who rushed past Yan Zhe Feng and Dong Ping Huang (CHN), 21-11, 21-18.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic runner-up Tzu Ying Tai (TPE) won the women’s Singles crown with a 12-21, 21-14, 21-18 win over Rio 2016 Olympic champ and reigning World Champion Carolina Marin (ESP), and sixth-ranked Koreans Min-hyuk Kang and Seung Jae Seo upset no. 1 Wei Keng Liang and Chang Wang (CHN), 21-17, 22-20.

● Biathlon ● The third stage of the IBU World Cup was in Lenzerheide (SUI) and reigning World Cup overall champ Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR) has taken over.

He got his third World Cup medal of the season in Friday’s 10 km Sprint, finishing second to German Benedikt Doll, the 2017 World Champion, who finished in 23:15.8 (0 penalties) to 23:21.2 for Boe (1 penalty), with Philipp Nawrath (GER: 23:52.6/1) getting third.

Then Boe got his second win of the season in the 12.5 km Pursuit, winning by 24.7 seconds in 32:30.0 (3), over Norwegian teammates Endre Stroemsheim (32:54.7/2) and Sturla Holm Laegreid (32:59.1/1) for their second sweep of the season.

The 15 km Mass Start on Sunday was another Boe win, this time by 14.6 seconds in 35:00.1 (2), leading a Norwegian sweep with Johannes Dale-Skjevdal (35:14.7/1) and older brother Tarjei Boe (35:29.1/1). In fact, the Norwegians took five of the top six places.

The women’s races were a renaissance performance for France’s Justine Braisaz-Bochet, the Beijing Olympic Mass Start winner, back from maternity and ready to go. She won the 7.5 km Sprint in 22:13.0 (0) over Ingrid Tandrevold (NOR: 22:25.2/0) and Lisa Vittozzi (ITA: 22:30.2/2) on Thursday and then skied away with the 10 km Pursuit, in 27:31.0 (3), beating teammate Julia Simon (27:56.2/2) and Marit Skogan (NOR: 28:44.6/2).

She completed the weekend sweep with Sunday’s 12.5 Mass Start, winning her eighth career World Cup gold by more than five seconds over Swedish sisters Elvira Oeberg, 36:04.6 (0) to 36:10.1 (2) and reigning Mass start World Champion Hanna Oeberg (36:15.2/2). French biathletes have now won five of the season’s eight races!

American Deedra Irwin finished a very creditable eighth in the Sprint, 21st in the Pursuit and 13th in the Mass start.

● Bobsled & Skeleton ● Stage three of eight in the IBSF World Cup was in Innsbruck (AUT), with American Kaysha Love competing in two rounds of the women’s Monobob after winning the opener last week.

Both races were won by German Lisa Buckwitz, a 2018 Olympic winner in the two-woman sled. She won Friday’s race in 1:51.17 over Beijing Olympic fifth-placer Breeana Walker (AUS: 1:51.42) and German teammate Laura Nolte (1:51.47), the Beijing two-woman gold winner. Love was fourth (1:51.70) and fellow American Elana Meyers Taylor was fifth (1:52.07).

Buckwitz also won on Saturday, with the fastest first run and second-fastest second run in 1:49.42, followed by Love at 1:49.53 and the fastest second run in the field. Walker grabbed third in 1:49.55 and Meyers Taylor was sixth in 1:49.90.

Through three of eight races, Love has a slim 627-618 lead over Buckwitz in her first year as a driver.

Sunday’s two-woman racing was a sweep for Buckwitz and the Germans. Buckwitz and Vanessa Mark had the best of both runs and won in 1:45.20, ahead of 2023 World Champion Kim Kalicki and Leonie Fiebig (1:45.29) and Nolte and Neele Schuten (1:45.64). Meyers Taylor and Jasmine Jones were sixth (1:45.82) and Love and Jestana Mattson finished eighth in 1:46.44.

The two-man World Champions, Johannes Lochner and Georg Fleischhauer (GER) won their second race of the season in 1:41.94, leading a German sweep with Olympic champs Francesco Friedrich and Alexander Schueller at 1:42.02, and Adam and Issam Ammour third in 1:42.68. Americans Frank Del Duca and Joshua Williamson finished fourth in 1:42.75.

Sunday’s four-man was the second straight win for Friedrich, the double Olympic gold medalist, in 1:40.89, with Lochner just behind at 1:41.03 and Latvia’s Emils Cipulis taking the bronze (1:41.35). Del Duca’s U.S. sled was 15th at 1:42.37.

The men’s Skeleton was another quality win for Britain’s 2023 World Champion Matt Weston in 1:44.84, beating Worlds bronze winner Seung-ji Jung (KOR: 1:44.99) and Felix Keisinger (GER: 1:45.16). Dutch star Kimberley Bos, the Worlds silver medalist this year, took the women’s race in 1:47.91, ahead of Valentina Margaglio (1:48.08) and Britain’s Tabitha Stoecker (1:48.11).

● Break Dancing ● A sweep for Japan at the BfG World Series in Hong Kong, with 17-year-old Isshin Hishikawa (Issin) defeating Asian Champion Heon-woo Kim (Wing) of Korea in the men’s final, 6:3, 5:4, 1:8 (2-1). Hiroto Ono (JPN: Hiro10) won the bronze medal over Chen Sun (TPE: Quake), also by 2-1.

The Japanese women also went 1-3, with 16-year-old Riko Tsuhako (Riko) winning by 7:2, 0:9 and 7:2 (2-1) in the final against Ukraine’s European silver medalist Stefani (Anna Ponomarenko), and Ayane Nakarai (Ayane) took the bronze over Antilai Sandrini (Anti) of Italy, also by 2-1.

● Cross Country Skiing ● Norway extended its perfect record in the men’s FIS World Cup, this time in front of home fans in Trondheim (NOR).

Six different Norwegians had won the first six men’s races, but four-time World Cup overall champ Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo took over, winning Friday’s Sprint, Saturday’s 20 km Skiathlon and Sunday’s 10 km Classical.

He took the Freestyle Sprint in 2:39.28, a scant 0.81 seconds ahead of Lucas Chanavat (FRA: 2:40.09) – the 2023 World Cup Sprint discipline runner-up – and 1.69 seconds up on Norwegian teammate Harald Amundsen. The Skiathlon was even closer, with Klaebo winning by just 0.7 seconds over Britain’s Andrew Musgrave, 43:50.7 to 43:51.4 – Musgrave’s third career World Cup medal – and 0.8 up on Norway’s Didrik Toenseth (43:51.5). Ben Ogden of the U.S. was 17th, in 45:21.6.

On Sunday, Klaebo skied away to a big win by 17 seconds, leading a Norwegian sweep, ahead of Paal Golberg, 24:32.1 to 25:00.8, with Henrik Doennestad third (25:04.2). Ogden was the top American again, in eighth in 25:27.3.

The women’s racing was a continuation of the season-long fight between Sweden, Norway and Americans Jessie Diggins, the seasonal leader, and Rosie Brennan. In the Freestyle Sprint, Kristine Skistad (NOR: 3:04.71) got to the line first for her third medal of the season, trailed by Linn Svahn (SWE: 3:04.86) and Emma Ribom (3:04.87), with Diggins fourth (3:08.74).

Saturday’s Skiathlon was the seventh career win – and second of the season – for Swede Ebba Andersson, the 2023 World Champion, in 49:23.4, ahead of Diggins (49:38.6) and Heidi Weng (NOR: 49:40.1). Brennan was eighth (50:15.9); it was Diggins’ fourth medal in the last six races!

Sunday’s 10 km Classical Interval Start saw German Victoria Carl get her first career World Cup gold and second career individual medal in 28:13.6. Brennan got second in 28:33.2 for her third medal of the season, with Andersson third (28:35.2) and Diggins fourth (28:41.9).

Diggins still leads the seasonal standings, 809-737-726, over Ribom and Brennan after nine of 34 events.

● Curling ● A major showdown in the women’s final at the Grand Slam of Curling Masters, in Saskatoon (CAN), as Canada’s Rachel Homan, a three-time Worlds medalist and 2017 World Champion faced four-time defending World Champion Silvana Tirinzoni (SUI).

The Swiss had to play catch-up thanks to a four-point outburst for Homan’s rink in the third end for a 4-1 lead. It was 5-2 after five ends and then the Swiss grabbed two points to close to 5-4. But in the seventh, Homan scored three and closed out an 8-4 win for her 14th career Grand Slam title.

The men’s final saw a repeat win for Italy’s Joel Retornaz, the 2022 Worlds bronze medalist, who scored twice in the fourth against Ross Whyte (SCO), then saw the game tied, but got the winning point in the eighth for a 3-2 win and Retornaz’s second straight Grand Slam victory.

● Freestyle Skiing ● Two-time Olympic Halfpipe medalist Alex Ferreira swept to a second straight World Cup win on Saturday at Copper Mountain, Colorado, leading an American sweep in the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix.

Ferreira salted away the event on his first run, scoring an impressive 97.0 and waiting to see if he would be challenged. Fellow American Hunter Hess got close, at 95.0 on his second run, but could do no better. Birk Irving of the U.S., the 2021 Worlds bronze medalist, moved up to third in the final round at 92.50, passing comebacking teammate (and three-time Olympic slopestyle medal winner) Nicholas Goepper (90.75) and two-time Olympic gold medalist David Wise (89.00) in fifth.

Beijing Olympian Mac Forehand of the U.S. took the men’s Big Air title, coming from fifth after the first round to record scores of 93.00 and 94.00 for a 187.00 total. Italy’s Miro Tabanelli grabbed second (at 185.00 (95.00/90.00/46.00) on his first two jumps, followed by Norway’s Olympic Big Air winner Birk Ruud (184.00).

Big Air and Halfpipe Olympic champ Eileen Gu (CHN) won Friday’s Halfpipe event over 2023 World Champion Hanna Faulhaber of the U.S. for the second time this season. Gu was superb, scoring 94.75, 95.75 and 93.00 on her three runs, while Faulhaber’s best came on her second run (92.00). Britain’s Zoe Atkin, the 2023 Worlds runner-up, scored 91.00 on her first run and took the bronze.

Saturday’s Big Air final was another win for France’s reigning World Champion, Tess Ledeux at 189.00 for two runs, ahead of Beijing Olympic bronzer Mathilde Gremaud (SUI: 185.50), who had won the first two World Cup events this season. Britain’s Kirsty Muir grabbed third at 173.75.

The Moguls skiers were at Alpe d’Huez (FRA), with Canadian star Mikael Kingsbury continuing to set records, winning the Friday Moguls men’s event with 86.55 points, leading a Canadian 1-2 ahead of Elliot Vaillancourt (77.44), with Japan’s 2017 World Champion Ikuma Horishima third (77.23). It was Kingsbury’s 82nd World Cup, extending his own mark, but the first career medal for Vaillancourt, at age 24.

In Saturday’s Dual Moguls, it was a Swedish 1-2, with Walter Wallberg – the 2023 Worlds runner-up in this event – taking the win over teammate Rasmus Stegfeldt, who was also second in the season opener. Kingsbury won the race for bronze.

The women’s Moguls winner was Beijing 2022 Olympic champ Jakara Anthony, who has now won all three events this season, scoring 79.98 to top Americans Jaelin Kauf (75.64) – the Beijing Olympic runner-up – and Olivia Giaccio (74.82).

Anthony then won the Dual Moguls on Saturday, giving her four wins in five events this season, beating Giaccio in the final, with fellow American Alli Macuga getting third over countrywoman Tess Johnson. Anthony has won a medal in every event this season (4-0-1).

The second of six stages in the Aerials World Cup was in Changchun (CHN), with 2021 Worlds Mixed Team silver winner Pirmin Werner (SUI) taking the gold at 122.62, with American Chris Lillis, an Olympic gold Mixed Team winner in Beijing, second with 122.17 points and China’s Tianma Li third (121.68). Quinn Dehlinger of the U.S. finished seventh (118.10).

The U.S. got a win on the women’s side, with aptly-named Winter Vinecki (94.25) taking getting her second career win and fourth individual World Cup medal, ahead of 2023 World Champion Fanyu Kong (CHN: 81.42) and two-time Worlds gold medalist Laura Peel (AUS: 80.96).

● Ice Hockey ● The 2023-24 Rivalry Series between the U.S. and Canadian women moved to Kitchener, Ontario on Thursday, but the Americans pulled out an overtime win to go 3-0 on the series.

The U.S. was the aggressor in the first period, with 12-8 shots edge, but Canada’s Danielle Serdachny scored at 7:44 of the period for a 1-0 lead. Kirsten Simms tied it at 16:10 of the period on a solo goal and then Abbey Murphy took the lead  for the U.S. with a hard shot from the middle of the Canadian zone just 1:03 later.

Canada tied in the second period at 6:58 from Emily Clark on a rebound in front of the American net and neither side could score in the third period, leading to overtime. And just 28 seconds into the overtime, star forward Hilary Knight scored for the 3-2 win. Canada had 34 shots to 22 for the U.S., but the Americans killed all six penalties on the evening.

Game four of the series came on Saturday in Sarnia, Ontario was tight again, with the U.S. getting a second-period, shorthanded goal from a Megan Keller tipin off a Kelly Pannek pass at 8:19 and then an Alex Carpenter tipin of a Cayla Barnes pass for a goal at 4:46 of the third to go up, 2-0.

But Serdachny scored at 10:06 of the period and Ella Shelton tied it at 12:39. Neither side could score in the third, or in overtime, so in the penalty shoot-out, Marie-Philip Poulin scored against U.S. keeper Nicole Hensley, the only successful shot of the nine taken for a 3-2 win.

Three more games will be played, on 7-9-11 February in 2024.

● Luge ● Germany swept aside all opposition at the FIL World Cup in Whistler (CAN), winning the men’s and women’s Singles and Doubles.

Worlds silver medalist Max Langenhan (GER) won his third race of the season in the men’s Singles, in 1:40.093, just clear of Austria’s World Champion Jonas Mueller (1:40.348) and Latvia’s Kristers Aparjods (1:40.572). Three-time Olympic champs Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt managed their first win of the season, 1:17.300 to 1:17.348 over Thomas Steu and Wolfgang Kindl (AUT), with Germans Hannes Orlamuender and Paul Constantin Gubitz third (1:17.405).

Tucker West (8th) and Jonny Gustafson (9th) were the top American Singles finishers and Zachary Di Gregorio and Sean Hollander finished 13th in the Doubles.

Julia Taubitz, the 2021 World Champion, led a German sweep in the women’s Singles, finishing in 1:18.066, beating teammates Anna Berreiter (1:18.177) and Merle Fraebel (1:18.179). American Emily Sweeney was fourth in 1:18.221 and Ashley Farquharson was seventh in 1:18.238.

The women’s Doubles was a German 1-2 with Jessica Degenhardt and Cheyenne Rosenthal winning in 1:18.371, slightly ahead of Dajana Eitberger and Saskia Schirmer (1:18.451), with Andrea Voetter and Marion Oberhofer (ITA: 1:18.466) third. The top American sled was fourth, with Chevonne Forgan and Sophia Kirkby (1:18.514). Americans Maya Chan and Reannyn Weiler finished seventh in 1:18.768.

Germany won the team relay opener as well, in 2:48.665, followed by Austria (2:49.215) and the U.S. squad of Sweeney, Di Gregorio and Hollander, West and Forgan and Kirkby was third in 2:49.11.

● Nordic Combined ● Would Norway’s unbeaten streaks continue at Ramsau (AUT)?

The Norwegian men had won all five events this season, with four-time World Cup overall champion Jarl Magnus Riiber winning the last four. But On Friday, it was reigning World Cup winner Johannes Lamparter who took the Mass Start 10 km and then jumping off the 98 m hill, with 139.2 points. Riiber was second at 135.4 and German Manuel Faisst (131.3) third.

Lamparter doubled up on Saturday in the Compact 98 m jumping and 7.5 km race, winning in 17:09.6 to 17:11.2 for Riiber, who has been first or second in all seven races this season. Austria’s Stefan Rettenegger got third (17:11.5).

There was another streak on the line, this one for Norway’s dominant Gyda Westvold Hansen, who had won the first two races of the season and 13 World Cup races in a row over three seasons. She added a 14th on Friday in the Gundersen 98 m jumping and 5.0 km race, timing 14:41.2 to win easily over teammate Ida Marie Hagen (15:23.2) and Finn Minja Korhonen (16:22.4).

And Norway’s streak of women’s stayed intact on Saturday, but it was Hagen who got to the line first to end Hansen’s win streak, in the Compact 98 m jumping and 5.0 km race in 13:11.8 to 13:15.2 for Hansen. Lisa Hirner was third for Austria (14:00.8); American Annika Malacinski was eighth in 14:29.3.

● Short Track ● The fourth leg of six in the 2023-24 ISU World Cup was in Seoul (KOR), with the hosts taking three wins, but the U.S. women continuing to produce medals in multiple events.

In the entire, six-meet World Cup season of 2022-23, the U.S. women won eight medals: three silvers and five bronzes. Coming into Seoul, Kristen Santos-Griswold had three wins herself, plus one silver and two bronzes, with Corinne Stoddard scoring a silver and a bronze.

In the first-day women’s 1,000 m, Belgium’s Olympic bronze winner Hanne Desmet won in 1:29.303, with Santos-Griswold second in 1:29.313 and Dutch six-time Worlds gold medalist Xandra Velzeboer in third (1:29.696).

In the 1,500 m, Korea’s Gil-li Kim won her third straight World Cup in 2:35.785, with Stoddard taking silver in 2:35.865, and then Kim won again on Sunday in 2:23.746, with Santos-Griswold taking silver in 2:23.968, with Desmet third (2:24.283) and Stoddard fourth (2:24.441).

That’s 11 individual medals for Santos-Griswold and Stoddard so far (3-5-3), not counting a couple of relay medals, with two events remaining. A great sign for 2026, in view of the U.S. being shut out in 2022 in Beijing.

Velzeboer won the women’s 500 m, edging teammate Selma Poutsma at the line, with both timed in 43.128. The Dutch also won the women’s 3,000 m relay.

The men’s events featured a new star, with 22-year-old William Dandjinou of Canada winning Sunday’s second 1,500 m race in 2:18.661, reversing the result of Saturday’s race, won by 2023 World Champion Ji-Won Park (KOR: 2:16.323) with Dandjinou second (2:16.482). American Brandon Kim was fourth in Saturday’s first race in 2:16.849.

Dandjinou now has five medals (2-1-2) this season, his first career World Cup individual podium. Teammate Steven Dubois, the triple Olympic medal winner from 2022, won the men’s 1,000 m in 1:27.099, ahead of Beijing 1,500 m winner Dae-heon Hwang (KOR: 1:27.113).

Beijing 500 m gold winner Shaoang Liu (CHN) won his specialty in a late rush in 41.196, just ahead of Korea’s Yi Ra Seo (41.205). The Chinese also won the 5,000 m relay.

In the Mixed Relay, the Dutch won in 2:41.701; the U.S. team of Andrew Heo, Kim, Santos-Griswold and Stoddard received a penalty, but were awarded a bronze, along with Korea (also penalized).

● Ski Jumping ● At the FIS World Cup off the 140 m hill in Engelberg (GER), it was a third straight for the home team with 33-year-old Pius Paschke getting his first career World Cup win (and second medal, also this season!) at 316.8 points, coming from sixth after the first jump and winning the second round.

Norway’s Marius Lindvik was second (315.1) for his first medal of the season, with seasonal leader Stefan Kraft (AUT: 313.3) third. Kraft, a three-time World Champion, has medaled in six of seven events this season.

Sunday saw Kraft take his fifth win of the season – everyone else combined has three – with 327.9 points, coming from fifth after the first round with the highest-scoring jump of the day in round two. Teammate Jan Hoerl was second (323.9) and Paschke got another medal in third (320.1).

The women’s jumping at Engelberg started with a second straight win for France’s Josephine Pagnier (293.0), ahead of 2023 World Champion Alexandria Loutitt (CAN: 290.2) and 2021 World Champion Ema Klinec (SLO: 289.4). Pagnier, 21, won her third medal of the season (2-1-0), after coming in with one career medal.

Slovenia took over on Saturday, with 18-year-old Nika Prevc (305.3) winning and Klinec a close second at 302.7. Norway’s Eirin Maria Kvandal got third (297.0). Pagnier continues to lead the seasonal standings, ahead of Loutitt.

● Snowboard ● At the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, the FIS Big Air World Cup concluded (!) with its fourth stage, and a dominating win for Japan’s Hiroaki Kunitake, scoring 181.25 to 169.50 for Sam Vermaat (NED) and 169.25 for 2018 Olympic Slopestyle winner Red Gerard of the U.S. The seasonal totals showed Japan’s Kira Kimura as the winner, with 196 points, to 180 for China’s Yuming Su. Gerard was seventh as the top U.S. finisher (120).

Japan’s Kokomo Murase, the Beijing Olympic bronzer, won the women’s Big Air opener back in October and won again on Friday at 197.00, well ahead of teammate Mari Fukada (174.00) and Britain’s 2023 Worlds winner in Slopestyle, Mia Brookes (155.75). Hailey Langland of the U.S. was fourth (139.25). Brookes finished 3-4-2-3 in the four events and took the seasonal title with 250 points to 215 for Fukada (5-6-4-2).

In the Halfpipe, Japan scored again with Beijing Olympic champ Ayumu Hirano getting his sixth career World Cup win at 91.00, to beat Chaeun Lee (KOR: 80.00) and 2021 World Champion Yuto Totsuka (JPN: 78.00).

This was the second of five World Cups, with 15-year-old Gaon Choi (KOR) winning the women’s competition at 92.75 for her first World Cup medal (and first win), ahead of 19-year-old Mitsuki Ono, the Worlds bronze medalist (JPN: 90.00) and two-time Worlds medalist Maddie Mastro of the U.S. (88.25).

The Parallel Giant Slalom season got started at Carezza and Cortina d’Ampezzo (ITA) on Thursday and Saturday, with a 1-2 finish for the home team, with Maurizio Bormolini winning the first men’s race for his third career World Cup win, bearing teammate Edwin Coratti in the final. Austria’s Olympic gold winner Benjamin Karl won the bronze.

In Cortina, Karl took the final over teammate (and three-time World Champion) Andreas Prommegger, with Italy’s amazing six-time Worlds medalist Roland Fischnaller – now 43 – third.

The women’s Carezza winner was Germany’s 2018 Olympic bronze medalist Ramona Theresia Hofmeister, over Austria’s Beijing Olympic runner-up Daniela Ulbing in the final. The 2023 World Champion, Tsubaki Miki (JPN), won the bronze.

Hofmeister doubled up with another win in Cortina for her 17th career individual World Cup win, this time over Italy’s Lucia Dalmasso, with Sabine Schoeffmann (AUT) third.

At Cervinia (ITA), Olympic champ Alessandro Hammerle (AUT) took the men’s Ski Cross final, beating Australia’s Adam Lambert and Beijing Olympic runner-up Eliot Grondin (CAN), who won the season opener.

Swiss Sina Sigenthaler got her first World Cup medal and first World Cup win in the women’s final, over Australian stars Belle Brockhoff and 2023 Worlds runner-up Josie Baff, with American Stacy Gaskill fourth.

Italy won the SnowCross Team event over France, with the Swiss third.

● Table Tennis ● China swept both divisions of the WTT Women’s Finals in Nagoya (JPN), with Tokyo Olympic silver winner – and no. 1 ranked – Yingsha Sun defeating teammate Yidi Wang, the 2021 Worlds bronze medalist in the Singles final by 4-2 (12-10, 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7).

Sun and five-time Worlds gold medalist Manyu Wang teamed up in the Doubles final and won over Japan’s Miyu Nagasaki and Miyuu Kihara by 3-1 (12-10, 8-11, 11-4, 12-10).

● Taekwondo ● The World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions event in Wuxi (CHN) was dominated by Russian athletes competing as “neutrals,” who won three of the eight classes.

Tokyo Olympic men’s +80 kg gold medalist Vladislav Larin won his class by two rounds to one (2:1) in an all-Russian “neutral” final against Rafail Aiukaev, Olympic silver medalist Tatiana Minina won the women’s 57 kg division by 2:0 over China’s Zongshi Luo, and 2023 Worlds +73 kg bronze medalist Polina Khan took the +67 kg title over China’s Shunan Xiao, 2:1.

China claimed two wins, from Yushuai Lang in the men’s 68 kg division, beating Worlds 74 kg winner Marko Golubic (CRO) by 2:1, and in the women’s 67 kg class, as Jie Song won over countrywoman Mergyu Zhang in a walkover.

The men’s 58 kg class was an upset win for Gashim Magomedov (AZE), who defeated reigning World Champion Jun-seo Bae (KOR) by 2:0; Iran’s Mehran Barkhordari took the 80 kg title over Jasurbek Jaysunov (UZB) by 2:1.

In the women’s 49 kg, Turkey’s Elif side Akgul swept Mi-Reu Kang (KOR), 2:0.

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