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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Olympic Summit foresees Russian athletes qualifying through Asia
2. U.S. soccer writer Grant Wahl dies at World Cup in Qatar
3. FIFA’s Wenger says no biennial World Cups, but more in winter!
4. IBA’s Kremlev calls IOC criticisms “P.R. for the mass media”
5. U.S. men triumph over Iran for wrestling World Cup win in Iowa
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach of Germany has said again and again that he does not think athletes should be penalized for the actions of their national governments, and that goes for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At the IOC’s Olympic Summit in Lausanne on Friday, a discussion about Russian and Belarusian athletes led to a possible plan to have them compete in Asian qualifiers for Paris 2024 instead of Europe, where they have traditionally competed. A tragedy at the FIFA World Cup, where noted soccer writer Grant Wahl died Friday after collapsing at his press tribune seat while covering the Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinal. He was treated at his seat almost immediately and was taken to a hospital, but passed at age 48. The man who proposed the idea of a FIFA World Cup every two years, FIFA executive Arsene Wenger, now says the idea is dead, but that future World Cup in the wintertime are possible, especially if the tournament is to be played in Africa. At the International Boxing Association’s Global Boxing Forum in the UAE, federation chief Umar Kremlev ripped the IOC, saying, “we are independent. Don’t dictate things to us, don’t tell us how to live properly” and that the IOC’s criticisms of the federation are “only P.R. for the mass media.” The U.S. men’s wrestling team won an impressive 15th Freestyle World Cup victory over Iran in front of a happy home crowd in Coralville, Iowa, with Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder clinching the title with a victory at 97 kg.
Olympic Summit foresees Russian athletes
qualifying through Asia
The International Olympic Committee convened its 11th “Olympic Summit” on Friday, with leaders of the International Federations and National Olympic Committees and a published declaration that outlines a new roadmap to bring Russian athletes back into international competition: Asia.
The third paragraph was the tip-off, notably “The vast majority of the participants agreed that the sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments, as those responsible for this blatant breach of the Olympic Truce and the Olympic Charter, must remain firmly in place.” Usually, declarations are unanimous. But with Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov in the room, that wasn’t going to happen. Then this:
“In the course of the debate, [Randhir Singh of India] the Acting President of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) stated that, on the Asian continent, the reasons for the protective measures no longer exist. The OCA offered to facilitate the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus in competitions in Asia under its authority, while respecting the sanctions in place.
“Representatives from the IFs welcomed this initiative, stating that, for some IFs and for hosts of their competitions, the same reasoning would apply, and that therefore there should not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but that each IF should carefully evaluate for its sport whether the reasons for the protective measures still exist.”
IOC chief Thomas Bach (GER) said last week that Russians and Belarusians are continuing to compete as neutrals in tennis and on North American professional teams, such as in the National Hockey League; this is also true in road cycling. And in 2023, the Asian Games will be a significant qualifier for Paris 2024, and will be held in Hangzhou (CHN) from 23 September-8 October, where Russian and Belarusian athlete safety can be guaranteed by the Chinese government.
This would be a non-starter in Europe, where Ukraine is a member of the European National Olympic Committees group.
The outcome was for the idea to be explored, but with the IOC in control:
“The IOC to lead the further exploration of the OCA initiative concerning the participation of athletes who are in full respect of the Olympic Charter and the sanctions. This initiative to be discussed in the next round of IOC consultation calls with the IOC Members, the athletes’ representatives, the International Federations and the National Olympic Committees.”
Nothing is going to happen immediately, not until March at the earliest, and will depend on the situation of the war in Ukraine. But shifting Russian (and Belarusian) participation to Asia, at least for now, could solve the IOC’s angst over not allowing athletes to compete, while the Russian and Belarusian states are penalized by not having events there, or team identification.
The Ukrainians were, of course, furious. Reacting to Bach’s comments after the IOC Executive Board meetings last week – and re-stated in the declaration – Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted last Thursday:
“Since February, Russia has killed 184 Ukrainian athletes. And now Mr. Bach is quoting Emmanuel Macron as allegedly saying “sports should not be politicized” and athletes from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus should be treated equally. Using sports to whitewash war crimes is sickening.”
U.S. soccer writer Grant Wahl dies at World Cup in Qatar
An unbelievably sad incident at the 2022 World Cup, as long-time Sports Illustrated and independent soccer writer Grant Wahl passed away while covering the Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinal on Friday (9th).
Wahl, just 49, had been covering his eighth World Cup when he was stricken near the end of the match:
“Yahoo Sports soccer reporter Henry Bushnell was present at Friday’s Argentina-Netherlands match and observed Wahl seemingly unconscious in his press box seat during extra time at Lusail Stadium. Medics worked on Wahl for approximately a half-hour before taking him out on a stretcher.”
Martin Mazur (ARG), writing on the AIPS Web site, reported:
“It took a matter of seconds, less than 30, for paramedics to come. The chairs of the media desks were immediately removed by other journalists, to give doctors space to work. Soon there was a stretcher ready for evac and an intravenous drip was placed next to his desk. While the game was on extra time, paramedics were there trying to save his life. More of them kept coming.”
The Qatar 2022 organizers said:
“He fell ill in the Lusail Stadium media tribune, during last night’s quarter-final match between Argentina v Netherlands. He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital. …
“We are in touch with the US Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure the process of repatriating his body is in accordance’s with the family’s wishes.”
Wahl had written about being under stress on his Substack newsletter just days prior:
“My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you.
“What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.
“I didn’t have Covid (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno.”
His wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, tweeted:
“I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s soccer family & of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight.
“I’m in complete shock.”
He joined Sports Illustrated in 1996 and wrote for the magazine for 24 years, covering soccer, of course, but also famously profiled then-Akron (Oh.) St. Vincent-St. Mary High junior LeBron James in “The Chosen One” in 2002.
He left the magazine in 2020 and set up his own newsletter, Futbol with Grant Wahl, and had already been a center of attention early in the tournament, when he was detained by security personnel when he entered the 21 November Wales vs. U.S. match wearing a T-shirt with a soccer ball surrounded by concentric circles in rainbow colors, in support of LBGTQ rights; he was eventually released and received apologies from the organizing committee and FIFA.
Yahoo! News reported on an Instagram post from Wahl’s brother Eric, who claimed “My brother was healthy. He told me he received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed. And I just beg for any help.”
Observed: Wahl’s death is a tragedy, but also a reminder that media coming to cover major events like the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, are not there for a vacation. He was writing on his Substack site multiple times a day and doing a podcast every other day and that’s a heavy workload, away from home in a strange time zone, room, food and so on. He passed while doing his life’s work, but it may have been too much of a good thing.
But in a time of imploding media institutions, that’s the life of an independent journalist, working to keep his $60-a-year subscribers happy. It’s not easy, not easy at all.
FIFA’s Wenger says no biennial World Cups, but more in winter!
The concept of an every-two-years FIFA World Cup is dead, according to its primary proponent, former Arsenal manager and FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger (FRA).
Speaking to the French all-sports daily L’Equipe – where he pitched the idea of a biennial World Cup in October of 2021 – Wenger explained:
“I had been asked to think about it and I thought it was not a bad idea. But such a development required a complete review of the qualifying calendar.
“We are not heading towards that today, rather towards four-year cycles alternating with a World Cup, the Women’s World Cup, which is becoming more and more important, the Euros and the Club World Cup, which will be inevitable.”
Wenger also noted that the placement of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the winter may be repeated in the future:
“If we want to democratize football, we will have to go to African countries where it is impossible to play a World Cup in the summer.
“We can see it with this edition in Qatar, a World Cup in the winter works.
“Of course, many players did not have the usual time to prepare physically but at least they all approached this competition with real mental freshness, which has not always been the case in the past. I remember teams starting a World Cup psychologically tired because their preparation period had gone badly.”
IBA’s Kremlev calls IOC criticisms “P.R. for the mass media”
The third Global Boxing Forum, presented by the International Boxing Association, was held with more than 250 delegates assembled in Abu Dhabi (UAE). As promised, one of the main themes of the event was the return of boxing to the Olympic program in 2028, as it was not included in the LA28 initial sports program by the IOC.
Olympic silver medalist and multi-time pro champion Roy Jones, Jr., a dual U.S. and Russian citizen, talked about the pro-IBA protest he led in front of the IOC headquarters in Lausanne this past week:
“I knocked on the door at the Olympic House, and they opened it to me. They invited me in and talked to me, and I am grateful for that. Having said that, I just want the IOC to understand that boxers and IBA are inseparable, and if they support the boxers, as they claim, they have to support IBA.”
In the post-Forum news conference, Kremlev was asked at length about boxing’s Olympic situation vis-a-vis the IOC, and he had a lot to say; highlights (per the interpreter on the IBA’s video feed):
● “We respect the International Olympic Committee. We respect their opinion and the recommendations that they provided us. We have executed them, pretty much 100% of the recommendations have been implemented, as far as finance, refereeing and judging are concerned. Of course, there are still things to work on.”
● “We have hundreds of millions of people that we represent. These hundreds of millions of people will go there. They will follow Roy Jones, they will follow [Coaches Commission chair] Gabriele [Martelli (MLT)] and we are ready for that. … And I am really thankful to the boxers from around the world , and the coaches for uniting in millions, hundreds of millions of them are ready to actually go to Lausanne, and next year, we might just see that.”
● “What does the Olympic Charter exist for? To protect athletes, not to dictate to international associations how to live. Currently, IBA engaged independent sponsors. They are working, they are helping boxers, they’re handing out prize money. We should support such international associations and the International Olympic Committee is just an association like ourselves. We don’t report to anyone. We’re independent. And everyone must understand that.”
● “I guess there some people in the top echelons of the International Olympic Committee, some officials, that are bringing this [mis] information, maybe there are people like that. Again, I am not prepared to accuse anyone of anything, but taking facts into account, it sure looks like that.
“Because the recommendations that were provided by the International Olympic Committee, in two years, we have executed all the recommendations: about refereeing, about reforms, we have renewed the entire management, so the entire board of directors was renewed. All the people are new, they have nothing to do with the past, and at the same time, we have boxers in the board of directors, because I always say that boxing should be managed by boxers. [Former AIBA head] C.K. Wu [TPE] was a non-boxer, and he didn’t know how to do it.”
● “And I would also like to say to the International Olympic Committee that they have no right – I mean, they can issue recommendations to us – but they have no right to dictate to us how to live. Not a single other organization should interfere or meddle in the business of our association. Every country has its own culture, right? If another country meddles in the culture of the other country, says ‘this is not the right way to live, you have to live this way’, that would be incorrect, right? Because every country is independent, and we are independent. The International Boxing Association, we are independent. Don’t dictate things to us, don’t tell us how to live properly.”
● “I am confident that in the nearest future, they [the IOC] will make the correct decision, I am talking about the IOC, and these unclear accusations will simply cease. And that’s the same accusations that never change, they are the same. I think it’s only P.R. for the mass media.
“That’s it, there are no facts. So the General Secretary [IOC Director General Christophe de Kepper (BEL)] today, or actually yesterday, I think, they sent a letter with a request to tell us what exactly they don’t like. We’re saying, we do we need to deal with some public statements and declarations? Let’s meet and let’s create a group. We are open. Why don’t you come to us, or we will come to you, tell us who we need to work with and we will work with them, and everything will be corrected together.”
● “I am confident that all the national federations and all the boxers will support us and together, we will move forward and boxing will be represented at the Olympics and we will be defending that together. I have no doubt about that.
“And I really don’t think anyone would dare to violate this wonderful sport, boxing. Boxing is the king of sports. The Olympics started with boxing. The history of the Olympics is all about boxing. And what the international association does is their business.”
On Sunday, there was an IBA Ordinary Congress held in Abu Dhabi, where the assembly of 112 delegates – 85 in person and 27 online – voted to declare ex-president Wu persona non grata at the IBA.
Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, who had led an investigation of the problems under AIBA, told the Congress, “IBA is changing significantly, there’s been observable progress within the organization.”
In contravention of the IOC’s sanctions, amendments to the IBA Constitution were approved that, among other things, allow athletes affiliated with a suspended national federation to compete, and under their national flag and anthem, but without any symbols of the suspended federation.
Whether any of this will satisfy the IOC remains to be seen.
U.S. men triumph over Iran for wrestling World Cup win in Iowa
There was another national-team World Cup taking place over the weekend, but in the U.S. instead of Qatar. The UWW World Cup for men’s and women’s Freestyle was on in Coralville, Iowa, with a seemingly-inevitable clash between the U.S. and Iran to decide the men’s tournament outcome.
Held since 1973, the tournament has most recently belonged to the Iranian men, who won six in a row from 2012-17, including beating the U.S. in the final in 2015 and 2017. The U.S. won the 2018 edition – held in Iowa City – over Azerbaijan and then had to settle for third in 2019 after losing to Iran in a group match, 5-5, on criteria.
But in 2022, the U.S. fielded a strong team and was ready for the challenge, winning the final by 6-4, but with plenty of twists and turns.
After opening wins by Zane Richards over Reza Momenijoujadeh at 57 kg (6-1) and Seth Gross at 61 kg over Ebrahim Elahi (10-0 technical fall), Iran scored a win by Rahman Amouzad against Yianni Diakomihalis in a rematch of the 2022 World 65 kg Championships final, 5-4, to close to 2-1.
After Alec Pantaleo’s challenge at 70 kg that he was out of bounds when 2021 Worlds 65 kg silver medalist Amir Yazdani turned him at the buzzer for a 5-4 win, the call was reversed and Pantaleo got a 4-3 victory. The U.S. went up by 3-1 and was looking good. But Iran got a tough win from U23 Worlds 74 kg champ Mohammad Firouzpour over Jason Nolf (2-1) and then a 6-6 win on criteria from Ali Savadkouhi over six-time world champ Jordan Burroughs at 79 kg. All tied at three wins each.
But the U.S. was ready and Zahid Valencia defeated Alireza Karimi, 5-3, at 86 kg; Nathan Jackson out-fought Amir Firouzpour at 92 kg (8-4) and then Rio 2016 Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder clinched the title with a 5-0 shutout of two-time Worlds 92 kg champ Kamran Ghasempour.
The final match was a 6-1 win for Amir Masoumi over Hayden Zillmer of the U.S. at 125 kg to make the final score, 6-4.
The U.S. defeated Mongolia in the first round by 7-3, then Georgia by 10-0, while Iran stormed past Japan, 9-1, and the All-Word Team by 6-4 to reach the final. The All-World Team won the bronze medal by beating Georgia, 8-2.
In the women’s tournament, Ukraine was the surprise winner, defeating China by 6-4 in the final, after edging favored Japan (5-5, criteria) in their third-round match. The U.S. women fell to China, 8-2, on Saturday, but defeated the All-World Team, 6-4, to qualify for the bronze-medal match, but lost, 7-3, to Mongolia to finish fourth.
It was Ukraine’s first win in the 19 editions of the Women’s Freestyle World Cup and an inspiring story, as USA Wrestling invited the Ukrainians to prepare at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for two weeks prior to the event. Japan’s women had won the last five World Cups in a row.
≡ FIFA WORLD CUP ≡
What promise to be historic semifinals are set (victories on penalty kicks shown as wins):
● 13 Dec. (Tue., 2 p.m. Eastern time) at Lusail Iconic Stadium: Argentina (4-1; goals 9-5) vs. Croatia (3-0-2; goals 6-3).
● 14 Dec. (Wed., 2 p.m. Eastern time) at Al Bayt Stadium: Morocco (4-0-1; goals 5-1) vs. France (5-1; goals 11-5).
Argentina and France have both won the World Cup twice, and Croatia is in the semifinals for the second straight tournament. Morocco, of course, is blazing a new trail for Africa by reaching the semis.
Early odds have Argentina a -133 favorite, while Croatia is +230; France is a major favorite at -182 and Morocco is given little chance at +700.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Weightlifting ● The 2022 IWF World Championships continued in Bogota (COL), with the host nation scoring popular wins in both the men’s and women’s divisions.
In the men’s 67 kg class, Colombia’s Francisco Mosquera, the 2017 World Champion at 62 kg, won his fifth career Worlds medal with a victory at 325 kg, just ahead of Tokyo Olympic champ Lijun Chen (CHN), with Thai Weeraphon Wichuma third (323 kg).
Fellow Colombian Yenny Alvarez was the Worlds silver medalist in the women’s 59 kg class in 2021 and moved up to gold in 2022. She lifted a combined total of 234 kg to beat Tokyo Olympic champ Hsing-chin Kuo (TPE: 232 kg) and Canada’s Tokyo winner at 64 kg, Maude Charron (231 kg).
Indonesia’s Rahmat Erwin Abdullah defended his 2021 Worlds gold at 73 kg by winning the Snatch, Clean & Jerk (with a world-record 200 kg lift) and the overall competition at 352 kg, leading a one-two with countryman Rizki Juniansyah (347 kg) and Kazak Alexey Churkin third (343 kg).
China won its third gold of the championships in the women’s 64 kg class, as 17-year-old Xinyi Pei lifted a combined total of 233 kg. That was well clear of silver medalist Rattanawan Wamalun (227 kg) and Colombia’s Natalia Llamosa (224 kg) in third.
Sunday had two men’s classes, with China’s two-time Worlds medalist Dayin Li winning at 81 kg, lifting 372 kg, ahead of 2017 Worlds 77 kg runner-up Rejepbay Rejepov (TKM: 366 kg) and Woo Jae Kim (KOR: 357 kg).
Venezuela’s Keydomar Vallenilla – the Tokyo Olympic silver winner at 96 kg – took the 89 kg crown, ahead of 2019 Worlds 81 kg bronze medalist Brayan Rodallegas (COL: 381 kg) and Huanhua Liu (CHN: 381 kg). Bulgaria’s Karlos Nasar set a world Clean & Jerk record of 200 kg, but had failed in his three Snatch attempts. American Nathan Damron finished fifth at 370 kg.
The IWF Worlds continue through the 16th.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Alpine Skiing ● The men’s circuit was in Val d’Isere (FRA) with Switzerland’s reigning World Cup champ Marco Odermatt in great form, winning Saturday’s Giant Slalom in 2:03.62, just ahead of Austrian Manuel Feller (2:05.02) and Zan Kranjec (2:05.67). It’s Odermatt’s third win this season in the first six races!
Feller was second again in Sunday’s Slalom, timing 1:38.98, behind Norway’s Lucas Braathen (1:38.14) – who scored his third career World Cup win – with Swiss vet Loic Meillard third (1:39.12).
The women’s tour was in Italy in Sestiere, with a win for the home fans as Marta Bassino took her sixth career World Cup win in the Giant Slalom at 2:28.89, followed by Swede Sara Hector (2:29.00) and Slovenian star Petra Vlhova (2:29.29). American Mikaela Shiffrin was sixth (2:30.85) and Paula Moltzan was eighth (2:30.96).
Swiss star Wendy Holdener – twice an Olympic Slalom medal winner – got her second win of the season in Sunday’s Slalom in 1:56.29, with Shiffrin second (1:56.76) and Olympic Slalom champ Vlhova third (1:56.99). Moltzan was fifth (1:57.36). Shiffrin continues as the overall season leader.
● Archery ● The World Archery Indoor series continued with the Taipei Archery Open, with the home team sweeping the men’s Recurve medals with Chun-Heng Wei defeating Yu-Yang Su in the final, 6-4. Dutch star Gaby Schloesser won the women’s Recurve title with a 6-0 win in the final over Shilin Liu (TPE).
● Biathlon ● Stop no. 2 for the IBU World Cup was in Hochfilzen (AUT), but no change at the top as Norwegian star Johannes Thingnes Boe – the three-time World Cup overall champion – won his third race in a row in the 10 km Sprint.
Boe timed 23:04.0 (0 penalties), with France’s Emilien Jacquelin second (23:47.0/1), and Norway’s Sturla Holm Laegreid (23:50.9/1), who also won his third medal of the season.
On Sunday, Boe made it four in a row in the 12.5 km Pursuit, winning in 33:50.7 (2 penalties), routing the field, with Laegreid second (34:38.6/2) and Jacquelin third (35:04.6/3).
German Denise Hermann took her 10th career World Cup win in the 7.5 km Sprint in 20:07.1 (0), followed by Marketa Davidova (CZE: 20:25.2/1) and France’s Julia Simon (20:27.2/1). It’s Hermann’s fifth Sprint win.
Simon moved up to gold in the 10 km Pursuit on Saturday on 29:56.7 (1), comfortably ahead of Ingrid Tandrevold (NOR: 30:16.3/1) and Davidova (30:24.8/2). Simon now has medals in three straight races and the overall World Cup lead after two of nine stages.
● Bobsled & Skeleton ● The International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation held its first World Push Championships since November 2013, in Lake Placid, New York. The U.S. did well, with wins by Kristopher Horn and Adrian Adams taking the gold in Two-Man (14.94), and the Four-Man (14.55), adding London 2012 men’s 4×400 m relay silver medalist Manteo Mitchell and Martin Christofferson.
American Mystique Ro won the women’s Skeleton competition (15.37), with China’s Zheng Yin taking the men’s victory (14.04).
Lisa Buckwitz (GER) won the women’s Monobob Push title (17.24), with Canada’s Cynthia Appiah second (17.34) and Kaysha Love of the U.S. third (17.39). And Buckwitz then teamed with Neele Schuten to win the Two-Women title at 16.14. Americans Riley Compton and Emily Renna (17.02) were third.
● Cross Country Skiing ● Stop no. 3 on the World Cup tour was in Beitostolen in Norway, with home favorite Pal Golberg, 32, continuing on a tear. He fell during the Classical Sprint on Friday and finished fourth behind France’s Richard Jouve (2:36.37) and Italian Simone Mocellini (2:36.67). But there was no stopping Golberg in Saturday’s 10 km Classical, where he got his ninth career World Cup win in 23:55.6, ahead of Didrik Toenseth (NOR: 24:03.2) and Andrew Musgrave (GBR: 24:05.9). Golberg continues as the seasonal World Cup leader.
Swedish stars had won five of the six World Cup races coming in, but Swiss Nadine Faehndrich won the Classical Sprint in 2:57.31, beating Lotta Undes Weng (NOR: 2:58.24) and Johanna Matintalo (FIN: 2:58.73). Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen won the Classical 10 km on Saturday in 26:56.3, with Norway’s Anne Kjersti Kalvaa second (27:09.0).
● Curling ● Lots of drama at the Grand Slam of Curling Masters in Oakville, Ontario (CAN), with Canada’s 2022 Olympic bronze medalist Kerri Einarson skipping her rink to a 6-5 win in the women’s final against fellow Canadian (and 2017 World Champion) Rachel Homan, and snapping Homan’s 15-match win streak in Grand Slam play. Einarson was down, 4-3, in the sixth end, but produced two points to take the lead and then won it in the ninth after being tied at the end of eight.
Scotland’s Beijing silver medalist Bruce Mouat’s rink faced 2022 Worlds bronze winner Joel Retornaz (ITA) in the men’s final, with Retornaz taking a 4-0 lead with single points in the first four ends and cruising home with a 6-2 victory.
● Cycling ● The UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup circuit was in Gold Coast (AUS) for competition in Park, with the home fans happy to see a win for Olympic gold medalist Logan Martin in the men’s final, over European champ Anthony Jeanjean (FRA) and Rim Nakamura (JPN), with Americans Marcus Christopher and Justin Dowell finishing 4-5.
China went 1-2 in the women’s final, with Jiaqi Sun taking the gold, followed by Huimin Zhou. American Hannah Roberts, the Tokyo Olympic silver medalist, was third and teammate Perris Benegas fourth.
● Fencing ● The FIE World Cup was back in action, with four tournaments: an Epee Grand Prix in Vancouver, men’s Foil in Tokyo, women’s Foil in Belgrade and a Sabre Grand Prix in Orleans.
In Vancouver, the men’s title went to Hungary’s Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Gergely Siklosi, who defeated 2018 World Champion Yannick Borel (FRA) in the final, 15-12. Italy’s Giulia Rizzi won her first career women’s Grand Prix gold, 15-9, over two-time Worlds bronze medalist Man Wai Vivian Kong (HKG).
The women’s Foil in Belgrade (SRB) was a battle of stars, with Italy’s 2018 World Champion Alice Volpi winning the title with a 15-6 final victory over 2022 European Champion Leonie Ebert (GER). Ebert had defeated Tokyo Olympic champ Lee Kiefer of the U.S., 15-13, in the semis; Kiefer and Francesca Palumbo (ITA) shared the bronze.
Kiefer joined with Jackie Dubrovich, Zander Rhodes and Maia Weintraub for a silver in the Team event, falling to Italy in the final, 45-22.
Italy’s 2022 Worlds silver medalist Tommaso Marini won the men’s foil in Tokyo (JPN), defeating France’s Maxime Pauty, a Tokyo Team told medalist in the final, 15-13. The American men’s team of Miles Chamley-Watson, Nick Itkin, Alexander Massialas and Gerek Meinhardt won over Japan, 45-31, for their second Team victory of the season.
The Sabre Grand Prix in Orleans (FRA) saw Italy’s Martina Crisico out-last Tokyo Olympic bronze winner Manon Apithy-Brunet (FRA) in the women’s final, 15-14, for her first Grand Prix gold. Hungarian star – and three-time Olympic champ – Aron Szilagyi won the men’s title, 15-10, over Georgia’s 2022 Worlds bronze medalist Sandro Bazadze.
● Figure Skating ● The ISU Grand Prix season ended with the Final in Turin (ITA), with Japan the big winner, but the U.S. winning a medal in all four events.
Reigning World Champion Shoma Uno (JPN) won the men’s final, leading both the Short Program and the Free Skate and scoring 304.46 points, ahead of teammate Sota Yamamoto, 22, who got a lifetime best of 274.35 to win silver. American teen star Ilia Malinin, now 18, had a rough time with his Short Program (fifth), but rallied to score second in the Free Skate and move up to third overall, scoring 271.94.
Japan also took the women’s title, with Sheffield and Espoo Grand Prix winner Mai Mihara the most steady, finishing second in the Short Program and winning the Free Skate to score 208.17. First-day leader Kaori Sakamoto – the 2022 World Champion – led after the short Program, but multiple falls led to a sixth-place finish in the Free Skate and she dropped to fifth overall. That opened the door for American Isabeau Levito, who was second in the Free Skate and moved from fifth to second overall, scoring 197.23. Worlds silver winner Leona Hendrickx (BEL) got third at 196.35.
Japan’s Worlds silver medalists Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara took the Pairs competition, winning both the Short Program and the Free Skate and scoring 214.58. That was just enough to edge 2022 World Champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier from the U.S. (213.28). Fellow Americans Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe were sixth (162.91).
The Ice Dance title went to Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, the 2021 Worlds bronze medalists, who won both the Rhythm Dance and Free Dance, totaling 215.64. The 2022 Worlds bronze winners, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates were close in second at 211.94, with Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker finishing fifth (198.06).
● Freestyle Skiing ● After a cancellation in November, the FIS World Cup in SnowCross opened in Val Thorens (FRA) on Thursday and Friday, with Beijing Olympic champ Sandra Naeslund looking for her fourth career World Cup title.
She’s off to a good start, winning both races, finishing ahead of Canada’s Sochi 2014 Olympic champ Marielle Thompson in the first event, with Swiss Talina Gantenbein third. In the second event, she won over another Canadian, Hannah Schmidt, with Damiela Maier (GER) third. Naeslund, still just 26, now owns 30 World Cup race wins and has won 10 World Cup races in a row!
The men’s first-race winner was Johannes Rohrweck of Austria, his second career World Cup win, ahead of Tobias Mueller (GER), who won his second-ever World Cup medal. Swiss veteran Jonas Lenherr was third. On Friday, Austria scored again, this time with Mathias Graf, winning his first World Cup medal. France’s Youri Duplessis Kergomard was second – winning his second career World Cup medal – and Swiss Marc Bischofberger was third.
The second World Cup for Moguls was in Idre Fjall (SWE), with American Nick Page scoring his first career win, and an impressive one over Olympic champ Mikael Kingsbury of Canada, 81.06-79.86, with Beijing gold medalist Walter Wallberg (SWE) third (78.98). It was the first Moguls World Cup win by an American since Bradley Wilson in February of 2016!
Kingsbury won Sunday’s Dual Moguls, defeating Filip Gravenfors in the final for his 76th career World Cup victory, with Page finishing third over fellow American Cole McDonald.
The women’s Moguls was a familiar showdown, with Beijing Olympic gold medalist Jakara Anthony (AUS) winning at 81.75, ahead of Japan’s teen star Anri Kawamura (80.020 and France’s 2018 Olympic champ Perrine Laffont (76.08). The U.S. went 4-5 with Olivia Giaccio (74.99) and Elizabeth Lemley (73.49).
The Dual Moguls saw Lemley defeat Kawamura in the gold final, with Laffont finishing third over Anthony. For the 16-year-old Lemley, it was her first World Cup medal and first win!
● Luge ● The third stop on the FIL World Cup tour was in Whistler (CAN) and saw the return to the podium of two-time men’s Olympic champ Felix Loch (GER).
Now 33, Loch compiled a two-run total of 1:39.619 to edge Austrian Wolfgang Kindl (1:39.653) and Italian Dominick Fischnaller (1:39.689). Kindl has now been second in all three races this season and Fischnaller second in the last two. Tucker West was the top American, in fifth (1:39.914).
The Beijing 2022 men’s Doubles silver medalists, Germany’s Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won their first World Cup medal of the season, winning in 1:16.554, ahead of teammates (and three-time Olympic gold medalists) Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt (1:16.605). Season-opener winners Juri Gatt and Riccardo Schopf were third (1:16.740). The best American sled was Zachary Di Gregorio and Sean Hollander in eighth (1:17.021).
The women’s Singles title went to European silver medalist Madeleine Egle of Austria for her third win in a row this season (1:17.137), with 2021 World Champion Julia Taubitz (GER) moving up to second from third in the first two races (1:17.161). American Summer Britcher was seventh (1:17.447).
The new women’s Doubles had Italy’s Andrea Votter and Marion Oberhofer as the winners (1:17.912), completing their move from third in the season opener, to second last week and now, a victory. Austrians Selina Egle and Lara Michaela Kipp, who won the first two races, were second in 1:17.953. Americans Britcher and Emily Sweeney finished fourth (1:18.222).
● Rugby Sevens ● Both the men’s and women’s series were in Cape Town (RSA), with the host South African men and only ones to go undefeated in pool play. In the playoffs, New Zealand stomped the U.S., 33-17, in the semis and Samoa upended the South Africans, 10-7. It was Samoa taking the title, 12-7, for its first tournament win of the season over New Zealand in the final, with the U.S. third, 22-14 winners over South Africa.
In the women’s tournament, the same teams were on the podium, but in a different order from the opener in Dubai (UAE). This time, it was New Zealand defeating Australia in the final, 31-14, while the U.S. women were third again, 20-12 winners over Ireland.
● Short Track ● Korea and Canada led the ISU World Cup in Almaty (KAZ) with wins in five of the eight individual events.
Tae-Sung Kim won the men’s 500 m in 40.898, and teammates Kyung-Hwan Hong (2:13.570) and Ji-Won Park (2:20.340) won the two 1,500 m races. Dutch star Jens van’T Wout broke up a sweep with a 1:26.074 win in the 1,000 m, ahead of 2022 Worlds 1,500 m silver winner Pascal Dion (CAN).
Canada got two wins in the women’s skating, with 2022 five-time Worlds silver medalist Kim Boutin taking the 500 m in 43.020, and Courtney Sarault winning the 1,000 m in 1:32.671. Beijing Olympic 1,000 m champ Suzanne Schulting (NED) won the first 1,500 m in 2:26.253 over Korea’s Olympic champ Min-Jeong Choi (2:26.356) and Belgian Hanne Desmet won the second race in 2:26.692, ahead of Sarault. American Kristin Santos-Griswold was third in the 500 m and fourth in the first 1,500 m; Corinne Stoddard of the U.S. was third in the 1,000 m.
● Ski Jumping ● The World Cup tour was in Titisee-Neustadt (GER) with two competitions for men off the 142 m hill and one for women.
The men’s Friday event was the second win of the season for Slovenia’s Anze Lanisek (272.8), ahead of Poland’s 2019 World Champion Dawid Kubacki (271.5) and Germany’s 2021 Olympic Normal Hill silver winner Karl Geiger (269.2).
On Sunday, Kubacki came on for his third win of the season, scoring 309.7, ahead of Lanisek (284.0) and three-time World Champion Stefan Kraft (AUT: 283.1).
Germany’s Katharina Althaus took her second win and third medal of the season in the women’s 142 m competition, winning at 269.3, ahead of Silje Opseth (NOR: 260.9) and Ursa Bogataj (SLO: 258.1).
● Snowboard ● The second of four Big Air World Cup tournament was on in Edmonton (CAN), with home favorite Jasmine Baird (CAN) taking the women’s victory with 159.50 points for her first career World Cup gold. She easily outdistanced Evy Poppe (BEL: 146.50) and two-time Olympic fourth-placer Reira Iwabuchi (JPN: 143.25).
The men’s Big Air final saw Australia’s Valentino Guseli, 17, score 172.50 to win his first World Cup win. American Chris Corning, the 2019 World Slopestyle champ, was second (172.00) and Canadian Nicolas Laframboise (168.00) third.
The Snowboard Parallel competition program opened in Winterberg (GER) on Sunday, with Alexander Payer (AUT) defeating Tim Mastnak (SLO) in the gold-medal final, with German Stefan Baumeister third.
Sabine Schoeffmann won her fifth World Cup individual title and completed Austria’s sweep with a win in the women’s final over 2019 World Champion Julie Zogg (SUI), and Austria picked up its third medal as Daniela Ulbing got third.
● Speed Skating ● The third stage of the ISU World Cup was in Calgary (CAN) for the first of two meets, with five wins for the leading power in the sport, the Netherlands.
The Dutch won three men’s events, including the 1,000 m by 34-year-old Hein Otterspeer in 1:07.284, with Beijing Olympic silver medalist Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) second in 1:07.307 and American Jordan Stolz fourth in 1:07.344.
Wesley Dijs (NED) won the 1,500 m in 1:42.390, ahead of China’s Zhongyan Ning (CHN: 1:42.957) and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kjeld Nuis (NED: 1:43.027). Beijing 5,000-10,000 m silver medalist Patrick Roest won the 5,000 in 6:05.600; American Ethan Cepuran was eighth in 6:17.717.
Debreuil won the 500 m in 34.017, with Stolz seventh in 34.477. Italy’s Andrea Giovannini took the Mass Start final in 7:53.040.
The two Dutch women’s winners included Jutta Leerdam, the Beijing Olympic silver medalist, in the 1,000 m in 1:12.828, with American Kimi Goetz finishing second in 1:13.532 and teammate (and Beijing bronze medalist) Brittany Bowe was 11th in 1:14.814. Triple Olympic gold medalist Irene Schouten won the Mass Start in 8:33.700, with Mia Kilburg of the U.S. second in 8:33.790.
Korea’s Min-sun Kim won the 500 m in 36.972, with Beijing gold medalist Erin Jackson of the U.S. in 37.451. Olympic 1,000 m champ Miho Takagi (JPN) won the 1,500 m (1:52.549), and Norway’s Ragne Wiklund took the 3,000 m in 3:56.937.
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