Usain Bolt

IAAF announces candidates for World Athlete of the Year

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Usain Bolt is a candidate for track and field’s athlete of the year award, as expected, but he’s by no means a sure bet to take home the title for the fifth time in six years.

Bolt had a stellar 2013, winning the 100 meters, 200 and 4×100 relay gold at the World Championships and losing one race all season, but he did not break a world record. He graded his season an eight out of 10.

“I won, but I wouldn’t say it was in Usain Bolt fashion,” he said earlier this month.

Bolt won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Kenyan David Rudisha, the world record holder in the 800 meters, won in 2010, when Bolt was hampered by injury and lost a 100 to Tyson Gay.

Who could beat Bolt this year? Here are the other nine men up for the award:

Mohammed Aman (ETH) — World champion, 800 meters
Bohdan Bondarenko (UKR) — World champion, high jump
Ashton Eaton (USA) — World champion, decathlon
Mohamed Farah (GBR) — World champion, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters
Robert Harting (GER) — World champion, shot put
Wilson Kipsang (KEN) — Berlin Marathon winner in world record time
Aleksandr Menkov (RUS) — World champion, long jump
LaShawn Merritt (USA) — World champion, 400 meters
Teddy Tamgho (FRA) — World champion, triple jump

The strongest candidates appear to be Bondarenko, Farah and Kipsang.

Bondarenko was the only male track and field athlete to win a specific event at five Diamond League meetings this season and capture a world championship. The lanky Ukrainian also made several failed attempts to break Javier Sotomayor‘s world record of 2.45 meters from 1993.

Farah was the only man other than Bolt to win two individual world championships in 2013. The Somalian-born, Oregon-trained Brit became the first man to sweep the 5,000 and 10,000 at worlds the year after sweeping the events at the Olympics.

The top candidate, though, could very well be Kipsang. The Kenyan became the only track and field athlete to break a world record this year Sunday, winning the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, three minutes, 23 seconds.

The last time Bolt did not take World Athlete of the Year, the winner, Rudisha, also broke a world record (twice, actually) in 2010.

The women’s winner will likely be Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who, like countryman Bolt, swept the 100, 200 and 4×100 at worlds. She became the second woman to win three golds at a single worlds, joining Allyson Felix.

Fraser-Pryce starred on the Diamond League circuit, too, winning the season titles in the 100 and the 200. She posted the world’s three fastest times of 2013 in the 100 and the two fastest in the 200.

The other women’s candidates:

Valerie Adams (NZL) — World champion, shot put
Abeba Aregawi (SWE) — World champion, 1,500 meters
Meseret Defar (ETH) — World champion, 5,000 meters
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) — World champion, 10,000 meters
Zuzana Hejnova (CZE) — World champion, 400-meter hurdles
Caterine Ibargüen (COL) — World champion, triple jump
Sandra Perkovic (CRO) — World champion, discus
Brianna Rollins (USA) — World champion, 100-meter hurdles
Svetlana Shkolina (RUS) — World champion, high jump

Defar is the only nominee to previously win the award (2007). Felix, whose 2013 was cut short by injury, won the award in 2012 after taking triple gold at the Olympics. If Fraser-Pryce wins, she’ll become the second Jamaican woman to take it, joining Merlene Ottey (1990).

Her biggest competition would appear to be throwers. Adams posted the six farthest throws in the world this year and won the Diamond League season title in the shot put. Perkovic won all seven Diamond League meets this year with the five farthest discus throws in the world.

There’s also Hejnova, who won seven of eight Diamond League races in the 400 hurdles and posted seven of the eight fastest times of the year.

The lists will be narrowed to three finalists for each award after an email poll of track and field officials closes Oct. 27. The winners will be announced Nov. 16 after a council decision.

U.S. track and field athlete’s Olympic bronze medal stolen

Carolina Kostner tops Alina Zagitova in world champs short program

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Italian Carolina Kostner is the surprise leader after the short program at figure skating worlds, topping a woman half her age, Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, by .76 of a point in Milan on Wednesday.

Kostner, 31, tallied a personal-best 80.27 as she eyes a second world title to join her 2012 crown. Kostner earned the 2014 Olympic bronze medal and was fifth in PyeongChang as the oldest woman in the field by more than six years.

She can become the oldest women’s world champion by more than four years if she hangs on in Friday’s free skate, according to reports when Maria Butyrskaya won at age 26 in 1999.

“If I think back 15 years ago, when I started skating internationally, nobody in Italy followed figure skating,” said Kostner, who could retire after worlds. “Now, there’s a venue full of people sharing this passion with me.”

Zagitova, 15 and trying to become the youngest world champion since Tara Lipinski in 1997, struggled on the back end of her triple-triple jump combination. Her score of 79.51 was 3.41 points fewer than her world record at the Olympics.

“I felt, somehow, tight in my body,” Zagitova said through a translator. “I think it was nerves, but I don’t know why.

“I was more nervous here than at the Olympic Games.”

Zagitova, undefeated in her first senior international season, entered as the clear favorite with Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrawing from the event due to a right foot injury.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond are in third and fourth, reversing their final placements from the Olympics. The U.S. women are in seventh (Bradie Tennell), ninth (Mirai Nagasu) and 17th place (Mariah Bell).

Full results are here.

The top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example), or they will be dropped to two spots at the 2019 World Championships. The last time the U.S. had fewer than the maximum three spots at an Olympics or worlds was 2013.

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Tennell, the 20-year-old U.S. champion who led the Americans at the Olympics in ninth, swung her fist after a clean short that scored 68.76 points. She was .18 off her personal best from the Olympic team event.

Nagasu, who was 10th at the Olympics, performed a double Axel rather than the triple she landed in the Olympic team event. She also had her triple-triple combination downgraded to a triple-double.

Bell, the second alternate who made the team after Olympian Karen Chen withdrew and Ashley Wagner passed, struggled on her opening combination, only able to tack on a single jump.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Friday ET)
Mariah Bell (USA) — 2:32 p.m.
Bradie Tennell (USA) — 4:05 p.m.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 4:12 p.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:36 p.m.
Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 5 p.m.
Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 5:08 p.m.
Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 5:16 p.m.

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South Korea women’s hockey team ‘misses’ playing with North Koreans

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Something is missing as the South Korean women’s hockey team prepares for its lower-level world championship tournament next month.

North Koreans.

“Right now, we have some injured players, and having the North players would definitely help our roster have more numbers,” Sarah Murray, the Minnesota native who coaches the South Korean team and coached the unified Korean Olympic team, said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “But we just miss practicing with them. They brought a different level of intensity to practice and it was just fun to have them around.”

South Korea plays at the third-tier worlds in Italy in two weeks in a six-team group with China, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Poland.

It earned a spot in that tournament by topping its group in the fourth tier last year, including a 3-0 win over North Korea at a PyeongChang Olympic venue.

If South Korea tops its group this year, it moves to the second-tier worlds in 2019, one level below the ultimate tournament with the likes of the U.S. and Canada.

Murray initially had mixed feelings about North Koreans joining her team for the Olympics. The joint Korean team went winless in five games, giving up 28 goals and scoring two.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said after their last game in Gangneung, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

North Korea’s team is scheduled to play in the fourth-tier worlds that start next week in Slovenia. A joint North-South team could return for the 2022 Olympics.

“I think that would be good to do it in 2022, to go to the Beijing Olympics, to keep the North and South Korean team,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said at the Olympics, according to the AP. “It is a message of peace, and we hope to continue that. We will try.”

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