Brittany Bowe

Brittany Bowe, Shani Davis win at Astana World Cup

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U.S. speed skaters were spectacular on fast North American ice to start the World Cup season, but how they fared on slower European ice, beginning this weekend, would offer a more accurate gauge of their Olympic prospects.

Brittany Bowe and Shani Davis continued to win in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Saturday.

The four-time Olympic medalist Davis took a 1000m in 1 minute, 8.66 seconds, beating surprise Italian Mirko Giacomo Nenzi by .24 of a second. Nenzi had never before finished in the top 10 of a World Cup 1000m. The race was missing Davis’ top competition so far this season, the Netherlands’ Kjeld Nuis and American Brian Hansen.

Davis won his third straight 1000m to start the season. He could become the first U.S. man to win a single Winter Olympic event three straight times if he captures the 1000m in Sochi.

Davis was fifth in the 1500m on Friday after taking second and first at the first two 1500m races of the season in Calgary, Alberta, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bowe won the 1500m in 1:57.28, nearly five seconds slower than her silver medal-winning time on fast Salt Lake City ice two weeks ago. The Floridian had finished 10th and 11th in earlier 500m races Friday and Saturday.

It must be noted that Bowe beat a field that did not include any woman who had made a World Cup or World Championships 1500m podium in the last two years.

South Korean world record holder Lee Sang-Hwa won her sixth straight 500m, in 37.32, to open the season, while world sprint champion Heather Richardson took fifth.

Russians Artyom Kuznetsov and Dmitry Lobkov went one-two in the men’s 500m, separated by .01 of a second. Two-time U.S. Olympian Tucker Fredricks was sixth.

The Astana World Cup concludes Sunday.

Astana Day 2

Women’s 500m — Race 2
1. Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR) — 37.32
2. Jenny Wolf (GER) — 37.66
3. Olga Fatkulina (RUS) — 37.81
5. Heather Richardson (USA) — 38.01
11. Brittany Bowe (USA) — 38.47
12. Lauren Cholewinski (USA) — 38.53
14. Elli Ochowicz (USA) — 38.60

Men’s 500m — Race 1
1. Artyom Kuznetsov (RUS) — 34.85
2. Dmitry Lobkov (RUS) — 34.86
3. Ronald Mulder (NED) — 34.87
6. Tucker Fredricks (USA) — 35.02
10. Mitchell Whitmore (USA) — 35.11

Women’s 1500m
1. Brittany Bowe (USA) — 1:57.28
2. Yuliya Skokova (RUS) — 1:57.70
3. Brittany Schussler (CAN) — 1:57.78
10. Jilleanne Rookard (USA) — 1:59.17

Men’s 1000m
1. Shani Davis (USA) — 1:08.66
2. Mirko Giacomo Nenzi (ITA) — 1:08.90
3. Michel Mulder (NED) — 1:09.02
13. Trevor Marsicano (USA) — 1:09.94
14. Mitchell Whitmore (USA) — 1:10.05

Speed skating season storylines

Marc Leishman will miss Olympics due to wife’s health, Zika

Marc Leishman
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Australian golfer Marc Leishman will miss the Rio Olympics due to his wife’s health.

“Many of you may know that last April my children and I almost lost my wife, Audrey, to toxic shock syndrome,” Leishman said in a statement. “Since then Audrey has been prone to infection and is far removed from 100 percent recovery of her immune system.

“We have consulted with Audrey’s physician and due to her ongoing recovery from toxic shock and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus, it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate.

“I missed playing in the 2015 Masters tournament to be at her side when she was originally stricken and I cannot risk placing her health in jeopardy.

“The Masters and the Olympics are the two biggest tournaments to which a golfer can be invited; however, my family will always come before golf.”

Leishman, 32 with one PGA Tour win, joined the projected Olympic field when countryman Adam Scott said last month that he would skip Rio.

World No. 1 Jason Day is assured one of two Olympic spots for Australian men when the 60-man field is determined based on July 11 world rankings.

With No. 7 Scott and No. 35 Leishman out, the next-best Aussie is No. 63 Marcus Fraser.

Three more major champions — Vijay Singh, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel — also said in April they would not compete in Rio.

Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

MORE: Australia Olympic legend blasts Adam Scott

Rory McIlroy worried Olympic golf may be done after 2020

Rory McIlroy
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Rory McIlroy believes golf may not remain in the Olympics after 2020 following a string of major champions announcing they will skip the sport’s return at the Rio Games.

“Because of how [Olympic golf is] being approached in golf circles … I’m not sure if we’re going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after [Tokyo 2020],” McIlroy said ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.

In 2009, the International Olympic Committee voted to re-add golf and rugby to the Olympic program for the 2016 Olympics, with a review in 2017 if they would remain for the 2020 Olympics.

In 2013, Tokyo was elected host city for the 2020 Olympics with a plan that includes golf.

Beyond 2020, golf does not yet have a place in the Olympics. Its chances for the 2024 Olympics could come into focus when that host city is chosen in September 2017.

McIlroy, ranked No. 3 in the world, has repeated he will play for Ireland in the first Olympic golf tournament since 1904 in Rio in August.

Fellow major champions Adam ScottLouis OosthuizenCharl Schwartzel and Vijay Singh said last month they will not play in the Rio Olympics.

MORE: Golf Channel’s Olympic broadcast schedule