Kikkan Randall

USA’s Randall finishes 5th in final race before Olympics; Bjoergen wins

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U.S. cross-country gold medal threat Kikkan Randall and her teammates have completed their final FIS World Cup sprint race before the Olympics.

Randall picked up a fifth-place finish to lead the Americans in today’s free technique event at Toblach, Italy, a race that was won by one of her main rivals in Sochi, Norway’s Marit Bjoergen – who also won the ladies 10km event yesterday at Toblach.

Bjoergen topped today’s podium, finishing ahead of German runner-up and overall World Cup sprint standings leader Denise Herrmann, and her Norwegian teammate in third, Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg.

“I think my legs were a little bit tired after yesterday and the training camp in Seiser Alm [Italy],” Bjoergen said in an FIS release. “I didn’t feel very fast in the qualification.

“But each heat I felt a little bit better and was able to advance each time.  I was able to get myself into good position off the downhill in the final to be able to get the win today.”

For highlights of Bjoergen’s win, check out this clip from Universal Sports.

It was a banner day for Norway all around, as in addition to Bjoergen’s victory in the women’s sprint, the men’s sprint was won by a Norwegian, Ola Vigen Hattestad. His teammate, Eirik Brandsdal, was second, followed by another German, Jozef Wenzl, in third.

Despite losing out to the Norway duo, Wenzl did manage to take the overall World Cup sprint lead over Italy’s Federico Pellegrino, who finished 16th today on home ground. Simi Hamilton, entering his second Olympics, finished 14th to lead the American men.

As for Randall, it would appear that all systems are indeed a go on her end as she now turns her attention to Sochi:

A second American woman cracked the Top 20, with Sophie Caldwell finishing 19th. Jessie Diggins, who won the 2013 World Championship in the team sprint with Randall, was 28th.

FIS World Cup – Women’s Free Sprint at Toblach
1. Marit Bjoergen (NOR)
2. Denise Herrmann (GER)
3. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR)
4. Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR)
5. Kikkan Randall (USA)
19. Sophie Caldwell (USA)
28. Jessie Diggins (USA)
29. Holly Brooks (USA)
33. Ida Sargent (USA)
37. Sadie Bjornsen (USA)
41. Caitlin Gregg (USA)

FIS World Cup – Men’s Free Sprint at Toblach
1. Ola Vigen Hallestad (NOR)
2. Eirik Brandsdal (NOR)
3. Jozef Wenzl (GER)
4. Paal Golberg (NOR)
5. Teodor Peterson (SWE)
14. Simeon Hamilton (USA)
17. Andrew Newell (USA)
35. Torin Koos (USA)

Paralympic track star Tatyana McFadden named to Sochi Nordic skiing team

Michael Phelps eyes at least three events at Olympic Trials

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps expects to swim the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m individual medley at the U.S. Olympic Trials in four weeks, but he will be entered in more events, his coach, Bob Bowman, confirmed Tuesday.

Phelps plans to swim just those three events at the June 26-July 3 trials in Omaha, according to Sports Illustrated.

However, Phelps could also swim the 100m and 200m freestyles at the Olympic Trials to post a time fast enough not necessarily to make the Olympic team (top two at trials) but to earn a place on the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays for a fourth straight Games.

“I think he needs to put up a time, sometime, to let us know that he’s on that level [in the 100m and 200m freestyles],” Bowman, the head coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s team and thus an important relay selector, said two weeks ago.

Bowman said Tuesday that Phelps will be entered in more than the 100m and 200m fly and 200m IM at trials. But Phelps could scratch out of any event before finals or before preliminary heats.

Bowman said Phelps could theoretically try to make the Olympic team in more than three individual events.

As for those main three, it’s no surprise. Those are the three events Phelps focused on at his biggest meet of 2015, the U.S. Championships in August. Each time, he clocked the fastest time in the world for the year, making him the Olympic favorite in all three.

If Phelps intends to swim three individual events at the Rio Games, he’s looking at his thinnest Olympic slate since his debut at the Sydney 2000 Games at age 15 (one event, 200m butterfly, fifth place).

Phelps swam five individual events each in 2004 and 2008 and four in 2012, dropping the 200m freestyle for the London Games and the 400m individual medley altogether after finishing fourth in that event in London.

Phelps will race this weekend at what is expected to be his final pre-trials tune-up meet in Austin, Texas. He is entered in the 100m and 200m free, the 100m butterfly and the 200m IM.

MORE: U.S. swim stars spread across three Olympic Trials tune-up meets

World champion wrestler from Russia cedes Olympic spot after brawl

Viktor Lebedev
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MOSCOW (AP) — A two-time wrestling World champion said Tuesday he is giving up his place at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after a brawl marred a Russian qualifying tournament.

Viktor Lebedev was competing against Ismail Musukayev in a semifinal bout at the Russian nationals on Friday when Musukayev was angered by refereeing calls against him and shoved Lebedev.

Musukayev’s supporters and coaches charged into the ring, prompting a scuffle that was broken up by riot police (video here). Wrestlers from Musukayev’s home region of Dagestan then boycotted the tournament in protest at the standard of refereeing, causing a nationwide scandal.

Lebedev told local news outlet News.Ykt on Tuesday that he is withdrawing from the Olympic team as “a matter of honor” because he feels officials gave him favorable calls in front of his home crowd in the Siberian city of Yakutsk.

“Let’s say I win Olympic gold. I don’t doubt that I could win it,” he said. “Even if I were to climb onto that podium with the gold, I wouldn’t have those emotions. I wouldn’t be especially happy that my dream had come true.”

Lebedev said Musukayev had been wronged but insisted his opponent had been wrong to start the brawl. “You can’t behave that way regardless of how the judging goes for you,” he said.

Lebedev can be replaced on the team by another Russian in the 57kg class, though he was the favorite to go to the Rio Olympics after winning World Championships bronze and European Games gold last year.

Wrestling is traditionally a source of great pride for many of Russia’s ethnic minority groups, including in Lebedev’s Arctic home region of Yakutia and in Dagestan, a province in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus otherwise known for its Islamist insurgency.

Competition for a place on the Russian national team, one of the world’s best, is fierce and in recent years various domestic competitions have been marred by brawls between fans from different regions and ethnic groups.

Earlier this month, a wrestler from Chechnya hit his opponent after the end of the bout and some of his team, including a man with a pistol, rushed into the ring in support.

MORE: Eight Russians positive in 2012 Olympic retests