A new nickname for the ‘Fierce Five’

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We need to be honest with ourselves and admit that there is nothing remotely fierce about the ‘Fierce Five.’ They’re all five-foot nothing and could be held off with an extended arm. It’s a really terrible nickname and we need to stop using it. Unfortunately Gymnastics USA has adopted it on their website, so we’re probably already too late.

Still, hear me out. Nicknames used to come with more panache than some alliteration and the ability to count. Football had Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” and Denver’s “Orange Crush,” basketball had Detroit’s “Bad Boys” and L.A.’s “Showtime,” and of course baseball has the “Bronx Bombers.” So let’s think a little harder before we put a final label on these girls, lest their incredible accomplishments enter into history with a sub-par nickname.

“Golden Girls” is dumb and too easy, “America’s Queens” is cliché, and we can think of four people (and their mothers) who wouldn’t like “Gabby and the Girls,” or “Aly and her Allies” – but seriously, those are two awesome names. We could be talked into “Bratz” or “the Freshmen” because they both make sense in context, but they probably wouldn’t be popular, much like the Bratz and most actual freshmen.

So now we’re left thinking outside the box and for our money the best answer is “the Gym Rats.” And sure, we’re almost certain most teen girls don’t like to be called rats in any context, but it’s a positive term for people who work hard and never rest until they achieve their goals and we think these girls fit that bill. Plus, gymnastics takes place in a gym, so it works on a number of levels. Tell us we’re wrong.

So that’s what we’re going with now. Please join us in demanding better nicknames for our proud athletes. And lastly, I’m sorry, but the “Magnificent Seven” is a group of gunslingers led by Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, no matter how amazing Kerri Strug’s vault was in ‘96. Let’s retroactively fix that one, too.

Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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