Bolt wins World Athlete of the Year

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World record sprinter Usain Bolt was named the IAAF world athlete of the year Saturday in Barcelona, beating out American hurdler Aries Merritt and Kenyan distance runner David Rudisha, who both won gold in London. It was the fourth time in five years that the Jamaican took home the honor.

“I really worked hard and I was really focused this year,” Bolt said of his season. “This season was one of my toughest. I had my ups and downs, even though we don’t like to talk about them.”

The other two men didn’t leave empty-handed, though: Merritt earned the Inspiration award after winning gold in the most competitively 110m hurdle field in history, and then breaking the event’s world record a month later at a Diamond League meet.

Rudisha, who was the only other athlete to win top honors over the last five years when he took it in 2010, earned the performance of the year award for becoming the first person to ever dip below 1:41 in the 800m.

American sprinter Allyson Felix earned female athlete of the year honors after she won the 200m and ultimately took home three gold medals from London. She beat out British heptathlete Jessica Ennis and New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams.

“My biggest defeats have come at the Olympic Games,” Felix, who finished with silver in the Athens and Beijing 200m races, explained. “But I decided to rededicate myself even harder and it was a blessing in disguise. I was able to work harder than ever before and finally it all came together.”

Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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