Shani Davis

Shani Davis wins in Salt Lake City; women’s world record broken (video)

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U.S. speed skaters flexed their muscle with three medals to open the Salt Lake City World Cup on Friday.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shani Davis won the 1500m in 1 minute, 41.98 seconds, his fastest time since his world record 1:41.04 in 2009. Davis, who won gold in the 1000m and silver in the 1500m in Torino and Vancouver, also won two medals last weekend in Calgary.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the U.S. has been the emergence of Brian Hansen, 23, who finished second to Davis in the 1500m with a personal best 1:42.16.

Hansen, who won silver in the team pursuit in 2010 as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic speed skating team, finished third in the 1000m last weekend and appears to be turning into an individual Olympic medal contender.

South Korea’s Lee Sang-Hwa broke her world record in the women’s 500m for the second straight week. She clocked 36.57, easily beating her week-old mark of 36.74, in the first of two sprints this weekend.

China’s Wang Beixing finished second (36.85), earning her third medal of the young World Cup season. American Heather Richardson, who won the 1000m in Calgary, continued her fast start to the season, taking third in 36.97 in a race that normally isn’t her specialty.

Wang and Richardson became the second and third women ever to break 37 seconds.

“For the 500, it’s just you and one other person and you switch lanes on the back stretch, so I really try to focus on if I was to false start, what’s in the race and then I gradually picture myself winning the race just to end on a positive note so that I’m ready for anything during the race,” Richardson said earlier this year.

The first men’s 500m was closer. Japan’s Joji Kato and Canada’s Gilmore Junio tied for first in 34.25. The 23-year-old Junio’s gold was surprising, his second career World Cup medal.

The Netherlands’ Michel Mulder crossed .01 behind Kato and Junio. Mulder’s bronze matched twin brother Ronald’s finish in Calgary.

Americans Mitchell Whitmore (34:29) and Tucker Fredricks (34.30) finished fourth and fifth. Both posted personal bests. Fredricks, a two-time Olympian, won the second 500m last weekend.

“Health-wise, it’s up and down, I’ve been having a back problem the past couple of years so that was hurting me last year and end of this year,” Fredricks said last month. “It’s been a lot better, but I still have to take care of it, keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t act up too much.”

The women’s 3000m ended with a decorated pair battling for gold. Czech Martina Sablikova, who won two gold medals in Vancouver, won in 3:57:79.

Germany’s Claudia Pechstein, a nine-time Olympic medalist who missed the 2010 Games because of a blood-doping ban, finished .01 behind.

Pechstein, who can become the most decorated female Winter Olympian with one medal in Sochi, won gold last week in the 3000m with Sablikova finishing second.

Races continue Saturday at 10:45 a.m. ET and continue through Sunday.

Salt Lake City World Cup Day 1

Women’s 500m Race 1
1. Lee Sang-hwa (KOR) 36.57 WR
2. Wang Beixing (CHN) 36.85
3. Heather Richardson (USA) 36.97
8. Brittany Bowe (USA) 37.32
12. Lauren Cholewinski (USA) 37.60
20. Elli Ochowicz (USA) 38.25

Men’s 500m Race 1
1. Joji Kato (JPN) 34.25
1. Gilmore Junio (CAN) 34.25
3. Michel Mulder (NED) 34.26
4. Mitchell Whitmore (USA) 34.29
5. Tucker Fredricks (USA) 34.30

Women’s 3000m
1. Martina Sablikova (CZE) 3:57.79
2. Claudia Pechstein (GER) 3:57.80
3. Antoinette de Jong (NED) 3:59.49

Men’s 1500m
1. Shani Davis (USA) 1:41.98
2. Brian Hansen (USA) 1:42.16
3. Koen Verweij (NED) 1:42.28
8. Trevor Marsicano (USA) 1:43.02

Poland short track speed skaters turn to Playboy for funding

Maria Sharapova wraps up tennis career after nearly two decades, career Slam

Maria Sharapova
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Maria Sharapova has announced her retirement after a professional tennis career that includes five Grand Slam wins, 36 singles titles and an Olympic silver medal.

Sharapova was only 17 when she won her first major in 2004 at Wimbledon. She won the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 before completing her career Grand Slam in the 2012 French Open. She won the French Open again in 2014.

After moving from Russia to Florida at age 9 to train at the Bollettieri Academy, she made her professional debut just after her 14th birthday in 2001. She graduated to top-level events and majors within two years and reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2003.

In 2004, she upset Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams at Wimbledon and beat Williams again at the Tour Championships.

By 2005, the 6-foot-2 player had claimed the top spot in the world rankings. She remained in the top five for most of the next four years before suffering an injury to her right shoulder that limited her tournament schedule in 2008 and 2009. By 2011, she had reclaimed her status as a top-five player and remained there until 2016.

Her career declined after a positive drug test at the 2016 Australian Open. The substance in question, meldonium, had been given by Russian doctors to many athletes.

An initial suspension of two years was reduced to 15 months, but she wasn’t able to get back to her previous form. She won one more tournament in 2017 and reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 French Open, but she fared poorly in sporadic appearances in 2019. Her last match was a loss to Donna Vekic in the first round of the Australian Open in January.

SEE: Sharapova discusses reduced ban on TODAY

Her meldonium suspension also cost her commercial sponsorships and her role as a UN Development Program ambassador, which she earned with her work to help survivors of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

She was involved in the Olympics as a silver medalist in 2012, losing to Williams in the final, and as one of the final torch bearers in the relay to the 2014 Olympics opening ceremony in her home country.

She’s also third on the all-time WTA earnings list behind Serena and Venus Williams, taking in more than $38m in her career on top of lucrative endorsement deals.

Federica Brignone hopes World Cup rival Mikaela Shiffrin will return soon

Shiffrin and Brignone
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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s prolonged absence from the World Cup Alpine skiing circuit has opened the door for Italy’s Federica Brignone to break the American’s grip on the season title, but Brignone hopes her friend and rival will be back in competition soon.

“I really do hope that she will return soon for herself so she can do again what she loves most,” Brignone said.

Brignone took the season lead from Shiffrin, who has won the last three World Cup overall titles, on Sunday and has a 73-point advantage with 11 of the season’s 40 races remaining. She also leads Shiffrin by 74 points in the giant slalom standings.

READ: Brignone moves into World Cup lead

No Italian woman has won the overall World Cup. Brignone was fifth in 2017 and won the Alpine combined discipline title last season.

Brignone will have a chance to clinch another Alpine combined discipline title and extend her overall lead in her home country this weekend. While some other sports events in Italy have been canceled or otherwise affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the host resort of La Thuile has so far been spared from the virus’ spread.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, the only other skier with a realistic chance of winning the overall trophy, is dealing with a knee injury and might not be able to race this weekend. Vhlova leads Shiffrin by 20 points in the slalom standings.

Shiffrin has not competed since the death of her father Feb. 2, and she has not announced plans to return. She was not on pace to match her astounding 17-win 2018-19 season but still had six wins and had reached the podium in 13 of 19 races.

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