Sophie Caldwell claims best Olympic finish for a U.S. female cross-country skier

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Sophie Caldwell may have finished last after falling in the women’s cross-country sprint final, but her sixth-place overall finish is now the best-ever for a U.S. female cross-country skier at the Olympics.

Caldwell was the lone American to escape the quarterfinals after gold medal contender Kikkan Randall, Ida Sargent and Jessie Diggins were all unable to move to the semifinals.

She then finished second in her semifinal heat, narrowly losing a photo finish to Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, to move into the six-person final.

That same heat featured two more potential gold medalists in Denise Herrmann and Marit Bjorgen, but they finished fourth and sixth respectively and with Herrmann missing a “lucky loser” spot, both were knocked out.

Randall previously had the best Olympic mark for U.S. female cross-country skiers with her eighth-place result in this event four years ago at Vancouver.

Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla won the gold medal over Oestberg by .38 of a second, while Slovenia’s Vesna Fabjan got the bronze. NBCOlympics.com’s Alan Abrahamson confirms that Falla’s gold was Norway’s 100th Olympic medal in cross-country skiing.

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WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY – SPRINT FINAL
1. Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR), 2:35.49
2. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR), +0.38 seconds
3. Vesna Fabjan (SLO), +0.40 seconds
4. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen (NOR), +1.82 seconds
5. Iga Ingemarsdotter (SWE), +6.55 seconds
6. Sophie Caldwell (USA), +12.26 seconds

13. Jessie Diggins (USA), Eliminated in quarterfinals
18. Kikkan Randall (USA), Eliminated in quarterfinals
19. Ida Sargent (USA), Eliminated in quarterfinals

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

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