Did ski wax conspiracy cause Norway’s cross-country relay woes?

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The Olympics are serious business for every country that competes in them. But some countries have a certain Olympic sport that it considers as Serious Business – capital S, capital B.

As we’re reminded of every four winters, Norway’s Serious Business is in cross-country skiing. The Sochi Games have seen the country surpass the 100-medal mark overall in cross-country alone.

So far in Sochi, they’ve claimed three individual CC golds and seven CC medals altogether.

But fans back home are frustrated as of late after Norway’s men’s and women’s relay teams came away with no medals at all last weekend.

Taking the brunt of the criticism is Norway’s head wax technician, Knut Nystad, who called the medal-less results a “big mystery” in a post-race press conference.

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It’s bad enough that his team lost both events. It’s even worse that Sweden, their arch-rivals in the sport, won the gold in each as well.

So what happened?

Nystad and his fellow wax techs have taken heat for failing to properly prepare the Norwegian’s skis for the Sochi course, which has seen warm conditions in these Games.

And to Nystad, there could be a waxing conspiracy at work, too.

“I wish I had the best products, preferably the stuff the Swedes have,” he said according to the Associated Press. “There are rumors that certain producers favor certain countries. We’ve heard that rumor from two distributors.

“…Norway is seen as the dominant nation,” he added, while not noting which products he said he didn’t have access to. “There’s been talk that Norway has been too dominant. Long-term, that’s good for the sport. But right now, it’s incredibly irritating for us.”

However, those claims have been denied by rival teams and wax makers who say everybody gets access to the same products.

And so, it would appear that the hot seat that Nystad’s sitting on right now could stand to get hotter tomorrow, which will see the men’s and women’s team sprints in classic technique.

Mondo Duplantis, Elaine Thompson-Herah win to end Diamond League season

Mondo Duplantis
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Mondo Duplantis completed one of the greatest seasons in track and field history, under some of the most unusual circumstances for much of the year, by winning the last Diamond League meet of 2020 in Doha on Friday.

Duplantis outdueled pole vault rivals Sam Kendricks and Renaud Lavillenie in the Qatari capital, the site of his last defeat to Kendricks at the 2019 World Championships.

Duplantis, who was raised in Louisiana and competes for his mother’s birth country of Sweden, won on countback with a 5.82-meter clearance.

Back in February, the 20-year-old Duplantis twice raised the world record at indoor meets, ultimately to 6.18 meters. Eight days ago, Duplantis cleared the highest outdoor height in history, taking Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka off the record books.

Full Doha results are here.

While the Diamond League is finished for 2020, one major event in the sport remains this year — the London Marathon on Oct. 4 at 2 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

The two fastest men in history, Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, headline the fields on an adapted looped course.

In other events Friday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri surged to the lead after the bell in a 3000m that included five women who won 2019 World Championships medals across four different events. Obiri clocked 8:22.54 in the non-Olympic event, holding off world 10,000m bronze medalist Agnes Tirop and world 3000m steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech.

Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah won the 100m in 10.87 seconds, eight days after clocking the fastest time in the world this year of 10.85.

Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio, has traded world-leading times with countrywoman and 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m champ Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce the last two seasons.

Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon made a rare 800m start, winning in a personal-best 1:57.68. The only woman to run faster over the last two years is double Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, who is now barred from events from the 400m through the mile unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures.

Aaron Mallett won the 110m hurdles in a personal-best 13.15 seconds, making him the third-fastest American over the last three years behind Grant Holloway and Daniel Roberts. The top three at Olympic Trials next June make the Tokyo team.

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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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