Missy Franklin, Mark Spitz

Missy Franklin wins Laureus Sportswoman of the Year

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Four-time 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin became the youngest winner of a Laureus Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year and the first swimmer to take the honor Wednesday.

Franklin was in attendance in Kuala Lumpur to receive the award from seven-time 1972 Olympic champion swimmer Mark Spitz.

The other nominees were German soccer player Nadine Angerer, Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, Slovenian Alpine skier Tina Maze and American tennis player Serena Williams.

Laureus Awards have been presented annually since 2000 for sports performances in the previous year. Spitz gave a little speech before presenting Franklin her award.

“On a personal note, I’m pleased to be able to present you this award for your outstanding achievements and what you accomplished last year, and, more importantly, it’s incredible that she’s only 18 years old, and what marvelous opportunities in life are before her in the future,” Spitz said.

Franklin earned the award for her unprecedented success in 2013, becoming the first woman to win six gold medals a single World Swimming Championships.

“Oh my gosh,” Franklin said after walking on stage in a green dress. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Franklin, 18, expressed her condolences, thoughts and prayers for those affected by the Malaysia Airlines flight tragedy to start her acceptance speech. She joked that she’s not missing any classes at California, where she’s a freshman, because the school is on spring break.

She also said she met Spitz on an elevator in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Franklin’s parents were in the crowd at the awards show, spending a week in Malaysia together.

“It was just one of the most incredible moments of my life,” Franklin said. “Being here, it’s more than an honor.”

Other award winners:

Sebastian Vettel, Sportsman of the Year
Bayern Munich, Team of the Year
Afghanistan Cricket Team, Spirit of Sport Award
Jamie Bestwick
, Action Sportsperson of the Year
Marie Bochet, Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability
Marc Marquez, Breakthrough of the Year

Michael Phelps will probably swim in meet ‘sometime soon,’ coach says

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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