The ultimate Olympic World Cup field

Olympic World Cup
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The Olympics and World Cup are bonded in many ways — global sporting events, national pride, even the sport of soccer, which made its Olympic debut in 1900, 30 years before the first World Cup.

With that and the Olympic NCAA Tournament bracket in mind, which 2014 World Cup nations would fare best in the Olympic arena? Here’s what the eight groups would look like if countries were represented by their greatest Olympians:

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Group A

Croatia, whose athletes competed under the Yugoslavian flag until 1992, looks strong here with Kostelic, the only woman to win four Alpine skiing medals and three golds at a single Winter Games.

Brazil, the host of the next Olympics in 2016, boasts a sailor who won medals at the last five Olympics. Mbango is Cameroon’s only individual Olympic champion, winning triple jump gold in 2004 and 2008. Mexican Capilla, a four-time medalist, never finished worse than fourth in six Olympic diving events.

Group B

Australia holds the biggest star power with Thorpe, the world’s greatest swimmer before Phelps grabbed the mantle and a nine-time medalist.

Wuest won five medals in Sochi, more medals than any other athlete. Spain’s Cal has entered five Olympic canoe events since 2004 and never finished lower than second. Massu is an oddity, never making it past a Grand Slam fourth round yet being Chile’s only two-time Olympic champion, both in 2004.

Group C

Japan would be the favorite here with Kato, a 12-time medalist and the last gymnast to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles in 1968 and 1972.

Greece, the home of the Olympic movement, has the Albanian-born Dimas. Dimas is the only weightlifter to win, together, three Olympic golds and four overall. Urrutia, one of two Colombians to win Olympic gold, threw the discus and shot put in 1988 but didn’t win her gold until the first Olympic women’s weightlifting competition in 2000. Tiacoh won Cote d’Ivoire’s only Olympic medal, a 400m silver in 1984.

Group D

Coe, a four-time 1980s middle distance medalist for Great Britain, is the most recognizable name but perhaps not the most accomplished in this tight group.

Take Italy and Mangiarotti, who entered 14 Olympic events and won medals in 13 of them, debuting at 17 and running through age 41. Poll, a three-time freestyle swimming medalist over 1996 and 2000, is one of two Costa Rican Olympic medalists. Her sister is the other. Uruguay’s only Olympic golds came in soccer in 1924 and 1928, with Andrade among the stars of those squads.

Group E

France highlights the group with Killy, the last man to win three Alpine golds at a single Winter Games.

Perez, a two-time medal-winning race walker, is Ecuador’s only Olympic medalist. Swiss Ammann is the only ski jumper with four individual Olympic titles. Honduras has zero Olympic medals. Bengtson, a striker on its World Cup squad, scored all three Honduran group-stage goals at London 2012, helping it to the quarterfinals.

Group F

If there’s a “Group of Life,” this is it. Perhaps Argentina leads it with midfield maestro Mascherano, who was on its 2004 and 2008 Olympic title teams.

Bosnia and Herzegovina hasn’t won any medals since its independence from Yugoslavia. Delibasic won silver and gold for Yugoslavia in 1976 and 1980 but was born in the Bosnia and Herzegovina area and reportedly named Bosnia’s Sportsman of the Century. Rezazadeh, the Iranian Hercules, won Olympic heavyweight titles in 2000 and 2004. Ajunwa, who made Nigeria’s 1991 Women’s World Cup squad, is its only individual event Olympic champion (1996 long jump).

Group G

If only the U.S. World Cup team had a presence as powerful as Phelps on this list. The swimmer is of course the most decorated Olympian of all time in golds (18) and total medals (22).

Germany’s Fischer is the greatest Olympic kayaker of all time with 12 medals. No Ghanaian has won gold, but Quartey came the closest with a light welterweight silver in 1960. Mota won Olympic marathon gold (1988) and bronze (1984) for Portugal, in addition to several other major world marathons.

Group H

This could be considered the Group of Death. It starts with Russia’s Latynina, who held the record for most Olympic medals (18) before Phelps broke it in 2012. She was born in Ukraine and competed for the Soviet Union but considers herself Russian now.

Van Innis won twice as many golds (six) and medals (10) than any other Belgian and is the most decorated archer in Olympic history. Kim won six Olympic archery medals from 1988 through 2000, taking a break to have two children in between. Morceli has just one Olympic medal, gold in the 1996 1500m, but was the world’s greatest miler of the early 1990s.

Flopping at World Cup impresses U.S. Olympic diving coach

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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