Tina Maze

Tina Maze nears history; Lindsey Vonn emotional after DNF (video)

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Slovenia’s Tina Maze won her third medal in as many races at the World Championships, taking gold in the super combined to move closer to history in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Monday.

Lindsey Vonn straddled a gate in her slalom run, taking her out of the standings after she was seventh in the morning downhill. Vonn, who said earlier Monday she was feeling knee soreness, could race in one more event at Worlds, the giant slalom Thursday. Earlier, Vonn won bronze in the super-G and was fifth in the downhill.

“I’m just really disappointed,” an emotional Vonn said on NBCSN. “It’s a hometown World Championships, and I really tried as hard as I could. I came up short, and that’s disappointing for myself, for my family and for my fans. I just didn’t figure out this hill at all. I’m disappointed today because I actually skied really good slalom the last two days [in training]. I thought I had a chance at getting a medal.”

Vonn had not skied slalom in competition in more than two years. She did not finish the combined at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics and the 2007, 2009 and 2011 World Championships.

“I have one more chance in the GS, and I’ll do my best there,” Vonn said. “A lot of expectations, and I tried my best to live up to them, but I just didn’t.”

Maze, 31, prevailed by .22 of a second combining downhill and slalom runs Monday. Austrians were second, third and fourth. Nicole Hosp, also 31, earned silver, just as she did in Sochi. Michaela Kirchgasser held off super-G champion Anna Fenninger for bronze. (full results here)

Maze skied the fastest morning downhill run and the fifth fastest afternoon slalom run. She added this title to her downhill gold and super-G silver from last week and celebrated with a cartwheel in the finish area.

“It was really a lot of pressure on me today,” Maze, who skis with the Slovenian national anthem’s words on her suit, said in a press conference. “I felt that I have to do this. It’s not easy to race like that. I was really nervous before the slalom.”

Maze, the World Cup overall leader who may retire after this season, is hoping to become the first woman to win five individual medals at a single World Championships. Only one man has done it — Norway’s Lasse Kjus in 1999.

“I’m more than halfway, so three is done, missing two more,” Maze told NBC Sports’ Carolyn Manno. “I hope I can do it, for sure. It’s not easy.”

What are Maze’s chances in the two remaining individual events? She’s slated for the giant slalom Thursday and the slalom Saturday.

In the giant slalom, Maze is ranked fifth in this season’s World Cup standings. But she dug out of a hole after placing 22nd in the season-opening giant slalom on Oct. 25 with finishes of fourth, first and seventh in the three most recent giant slaloms. She’s also the Sochi Olympic giant slalom champion.

In the slalom, Maze is ranked third in the World Cup standings with podium finishes in three of the six competitions this season. Slalom is the only discipline in which Maze has never won a World Championships medal.

The World Championships continue with the mixed-gender team event Tuesday. That will be Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin‘s debut at these Worlds.

World Championships broadcast schedule

A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

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Another Jesse Owens Olympic gold medal being sold

Jesse Owens
AP
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One of Jesse Owens‘ four 1936 Olympic gold medals will be put up for sale next week by Goldin Auctions.

Owens triumphed in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany at the Berlin Games, taking the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump.

This could be the second Owens gold to be sold in recent years, after one was auctioned in 2013 for $1,466,574, the highest price ever for a piece of Olympic memorabilia.

Two more were said to be put up for auction in 2017, but there are no widespread reports of sales actually happening.

This gold medal was gifted by Owens to John Terpak, a U.S. Olympic weightlifter in 1936 and 1948, after Terpak helped Owens garner speaking engagements, according to Goldin. The previous gold that sold for $1.4 million was gifted by Owens to a different friend.

Terpak died in 1993 and passed the medal on to his son and daughter, who consigned it to Goldin.

The medal is part of Goldin Auctions’ Holiday Auction from Monday through Dec. 7 on GoldinAuctions.com. The listings also include Tommy Lasorda‘s autographed lineup card from the 2000 Olympic baseball gold-medal game.

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Jesse Owens Olympic Gold Medal Jesse Owens Olympic Gold Medal