Adeline Gray, Helen Maroulis win World Wrestling Championships

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Two U.S. women’s wrestlers won World Championships in a 100-minute span in Las Vegas on Thursday night, snowballing more hope that the nation can win its first Olympic women’s wrestling gold medal in Rio de Janeiro next year.

Adeline Gray captured her second straight World title in the 75kg division, third World title overall and fifth straight Worlds medal. Gray became the second U.S. woman to win back-to-back World titles and the second to earn medals five straight years.

Helen Maroulis earned her maiden title at 55kg, following silver in 2012 and bronze in 2014. She didn’t surrender a point in her four matches Thursday.

Gray and Maroulis share much more.

Gray, 24, began wrestling at age 6, when her father taught her basic moves that she still uses, more or less. Gray honed her skills grappling with boys in Colorado high school competition and overcame a defeat in the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials final, followed by 30 minutes of crying with a younger sister, to rise to a No. 1 world ranking in her division before she prevailed Thursday.

“I didn’t think that anybody was really capable of beating me,” Gray, who scored 13 straight points to win her gold-medal match 13-2 over China’s Zhou Qian, said in a press conference, still wearing her blue singlet. “It would have been more me beating myself.”

Maroulis, 23, began wrestling at age 7 because her little brother needed a partner. She, too, lost in the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials final, and, like, Gray, still went to the Olympics to help train the women who did make the Olympic team. Maroulis used the oh-so-close experience to catapult to No. 1 in the world rankings going into Vegas as well.

“She’s a rising star,” U.S. women’s wrestling coach Terry Steiner told media in Las Vegas. “Today, she rose.”

Gray and Maroulis both championed the progression of women’s wrestling after their titles Thursday.

“We have what, seven out of 50 states with state-sanctioned women’s [high school] wrestling programs,” said Maroulis, who says she prays before matches not to win but to wrestle without fear. “Clearly there’s a dire need for there to be more support and more opportunities for the girls.”

Before Thursday’s finals session, Steiner told a room full of USA Wrestling women’s alumni social attendees that Gray and Maroulis would both win later that night.

“We need heroes that young kids can look up to,” Steiner said after the duo proved him prophetic. “We have a couple leaders right now that can do that.”

Three U.S. women’s wrestlers have combined for five World titles in the last four years — Gray, Maroulis and Elena Pirozhkova.

In the same span, U.S. men’s wrestlers have won two World titles (both by Jordan Burroughs, and the men have the benefit of Greco-Roman weight classes, which woman do not have, plus more freestyle divisions). Burroughs wrestles at Worlds on Saturday.

However, U.S. men have won at least one Olympic wrestling gold medal at the last 10 Olympics, excluding the boycotted Moscow 1980 Games.

Women’s wrestling was added to the Olympic program in 2004, and Americans have won four medals in three Games, but zero golds.

In 2016, women’s wrestling will jump from four Olympic divisions to six with men’s freestyle and men’s Greco-Roman cutting from seven to six each.

The sport’s international federation made those changes as part of its bid to remain in the Olympics in 2013, and its president spoke of more gender balance in a Thursday press conference, but not until after the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Japan is the gold standard in women’s wrestling, a label Maroulis will have to fight in Rio de Janeiro, should she prevail at the Olympic trials in Iowa City in April.

That’s because all of Maroulis’ World medals have come at 55kg, which is not an Olympic weight class. She’ll have to descend to 53kg for 2016. That division is owned by Japan’s Saori Yoshida, who has won 15 straight global titles (Olympics/Worlds) dating to 2002 (though she, too, was 55kg, until 2014).

In Rio, Yoshida and teammate Kaori Icho could join Al Oerter (discus), Carl Lewis (long jump) and Denmark’s Paul Elvstroem (sailing) as the only Olympians to win gold medals in the same individual event at four straight Olympics, though Yoshida and Icho’s weight divisions have shifted slightly, and Elvstroem’s sailing events were a little different, too.

Michael Phelps could also join the club if he wins the 200m individual medley or 100m butterfly in Rio.

Gray and Maroulis both lapped the mats in Las Vegas wearing American flags following their victories, but does it compare to the Olympic stage, neither of which has experienced other than as spectators?

“Those are two separate things,” Gray said.

MORE WRESTLING: Rulon Gardner wants to get his gold medal back

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Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail at world championships, has surgery

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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail at the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title, and underwent leg surgery as a result.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, who had a left leg laceration, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken to a hospital in Bologna, Italy, about 25 miles from the worlds host of Imola.

“We are relieved that this crash was not worse than what it could have been,” USA Cycling chief of sport performance Jim Miller said in a press release. “While this crash is distressing, Chloe is young and a fighter. With Chloe’s determination, we know she will be back riding before we know it. For now, we want her to focus on healing.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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