Ibtihaj Muhammad to be first American to compete in Olympics in hijab; Mariel Zagunis qualifies, too

Mariel Zagunis
Reuters
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Ibtihaj Muhammad will become the first American to compete in a hijab at the Olympics after clinching her spot on the U.S. fencing team for Rio, according to U.S. Fencing and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Muhammad, along with Mariel Zagunis, the most decorated U.S. fencer ever, became the first fencers to clinch berths on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team via national team points standings. They are both sabre fencers.

Muhammad, 30, is ranked No. 7 in the world and reached the 2015 World Championships round of 16, falling to Russian Sofiya Velikaya, who went on to win the title.

In 2012, she tore a ligament in her hand and missed making the London Games, according to the USOC.

Zagunis, also 30, won the individual sabre event at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and is ranked No. 2 in the world behind Velikaya. She is set to become the first U.S. female fencer to compete in her fourth Olympics since Harriet King in 1972, according to sports-reference.com.

At the 2012 Olympics, Zagunis was the U.S. Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer and tearfully lost in the sabre semifinals.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics

Muhammad and Zagunis have the opportunity to win two medals in Rio, as the women’s team sabre event returns to the Olympic program after being cycled out for 2012 (fencing is allowed 10 Olympic events, even though there are traditionally 12 in the international program, meaning a men’s and women’s team event is cut each Olympics).

A third U.S. sabre fencer will later qualify for the Olympic team, plus a fourth fencer that can be used as a replacement athlete in the Olympic team event.

London Olympian Dagmara Wozniak is currently third in the national team standings, in position to claim the third spot.

The full U.S. Olympic fencing team will be named April 11.

MORE FENCING: Zagunis on being flag bearer, top rival, future Olympics

Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
Getty
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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