Cesar Cielo, Brazil swim icon, in tears after failing to qualify for Rio Olympics

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Cesar Cielo, Brazil’s most well-known active Olympic champion, failed to qualify for the Rio Games at his nation’s Olympic Trials.

Cielo, 29, finished third overall in the 50m freestyle at Brazil’s two-legged Olympic Trials, missing out by .09 of a second in his final race Wednesday evening at the Olympic venue in Rio de Janeiro. He broke down in tears in a post-race interview.

Cielo clocked 21.91 seconds in the splash-and-dash final behind Bruno Fratus (21.74) and Italo Duarte (21.82).

Cielo came into the final in Olympic qualifying position via his 21.99 time in a morning preliminary heat Wednesday. That swim put him in second place overall behind Fratus, who had clocked 21.50 at the trials’ first leg in December.

But Duarte unleashed a personal best by .26 in the final to overtake Cielo, Brazil’s only Olympic swimming champion, for the second and final Olympic berth in the event.

If Cielo is to compete at the Rio Olympics, Brazil’s swimming federation would have to put him on the 4x100m freestyle relay team.

That appears unlikely. Cielo’s best time in Olympic Trials meets — 48.97 — ranks him No. 7 among Brazilian men, and he reportedly dismissed the notion of joining the relay team in Rio late Wednesday.

Cielo is the 2008 Olympic champion and 2009, 2011 and 2013 World champion and world-record holder in the 50m freestyle but had struggled with injuries, slower times and withdrawing from meets in recent months.

Cielo withdrew during the first Olympic qualifying meet in December and the World Championships in August before he could swim the 50m free at both meets.

Knowing the pressure of Wednesday’s last chance, Cielo said he had trouble sleeping overnight, according to O Globo.

Cielo had already given up hope of Olympic qualifying in the 100m freestyle, clocking unimpressive times in preliminary heats at the December meet and on Monday.

Cielo was Brazil’s top 50m and 100m freestyle swimmer at the last two Olympics.

He took 50m freestyle gold at Beijing 2008, plus bronze in the 100m freestyle in Beijing and bronze in the 50m freestyle at London 2012.

His 50m free world record from 2009 is 20.91.

A winter poll of Rio de Janeiro residents tipped Cielo to carry Brazil’s flag into the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5 over such other Olympic stars as soccer player Neymar.

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

2022 Valencia Marathon
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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.

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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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