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Behringer, Germany cruise past Zimbabwe in women’s soccer opener

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Melanie Behringer and Melanie Leupolz each picked up a brace as Germany comfortably moved to a 6-1 win over Zimbabwe in both sides’ Olympic opener on Wednesday at Arena Corinthians in São Paulo.

Germany climbs atop Canada for the Group F lead after one match on goal differential, and Zimbabwe sits last behind Australia.

Sara Dabritz and Alexandra Popp also scored for Germany, while Kudakwashe Bhasopo scored the lone goal from Zimbabwe (who also had an own goal).

Up next for Germany is Australia on Saturday, when Zimbabwe meets Canada.

MORE: Highlights/match replay here

It could’ve been a much worse score line for Zimbabwe, as Germany had seemingly countless shots deflect over, go wide, or just plain hit the frame.

Zimbabwe defender Lynett Mutokuto somehow escaped punishment — not even a foul — when her lunging studs caught Germany’s Simone Laudehr on the ankle. Leupolz of Bayern Munich replaced Laudehr.

Germany went ahead soon after, as Dabritz rose high to head Dzsenifer Marozsán’s corner kick toward the back post. Her sixth international goal gave the favorites a 1-0 edge in the 23rd minute.

Anja Mittag missed the frame with the 11th German attempt of the match, as the chances were 11-0 just over a half hour into the proceedings.

Popp made it 2-0 in the 36th minute, taking advantage of a moment’s hesitance from Zimbabwe keeper Lindiwe Magwede to power Leupolz’s cross home with a header.

Rutendo Makore’s quick move from the left ended with a shot that surprised German ‘keeper Almuth Schult, and Bhasopo was on the doorstep to slot home the rebound.

Behringer had been knocking on the door all night, and finally found her goal with a gorgeous free kick to restore the 2-goal cushion.

Her second goal was indicative of Germany’s match, as Berhinger saw her penalty kick saved only to push the rebound underneath the off-balance Magwede. Popp flicked on for Leupolz to score Germany’s fifth goal moments later.

Penny Oleksiak edges Simone Manuel, Regan Smith sizzles again in Knoxville

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Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel nearly duplicated their Olympic gold-medal tie. The Canadian Oleksiak edged Manuel by .03 in the 100m freestyle at a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday night.

Oleksiak clocked 53.41 seconds, coming back from .37 behind Manuel at the 50-meter mark. The two tied for the Rio Olympic title in an Olympic record 52.70 seconds four years ago. Oleksiak was the surprise, a 16-year-old who came into the Games ranked eighth in the world for the year.

Since, Manuel swept the 2017 and 2019 World titles. Oleksiak was sixth at 2017 Worlds and withdrew before the 100m free at 2019 Worlds. She ranked 21st in the world last year. Oleksiak’s time Sunday was her fastest since 2017.

Full Knoxville meet results are here. The Pro Series’ next stop is Des Moines from March 4-7.

In other events Sunday, world-record holder Regan Smith won the 200m backstroke in 2:05.94, the fastest time ever outside of a national championships or major international meet. Smith, 17, achieved the same feat on Saturday in the 100m back, where she also broke the world record at last summer’s worlds.

Madisyn Cox won a matchup of the three fastest U.S. women in the 200m individual medley in 2019. She clocked 2:09.88, beating Alex Walsh by a half-second and Melanie Margalis by .54.

It was Cox’s fastest time since she took bronze at the 2017 World Championships. She missed the 2019 Worlds after failing a 2018 drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin.

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Mikaela Shiffrin among favorites eliminated early in parallel giant slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin was upset in the round of 16 of the first World Cup parallel giant slalom by unheralded Frenchwoman Clara Direz, who went on to earn her first win on Sunday.

Shiffrin had the fastest qualifying time but was bounced in the second round of head-to-head racing in Sestriere by Direz. Direz, 24, came into the day with a best career finish of seventh.

Direz was 16th-fastest in qualifying, 1.02 seconds behind Shiffrin combining times from two runs. Direz edged Shiffrin by .13 in their head-to-head run. Shiffrin appeared to be at a disadvantage being put on the red course, which produced just three winners among 20 one-run matchups.

“It is fun; I think I like the parallel GS actually more than the parallel slalom, but it’s a little bit difficult,” Shiffrin said. “I think there’s still a lot of work we have to do, and FIS [the International Ski Federation] has to do to really make the race as even as it can be because for sure you can see, there’s always a faster course. But today it’s like they’re not even the same course at all. Especially in the last four, five gates on the blue course, you can even see just looking up the hill that it’s straighter than the red course.

“Today I would say it’s a day where the luck [of which course you draw randomly] really plays a role.”

Direz eventually beat Austrian Elisa Moerzinger in the final. Direz was on the blue course for three of her four one-run rounds. Full results are here.

Higher-ranked racers used to be have their choice of courses in the parallel format.

“Maybe that wasn’t fair, either, but I think there must be a way to make it something that is more even, but at the same time, yeah, I don’t really have the answers on how to do that, either,” Shiffrin said. “It’s still in its infancy, this event.”

Shiffrin has a track record of success in parallel slaloms and similar city events, winning five of her last six starts. But the parallel GS proved problematic for the world’s best in slalom.

Swiss Wendy Holdener and Slovakian Petra Vlhova were also eliminated before the quarterfinals after being second- and third-fastest in qualifying. Holdener was also on the red course. Vlhova lost in the round of 32, when skiers were taking runs on both the blue and red courses.

Sestriere marked the last weekend of technical races (slaloms/giant slaloms) until mid-February. The next three weekends feature downhills and super-Gs. Shiffrin is expected to travel to Bansko, Bulgaria, for the first set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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