Mixed doubles gold medal match to be an all-American affair

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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The U.S. will compete for a gold medal in mixed doubles Sunday’s as the tandem of Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram defeated India’s Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in a semifinal match. After splitting the first two sets, with India taking the first by a score of 6-2 and the Americans winning the second by the same score, Williams and Ram won the match tie-break 10-3.

With a win Sunday, Venus would pass sister Serena for the most Olympic gold medals won by an American tennis player as both have four. A win would also make Venus the first tennis player to have Olympic gold medals in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

The opponents for Williams and Ram will be fellow Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock, who defeated Lucie Hradeka and Radek Stepanek in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (3). This will be the first time since 1924 that two Americans have met for the gold medal in tennis, with that occurring on two other occasions. Of the 20 possible points Mattek-Sands and Sock could have won on their second serve they managed to win 15 of them, producing a much better percentage (75 percent) than that of their opponents (54 percent).

That proved to be the difference, and on Sunday that duo will look to earn their first Olympic gold medals. And if they accomplish that, they’ll deny Venus Williams a record-breaking achievement.

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen

Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

Sifan Hassan

Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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