Madison Kocian, Jordyn Wieber
UCLA

Madison Kocian, Kyla Ross make history with NCAA gymnastics debuts

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UCLA freshmen Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross became the first U.S. Olympic female champions to compete in NCAA gymnastics on Saturday.

Kocian earned Rio gold in the team event and silver on uneven bars. Ross was part of the London Olympic champion team.

On Saturday, Kocian won the all-around (though only four gymnasts did all four events total) in a UCLA dual meet with Arkansas. Kocian and Ross were part of a three-way tie for the top uneven bars score.

Full results are here.

UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field said the Pauley Pavilion crowd of 6,513 was the largest for the first meet of a season in program history.

Those watching included fellow Olympians Simone Biles and Danell Leyva, plus 2012 Olympic champion Jordyn Wieber, who is now a UCLA volunteer assistant coach.

Biles committed to compete for UCLA back in 2014, delaying her enrollment until after the Olympics, but then turned pro in 2015, giving up her NCAA eligibility.

No other U.S. Olympic gold-medal-winning female gymnasts competed collegiately, largely because most reached the Olympics before college and then turned professional, forfeiting NCAA eligibility.

Every member of the Magnificent Seven turned pro. As did 2004 Olympic champion Carly Patterson and 2008 Olympic champions Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson and every other member of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s teams.

Many 2000, 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic female gymnasts who earned silver and bronze medals competed collegiately, some before earning their medals and some after.

Several men’s gold medalists competed collegiately before winning Olympic titles, most recently Barcelona 1992 high bar champion Trent Dimas.

MORE: When will Simone Biles return?

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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