U.S. gets 2 medals in men’s 100m backstroke (video)

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Matt Grevers leaves the world championships with a 100m backstroke silver medal, one year after failing to make the Olympic team.

Ryan Murphy snagged bronze, one year after bagging Olympic gold. But at least Murphy still has his world record.

China’s Xu Jiayu, who in April swam one hundredth shy of Murphy’s 100m backstroke mark, won the world title in a much slower time on Tuesday.

Xu, 21 and the Rio silver medalist, clocked 52.44 to prevail in Budapest. He edged a charging 32-year-old Grevers by .04 and Murphy by .15. Murphy swam 51.97 to win in Rio and then the world record of 51.85 in the Olympic medley relay.

“You’re never going to be happy when it comes down to a tenth, that’s really my thought process right now,” Murphy said, according to USA Swimming.

But this year has belonged to Xu, who had the fastest time in the world going into this week and then led the field in prelims, semis and the final.

Grevers, the 2012 Olympic 100m back champion, considered retiring from elite swimming after finishing third behind Murphy and David Plummer at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

But Grevers, after becoming a dad, powered through to beat Murphy at the USA Swimming National Championships last month to book a world team berth as the oldest member of the squad.

“Even a month ago I would have been ecstatic if you said I could get second place at worlds, but now that I’m here and I was in the race and I wanted to win,” Grevers said, according to USA Swimming. “I guess I’m just inspired to get back to my best.”

Men’s 100m Backstroke Results
Gold: Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 52.44

Silver: Matt Grevers (USA) — 52.48
Bronze: Ryan Murphy (USA) — 52.59
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 53.03
5. Grigory Tarasevich (RUS) — 53.12
6. Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 53.24
7. Guilherme Guido (BRA) — 53.66
8. Corey Main (NZL) — 53.87

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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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