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For Steven Holcomb: U.S. gets 3 medals in World Cup bobsled opener

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Some of Steven Holcomb’s ashes are scattered at Mount Van Hoevenberg, the track where the longtime U.S. bobsled driver dominated like no other for about the last two decades. His initials are on the speedsuits that his teammates will wear this season. His words still echo in their heads.

He’s gone.

He’s clearly not forgotten.

For the first time in nearly two decades, the U.S. raced in a World Cup bobsled competition without Holcomb — the three-time Olympic medalist — on the roster.

They took three of the six available medals Thursday, a silver in women’s bobsled from Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs, silver in two-man from Nick Cunningham and Ryan Bailey and bronze from Codie Bascue and Carlo Valdes.

“We miss him every day,” said brakeman Steven Langton, who unretired a year ago with hopes of racing with Holcomb this season and was sixth with driver Justin Olsen in his first World Cup since 2014. “I miss him every day. We’re going to do the best job we can to honor him throughout the season.”

Holcomb died unexpectedly in his sleep in May at his dorm room inside the Olympic Training Center, where USA Bobsled and Skeleton has its offices and where many sliders live, lift and sleep when they’re in Lake Placid.

Holcomb won the two-man World Cup gold at Lake Placid a year ago, and Cunningham nearly followed suit Thursday.

He had to settle for second, one spot behind Germans Nico Walther and Christian Poser.

Walther and Poser, the husband of U.S. women’s bobsled pilot Jamie Greubel Poser, finished two runs in 1 minutes, 51.92 seconds. Cunningham and Bailey — a U.S. Olympian in track at the London Games — finished in 1:52.03. Full results are here.

“I needed this to, I don’t want to say resurrect my career, but last year was so hard mentally, emotionally,” said Cunningham, who matched his best World Cup finish after spending some of last season racing in the lesser international tiers. “I regained the love of the sport.”

Bascue got on a World Cup podium for the first time.

“Amazing feeling,” Bascue said. “A little bit of an emotional race, my first race without Holcy, but I took that and kind of used the emotion and it’s nice to be on the podium for the first time.”

It was far from a first podium trip for Kaillie Humphries, who went to bobsled school in Lake Placid and clearly paid attention in class.

The two-time reigning Olympic champion from Canada got her season off to a winning start, teaming with Melissa Lotholz to win gold at Mount Van Hoevenberg in the World Cup women’s bobsled season-opener. It was the fourth time Humphries won in Lake Placid, where she drove a bobsled for the first time in 2006 and quickly became one of the sport’s stars.

“To beat the Americans on any track is difficult,” Humphries said.

Humphries’ two-run time was 1:54.40. She edged longtime friend and rival Meyers Taylor, who paired with Gibbs to finish in 1:54:43 — with a start record in there as well.

Germany got the bronze, with Stephanie Schneider and Lisa Marie Buchwitz finishing in 1:54.60 and nipping Greubel Poser and Aja Evans of the U.S. by .01. Full results are here.

“I love this track just as much as anybody,” said Humphries, whose hair was dyed in the colors of the South Korean flag in a nod to the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics. “I’ve been driving it for numerous years and I’m really happy to do it justice today.”

It was the 13th time that Humphries and Meyers Taylor finished first and second in a World Cup, world championship or Olympic competition. Humphries now has won seven of those, Meyers Taylor six.

“She had a good day. I didn’t have a great day. That’s kind of how it goes,” Meyers Taylor said. “I don’t expect this to be the trend, though.”

Greubel Poser, who won at Lake Placid each of the last two seasons, settled for fourth on her 34th birthday.

“So much went into preparing for this season, it was different for a lot of different reasons for us,” Evans said. “I think to get over this first hurdle with this first race in Lake Placid, it was big just to get it out of the way. Now we can move on and keep pursuing PyeongChang.”

Earlier Thursday, Austrian Janine Flock won the World Cup skeleton season opener in Lake Placid by .26 over Canadian Elisabeth Vathje.

Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain was third, .33 behind, followed by Olympic bronze medalist Elena Nikitina of Russia.

The top American was three-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender in ninth, sandwiched between the last two world champions from Germany — Jacqueline Loelling and Tina HermannFull results are here.

Races conclude in Lake Placid with two-man bobsled and men’s skeleton Friday.

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MORE: U.S. bobsledders remember Steven Holcomb as Olympic season starts

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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