Sarah Robles
USA Weightlifting

U.S. ends world weightlifting title drought; transgender lifter gets silver

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Sarah Robles, who in Rio earned the first U.S. Olympic weightlifting medal since 2000 (super heavyweight bronze), on Tuesday became the first American to win a world title since 1994.

The 29-year-old lifted two fewer kilograms than she did in Rio — a total of 626 pounds between the snatch and the clean and jerk in Anaheim, Calif.

The last American to win a world title was Robin Byrd in 1994.

New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard took silver with 606 total pounds, the first-ever world medal for her country.

Hubbard, 39, previously competed in men’s weightlifting as Gavin Hubbard, according to Reuters, which reported that Hubbard continued to decline interviews Tuesday, as she has for much of this year.

“She stayed away because she was embarrassed, probably,” Robles’ coach, Tim Swords, said, according to Reuters. “When Sarah beat Hubbard in the snatch, we were congratulated by multiple coaching staffs. Nobody wanted her to win.”

Hubbard may be the first openly transgender athlete to compete at a world championships in an Olympic sport. No openly transgender athlete has competed at an Olympics, though Olympic rules allow it.

Robles, Hubbard and others benefited from the absence of countries banned for doping issues, like weightlifting powers China and Russia, and North Korea, another strong lifting nation, not sending a team.

Chinese and North Korean lifters won gold and silver in the super heavyweight division in Rio.

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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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