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Speed skating world records fall in Salt Lake City

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KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Japan’s Nao Kodaira and Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen broke world records on the final day of a World Cup speed skating event at the Utah Olympic Oval on Sunday.

Kodaira finished in 1 minute, 12.09 seconds in the women’s 1000m, her third race victory in three days. U.S. Olympian Brittany Bowe held the previous record of 1:12.18 from 2015.

The Dutch-born Bloemen finished in 6:01.86 in the men’s 5000m.

Dutch skater Sven Kramer held the previous record of 6:03.32 set in 2007 but was not in Sunday’s race on “The World’s Fastest Ice,” preferring to stay in Europe to train for the Olympic Trials.

“I always looked up to that old world record,” Bloemen, who took Kramer’s 10,000m world record in 2015, said, according to the International Skating Union. “That was such an epic race and Sven was so angry. His 6:03 was so much faster than all the ties that were ever skated, and even after that race no one actually has come close.”

Now marks the first time since 1998 that no Dutch man holds the world record in an individual Olympic event. Kramer is undefeated internationally over 5000m since 2012, according to Schaatsstatistieken.nl.

“I think I would have beaten him [today],” Bloemen said, according to the ISU. “At the first three World Cups this season you saw that the momentum was on my side. I got closer every race, and I think this would have been the final blow.”

Bowe improved on a pair of 13th-place finishes in the 500m on Friday and Saturday. She finished in 1:13.55 to place sixth in the 1000m.

Seeing her world record fall broke Bowe’s heart, but she took comfort in ending the weekend with her strongest performance over three days. She showed progress after losing significant time to head injuries a year ago.

“My skating felt better,” Bowe said. “The timing felt better. I feel like I was connecting and, yeah, I definitely felt stronger than I have so far this year.”

Russia’s Denis Yuskov won the men’s 1000m in 1:06.92, a half-second off Shani Davis‘ world record. Yuskov broke Davis’ eight-year-old 1000m world record Saturday.

Yuskov edged Dutchman skater Koen Verweij, who finished in 106.94. Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov followed in 1:06.96.

Jonathan Garcia was the top American, seventh with a personal best of 1:07.40. Joey Mantia was 10th, and Davis 12th.

Garcia came into the race with the goal of producing a top-six finish. He said his performance was about 90 percent of where he wants to be, but feels like he is on an upward trend ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Garcia’s main goal is to simply not peak too early over the next two months.

“I know myself, I’ve been skating for 23 years.” Garcia said. “I can’t maintain being my best every day for six months or two months. I really have to make sure I strategically place myself where I need to be throughout the season.”

Russia’s Natalia Voronina took the women’s 3,000 in 3:57.70. The Czech Republic’s Martina Sablikova was second in 3:57.84, and Germany’s Claudia Pechstein finished third in 3:58.69.

The weekend marked the final World Cup before the U.S. Olympic Trials from Jan. 2-7

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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