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U.S. wins men’s freestyle wrestling world cup for first time in 15 years

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Even without powers Iran and Russia in the field, the U.S.’ first men’s freestyle world cup title in 15 years still meant plenty to Jordan Burroughs.

“I’ve won every single tournament I’ve ever competed in,” the 2012 Olympic and four-time world champion said, “except this one.”

Burroughs moved to 27-0 in his six-year world cup career, then watched as teammate and 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Snyder clinched the team victory over Azerbaijan in Sunday’s final in Iowa City.

“I would always pick myself to go out there and wrestle when it comes down to the team,” said Snyder, the youngest Olympic and world champion in USA Wrestling history. “We have a lot of good guys, but I feel real confident in my ability to wrestle under those type of circumstances.”

The eight-nation annual meet lost some sting with the absence of Russia, Iran and Turkey, which combined to win four of the six Olympic men’s freestyle gold medals in Rio. Iran and Turkey withdrew in the winter.

Then the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of trying to bar Russian wrestlers as the U.S. embassy in Moscow said it was unable to fulfill a late visa request by the Russian Wrestling Federation to travel to Iowa City.

Iran won the men’s freestyle world cup the last six years. Russia was runner-up three of the last five years. The U.S. men’s freestyle team ranked No. 1 at the 2017 Worlds, though.

“I wouldn’t want to come 12 hours to compete against these 10 guys that we have anyway,” Burroughs said. “We’re the best team in the world. People are like, well, Iran, Russia, they’re the best teams. We’re the best team. We’re the reigning world champions. We’re the team champs. If they wanted to win a world cup, they should have prepared and been here to wrestle us. … We flew all the way out to Iran, 15-hour flight, to get there [to the world cup and finish second] last year. They should have been here this year.”

This 10-man U.S. team included not only the Olympic champions Burroughs and Snyder, but also Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox, world champion Logan Stieber and world medalists James GreenThomas Gilman and Nick Gwiazdowski. Burroughs, 29, is the only man in that group older than 25.

“I think we’re the best team the United States has ever made, and we’re only going to get better,” Snyder said. “We’ve got people coming up in the developmental age groups. We have guys who haven’t made teams yet that are really, really good. I think this is the best team the United States has ever had, but I don’t even think it’ll be close to what we’re going to have when it comes to the Olympics and world championships in the future.”

Americans are preparing for the world team trials in June and the world championships in October in Budapest.

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United States 6, Azerbaijan 4
57kg: Giorgi Edisherashvili (Azerbaijan) dec. Thomas Gilman (USA), 8-7
61kg: Kendric Maple (USA) dec. Afghan Khashalov (Azerbaijan), 6-2
65kg: Logan Stieber (USA) dec. Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan), 6-3
70kg: Joshgun Azimov (Azerbaijan) dec. James Green (USA), 4-4
74kg: Jordan Burroughs (USA) pin Gasjimurad Omarov (Azerbaijan), 3:15
79kg: Kyle Dake (USA) dec. Jabrayil Hasanov (Azerbaijan), 5-3
86kg: David Taylor (USA) tech. fall Aleksander Gostiev (Azerbaijan), 12-2
92kg: Aslanbek Alborov (Azerbaijan) dec. J’den Cox (USA), 4-4
97kg: Kyle Snyder (USA) tech fall Roman Bakirov (Azerbaijan), 14-3
125kg: Jamaladdin Magomedov (Azerbaijan) dec. Nick Gwiazdowski (USA) 4-3

Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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