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Norway’s Oestberg wins first Tour de Ski; U.S.’ Diggins finishes off podium

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Watching the cross-country athletes compete in the seventh and final stage of the 2018-19 Tour de Ski, dubbed the Final Climb, is a bit like watching the film “Titanic.” Everyone knows the misery which awaits each skier before they cross the finish line.

The grueling race which culminates in a 3.5km uphill climb, punishes skiers by putting their fitness to the ultimate test.

Entering the final race, Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg held a commanding lead over the rest of the field, but could she perform on Alpe Cermis, a hill which has beaten her up in the past?

“It’s maybe the toughest race of the year,” Oestberg said before the start of the race.  “It’s tough to prepare [for this race] because it’s about preparing for pain and how to deal with the pain.”

However, Oestberg was prepared for the pain, and she cemented her victory with a time of 35 minutes, 15 seconds in the Final Climb to win her first Tour de Ski of her career.

Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva finished second overall for the fourth-consecutive season, while Finland’s Krista Parmakoski rounded out the podium in third. Parmakoski was able to make the final podium despite never having finished better than fourth in any of the first six stages of the Tour de Ski. Parmakoski finished third in the Final Climb. Full results are here.

Last season, Jessie Diggins became the first U.S. skier to make a final Tour de Ski podium when she finished third overall. Her attempt to make a return appearance on this year’s podium fell short, despite three third place finishes over the course of the seven-race event.

Diggins finished sixth in the Final Climb and sixth overall in the final Tour de Ski standings.

On the men’s side, three-time 2018 Olympic champion, 22-year-old Norwegian Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, became the youngest athlete to win the Tour de Ski. Klaebo finished the men’s Final Climb in first with a time of 32 minutes, 51.3 seconds. Klaebo’s time was good enough to hold off two Russians for the top prize. Alexander Bolshunov and Sergey Ustiugov finished second and third in the final Tour de Ski standings.

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J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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MORE: 2019 Senior Grand Prix assignments