Getty Images

U.S.’ Sophie Caldwell fifth in World Cup cross-country sprint final

Leave a comment

After finishing on the sprint podium once already this season, U.S. cross-country skier Sophie Caldwell looked well-positioned to notch another top three finish in Dresden, Germany.

After qualifying with the second-best time, Caldwell was surrounded by Swedes on the leaderboard. Caldwell sat just .49 hundredths of a second behind the leader, Sweden’s Hanna Falk, and .80 hundredths ahead of Falk’s countrywoman, Stina Nilsson. Behind Nilsson in fourth was Sweden’s Evelina Settlin.

In a stacked quarterfinal heat, Caldwell, Falk and Settlin were forced to battle it out to advance to the semifinals. Caldwell claimed her spot, finishing second in the heat, but Settlin and Falk, with third and fourth place finishes respectively, were forced to sweat it out. But what may have been a strategy to save their legs for the final, Falk and Settlin did eventually earn the two lucky loser spots to advance to the semis.

Racing in the first semifinal heat, Caldwell finished her first lap by bringing up the rear. But what a difference one more trip around the course can make. Caldwell stuck to her race plan, ultimately finishing second behind Nilsson.

In the second lap of the final, Caldwell attempted to make her move on the outside, but was passed on the turn for home on the inside. Unable to catch the lead pack, and running out of snow before the finish, Caldwell crossed the line in fifth. A trio of Swedes, Nilsson, Maja Dahlqvist and Jonna Sundling raced to the top three spots in the final. Full results are here.

Caldwell’s sprint podium finish this year came during the Tour de Ski, when she raced into the two spot at Val Muestair. The U.S.’ Jessie Diggins joined Caldwell on that same podium in third. Diggins, who finished sixth overall in Tour de Ski last week did not race in the sprint in Dresden.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Eight matchups to watch in figure skating Grand Prix Series

Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!