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Katie Zaferes, after 23 mouth stitches, wins world triathlon title

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Katie Zaferes had every reason to smile Saturday, two weeks after receiving 23 stitches inside her mouth.

The American captured her first world triathlon title, cementing herself as the Tokyo Olympic favorite.

Zaferes won the World Series Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland, sitting on and then outsprinting world No. 2 Jessica Learmonth of Great Britain at the end of the 10km run. She had built up such a lead from winning four of the previous seven races this season that she needed only to finish in the top 12 to secure the championship.

The crowning moment came two weeks after Zaferes crashed in the Tokyo Olympic test event, biking into a barrier while looking behind her. She hit her face, her gums separated on impact and she suffered a broken nose.

“But luckily nothing too serious,” was posted on her social media. Zaferes returned to training within a few days for the Grand Final.

“I had a lot of emotions coming into this race after the last one, a lot of doubts,” Zaferes said Saturday. “I knew physically I would be OK, but, mentally, I had some doubts. I struggled on some of the corners [on the bike].”

That test event DNF meant Zaferes can’t qualify for her second Olympic team until next year. But there’s little doubt she will be in Tokyo next summer as U.S. triathlon’s new superstar following Rio Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen‘s retirement and switch to marathon running.

Zaferes, much like Jorgensen four years earlier, rebounded from Olympic disappointment (came to Rio as a medal contender, finished 18th) to become the world No. 1. Her world ranking went from 16th in 2014 to fifth in 2015, fourth in 2016, third in 2017 and second last year.

Earlier Saturday, Frenchman Vincent Luis took the men’s world title, ending Spain’s six-year run at the top between Javier Gomez and Mario Mola.

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts win three times on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One gymnast has two wins on vault. A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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