Venus Williams injured in Australian Open loss

Venus Williams
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — This was, in some ways, rather difficult to watch: 40-year-old Venus Williams gasped and groaned as she limped around the court at the Australian Open on an injured right ankle and left knee.

This also was, in some ways, rather inspiring to watch: Williams refused to concede to the pain, declined to stop playing and toughed it out. She saw the second-round match through to the end, no matter how compromised her body was after two medical timeouts, no matter how non-existent her chance of victory was.

After getting hurt heading to the net for a volley while down 5-1 in the opening set of a second-round match Wednesday, Williams would not — could not, in all likelihood — win another game at Melbourne Park and was eliminated by Sara Errani of Italy.

The final score was 6-1, 6-0.

“Screams of pain and frustration,” was posted on Williams’ Instagram. “Sometimes you have to let it out. Sometimes you work hard and don’t get the result, but you live to fight another day. … I will be back as soon as I can. … I will let you know how I am doing tomorrow.”

Also Wednesday, Venus’ younger sister Serena swept her second-round opponent in her best Grand Slam start in five years.

The highest seeds to lose Wednesday were No. 8 Bianca Andreescu and No. 9 Petra Kvitova.

Andreescu, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, was knocked out of her first tournament in 15 months after a long injury layoff. Crafty 35-year-old Hsieh Su-wei swept the powerful Canadian 6-3, 6-2, advancing to play Errani. Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champ, fell to Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.

The top man to fall was 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (9) to Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.

No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Simona Halep advanced while dropping a set. No. 3 Naomi Osaka swept her second consecutive opponent. Polarizing Australian Nick Kyrgios capped the night with a five-set win over Frenchman Ugo Humbert, advancing to play No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the third round.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

There was no quit in Venus Williams — much like there hasn’t been for years for someone who has played while dealing with Sjogren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping auto-immune disease that can cause joint pain.

“I thought she would retire, because she wasn’t running. She was walking badly. … I was worrying about her more than thinking about how I should play,” said Errani, the runner-up at the 2012 French Open. “I was thinking, ‘Who knows? Maybe at a certain point she’ll say enough is enough.’ But instead, she continued right up until the end.”

The oldest woman in the field, Williams was playing in her 21st Australian Open and 88th Grand Slam tournament overall, a record for the professional era.

She has won seven major singles championships and another 14 in doubles with her sister, Serena.

Through her long and distinguished career, Williams never has been much of a fan of discussing injuries or blaming setbacks on them. And so while it seemed clear to others that she was going to have to stop playing against Errani, that never did happen.

Errani was in control of the match when Williams twisted her right ankle and landed awkwardly on her left leg, which already was bandaged with athletic tape and buckled.

She reacted with audible sounds of dismay as she shuffled around the back of the court, trying to test her legs. It looked as if she could not put much weight on either, and she tried leaning on her racket as though it were a cane.

“I was a bit shocked,” Errani said.

Action was halted, and a trainer treated Williams on the sideline, first taping the troubled ankle, then the knee.

Soon after play resumed following a delay of more than 15 minutes, that set was over. Williams returned to her changeover seat and bowed her head, resting it on her arms.

She would continue, however, even if it appeared to be a chore to walk. Even if her usually speedy serves often were tapped in at about 65 mph instead of 100 mph or more. Even if she could not properly chase all of the many drop shots that Errani kept using to win points.

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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