Sven Kramer ends season at world championships with back injury

Sven Kramer
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Sven Kramer, the most decorated Olympic male speed skater in history, reportedly struggled with a back injury and ended his season with a 19th-place finish in the 5000m at the world championships on Thursday.

Kramer, the Dutchman who won the 5000m at the last three Olympics, skated 27.13 seconds slower than surprise gold medalist Nils van der Poel of Sweden in a six-minute event in Heerenveen. He beat one skater.

Van der Poel, 24, went three years between World Cup starts until January, when he lowered his national record in the 5000m by nearly eight seconds. He’s the first Swede to win an individual medal at single distance worlds, which debuted in 1996.

Kramer, a 34-year-old who won every Olympic and world championship 5000m he entered between 2007 and 2018, has struggled with injuries in this, expected to be his last, Olympic cycle.

He took world 5000m bronze in 2019 and silver in 2020. He hasn’t competed in the 10,000m at single distance worlds or on the World Cup since placing sixth in that event in PyeongChang.

Kramer qualified for worlds in the 5000m and the team pursuit but will not skate the pursuit on Friday, according to Dutch media.

Earlier, Dutch Olympic bronze medalist Antoinette de Jong won the 3000m by one tenth of a second over Czech distance legend Martina Sablikova, who has made the podium in the event at every worlds since 2009.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s and women’s 500m, in addition to the team pursuits. A TV and live stream schedule is here.

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Saudi Arabia to host 2029 Asian Winter Games

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Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 in mountains near the $500 billion futuristic city project Neom.

The Olympic Council of Asia on Tuesday picked the Saudi candidacy that centers on Trojena that is planned to be a year-round ski resort by 2026.

“The deserts & mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for Winter sports!” the OCA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said the kingdom’s winter sports project “challenges perception” in a presentation of the plan to OCA members.

“Trojena is the future of mountain living,” the minister said of a region described as an area of about 60 square kilometers at altitude ranging from 1,500 to 2,600 meters.

The Neom megaproject is being fund by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia also will host the Asian Games in 2034 in Riyadh as part of aggressive moves to build a sports hosting portfolio and help diversify the economy from reliance on oil.

A campaign to host soccer’s 2030 World Cup is expected with an unprecedented three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

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Jim Redmond, who helped son Derek finish 1992 Olympic race, dies

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Jim Redmond, who helped his injured son, Derek, finish his 1992 Olympic 400m semifinal, died at age 81 on Sunday, according to the British Olympic Association, citing family members.

At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Derek pulled his right hamstring 15 seconds into his 400m semifinal, falling to the track in anguish.

He brushed off help from officials, got up and began limping around the track. About 120 meters from the finish line, he felt the presence of an uncredentialed man who rushed down the stadium stairs, dodged officials and said, “We started this together, and we’re going to finish this together,” according to Olympedia.org.

“As I turned into the home straight, I could sense this person was about to try and stop me,” Derek said in an NBC Olympics profile interview before the 2012 London Games. “I was just about to get ready to sort of fend them off, and then I heard a familiar voice of my dad. He said, ‘Derek, it’s me. You don’t need to do this.'”

Derek said he shouted to his dad that he wanted to finish the race.

“He was sort of saying things like, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re a champion. You’ll come back. You’re one of the best guys in the world. You’re a true champion. You’ve got heart. You’re going to get over this. We’ll conquer the world together,'” Derek remembered. “I’m just sort of saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”

At one point, Derek noticed stadium security, not knowing who Jim was, having removed guns from their holsters.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard my dad use bad language,” Derek said. “He just goes, ‘Leave him alone, I’m his father.'”

Derek told himself in that moment, “I’m going to finish this race if it’s the last race I ever run.” It turned out to be the last 400m race of his career, after surgery and 18 months of rehab were not enough to yield a competitive comeback, according to Sports Illustrated.

Derek had missed the 1988 Seoul Games after tearing an Achilles, reportedly while warming up for his opening race. He looked strong in Barcelona, winning his first-round heat and quarterfinal.

“I’d rather be seen to be coming last in the semifinal than not finish in the semifinal,” he said, “because at least I can say I gave it my best.”