Zion Wright: from 114th to skateboarding’s Olympic debut in one weekend

Zion Wright
Dew Tour
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Zion Wright came to the final park skateboarding contest in Olympic qualification ranked 114th in the world and 16th among Americans. Three U.S. men qualify for the Tokyo Games, where skateboarding makes its Olympic debut, and two of those spots were already spoken for.

Wright, a 22-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., needed to win the Dew Tour in Des Moines on Sunday to have any chance of earning that third and final spot.

He did.

Wright recorded one of the clutch performances in U.S. Olympic qualifying across all sports this year. He won the Dew Tour, two years after finishing 76th at the event. Also in 2019, Wright was 31st at the world championships — 10th among Americans and behind such athletes as snowboarder Shaun White.

“I’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries,” Wright said Sunday. “I’ve dealt with so many emotions prior, leading up to this. I’m not saying it’s not hitting me now; it’s been a journey for sure.”

LIST: U.S. athletes qualified for Olympics across all sports

Wright also helped deny 14-year-old Gavin Bottger from becoming the youngest American to compete in the Olympics since 1976, according to Olympedia.org. Bottger, who also needed to win, finished third, 5.04 points behind Wright and one tenth shy of a second-place Swede.

Wright will be among 20 men’s park skateboarders in the Tokyo Olympics. He’s no surprise. Wright has 400,000 Instagram followers, sponsors including Red Bull and, until March, Nike, and regular appearances at the X Games in the other Olympic discipline, street. His acting credits include two episodes of “Ballers” in 2018, when he met The Rock and Russell Brand.

“All gas, no brakes, as my dad would say,” said Wright, whose dad quit a job delivering newspapers so he could drive his son to an important skate contest years ago.

The Olympic park favorite is American Heimana Reynolds, the world’s top-ranked skateboarder who didn’t compete at Dew Tour, his Olympic spot already mathematically clinched. Cory Juneau, ranked second in the world, also qualified before Dew Tour began.

The U.S. Olympic women’s park team is Bryce Wettstein, Brighton Zeuner and Jordyn Barratt.

British 12-year-old Sky Brown is also mathematically qualified for Olympic women’s park, but British officials haven’t announced their team yet.

The U.S. Olympic qualifiers in street will be known after the world championships in that discipline later this spring. Nyjah Huston is ranked No. 1 in the world.

NBC Olympic researcher Rachel Thompson contributed to this report from Des Moines.

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
Getty
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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