Hannah Roberts, Olympic gold medal favorite in new BMX event, wins third world title

Lima 2019 Pan Am Games - Day 16
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BMX freestyle star Hannah Roberts reminded the world she is still the Olympic gold medal favorite for her event’s debut this summer by winning the world title at the 2021 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships on Monday.

Roberts picked up right where she left off in her first international competition in 19 months. Due to the pandemic, the last competition was the 2019 World Championships, which she also won. Roberts now holds three of the event’s four UCI world titles to be awarded; she took bronze in 2018.

“I wanted to come out and put down a solid run, and I’m glad that I did that,” she said in a video posted to the UCI BMX Freestyle Twitter. “I’m glad it got me the rainbow jersey back. I’m definitely excited heading into this year as the world champion. Hopefully there’s more events, and I’m super stoked.”

Roberts’ journey to BMX fame began after she saw the discipline on TV at 8 years old. She then fractured her T4 vertebra at age 10 from a fall off a 6-foot ramp. In a back brace for a month, she was unsure if her love for the sport would return.

“Once back on the bike I knew this was where I wanted to be,” she told USA Cycling in a 2018 Q&A.

The Buchanan, Michigan, native qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in February 2020 before the Tokyo Olympics were postponed. She could become the first teenage woman from any country to earn an Olympic cycling title in August; Roberts will turn 20 two days after the Closing Ceremony.

Roberts posted a score of 91.9 in her first of two runs in the world championship final in Montpellier, France. Nikita Ducarroz of Switzerland was second with 90.3 for her first world medal, while Great Britain’s Charlotte Worthington took bronze, just as she had in 2019, with a second-run score of 88.9.

Three more Americans immediately followed with Perris Benegas in fourth (85.8), Chelsea Wolfe in fifth (80) and Angie Marino sixth (78.1).

Benegas, who turns 26 the day before the Opening Ceremony, has also qualified for Tokyo and could put two U.S. women on the Olympic podium. She has consistently been a top performer the past few seasons, winning the 2018 World title and medaling at all three World Cups held in 2019.

Later in the day, Daniel Sandoval claimed the men’s silver medal with 92.96 points in his first run.

Logan Martin‘s 94.7 points returned the Australian standout to the top of the podium; he won the inaugural 2017 World Championships and took silver in 2019. Bronze went to Croatia’s Marin Rantes who scored 90.9 points on his second run.

Americans Justin Dowell, the 2018 World champion, and Nick Bruce, the 2019 bronze medalist, were fourth and fifth with 89.56 and 89.42 points, respectively.

With his finish, Dowell secured his spot on the Olympic team. He will be joined by Bruce if the U.S. is atop the UCI Olympic qualification ranking once it is complete.

Nine men and nine women will compete in the inaugural Olympic BMX freestyle contest, with the U.S. as the only nation sending two women. Riders compete for points in difficulty, originality, execution and overall flow on ramps and obstacles in the same venue as skateboarders.

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

2022 Valencia Marathon
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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.

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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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