Great Britain denies U.S. in gold-medal game for its first wheelchair rugby medal

2020 Tokyo Paralympics - Day 5
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Great Britain wiped away the United States’ hopes of returning to the top of the Paralympic wheelchair rugby podium Sunday night when it won its first medal in the sport, taking the gold 54-49.

With the victory, Kylie Grimes became the first woman to win Paralympic gold in the sport. The 33-year-old also competed in wheelchair rugby at the 2012 Paralympic Games and track and field in Rio five years ago.

The U.S. has historically been one of the most dominant forces in wheelchair rugby, a mixed-gender sport also known as murderball, since its Paralympic debut in 1996 and remains the only nation to medal at all seven Paralympic Games — with three gold, two silver and two bronze medals.

The Americans’ last gold medal came at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, though, taking bronze in London then silver in Rio.

Great Britain had previously done as best as reaching the bronze-medal match three times, finishing fourth in 1996, 2004 and 2008. The British had never medaled at the world championships, either, placing fourth three times there as well.

Both teams were playing in Group B in Tokyo and held a 2-0 record until they faced each other in their final preliminary game on Friday, when the U.S. came out on top, edging the Brits 50-48.

In Saturday’s semifinals, the U.S. beat Australia 49-42 and Great Britain took down Japan 55-49, ensuring they would meet again.

Host country Japan went on to claim bronze, 60-52, on Sunday, denying the two-time reigning Paralympic champion Australia its fifth medal in program history.

Chuck Aoki, a three-time Paralympian and one of the U.S.’ two Opening Ceremony flag bearers at these Games, started the scoring in the gold-medal game, then Great Britain’s Jim Roberts earned with his team’s first try seven seconds later.

Great Britain held the lead throughout, with the U.S. tying it up four times in the first period, then again seven times in the third, but was never able to do anything more than that.

Entering the final period down by one at 37-36, the U.S. again matched Great Britain’s score four times but continued to trail throughout the final six minutes.

Roberts led the game in scoring with 24 tries, while 41-year-old Josh Wheeler did the brunt for the U.S. at 21, followed by Aoki’s 18.

Aoki had led the Americans in scoring for all four previous matches, ending the tournament with 109 tries.

A full Paralympic Games broadcast schedule is available here. Events can also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, with more info available here.

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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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