U.S. women successfully defend sitting volleyball Paralympic gold over rival China

2020 Tokyo Paralympics - Day 12
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The United States started a Paralympic gold-medal streak in women’s sitting volleyball on the final day of the Tokyo Games, successfully defending its gold medal from Rio five years ago.

The Americans solidified themselves as the sport’s new powerhouse, taking down China in four sets at one of the last competitions in Tokyo.

Including wins from the indoor volleyball team and beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman, the U.S. has now achieved a Tokyo triple of all Olympic and Paralympic women’s volleyball gold medals, which has never before been done.

“Women can do anything they put their mind to, and USA Volleyball has the strongest women in the world,” Katie Holloway said on the NBCSN broadcast. “It is incredible to be in that place. We are so grateful to be among the most powerful women in the world in volleyball.”

Women’s sitting volleyball was added to the Paralympic Games in 2004. China had won the first three gold medals awarded – plus the 2010 and 2014 World titles – until the U.S. ended that streak in 2016, topping the three-time defending champion after settling for silver in both 2008 and 2012.

The U.S. faced its rival for the gold on Sunday morning and was led in scoring by three of its veterans – four-time Paralympians Heather Erickson (21 points) and Holloway (20) and three-time Paralympian Monique Matthews (19). The team included eight veterans who now have a combined 27 Paralympic Games between them, plus four newcomers.

Lora Webster – who has competed at all five Paralympics – contributed six points, playing while pregnant. Her fourth child is due in early 2022.

The U.S. was off to a stellar start in the final, closing the first set in just 18 minutes at 25-12.

China showed up in the second, which the U.S. still took 25-20, then really came back with a vengeance in the third to win 25-22. Xu Yixiao was China’s top scorer of the game with 20 points, including five in that set.

Xu added another seven in the fourth set, but the Americans were relentless and wrapped it 25-19 to secure the gold.

The U.S. went undefeated in 2019, winning 25 matches, and entered Tokyo as the favorite, but was upset early on, dropping its second game to China, 3-0.

In a must-win game against the Russian Paralympic Committee, which included 11 athletes from the 2018 World champion team, the U.S. bounced back to sweep 3-0 and eliminate the Russians from medal contention.

The U.S. then beat 2016 Paralympic bronze medalist Brazil, 3-0, in the semifinal. Brazil earned the bronze medal Sunday with a 3-1 win over Canada.

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Carissa Moore the latest Olympian to receive Sullivan Award

Carissa Moore
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Carissa Moore, who won surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, joined a long list of gold medalists to receive the Sullivan Award, which has honored an outstanding U.S. athlete outside of major professional sports (usually NCAA or an Olympian) since 1930.

The other finalists were Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young, NCAA Softball Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo and NCAA Baseball Player of the Year Ivan Melendez.

Moore followed her Olympic title in 2021 by finishing second in the season-long World Surf League, upset by Australian Stephanie Gilmore in the finals in September. Most of the 2024 Olympic spots will be determined by next season’s World Surf League standings.

She is the first surfer to win the Sullivan Award.

Past honorees include Michael PhelpsCarl Lewis and Eric Heiden.

The Sullivan Award “recognizes the outstanding athlete whose athletic accomplishments are complemented by qualities of leadership, character and sportsmanship.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Olympians/Paralympians to win Sullivan Award since 2000
2022: Carissa Moore (Surfing)
2021: Simone Biles (Gymnastics) and Caeleb Dressel (Swimming)
2018: Kyle Snyder (Wrestling)
2016: Breanna Stewart (Basketball, shared award)
2013: Missy Franklin (Swimming)
2011: Evan Lysacek (Figure Skating)
2009: Shawn Johnson (Gymnastics)
2007: Jessica Long (Swimming, Paralympics)
2005: Paul Hamm (Gymnastics)
2004: Michael Phelps (Swimming)
2003: Sarah Hughes (Figure Skating)
2002: Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating)
2001: Rulon Gardner (Wrestling)

Long jumper accused of false information to get Olympic spot

Izmir Smajlaj
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A long jumper and two officials from Albania could face bans after they were accused of submitting false information that helped the athlete get a spot at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said Friday it had charged long jumper Izmir Smajlaj, Albanian track federation president Gjegj Ruli and the federation’s general secretary Nikolin Dionisi with disciplinary offenses over a competition held in Albania in May 2021, two months before the Tokyo Olympics. They are all provisionally suspended until the case is resolved.

Smajlaj was named as the competition winner with a national-record jump of 8.16 meters.

“It is alleged that false information was submitted to World Athletics and the AIU in support of this competition result,” the AIU said.

Smajlaj’s result wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Olympics outright, but he got a place under the “universality” rule that allows countries to send one male and female athlete to the Olympic track events. Those athletes still have to provide evidence they have met a certain standard to compete.

Smajlaj jumped 7.86 meters at the Olympics as he failed to qualify for the final.

The AIU said in September that Albania was one of seven countries on a “competition manipulation watch list” along with Turkey, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

It’s not the first time Tokyo Olympic qualifiers have allegedly been manipulated. Swimming’s world governing body FINA said last year there was “nefarious behavior” around two swim meets in Uzbekistan just before the Olympics and refused to recognize the results. An Indian swimmer who took part in one of the meets said the results were faked and that he had been offered a bribe to keep quiet.

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