American Evan Medell medals in the Paralympic debut of taekwondo

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - Day Eleven
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Evan Medell became the first U.S. man to compete in taekwondo at the Paralympic Games as well as the first American to win a Paralympic medal in the sport.

The 24-year-old earned bronze in the men’s +75kg K44 on Saturday, the last of three days of taekwondo competition in Tokyo.

Badminton and taekwondo are both new to the Paralympic program this year, though the U.S. did not send any badminton players.

Medell and Brianna Salinaro qualified to represent the U.S. in Tokyo by being among the top ranked athletes in the world as of Jan. 1, 2020.

He entered the Games as the world No. 1, while Salinaro was sixth in the women’s 58kg K44.

On Friday, the 23-year-old Salinaro fell to eventual bronze medalist Silvana Mayara Cardoso Fernandes of Brazil, 15-2 in the quarterfinal, then was pulled back in but swept 10-0 in the repechage quarterfinal by India’s Palesha Nep Goverdhan, who went on to finish fifth.

A 2017 World bronze medalist, Salinaro is the first taekwondo athlete with cerebral palsy to compete internationally and the first woman to represent the U.S. in Para taekwondo.

Medell, who was born with brachial plexus palsy, won his quarterfinal 22-19 over Libya’s Mohamed Abidar before 2015 World champion Ivan Mikulic of Croatia won their semifinal 28-9.

The 2019 Parapan American Games champion and 2017 World bronze medalist then rebounded to win the bronze-medal match 13-11 over Costa Rica’s Andres Esteban Molina Gomez.

“I am a bit disappointed, but it’s better to walk away with a medal than no medal,” he said, according to TeamUSA.org. “Hopefully it’s something to build on for U.S. taekwondo in general.”

The first Paralympic medal ever awarded in the sport went to Thailand’s Khwansuda Phuangkitcha, who earned bronze in the women’s 49kg K44 on Thursday, while Peruvian Leonor Espinoza Carranza won the first gold that day in the same division.

Turkey’s Mahmut Bozteke was the first men’s medalist, with bronze in the 61kg K44 event, while Brazil’s Nathan Cesar Sodario Torquato was the first men’s gold medalist, winning that weight class.

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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French Open: Sloane Stephens takes out seed Karolina Pliskova

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PARIS — Back on her “favorite court in the world,” Sloane Stephens looked sharp in her opening match at the French Open with a 6-0, 6-4 win over two-time major finalist Karolina Pliskova.

While Stephens’ only Grand Slam title came at the 2017 U.S. Open, she’s also had sustained success at Roland Garros, finishing as a runner-up to Simona Halep in 2018 and reaching two quarterfinals on the red clay in Paris — including last year.

“This is my favorite court in the world, so I’m super happy to be back,” Stephens told the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier. “To start a Slam on your favorite court, your favorite surface, is always incredible.”

She helped American women go 4-0 through the first few hours of play on Day 2 of the tournament after a 1-4 start on Sunday, when the only U.S. victory came in a match between two players from the country: Jessica Pegula beat Danielle Collins.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Madison Keys, the runner-up to Stephens in New York six years ago and a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2018, beat Kaia Kanepi 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 on Monday to improve her career record in the first round of majors to 35-5.

Keys next plays American qualifier Kayla Day, who eliminated French wild-card entry Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-1.

Also, Croatian-born American Bernarda Pera beat former No. 2-ranked Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a finalist in Paris in 2021, breezed past Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 6-2; and 22nd-seeded Donna Vekic beat qualifier Dayana Yastremska 6-2, 7-5.

Stephens was down a break in the second set against Pliskova but then won three straight games to close it out.

Stephens had a 19-16 edge in winners and committed only 10 unforced errors to 31 by Pliskova, who lost in the finals of the U.S. Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2021.

“This court is a bit tricky. You have to play on it a lot to understand when the wind is blowing and where it’s coming,” Stephens said. “The more you play on it, the more you understand it. But it’s a very complicated court. But that’s what makes it so amazing.”

Stephens won a small clay-court tournament in Saint Malo, France, at the start of the month and also reached the semifinals of the Morocco Open last week after only playing a total of three matches at bigger clay events in Madrid and Rome.

“Last year, my clay season wasn’t great, but I played amazing at Roland Garros last year,” Stephens said, “and this year, I really wanted to get matches and play a lot and to see where that got me.”

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Canada wins men’s hockey world title; Latvia wins first medal

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TAMPERE, Finland — Samuel Blais scored two goals to rally Canada to a 5-2 victory over Germany in the final of the world men’s hockey championship on Sunday.

It’s a record 28th world title for Canada, and its second in three years. Russia has 27 while Germany has never won the trophy.

Blais netted with a backhand 4:51 into the final period for a 3-2 lead for Canada, which was playing in its fourth straight final.

“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”

Lawson Crouse, Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored for Canada, Peyton Krebs had two assists and goaltender Samuel Montembeault stopped 21 shots.

Toffoli stretched the lead to 4-2 from the left circle with 8:09 remaining and Laughton made it 5-2 with an empty net goal.

Adam Fantilli became only the second Canadian player after Jonathan Toews to win gold at the world juniors and world championship the same year.

Canada had to come back twice in the final.

John Peterka wristed a shot past Montembeault from the left circle 7:44 into the game. It was the sixth goal for the Buffalo Sabres forward at the tournament.

Blais was fed by Krebs to beat goaltender Mathias Niederberger and tie it 1-1 at 10:47.

Daniel Fischbuch put the Germans ahead again with a one-timer with 6:13 to go in the middle period.

Crouse equalized on a power play with 2:32 remaining in the frame.

It was the first medal for Germany since 1953 when it was second behind Sweden.

The two previously met just once in the final with Canada winning 6-1 in 1930.

LATVIA GETS BRONZE

Defenseman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to a 4-3 victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.

It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.

The U.S. lost in the bronze medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal 4-3 in overtime.

Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at 3 to force overtime.

Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.

Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.

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