Peng Shuai says she is safe in video call with IOC president

Greg Martin/IOC
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Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai said she is safe and well, speaking in a 30-minute video call with IOC President Thomas Bach on Sunday, according to the IOC.

The call came 19 days after her allegation of sexual assault against a former high-ranking politician in China.

Peng said that “she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time,” according to an IOC press release. “That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now.”

IOC Athletes’ Commission chair Emma Terho and Chinese IOC member Li Lingwei, who the IOC said has known the three-time Olympian Peng for many years, were also on the call.

“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern,” Terho said, according to the release. “She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.”

Also Sunday, videos and photos posted on social media showed Peng at a youth tennis tournament in Beijing, standing beside a court, waving and signing oversize commemorative tennis balls for children.

The tournament organizer and the English-language Global Times, a newspaper published by China’s ruling party, shared the photos and videos.

A WTA spokesperson, responding to Sunday’s videos and IOC release, repeated WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon‘s call for an investigation into her allegation of sexual assault.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”

Last week, the U.N. called for an investigation “with full transparency” after a lengthy social media post on Peng’s verified account on Nov. 2 said that she was forced to have sex three years ago with Zhang Gaoli in his home despite repeated refusals.

Zang, 75, is a former vice premier who was a member of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee.

The post was quickly deleted from Peng’s account on Weibo, a leading Chinese social media platform, but screenshots were shared on the internet.

Tennis stars including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka expressed concern for Peng’s well-being and whereabouts last week, posting social media messages with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

“We join in the calls for [Chinese] authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Peng, 35, competed at the Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016. She was world No. 1 in doubles, winning titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She last played on the WTA Tour in February 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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