Tom Forster, U.S. women’s gymnastics team leader, steps down

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U.S. women’s gymnastics high-performance director Tom Forster is stepping down at the end of the year.

USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday night that Forster will leave his position on Dec. 31. Forster, who took over the program in June 2018, helped the U.S. women win team gold at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships and silver at the Tokyo Olympics.

Forster said he was proud of what the program accomplished during his tenure. He did not immediately respond to a text message from The Associated Press.

“My passion for this sport has always been working with coaches and athletes to bring out the best in each,” he said in a statement.

USA Gymnastics will begin a search for the next program director soon. Forster will attend January’s scheduled national team camp as a guest.

Forster took over one of the U.S. Olympic movement’s marquee programs at a tumultuous time as it dealt with the fallout of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. He was the program’s third national team coordinator in less than two years. Martha Karolyi retired after the 2016 Rio Olympics and Valeri Liukin, Karolyi’s replacement, stepped down in February 2018.

The Americans maintained their status as the sport’s most dominant force through major competitions in 2018 and 2019 thanks in large part to the brilliance of five-time world all-around champion and 2016 Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles.

The U.S. reign ended in Tokyo. The Russians topped the Americans in qualifying, then soared to their first team gold in nearly 30 years, an event best remembered for Biles’ decision to remove herself from competition because of a mental block that prevented her from performing her risky routines.

The U.S. did, however, maintain its grip on the all-around as Sunisa Lee edged Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, becoming the fifth straight American woman to claim the Olympic crown. Biles returned on the final day of competition to claim bronze on the balance beam to give her seven Olympic medals, tying the most ever by an American gymnast.

Whoever takes over will find the women’s elite program in transition. Four members of the 2020 Olympic team — Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum and Jade Carey — will begin competing collegiately in January. MyKayla Skinner, who won silver on vault, retired, and Biles is in no hurry to decide whether she will attempt to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Biles, one of the hundreds of women abused by Nassar, a former national team doctor, has been a vocal critic of USA Gymnastics through the years.

“Wait till y’all realize the real problem with USAG isn’t Tom,” Biles tweeted Wednesday night.

USA Gymnastics has undergone a significant leadership overhaul in the five years since Nassar survivors first came forward. The organization may be near the end of its lengthy mediation with survivors. A vast majority of survivors approved a proposed $425 million settlement with USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

A hearing on confirmation of the settlement is scheduled for next week in Indianapolis.

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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.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

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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