Sven Kramer makes cut for Dutch Olympic speed skating team

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The Dutch speed skating federation put Sven Kramer on its Olympic team, choosing the nine-time Olympic medalist while leaving off skaters who had a higher overall classification ranking from its Olympic trials.

Kramer, 35 and the most decorated male Olympic speed skater in history, is ticketed for the 5000m, which he won at the last three Olympics, the team pursuit and the mass start in Beijing.

Kramer was on the bubble after placing third in the 5000m at trials, his lone event at last week’s competition.

That left his fate in the hands of a selection committee, which deemed Kramer valuable for the team pursuit and mass start. The committee chose Kramer and Marcel Bosker, who was fourth in the 5000m, for the team pursuit and left off Dai Dai N’tab, who finished second in the 500m at trials, and Tijmen Snel, who was third in the 1500m.

The Dutch qualified the maximum three spots for each of the 500m, 1000m, 1500m and 5000m and maximum two for the 10,000m and mass start, but overall roster sizes in speed skating are limited to at most nine skaters per gender.

The Dutch federation created a matrix before the trials to rank skaters by the nation’s medal chances in each event. If selectors chose the nine-man team directly from the matrix, N’tab and Snel would have been in, and Kramer would have missed it by one spot.

But Kramer expressed confidence after his third-place finish at trials, knowing his value in the team pursuit. The Dutch federation had leeway to choose lower-ranked skaters in the matrix for the pursuit and the mass start, which are distance races that favor Kramer and do not suit N’tab and Snel.

N’tab said he is angry and claimed unfairness, according to De Telegraaf.

The federation didn’t deviate from its matrix in choosing its nine-woman team. That means that Ireen Wüst, the most decorated Olympic speed skater with 11 medals, is going to her fifth and final Games, too.

Wüst finished second in the 1500m and third in the 1000m at trials and was also selected for the team pursuit by the federation.

Wüst, 35, will tie retired Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen for second place on the career Winter Olympic medals list if she wins two to bring her total to 13. If she wins three, she will move one shy of the Winter Olympic record held by retired Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen.

Two of the six Dutch skaters to win gold in 2018 did not make the team — Jorien ter Mors (1000m) and Esmee Visser (5000m).

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

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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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