U.S. Open: Carlos Alcaraz outlasts Frances Tiafoe, into historic final

Carlos Alcaraz
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At a U.S. Open that has at times looked like a guard-changing, Carlos Alcaraz faces Casper Ruud in a men’s final with unprecedented stakes: each eyeing his first major title and to seize the No. 1 ranking for the first time.

Alcaraz, at 19, can become the first teenage man to win a major since Rafael Nadal‘s first of a men’s record 22 titles at the 2005 French Open. He can also become the first teenage No. 1 in the world since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973.

He dropped Frances Tiafoe in Friday’s semifinals 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3, denying the first American men’s major finalist since 2009.

“I gave it everything I had, too good for Carlos tonight,” Tiafoe told a crowd that included Michelle Obama. “I gave everything I had the last two weeks. I came here wanting to win the U.S. Open. I feel like I let you guys down. This one hurts.

“I’m going to come back and I will win this thing one day.”

Alcaraz had already survived back-to-back five-setters that ended between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. to become the youngest men’s major semifinalist since Nadal at the 2005 French. He was also the youngest U.S. Open men’s semifinalist since Pete Sampras won the first of his 14 majors in 1990.

“In a semifinal of a Grand Slam, we have to give everything we have inside,” Alcaraz said. “I can see the No. 1 in the world, but at the same time it’s so far away.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

Ruud, the 23-year-old French Open runner-up, can make the single biggest jump to No. 1 in the world — from seventh in the rankings going into the U.S. Open. He dispatched Russian Karen Khachanov 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 — including a 55-shot rally to win the first set — in the early semifinal.

No Norwegian man or woman has been No. 1 in the ATP or WTA rankings since they were introduced in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Unlike Alcaraz, Ruud has major final experience — getting crushed by Nadal in the French Open final in June, winning just six games.

“After Roland Garros, I was of course extremely happy but at the same time humble enough to think that could be my only final in a Grand Slam in my career,” said Ruud, whose goal coming into the year was to make one Grand Slam quarterfinal. “In Roland Garros, there was royal families there watching. That was a little bit new experience for me. I hope I can be more ready for that on Sunday.”

Norway has been on a tear in international sport over the last two years.

At the Tokyo Olympics, it won gold medals in the men’s 400m hurdles (Karsten Warholm‘s world record) and 1500m (Jakob Ingebrigtsen), men’s beach volleyball (Anders Mol and Christian Sorum) and men’s triathlon (Kristian Blummenfelt, who this year won the World Ironman Championship).

It then won a record 16 Winter Olympic gold medals at the Beijing Games.

Erling Haaland made FIFA’s best 11 male soccer players for 2021, the first Norwegian to do so. Viktor Hovland ascended to No. 3 in the world men’s golf rankings, highest-ever for a Norwegian.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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Kaillie Humphries begins trek to 2026 Winter Olympics with monobob World Cup win

Kaillie Humphries
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Kaillie Humphries is off to a strong start to a four-year cycle that she hopes ends with her breaking the record as the oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

Humphries, the women’s record holder with three Olympic bobsled titles, earned her first World Cup victory since February’s Winter Games, taking a monobob in Park City, Utah, on Friday.

Humphries, the first Olympic monobob champion, prevailed by .31 of a second over German Lisa Buckwitz combining times from two runs at the 2002 Olympic track.

Humphries has said since February’s Olympics that she planned to take time off in this four-year cycle to start a family, then return in time for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Games. Humphries, who can become the first female Olympic bobsledder in her 40s, shared her experiences with IVF in the offseason on her social media.

“We’ve pushed pause so that I could go and compete this season, maintain my world ranking to be able to still work towards my 2026 goals, and we’ll go back in March to do the implantation of the embryos that we did retrieve,” she said, according to TeamUSA.org.

The next Games come 20 years after her first Olympic experience in Italy, which was a sad one. Humphries, then a bobsled push athlete, was part of the Canadian delegation at the 2006 Torino Games, marched at the Opening Ceremony and had her parents flown in to cheer her on.

But four days before the competition, Humphries learned she was not chosen for either of the two Canadian push athlete spots. She vowed on the flight home to put her future Olympic destiny in her own hands by becoming a driver.

She has since become the greatest female driver in history — Olympic golds in 2010, 2014 and 2022, plus five world championships.

Her longtime rival, five-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, plans to return to competition from her second childbirth later in this Olympic cycle and can also break the record of oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

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