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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 243
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49ers quarterback  Kaepernick finds himself to be the center of controversy
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. national anthem takes about two minutes to sing. The decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to spend that time sitting on the bench Friday night instead of standing along with other players and fans has reverberated for far longer.

It continued to be a topic of conversation Monday with reporters at the White House and practice sites around the National Football League asking for reactions, and many of the responses supporting Kaepernick's desire to highlight the treatment of African-Americans while also expressing a wish that he chose another way to do it.

“I certainly don’t share the views that Mr. Kaepernick expressed after the game in explaining his reasoning for his actions, but we surely all acknowledge and defend his right to express those views in settings that he chooses," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "That’s what he’s done and even as objectionable as we find his perspective, he certainly is entitled to express them.”

Kaepernick, who is the son of a white mother and a black father, said he will not "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

He said he will stand again when the country represents people the way it should, and specifically cited police brutality as an example of something that has to change in the United States.

"There's people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable," Kaepernick said. "People are being given paid leave for killing people. That's not right. That's not right by anyone's standards."

Those comments drew criticism from San Francisco's police union. In a letter Monday to the NFL and the 49ers, San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran said Kaepernick had a total lack of sensitivity and an incredible lack of knowledge about police shootings.

The quarterback's former coach, Jim Harbaugh was among those who said they think he was seeking change in the wrong way.

"I support Colin's motivation. It's his method of action that I take exception to," Harbaugh tweeted.

The issue was one that brought no shortage of opinion on social media with users posting opinions ranging from denouncing Kaepernick as disrespectful to the military to comparing his stand to earlier outspoken sports stars such as Muhammad Ali.

NFL icon Jim Brown, who played in the 1950s and 1960s, told the NFL Network that what is important is talking about the issues of the country, not Kaepernick himself. He said the discussion is like going back in time to his era and cited athletes such as Ali, John Wooten and Bill Russell as "champions of freedom, equality and justice for all human beings."

New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro told ESPN he disagrees with the manner of Kaepernick's protest, but that it did make a statement.

"I mean, everybody's talking about it, obviously, now. And I think that's the point," Vaccaro said.

quarterback
San Francisco 49ers photo
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick


Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was among those who said he understood Kaepernick's actions.

"I think it's an individual choice. At the same time, I think it's a duty of ours as leaders, especially with young kids, to make a good, proper announcement if we feel the need to, and I think that's what he's doing."

One person who was not a fan of the athlete's actions was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who himself has campaigned on a slogan of "Make America Great Again" while repeatedly bemoaning the state of the country.

"I think it's a terrible thing," Trump said Monday. "And you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try, it won't happen."

Trump's comments came a day after Kaepernick called him openly racist.

Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013 where his team lost to the Baltimore Ravens. He stood stoically that night as pop star Alicia Keys sang the anthem.

He has struggled on the field in recent seasons to the point of battling for a starting spot this year. Kaepernick says he is ready to accept any consequences that may come from his protest.

"There's a lot of people that don't want to have this conversation," he said. "They're scared they might lose their job. Or they might not get the endorsements. They might not be treated the same way. Those are things I'm prepared to handle."
-- Aug. 30, 2016


Team USA men and women route opponents for basketball gold medals
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. men's basketball team overpowered Serbia, 96-66, to win the last gold medal awarded at the Rio Olympics. And the U.S. women took their sixth Olympic gold medal in a row.

While the U.S. men came into Sunday's championship game undefeated in seven games in Rio, Serbia had lost to the Americans in preliminary group play by only three points.

In the first quarter of the gold medal match, it looked like it might be another close game. The Serbians held the lead a number of times in the early going, but just as the quarter ended, NBA superstar Kevin Durant hit a 3-pointer to give Team USA a 19-15 lead.

Then in the second quarter, Durant took over the game, knocking down four more jump shots from long range.

“I just woke up, I guess,” said Durant.” My teammates were supporting me. They were cheering me on along the way, and everybody was encouraging me, and I just went out there and had fun with the game. And when I'm smiling out there and screaming, and beating my chest - showing emotion - that's really when I'm lost in the game. And I just tried to go out there and be who I am.”

Durant scored 18 of his game high 30 points in the second quarter, finishing the first half with 24, as the Americans led 52-29. They were never threatened after the intermission, and in the fourth quarter even held a 41-point advantage. Their 30-point margin of victory is the largest of any men's Olympic basketball final.

Team USA women basketballers finished off a dominating performance Saturday, beating Spain in the championship match, 101-72.

Heading into the final, the U.S. women had been overpowering in Rio, winning their previous seven games by an average margin of about 40 points. The high-scoring game against Spain was the sixth time in their eight Olympic contests in Rio that they had scored more than 100 points.

“Obviously, it was an incredible tournament for us,” said U.S. coach Geno Auriemma. “It wasn't as easy as sometimes it looked. Because of our depth and because of the experience that we have on our team, we were able to separate ourselves.

“You can talk about the 100-point games and the margin of victory, but we played out butts off. I mean we really did,” added U.S. team captain and guard Sue Bird. “I don't think I've ever been around a group that's this talented and also played this hard.”

Ms. Bird has been playing for the U.S. National Team since 2002 and this is her fourth Olympic gold medal.

In the first quarter, Spain stuck with the Americans and the two teams traded the lead several times before the U.S. managed a 21-17 advantage at the end of the period.

Ms. Bird hit a 3-pointer to start the second quarter and the U.S. slowly pulled away, taking a 49-32 lead at the half. The margin grew to 35 points early in the fourth quarter at 84-49, and from there the Americans coasted to victory.
-- Aug. 22, 2016


U.S. woman sweep the three Olympic medals in the 100 meter hurdles
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brianna Rollins led Team USA to the first ever sweep of medals in the women's 100 meter hurdles Wednesday night after she and two teammates secured the top three spots.

To close out competition Wednesday night, Ms. Rollins launched a dominating performance, crossing the finish line with a time of just 12.48 seconds. Her teammates, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin, weren't far behind, logging times of 12.59 and 12.61  to take all three spots on the medal podium.

After the race, Ms. Rollins called her relationship with her two teammates like a sisterhood.

“I’ve known these girls for years. I’m so grateful and blessed that we were able to accomplish this together,” she said.

Women’s track and field events occupied most of the Olympic primetime line-up Wednesday night, with medals also handed out in the long jump and the 200 meter sprint.

In a shocking upset, reigning champion American Brittany Reese lost to teammate Tianna Bartoletta, who took the gold medal on her final jump of 7.17 meters. Reese had to settle for silver after she couldn't make it past the 7.15 mark.

Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic, who recorded the best jump in qualifying rounds earlier this week, took bronze with a 7.08 meter jump.

Elaine Thompson of Jamaica took home her second gold medal in Rio after she narrowly edged out reigning world champion Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands in the 200 meter sprint. Ms. Thompson won the women’s 100 meter sprint Saturday.

Ms. Schippers, who stumbled coming off the line, couldn't manage to make up the lost time and lost to Ms. Thompson by just a tenth of a second, clocking a time of 21.88 to Thompson’s 21.78. Torie Bowie of the U.S. won bronze.

Elsewhere in Rio, China continued its domination of the ping pong table, sweeping the Olympic table tennis championships when world number one Ma Long and teammate Zhang Jike beat Japan 3-1 in the men’s team gold medal match. China had already won gold in the men’s singles and both the women’s singles and team tournaments. Germany beat South Korea for the bronze medal.

Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany beat Brazil’s Bárbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk two sets to none to give Germany its first ever gold medal in women’s beach volleyball. Ms. Seixas and Ms. Bednarczuk were the second Brazilian team to face defeat in the sand Wednesday after Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross defeated Brazil’s other women’s team in the bronze medal match.

In earlier competition, Daniyar Yeleussinov defeated Uzbekistan's Shakhram Giyasov and became the fourth straight boxer from Kazakhstan to win the Olympic welterweight gold medal. Yeleussinov, who suffered a vicious cut in his semifinal bout, used some sharp lefts to rattle Giyasov and win 29-28 on all three scorecards.

Kazakhstan boxers Serik Sapiyev and Bakhyt Sarsekbayev won the last three welterweight gold medals.

In badminton, Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia took gold in the mixed doubles against Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia. Ahmad and Ms. Natsir got to Wednesday's gold medal match in Rio by beating Olympic champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei of China.

The U.S. men’s basketball team dominated Argentina 105-78 to secure a spot in the semifinal round later this week.

Jamaica’s star runner Usain Bolt qualified for the 200 meter sprint after logging a time of 19.78 in Wednesday’s semifinal. Bolt already has one gold medal in Rio after he won the 100 meter race Sunday. U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin who had been the fastest over 200 meters so far this year, failed to qualify for the final.
-- Aug. 18, 2016


Women to star in track and field events, including sprints, this evening
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Women’s track and field events will occupy most of the Olympic primetime line-up tonight with medals being handed out in three high profile events.

Reigning champion American Brittany Reese will kick things off at 8:15 p.m. when she defends her long jump title against teammate Tianna Bartoletta and Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic, who recorded the best jump in qualifying rounds earlier this week.

Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, who won the women’s 100 meter sprint Saturday, looks to earn another gold in the 200 meter event at 9:30 p.m.

Ms. Thompson will face stiff competition from a pair of American runners, Tori Bowie, who matched Ms. Thompson’s time of 22.13 in the semifinals, and Deajah Stevens, who finished about a second shy of Ms. Thompson’s time. Should Ms. Thompson win the race, she would best Usain Bolt as the first Jamaican to win a 200 meter sprint.

The women’s 100 meter hurdles final will close out the night. Americans Brianna Rollins and Kristi Castlin look to battle each other for the top spot, but first they must get through the semifinal round, which will be held just two hours before the final.

They took first and second place in the first round competition earlier this week.

London 2012 champion American Ashton Eaton will also defend his title, as the men’s decathlon starts competition this morning with the 100 meter sprint. Athletes will continue the 10-sport contest throughout the day, with events held in the long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 meter race. The event will conclude Thursday night.

The women’s beach volleyball competition will wrap up Wednesday night when Brazil takes on Germany in the gold medal match at 11 p.m. Brazil’s Bárbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk put an end to American Kerri Walsh Jennings’ hopes for a fourth gold medal Tuesday night after beating the American team in straight sets and handing Ms. Jennings her first ever loss in an Olympic beach volleyball match.

Team USA will take on a different Brazilian team, composed of Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes, in the bronze medal match at 9 p.m.

China will look to sweep the Olympic table tennis championships when world number one Ma Long and teammate Zhang Jike square off against Japan in the men’s team gold medal match. China has already won gold in the men’s singles and both the women’s singles and team tournaments. South Korea will play Germany for the bronze medal.

Other medal events include women’s sailing, both men’s and women’s boxing and taekwondo, as well as women’s wrestling. In total, 16 gold medals will be handed out today.

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles won her fourth gold medal of the 2016
Olympic games in the floor-exercise competition Tuesday.

Ms. Biles, who is 19 years old, has given one of the best performances ever by a gymnast in the Olympic Games. Monday, she took a bronze medal in the balance beam event, a disappointing outcome, given that no woman has ever won five gold medals in a single Olympics.

Teammate Aly Raisman, seen as Biles' chief competition, took the silver medal.

In track cycling, which wrapped up competition Tuesday, Britain's Jason Kenny took the gold medal in the keirin, his third in the Rio Olympics.

Brazil took the gold medal in men's beach volleyball Tuesday, beating the Netherlands in a tie breaking third set. The final round of the popular sport filled the stadium with 12,000 dancing, cheering, raucous Brazil fans, which Brazil player Alison Cerutti said added to the pressure to win. Once he and partner Bruno Schmidt had secured their victory, Alison fell face-first into the sand in celebration.

In Greco-Roman wrestling, Armenia's Artur Aleksanyan took gold, beating Cuba's Yasmany Lugo Cabrera 3-0. Turkey's Celk Ildem and Iran's Ghasem Rezaei took the bronze medal.

Canada’s Derek Drouin won the men’s high jump final at a height of 2.38 meters, beating out silver winner Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar who couldn’t get past the 2.36 meter mark. Bogdan Bondarenko of Ukraine failed twice to pass the 2.38 meter jump before passing and raising the bar to 2.40 to try and win gold. He failed to make the jump and ended up with bronze.

And Brazilian police said Tuesday they have not been able to find witnesses to the reported robbery at gunpoint of U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte and several teammates, an incident that took place late Saturday or early Sunday morning after the completion of the Olympic swimming events.

The four U.S. swimmers say they were robbed at gunpoint by men dressed as police as they returned from a party at the French swim team's hospitality house in an upscale Rio neighborhood. Authorities say the police were not called to the scene when the robbery occurred and only began investigating when reports of the event appeared in local media.

Lochte, who said one of their assailants held a gun to his forehead, has moved out of Olympic housing and employed 24-hour security.

The swimmers said they had been drinking and could not remember details about the taxi they took back to their housing that night.

Also Tuesday, The International Olympic Committee announced it has stripped Russia of a gold medal awarded in the 2008 Olympics in the women's 4x100 sprint relay. The committee said one of the runners, Yulia Chermoshanskaya, tested positive for two steroids in a reanalysis of her doping samples from the Beijing Olympics. She and the rest of her teammates have been ordered to return their medals.
-- Aug. 17, 2017



Bolt, Miss Biles and, of course, Phelps again get Olympic gold medals
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The fastest man in world has won an unprecedented third straight Olympic gold medal in the men's 100 meter dash.

Jamaica's Usain Bolt came from behind to take the gold Sunday night in Rio de Janeiro, overcoming a poor start to catch American sprinter Justin Gatlin, who finished second for a silver medal.

A huge crowd watching the race on a large screen in Bollt's hometown of Kingston erupted in joy as he crossed the finish line in 9.58 seconds, short of the world record.

Canada's Andre de Grasse finished third and will take home a bronze medal.

A few minutes earlier, South Africa's Wade van Niekerk set a world's record in the men's 400 meter final finishing first in 43.03 seconds, beating his two top contenders Kirani James of Grenada and LaShawn Merritt of the United States.

In all, 22 gold medals were at stake Sunday in 12 sports.

British golfer Justin Rose, a fixture at major championships in his homeland and the United States, won the gold medal in the sport's return to the Olympics after a 104-year hiatus. Rose edged Swede Henrik Stenson on the last hole, tapping in a short birdie putt while Stenson bogeyed to finish two shots back and capture the silver medal. American Matt Kuchar won the bronze medal.

Simone Biles captured her third gold medal of the Rio Games, becoming the first American female gymnast to win three golds in the same Olympics. In the vault final, she finished ahead of silver medalist Maria Paseka of Russia and bronze medalist Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland.

The Sunday action started with the women's marathon, in which Jelagat Sumgong of Kenya claimed the gold medal with a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, 4 seconds. The silver medal went to Kenyan-born Eunice Kirwa, who represented Bahrain, while the bronze was claimed by world champion Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia.

Ms. Sumgong, the first Kenyan to win the event, provided her country its first gold of the Rio Games on a sunny day just hours after American swimmer Michael Phelps won his 23rd Olympic career gold medal. It was his fifth of the Rio Games, in what may be the final race of his Olympic career.

The most decorated Olympian in history swam the third leg of the 4x100-meter medley relay, coming from behind to pass Britain and give the U.S. the lead going into the final leg.

The first leg of the relay, the backstroke, turned out to be a world-record time by American Ryan Murphy, and that pushed the U.S. team toward an Olympic record time for the complete race.

The U.S. women's 4x100-meter medley relay also won gold
Saturday, the nation's 1,000th gold medal in Summer Olympics history.

And on the final day of swimming competition in Rio, Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri earned gold in swimming's most grueling race, the men's 1,500-meter freestyle. Connor Jaeger of the U.S. took silver.

Earlier, Pernille Blume of Denmark held off American Simone Manuel to win the 50-meter freestyle.

On the track, Jamaican Elaine Thompson took gold in the women's 100 meters in 10.71 seconds, ending a bid by her countrywoman, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, to win the sprint event at three straight Olympic Games. American Tori Bowie took silver, just ahead of Ms. Fraser-Pryce.

The long jump crown went to American Jeff Henderson, earning the gold on his sixth and final jump.

British runner Mo Farah was tripped by American training partner Galen Rupp on the 10th lap of the men's 10,000-meter race, but recovered to successfully defend his Olympic title.

In the heptathlon, Belgium's Nafissatou Thiam beat out defending champion Jessica Ennis-Hill of Britain in a competition that went down to a matter of seconds in the last event.

Elsewhere in Rio, Iran's Sohrab Moradi took gold in men's 94-kilogram weightlifting, the country's second weightlifting victory in two days,and Russia won its fourth fencing gold, crushing Ukraine in the women's team sabre event.

Puerto Rican tennis player Monica Puig won the first Olympic gold medal for the U.S. territory in any sport Saturday, beating Germany's Angelique Kerber at women's singles in a big upset. Puig was unseeded, while the second-seeded Kerber won the Australian Open in January and was runner-up at Wimbledon in July.

Meanwhile, Russian long jumper Darya Klishina is fighting her suspension from the games, saying the doping allegations against her are politically motivated.

Previously, Ms. Klishina had been the only Russian track and field athlete exempted from a blanket ban on Russian-trained athletes implicated in a state-sponsored doping scandal. Ms. Klishina has trained the past three years in the U.S. state of Florida and was subjected to non-Russian drug tests.

But reports say her name has surfaced in a lawyer's report on the scandal, putting the International Court of Arbitration for Sport under pressure to rule on her case before the long jump competition starts Tuesday.



U.S. gymnast takes gold and continues country's dominance of the sport
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

American Simone Biles is now officially the best gymnast in the world.

Ms. Biles on Thursday won the women's individual all-around contest, while her teammate Aly Raisman took the silver medal. Russian Aliya Mustafina took the bronze.

The 19-year-old Ms. Biles is now the fourth-straight American woman to win the all-around title and fifth overall, while taking her place as the greatest gymnast of her generation and perhaps of all time.

U.S. swimming phenom Michael Phelps earned his 22nd career gold medal in the 200 meter individual medley Thursday night.

Phelps, who already has won three gold medals in Rio, swam in the lane next to American teammate and longtime rival Ryan Lochte. Lochte didn't fare as well as Phelps, coming in fifth after falling behind in the final freestyle leg of the race.

Kosuke Hagino of Japan, who previously won the 400 meter medley race, took second, and China’s Wang Shun came in third.

Phelps's wins gave him his fourth straight individual medley title at the Olympics.

Just around 30 minutes after winning gold in the 200 meter medley, Phelps was back in the water for a semifinal race in the 100 meter butterfly. Phelps took second in the heat, behind only Laszlo Cseh of Hungary.

American swimmer Simone Manuel tied for gold in the 100 meter freestyle, sharing the title with Penelope Oleksiak of Canada, after both swimmers touched the wall at exactly 52.70 seconds. Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom came in third with a time of 52.99.

China continued its dominance on the ping pong table, as Ma Long, the best table tennis player in the world, beat his teammate, Zhang Zike in the championship Thursday night. The win marked the third straight time the Chinese team has won both gold and silver at the Olympics.

In other medal action Thursday, Lukas Krpalek of the Czech

Republic won the men's judo gold medal in the 100-kilogram division after defeating Azerbaijan's Elmar Gasimov, the world number two. After trying multiple times to throw Gasimov in the five-minute fight Thursday, Krpalek finally managed to flip his opponent in the last 30 seconds for an instant victory. The two embraced after the final and saluted the crowd together.

It is the Czech Republic's first gold medal in judo.

The men's bronze medals were won by Cyrille Maret, who turned 29 Thursday, and Japan's Ryunosoke Haga.

American Kayla Harrison successfully defended her Olympic judo title in the women's 78-kilogram division, after beating France's Audrey Tcheumeo in a tense final. With just six seconds left, Ms. Harrison caught Ms. Tcheumeo's arm in an armlock, and forced Ms. Tcheumeo to tap out in submission, automatically winning the contest.

The women's bronze medals were won by Brazil's Mayra Aguiar and Slovenian Anamari Velensek.

The Fiji men’s rugby team won the country’s first-ever gold medal after handily defeating Great Britain in the championship rugby sevens match 43-7. Rio marks the first time rugby has been played at the Olympics since 1924.

Britain won the first gold medal of the track cycling program at the Rio Olympics, rallying past New Zealand in the final of the men's team sprint by the slimmest of margins.

The squad of Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner trailed their rivals when their second and third riders dropped away, but Skinner was able to make up the difference.

They finished in a time of 42.440 seconds, lowering the Olympic record that the Kiwis set in the previous round.

Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Ed Dawkins stopped the clock in 42.542 seconds.

The French team of Gregory Bauge, Francois Pervis and Michael D'Almeida rallied on the final lap to swipe bronze from the Australian team.
-- Aug. 12, 2016


Team USA continues to dominate swimming events at the Río Olympics
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Wednesday marked the fifth day of the 2016 Rio Olympics, and with medal rounds in several high-profile sports, it proved to be an eventful one.

Led by Olympic veteran Michael Phelps and rising star Katie Ledecky, Team USA continued its dominance in swim events Wednesday with Ms. Ledecky winning another gold medal and Phelps securing the top spot in the 200 meter individual medley heading into Thursday’s final.

Ms. Ledecky anchored the women's team in the 4x200 meter freestyle relay final, an event Team USA won during the 2012 London Olympics, and helped the team to win the gold medal.

Trailing Australian swimmer Emma McKeon when she entered the water for the last leg of the race, Ms. Ledecky quickly closed the gap and blew away the rest of the field, turning in a split time almost two and a half seconds faster than her next-fastest teammate.

The win gave Ms. Ledecky her third gold medal of the Olympic Games.

Nathan Adrian took home a bronze medal for Team USA in the men's 100 meter freestyle event, finishing less than a tenth of a second behind silver medal winner Pieter Timmers of Belgium. Australia’s Kyle Chalmers won the gold.

Phelps, fresh off wins for his 20th and 21st gold medals, and teammate Ryan Lochte took the first and second spots, respectively, in the men's 200 meter individual medley qualifier, with their sights set on winning medals in the final on Thursday. Lochte and Phelps were half of the team that won the 4x200 meter freestyle relay Tuesday.

Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan pulled off a stunning upset in the men's 200-meter breaststroke on Wednesday night, putting his central Asian country on the swimming medal stand for the first time ever.

Mireia Belmonte Garcia gave Spain its first gold medal of the Olympics after she won the women’s 200 meter butterfly. Ms. Garcia also gave Spain its only other medal during the Rio Olympics earlier this week when she took bronze in the 400 meter individual medley.

Brazil avoided embarrassment in front of its home fans Wednesday night as it was finally able to score in the Olympic tournament, beating Denmark 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. Brazil previously went through two disappointing scoreless draws to Iraq and South Africa, two teams largely seen as inferior to the Brazilian powerhouse.

Defending champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan took home another gold medal in gymnastics after he barely edged out Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev by less than a point, 92.365 to 92.266. Max Whitlock of Great Britain won the bronze medal.

Both men and women competed in road cycling medal events Wednesday despite rain and wind. In the women's individual time trials, defending champion Kristin Armstrong of Team USA took the gold.  Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara won gold in the men's time trials.   Both riders are set to retire after the Rio games.

Team USA leader Carmelo Anthony became the highest scoring player in U.S. Olympics basketball history after the team survived a game against a feisty Australia squad. Anthony scored a game-high 31 points to give the Americans a 93-86 win over Australia in a game that was close until the very end.

China's Ding Ning avenged her loss in the London Olympics to countrywoman Li Xiaoxia, taking gold over Li in the women's table tennis finals and extending China's supremacy in the sport.

Third-ranked Aron Szilagyi of Hungary beat upstart American fencer Daryl Homer to win gold in men's sabre. Despite the loss, Homer earned the second silver medal for the U.S. men's fencing team in Rio.

--Aug. 11, 2016


U.S. swimmers continue to rake in the Olympic gold medals
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Day four of the Olympic Games in Rio ​saw U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps net two more gold medals, bringing his career total to 21. He narrowly won the 200 meter butterfly and anchored the men's 4x200 meter freestyle relay team.

Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympics history, was able to knock off arch rivall Chad le Clos of South Africa with a final time of 1:53.36. Le Clos, the defending champion, faded out down the final stretch and eventually placed fourth, behind Japan’s Masato Sakai, who took second, and Tamas Kenderesi of Hungary, who took third.

Another star of the U.S. team, Katie Ledecky, won her second gold medal of the games by winning the 200 meter freestyle.  She also won gold Sunday in the 400 freestyle, beating her own world record in that event.

Ms. Ledecky, who dominated in the 200 and 400 meter races could become the first Olympian since Debbie Meyer in 1968 to sweep the freestyle category should she win the 800 meter race scheduled for Saturday.

Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won her third gold medal and set a new Olympic record Tuesday after she glided to victory in the 200 meter individual medley with a time of 2:6.58. She had previously won the 400 meter individual medley on Saturday and the 100 meter backstroke Monday.

The U.S. women's gymnastics team took gold for a second consecutive Olympics. The team gave retiring national team coordinator Martha Karolyi a fitting send-off in the Olympic finals, putting on a two-hour display of precision and class. Its score of 184.897 was more than eight points clear of silver medalist Russia.

Japan secured a stunning 14-12 victory over New Zealand in the first game of the men’s rugby sevens tournament. New Zealand is a 12-time world series champion and widely regarded as one of the

top contenders to win one of the first-ever rugby medals awarded at the Olympics.

In tennis, defending Olympic champion and top singles seed Serena Williams was knocked out of the tournament in a 6-4, 6-3 loss in the third round to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina.  Ms. Williams made more than three dozen unforced errors, including eight double-faults, five of them in one game. Now the 2012 London gold medalist in singles and doubles is finished in Rio. She and her sister Venus lost in the first round of doubles.

It was another Olympic diving gold for the Chinese. Chen Ruolin and Liu Huixia won the women's 10-meter synchronized platform title Tuesday, making China 3-for-3 in the competition so far. The Chinese have never lost the event at the Olympics. Chen earned her third consecutive gold medal in 10-meter synchro, having won in 2008 and 2012 with different partners. Malaysia earned silver with 344.34 points. Canada took bronze with 336.18.

American Travis Stevens won a silver medal in the men's 81-kilogram division in judo, losing to Russia's Khasan Khalmurzaev in the final. The bronze medals were won by Sergiu Toma of the United Arab Emirates and Takanori Nagase of Japan.

Top seed Slovenian Tina Trstenjak won the women's judo gold in the 63-kilogram division, following in the footsteps of fellow Slovenian and London Games champion Urska Zolnir, who is now on her coaching team. After pinning second-seeded Clarisse Agbegnenou of France to the mat for 20 seconds, just two minutes into the fight, Ms. Trstenjak scored an automatic ippon victory. The women's bronze medals were won by Yarden Gerbi of Israel and Anicka Van Emden of the Netherlands.

South Korean Sangyoung Park stormed back to score the final five points and take gold in men's epee Tuesday, in a matchup of the youngest and oldest fencers in the field. Park, just 20, beat 41-year-old Geza Imre of Hungary Imre 15-14. Top-ranked Gauthier Grumier of France won the bronze.
-- Aug. 10, 2016


U.S. swimmers continue their Olympics dominance at Río games
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two Team USA swimmers set new Olympic records Monday night while winning gold medals in breast stroke and back stroke events.

Ryan Murphy, 21, won the men's 100 meters backstroke race with a time of 51.97 seconds, a new Olympic record, but just short of the world record of 51.94 set by compatriot Aaron Peirsol in 2009 before non-textile bodysuits were banned from competition.

Murphy’s win continues U.S. domination in the event Americans have displayed in six successive Olympics dating back to Atlanta in 1996.

19-year-old Lilly King took the gold medal in the women's won gold in the women's 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:04.93, another new Olympic record. The win for Ms. King became personal after she struck up a bit of a rivalry with Russian Yulia Efimova, 24, during the preliminary rounds.

The two engaged in some back-and-forth finger-wagging and dirty looks during the semifinals of the event, but Ms. King refused to back down and after the race had some choice words for Ms. Efimova, who took second place.

Ms. Efimova, the reigning world champion, was jeered after winning her heat in the 100-meter breaststroke preliminaries after serving a 16-month suspension for doping and then testing positive this year for the now-banned pharmaceutical meldonium.

She and six other Russian swimmers were initially banned from the Rio games following reports from the World Anti-Doping Agency identifying a state-sanctioned doping scheme for Russian athletes.  The Olympic International Committee reinstated her and several other high-profile Russian swimmers in the past week.

American swimming star Katie Ledecky smashed her own world record in the 400 meter freestyle event Sunday at the Rio Olympic Games.

The U.S. men's swimming team won a gold medal in the 4x100

relay. Michael Phelps, who gave the team the lead swimming a fast second leg, earned his 19th gold medal as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.

Phelps took second place in the men's 200 meter butterfly semifinals, where he holds the world and Olympic records.

Adam Peaty of Britain also set a world record for the men's 100 meter breaststroke with a time of 57.13 seconds to win gold.  Earlier, Sweden's Sara Sjostrom broke the world record in the women's event.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first U.S. Olympian to compete while wearing a hijab, made her Olympic debut during the fencing competition.  She won her first match but was eliminated in her second bout.

Growing up black and Muslim in the U.S. state of New Jersey, 28-year-old Ibtihaj Muhammad says she loved sports, but often struggled to find her place.

Ms. Muhammad began fencing in 1999 at the age of 13. She set her sights on the American national team in 2007 when she realized there were no minorities represented. In 2011, Ms. Muhammad became the first female Muslim athlete to represent the United States.

She is ranked second in the United States and 12th worldwide.

Rugby made its Olympic debut as well. The top four women’s sevens teams are set to compete for gold medals, among them Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

The U.S. men's basketball team, a 119-62 winner over China on Sunday, defeated Venezuela 113-69 Monday.

The U.S. women's basketball team routed Senegal 121-56 in the opening round of competition on Sunday and defeated Spain 103-63 Monday.

-Aug. 9, 2016


U.S. swimming star sets a new freestyle record and wins gold in Río
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

American swimming star Katie Ledecky smashed her own world record at the 400 meters freestyle event Sunday at the Rio Olympic Games.

The 19-year-old swimmer touched the wall in a time of 3 minutes 56.46 seconds, knocking nearly 2 seconds off the record to earn her first gold medal of the 2016 Summer Games.

Adam Peaty of Britain also set a world record for the men's 100 meters breaststroke with a time of 57.13 seconds to win gold.

The U.S. men's swimming team won a gold medal in the 4x100 relay. Michael Phelps, who gave the team the lead swimming a fast third leg, earned his 19th gold medal as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.  Americans regained the title in the event after the French took gold in 2012 in London.  France came in second Sunday.

Defending champion Serena Williams of the U.S. battled high winds Sunday to reach the Olympic tennis second round, defeating Australia's Daria Gavrilova 6-4, 6-2, while organizers were roundly criticized for allowing play in conditions described as ugly.

In women's doubles, Serena and sister Venus Williams had their hopes for a fourth gold dashed when they lost to Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova in the first round. It was the Williams sisters' first loss as a doubles team in Olympic competition. Together they won 15 previous matches and took the title in 2000, 2008 and 2012.

Winds up to 25 kilometers an hour forced a 90-minute postponement of Sunday's matches at the Barra complex in Rio de Janeiro. Top ranked Brazilian Thomaz Belluci, who opened at center court, said the competition marked "the first time of my life that I played in such terrible conditions."

At other events, media helicopters were grounded during the women's cycling competition, and rowers were ordered to stay off the water after competitors complained high winds that capsized a boat Saturday should have forced postponement Sunday as well.

In other action, reigning world champion swimmer Yulia Efimova of Russia was booed after winning her heat in the 100-meter breaststroke preliminaries, after serving a 16-month suspension for doping and then testing positive this year for the now-banned pharmaceutical meldonium.

She and six other Russian swimmers were initially banned from the Rio games following reports from the World Anti-Doping Agency identifying a state-sanctioned doping scheme for Russian athletes.  The Olympic International Committee reinstated her and several other high-profile Russian swimmers in the past week.

Day two of the Rio Games was also a day for the U.S. gymnastics women's team to make its debut.

Former Olympic champion Gabby Douglas received high scores in Sunday’s qualifying event, but will not compete in the all-around final to defend the gold medal she won in 2012.

Although Ms. Douglas scored well, she still finished in third place. Teammate Simone Biles led the way scoring 62.366, two more points than teammate Aly Raisman who will compete with Biles in the all-around final.  Only two gymnasts per country are allowed to compete in the final.

“I would have loved to go out there and defend my tittle, but I’m not disappointed. It’s been an amazing ride,” Ms. Douglas said.

The U.S. women's basketball team routed Senegal 121-56 in the opening round of competition.

Meanwhile, Kosovo judo fighter Majlinda Kelmendi won the gold medal for the women's 52-kilogram division Sunday, giving her Balkan nation its first-ever Olympic medal.

And Spanish cyclist Joaquim Rodriguez, who finished fifth in Saturday's competition, has announced his retirement, saying he has fulfilled a lifelong ambition to compete in the Rio games. 

The 37-year-old won three stages of the Tour de France in July, confirmed on Twitter that Saturday's race would be his last.
- Aug. 8, 2016


Twitter wins auction for rights to air Thursday night NFL games
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday morning on Twitter that the social media platform outbid several other companies for the rights to stream Thursday Night NFL games.

"This fall Thursday Night Football will be streamed live . . . so fans will see more of this," Goodell said in a Tweet.

Twitter was in a hotly contested bidding war with other media giants like Facebook, Amazon and Verizon, which is in the final year of a sponsorship deal with the NFL that pays the league about $250 million per year. But Twitter proved the victor in the battle for NFL streaming rights, the terms of which were not disclosed.

"Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world live NFL football," Goodell said in a statement. "There is a massive amount of NFL-related conversation happening on Twitter during our games and tapping into that audience, in addition to our viewers on broadcast and cable, will ensure Thursday Night Football is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season.”

The deal comes at a pivotal moment for Twitter, which has seen its user base plateau at around 320 million users and advertising revenue that falls well short of competitors like Facebook and Instagram.

Investors have been putting pressure on Twitter to raise revenue after the company’s stock dropped in value by more than 66 percent over the past year. After news of the deal broke early Tuesday morning, Twitter shares rose by more than 3.5 percent.

With the move, the NFL joins a growing trend in entertainment of moving away from traditional cable and broadcast television in favor of Internet platforms.

With more people turning to Internet and mobile-based media for their video content, the NFL is hoping to capitalize on the potential to reach new advertisers and viewers.

"This is about transforming the fan experience with football. People watch NFL games with Twitter today," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement. "Now they'll be able to watch right on Twitter Thursday nights."
— April 6, 2016


Spanish skills help Utah man manage top soccer team
By Rommel Téllez
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nearly every Tico  who follows soccer loves David J. Patey.

Patey happens to be the president of Club Sport Herediano, one of the oldest and most cherished soccer teams of the country.

However, it's not just because of his position that he's even been called a savior by the local media. His success recipe also includes an impressive command of  the Spanish language and a chunk of good luck.

Born in Jerusalem and raised in Utah by Canadian parents, the loan broker is a devout Mormon and father of five.  In 2003, he and his wife decided to move to Costa Rica to master the language of Cervantes, with which he got in touch for the first time when he was 13.

“Back then, I could count from 1 to 17 and say ‘Hola, como estas.’” he remembered.

For two years the couple lived in Escazú and then returned to the U.S. After a few months they noticed their children were losing the language they had learned.

“At that point we decided to return to Costa Rica and stay permanently. We were lucky enough to sell our property in the U.S. just a little before the housing crisis started. That was a blessing.” said Patey.

Once settled, Patey continued his business of “marrying lenders and borrowers,” as he put it. He cared little about soccer, a sport that would change his life.

Oct. 27, 2012, a rumor spread in media outlets. A Gringo investor would come to the rescue of the Club Sport Herediano, a 92-year-old team struggling to survive under a pile of debt and legal battles.

“Two friends and business partners had asked me to be the administrative manager of the team,” recalled Patey. “I said yes as long as it would not hurt my privacy. That shows how naive I was at the time. I expected privacy in a country where soccer is a religion.”

Less than 24 hours later he held his first press conference and found himself overwhelmed by dozens of reporters, photographers and sports personalities. His Spanish and people skills impressed some reporters who believed that someone had trained him before the event.

“A few days later, those reporter put me to the test. They gave me a paper with several Costa Rica slang sentences. Not only did I answer them all right, but gave them examples of
synonyms for those same sentences” Patey said with a big 
David Patey
A.M. Costa Rica/Rommel Téllez                         
David J. Patey in the Heredia stadium.

smile. Sopa de muneca (Knuckle sandwich), sopapo en la jupa (a strike on the head) and no me chingue mae (don't bother me) are some examples of the pachuco, slang Spanish, they asked him, he recalled.
 

After that, his stardom broke loose. Everybody liked him and, as Patey himself confirms, the appropriation of the Costa Rican culture smoothed things out.

Under his administration the team attained financial stability and was able to pay its players decent wages. He also decided that, whenever possible, weekly games would be played on Saturday nights, so he and the team could have Sundays off.

“A priest came to me and said that because of the move, the Mass attendance had considerably increased,” Patey adds.

Nowadays, Patey still isn't a soccer super fan,  but at least understands how it works and actually enjoys watching the games. He encourages other foreigners to pick a team, buy the correct T-shirt and go to the stadium. “That's all it takes for you to start liking it,”

Patey is also in the car dealership business. He works with the french company Peugeot and likes to mediate among conflicts. That's in part because he does not consider soccer a profitable activity. Rather he said he is in this industry inspired by the passion of players and fans.

“I am very happy. I am the popular Gringo and I live in the best country in the world. I am not planning to change this” he said.

— April 4, 2016


World cricket stars will promote sport by bringing teams to United States
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two teams of cricket players will compete in three U.S. cities in November. Organizers hope Americans will learn more about the sport and begin watching it and even playing it.

The first match will be played Nov. 7 in New York at Citi Field, followed by matches Nov. 11 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, and Nov. 14 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angles.

Two famous cricket stars, Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne, will captain the teams, which will include some of the best international players from the past 25 years.

Tendulkar and Warne are known by millions throughout the world, but almost no one in the United States has heard of them.

In 2012 Tendulkar was on the cover of Time magazine, which called him The God of Cricket and said he was “the world’s most famous sportsman” and “the world’s best athlete.”

Both Tendulkar and Warne retired from professional cricket in 2013.

Tendulkar recently told the magazine he believes Americans will become fans once they see cricket played.

“You’ll only learn things if you give them a try,” he said. “Americans are used to watching baseball, and it’s very similar to that. If Americans can start coming to the stadium, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them” begin to watch cricket.

Warne said he hopes the exhibitions will answer such questions as: “What’s all the fuss about? Why is it the second-most-popular game in the world? What’s so special about this game?”

At the games, players will teach Americans how to play, and spectators will receive small books telling them about the sport.

Football, what Americans call soccer,  has for many years been the most popular sport in the world. Cricket is the second-most
 popular sport. From Harare to London to Islamabad, many people follow cricket like a religion. Players gain fame and launch political careers in Pakistan and India.

The International Cricket Council, the sport’s ruling organization, said its Web site had more than 26 million visitors, the highest ever, during the World Cup world tournament earlier this year. The council says more than 1.5 billion people watched the World Cup on television.


Cricket officials believe the sport could become more popular in the United States. With an increasing number of immigrants to the country from South Asia, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, cricket is becoming better known. But it still competes with basketball, American football, ice hockey and baseball.

(Costa Rica has it  own cricket league, thansk in part ot immigrants to the Caribbean from Jamaica.)

It is believed cricket began in England. The sport is similar to baseball: Both are played with a bat and a ball, for example, and there are batters, outs and pitches. A pitcher in baseball is called a bowler in cricket.

But baseball and cricket are also very different from one another. In baseball, when the batter hits a home run, they touch all of the bases and return to the team’s bench. In cricket, when a batsman hits a home run they continue to bat until they are out or until a set number of pitches are completed.

Like baseball, the team that scores the most runs wins the game.

For many years, cricket matches lasted for days. But now, most games are played in one day. In India, the game is sometimes played in just three to four hours. This popular version of the game is known as Twenty20.

That is the version of the game that the two teams will be playing in cities throughout the United States.
— Oct. 26, 2015


Tennis world mourns Mike Davies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The tennis world is mourning the loss of Mike Davies, a former British Davis Cup player-turned-administrator who died Tuesday at 79. The International Tennis Federation said Davies died after a battle with illness.

Davies was the top-ranked British player in the 1950s and had a career record in Davis Cup play of 24-13 from 1955 to 1960. He also was a significant figure in ushering the sport into the professional era in the 1960s and 70s.

Born in Wales in the mid-1930s, Davies reached the fourth round at Wimbledon as an 18-year-old and was men's doubles runner-up in 1960. But then he turned professional, which at the time meant he couldn't play at any of tennis' traditional tournaments.

As tennis commercialized in the late 1960s, Davies played a major role in running the rebel World Championship Tennis circuit, funded by the oil magnate Lamar Hunt, which challenged the traditional tour. He became one of those dynamic characters the tennis establishment hated.

In his time, he headed both the Association of Tennis Professionals and the International Tennis Federation. But perhaps his greatest claim to fame is as the man who cemented the 90-second time limit for players to change ends after every two games, and the replacement of the white tennis ball by the more TV-friendly yellow ball. He also introduced the 30-second time limit between points.
— Nov. 4, 2015
U.S. baseball highlights







Bike race start
ties up traffic


The Vuelta a Costa Rica came to the downtown Tuesday, Dec. 23, and the traffic tieup was spectacular.  This is the bike race in nine stages.

Tuesday was number eight, and the athletes had to travel from San José to  San Isidro del General, some 126.8 kilometers. As the racers started, Avenidas 7 and 8 as well as adjacent calles were closed to traffic for two hours. Motorists were directed to Calle Blancos.

The first stage was Dec. 14. There are eight national teams and six international ones. The final race is Christmas Day.
tie
                up
A.M. Costa Rica/Gabriela Vega Barrantes

Italian cyclist Nibali, as expected, is the winner of the Tour de France
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Italian cyclist Vincenzo Nibali is the winner of this year's Tour de France.

The 29-year-old Sicilian held on to the yellow jersey as the overall leader for 19 of the 21 stages, winning four of them, and finished in the main pack of racers Sunday down the Champs Elysées in Paris.

His margin of victory over runner-up Jean-Christophe Peraud of France was 7:37.  Frenchman Thibaut Pinot was third, 8:15 behind the winner, meaning two French riders made the podium for the first time since 1984.
This year's three-week race began with three stages in Britain and covered more than 3,600 kilometers.

Nibali is the first Italian to win the Tour de France in 16 years, and only the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours, in France, Italy and Spain. After widespread scandals in the sport involving illegal drug doping, Nibali called himself a flag-bearer of anti-doping.

Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos won a separate, one-day women's Tour de France on an 89-kilometer course on the Champs Elysées.

The top finishing American in the men's race was Tejay Van Garderen in fifth place, 11:44 behind Nibali.


Little paca gets a great role in the national sports games
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's favorite rodent has been selected to be the official mascot of the  Juegos Deportivos Nacionales this year.  The sports events are being held in the southern zone, which is a break with tradition.

The mascot is the paca (Cuniculus paca) or, as they are called in Spanish, tepezcuintles, They are a gentle, fruit and nut munching forest animal, But the mascot looks a bit more active. He is called Terpez. The games will be in San Vito, Ciudad Neily and Golfito this year.

The mascot was unveiled Monday at the legislature by  Jorge Angulo Mora, who represents that area. The designer was identified as  Pablo Castillo.

Next year the games, which involve many high schoolers, will be in San Carlos,  Los Chiles, Upala, Guatuso and Zarcero.

— July 23, 2013
Terpez
Mascot will be presented officially in August


Hockey is alive and well in Parque la Sabana despite lack of ice
By Cody Gear
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

On any Saturday or Sunday passersby can’t help but to notice the abundance of activities taking place in La Sabana Park. Soccer takes a front row seat, but a closer look reveals sporting activities that are novel for Costa Rica. 

None is more novel than the group that plays hockey every Sunday morning. Who would think hockey in Costa Rica?

Although there has been a league that has played the sport on ice, this league is for roller hockey. Don Mora, the president of the Asociación de Deportivo Hockey Costa Rica, said that the sport took roots in 1993 and teams played in the Parque de Paz. After losing that venue to a bicycle club, the association obtained another site in Parque de Paz only to lose that to a tennis club.

Finally, in 2010 players were able to acquire a new site in La Sabana when a new skating facility was constructed. They have been there ever since. Mora said that it has taken time to rebuild interest in hockey and now have as many as 30 to 40 show up each Sunday to play.

Mora also said that on Saturdays at the same location they have a hockey clinic to teach children and other newcomers the game.  The clinic begins at 9:30 a.m. and is free of charge. Mora said that participants need to have only a pair of skates and a helmet to participate in the clinic.

The league officials are planning the upcoming season which is scheduled to start in late July or early August. They plan to have a rainy season and a dry season, which will begin in January. Mora said the league plan to have five or six teams by January. The upcoming season will be comprised of three teams. Anyone interested in playing or learning hockey should contact Don Mora at info@morabriceno.com. 


La Sabana Hocky
A.M. Costa Rica/Cody Gear
New rink is perfect for the game



Flag football continues to grow as a youth sport with limited contact
By Cody Gear
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A big week in youth flag football concluded Sunday as the Spartans won a round robin tournament held in La Sabana Park. The tournament, which was hosted and sponsored by the Federation of American Football in Costa Rica, held the tournament to honor the National Sports Day in Costa Rica.

Preparation for the tournament began last week and was held adjacent to the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana. 

Paolo Vincenzi, who is a federation commissioner and the coach of the Spartans said it was a great opportunity for the curious to see what this sport looks like. Vincenzi said many are familiar with traditional tackle football but that flag football is a relatively non-contact sport.

The game is played using rules similar to tackle football with some minor exceptions. Instead of tackling the opponent, the removal of a “flag” from his flag belt signals the end of the play. Instead of the traditional 10 yards to gain a first down with four attempts, flag football only allows three attempts to make a first down with a longer yard to gain standard.

Expats living here know that children are playing tackle football at a very early age. Vincenzi said in the United States children are exposed to American football at a very young age. Through organizations such as Pop Warner as well as local community-based programs such as Grey Y (sponsored by the YMCA) and local governments via city or county recreation departments, kids in the States have opportunities that Costa Rican youngsters do not.

By the time youngsters in the States reach Junior high school they have received an excellent foundation in position techniques and a good understanding of the game, the coach said.
flag
Photo by Cody Gear
Tournament was held in the shadow of the Estadio Nacional

Many go on to play high school and college football. For those who excel, universities in the United States offer scholarships which pay for a complete college education. Vincenzi said that with the sport spreading to other countries, the universities are now looking at talent in other places beside the United States.

Several major universities have given scholarships to players from Mexico, Germany, Haiti, and Great Britain. When asked if this could be a glimpse into the future where flag football could lead to a college scholarship, he said he didn’t know but his hope is that some deserving young man would be one day.

Vincenzi said there are currently seven flag football teams within the league. Flag football began here in 2009 with just four teams, he noted, adding that he hoped, the sport will continue to grow and that he encourages anyone who wants to participate with a current team or by forming a team is welcomed. Vincenzi can be reached through the federation Web site:  www.fefacr.org.
—April 9, 2013


El Salvador prevails in three-way U.S.-style football tourney
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three teams from Costa Rica and El Salvador challenged each other in a football tournament in Cartago Saturday.

Yes, that’s American football, a sport that has been gradually gaining traction in Costa Rica and Central America for the past decade.

Although the El Salvador Caimenes triumphed over the two Costa Rican teams, the Costa Rican league looks forward to sending the best of its five teams to Nicaragua, next month for another international tournament.

Paolo Vincenzi, president of the American football federation of Costa Rica, said that many Costa Ricans enjoy watching and playing football.

However, unlike soccer where a ball is the only item necessary to play, football requires extra gear that is both expensive and hard to come by in Costa Rica. Vincenzi attributes these expenses as to what football has been slow to become popular.

“Everybody watches, but it’s complicated to get equipment, so not that many people play,” he said.

Football leagues began appearing in Central America about 10 years ago, but Costa Rica only began its league four years ago. Now, there are five major league teams, 10 minor league teams and the federation is now trying to get football in schools by training physical education teachers in the rules of the sport.

 Also to bring attention to the sport, the federation’s leagues play their seasons throughout the year and hold international tournaments, like the one in Cartago over the weekend. The major league season runs from February until May, and the minor league has two seasons in summer and winter.

This tournament was supposed to include other teams, including one from Nicaragua, but only El Salvador’s Caimenes, the Santo Domingo Saints and the hosts, the Cartago Dragons.

Jason Honey coaches the Dragons and has been a part of the team as a player and a coach for four years, ever since he heard an advertisement to play football on the radio one day while he was driving.

“I pulled the car over, I made the call, and I’ve been involved with federation ever since,” he said.

Although the Dragons are not the best team in the league, finishing in last place this season, Honey is confident that more experience will make his young, fast team a force to be reckoned with in the coming seasons. In addition he is building the program by getting younger people involved in the sport earlier.

“We have a lot of young players, very fast and very skilled,” he said. “We’re really working on the program for the youth.”

Costa Rica and El Salvador will meet each other again the last weekend of September in Managua, Nicaragua.

— Aug.27, 2012


 Seven surfers are candidates to win the nation's 2012 title
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's best surfers and most avid surfing enthusiasts will descend on Playa Hermosa, Aug. 24 to 26, for the Federación de Surf de Costa Rica's 12th annual championships, which will decide who wins the national title for the year.

The main event of the Gran Reef Final is the open division championship, which pits 48 male surfers against each other. Some will be regulars looking for the title. They have been competing in the past six federation events this year, but the majority will be lesser-known surfers that come out  for $2,000 prize only awarded for winning the championship.

The federation expects the competition for the title at this final to be unprecedented, because unlike in previous years, seven competitors in the open division can potentially win the title if they win the championship.

“For the first time in history, if you want to win the national title you have to win the final,” said Carlos Enrique Brenes, federation spokesman.

Brenes explained that the federation awards points at each competition throughout the year, and which ever surfer has the most points at the end of the final wins the national title, as long as they have surfed in four federation events. Winning one of the six regular competitions in the national circuit earns a surfer 1,500 points and winning the championship earns 2,000.

One result of using this system is that a surfer can win several regular competitions and accumulate a lead in points that is too high for anyone to beat, ensuring that surfer will win the title regardless of their performance in the final.

This has been the case for every previous final, and would have been the case this year if the leader in points had not dropped out to participate in another competition in the United States.

This leaves seven surfers eligible to win the title, all of whom are less than 500 points apart, according to a press release for the event.

“This is the first time that seven people have the same chances of winning the title,” said Brenes.


These seven surfers are: Anthony Fillingim, Noe Mar McGonagle, Gilbert Brown, Ramón Taliani, Jefferson Tascón, Diego Naranjo and Maykol Torres.

In all there will be seven divisions all with heats and championships over the course of the weekend from the 24th until the 26th. These include the five competitions for men including the open (with 48 competitors at least 18 years old), the longboard (eight competitors), the junior (32 men ages 15 to 17), the boys (24 boys ages 12 to 15) and the groms, which is slang for young surfer (12 boys younger than 12 years old). There will also be two competitions for women, which include the women's open division (12 women over 18) and the women's junior (12 women ages 15 to 17).

All competitions will take place at Playa Hermosa, near Jacó, and anyone can watch from the beach free of charge.

Although the final matches will be Sunday, the federation will hold an end of the season party  Saturday night at the Hotel Morgan's Cove in Jacó, starting at 8 p.m. This party will feature live music by Sonámbulo Psicotropical and Pierre Monney, and costs 5,000 colons to attend, about $10

In other surfing news, the International Surfing Association has selected Venezuela to host this year's World Bodyboarding Championships Nov. 24 to Dec. 2, the first international surfing competition held there since 2002. The event will be on Margarita Island at Playa Parguito. The last association event in Costa Rica was in 2009, when it held the World Surfing Games also at Playa Hermosa.

— Aug. 10, 2012



 Costa Rica's runners fail to make the cut at Olympics
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s hopes for medals in track and field competitions were dashed this weekend as the country’s three competitors failed to place well.

Nery Brenes, the Tico with the perceived best chance of bringing home Costa Rica’s first medal since 2000, was eliminated in the first round of the 400-meter sprint competition.

Additionally, Sharolyn Scott was eliminated in the first round of the 400-meter sprint with hurdles, and Gabriela Traña took 91st place in the women’s marathon on Sunday.

“I am a man of challenges, that when I fall I get up with more strength, and if you ask me if I will be in the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, I say yes, I'll be there,” said Brenes on his Facebook page Saturday.

Costa Rica has not won any Olympic medals before or since sisters Silvia and Claudia Poll  won medals in swimming at the 1988, 1996 and 2000 games.

Brenes placed 10th at the 2008 games, and many Costa Ricans had high hopes for Brenes after he took first place in the 400-meter competition at the World Indoor Championships in athletics in March. However, Brenes came fourth place in his heat and barely missed doing so in a time that would qualify him to move on to the semifinals.

Placing in the top three in an individual heat guarantees that the runner will move on to the semifinals, but three runners with the next best times who did not automatically qualify can move on as well.

In the end, Brenes had the fourth best time of those who did not automatically qualify, and finishing .04 seconds slower than the last qualifier.

In her first Olympic appearance, Ms. Scott competed in the 400-meter hurdles competition, for which the elimination rules are largely the same as Brenes’ competition, except that the top four finishers move on along with the four next best times.

Ms. Scott came in sixth in her hear and missed qualifying for the semifinals through time by three places and little more than half of a second.

Although Ms. Traña took 91st place, 23 people behind where she finished in the Beijing Olympic Marathon, approximately 40 more women competed this year, and she actually ran her it 10 minutes faster than she did four years ago.

Four of Costa Rica’s 11 Olympians still have yet to compete before the games conclude next Sunday. Leonardo Chacón, 28, will compete in the triathlon on Tuesday at 4:30 a.m. Costa Rican time. Heiner Oviedo, 23, will compete in Taekwondo Wednesday at 2 a.m. César Lizano, 30, will run the men’s marathon at 4 a.m.  Sunday, and Paolo Montoya will ride in the mountain biking competition at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

— Aug.6, 2012


 Sunday provides a local warmup and the Euro Cup final
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Central Valley soccer fans were treated to back-to-back games Sunday morning and afternoon – first a local soccer match between Deportivo Saprissa and the Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, which was quickly followed by the Euro Cup final between Italy and Spain.

Although the game took place in Tibás in a stadium that was not even half-full, the far more numerous Alajuela fans rejoiced when La Liga took a 2-1 victory.

However aside from falling on the same day, the two games were markedly different in both importance and in the quality of the teams on the field.

fans at soccer game
A.M. Costa Rica/Aaron Knapp
Exuberance is the tradition at a fútbol match

Especially to an international audience, the first game served more as a warm up, as both La Liga and Saprissa seemed to struggle man to man for the ball with little team coordination. 

Both teams were rarely able to organize group attacks on the goal or effectively keep control of the ball.

“There just aren’t any tactics or strategies,” observed one American spectator, named Jayden, who aspires to soon join a European league. “They’re just making decisions that I wouldn’t make,” she added, trying to make sense of some decisions made by players on the field.

Additionally, this game was a friendly, pre-season match between the two arch rivals. And, consequently, the game has no effect on either team’s regular season record.

Despite the lackluster performances by both teams, the half-empty stadium and the low stakes of the match, fans of both sides came with more energy than is usually seen at any kind of sports game in the United States.

While the more relaxed fans gathered along the eastern side of the field where they could watch in the shade, the more loyal fans gathered behind opposite goals where there was no protection from beating sun.

On the north end of the stadium gathered the most boisterous La Liga fans who carried banners and came close to filling up their entire section of the stadium; on the south side were the Saprissa fans, notably smaller in number but making up for it by occasionally unraveling a giant Saprissa jersey.

Even though La Liga led most of the second half, neither team was able to take a comfortable position over the other.

“They’re okay… but if these teams played a professional team in Europe like Manchester…” said Ms. Jayden, trailing off. “Just wait until after,” added another nearby tourist on what good soccer-playing looks like.

However, the ineffective ball handling by both sides kept the fans watching until the end despite missing at least the first-half of the Euro-cup, in which every Spanish goal in the second half became a nail in Italy’s coffin.

Despite the bitter local rivalry, both sides quickly filed out of the stadium to watch the Euro Cup final, which was already well underway, and overall, fans of both local teams united to celebrate Spain’s decisive, 4-0 shutout over Italy.

—posted July 3, 2012



Weekend sports event tests systems of London's Olympic Park
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

London’s Olympic Park got its first major test last week when nearly 150,000 fans came out to see competitions in several sports. They were part of the final stages of preparations for the games, now fewer than 80 days away. The Olympic Stadium was opened with a flight of balloons, flashes of light and the cheers of its first large crowd, .

Crowds of enthusiastic sports fans streamed into the park for a series of events in the stadium and other venues.  They were treated to top level competition in several sports, ranging from water polo to field hockey.

But even as the events were going on, workers continued to put the finishing touches on the main stadium and other buildings in the Olympic Park.

One worker from Romania, who identified himself only as Vlad, says working on the Olympic Stadium is different from any other construction job he has had.

“The feeling is different.  I don’t know.  It’s something which I can’t explain.   The feeling is great, especially now before the test event.  Everyone is training. It can be like a one-time opportunity, once in a lifetime,” he said.

In less than three months, athletes from Vlad’s home country

 and from all over the world will be competing in the stadium, but for this test event there were only British university athletes.  

Still, some hope to make the Olympic team, including runner David Bishop. "That was the whole reason why I came.  I just wanted to get a feel of what it was like to run in here (to) give me the help and motivation for a couple more months to push on so I can get my time down and nail this trial," Bishop said.

For the London Organizing Committee Chairman and four-time British Olympic medalist Sebastian Coe, the test events were a chance to mingle with young athletes and to show off the fruits of seven years of work.

“We’re making sure that no stone is left unturned.  And that testing is across everything from security, through to our venues, tickets, spectator flows, mobility, our ability to test some of our park-wide operations, workforce, logistics, pretty important.  So a big moment for us,” Coe said.

Saturday’s friendly competition and celebrations were marred somewhat on Sunday, when a tabloid newspaper revealed it had helped a construction worker smuggle a fake bomb into the Olympic Park.  That provided evidence there is still work to be done, as officials hope to keep the focus during the games on images like a military wives choir, which helped get the stadium’s opening ceremony going.



Nicoya fish
Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura photos
These are just a small part of the many species that can be found in the Gulf of Nicoya.
Fishing institute provides a guide to the many fish in the ocean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ever run into a fish and no matter how deep you dig, you just cannot come up with a name?

Well, the government's Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura has a cheat sheet.

There is a very low likelihood of running into a fish at a neighborhood cocktail party unless it is on a plate. But fishing fans have the problem all the time.

The institute has been the subject of a lot of criticism, in part because of an apparent blind eye to shark finning.

However, the institute Web site had row after row of fish that might be raised commercially, like tilapia or that can be found in the Gulf of Nicoya.

Who knew that there were so many species there? Who knew that there were so many named corvina?
dream rainbow
Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura photo
This rainbow trout is one of the commercially raised species.

The institute site also has a number of useful links for fishing captains and others who know the regional fishing news, including red tides. The site also has a link to a NASA contractor that provides satellite shots. Such information is vital for predicting the weather.
— Originally published May 3, 2012


Nery Brenes led all the way to take home gold for Costa Rica
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
Published March 12, 2012
Nery Brenes led every step of the journey on his way to Costa Rica’s first medal at a World Indoor Championships,  and a championship record 45.11 seconds.

That took 0.15 off the previous 400-meter record set by Harry ‘Butch’ Reynolds, also the outdoor record holder at the time, in Toronto in 1993.

So a memorable day Saturday all round for the 26-year-old Brenes, who now has his country’s three best performances at a World Indoor Championships. The previous two were fourth-place finishes in the men’s 400 in 2008 and 2010.

The 400 meter contest at a world indoors is a race of attrition. Two rounds on the first day of competition tests everyone’s strength, especially as the semi-final results determine the lane draw and, with it, the favorable outside lanes on the banked track.

Kirani James, Grenada’s first outdoor World champion and the youngest-ever in Olympic and World Championships history, fared worst in this. For losing a gruelling semi-final battle with Brenes, James wound up in lane one, down the hill from his toughest rivals.

James was never in the hunt for the gold medal, unable to get into a good position with a lap to go and having to work hard
Brenes winning
International Association of Athletics Federations photo
Nery Brenes sets a record and gets the gold.

in the second lap to no avail. He finished a tired last in 46.21.

At least Brenes had the good grace to relieve him of the world lead as well (previously, James’s 45.19), thus leaving James with the consolation that his best might not have been good enough in any case.

Brenes can now turn his attention to outdoor championships where his best results are to have reached the semi-finals at the 2007 and 2011 World Championships and the 2008 Olympic Games. He also won the Continental Cup 400 in 2010, so perhaps he can garner further honors for Costa Rica in the Olympic arena.






American football league

features two games Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Supporters of American football in Costa Rica say that the sport is growing. The American Football Federation of Costa Rica has released a scheduled of games that lead up to Costa Rica's own Super Bowl in April.

The sport is definitely gaining growth and interest in Costa Rica and throughout Central America, supporters say.

The season started Feb. 4 at Estadio Cuty Mong, Desamparados, with a doubleheader.

Saturday the Bulldogs face the Raptors at 2 p.m., and the Rhynos face the Toros at Estadio Cuty Monge. This is the fourth week of competitions.

The league, which has mainly Costa Rican players, has been active since July 2009. The Bulldogs are the reigning champions.

The games are the real deal with full football gear and the hard hitting that has made the sport of great interest in latin America.

Daily postings with some in English can be found here:
http://www.fb.com/AmericanFootballCR
http://www.twitter/AmerFootballCR
— Feb. 24, 2012

football scvhedule



Costa Rica again sweeps Central American surfing tournament
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For the sixth year in a row Costa Rica was crowned king of the Reef Centroamérica Surfing Games this weekend in front of the Hotel Backyard at Playa Hermosa in Jacó.

Dozens of surfers from Panamá, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala came to compete at Playa Hermosa on the central Pacific Coast.

Costa Rican surfers finished first in all major surf competition categories including open, open women, junior, boys, longboard and a sub-16 boys category that was new to this year's event.

The country’s surf team as a whole finished with over 13,000

points, ahead of second place El Salvador which had just over 8,000 points. The following standings, in order, were teams from Guatemala, Panamá and Nicaragua.

Apart from medals and the prestige of representing their own countries, winners from the different categories of competition received $5,000 in prize money (2.5 million colons). José Ureña, presIdent of the Federación de Surf de Costa Rica, said that aN olympic-style event usually doesn't give monetary prizes to the surfers, only medals and trophies, but that it adds an individual incentive for the surfers.

The annual competition began in Costa Rica in 2006. Next year for the first time it will be held in Guatemala.

— Dec. 4, 2011


Trans-Atlantic boat race winner sets new course record
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Originally published Nov. 21
The Virbac-Paprec 3, as expected, arrived in Limón early Friday, completing the trans-Atlantic sailboat race first out of the field of competitors and breaking the standing record.

The two-man crew of Jean-Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou sailed for precisely 15 days, 18 hours and 15 minutes from the Le Havre, France, to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, a distance of more than 4,000 miles. They beat the previous course record set in 2009 by just more than one hour.

It is the third time Dick has won the trans-Atlantic race. His team finished as the overall winners as well as the first in their
 class of racing boats, defined by the International Monohull Open Class Association.

But boats continued to filter in during the weekend, their crews competing for first place positions in their respective categories. Sunday the first multi-hull boat, Actual, arrived to take the top spot in its much diminished field which began with six boats and finished with only two due to inclement weather in the early stages which forced many to leave the race.

As racers docked in Limón, they were awaited by festival-goers attending the Wa’apin gathering, which showcased Caribbean arts, crafts, music, food and culture. 


Olympic hopeful visits to give pointers to other gymnasts
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Originally published Nov. 2
On a rare break from her rigorous routine, Costa Rican gymnast Mariana Sánchez was able to leave her training grounds in the United States for a brief sojourn in her home country to visit family, friends and young, aspiring gymnasts.

Though her past is highlighted with an ever-growing list of accomplishments and her future aspirations are to be a world-class athlete, Ms. Sánchez' demeanor was everything but braggadocios as she performed a routine with younger girl gymnasts Tuesday in Parque la Sabana. The 15-year-old even seemed a little nervous in the glaring spotlight before the media cameras.

But all the nerves disappear when she is focused on her gymnastics routine. Ms. Sánchez excels on the bars, although she said she prefers the floor routines, and her talent has brought herself and Costa Rica plenty of status in the gymnastics world with a career marked by top finishes in junior competitions.

Now Ms. Sánchez is focused on competing at the elite level. On a typical day she said she trains roughly eight hours total with school crammed in between workout sessions. Her gym is in Ohio where she lives with the family of another gymnast.

Her training is sponsored in part by Banco Nacional. The bank's marketing director, Mario Roa, said his organization would like to see her achieve her dreams and help put Costa Rica on the world map.

And one of the primary goals of her strict regimen is just that: an Olympic appearance, either in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro or next year in London. To compete in 2012 before she is 16, Ms. Sánchez needs a special exemption from Olympic officials.

“I'm preparing for London,” she said. “But I always have 2016 in Brazil to fall back on.”

She also is anxiously anticipating the opportunity to represent her country at the 2013 Central American games to be held in San José, where the taste of a home-soil victory would be sweeter than most.

Yet her taste for success has been a long-time coming. Ms. Sánchez has been training stateside for approximately two and a half years, but her desire to compete came long  before with her first competition at the age of 4.
Gymnasts
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
Ms. Sánchez balances a younger gymnast.



However, she claims her progression actually started in the womb and laughed that her mother, who owns a gymnasium and was a gymnast herself, was performing the sport while pregnant with her.

“She is impressive,” said one girl in the group of predominantly elementary school children as Ms. Sánchez performed a solo floor routine complete with flips and spins. And when the group of girls was asked if they wanted to be like Sánchez they all nodded their heads enthusiastically.

Ms. Sánchez offered them this piece of advice.

“Never give up and just follow your dreams, even if it's not gymnastics.”



Costa Rican
surfer wins
a gold medal

By the A.M. Costa rica staff

Costa Rican senior surfer  Craig  Schieber took first place Sunday, Oct. 23,  in the World Masters Surfing Championship  in El Salvador.

He won in the 50 and older class. The event is sponsored by the International Surfing Association. The gold medal was the first for Costa Rica in the 21 years the country has been participating in the event.

he overall winner was the United States with Brazil a close second. Costa Rica was in seventh place.

Schieber took costa Rican citizenship 20 years ago, said the surfing organization.


Fishing tourney will begin research race for tagged marlin
 Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Marlin are some of the most magnificent fish in the ocean, but several species are sadly in serious decline. That’s why the International Game Fish Association has partnered with leading scientists from Stanford University to create the Great Marlin Race – a conservation research program which combines the excitement of tournament angling with cutting-edge marine bio-logging science. The part-competition, part-research race has anglers and scientists alike waiting for the 58th annual International Billfish Tournament Sept. 4 to 11 in Puerto Rico.

In the days leading up to a billfish tournament, angling teams are invited to sponsor pop-up archival satellite tags to be placed on fish caught and released during the event.  Exactly 120 days after each tag is deployed, it automatically releases itself from the fish, and its exact location is determined by earth-orbiting ARGOS satellites.  

In a given tournament, the tag that surfaces furthest from where it was initially deployed wins the race for that tournament. The Great Marlin Race will last 12 months, encompass several tournaments, and deploy at least 50 tags on a variety of billfish species in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The marlin whose tag travels the furthest of all will be recognized at the annual auction and banquet.

“The goal of the program is to learn more about the migration patterns of these magnificent fishes, and how they utilize th

open ocean habitat,” said Jason Schratwieser, Game fish Association research director, adding:

“We also envision giving open access to the tagging data so that it can be utilized by scientists around the world.”

Tags record information about depth, temperature and light levels, which can be used to study fish migrations and behaviors over the course of several months after they have been tagged.  These data, in turn, will help scientists to identify key habitat areas where large numbers of fish spend significant portions of time as well as the migratory corridors they use when they travel from place to place. Data from the tags will be processed and disseminated via Barbara Block’s lab at Stanford University in California.

Ms. Block pioneered the use of electronic tags on open ocean fishes in the early 1990’s. She was also one of the founders of the initial Great Marlin Race program, which was launched in 2009 in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in Kona, Hawaii .
“We are really excited about this new partnership between our organization and Stanford University,” explains Paxson Offield, chairman of the IGFA and long-term supporter of the Great Marlin Race. “By pairing top-notch science with tournament angling, we hope not only to learn more about the biology of the animals, but also to engage our constituents – billfish anglers around the world – in helping to conserve them for future generations.”



 Six new events added for 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia will have six new events, including women's ski jumping.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge announced in London Tuesday that the board also approved the addition of men's and women's ski halfpipe, mixed relay in biathlon and team events in luge and figure skating.  That means an extra 150 athletes will compete in the Russian Black Sea resort city.

Women's ski jumping had long campaigned to be in the Winter Games and even lost a legal battle for inclusion at last year's Vancouver Olympics. Rogge said the newest additions "are exciting, entertaining events that perfectly complement the

existing events on the sports program" and they "bring added appeal and increase the number of women participating at the games.''

Proposals for inclusion of slopestyle events in snowboard and freestyle skiing and a team Alpine skiing event were put on hold for further review.

In the new event of ski halfpipe, skiers score points for performing tricks and jumps on the same course used for the snowboard halfpipe.

The only remaining Winter Olympics event that does not have both male and female representation is Nordic combined, which features ski jumping followed by a cross country ski race.


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