Rugby Sevens: New Zealand Crowned Women’s World Series Champions

New Zealand remains on top of the women’s rugby sevens world by winning the world rugby seven series for the third time in a row. The number of tournaments for this edition was expanded to six and New Zealand was able to win four of them with Australia and Canada winning one a piece. In each tournament 11 core teams and 1 invited team, Brazil five times and Netherlands once compete for points and for the first time Olympic qualification. The first tournament started on December 4th 2014 and the final tournament concluded on May 23rd 2015. The top 4 nations in the overall points table qualified to the Olympics.

By winning the first four tournaments New Zealand had made the title race a foregone conclusion to the point where just showing up to the final tournament in Amsterdam, Netherlands was enough to clinch the title. New Zealand was also able to clinch a spot to the Olympics a tournament early in London, England by reaching the quarterfinals.

The race for the final Olympic spots was however more interesting as six nations were still competing for three spots by the final tournament. Although both Australia and Canada were likely to clinch a spot as they only needed to reach the quarterfinals while Russia needed results to heavily go in their favor for them to qualify. Essentially it was a fight between England, France and the United States for the fourth and final spot and all that separated the three nations was 2 points.

By the end of the first day both Australia and Canada clinched an Olympic quota by reaching the quarterfinals while all three of England, France and the United States remained in play as all three of them reached the quarterfinals. Russia was also still alive, but now needed to reach the semifinals while the other three nations lose their quarterfinal match.

The quarterfinals eliminated France and Russia from Olympic qualification as they both lost to Australia and Canada respectively. Meanwhile the United States won its match against Spain 38-10 while England caused an upset against New Zealand to stay alive by winning narrowly 17-14. The semifinals determined nothing as both England and the United States lost to Australia 26-0 and Canada 19-14 respectively. As England has the tie breaker over the United States (overall point difference) the final qualification spot will come down to a third place match where the winner will qualify to the Olympics.

In the match the United States was able to take a 7-0 lead with a try from Megan Bonny. England was able to respond at the end of the half where Marlie Packer scored, however England missed the conversion therefore the score remained 7-5 at the half. The second half began with a great display of defense between the two teams, but at the third minute England was able to take the lead with a try from Emily Scarratt, but again England missed the conversion. With a score of 10-7 the United States only needed a try to get back into the lead, but a great play along with a defensive blunder gave England a quick try as Joanne Watmore extended the lead to 15-7. The United States weren’t able to break down England until right at the end where Leyla Kelter scored a try, but it was too late as the United States lost in a 15-14 heartbreaker. At the Olympics England will be represented as Great Britain.

The final was won by Canada over Australia in a thrilling 20-17 match. At the other end of the point standings due to not being in the top 8 Spain, China and South Africa will have to compete in a world series qualifier if they want to participate at the next world series as core teams.

United States and other nations will get another chance to qualify to the Olympics as each of the six continental regions will host a tournament with the winner going to the Olympics. After that the best non-qualified teams from each region will have a final tournament to try and qualify the final spot.

Top 10 Standings

  1. New Zealand – 108
  2. Canada – 96
  3. Australia – 94
  4. England – 76
  5. United States – 76
  6. France – 72
  7. Russia – 60
  8. Fiji – 32
  9. Spain – 26
  10. Brazil – 20

Quotas by Nations

  • Australia – 1
  • Canada – 1
  • Great Britain – 1
  • New Zealand – 1

Reference

World Rugby. 2014-15 Women’s Sevens World Series Rankings. Access on May 23 2015.

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Shooting: United States Wins Big at Home Soil in Rifle/Pistol World Cup

The United States used home field advantage to score four more quotas in its ever increasing shooting quota. The second Rifle and Pistol World Cup was held in Fort Benning, United States from May 11th to May 19th 2015. In total 24 quotas were up for grabs across the 10 events; 3 quotas for the air pistol and air rifle events and 2 for the other six.

The men’s 10m air rifle event went down to the final two shots as both Serbia’s Milutin Stefanovic and China’s Yang Haoran were tied. With the final two shots it was Stefanovic who won with a score of 209.7, just 0.7 over Yang’s final score. Since Yang already qualified to the Olympics the other two quotas went to third place Anton Rizov of Bulgaria and fifth place Alexander Schmirl of Austria.

With a format similar to shotgun events the women’s 25m pistol had Antoaneta Boneva of Bulgaria and Mongolia’s Gundegmaa Otryad reaching the final after getting a score of 18 and 17 respectively in the semifinals. Otryad however got the better of Boneva as she easily won the final with a 7-1 score. As Otryad had already qualified to the Olympics from a previous event the second quota went to fourth place Mathilde Lamolle of France.

In the men’s 50m pistol Serbia continued its good early start to the world cup by easily winning the event with a score of 193.1. The second Olympic quota went to fourth place James Henderson of the United States as both South Korea’s Jin Jong-Oh and Vietnam’s Hoang Xuan Vinh had already qualified.

Serbia’s performance continued to shine after Andrea Arsovic won the women’s 10m air rifle with a score of 208.1 over Croatia’s Snjezana Pejcic. Since both athletes have already qualified previously they did not get one of the Olympic quotas. In fact none of the medalists were given quotas as they have all already qualified. The quotas instead went to Mongolia’s Nandinzaya Gankhuyag, United States Sarah Beard and Egypt’s Shimaa Hashad.

The men’s 50m rifle prone was won by United States’ Michael McPhail whom won his country a second quota in this event. While Norway’s Ole Kristian Bryhn finished in second he already qualified in the 3 position rifle event so the second quota went to 10m air rifle 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Gagan Narang of India whom has shown to be quite adept in the rifle as he has reached the MSQ in all three rifle events.

The women’s 10m air pistol final was a repeat showdown as the 25m pistol event between Bulgaria’s Antoaneta Boneva and Mongolia’s Gundegmaa Otryad. This time Boneva got a matter of revenge as she won the event with a score of 199.4. Since the two athletes have won quotas for the 25m pistol event the three quotas available here went to Anna Korakaki of Greece, Mexico’s Alejandra Zavala and Yu Ai-Wen of Chinese Taipei.

In the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol it was Germany’s Oliver Geis whom took the honors winning the event with a score of 33. However, since he already qualified previously the two quotas went to 2012 Olympic gold medalist Leuris Pupo of Cuba and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Christian Reitz of Germany, giving the country a maximum of two quotas in the event.

The women’s 50m rifle 3 position event turned out to be the most exciting event of the week. Despite equalling the world record during the qualification round Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia was unable to win the event as Chang Jing of China went on to set her own world record for the finals. The only thing that wasn’t exciting about the event was the Olympic qualification as six out of the eight finalists were ineligible to receive the quota. So the two quotas went to Amy Sowash of the United States and Yelizaveta Korol of Kazakhstan before the first shot was fired in the finals.

Likewise the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions had the same scenario where only two eligible shooters reached the final. They were Yuriy Yurkov of Kazakhstan and Toshikazu Yamashita of Japan. At least in this event Yurkov earned his quota as he won the event with a score of 456.3. Yamashita finished sixth.

The final event was the men’s 10m air pistol which was won by South Korea’s Jin Jong-Oh whom won his second medal of the world cup with a score of 202.0. Since he already won a quota the three quotas instead went to Joao Costa of Portugal, Oleh Olmelchuk of Ukraine and Ismail Keles of Turkey.

Despite performing well in the medal table both China and South Korea failed to win any quotas as all the athletes that perform well have previously won a quota. With many of the top shooting nations remaining idle this weekend the United States used its big haul to its advantage and has shot up to second place in terms of quotas in this sport with only China remaining ahead of it.

Quotas by Nation

  • United States – 4
  • Bulgaria – 2
  • Kazakhstan – 2
  • Serbia – 2
  • Austria – 1
  • Chinese Taipei – 1
  • Cuba – 1
  • Egypt – 1
  • France – 1
  • Germany – 1
  • Greece – 1
  • India – 1
  • Japan – 1
  • Mexico – 1
  • Mongolia – 1
  • Portugal – 1
  • Turkey – 1
  • Ukraine – 1

References

Rugby Sevens: Fiji Crowned Sevens World Series Champions

Fiji ended New Zealand’s four series winning streak by winning the overall 2014-15 Rugby Sevens World Series title with an impressive second half where they won three out of the last five titles. The Rugby Sevens World Series is a set of nine rugby seven tournaments held around the world where 15 core teams and 1 invited team compete for points and for the first time Olympic qualifying. The first event started on October 11th 2014 and the last one ended on May 17th 2015. The top 4 teams in the overall rankings qualified to the Olympics.

By the end of the third tournament South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand were in the top 3 of the points table where they stayed in some order for the rest of the series. To the three teams it became less about qualifying to the Olympics and more about winning the overall title. In fact the three teams built such a lead over the rest of the field that all three teams qualified to the Olympics during the eighth leg in Scotland.

The fourth and final Olympic spot eventually came down between Australia and England whom was designated the nation to qualify Great Britain to the Olympics. The two nations traded leads multiple times, but the main turning point happened in the seventh event held in Japan. At that point Australia had built a modest six point lead, but for the first and only time in the series they failed to reach the quarterfinals and to make things worse for Australia it was also the same event where England won its only title. This caused a swing of 15 points turning a six point lead into a nine point deficit. For the remaining two legs England played well enough to qualify by virtue of its quarterfinal appearance in the final leg where they were hosts.

Going into the final leg in England Fiji was on top of the leaderboard with a lead of five over South Africa and New Zealand was a further three points back. All three teams reached the quarterfinals as expected, but South Africa had a bit of a stumble as they lost to surprise winners United States meaning one of the quarterfinals match ended up being Fiji vs. South Africa. The loser of the match would be eliminated from the World Series title race. The match also had implication for New Zealand as they required Fiji to lose in the quarterfinals for them to have any chance at winning the title.

In the match Fiji went to a 12-0 lead by the half with trys from Savenaca Rawaca and Captain Osea Kolinisau, but South Africa was not finished yet as Chris Dry made it 12-7 early in the second. That was responded by a second try from Savenaca Rawaca and some good defending as Fiji went to win the match 19-7 and the overall title.

Not everything was joyful as Japan, being the lowest ranked core team was officially demoted. The loss of rugby’s only top Asian team hurts their image of the sport being popular around the world, but there is no doubt they will be one of the strongest team to attempt to become a core team next year. Japan was replaced with Russia whom won a qualifying tournament held in Hong Kong.

With two Oceania teams already qualified things become a bit less cluttered for that continent as now only Australia and Samoa remain as core teams. Next up in terms of qualifiers for men’s rugby sevens is the continental qualification where one team qualifies from each continent, after that the remaining top teams will meet for one more final qualifier.

Top 10 Standing

  1. Fiji – 164
  2. South Africa – 154
  3. New Zealand – 152
  4. England – 132
  5. Australia – 120
  6. United States – 108
  7. Scotland – 89
  8. Argentina – 80
  9. Canada – 67
  10. Samoa – 64

Quotas by Nation

  • Fiji – 1
  • Great Britain – 1
  • New Zealand – 1
  • South Africa – 1

References

World Rugby. 2014-15 Sevens World Series Rankings. Access on May 17 2015.

Cycling Road: Ecuador Wins Men’s Road Race at Pan Am Championships

Ecuador was able to pull off a close win in the men’s road race at the 2015 Pan American Championships held in Leon, Mexico from May 5th to May 10th 2015. Only the men’s race provided quotas where the top 2 nations qualified to the Olympics, the women’s qualification race is expected to happen in 2016.

The men’s race was initially a close race where a small group of cyclists led by Ecuador’s Bayron Guama de la Cruz broke away from the peloton. Slowly riders began to drop off from the lead pack until only Guama remained and won the race with a time of 4:12:46. Seven seconds later Josue Gonzalez of Costa Rica finished in second and grabbed the second Olympic quota. Third place went to Mexico’s Juan Pablo Magallanes Aranda.

Like in all cycling events the Olympic quotas are not set in stone because Olympic qualification has the world and continental rankings with a higher priority over the continental championships. Therefore, if any nation qualifies through the rankings the next highest ranked nation at the continental championship will take the continental spot. Looking at the 2014 and current rankings both Ecuador and Costa Rica could qualify so we could possibly see a reallocation of quotas. For reallocation purposes the next best ranked nations are Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Chile and Dominican Republic.

Quotas by Nation

  • Costa Rica – 1
  • Ecuador – 1

References

UCI. 2015 Pan American Championships Men’s Road Race Results. Access on May 11 2015.

Cycling Mountain: South Africa Wins Both Races at African Championships

South Africa had another good meet at the 2015 Mountain Biking African Championships held in Musanze, Rwanda from May 8th to May 10th 2015. Not only do they possess the best mountain cyclists of the continent, but they also have the most numerous. In terms of Olympic qualification the top two nations in the men’s cross-country race and the top nation in the women’s cross-country race will be given quotas to compete.

In the women’s race it was South Africa’s Bianca Haw who won the race as she pushed a lead of 1 min 29 seconds ahead of her teammate Cherie Vale finishing with a time of 1:43:23. Namibia’s Michelle Vorster was able to beat out the other South African challengers, stopping the sweep of medals finishing with a time of 1:48:25.

The sweep was not prevented in the men’s race as not only did South Africa win all three medals, but they had a monopoly on the top 5. James Reid had an impressive performance as he dominated the field from essentially start to finish and won the race with a time of 1:54:28, a 3min 40 second lead over second place Matthys Beukes. Third place went to Rourke Croeser whom finished just under 2 hours with a time of 1:59:29. The second Olympic quota went to sixth place Yannick Lincoln of Mauritius.

As a reminder the Olympic quotas are not set in stone because the Olympic qualification for mountain biking has the world rankings with a higher priority over the continental championships. Therefore, if any nation qualifies through the rankings the next highest ranked nation at the continental championship will take the continental spot. Looking at the 2014 and current rankings South Africa is favoured to qualify in the men’s rankings though they will have some work to do if they want to qualify through the women’s rankings. For reallocation purposes the next best ranked nation in the men’s event was Rwanda and for the women’s event it was Namibia.

Quotas by Nation

  • South Africa – 2
  • Mauritius – 1

References

Synchronized Swimming: Russia Continues Dominance at European Championship

The Russian synchronized swimming team has been one of the most dominant teams in any sport as their duet have won seven out of the last eight world championships while their full team have gone a perfect eight during the same time. So it came to as no surprise when they were a class above the rest at the 2015 Synchronized Swimming European Championships held at Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands from May 8th to 10th 2015. The top ranked nation in the team event qualified in both the duet and team events while the next best nation in the duet event will qualify just a duet.

In the team event Russia maintained at least a two point lead in both the technical and free events over the rest of the field and won the event by over 5 points with a score of 190.3448. In a bit of a change that was seen at the last European championship Ukraine has broken Spain’s dominance of second place in this event and like in 2014 was able to take second with a score of 185.1510. Spain finished in third with a score of 182.4963.

The duet event went the same as the team event with Russia winning the overall title with a similar lead of over 5 points and a score of 190.9403. Since Russia already won the team event the Olympic quota went to second place Ukraine whom again defeated Spain. Ukraine’s score was 185.1921 and Spain’s score was 182.7008.

While Russia will be looking for a fifth straight gold medal in the duet and team Ukraine is now in a position to challenge for a medal in both events, but first they must qualify in the team event. The world qualification event won’t be until 2016, but should they qualify it will be the first time in Olympic history that Ukraine will compete in the team event.

Quotas by Nation

  • Russia – 2
  • Ukraine – 1

References

Athletics: United States and Jamaica Lead the Way at the World Relay Championships

Brazil, Jamaica and the United States were able to qualify in all four relay events showing that Pan American countries are still by far the strongest continent in sprint events as they were able to win over half the available quotas.

The World Relay Championships was created in 2014 to provide more international competition for relay events along with developing the non-Olympic relays. The 2015 edition was held in Nassau, Bahamas from May 2nd 2015 to May 3rd 2015. The top 8 relay teams in each event in the finals qualified to the Olympics.

As expected the highlight of the men’s 4x100m relay was between Jamaica and the United States. Both teams brought several of their top runners with Nesta Carter, Kemar Bailey-Cole, Nickel Ashmeade and Usain Bolt representing Jamaica and Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey representing the United States. In the end it was the United States that edged Jamaica for gold setting a new Championship Record with a time of 37.38. In a bit of an upset that was overshadowed by the US/Jamaica affair Japan took the bronze medal. The other nations that placed in the top 8 were Brazil, France, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago and Germany.

In the women’s 4x400m relay the United States set another Championship Record as the team of Phyllis Francis, Natasha Hastings, Sanya Richards-Ross and Francena McCorory finished over Jamaica with a time of 3:19.39. The bronze medal was a close affair as both France and Great Britain remained close at the end, but it was Great Britain whom won the final sprint, 0.30 seconds ahead with a time of 3:26.38. The other nations that placed in the top 8 were Poland, Canada, Australia and Brazil.

Jamaica was finally able to defeat the United States in the women’s 4x100m relay as the team of Simone Facey, Kerron Stewart, Schillonie Calvert and Veronica Campbell-Brown were able to outmatch their United States counter-part with a time of 42.14. The race for third place was quite exciting to watch as five teams raced for the line. In the end it was Great Britain again who finished third with a minuscule 0.01 second lead over Canada. In fact third to seventh place all finished 0.15 seconds apart. The other nations that placed in the top 8 were Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Nigeria and Switzerland.

After a disappointing event for the host nation where the other three relays failed to qualify to the Olympics the crowd was given something to cheer about as 3/4 of their 2012 Olympic gold medal team stepped up to do battle in the men’s 4x400m final. The team of Ramon Miller, Michael Mathieu, Steven Gardiner and Chris Brown had a very impressive race, but they too were disappointed as the United States was able to take a third gold medal among the Olympic events with a time of 2:58.43. Belgium along with three members of the Borlee family finished with the bronze medal. The other nations that placed in the top 8 were Jamaica, Brazil, Great Britain, Trinidad and Tobago and Botswana.

Overall most of the usual suspects qualified with the biggest surprise being Botswana in the men’s 4x400m. Host nation Brazil will be pleased that they have qualified in all four events. Unsurprisingly the United States and Jamaica are still the teams to beat. For the remaining 8 spots in each event all other nations will have their 2 best times from May 1st 2015 to July 12th 2016 added together and the 8 fastest times will then qualify a team.

Quotas by Nation

  • Brazil – 4
  • Jamaica – 4
  • United States – 4
  • Great Britain – 3
  • Trinidad and Tobago – 3
  • Canada – 2
  • France – 2
  • Australia – 1
  • Bahamas – 1
  • Belgium – 1
  • Botswana – 1
  • Germany – 1
  • Japan – 1
  • Nigeria – 1
  • Poland – 1
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis – 1
  • Switzerland – 1

References