After 44 days of competition, the Rugby World Cup in England finally ended, with defending champion New Zealand earning their third overall title (1987, 2011, 2015). With their dominating win over arch rival Australia, 34-17, the All Blacks are being considered one of the all time great teams, and are already pipped as early favorites for the next tournament in 2019. To add to the adulation from the press and fans, New Zealand's star fly-half Dan Carter was named World Rugby Player of the Year.
Women's Tennis Comes to a Close
With Serena Williams out recovering from the long season and injury, the WTA Finals in Singapore had become more of an open affair. In the end, Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska won the title and the $1.75M+ champion's prize money, after a three-set win over Czech Petra Kvitova. On the doubles side, Swiss Martina Hingis and Indian Sania Mirza continued their remarkable year, with a victory to go along with their Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles.
Both men's and women's field hockey titles went to favorite South Africa in the African Championships, after disposing of Eygpt 4-2 (men) and Ghana (3-0) in the final matches. Accordingly, both teams qualified to represent the continent at the Rio Games next year, yet may not participate. This, due to a stricter qualification criteria set by the South African Olympic Committee, to not rely on continental dominance and instead concentrate on global competitiveness. The SASCOC has two weeks to accept or decline the Olympic invite. While the men are currently ranked 15th in the world (New Zealand, ranked #7, would replace them), the possibility to not go to Rio would particularly sting for the women's team. They are currently ranked #11, and would be replaced by #14 Spain in the 12-team tournament.
Liu Wins Another Table Tennis World Cup
The Women's World Cup in table tennis ended in Sendai, with China's favorite and tope seed Liu Shiwen taking the title once more. Beating Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa in four sets, Liu has now won all 21 of her cumulative matches in the four World Cups she has entered (2009, 2012, 2013, 2015). For her part, ishikawa became teh first Japanese in the final, while third-place winner Petrissa Solja won the first podium for Germany.
China Also Wins IPC Athletics
The paralympic IPC World Championships ended in Doha, with China topping the medal table with 85 overall to Russia's 69 in second place over the 210 events. The U.S. finished with 39 medals in third place. Walid Ktila of Tunisia was the most successful athlete, with four golds in wheelchair races, while Germany's Ilke Wyludda earned a bronze in the shot put - after winning the 1996 gold in the Olympic discus. Following leg amputation, she now could become the first athlete to medal in both the Olympics and Paralympics, should she equal or better her shot put placement next year in Rio.
At the World Artistic Gymnastics in Glasgow, familiar faces and stars topped the all-around results. First, the U.S.' Simone Biles defended her last two championships, and became the first to woman to win three all-arounds in a row. That, after leading the team to gold in the first competition. Then, she finished with the tournament with two more golds in the beam and floor, for a record ten career golds. With defending Olympic champion Gabby Douglas competing again, and finishing second in the all-around in Glasgow, the American women are well-poised for more glory in Rio. (p.s. Biles's only 18!) The same can certainly be said for Kohei Uchimura, who, after leading Japan to its first team gold since 1978, took the men's all-around for the sixth time. Despite narrowly leading the all-around qualification over Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev, he wasn't seriously challenged in the final. Like Biles, Uchimura ended on top, with a gold in the high bar, and with sights on a repeat in Rio. Other highlights of the Championships included Cuba's newcomer Manique Larduet winning all-around silver, Max Whitlock winning Britain's first-ever world gold (pommel), Great Britain winning both team bronze medals, and Romania disaster-ly missing the top eight in the women's team and failing an early chance at Olympic qualification.
Kenya Again on top NYC Marathon
The annual New York Marathon was held this weekend, with Kenya winning both the men's and women's elite races again. First, Mary Keitany won the women's race in 2:24.25, over a minute ahead of Ethiopia's Aselefech Mergia, for her second straight NY win to go with her two London titles. On the men's side, Stanley Biwott defeated compatriot Geoffrey Kamworor by only 14 seconds, for his first major marathon title.