The NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournaments were held this week - and first up, the women of Team USA earned a spot at Rio with a 3-set win over regional rivals Dominican Republic in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Dominicans and third-place Puerto Ricans will move on to a final World Qualification event later in the spring for a final chance. (p.s. no Cuba even in the tournament? How they have fallen!) Next, Cuba's men defeated Canada in three sets to earn their own ticket, and securing another Olympic trip. The Canadians, who were ranked highest in the tournament, will join third-place Mexico in the World Qualifiers now.
While Argentina's Women Make Their 1st Games
At the women's South American qualifier, Argentina, ranked #12 in the world, joined the field for Rio, making their first-ever Olympic tournament with their own three-set win over Peru, long a continental power. Their home-court victory in Bariloche sent the Peruvians onto the World Qualification event along with Colombia for another try. Meanwhile, at least both Argentina and Brazil will represent the continent in Rio.
And Russia Wins in Europe for Even More Volleyball News
Rounding out this week's Olympic qualifiers, Team Russia's men join their female counterparts as victors in the European Qualifiers. The 3-1 victory in Berlin over France secured the Russians the opportunity to defend their title at the Olympics, and a string of disappointing results in the subsequent years. France and third-place Poland (the defending Wolrd Champions) now have to go through the World Qualifiers to make it to Rio. The women, meanwhile, earned their trip through their own 3-1 win, over the Netherlands. This was a rematch of the 2015 European Championship, which Russia also won. The Dutch and Italians, from third-place, move onto the World Qualifiers. The Olympic field is shaping up!
At the European All-Around Speed Skating Championships in Minsk, Dutch star and current legend Sven Kramer won his eighth straight championship, a record, by winning the 5,000 and 10,000 meter events while finishing in the top five of the 500 and 1500. Can he break his own record by winning the World All-Around next for the eighth time as well in Berlin in March? On the women's side, Czech Martina Sabilikova won her ninth medal at the event - but first gold since 2012 - by overcoming defending champion Ireen Wust of the Netherlands, who finished second.
Australia Wins Hopman Cup
Team 'Green' of Australia - Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova - won their country's second Hopman Cup title this week, after defeating Ukraine in the final match. The Hopman, in its 28th year, features male and female players in a mixed-gender team event of singles and mixed doubles, to start off the year in Perth. The Australian's second entry, the 'Gold' team, featured star Lleyton Hewitt, and other names to participate were Serena Williams of the U.S. (retiring in 1st match), and Andy Murray for Great Britain.
Norwegians Dominate the Tour de Ski
Martin Sundby of Norway won his third straight Tour de Ski title, after winning four of the eight stages, including the final in Val di Fiemme, Italy over the weekend. The win puts him in commanding first place in the World Cup standings as well. There was certainly a lot more drama on the women's side, with fellow Norwegians Therese Johaug and Ingvild Ostberg battling for the title entering the final stage, and with Johaug emerging victorious for her second title after 2014.
Slovenia's Peter Prevc won his first Four Hills title, after a strong last jump of the circuit in Paul Ausserleitner-Schanze, Austria this weekend. Coming from behind, Prevc launched a 142.5 meter jump to clinch the title, and cement his world number one ranking. The victory also marked the first time Austria did not win the event since 2008.