The Czech Republic successfully defended its Fed Cup title from 2014 after defeating Russia in Prague over the weekend in a close 3-2 final. The victory in the last match by the doubles team of Karolina Plisokova and Barbara Strycova earned the nation, long a tennis power, its ninth overall Cup title, and its fourth in five years. Earlier, Pliskova had sent the match to the deciding doubles match by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets. Russia had been the only other nation with a similar string of success.
Pacific-Asian Champs Crowned in Curling
The annual 2015 Pacific-Asia Curling Championships ended in Kazakhstan this weekend, with South Korea's men and Japan's women earning titles. On the men's side, the Koreans defeated New Zealand and then Japan in the single eliminations to win gold after the 8-team round robin stage, for their second-ever title since winning in 2002. Japan's women earned their 14th championship since 1991, defeating South Korea in the final. All four finalists will move on to the 2016 World Championships.
Asia's under-16 tournament for women's football concluded this weekend, with North Korea finally winning again after titling in 2007 and having three straight runners-up finishes in 2009, 2011, and 2013. As runners-up this year - the final was 1-0 to the North Koreans, Japan will join the champions as the official Asian representatives at the 2016 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Jordan. Forward Ri Hyae-Yon won the tournament's MVP trophy, after scoring the lone goal in the final match. China defeated Thailand 8-0 in the third place match.
At the conclusion of the African Rugby Men's Sevens Championship, Kenya stood on top and with a berth to Rio 2016, after defeating Zimbabwe 21-19 in the final. This marks the third-ever team sport, after men's field hockey and women's volleyball, that will have a Kenyan representative at the Olympics. Meanwhile, in finishing second through fourth, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Morocco move on to a final Olympic Qualifying tournament along with 13 other nations to fill one last spot in Rio. South Africa, despite being hosts for this tournament, did not participate, as they already qualified for Rio through the Sevens World Series.
And Oceania Names its Rugby Olympic Representatives
Meanwhile, the Oceania Sevens Championships ended as well, with Australia earning the title - and the Olympic berth on the men's side, with Fiji capturing the prize on the women's. The Australian win was emphatic, defeating Tonga 50-0, and was expected after rivals Samoa surprisingly did not advance out of the semis. Samoa did make it to the women's final, though, but fell to Fiji 55-0. With the victory, Fiji is now entrants in three (!) team events at Rio: Men's and Women's Rugby Sevens, and Men's Football.
ln perhaps the biggest news in Olympic sport this week, the IAAF responded to a damning WADA investigation on doping in probably the only way they could, by provisionally suspending the Russian track federation indefinitely - or, until it "fulfills a list of criteria". After learning from the WADA report of systemic doping cover-ups and testing mismanagement from federation authorities, including senior-level officials in Russia, the IAAF really had no choice in the first major test for the new president, Sebastian Coe. While the suspension does not stop Russian athletes from competing as individual athletes in various domestic competitions, it does disallow Team Russia to present a team in any IAAF-sanctioned event or Championships. That certainly could include the Olympic Games, should the suspension last until then, but most immediately, it does include the 2016 World Race Walking Team Championships and the 2016 World Junior Championships, both of which were scheduled in Russia. Those specific events will be awarded to new host. Meanwhile, a lot of focus has been directed to Mariya Savinova, the 800m gold medalist in London 2012 who was indicated in the WADA report as illegally having escaped competitive bans in order to compete there. Should she, and bronze winner Ekaterina Poistogova, have those Olympic results annulled, medals in that event could be re-assigned to include South Africa's Caster Semenya moving to gold, Kenya's Pamela Jelimo to silver and USA's Alysia Montano to bronze. Let's hope that is the next step for the IOC here.