After a striking pair of upsets over world champion Poland and six-time European champion Italy, Slovenia was the big news of the 2015 European Volleyball Championships...that is, until the final. In the last match, France stepped up for the win and the gold in three sets, for their seventh overall medal at the event. But it was their first gold, and sets them on a confident momentum toward Rio qualification.
A Pair of Newcomers in African Women's Football
Meanwhile, old powers tumbled at the African Olympic Qualifying Tournament for women over the weekend, which saw the final leg of the rounds end over the weekend. First, Nigeria failed to make the final four after a loss to Equatorial Guinea. Then, Ivory Coast withdrew from their place, leaving runner-up Zimbabwe the opportunity to compete for a Rio spot - and then the Zimbabweans came through, winning on aggregate over Cameroon and earning their first team qualification in any sport since 1980's women's field hockey (where they won gold). Then, South Africa overcame Equatorial Guinea to earn their second straight Olympic appearance. The results mean that none of the three African representatives at the 2014 World Cup - Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon - will compete in Rio.
The 2015 Worlds of boxing ended in Doha, with Cuba reasserting its dominance in the sport, capturing four golds and seven medals overall. But with eighteen nations represented overall in the semifinals across the ten weight classes, a refreshing variety was showcased. And, five of them, aside from Cuba, struck gold, including Russia (two gold, four overall), Azerbaijan (one, four), Ireland (one, three), France (one, one) and Morocco (one, one). In a dubious distinction, the U.S. failed to win a single medal.
Great Britain and Netherlands Dual for Track Cycling Honors
The European Track Cycling Championships ended in Grenchen, Switzerland this weekend with traditional stalwart Great Britain finding company at the top of the medal table. While the British did come home with six gold and nine overall, the Netherlands came through for nine overall as well. Their shining star? Jeffrey Hoogland, who won three golds - in men's individual and team sprint, and the time trial event. In all, 13 nations won at least one medal, including Russia (eight), France (eight), Spain (three), and Lithuania (one).
Ma Long Wins Second Table Tennis World Cup
In Halmstad, Sweden the men's world cup for table tennis ended, with China's Ma Long winning his second straight title to go with his world championship. Ma's victory marks the fourth time teh world champion ahs also won the world cup in the same year since 1980. And in a bid for consistency, the top four seeds ended that way, with Fan Zhedong of China in second, Germany's Dmitrij Ovtcharov in third, and Japan's Jun Mizutani in fourth.
The 2015 world champions in sailing's 470 class were decided this weekend in Haifa, with defending champions coming through in both the men's and women's events. First up, Austria's Lara Vadlau and Jola Ogar claimed gold for the women, with Olympic silver medalists from Great Britain, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, coming in second again. On the men's side, Australians Mat Belcher and Will Ryan came through in a close battle dependent upon the final race, pushing Croatians Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic into second. Impressively, this is the third straight world title for the Australian pair - and Belcher's sixth (!) straight. Overall, three women's teams (Poland, Germany, Australia) and six men's (Finland, Germany, Australia, Turkey, South Africa, Israel) secured Olympic qualification.