Comeback Kings and Queens

Review of the week: 21 – 27 September 2015

Tour de France 2015, sagan (20062619745)

Peter Sagan (above) is no longer the eternal second. Having failed to win a single stage of the Tour de France in 2014 or 2015, despite securing the green points jersey in both, he claimed his first World Championships rainbow jersey with victory in the road race.

In fact, all of the senior champions were first time winners who had been waiting a long time for their titles. The women’s road race went to Lizzie Armitstead of Great Britain, who had previously taken three silver medals, but no golds, in individual global events.

The time trial crowns were claimed by Vasil Kiriyenka of Belarus and Linda Villumsen of New Zealand. Kiriyenka had come third or fourth every year since 2012 while Villumsen had the most frustrating record of all, with two silvers and three bronzes before her win.

The Worlds took place in Richmond, Virginia and the hosts had the rare experience of topping the medal table. The men’s team time trial was won by the BMC Racing Team, including Taylor Phinney, returning after surgery following a near-fatal crash last year.

But the big star for the future is undoubtedly Chloe Dygert, who won both the road race and time trial events for junior women, the first cyclist to do since Nicole Cooke in 2001.

Like Phinney, she was returning from an injury, in her case a torn left anterior cruciate ligament which brought  a promising basketball career to a premature end. Her success can in part be attributed to the dirt bike trail built by her father at their Indiana home.

Matthew Anderson (FIVB MWC Poland 2014)

It was also a good week for the USA in men’s volleyball, where it won the World Cup to qualify for Rio next year. As with the women’s tournament, Brazil did not participate as they have already qualified automatically. The MVP was Matthew Anderson (above), also on the comeback trail after taking a break from the sport with depression last year.

The Olympic champion, Poland, seemed on course to secure a spot only to lose its final game to Italy, allowing it to leapfrog it in the rankings and claim second place instead. But all is not lost for Poland, which will surely take the chance to qualify at a later date.

China and Russia won most medals at the Wheelchair Fencing World Championships, while South Korea showed its usual dominance at the Olympic test event in archery.

Even here, a new talent emerged from the shadow of more experienced rivals. Ki Bo Bae suffered a shock defeat to allow 19-year-old compatriot Choi Misun to win the women’s title instead. South Korean archery does allow comebacks but only from its own ranks.

Next week: Basketball for men in Asia and for women in Africa, and women’s volleyball

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