US skiers Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall stun field for historic cross-country gold

Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall upset the field in the team sprint freestyle race for the United States first ever womens cross-country gold medal

Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall came from behind to win a astound cross-country gold medal in Wednesday night’s squad sprint freestyle, ending one of the the United States’ longest-running Olympic droughts with a dramatic upset.

The American skiers overtook a pair of more heralded squads to finish the final in a time of 15 min, 56.47 sec, edging Sweden for the gold by 0.19 seconds and coming in nearly three seconds ahead of Norway, who added a bronze to their overflowing cross-country medal haul in Pyeongchang.

” I simply felt unstoppable ,” Diggins said.” I am in the best shape of my life right now for sure. That feeling of crossing the line and having Kikkan tackle me was the coolest thing ever .”

Diggins and Randall became the first ever American women to win any medal in cross-country skiing, much less a gold. They join Bill Koch, a silver medalist in the 30 km event at the 1976 Wintertime Game in Innsbruck, as the only US skiers to make an Olympic podium in a athletic dominated by athletes from Scandinavia.

The Americans earned a spot in the front row of the final by posting the most wonderful time in the second of two semi-finals with a trade mark of 16 min 22.56 sec, more than 10 seconds better than Norway’s winning time in the first.

” I felt better every round today ,” Randall said.” I felt strong in the semi-final, I was trying to conserve energy. In the final, every lap I felt stronger and stronger. When we ran up that mound I knew I simply had to keep us in there. Tactically, I wanted to keep us in there so Jessie could do what she wanted to do on that last lap .”

Diggins, the ebullient talisman of the US team who spends her downtime learning hip-hop dance routines from YouTube tutorials, was third entering the final lap before discovering an extra reserve to overtake both the Swedish and Norwegian teams and secure the history-making gold.

” In the final stretching I was just thinking,’ Go, go, go, I’m giving it everything I had and I’ve got someone who I truly love and care about waiting for me at the finishing line and I just wishes to attain her proud ‘,” Diggins said.” Just expressed his belief that we had what it took the entire day .”

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USA clinch first ever gold in ladies’ team sprint- video

Diggins entered Pyeongchang on a tailwind of optimism with a US-record four world championships medals including a pair of silvers last year to her name.

But an Olympic breakthrough appeared less and less likely as the near-misses piled up over the last week and a half. The 26 -year-old finished in the top six in each of her previous four events at these Games but each time failed to reach the rostrum , none more agonizing than last week’s 10 km freestyle where she missed out on a bronze by 3.3 seconds.

” I have been working so hard for so long, the entire squad has ,” Diggins said.” Being so close to medals so many times this week, I knew I was in good shape and I knew it could happen. This team brings the absolute best out in me .”

The catharsis was different but no less acute for the 35 -year-old Randall, who finally broke her Olympic maiden in her 18 th career event, setting a Winter Games record for most events before claiming a medal.

” It was hard to make this team and when I got the nod the other day, I knew I had an important job to do ,” she said. “It’s just so cool.”

Wednesday’s shock victory by the US team overshadowed an even bigger piece of history as Norway’s Marit Bjorgen, the 37 -year-old who took the bronze with team-mate Maiken Caspersen Falla, won a 14 th career medal to outshine countryman Ole Einar Bjourndalen for the most ever medals at the Winter Olympics.

But the night is accountable to Diggins and Randall, whose upset win will no doubt buoy the spirits of a US delegation who have slipped poorly in the medal table since the weekend.

” Hearing it out loud, it still doesn’t feel real ,” Randall said.” It’s what I’ve been working on for 20 years and with this squad for the last five years and wow, it’s just so fun to set it together tonight, eventually .”

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Cleveland Browns fans finally get a parade … only one they never hoped for

It may seem daft to throw a procession after becoming only the second team ever to runs winless in a 16 -game season, but Browns fans hope the owners will take note

When talking about the parade he’s helped scheme, lifelong Cleveland Browns fan Chris McNeil wants to make one thing perfectly clear.

” Make sure you get this right ,” he said loudly.” We are not having a gala of losing, we are having a protest of losing. We want to let the Browns ownership and front office know we are holding them accountable for having such a bad squad.

” And perhaps we’ll have some fun while doing that .”

The Browns’ long-suffering fans will meet at their stadium on Saturday at noon and marching around it in freezing temperatures. The ovular route around the stadium is not a coincidence: it’s the shape of zero, as in the team’s win total at the end of their historically abysmal 2017 season.

” Have you ever gone to a bar and insured a sign that said,’ Free Beer, Tomorrow ‘?” McNeil said.” So you keep going to get your free brew, but it still says tomorrow, and you never get a free brew? That’s what it is like to be a Cleveland Browns fan. They keep telling us they’ll win tomorrow, but they never win. That’s what this a parade is about .”

The Browns’ moribund campaign marked merely the third period since World War II that an NFL squad has lost all their games after the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers( who did it in a 14 -game season) and the 2008 Detroit Lions, and the holding of a procession to point out their “perfection” has been the source of some local consternation.

The team has not officially acknowledged that their fans will be marching in protest against them , nor have any political or business leaders come out with any answers. It’s almost as if the city leadership feels if the procession is dismissed , no one will show up.

Not likely.

McNeil, 38, is just a regular sports fan without any axe to grind. He works in marketings for his family’s metal product company, selling stairways for commercial builds. He’s a father to three young kids who don’t know what it’s like to support a win football team.

Last year, there had been talk of a loser procession, but the team won its penultimate game of the season after a 0-14 start to finish 1-15. But the media last year was in more of a pugnacious mood and blasted McNeil and his cohorts for even considers that it is. Longtime Cleveland athletics radio host, Tony Rizzo, claimed on the air that if a losers’ parade was hold, he would show up there and, as he put it:” mow you down under my tires. I promise you that .”

This year’s parade is get slightly less of a bad rap from the local punditry. Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morris wrote of the parade that” Cleveland isn’t a pit of suffering” but that the” long-suffering fan base can only take so much losing without lashing out in indignation, spite, and yes, juvenile antics “.

Said antics will likely draw people , no doubt. Fans have said they will be bringing hearses, ambulances, various floats, and gravestones with their lists of all of the 28 quarterbacks who have started for the team since 1999, when the Browns were resurrected after the previous iteration of the franchise was cruelly moved to Baltimore. Dedicated that the high temperature on Saturday is expected to be about 10 F( 10 degrees higher than the number of games the Browns won this year) with a low temperature of 1F( the number of games the Browns have won over the last two years ), no one knows if the turnout will be 50 or five thousand.

The central irony is at one time the Browns were the kingpins of the league. They entered the league in 1950 and played in the NFL championship game in seven of their first eight years, winning three of them( including their maid season ). They won again in 1964 with all-time great Jim Brown as their superstar running back, but haven’t been back since. They’ve never been to a Super Bowl, much less win one.

Cleveland
Browns wait in vain at a Christmas Eve home game against the Chargers this year. Photograph: Icon Sportswire/ Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The league dedicated Cleveland a new franchise in 1999 after the Baltimore move- and the rights to the old name- but the fans were only happy about that for a short time. The reason: they’ve been the worst football team in America ever since.

In the 19 seasons since, the Browns have gone 88 -2 16. They have finished last in their division in 15 of those 19 seasons including the last seven in succession, with seven-in-a row and counting since 2011.

In 2013, after the Browns were beat by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26 -1 1, Cleveland comedian Mike Polk made a video in which he renamed the team’s FirstEnergy Stadium as’ The Mill of Sadness ‘. During the video he hollered at the stadium:” The only two constants in Cleveland Browns football are misery and unwavering devotion from us dumb-ass loyal fans .”

That theme seems to resonate across pro sports these days, especially among fans of losing squads like the Browns. NFL owners routinely charge exorbitant sums for tickets and parking- beers for $10, jerseys for $100- and then treat the fans as if they are lucky to be seeing a game. TV ratings for the NFL are down this year, and Browns attendance has hit historic lows: a game against Baltimore in December had the lowest attendance at a Cleveland home game since 1995.

” There isn’t any magic formula for having a winning football squad, but no team should be this bad for this long, and also charge us all this fund to be this bad for this long ,” Polk said.” I’m old enough to remember when they were good and how great the city felt when they were good …. it’s a shame an entire generation of Clevelanders have been deprived of that .”

McNeil is procuring the whole process of running a procession to be funny in some respects. The permit requires security officers and port-o-potty toilets-” Who is going to use the bathroom when it is 10 degrees ?” he laughs- and they have no plans to go more than once around the stadium. Money from the event will be raised for a local food bank.

He is also seeing worldwide attention from other countries:” Cleveland-Browns-Fans feiern historische Saison mit Parade” says a German sports site, while the French Canadians merely say,” Une Parade de la Mediocrite “.

” Above all, we have said we are sending the owners and front office of this squad a message that we are mad and upset about lose, but we are doing it in a way with class and humor ,” McNeill said.

Perhaps the funniest footnote: McNeill and his fellow organizers had to raise roughly $10,000 for work permits, and were coming up short. So Excedrin, the headache medication maker, donated about $8,000 to pay for the permit.

Comedian Mike Polk explained it more simply. He wrote that the world calls,” Hey Cleveland! The Browns suck !” and the answer from Browns fans is,” Yeah. We know. We threw a procession for that .”

Headache gone.

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MLS Cup: Five things we learned from Toronto’s cathartic, legacy-sealing win

Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore enjoyed sweet vindication as Toronto FC built their most compelling pitch for Major League Soccers best squad ever

This was catharsis for Altidore and Bradley

The spirit of blamed has been bouncing around US soccer circles since the USA’s World Cup elimination- but over the course of these MLS playoffs far more than the market share has settled on Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Both men were booed by resisting fans every time they touched the ball during the course of its playoffs, and both had their struggles- Bradley was nullified by Tyler Adams in the home playoff loss to the Red Bulls, while Altidore considered red in the same game and missed the first leg against Columbus.

There’s no doubt that the fallout for “the member states national” team will continue for some time to come, but on Saturday evening, the pair at least got to put an emphatic full stop on the other tale of their year- the obsessive drive to put right what went wrong when Toronto lost a home MLS Cup final last year.

Altidore, as he did in leg two against Columbus, burst through the core of the oppose defense to open the scoring, ensuring that the three goals he managed in these playoffs will be remembered long after the six he scored last year are forgotten. And Bradley was immense in the holding role- dropping deep to coordinate his defense in possession, and tigerish in his pursuit of the ball every time Seattle had the temerity to try and possess it in his half. In many styles, if Altidore’s exuberant goalscoring kind was the story of the 2016 playoff run, Bradley’s bloody-minded determination was the story of 2017, as first New York, then Crew SC, tried and ultimately failed to knocking Toronto off their stride.

Vanney won the battle of the coaches

It’s a measure of how nervy the last month or so has been, as free-scoring attacking soccer has given route to a slog in the playoffs, that when Toronto’s Greg Vanney made the switch to a 4-4-2 diamond for the final, the first instinct of neutrals was not to credit his tactical nous, but to wonder if he’d second-guessed himself into trouble.

Toronto have played the diamond with some success at moments this season, notably in wresting control of the Eastern Conference final back from Crew SC in the second half of the second leg. But their usual 3-5-2 had utterly stifled Seattle last season, and while this was a more attacking Sounders team than 2016, the onus should in theory have been on Brian Schmetzer to figure out a route past Toronto.

Instead Schmetzer’s team played into Toronto’s hands, by pushing into the spaces they were invited into and failing to cover the spaces they’d left. Combined with Toronto’s mix of tenacity and creativity, there was little time or space for Seattle at any stage of the game, and by the end Vanney’s tweaks had find off Schmetzer’s relaxed inclination to keep things simple and trust the players. That had worked in the playoff run, when limited opponent gifted Seattle the time and space to have patience and transgres opponents down. But in the final, Seattle fulfilled the class of the league, and in the post-game press conference a dejected Schmetzer could only lament the duels his players had lost. He’d lost one too.

The best ever?

In the Toronto locker room after the game, several of the players took time out from soaking one another to offer a series of short, excitable toasts. At one point Drew Moor, the defender who’d been part of the cohort of MLS veterans brought in to assist engineer last year’s great leap forward, jumped on a locker seat and silenced the room, to yell out,” This debate on’ Are we the best team ever ?’ It’s fucking over !”

Canadian Champions, Supporters Shield Winners, and now MLS Cup winners. Toronto won everything they could win this year, and violated multiple league records in doing so. If they aren’t the best ever, we’re into the deeply subjective realm of style points to say that they’re not.

Even the scrappy periods of the playoff wins were a perverse kind of tribute to how good they are. None of their foes could hope to impose themselves on Toronto, they could only hope to live with them or stop them, with intermittent but ultimately futile success.

It may be too that Toronto has not been quite so sparkling since the last month of the regular season, as the various finish line described near. But they were so far ahead for so long, that some dip was perhaps inevitable. And when it mattered most they were back to their best to secure their legacy. The best ever? For now.

Sebastian
Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco vies for the ball with Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan. Photo: Networ/ Sipa USA/ REX/ Shutterstock

Frei and Dempsey add unwanted chapters to their own MLS history

Spare a thought for Clint Dempsey and Stefan Frei. After his recovery from a season-ending heart ailment maintained him out of last year’s MLS Cup triumph, Dempsey was billed as the player who could help his squad achieve much more than another smash-and-grab raid this year. But like all of his squad mates he aimed up as a peripheral presence watching red shirts swarm around him at every glimpse of objective. He’d get a shot on target- more than his squad mates managed last year. But it was a tamed shooting scuffing along the ground into Alex Bono’s limbs and that was as dangerous as Deuce got. Three finals for him now, and three losses.

Stefan Frei meanwhile, deserved so much more than being on the losing side of this game, and it will be little consolation to him that there was a instead perfect symmetry in Jozy Altidore being the man to finally get the ball past him on Saturday evening, after his miraculous save against the same striker last year. Frei was outstanding again, beating away shooting after shot as he racked up 186 unbeaten minutes against Toronto in these last two MLS Cups. Near the end of that running, one save from Giovinco looked like it might just tip Toronto into the type of fatal self-doubt that would again haunt them in a penalty shootout, but a few minutes later Giovinco fed the ball to the onrushing Altidore, and from then on, Frei had to settle for a great legacy in MLS Cup folklore, but one less trophy than his performance deserved.

Sebastian Giovinco shares playmaking spotlight with Victor Vazquez

Sebastian Giovinco arrived in MLS with all of the game-changing impact of a cheat code in 2015- at times making Toronto look like a one-man team with his single-handed interventions. Since then his stock has remained high, but the improving roster around him has perhaps muted an appreciation of his qualities- or we’ve just come to take him for awarded. Like Toronto’s other high-profile players the playoffs had been a mixed bag for Giovinco before the final. A sublime free kick to beat the Red Bulls; a needless yellow to hold him out of the first Columbus game; significant impact without dominance.

Giovinco opened the final with a one-on-one miss against Stefan Frei, hit the wall with his first free kick and generally looked a little anonymous by his own criteria, until the moment where he hooked the ball perfectly into the path of Altidore for the winning goal, and in doing so reminded us what a sublime talent he is in the context of this league- a player defenders can never switch off on.

But it was also fitting that Giovinco should share creative top billing with Victor Vazquez, who has been the single player to have most improved Toronto this season. Vazquez’s cool in the final one-third and his motion and distribution into that ares, has had knock on effects in the freedom afforded to Giovinco and Altidore in front of him, and taken a lot of visionary duties off the laundry list of duties Michael Bradley has to attend to behind him. Vazquez had defined the tone for the final early as his switches in play rocked Seattle off balance repeatedly. By the time he bundled in aim number two in trauma day it only corroborated what we already knew: every one of Toronto’s key quartet had indicated up when it mattered most.

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Terry Glenn, former Patriots and Cowboys receiver, dies aged 43

Terry Glenn, the wide receiver who caught Tom Bradys first ever touchdown pass, has died at the age of 43

Terry Glenn, the broad receiver who caught Tom Brady’s first ever touchdown pass, has died at persons under the age of 43. According to the Dallas County medical examiner’s office Glenn was killed in a” suspected motor vehicle collision” in the early hours of Monday morning.

Glenn was the seventh overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft after a brilliant final year of college football at Ohio State. He played six seasons for the Patriots before to intervene in the Green Bay Packers in 2002, and expended the final years of his career with the Cowboys before retiring in 2007.

His 90 receptions for the Patriots in his first year in the league were a record for a rookie at the time and he was named to the Pro Bowl in 1999. However, his career in New England aimed on a sour note after an apprehend and a failed narcotic exam led to him being deactivated from the roster running up to the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory. He was resurrected at the Cowboys though and had more than 1,000 receiving yards in both of his two final full seasons.

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The former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe paid tribute to his former team-mate Glenn on Monday.” Loved this man ,” wrote Bledsoe on Instagram.” My son asked me a decade ago who my favorite receiver ever was because he wanted that jersey for Christmas. He got a Terry Glenn jersey from Santa. TG overcame horrible adversity to become a really good man. May your soul rest in peace my friend .”

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