Olympic sports writing: 2004-2015

Selected features and interviews, plus coverage from several Olympics:

Features

Sochi 2014

London 2012 (all Bleacher Report unless noted)

Vancouver 2010: Nordic sports and biathlon (all USA TODAY)

Beijing 2008: Everything, especially soccer (all USA TODAY)

Torino 2006 (USA TODAY)

Athlete interviews (all USA TODAY)

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Jordan Burroughs’ second career loss and one-day wrestling

Jordan Burroughs is pushing for the title of best U.S. wrestler of all time. He’s 92-2 in his international career, with two world championships and Olympic gold. (Hence the Twitter handle: @allIseeisgold)

The second of those losses might merit an asterisk, as the headline implies: Jordan Burroughs sprains MCL, wins bronze at World Wrestling Championships | OlympicTalk.

To give credit where it’s due: Russia’s Denis Tsargush, who beat Burroughs, is a former world champion himself and the man who has given Burroughs a couple of tough matches in major events.

But seeing Burroughs lose on a hobbled leg raises a question: Are wrestling and other combat sports better off in the current format of running through an entire weight class in one day?

The format is still relatively new in wrestling. (It’s older in judo.) In 2000 and 2004, wrestlers had two or three days of competition, starting with small round-robin pools before advancing to a knockout bracket. By 2008, they switched to one day per weight class.

Maybe a different format couldn’t have helped Burroughs recover from his injury in time to have another classic match with Tsargush. But what are the advantages to making wrestlers do everything in a day? It doesn’t add any drama. Broadcasters, let alone reporters, have no time to build the story of a wrestler, particularly an underdog, moving through a tournament to the final.

When wrestling was placed on the Olympic chopping block last year, FILA reconsidered its rules but left the one-day format intact. Bloody Elbow’s Mike Riordan sees a better way:

The NCAA Division I wrestling championships stand alone as the true gold standard when it comes to well-attended television-friendly amateur wrestling tournaments. At the NCAAs, all weights compete simultaneously in six sessions spread over a three day period. The semifinals, which determine the match ups for the finals, take place at the end of day two, and the finals take place at the end of the third day. This creates a situation where all of the event’s most anticipated matches fall on a Saturday night, with a whole day left before them to ensure proper coverage, allow for decent marketing, and maximize fan anticipation.

If FILA seeks to eventually optimize the product of its World Championships and Olympics, then it needs to eventually abandon the one-day model, and continue to progress into a format which resembles the NCAA championships.

The NCAA doing something right while the international organizer gets it wrong? Go figure.

Monday Myriad, July 28: Sprinter’s paradise

We begin this week with a view of a cycling sprint finish from the winner’s perspective. Sounds like that would be “nothing,” but Marianne Vos didn’t take the lead until the last few meters:

And another point-of-view video from a winning cyclist, this time from BMX women’s world champion Mariana Pajon.

Nibali cares not for your dropped call: Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali is a model of focus as he plows right through a spectator’s calling arm. And the spectator also keeps her focus, ignoring the cyclists, the motorbikes, the oncoming car …

Things you don’t want to hear in cycling: “Midair collision”

More fast people: World Juniors track and field in Oregon.

But always remember …

Vertical jump matters, not age: Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross keep rolling.

https://twitter.com/ESPNOlympics/status/493505774182621184

And Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal made it a U.S. sweep on home sand …

The shots you don’t take: Compelling read on the need to take risks — pushing numbers up the field in soccer, swinging away in cricket — to get anywhere in sports.

On the other hand: Here’s a good strategy for getting out of an MMA fight without any blood or bruises: Tap out immediately.

Away win: U.S. wrestler Brent Metcalf came back from 6-0 down to beat Azerbaijan’s Magomed Muslimov at the FILA Golden Grand Prix in Azerbaijan. The key move, which earned four points to seal the tiebreaker for Metcalf, is at the 6:12 mark here:

USA Wrestling has the other U.S. results from that day and the next day, where the USA’s Elena Pirozhkova jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the final and held on with ease:

Comparisons: I think I’d rather be the Peyton Manning of bocce.

Along those lines …

Arf: Let’s see Rio 2016 top the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony:

Frame-by-frame defeat: Boxer Daniel Geale vs. Gennady Golovkin

21 seconds in: “Hey, I just landed a punch! That felt really good!”

32 seconds in: “Hmmm, maybe I should’ve been in better position to take this-”

Guess the sport: An U.S. Olympian has finally completed the American Ninja Warrior qualifying course. We’ll give some hints: It wasn’t a gymnast (Paul Hamm and Morgan Hamm did pretty well on the Japanese precursor Sasuke), nor was it a medalist. Give up? Here’s the answer.

UPDATE: I missed Jarrod Shoemaker’s World Cup triathlon silver when I posted. Please forgive me.

If you like full recaps of U.S. athletes in action or track and field in general, try TeamUSA.org and Daily Relay later in the evening. If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain … actually, I don’t like either of those things, so call someone else.

Catch the Monday Myriad again next week.

Woly Award: Jordan Burroughs rules the mat

Wrestler Jordan Burroughs is the winner of this week’s Woly, the weekly award for U.S. Olympic-sports athletes.

I used to give this award for USA TODAY, and it continued for a while after I departed. They stopped, so I’m restarting.

Burroughs, the Olympic and world champion, capped a big weekend for his sport with two massive wins, running his international record to an astounding 54-0. He needed to rally to win his match against Russia’s Saba Khubetzhty at Wednesday’s “Rumble on the Rails,” but under new international scoring rules, he roared past the same opponent Sunday in Los Angeles.

The USA lost to Iran in the first head-to-head matchup Wednesday at Grand Central Terminal, rebounded to swamp Russia, adapted after Iran withdrew from the L.A. event, then won seven matches in L.A.

A couple of other events from Olympic sports last week:

TRACK AND FIELD: “WL” = “world list,” the top performances in the world this year.

At the Diamond League meet in Shanghai, the USA’s Jason Richardson and Ryan Wilson finished 1-2 in the men’s 110 hurdles and moved into first and third on the world list at 13.23 and 13.25.

 

Other results:

Men’s 400: Kirani James (JAM, 44.02) and LaShawn Merritt (USA, 44.60) top two WL.

Women’s 100: Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM) 10.93, top WL.

Women’s 400 hurdles: Top two WL: Zuzana Hejnova (CZE, 53.79) and Angela Morosanu (ROU, 53.85).

Men’s long jump: Top two WL: Li Jinzhe (CHN, 8.34) and Aleksandr Menkov (RUS, 8.31)

Men’s javelin: Top two WL: Tero Pitkamaki (FIN, 87.60) and Vitezslav Vesely (CZE, 86.67)

Men’s 3,000 steeplechase: Top seven times WL, all Kenyans. Winner: Conseslus Kipruto, age 18, 8:01.16.

Women’s 5,000: Top eight times WL, all Kenya and Ethiopia. Winner: Genzebe Dibaba (ETH, 14:45.92)

In Los Angeles, three U.S. runners moved into third, fourth and fifth on the world list: Jennifer Simpson (2:00.45), Phoebe Wright (2:00.58), LaTavia Thomas (2:00.68). No. 1 is 2:00.33. Also, Mary Cain demolished the U.S. junior record in the 1,500 (4:04.62).

In Ponce, Puerto Rico, U.S. hurdler Johnny Dutch ran a world-leading 48.02 to upset the host country’s Javier Culson (48.36, 2nd WL).

CYCLING: Tejay van Garderen proved he can win a multistage race and that a cyclist can win a multistage race with a newborn at home. He’s the new Tour of California champion.

The rest of the week in Olympic sports: the U.S. men won bronze in ice hockey’s World Championships, U.S. women won eight gold medals in Continental Championship boxing, and Olympians Brady Ellison and Khatuna Lorig won mixed-team gold in the archery World Cup opener.

Today in wrestling’s Olympic battle

Hey, Dana White! Bjorn Rebney! What do you big-time MMA promoters think wrestling should do to stay in the Olympics?

Wrestling’s leaders have indeed asked, and my former USA TODAY colleague Kelly Whiteside has the story on what they’re considering — everything from dramatic walkouts to new clothes. The story includes this great anecdote:

 “Two pieces? Dan will probably roll over in his grave,” (Mike Novogratz) said about the legend standing next to him.

“Nah. I wore a three-piece in college,” said Gable about his time at Iowa State in the late 1960s. “A shirt, tights and a pair of shorts that went over.”

Someone who wore a lot less than that on his way to nine Olympic gold medals is weighing in on wrestling’s behalf (via OlympicTalk):

As are more Olympic legends of the 70s and 80s:

(Still can’t believe Mark Spitz shaved that mustache.)

The “Rumble on the Rails” — USA, Iran and Russia in Grand Central Terminal — will be broadcast live today. USA vs. Iran at 3:30 ET on NBC Sports Network and USA vs. Russia on Universal Sports at 6 ET. Also online at TeamUSA.org

How modern pentathlon stayed in the Olympics (attn wrestling)

In elementary school, I used to wander into the Coliseum at the University of Georgia to watch wrestling. When UGA cut the varsity wrestling program, I drafted a complaint letter and had my classmates sign it. That letter was reprinted in a local weekly. (In retrospect, that may have been my first published work.)

In 2008, I covered a little bit of wrestling and a little bit of modern pentathlon. In 2012, I watched a bit of wrestling and a bit of modern pentathlon online.

Guess which I enjoyed more? No, not the wrestling.

College wrestling, when I get a chance to watch it, isn’t bad. International wrestling is one of the most befuddling sports to watch in the Olympics, and I say that as someone who has watched a live trampoline competition.

Modern pentathlon, on the other hand, has modernized. The shooting and running phases have been combined to resemble biathlon, a popular winter sport in Europe. The athletes are shooting laser pistols. In London, they ran through a cross-country course in Greenwich Park. If you didn’t see it, it’s your loss.

How did modern pentathlon realize all of these changes would be a good idea? They communicated with the IOC. Maybe cynics would say it takes more than communication to get the wheels moving, but the fact is simple: Modern pentathlon responded to IOC concerns, and wrestling didn’t. That’s the lesson of a USA TODAY story by my former Olympic press center office-mate Bryce Miller, who is leading a comprehensive look at wrestling’s Olympic fight at The Des Moines Register.

If anything, wrestling got worse over the years. It was already a sport that turned on arcania, particularly the Greco-Roman competition. Remember the highlight of Rulon Gardner’s monumental upset over Russian giant Alexander Karelin? The final score of that contest: 1-0. Gardner was awarded his point when Karelin’s hands broke apart on a clinch. That’s it.

Now we have “ball draws” and foam blocks. Defense still rules.

In a conference call earlier this year, I asked whether wrestling might consider drastic changes such as replacing Greco-Roman with grappling. I didn’t hear much enthusiasm for that idea.

The lobbying effort that quickly sprang to life, with the USA taking the lead but forging solid relationships with Iran and other countries, has made vague references to tinkering with the rules:

The objectives of this committee include these key points: 1) simple for spectators; 2) increases action 3) rewards risk-taking; 4) allows no bias into officiating; 5) allows the best athlete to win; 6) is exciting for television viewing.

An Iran Times piece* put it this way:

(A)nother goal is to try to make officiating more “scientific” and less subjective.  There have been many complaints from both within and without wrestling that a move will get a wrestler points from one official and punishment from another.

The IOC’s voters might be seeing the backlash from the recommendation to drop wrestling. But they’re too proud to save face and change their minds. A few changes might be enough to let them claim that they’re keeping wrestling in the Games because wrestling met their demands. For better or for worse, that’s how the Games game is played.

* The original link is here, but I can’t get it to load.

Wrestling leaders gearing up to fight … what, exactly?

USA Wrestling’s response to the sport’s threatened ouster from the Olympics has been impressive.

They’ve done some international networking at the freestyle World Cup in Iran. They’re organizing at the grass roots. They’ve got an organization with a catchy name (CPOW, pronounced “ka-POW!”). They held a media conference call today and struck all the right notes, sounding polished rather than bitter.

Former USOC president Jim Scherr is now working with international organizer FILA to save the sport’s Olympic status. He speaks convincingly of wrestling’s “Olympism” — the goodwill created through respectful international competition. Anyone who has seen footage of the competition in Iran would have to agree.

Anything wrong? Perhaps. It’s clear from today’s conference call that they don’t really know why wrestling was the one existing Olympic sport excluded from the board’s list of “core sports” guaranteed a place in the Games beyond 2016.

Scherr can tell us why baseball was removed — doping scandals, lack of “universality” (number of countries that play it and play it well), the cost of building a venue. Wrestling has none of those issues.

So … why?

Here’s the shocking point: The IOC gathered extensive data about each sport. And Scherr says wrestling’s federations haven’t had access to the data.

And so wrestling is flying blind.

Scherr thinks the IOC will give some direction. IOC President Jacques Rogge will meet with FILA’s new leaders March 7.

But this lack of information rendered my question moot. I asked if wrestling’s lobbyists were considering changes to the Olympic program, such as the grappling-for-Greco idea I floated a couple of weeks ago. Short answer: It hasn’t come up.

Why should it, if they don’t know why the ax is hovering?

None of this is USA Wrestling’s fault. This conference call should assure people that USA Wrestling is doing all it can. Everyone can help — in response to a question from an elderly gentleman who didn’t identify himself and said he didn’t have a “medium outlet,” Scherr and company pointed everyone to its donation/political action site at keepwrestlingintheolympics.com

And in a minor but helpful point, USA Wrestling has released a good explanation of the process from here on out, explaining and debunking the “three sports” rumor:

Two dates are vitally important to reverse this recommendation. Between May 24-27 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Executive Board will hear presentations from the following sports: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, squash, sport climbing, wakeboard, wrestling and wushu. Up to three of those sports will move forward for final consideration at the General Session of the IOC in September.

In its meeting Sept. 4-7 in Buenos, Aires, Argentina, the 114-member IOC General Session will have two votes. The first is to accept or reject the Executive Board’s recommendation to drop wrestling from the Games. If that’s upheld, the IOC members will then vote to select one of the three sports forwarded by the Executive Board for inclusion on the Olympic Program in 2020.

Got it? Good.

Now if we can find out what wrestling needs to do to score a little better on the Olympic box score, we’ll be in business.

Wrestling’s way forward: Grappling in, Greco and whining out

wrestlingNow that we’ve picked our jaws up off the floor from the IOC vote to squeeze wrestling out of the Olympic rings, let’s see what arguments work and which ones don’t.

As you’d expect in the free-for-all, speak-before-reading atmosphere of the Interwebs, commenters on various sites have come up with some stupid responses. But some educated observers also might be missing the boat.

Argument: The IOC is just trying to be the X Games.

Winter Games, sure — they’ve added all kinds of snowboard and freestyle skiing events.

Summer Games? The last sports added were golf and rugby sevens. The sports most likely to be added next are baseball/softball, karate or squash. Don’t recall seeing those sports covered at EXPN.

Argument: They should just get rid of ping pong.

Ahem … table tennis beat wrestling in most of the numbers cited in the 2009 IOC report. I’d doubt wrestling made up that much ground in four years. For one thing, table tennis has a staggering 190 national federations to wrestling’s 167.

Wrestling does have one argument in comparison to table tennis and badminton — in the two racket/paddle sports, everyone’s playing for silver medals behind China. The IOC should be (and might be) telling those federations to step it up internationally, just as they have to women’s hockey and now-excluded softball.

(The IOC hasn’t issued a 2013 version of that 2009 report, but they have made the criteria public.)

Argument: They should just get rid of modern pentathlon.

In a head-to-head vote between wrestling and modern pentathlon, sure, wrestling has a stronger case. But modern pentathlon has a case for inclusion as well — a better one, I’d argue, than most of the sports bidding to get into the Games this fall.

(Incidentally, one report going around yesterday suggested the IOC may add three sports this fall. I haven’t confirmed it, but I think that’s a misreading. The Olympic programme is growing by three sports — golf, rugby, and sport-tba-this-fall. Every official release I’ve seen mentions no possibilities beyond that. If you see something contrary, please let me know.)

Argument: They should get rid of race walking or trampoline or synchronized swimming.

Those are specific events within established sports. In those case, the established sports are track and field, gymnastics, and swimming. Go ahead — try to get one of those three sports evicted from the Games.

If you want to argue to exclude those events, fine, but it’s a separate argument. You’re not going to convince the IOC to bring back wrestling to replace the 32 trampoline athletes you’re kicking out of the Games.

Argument: The number of sports is just so arbitrary. Why are they doing this?

The goal is to keep the Games from growing out of hand so that future host cities won’t be totally bankrupt for decades. But yes, the number of sports may be a bad way to do that. Track and field has 47 events with roughly 2,000 athletes from roughly 200 countries. Modern pentathlon has two events with 72 athletes. Archery has four events with 128 athletes.

That’s the human toll. Then there’s the logistical toll. Rio is building a golf course to accommodate a new sport. Wrestling just needs an existing gym and some mats.

Argument: In 2008, wrestling had Olympians from a bajillion countries, while modern pentathlon had less than 30.

Modern pentathlon has exactly two events with 72 total athletes. Wrestling has seven weight classes in two men’s disciplines for a total of 14, then four weight classes for women. The USA alone had 17 wrestlers in London. Kazakhstan had 15.

Yes, wrestling has a good “universality” argument — 29 different countries won medals. But don’t compare those apples to modern pentathlon’s oranges.

Argument: This is just a slap in the face of the USA, the most successful nation.

Not quite. The big dog in the Olympics is actually the Soviet Union/Russia, which is listed as separate countries in most records. The USA is a strong second in the all-time table but hasn’t led the medal count in this millennium. There’s a reason Rulon Gardner’s win is considered a colossal upset.

That said, my former USA TODAY colleague Christine Brennan raises a good question today: When will the USA, whose companies’ cash props up the Games, start exerting its influence?

Russia’s gearing up for a fight to keep wrestling in the Games. Japan and Iran can’t be happy, either. Maybe U.S. sponsors could provide the tipping point?

(And in case you think these political adversaries can’t team up, check the U.S. wrestling team’s travel itinerary for February. And an Iranian newspaper is calling the USA, Russia and Iran “the axis” to stand up and defend wrestling.)

Argument: International wrestling federation FILA was too complacent.

We have a winner.

Bloody Elbow’s Mike Riordan:

FILA exists to prevent this very thing from happening. If they can’t prevent wrestling from being removed from the Olympic program, then they are failing at their existential purpose. How could they stand around and watch while other sports were lobbying the IOC? What the hell were they thinking?

FILA was either negligent or reckless here, as they either disregarded a risk they were aware of or never noticed a risk they should not have missed. They totally and irrevocably soiled their metaphorical sheets and mattress.

Veteran Oly journalist Alan Abrahamson:

(Wrestling) ranked low in the TV categories as well, with 58.5 million viewers max and an average of 23 million. Internet hits and press coverage also were ranked as low.

For all of wrestling’s claims of “universality,” moreover, the sport — while immensely popular in places such as the United States, Japan, Russia, eastern Europe, former Soviet bloc nations, Turkey and Iran — doesn’t really offer up that many Asian, African or Latin athletes. Which longtime observers such as Harvey Schiller, the former baseball federation president, pointed out, also noting that it simply is “not great TV.”

Moreover, the IOC report also observed that FILA has no athletes on its decision-making bodies, no women’s commission, no ethics rules for technical officials and no medical official on its executive board.

There’s this, too, though the IOC report doesn’t mention it: FILA is virtually invisible on Facebook. In the year 2013, that is almost indefensible. (Quick aside from BD: Their website is, even by the poor standard of international federation sites, an absolute mess.)

Pentathlon — given a warning in 2002 — got with the program, so to speak.

It cut its competition schedule from five days, to four, to one. It instituted the use of laser pistols instead of regular guns. It also played politics, an IOC essential, with UIPM first vice president Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. now sitting on the IOC board.

FILA did virtually nothing.

(That’s a long excerpt, but please, read all of Alan’s piece.)

What’s the way forward? Let’s go to another point from Mike’s piece:

In 2002, an IOC review essentially told FILA to get rid of a wrestling style (i.e. Greco) because having two was confusing the casual viewing audience. FILA stood up for itself and retained both styles. I believe that the IOC’s decision to eliminate Wrestling may be something of a power move designed to show other sports what happens when their wishes are not complied with.

Wrestling purists may hate this, but it’s probably time to ditch Greco-Roman wrestling.

But wrestling can also take a more positive step and add something else, a discipline that touches both the ancient world and the modern:

Grappling.

FILA already runs grappling competitions. They were a bridge for 2009 world champion Sara McMann from her Olympic wrestling career to her MMA career.

Some MMA fans and promoters still harbor delusions of getting MMA in the Games. As we’ve seen this week, the politics of getting into the Games aren’t pretty. Getting into Madison Square Garden, by comparison, is a lush walk on rose pedals. And by the time they add headgear and other restrictions so that athletes can fight a complete tournament in two weeks, it won’t look like MMA.

Grappling, though, incorporates a lot of MMA elements. And it’s an easy addition to the program. Just scratch out “Greco-Roman” and write “grappling.”

Also, grappling may attract more women. Judo is nearly gender-equal. Wrestling is not, and Greco-Roman has no women at all. That’s important.

So wrestling could add an existing discipline to its existing program, appeal to modern MMA fans and harken back to the pankration days of yore.

And making such a move would give the IOC a way to “change its mind” while saving face. They could say wrestling has acceded to their demands for change. That’s an easier decision to spin than the “lots of people got mad and lobbied us” outcome.

Win-win-win-win. At the very least, worth a shot if it means keeping a traditional Olympic sport in the Games.

Wrestling’s biggest fight: Getting back in the Games

Modern pentathlon seemed to be the likeliest sport to be eliminated from the Olympic program. Then perhaps taekwondo. Maybe an outside chance of one of the Asian-dominated net sports, badminton and table tennis.

Wrestling? If you saw that coming, consider taking your psychic talents to Wall Street or Vegas.

“A surprise decision,” says the AP. “A shocking move,” says Yahoo’s Maggie Hendricks.

But is it a final decision? Maybe not.

AP puts it like this:

Wrestling will now join seven other sports in applying for inclusion in 2020. The others are a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu. They will be vying for a single opening in 2020.

The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion. The final vote will be made at the IOC session, or general assembly, in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It is extremely unlikely that wrestling would be voted back in so soon after being removed by the executive board.

If the federation facing the axe was the tiny modern pentathlon federation or the dysfunctional taekwondo federation, then yes, getting back in the Games would be nearly impossible.

But wrestling’s federation, FILA? Don’t be too sure. To mangle John Paul Jones’ famous quote, FILA has not yet begun to lobby.

And the international outcry is sure to be monstrous. Have you ever wanted to see the USA and Iran join forces? Get ready, ’cause here it comes.

The facts are on wrestling’s side. The last time the IOC went through this process, they released their report on each sport. A few numbers for consideration (from 2009, but it’s hard to imagine too much has changed since then):

  • Wrestling has 167 active national federations. Other sports: Archery 139, equestrian 133, field hockey 122, triathlon 116, modern pentathlon 104. (Taekwondo, surprisingly, has a healthy 186.)
  • The “average minute of TV coverage” of wrestling in the 2008 Olympics was watched by 29.5 million people globally. Field hockey: 11.8 million. Fencing: 24.3 million. Badminton: 21.2 million. Team handball: 23.3 million. Sailing: 24.5 million. Triathlon: 19.4 million. Modern pentathlon: 23.1 million. Even tennis was lower: 26.1 million. (Swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting (?!) and track and field are the big draws, as you’d expect — 40 million to 65 million. Table tennis was also over 40 million, so the people complaining about “ping pong” might want to adjust their arguments.)

Now wrestling is battling for a spot against the combined baseball/softball bid, karate, squash, roller sports (speed skating), sport climbing, wakeboarding (a modified version that will confuse the heck out of U.S. viewers) and wushu. That’s a battle wrestlers should be able to win.

Then the other sports can get back in line and hope the IOC comes to its senses next time and reverses its ludicrous decision to add golf, where the costs far outweigh the benefits. Perhaps other federations can merge, as baseball and softball are doing, to try to sneak another sport into the Games.

So take heart, wrestlers. There’s a lot of time left on the clock.

 

Monday Myriad: Feb. 4

Yes, this will be more of an evening thing from now on.

The week’s headlines:

– Jose Aldo defended his UFC featherweight title as Frankie Edgar suffered yet another close decision loss. The rest of the UFC 156 card scrambled the title chases in ways I’m still working out. Rashad Evans was supposed to fight for the middleweight title, but he lost a dreary light heavyweight fight to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. In the heavyweight division, Alistair Overeem was supposed to fight for the title, but Antonio Silva knocked him out. And now lightweight contender Anthony Pettis says he wants to drop down to featherweight and fight Aldo.

– Steve Holcomb’s four-man sled set a track record in the fourth and final heat to take bronze in the World Championships.

– Noelle Pikus-Pace took silver in the skeleton World Championships.

– Erin Hamlin and Chris Mazdzer each placed sixth in their events at the luge World Championships. They, along with doubles team Matthew Mortensen/Preston Griffall, placed fifth in the team event.

– The U.S. men struggled past Brazil in the Davis Cup. Turned out to be a great first round for North America, with Canada upsetting Spain.

– Katie Compton was second in the elite women’s race at the cyclocross World Championships.

– Helen Maroulis was the Outstanding Wrestler at the Dave Schultz Invitational.

– U.S. sailors at the World Cup stop in Miami: Five golds, three silvers, three bronzes.

– Upcoming: Biathlon and Alpine skiing world championships, some of which will be televised. Also the U.S. men vs. Honduras as World Cup qualifying’s Hexagonal starts.

http://storify.com/duresport/monday-myriad-feb-4-features