December 26, 2018

Identical twins strike gold, 163 miles a day: Five 2018 sporting tales

Dina and Arina Averina

One woman ran almost 163 miles in 24 hours, there was a marathon chess duel, while identical twins landed a major international title each in the same sport.

Dina and Arina Averina

Here, AFP Sport also looks at a 16-time world champion and a Hungarian skimmer in five stories you may have missed in 2018:

One day… 163 miles
American Camille Herron smashed the women’s world 24-hour and 100-mile records in December in an incredible display of endurance. The 36-year-old ran 162.9 miles (262km) on a track in Phoenix, beating the best-placed male finisher by over five miles.

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In an Instagram post, the ultramarathon runner said she used three different pairs of shoes during her record-breaking effort, going “into the pain cave” for the final five to six hours. But Herron was able to come “back from the dead”, apparently thanks to some tacos and beer. The 37-year-old later told the BBC that she hopes to see ultramarathon running added to the Olympics in the near future.

The golden identical twins
Russian Dina Averina was utterly dominant at the 2018 rhythmic gymnastics world championships in Sofia, winning five gold medals of a possible six, including the all-around title for the second straight year.

Her identical twin sister Arina had to settle for bronze, just three months after pipping Dina to the European championships gold medal in Spain. The 20-year-old sisters have now won a remarkable 18 major championship gold medals between them in only two years.

The twins can be told apart by a scar on Arina’s forehead, which she sustained after an accident with a club. Dina has done her best to help the audience, though, sporting a new hairstyle in recent competitions.

Rapid(ish) chess
Magnus Carlsen, world chess champion since 2013, retained his title again in November by beating American challenger Fabiano Caruana, but that was only half the story in a marathon battle between the world’s two highest-ranked grandmasters.

A seven-hour, 115-move draw in the opening game set the tone in London, as the match ended with 12 consecutive draws for the first time in world chess championship history. That meant rapid-chess tiebreakers, and Norwegian star Carlsen reeled off three straight wins to finally see off Caruana.

A 16-time world champion retires
Darts great Phil Taylor bowed out back on January 1, retiring from the sport at the age of 57. The Englishman finished his career with a staggering 16 world championship titles, with his most recent coming in 2013.

But ‘The Power’ came agonisingly close to finishing on 17, after a thrilling run to the final in his last event at Alexandra Palace. He came up against an inspired opponent in tournament debutant Rob ‘Voltage’ Cross, though, as the former electrician powered to a 7-2 victory to claim the £400,000 ($508,000) prize.

Hungarian skimming king
The sporting scene in Hungary has been dominated in recent years by swimmers Katinka Hosszu and Laszlo Cseh, but it was skimmer Peter Szep who grabbed a world title in September.

Szep emerged victorious in the world stone skimming championships on the remote Scottish island Easdale, following in the footsteps of 2017 winner Keisuke Hashimoto of Japan and becoming only the second non-British champion since 2006.