Weekend Sports in Brief
NEW YORK (AP) Justify defied all the odds on his way to achieving Triple Crown immortality.
The late bloomer won the Belmont Stakes by 1} lengths on Saturday, giving the sport its 13th Triple Crown champion. American Pharoah ended a 37-year drought in 2015 and now just four years later, racing is celebrating another sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Justify began his racing career on Feb. 18, a scant 77 days before the Derby. He won his first three races by a combined 19 lengths, making trainer Bob Baffert a believer.
The big chestnut colt with the appetite to match burst onto the national scene with a 2 -length victory on a sloppy track in the Derby. Two weeks later, he survived a challenge in the fog-shrouded Preakness, winning by a half-length, again in the slop to set up a Triple Crown try.
On a cloudy 80-degree day at Belmont Park, Justify proved a cool customer.
At 6-0, he joins Seattle Slew in 1977 as the only two undefeated Triple Crown winners; he’s the first to sweep the series without racing at age 2 (because of a pulled muscle); and he’s the only horse to beat nine rivals in the Belmont with a Triple try on the line. Slew also was a wire-to-wire Belmont winner.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Dustin Johnson emphatically reclaimed the No. 1 ranking Sunday, holing out for eagle from 170 yards on the final hole for a six-stroke victory in the St. Jude Classic.
Johnson shot a 4-under 66 for his second PGA Tour victory this year and 18th of his career to reclaim the No. 1 ranking he held for 64 straight weeks before dropping down a month ago. He won the event for the second time, finishing with the eagle, three birdies and a bogey for a 19-under 261 total.
Andrew Putnam started the final round with a share of the lead for the first time in his career. He shot 72 and finished at 13 under.
Preparing for the U.S. Open, Johnson took the lead to himself with a par on No. 1, while Putnam double-bogeyed, and cruised to the $1.18 million winner’s check.
PARIS (AP) – Rafael Nadal needed less than a set to take command of the French Open final and overcame a late problem with his racket-holding hand to earn a record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros by beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday.
At 2-1 in the fourth set, Nadal stopped serving during a game because he couldn’t straighten his left middle finger. At the following changeover, Nadal was given a salt pill by a doctor and had his left forearm massaged by a trainer.
But Nadal’s form never wavered, and soon enough he was celebrating his 17th Grand Slam title overall, second among men only to Roger Federer’s 20.
The victory also allowed the 32-year-old Spaniard to hold onto the No. 1 ranking.
The No. 7-seeded Thiem, a 24-year-old from Austria, was appearing in a major final for the first time. Not much more of a daunting task than doing so against Nadal at the French Open, where he is now 11-0 in finals and 86-2 overall.
CANASTOTA, N.Y. (AP) – Vitali Klitschko had a difficult time grasping the moment.
”It’s not reality. It’s dream,” Klitschko said Sunday during his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. ”I never expected I will be in (the Hall of Fame). I didn’t expect one day I become world champion in the United States. I’m very proud to be together with boxing legends. It’s a dream to be in with Muhammad Ali.”
Klitschko was elected to the Hall of Fame in December, three years after he decided to re-enter politics in his native Ukraine. Also inducted Sunday were four-division world champion Erik Morales and light middleweight champion Ronald ”Winky” Wright, while Sid Terris was honored posthumously in the old-timer category.
Honored in the observer category were broadcasters Steve Albert and Jim Gray, while German promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl was honored in the non-participant category. Ring announcer Johnny Addie and promoter Lorraine Chargin were honored posthumously in the non-participant category.
MOSCOW (AP) – The prospect of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar growing to 48 teams faded Sunday after a discussion of the thorny issue was pulled from the agenda for FIFA’s annual congress.
Plans for a feasibility study were put on hold after Qatar World Cup head Hassan Al-Thawadi addressed the ruling council of world football’s governing body and FIFA President Gianni Infantino said agreement from the Gulf nation is a ”precondition.”
Having previously said he was keen on an adding 16 teams, Infantino is now casting doubt on the possibility of further disrupting preparations for the Qatar tournament.
The FIFA Congress, which features up to 211 football federations, will now have no say in the number of teams at the tournament in Qatar. Infantino said there would be no change in the number of finalists once qualifying begins, which is likely in early 2019.