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Brazilian men's volleyball confirms its supremacy; other Olympic notes

The powerful Brazilian men's volleyball team confirmed its supremacy by winning the world championship in Rome on Sunday. Brazil downed the young, eighth-seeded Cubans in the finals 25-22, 25-14, 25-22 to avenge a loss to Cuba in the preliminary round of play. Serbia defeated host Italy to win bronze, three games to one.

Murilo Endres was named tournament MVP for Brazil, which has dominated the men's volleyball scene in recent years, winning world titles in 2002 and 2006 and taking eight of the previous 10 World League titles. The Brazilians won Olympic gold in 2004, but were upset in the gold medal game by the U.S. in 2008.

The U.S. team settled for sixth place after dropping its final classification match to Russia, 25-19, 25-21, 25-19. The Russians set a high wall and out-blocked the Yanks for most of the match, finishing with 45 kills to the U.S.'s 29. American Clay Stanley nailed 23 aces over 33 sets during the two weeks and was voted the tournament's most outstanding server. He also finished as the top U.S. scorer with 150 total points, 23 aces, 18 blocks and 109 kills.

The 24-nation women's world championship will start on Oct. 29 in Tokyo. The U.S. is in a preliminary-round pool with Cuba, Germany, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Croatia.

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Forget steroids, gymnastics is being hit with a rash of age manipulation. The International Gymnastics Federation announced recently that North Korea would be banned from international competition for a month -- a period that will include the world championships in Rotterdam that start on Oct. 16 -- for listing three different birth dates for gymnast Hong Su Jong. The team listed Hong's birth date as March 9, 1985 at the 2004 Olympics and 2006 world championships; March 9, 1986 at the 2006 Asian Games and 2007 world championships; and March 9, 1989 before the upcoming worlds in Rotterdam. Had the North Koreans listed the 1989 birth year for Hong's appearance at the Athens Games, she would have been too young to compete. Earlier this year, the FIG awarded the United States a belated bronze medal in the women's competition at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when the federation ruled that Dong Fangxiao, a member of the Chinese team that had finished third was, in fact, underage.

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Australia's Chris McCormack and Mirinda Carfrae swam, biked and raced to victories at the Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii on Saturday. McCormack, 37, held off Germany's Andreas Raelert to win his second title in eight hours, 10 minutes, 37 seconds, which was 1:40 ahead of Raelert. Carfrae, 29, had an easier time, cruising to an impressive win in 8:58:36, a full 7:24 ahead of runner-up Caroline Steffen of Switzerland.

A special thumbs goes to the finish of Lew Hollander, a former Naval officer and physicist from Bend, Ore. who completed the 2.4-mile swim in 1:50:11, the 112-mile bike ride in 7:14:10 and the 26.2-mile run in 6:34:15 for a total Ironman time of 15:48:40. Why is that a noteworthy performance? Hollander is 80 years old.

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The results of this year's Chicago Marathon looked a lot like those from last year, as Kenya's Sammy Wanjiru and Russia's Liliya Shobukhova defended their titles with impressive victories on Sunday.

Though the mild undulations on the Chicago course often lead to fast times for the runners, Wanjiru used a rare climb on the 180-meter-long Roosevelt Road bridge in the final half mile to pull away from Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia, who took the lead from him several times along the course. Wanjiru finished in two hours, six minutes, 24 seconds, just 19 seconds ahead of Kebede, who gave up the chase in the closing meters. Wanjiru has virtually clinched the title of the World Marathon Majors champion and the cool $500,000 that goes with it. It was a strong finish given his April showing at the London Marathon, where he dropped out, complaining of a sore knee and Kebede won the race.

Shobukhova made up a 24-second deficit to Ethiopia's Astede Baysa at mile 21 and pulled away to a three-minute victory in 2:20:25, the fastest time in the event by a woman since 2008. The victory guaranteed her a cumulative World Marathon Majors title and the $500,000 bonus. Behind her, Joan Benoit Samuelson, the winner of the inaugural Olympic women's marathon in 1984, came across the line in 2:47:50.

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Belgium's Philippe Le Jeune took home gold in the show jumping competition at The World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky. on Friday. The competition had a unique format in that the final four riders -- Le Jeune, surprising silver medalist Abdullah Al Sharbatly of Saudi Arabia, Eric Lamaze of Canada and Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil -- each took a ride in the finals not only on their own horses, but on each of the horses owned by the other finalists in order to determine the overall winner. The riders were granted only a three-minute warm-up that included two practice jumps with each of the new horses. The format is designed to be a true test of a riders' horsemanship. Le Jeune was the only one of the four finalists to ride all four horses without any faults. Al Sharbatly became the first Middle Eastern rider to win a WEG medal. The strong team from Germany handily won the team gold in show jumping, followed by France and Belgium. The U.S. team finished a disappointing tenth.

The U.S. team did however, capture gold in the non-Olympic discipline of vaulting, a sort of gymnastics on horseback, using a lyrical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

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