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Belgium claims 1st Fed Cup title

An American no-show did nothing to dim Belgium's first Fed Cup title.

"It would have been great if they were here, but they weren't," said Justine Henin after she and Kim Clijsters took straight-set victories over Russia in Sunday's final in Madrid, Spain.

"We were the favorites here but we had to prove it on the court and we did it," Henin said. "It's a great victory for a little country with two young players and a great team."

Henin beat Nadia Petrova 6-0, 6-3 in 50 minutes. Clijsters beat Elena Dementieva 6-0, 6-4 in 49 minutes.

With two of tennis' youngest stars, Belgium was the favorite to claim the equivalent of the men's Davis Cup after the two-time defending champion Americans _ 17 titles overall _ withdrew last month, citing security worries.

Belgium won Pool A in the round-robin portion to reach the final with victories over Spain, Australia and Germany. Russia had victories over France, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

Only about 2,000 fans watched the final, played on an indoor clay court. The crowd was even smaller when Russia won the meaningless doubles, Petrova and Elena Likhovtseva defeating Els Callens and Laurence Courtois 7-5, 7-6 (7-2).

Officials blamed the scant turnout on the absent United States, a final without the home Spanish team and a venue isolated in northern Madrid that is being floated as a potential site for the 2012 Olympics.

MORE TENNIS: South Africa's No. 1 player, Amanda Coetzer, beat Anna Kournikova 6-4, 6-4 in the third round of an exhibition match in Johannesburg. Switzerland's Patty Schnyder beat Slovakia's Henrieta Nagyova 6-0, 6-4 to win the Volvo Women's Open in Pattaya, Thailand, for her first title in almost three years.

WINTER SPORTS: World champion Yevgeny Plushchenko of Russia held off a double-quad performance by American Tim Goebel to win the men's event at the figure skating Nations Cup Grand Prix in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. China's Li Chiangiang was third. Germany's Anni Friesinger won the 1,500 speed-skating race in 1 minute, 57.86 seconds at Berlin's World Cup event. Miami's Jennifer Rodriguez was second. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Gianni Romme won the men's 5,000 in 6:28.92.

SOCCER: The United States finished World Cup qualifying with a lackluster scoreless tie against Trinidad and Tobago in Port-of-Spain. The Americans clinched their fourth straight trip to the Cup Oct. 7 when they beat Jamaica 2-1. Josh Wolff entered in the 66th minute, his first game since breaking his left foot May 30. In other qualifiers, Mexico beat Honduras 3-0, and Costa Rica beat Jamaica 1-0.

WEIGHT LIFTING: Qatar's Saeed Salem Jaber lifted a combined 1,012 pounds to win three gold medals at the World Championships in Antalya, Turkey, to claim the world's strongest man title. The International Federation president said the four Nigerian lifters who tested positive for banned steroids likely were tripped up by food supplements. They are banned from competition for one year.

RUNNING: England's Spencer Smith won the Ironman Florida triathlon in Panama City Beach in a record 8:21:30 seconds. Germany's Katja Schumacher set a women's record in 9:25:57. David Joyce won the Fort De Soto Classic 10-mile race in 59:05. Dan Ecker (59:21) was second, followed by Largo's Bob Wagoner (1:00:42). Tierra Verde's Lisa Valentine won the women's race (1:06:17). St. Petersburg's Kathleen Kaye (1:08:25) was second and North Redington Beach's Patty Farese (1:10:04) was third. St. Petersburg's Bob Villacres (16:33) won the 5K event, and St. Pete Beach's Carol Glasscock (19:15) won the women's division.

BOXING: Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocked out Jesus Chavez before the 10th round Saturday night in San Francisco to retain his super-featherweight title. Mexico's Jose Antonio Aguirre regained the World Boxing Council 105-pound minimum-weight title in Tokyo, stopping Japanese challenger Yasuo Tokimitsu in the third round. Top-ranked Hector Camacho knocked out Eric Jakubowski in a super-lightweight nontitle bout at Indiana's Belterra Casino.

HORSES: Ontario's Eric Lamaze won the $40,000 Big Ben International Challenge on Rosina at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto. Dr. Kashnikow won the $177,300 Grade III River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. I'll Get Along, a stakes-winning broodmare, brought $130,000 in Keeneland's November Breeding Stock Sale in Lexington, Ky. Lonesome Dude won the $73,500 Steinlen Handicap at Hollywood Park.

FIELD HOCKEY: Germany won the Champions Trophy in Rotterdam, Netherlands, defeating Australia 2-1. Olympic champion Netherlands won the bronze, beating Pakistan 5-2.

BASEBALL: The United States beat Taiwan 6-0 in World Cup competition. It is tied for fourth with Nicaragua in Group A, while Taiwan, South Korea and the Dominican Republic share first. The top four teams in the two eight-team groups advance to the medal round, which starts Friday.

OLYMPICS: After winning seven gold medals and 27 world championships, German kayaker Birgit Fischer retired at age 39.

OBITUARY: Former West Indies cricket team captain Denis Atkinson, known for his part in a 1955 record wicket stand against Australia, died of skin cancer at age 75 in Bridgetown, Barbados.

_ Compiled from Times wires.

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