Ted Ligety

Ted Ligety wins World Cup giant slalom opener in Soelden (video)

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Make it three in a row for Ted Ligety.

The world’s best giant slalom skier won the season-opening World Cup in Soelden, Austria, for the third straight year on Sunday, beating the field by .79 of a second over two combined runs.

“Pretty psyched to win this, for sure,” Ligety said. “It wasn’t easy in that second run, super dark on the pitch. Really bumpy, but whenever you win it’s a good day.”

American Bode Miller placed 19th in his first World Cup race since February 2012 coming back from injury.

The start was moved down due to heavy winds, so the fastest runs were about one minute rather than around 1:20.

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Ligety, 29, took a commanding .90 lead after the first run earlier Sunday morning and clocked a total of 1:59.50 to win over France’s Alexis Pinturault and Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, the other top two giant slalom racers from last season. Ligety pumped his fist and skied into a suspended camera after crossing the finish line.

“There’s always so much anxiety coming into (the season) because you never really know where you are,” Ligety said. “I didn’t feel like this summer my skiing was really where I wanted to be.”

He prevailed by a blowout margin of 2.75 seconds last year and joined Austrian legend Hermann Maier as the only men to win Soelden three times (though Maier’s weren’t consecutive).

Ligety, who won his 18th career World Cup race (all giant slaloms), is set up for a busy season as he eyes the World Cup overall title.

He finished third in the overall standings last year behind Hirscher and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal. Svindal tied for fourth at Soelden on Sunday.

Hirscher is the reigning World Cup slalom champion, and Svindal racks up points in speed events.

But nobody was better than Ligety at the World Championships in February, when he became the first man in 45 years to win three gold medals.

The World Cup continues with a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 17, where a rather unusual prize will be awarded.

Soelden Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety (USA) 1:59.50
2. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 2:00.29
3. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 2:00.52
4. Steve Missillier (FRA) 2:01.23
4. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 2:01.23
6. Markus Sandell (FIN) 2:01.32
7. Thomas Fanara (FRA) 2:01.58
8. Cyprien Richard (FRA) 2:01.66
9. Mathieu Faivre (FRA) 2:01.68
10. Philipp Schoerghofer (AUT) 2:01.80
19. Bode Miller (USA) 2:02.79
20. Tim Jitloff (USA) 2:02.81

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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