Marcel Hirscher

Marcel Hirscher wins Levi World Cup slalom, reindeer; Ted Ligety 11th (video)

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There was no offseason change atop the slalom hierarchy.

Marcel Hirscher cruised to victory in the first slalom of the World Cup season one day after Mikaela Shiffrin took the women’s race in Levi, Finland.

The reigning two-time World Cup overall champion posted a two-run time of 1 minute, 45.42 seconds to beat fellow Austrian Mario Matt by .62 of a second. Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen came in third.

Hirscher, 24, received a reindeer as a prize, just as Shiffrin did Saturday. Shiffrin named hers, “Rudolph.” Hirscher named his, “Ferdinand,” after his father.

American Ted Ligety, who won three golds at the World Championships in February, improved from 24th after the first of two runs to finish 11th.

“I wouldn’t say that either run was all that impressive, but second run I skied a little bit more like I should be skiing from run to run,” Ligety said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “But it’s still far from what I need to be doing in slalom. I need to be scoring in the top five to top three. I need to up it if this is going to be a meaningful route to getting me enough points (to win the overall World Cup title). I guess it’s not a horrible day to start out the slalom season.”

Levi’s a drag race. It’s the easiest course on the World Cup by far so the margins are super tight and the little mistakes cost you a ton of time. It makes it difficult to be one of the fastest guys because you really pay when you are a little bit off.

The World Cup season continues with speed races at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Thanksgiving weekend. The next slalom is in Val d’Isere, France, on Dec. 15.

Hirscher, who was second in Levi last year, has made six straight World Cup podiums dating to last season, when he made every slalom podium and won the World Championship.

Ligety, who emphasized slalom work in the offseason, posted his best World Cup slalom finish since an 11th in Adelboden, Switzerland, in January.

Levi World Cup Slalom
1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 1:45.42
2. Mario Matt (AUT) 1:46.04
3. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) 1:46.35
4. Ivica Kostelic (CRO) 1:46.64
5. Mattias Hargin (SWE) 1:46.71
6. Patrick Thaler (ITA) 1:47.15
7. Jean-Baptiste Grange (FRA) 1:47.17
8. Benjamin Raich (AUT) 1:47.21
9. Sebastian-Foss Solevaag (NOR) 1:47.24
10. Steve Missillier (FRA) 1:47.36
11. Ted Ligety (USA) 1:47.38

Video: Trumpet player performs national anthem, then high dives at swim meet

Maria Sharapova on provisional Russia Olympic team

Maria Sharapova
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Maria Sharapova will be on Russia’s provisional Olympic team, as expected, as she waits to see if her meldonium suspension will be lifted in time for the Rio Games, according to Russian media.

It has been known for weeks that Sharapova, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, would likely meet Olympic qualification criteria via her WTA ranking on the June 6 cutoff. Despite not playing since January due to injury and her meldonium ban.

It has also been known for weeks that Russia’s tennis federation president wants Sharapova on the Olympic team.

Sharapova is ranked No. 23 in the world and second among Russians behind No. 15 Svetlana Kuznetsova. Russia can enter four women in the Olympic singles competition.

If Sharapova is not allowed to compete in the Olympics, the next highest-ranked Russian singles player can replace her.

MORE: U.S. Olympic tennis player refuses to answer meldonium questions

Five events to watch at Prefontaine Classic; broadcast schedule

Vashti Cunningham
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The Prefontaine Classic fields are so stacked that it is the best Diamond League meet so far this season, even with the reported absences of Allyson FelixGenzebe Dibaba, Matthew Centrowitz and Galen Rupp.

In addition to Olympic sprint champion headliners Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceJustin GatlinSanya Richards-Ross and LaShawn Merritt, the meet features duels between reigning Olympic and World champions in multiple events.

The Diamond League’s lone trip to the U.S. doubles as the best gauge of form this spring ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials (July 1-10).

The annual meet in Eugene, Ore., is a Friday-Saturday affair:

Friday
USATF.TV — 11:20 p.m. ET

Saturday
NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra — 3:30-5 p.m. ET
NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra — 5-6 p.m. ET

Here are the start lists. Here is the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Friday
9:55 p.m. — Men’s hammer throw
11:11 — Women’s long jump
11:15 — Women’s discus
11:18 — Men’s shot put
11:37 — Women’s 800m
11:53 — Men’s 10,000m
12:27 a.m. (Saturday) — Women’s 5000m

Saturday
3:15 p.m. — Men’s triple jump
3:18 — Men’s pole vault
3:33 — Men’s 110m hurdles
3:42 — Men’s mile
3:53 — Women’s 100m
4:03 — Men’s 400m hurdles
4:09 — Women’s high jump
4:12 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
4:26 — Men’s 800m
4:32 — Men’s javelin
4:35 — Men’s 400m
4:43 — Men’s 5000m
5:04 — Women’s 200m
5:13 — Men’s 100m
5:22 — Women’s 1500m
5:33 — Women’s 100m hurdles
5:42 — Women’s 400m
5:51 — Men’s Bowerman Mile

Here are five events to watch (all times Eastern):

Women’s long jump — Friday, 11:11 p.m.

The most loaded field event of the meet. It includes five of the six women to earn medals at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Championships, with the lone absentee a Russian who is ineligible to compete due to the country’s ban.

It’s headlined by Olympic champion Brittney Reese and World champion Tianna Bartoletta, both Americans. There’s also reigning World silver and bronze medalists Shara Proctor of Great Britain and Ivana Španović of Serbia and U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Janay DeLoach.

Men’s pole vault — Saturday, 3:18 p.m.

The U.S. is suddenly a factor in this event, after Sam Kendricks became the first American man to win a Diamond League contest on May 14 in Shanghai. The 23-year-old Kendricks has the highest clearance in the world this year at 5.92 meters, higher than anybody from the 2015 World Championships and any American since 2008.

In Eugene, Kendricks will face Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France and World champion Shawn Barber of Canada in a rematch of Shanghai.

Women’s high jump — Saturday, 4:09 p.m.

World Indoor champion Vashti Cunningham is the star here. The 18-year-old daughter of retired NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Randall Cunningham could be an Olympic medal favorite, especially if Russians aren’t allowed to compete in Rio.

Russians took two of three medals at the 2012 Olympics and the 2015 World Championships.

Without them in Eugene, Cunningham could very well beat a field that includes 2013 World bronze medalist Ruth Beitia of Spain and 2005 World silver medalist Chaunté Lowe, a strong opponent for Cunningham at the Olympic Trials on July 3. Lowe is 14 years older than Cunningham. Beitia is 19 years older.

Men’s 100m — Saturday, 5:13 p.m.

Three of the five fastest men of all time line up here in Justin GatlinTyson Gay and Asafa Powell, who were all born in 1982 and likely all seeking one last Olympics in Rio.

Joining them is Andre De Grasse, the 21-year-old Canadian who shared bronze at August’s World Championships behind Usain Bolt and Gatlin.

Gatlin will be the favorite, given he is 31-2 in individual sprints since the start of 2014 with the only losses coming to Bolt at Worlds last summer.

Women’s 100m hurdles — Saturday, 5:33 p.m.

With six Americans in the field of eight, this is arguably the closest event to a U.S. Olympic Trials field. It includes six of the seven fastest women in the world last year.

Only the top three at the Olympic Trials on July 8 make the team for Rio. The top finishers Saturday among 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson, 2013 World champion Brianna RollinsNia AliKeni HarrisonSharika Nelvis and Jasmin Stowers will become favorites to make Team USA.

MORE: Usain Bolt set to race two biggest Jamaican rivals