Aksel Lund Svindal

Bode Miller improves as Aksel Lund Svindal wins Val Gardena super-G (video)

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Bode Miller posted the best super-G result of his comeback Friday, while Aksel Lund Svindal won his third race of the season and for the third time in Val Gardena, Italy.

Svindal, the reigning Olympic and World Cup super-G champion, consolidated his pre-race favorite status by winning in 1 minute, 35.82 seconds in the Dolomites. It marked the 100th World Cup win by a Norwegian man.

Canadian veteran Jan Hudec was second, .58 behind, for his first World Cup podium since Feb. 24, 2012. France’s Adrien Theaux was third in a race where many stars failed to finish, including world champion Ted Ligety, who was wide of a gate in the early portion of the course.

Ligety has one top 10 in six non-giant slalom races this season.

“This isn’t an ideal hill for me,” said Ligety, according to The Associated Press. “I could have hooked it sideways to stay on the course, but I would have been seven seconds out.”

Miller, 36, was the top American in eighth. Miller made more progress after missing all of last season following knee surgery and was in typical form, nearly having to stand up through the final gate to keep his balance.

“This course is just so easy, everyone is just pushing too hard,” Miller said, according to the U.S. Ski Team, as he did a post-race interview with his son sitting on his shoulders. “You’re seeing guys going too straight and blowing out of the course because they’re looking for speed where there isn’t any. That was a bit what I did, I just got away with it.”

He improved upon 23rd- and 14th-place finishes in his first two super-Gs of the season and recorded his first top 10 in the event since Dec. 16, 2011, also in Val Gardena.

The Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a downhill in Val Gardena on Saturday. Miller is expected to race but not Ligety. Svindal, who extended his World Cup overall lead Friday, appears to be the favorite.

Val Gardena Super-G
1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 1:35.82
2. Jan Hudec (CAN) 1:36.40
3. Adrien Theaux (FRA) 1:36.73
4. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) 1:36.84
5. Romed Baumann (AUT) 1:37.08
6. Erik Guay (CAN) 1:37.19
7. Georg Streitberger (AUT) 1:37.34
8. Bode Miller (USA) 1:37.37
9. Christof Innerhofer (ITA) 1:37.38
10. Joachim Puchner (AUT) 1:37.41
16. Travis Ganong (USA) 1:38.07
21. Andrew Weibrecht (USA) 1:38.33
28. Erik Fisher (USA) 1:38.91
41. Steven Nyman (USA) 1:39.61
43. Nick Daniels (USA) 1:39.69
50. Jared Goldberg (USA) 1:40.76
DNF. Ted Ligety (USA)

Tongan luger set to be nation’s first Winter Olympian

U.S. Olympic Committee to hire infectious disease specialists for Zika

Christ the Redeemer
AP
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The U.S. Olympic Committee will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter Wednesday to all possible Olympians, acknowledging the growing worries over the virus.

“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun wrote. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

The letter goes on to spell out much of the information that’s already been relayed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. About 20 percent of those infected display mild symptoms, including body aches and rash. But pregnant women and those considering getting pregnant have greater reason for concern because the virus can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo said if the Olympics were being held now, she wouldn’t go.

Blackmun told The Associated Press that Solo’s comments “made us realize we need to provide concise and accurate info for our athletes.”

At least one of the two infectious disease specialists will be a woman, Blackmun said.

In addition to those two hires, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates.

The USOC’s decision to hire the specialists was first reported by USA Today.

The letter, addressed to prospective members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic delegation, says “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun said the USOC is monitoring the frequent updates regarding Zika. The letter makes note that “rapid testing to determine if an individual is infected is expected in the near future.”

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

MORE: Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

Alex Morgan scores 12 seconds into U.S. Olympic qualifying romp (video)

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Alex Morgan wasted no time igniting the U.S. women’s soccer team’s Olympic qualifying campaign.

The striker scored the first of her two goals 12 seconds into the Americans’ CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament-opening 5-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

It’s believed to be the fastest goal in U.S. Soccer history, according to U.S. Soccer.

“I think we shocked Costa Rica’s confidence a little bit,” Morgan said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “We’ve been working on that play, so I’m glad that we executed it perfectly.”

Crystal DunnCarli Lloyd and Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 in the world. Costa Rica is ranked No. 34.

“Overall, we brought the fight,” Lloyd said on Live Extra. “We’ve got to put this one to bed and move on.”

The first three goals came in the first 15 minutes.

GOAL VIDEOS: Dunn | LloydMorgan’s second | Press

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

It plays Mexico next on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Mexico crushed Puerto Rico 6-0 earlier Wednesday.

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio, where it would go for its fourth straight Olympic title. The next-best North American team is ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo, who blanked Costa Rica on Wednesday.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: No Olympics for Messi, but another Argentine star striker possible

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Mexico 6, Puerto Rico 0                                 5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA 5, Costa Rica 0                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN