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

Alison, Bruno rout Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena in FIVB World Tour Finals title match

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Brazil looks golden in beach volleyball, 10 months ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Brazilian pairs swept the FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday, capped by World champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt crushing 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena 21-13, 21-15 in a meeting of arguably the world’s two best teams.

“They are the No. 1 team in the world,” Lucena said. “We will get there.”

Earlier, Larissa and Talita beat Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst 21-17, 21-18 in the women’s final. Larissa and Talita have won 11 of the 16 international tournaments they’ve played since teaming up in July 2014.

Perhaps more dominant are Alison, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist with the legendary Emanuel, and Schmidt, nephew of Olympic basketball all-time scoring leader Oscar Schmidt. They swept the three biggest tournament titles of 2015 — the World Tour Finals plus the World Championships in the Netherlands in July and the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., in August, during a stretch when they won all five FIVB World Tour events in those two months.

Brazil last earned an Olympic beach volleyball title in 2004, with Americans taking three of the four gold medals since. Volleyball, indoor and beach, is arguably the No. 2 sport in Brazil behind soccer, and the 2016 Olympic tournaments on Copacabana Beach will be highly anticipated.

Alison, an imposing 6-foot-8 figure nicknamed “Mammoth” with a matching tattoo, and Bruno also beat Dalhausser and Lucena in the World Series of Beach Volleyball final Aug. 23.

That tournament marked the American duo’s international return after Dalhausser and partner and two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal split. The Floridians Dalhausser, 35, and Lucena, 36, had previously played together through the 2005 season.

On Wednesday, Dalhausser and Lucena beat Alison and Bruno in three sets in pool play. The two pairs had played 209 points together over two matches going into Sunday’s final, with the Americans holding a 105-104 points won advantage.

“There is no rivalry yet,” Lucena said. “They are a good measuring stick for us. They show us where we need to be.”

Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings missed the World Tour Finals after undergoing season-ending right shoulder surgery, while partner and Olympic silver medalist April Ross teamed with sub partner Lauren Fendrick and lost in the quarterfinals Friday.

The FIVB World Tour season continues with a tournament in Puerto Vallerta, Mexico, this week.

NBCOlympics.com producer Seth Rubinroit contributed to this report from Fort Lauderdale.

MORE BEACH VOLLEYBALL: PHOTOS: Alison/Bruno, Dalhausser/Lucena play match on helipad

WATCH LIVE: Possible Olympic final preview in FIVB World Tour Finals — 2:30 p.m. ET

Alison, Bruno
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The World champions will play beach volleyball’s hottest team Sunday in an intriguing FIVB Word Tour Finals championship match and possible Olympic final preview, live on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt established themselves as beach volleyball’s best team by winning every international tournament they entered this July and August, including the World Championship.

But the U.S. pair of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena has been the talk of the sport since partnering in July for the first time since separating in 2005. The duo has only entered five FIVB World Tour events this year, but they have made four finals.

“We don’t consider them to be a new team,” Bruno said. “They already play together so well.”

WATCH LIVE: FIVB World Tour Finals — 2:30 p.m. ET

There are many similarities between the pairs.

Alison and Dalhausser are both intimidating blockers. Dalhausser has been named the FIVB World Tour’s best blocker six times, while Alison was recognized in 2011.

In fact, Lucena called Alison “a thicker version of Phil.” Alison, who is known as “Mammoth,” has 35 pounds on Dalhausser, the “Thin Beast.”

Bruno and Lucena are speedy defensive specialists. Dalhausser called Bruno, nephew of Olympic basketball’s all-time leading scorer Oscar Schmidt, the world’s best defender.

“Bruno might be better than me,” Lucena said, laughing, “but I am taller.”

Both Bruno and Lucena are listed at 6-foot-1.

Dalhausser also compared to Lucena to Todd Rogers, his 2008 Olympic gold medal partner. Dalhausser described Lucena as “more explosive” than Rogers, who was named the FIVB World Tour’s best defensive player three times.

“Todd was super competitive, and Nick is the same way,” Dalhausser said.

Alison and Bruno and Dalhausser and Lucena split their first two meetings (not counting a recent exhibition on a helipad). They’ve played 209 points. Alison and Bruno have won 104. Dalhausser and Lucena have won 105.

Alison and Bruno won the first clash, 21–16, 20–22, 15–13 in the World Series of Beach Volleyball final in Long Beach, Calif., on Aug. 23.

Then Dalhausser and Lucena won Wednesday, 18-21, 21-16, 15-11 in a pool-play match that Lucena called “the most competitive match we’ve played.”

Dalhausser and Lucena, who are both from Florida, are counting on the heat to be a third teammate in Fort Lauderdale.

“We have to wear out the big guy,” Dalhausser said, referring to Alison. “We hope it’s 150 degrees, and we will serve him every time.”

The winning team will receive $100,000. It is the biggest international first-place monetary prize ever.

“They are the best team in the world,” Lucena said. “We want to change that and show what we can do.”

On the women’s side, Brazilians Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes and Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst advanced to Sunday’s final, which will be live on Universal Sports Network at 1:00 p.m. ET. Larissa and Talita have won 10 of the 15 international events they’ve played since debuting in July 2014.

Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings missed the World Tour Finals due to season-ending right shoulder surgery. Her partner, Olympic silver medalist April Ross, teamed with Lauren Fendrick this past week, and they lost in the quarterfinals.

MORE BEACH VOLLEYBALL: ‘Mammoth,’ ‘Magician,’ bring Brazil back atop beach volleyball