Travis Ganong

American scores first Alpine podium in Kvitfjell; Bode Miller 16th

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What is the future of U.S. men’s Alpine skiing?

Travis Ganong consolidated his place going into the next Olympic cycle with his first career World Cup podium finish at the first post-Olympic race in Kvitfjell, Norway, on Friday.

Ganong, 25, took third in a downhill, .12 of a second behind co-winners Kjetil Jansrud of Norway and Georg Streitberger of Austria.

“This is a really big step in my career,” Ganong said. “I’ve been slowly building up the last four years on the World Cup tour and this last month or so I’ve really been finding some speed. Now I’m at a point where I’m really relaxed and having fun. The good skiing comes out when you’re relaxed and letting the skis roll.”

Ganong’s breakthrough came after a solid Olympics. He finished fifth in the Sochi downhill Feb. 9.

“I always told myself I’d get to this point,” Ganong said. “It was just a matter of time. I’ve had enough time now racing all these hills and I’m comfortable. I’m also stronger than I was last year and I’m more fit. I’m not burnt out at all. Usually at this time of year people are tired and right now I feel like I’m just starting out the season.”

He’s looking to be the face of U.S. men’s downhill skiing when Bode Miller calls it a career. Miller, 36, finished 16th on Friday. Olympic super-G silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht took 54th.

The other veteran U.S. Alpine star, Ted Ligety, is sitting out this weekend. He does not usually race downhills. Another downhill is slated for Saturday, followed by a super-G on Sunday.

Jansrud kept up his form from winning the Olympic super-G in Sochi. The Norwegian who tore an ACL at last year’s World Championships had not won a World Cup race in nearly two years.

Streitberger, 33, hadn’t finished first in a World Cup since Dec. 4, 2010. Countryman Matthias Mayer, the Olympic downhill champion, briefly lost balance near the top of the course and skied out.

Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal placed fifth and clinched the season title in the downhill for the second straight year, with two races to go.

The race for the overall title is tighter. Svindal earned 45 points to draw within 13 of leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria. Svindal is better in speed events. Hirscher excels in technical races. Hirscher is trying to become the third man ever to win three straight overall titles and the first since American Phil Mahre from 1981-83.

There are four speed races and four technical races left this season, meaning the overall competition could come down to the final stop in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in two weeks.

Kvitfjell Downhill No. 1
1. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) 1:05.72
1. Georg Streitberger (AUT) 1:05.72
3. Travis Ganong (USA) 1:05.84
4. Erik Guay (CAN) 1:05.95
5. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 1:06.09
6. Guillermo Fayed (FRA) 1:06.10
7. Romed Baumann (AUT) 1:06.13
7. Otmar Striedinger (AUT) 1:06.13
9. Silvano Varettoni (ITA) 1:06.22
10. Didier Defago (SUI) 1:06.23
10. Dominik Paris (ITA) 1:06.23
16. Bode Miller (USA) 1:06.44
18. Steven Nyman (USA) 1:06.47
21. Marco Sullivan (USA) 1:06.55
47. Erik Fisher (USA) 1:07.17
54. Andrew Weibrecht (USA) 1:07.61
59. Jared Goldberg (USA) 1:07.86

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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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