Andrea Fischbacher

Austrian Fischbacher wins World Cup downhill; Americans struggle

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Andrea Fischbacher exacted a bit of redemption after being left off the Austrian Olympic Team in Sochi, winning the first post-Olympic World Cup race Sunday.

Fischbacher, unable to defend her 2010 Olympic super-G gold, stunned the favorites in a downhill in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. She clocked 1 minute, 34 seconds from late bib No. 29, beating countrywoman Anna Fenninger by .15. Slovenia’s Tina Maze, the co-Olympic downhill champion, was third.

German Maria Hoefl-Riesch padded her overall World Cup lead by finishing ninth. The woman in second place in the standings, Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, remains out due to injury.

Julia Mancuso was the top American in 18th, followed by Stacey Cook in 21st.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with technical events in Are, Sweden, next week, likely marking the return of Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin.

The spotlight Sunday was on Fischbacher, though. The 28-year-old claimed her first World Cup podium in more than four years, before she won that 2010 Olympic super-G.

She had not been better than eighth in any race this season, the slight drop in form perhaps a big reason why she didn’t earn a trip to Sochi on the deep Austrian team.

Fenninger’s second place kept Hoefl-Riesch from clinching the season downhill title, which will now be decided at the World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in two weeks.

Hoefl-Riesch, in what may be her final season, is looking great to finish in the top three of overall points for the seventh straight season. If she maintains her overall lead, she will win the overall title for a second time.

Crans-Montana Downhill
1. Andrea Fischbacher (AUT) 1:34.00
2. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 1:34.15
3. Tina Maze (SLO) 1:34.47
4. Elisabeth Goergl (AUT) 1:34.49
5. Edit Miklos (HUN) 1:34.82
6. Lotte Smiseth Sejersted (NOR) 1:34.83
7. Fabienne Suter (SUI) 1:34.94
8. Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT) 1:35.08
9. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:35.26
10. Dominique Gisin (SUI) 1:35.35
18. Julia Mancuso (USA) 1:36.34
21. Stacey Cook (USA) 1:36.76
30. Laurenne Ross (USA) 1:37.42
31. Jacqueline Wiles (USA) 1:37.96
38. Julia Ford (USA) 1:38.94
40. Leanne Smith (USA) 1:39.74

Career best for American in men’s super-G

What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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