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

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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